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“Israel has the right to defend itself” — so does Syria

The relentless media campaign against Syria is intended to conceal the fact that Syria is defending itself against a war of aggression waged against by or with the complicity of the Western powers. The contrast between the way the West reacts to Israeli actions purportedly in self-defence, and the way it condemns far more justified actions in self-defence made by Syria, exposes the truth about Western aggression against Syria.

Rick Sterling

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There is a hypocritical disconnect in Western and especially U.S. foreign policy. When it comes to Israel, the US is quick to claim “Israel has a right to defend itself”.  For Syria, that same right does not seem to exist.   

Is Israel Defending Itself or Defending Occupation/Apartheid?

When Israel executed intense bombing campaigns against Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014 the US justified the attacks. At the United Nations on 18 July 2014, US Ambassador Samantha Power said ,

“President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning to reaffirm the United States’ strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself…. Hamas’ attacks are unacceptable and would be unacceptable to any member state of the United Nations. Israel has the right to defend its citizens and prevent these attacks.”

Israel claims it is simply responding defensively. The human rights group BtSelem reports that over the decade between June 2004 and July 2015, Palestinians launched over 8700 rockets and 5000 mortars from Gaza into Israel. However, the total number of civilians killed over 10 years was 28 for an average of fewer than three persons per year.  Using this as a justification, Israel has attacked by air and invaded every few years with extreme discrepancy in casualty rates.  For example, Israeli attacks on Gaza in Summer 2014 resulted in over 2900 deaths ….. 97% of them Palestinian.

With so few deaths and little damage caused by the rockets from Gaza, it seems Palestinians have launched these as almost symbolic protests against Israeli repression. The Gazan economy is hugely restricted, the borders are closed, and even the sky and ocean are off limits.

Many people would say that Israel is keeping the entire population of Gaza in prison-like circumstances.

In addition, many residents of Gaza are descendants of refugees from nearby Israeli towns and cities. Under the Geneva Conventions and UN Resolution 194, they have the right to return but have been deprived of this in addition to most other rights. 

In summary, Palestinians have launched rockets and mortars to protest Israeli occupation and apartheid policies.   

The Palestinians are not seeking overthrow of the Israeli state so much as recognition of their rights and an end to the Occupation. Casualties have been few.

In response, the West has given Israel a virtual free pass to attack Palestinians in Gaza and unleash horrific bombing in densely populated urban areas where there are huge civilian casualties. The Israeli government is not defending itself; it is imposing punishment on a captive and defenceless population.   

The Syrian State is Under Real Attack

The situation in Syria is dramatically different.

The armed opposition in Syria has inflicted a huge number of deaths and damage in the 5 year campaign to overthrow the government.  Data from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights show the following number of casualties since March 2011:  Pro Government forces (army and militias) – 105,000 ;  Anti Government forces – 101,000;   Civilians – 86,000. 

These numbers show the intensity of violence. They also indicate how wrong it is for critics to blame Assad and the Syrian government for all the deaths. As shown, soldiers and militias defending the state make up the largest number of casualties. 

It is frequently claimed that protests only became violent after peaceful protests were brutally crushed. This is untrue. There were seven police killed in the first protests in Deraa. That was soon followed by dozens of soldiers being massacred in Deraa and Banyas at the end of March and in April 2011. 

The conflict in Aleppo is currently in the news.  This was the largest city in Syria and the country’s industrial and financial engine.

The largest and most effective opposition force in Aleppo is the Al Qaeda associated Nusra.  Nusra is recognized to be ‘terrorist’ even by the USA and were never part of the ‘cessation of hostilities’. 

There are other factions and fighting groups, but they are all seeking to destroy the Syrian state. Most of the groups are explicitly Wahhabi sectarian and are hostile to secularism, Christianity and moderate Islamic faiths.

The opposition in Syria is heavily armed with weapons, ammunition and explosives. Daily they launch hell cannon missiles into western Aleppo, killing randomly.  Car bombs have killed thousands of civilians and soldiers. Tunnel bombs have killed thousands more.

Aleppo was relatively quiet until the summer of 2012 when thousands of armed fighters invaded and occupied neighbourhoods in the eastern part of the city.

The ‘rebels’ were disliked by the majority of the population from the start. This was documented even by western journalists such as James Foley and Stephen Sotloff who went there inclined to be sympathetic to the opposition.

