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NATO is trying to push Donald Trump into a war with Russia (VIDEO)

Per usual, US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are leading the charge.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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Donald Trump’s Ambassador to the United Nations, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley used her first appearance before the UN Security Council to condemn Russia for the renewed violence in eastern Ukraine.

What were the “aggressive actions of Russia”? She did not say. Does she accuse Russia of another “invasion” of Ukraine, as Obama’s mouthpieces endlessly claimed without proof? What exactly did she mean?

But things got even stranger…

Haley went on to tell the Security Council that US sanctions on Russia would not be lifted until Crimea returned to Ukraine – contrary to what her boss (POTUS Trump) has said in the past.

While Ambassador Haley blames the Russians for the renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine, the real cause is coming from two usual suspects – two Republican Senators to be more exact.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine began flaring up again shortly after a New Year’s Day visit to the front lines by non other than Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, where the two Senators encouraged the Kiev forces to renew their war against the Donbass.

Below is a video from that New Year’s trip of McCain and Graham, shown encouraging the Ukrainian troops to attack the Russians…

READ MORE: John McCain urges President Trump to escalate conflict in Ukraine, by sending lethal weapons to neo-nazi forces

The Duran’s Peter Lavelle calls the recent moves by US Ambassador to the UN, John McCain and Lindsey Graham as an opening bid and a great gambit against the major global players – and to see where everyone stands when the dust settles.

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Saudi Arabia’s version of events: Jamal Khashoggi died during a fist fight (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 5.

Alex Christoforou

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The BBC examines the stunning Saudi admission that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered from three angles:

What is Saudi Arabia’s version of events?

The kingdom says a fight broke out between Mr Khashoggi, who had fallen out of favour with the Saudi government, and people who met him in the consulate – ending with his death.

It says investigations are under way, and so far 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested.

Unnamed officials speaking to Reuters news agency and the New York Times say the Saudis did not know the whereabouts of the body after it was handed to a “local collaborator” to dispose of.

In addition to the arrests, two senior officials have been sacked over the affair – deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, senior aide to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

The Saudi authorities have yet to give evidence to support this version of events.

Observers are questioning whether Saudi Arabia’s Western allies will find their account of a “botched rendition” convincing – and whether it will persuade them not to take punitive action against them.

US President Donald Trump said what had happened was “unacceptable” but that the arrests were an important “first step”. The UK Foreign Office said it was considering its next steps after hearing the report.

What did Turkey say?

“Turkey will reveal whatever had happened,” said Omer Celik of Turkey’s ruling AKP party, according to Anadolu news agency.

“Nobody should ever doubt about it. We are not accusing anyone in advance but we don’t accept anything to remain covered [up].”

Publicly Turkey has so far stopped short of blaming Saudi Arabia for the killing.

Turkish investigators, however, say they have audio and video evidence which shows Mr Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi agents inside the consulate and dismembered. Reports in Turkish media this week gave gruesome details of what are said to be his final minutes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Saudi King Salman on Friday evening, and the two agreed to continue co-operating in the investigation.

How have Saudi’s Western allies reacted?

President Trump praised the kingdom for acting quickly and said the official explanation was “credible”, despite many US lawmakers expressing disbelief over the Saudi account.

Mr Trump stressed the importance of Saudi Arabia as a counterbalance to Iran in the Middle East, and pushed back against the need for sanctions against the country in light of the new information, talking about the effect of such a move on the US economy.

Earlier this week he warned of “very severe” consequences if Saudi Arabia was proved to have killed the journalist.

A number of US lawmakers, including a Republican highly critical of the Saudis, Senator Lindsey Graham, said they were sceptical about the report on the journalist’s death.

The UK Foreign Office described it as “a terrible act” and said the people behind the killing “must be held to account”.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at Saudi Arabia’s admission to killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a fist fight inside the Istanbul consulate…a story that the Trump White House has so far accepted, but many US Congressmen and mainstream media pundits outright reject.

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Meanwhile Reuters floated this story on turmoil inside the Saudi Kingdom as a trial balloon to see if anyone has the might to challenge a very unstable crown prince, by appealing to the frail King and his western allies.

Since he acceded to the throne in January 2015, the king has given MbS, his favorite son, increasing authority to run Saudi Arabia. But the king’s latest intervention reflects growing disquiet among some members of the royal court about MbS’s fitness to govern, the five sources said.

MbS, 33, has implemented a series of high-profile social and economic reforms since his father’s accession, including ending a ban on women driving and opening cinemas in the conservative kingdom.

But he has also marginalized senior members of the royal family and consolidated control over Saudi’s security and intelligence agencies.

His reforms have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, a purge of top royals and businessmen on corruption charges, and a costly war in Yemen.

Khashoggi’s disappearance has further tarnished the crown prince’s reputation, deepening questions among Western allies and some Saudis about his leadership.