Martin Chulov of the Guardian described East Aleppo in 2015 and estimated its population at just 40K.  In sharp contrast, there is a large population of about 1.5 million Syrians living in the rest of the city.  This is reflective of the reality: the vast majority of Syrians support the government and hate the terrorists. This includes many who are critical of the Baath Party and who want reforms but not violence and destruction.

This important fact is generally ignored by western media. The current situation in Western Aleppo is described by journalist Eva Bartlett.

In contrast with the Israeli situation, the Syrian government is truly fighting to defend itself against an armed opposition that is violent, sectarian and unpopular with the large majority of Syrians.

The Foreign Factor

Adding to the legitimacy of the Syrian government’s right to defend itself, the armed opposition in Syria has been heavily supported by foreign governments.

Western states and their Gulf allies have supplied weapons, training, logistical support and salaries for many thousands of fighters.  Qatar’s Al Jazeera has broadcast misinformation, fabricated stories and heavily biased reporting from the start.

The same governments have been complicit in the recruitment and travel to Syria by thousands of foreigners from all parts of the globe.

European, North American and Australian governments “looked the other way” as their citizens were recruited and then traveled to Syria via Turkey to join ISIS or Nusra.

According to one study, over 12,000 foreigners including 3,000 from Europe and North America traveled to Syria in the first three years of the conflict. That was before ISIS peaked. Only in the last year, following terrorist actions in the West, have Western governments started arresting or detaining recruits and recruiters.

Violating International Law

The situation in Syria is more extreme but has similarities to the situation in Nicaragua in the 1980s. On 27 June 1986, the International Court of Justice ruled:

“the United States of America, by training, arming, equiping, financing and supplying the contra forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua, has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State”. 

The court also decided the US should make reparations to Nicaragua for injury caused by the violations.

The US ignored the ruling and later withdrew from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

The former Nicaragua Foreign Minister and former President of the United Nations General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto, has written

“What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State.”

(personal correspondence quoted with permission)

Soft Power aligned with Hard Violent Power

Some foreign governments seeking overthrow of Damascus have poured huge amounts of money into ‘smart’ or ‘soft power’.

They have funded an array of organisations with nice sounding names to control the narrative and influence public opinion.

There is the Syrian Justice and Accountability Centre, initiated by Secretary Clinton, to prepare for victor’s justice. 

There is the Syrian Network for Human Rights which largely ignores the deaths of Syrian soldiers and seeks US/NATO intervention.

There is the Syrian Civil Defense also known as the White Helmets. This organisation is a support group for Al Qaeda/Nusra but most importantly is a political lobbying tool actively campaigning for US/NATO intervention.

All of these organisations, and many more, are said to be “Syrian”. They all claim to be “independent”. However they were all created after the conflict began, and they are all funded by the foreign governments that seek to overthrow the Syrian government.

These and other organisations support the opposition in various ways, demonise the Syrian government, and romanticise the opposition. 

They are ‘soft power’ acting in concert with hard and violent power.

For example the White Helmets was originally called the Syrian Civil Defence and began with a military contractor training some Syrians in Turkey.

This group was then rebranded as the “White Helmets” by a New York marketing company called “The Syria Campaign”.

Since then, the “feel good” White Helmets brand has been heavily promoted. As a measure of marketing success, the White Helmets recently won the Right Livelihood Award for 2016, and are even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Ironically, there is a REAL Syrian Civil Defense working since 1953, and a REAL White Helmets/CascosBlancos from Argentina, which have received little recognition alongside the slick new “White Helmets” created and promoted by the shadowy PR firm.    

Soft power distorts the reality in the conflict. Thus we are not told that the Syrian government is defending against terrorists but we are told that the “Assad regime” is ‘”targeting hospitals and civilian markets”.

Are the claims true? My investigation of the claims regarding the Doctors Without Borders / MSF supported ‘Al Quds Hospital’ in April 2016 revealed that the accusations were full of contradictions, inconsistencies and unverified accusations.

The “hospital” was an unmarked building; the damage was unclear; the number of deaths varied wildly and could not be verified. The photographic evidence, supplied by the ubiquitous White Helmets, was dubious.

The investigation resulted in a open letter to MSF. So far they have failed to corroborate or document their accusations and claims.