“Even if he is his favorite son, the king needs to have a comprehensive view for his survival and the survival of the royal family,” said a fourth Saudi source with links to the royal court.

“In the end it will snowball on all of them.”

Saudi officials did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

MISCALCULATION

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied any role in Khashoggi’s disappearance. But the sources familiar with the royal court said the reaction from the United States, an ally for decades, had contributed to the king’s intervention.

“When the situation got out of control and there was an uproar in the United States, MbS informed his father that there was a problem and that they have to face it,” another source with knowledge of the royal court said.

The crown prince and his aides had initially thought the crisis would pass but they “miscalculated its repercussions”, this source said.

Turkish officials have made clear they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, and two Turkish sources have told Reuters police have audio recordings to back up that assertion.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican close to President Donald Trump, on Tuesday accused MbS of ordering Khashoggi’s murder and called him a “wrecking ball” who is jeopardizing relations with the United States. He did not say what evidence he was basing the allegation on.

Trump said on Thursday he presumed Khashoggi was dead but that he still wanted to get to the bottom of what exactly happened. Asked what would be the consequences for Saudi Arabia, Trump said: “Well, it’ll have to be very severe. I mean, it’s bad, bad stuff. But we’ll see what happens.”

Trump has previously said “rogue killers” may have been responsible and has ruled out cancelling arms deals worth tens of billions of dollars. On Tuesday, Trump said he had spoken with MbS and that the crown prince told him he did not know what had happened in the consulate where Khashoggi went missing.

The case poses a dilemma for the United States, as well as Britain and other Western nations. Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter, spends lavishly on Western arms and is an ally in efforts to contain the influence of Iran.

But in a sign of the damage, a succession of international banking and business chiefs, including IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, JP Morgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon and Ford Chairman Bill Ford, have pulled out of a high-profile investment conference in Saudi Arabia this month.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday also abandoned plans to attend, as did Britain’s trade minister and the French and Dutch finance ministers, putting the event in question.

Saudi officials have said they plan to move forward with the conference, scheduled for Oct. 23-25, despite the wave of cancellations.

Neither JP Morgan nor Ford would elaborate on the reasons for the decision not to attend and did not comment on whether concerns about the disappearance of Khashoggi were a factor.

Lagarde had previously said she was “horrified” by media reports about Khashoggi’s disappearance. An IMF spokesperson did not give a reason for her deferring her trip to the Middle East.

TAKING CONTROL

Before the king’s intervention, Saudi authorities had been striking a defiant tone, threatening on Sunday to retaliate with greater action against the U.S. and others if sanctions are imposed over Khashoggi’s disappearance. A Saudi-owned media outlet warned the result would be disruption in Saudi oil production and a sharp rise in world oil prices.

“Reaction and threats to the possible sanctions of the last 24 hours were still (coming) from the crown prince,” the businessman close to royal circles said on Monday. “The king is now holding the file personally … and the tone is very different.”

The king has spoken directly with Erdogan and Trump in recent days. Both the king and his son met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he visited Riyadh on Tuesday.

King Salman, 82, spent decades as part of the inner circle of the Al Saud dynasty, which long ruled by consensus. In four decades as governor of Riyadh, he earned a reputation as a royal enforcer who punished princes who were out of line.

Whether he is willing or able to resume that role in this crisis remains unclear, palace insiders say. One source with links to the royal court said the king was “captivated” by MbS and ultimately would protect him.

Still, there is precedent for the king’s intervention.

He stepped in this year to shelve the planned listing of national oil company Saudi Aramco, the brainchild of MbS and a cornerstone of his economic reforms, three sources with ties to government insiders told Reuters in August. Saudi officials have said the government remains committed to the plans.

And when MbS gave the impression last year that Riyadh endorsed the Trump administration’s still nebulous Middle East peace plan, including U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the king made a public correction, reaffirming Riyadh’s commitment to the Arab and Muslim identity of the city.

Despite these rare instances of pushback, several of the sources close to the royal family said that King Salman had grown increasingly detached from decisions taken by MbS.

“He has been living in an artificially-created bubble,” said one of the sources. Lately, though, the king’s advisers have grown frustrated and begun warning him of the risks of leaving the crown prince’s power unchecked.

“The people around him are starting to tell him to wake up to what’s happening,” the source said.

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The future of war: UAE hires U.S. mercenaries to assassinate political leaders (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 137.

Alex Christoforou

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An investigation by BuzzFeed News has revealed that Middle East Monarchy, United Arab Emirates, hired U.S. mercenaries to assassinate political leaders and religious clerical leaders in war torn Yemen.

The U.S. ex-military, elite soldiers were paid by to kill those designated as “terrorists” by the UAE.

The UAE worked with the U.S. based mercenary-for-hire Spear Operations Group, founded by Israeli-American Abraham Golan, who told BuzzFeed News…

“There was a targeted assassination program in Yemen. I was running it.”

Spear Operations Group’s first target in Yemen was Anssaf Ali Mayo, the local leader of the Islamist political party Al-Islah, a party whose members include Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkul Karman.

Is this the future of war?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss the stunning Buzzfeed News article that exposes the dangerous and dark assassination strategy of the United Arab Emirates, hiring American ex-soldiers to target and kill political enemies.

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Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Authored by Aram Roston via BuzzFeed News…


The operation against Mayo — which was reported at the time but until now was not known to have been carried out by American mercenaries — marked a pivot point in the war in Yemen, a brutal conflict that has seen children starved, villages bombed, and epidemics of cholera roll through the civilian population. The bombing was the first salvo in a string of unsolved assassinations that killed more than two dozen of the group’s leaders.

The company that hired the soldiers and carried out the attack is Spear Operations Group, incorporated in Delaware and founded by Abraham Golan, a charismatic Hungarian Israeli security contractor who lives outside of Pittsburgh. He led the team’s strike against Mayo.

“There was a targeted assassination program in Yemen,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I was running it. We did it. It was sanctioned by the UAE within the coalition.”

The UAE and Saudi Arabia lead an alliance of nine countries in Yemen, fighting what is largely a proxy war against Iran. The US is helping the Saudi-UAE side by providing weapons, intelligence, and other support.

The press office of the UAE’s US Embassy, as well as its US public affairs company, Harbour Group, did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails.

The revelations that a Middle East monarchy hired Americans to carry out assassinations comes at a moment when the world is focused on the alleged murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, an autocratic regime that has close ties to both the US and the UAE. (The Saudi Embassy in the US did not respond to a request for comment. Riyadh has denied it killed Khashoggi, though news reports suggest it is considering blaming his death on a botched interrogation.)

Golan said that during his company’s months-long engagement in Yemen, his team was responsible for a number of the war’s high-profile assassinations, though he declined to specify which ones. He argued that the US needs an assassination program similar to the model he deployed. “I just want there to be a debate,” he said. “Maybe I’m a monster. Maybe I should be in jail. Maybe I’m a bad guy. But I’m right.”

Spear Operations Group’s private assassination mission marks the confluence of three developments transforming the way war is conducted worldwide:

  • Modern counterterrorism combat has shifted away from traditional military objectives — such as destroying airfields, gun emplacements, or barracks — to killing specific individuals, largely reshaping war into organized assassinations.
  • War has become increasingly privatized, with many nations outsourcing most military support services to private contractors, leaving frontline combat as virtually the only function that the US and many other militaries have not contracted out to for-profit ventures.
  • The long US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have relied heavily on elite special forces, producing tens of thousands of highly trained American commandos who can demand high private-sector salaries for defense contracting or outright mercenary work.

With Spear Operations Group’s mission in Yemen, these trends converged into a new and incendiary business: militarized contract killing, carried out by skilled American fighters.

Experts said it is almost inconceivable that the United States would not have known that the UAE — whose military the US has trained and armed at virtually every level — had hired an American company staffed by American veterans to conduct an assassination program in a war it closely monitors.

One of the mercenaries, according to three sources familiar with the operation, used to work with the CIA’s “ground branch,” the agency’s equivalent of the military’s special forces. Another was a special forces sergeant in the Maryland Army National Guard. And yet another, according to four people who knew him, was still in the Navy Reserve as a SEAL and had a top-secret clearance. He was a veteran of SEAL Team 6, or DEVGRU, the sources told BuzzFeed News. The New York Times once described that elite unit, famous for killing Osama bin Laden, as a “global manhunting machine with limited outside oversight.”

The CIA said it had no information about the mercenary assassination program, and the Navy’s Special Warfare Command declined to comment. A former CIA official who has worked in the UAE initially told BuzzFeed News there was no way that Americans would be allowed to participate in such a program. But after checking, he called back: “There were guys that were basically doing what you said.” He was astonished, he said, by what he learned: “What vetting procedures are there to make sure the guy you just smoked is really a bad guy?” The mercenaries, he said, were “almost like a murder squad.”

Whether Spear’s mercenary operation violates US law is surprisingly unclear. On the one hand, US law makes it illegal to “conspire to kill, kidnap, maim” someone in another country. Companies that provide military services to foreign nations are supposed to be regulated by the State Department, which says it has never granted any company the authority to supply combat troops or mercenaries to another country.

Yet, as BuzzFeed News has previously reported, the US doesn’t ban mercenaries. And with some exceptions, it is perfectly legal to serve in foreign militaries, whether one is motivated by idealism or money. With no legal consequences, Americans have served in the Israel Defense Forces, the French Foreign Legion, and even a militia fighting ISIS in Syria. Spear Operations Group, according to three sources, arranged for the UAE to give military rank to the Americans involved in the mission, which might provide them legal cover.