Doctors Without Borders / MSF continues to issue politically biased messages. Their recent 2nd October 2016 tweet about a “bloodbath in East Aleppo” led to false accusations that two teenagers were killed by Syrian government bombing when they were actually killed by terrorist bombing.

Currently the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), funded by France and other countries, has been at the forefront of accusing Syria and Russia of intentionally bombing an underground hospital.

Is the story real or fabricated propaganda? The Russians and Syrians are trying to fight the terrorists; why would they waste resources and generate negative publicity by attacking a hospital?

The reports seem to be based on phone or Skype conversations with sources of unknown reliability.

The narrative promoted by ‘soft power’ is that the Syrian government is an unpopular dictatorship dominated by the Alawte religious group.  Is that true?  On the contrary, key ministries including Defence and Foreign Affairs are held by Sunni leaders. The majority of the Syrian Arab Army are Sunni. Visitors to Syria readily meet mothers who are proud of their sons who died defending their country against foreign backed terrorism. 

The narrative promoted by ‘soft power’ is that the Syrian uprising was largely progressive, secular, and seeking democracy.

This myth makes for a good rationalisation for effectively supporting the ‘regime change’ war against Syria, but it is contradicted by the US Defense Intelligence Agency. In a classified report from August 2012 they analysed the conflict as follows:

“THE SALAFIST [sic], THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA.”

“Soft power” in Syria has involved the creation and funding of Syrian groups who convey a message supportive of the regime change goals.

For example there is a group in the town of Kafranbel which produces an English language banner each week.  They are provided with the message by a foreign source and the group holds the banner to be photographed and displayed on social media in the West.  Most of the locals probably have no clue what it says.

Then there is the Aleppo Media Center which creates videos targeting Western audience, and the White Helmets previously discussed. 

These Western created groups are the examples of the “Syrian Revolution” by those who promote this narrative. What kind of “revolution” is on contract with the US State Department?

The Current Situation and Coming Crisis

The Syrian government, with the support of the majority of the Syrian people, is doing its best to defend itself against an onslaught financed by some of the wealthiest and most powerful countries on earth.

The Syrian Army and popular militias have suffered huge losses but are advancing. In the last year, Russia has provided crucial air support. Unlike the invasion of Syrian land and air space by the USA, the Russian intervention is in compliance with international law. 

Currently the Syrian government and allies are seeking to crush or expel Nusra and other terrorist groups in eastern Aleppo. If that is successful, they could then focus on ISIS in Raqqa and on remaining terrorists in other parts of the country.

Unlike densely populated Gaza, the opposition held areas of Aleppo have very few civilians. Although civilian casualties happen in all wars, it makes no sense that the Syrian military would target civilians.  On the contrary they have opened corridors to facilitate civilians and fighters to leave Aleppo.

Largely unreported in the West,  the Syrian government has an active reconciliation program which allows former gunmen to move to a different area or return to society. This has been successfully used to clear the last remnant of terrorists from Al Waer near Homs and from Darraya near Damascus.  Many thousands of Syrian fighters who were coerced or bribed into joining the opposition have laid down their arms, signed an agreement, and rejoined society.

In contrast with the frenzy and alarm in Western media and political circles, there is a growing optimism and hope among the vast majority of people in Aleppo. Syrian journalist Edward Dark recently tweeted

“Aleppo soon will be freed from the jihadis that invaded & destroyed it. After 4 years of hell its people will finally know peace.”

They are looking forward to the final defeat or expulsion of the terrorists who invaded the city in 2012.

What will the foreign enemies of Syria do to prevent this?  Will they continue or escalate their campaign to destroy Syria as they destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya?  Are they prepared to risk potential World War III with Russia?

In the last month Turkey sent troops into northern Syria and the USA attacked the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor, killing over 62 soldiers. The U.S. claims this was an accident, but many believe it was intentional. 

Since the collapse of the cessation of hostilities, ‘soft power’ propaganda has escalated. Accusations that the Syrians and Russians are targeting hospitals are linked to new social media campaigns to “Save Aleppo”.  Two things are clear:

* The public should be wary of media stories based on the claims of biased actors and not supported by solid evidence

* The Syrian government has the right to defend itself against foreign funded violent extremists seeking to destroy it.

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist and member of Syrian Solidarity Movement.

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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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