Despite operating in a legal and political gray zone, Golan heralds his brand of targeted assassinations as a precision counterterrorism strategy with fewer civilian casualties. But the Mayo operation shows that this new form of warfare carries many of the same old problems. The commandos’ plans went awry, and the intelligence proved flawed. And their strike was far from surgical: The explosive they attached to the door was designed to kill not one person but everyone in the office.

Aside from moral objections, for-profit targeted assassinations add new dilemmas to modern warfare. Private mercenaries operate outside the US military’s chain of command, so if they make mistakes or commit war crimes, there is no clear system for holding them accountable. If the mercenaries had killed a civilian in the street, who would have even investigated?

The Mayo mission exposes an even more central problem: the choice of targets. Golan insists that he killed only terrorists identified by the government of the UAE, an ally of the US. But who is a terrorist and who is a politician? What is a new form of warfare and what is just old-fashioned murder for hire? Who has the right to choose who lives and who dies — not only in the wars of a secretive monarchy like the UAE, but also those of a democracy such as the US?

BuzzFeed News has pieced together the inside story of the company’s attack on Al-Islah’s headquarters, revealing what mercenary warfare looks like now — and what it could become.

Full Story at BuzzFeed News…

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Saudis transfer $100M to US Gov, as suspect in Khashoggi murder dies in “car accident” (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 3.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at a curiously timed $100 million transfer from Saudi Arabia to the US State Department, as a suspect in the Jamal Khashoggi murder dies in a “suspicious car accident”.

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In a strange twist of events, a Jamal Khashoggi murder suspect died yesterday in what is being described as a “suspicious car accident”.

Zerohedge reports that a 31-year-old lieutenant in the Saudi Royal Air Force said to have participated in the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi died in a “suspicious car accident” in Riyadh, according to Turkish media.

Mashal Saad al-Bostani was reportedly on a 15-man hit squad dispatched to Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul Consulate in Turkey on October 2 during Khashoggi’s visit, before the team quickly left the country, according to daily Yeni Şafak.

Albostani entered Turkey at 1:45 a.m. local time (2245GMT). He stayed at the Wyndham Grand Hotel and left the country at 9:46 p.m. local time (1846GMT) on a private jet which belonged to the Sky Prime Aviation company. –Yeni Şafak

Bostani’s alleged role in the murder of the Saudi journalist are unclear, as are details of the traffic accident in Riyadh – prompting accusations of a cover up by those who orchestrated the Khashoggi hit. Meanwhile, a columnist for Turkey’s Daily Hürriyet wrote on Thursday that Mohammad al Otaibi, Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consul-general, would be “the next execution.”

Turkish daily Yeni Şafak reported Oct. 17 that Al-Otaibi’s voice could be heard in one of the recordings, which Turkish authorities are believed to have, of Khashoggi’s “interrogation” at the consulate.

According to the report, after Al-Otaibi told the interrogators to “do it somewhere else outside or I will be in trouble,” he was told to “shut up if you want to live when you are back in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Otaibi returned to Saudi Arabia on Oct. 16 before his residence in Istanbul was searched by police for more than eight hours on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18. –Daily Hürriyet

Another suspect’s photograph was released from security footage on October 18 by the newspaper Sabah, which reports that 47-year-old intelligence officer Maher Abdulaziz M. Mutreb, who previously served at Saudi Arabia’s London embassy, “landed in Istanbul at 3:38 a.m. on Oct. 2 and went to his country’s Istanbul consulate at 9:55 a.m.,” according to Hürriyet.

Hours after Khashoggi’s arrival and disappearance, Mutreb left the consulate and visited the consul’s residence at 4:53 p.m., left his hotel at 5:15 p.m. and arrived at the Atatürk Airport for his return trip on a private jet at 5:58 p.m. –Daily Hürriyet

Mutreb had travelled extensively with the crown prince, perhaps as a bodyguard according to an October 16 report in the New York Times.

Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post columnist who was critical of the Saudi government, reportedly took seven minutes to die adccording to the Middle East Eye and the Wall Street Journal.

In perhaps the most gruesome details from the report, MEM reported that Dr. Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, who was identified by the Times and other media outlets as an “autopsy expert” whose presence cuts against Saudis’ suggestions that the killing wasn’t premeditated, started cutting Khashoggi’s body into pieces while the journalist was unconscious, but still breathing. Previously, Khashoggi had been knocked unconscious after being injected with a mysterious substance.

Later, the NYT reported that the hit squad cut off Khashoggi’s fingers while he was still conscious during an interrogation where he was also beaten and tortured before being dragged into another room where they finished butchering him.

According to WSJ, voices on the tapes can be heard asking the Saudi consul to leave his office before the hit squad murdered Khashoggi. The consul, al-Otaibi, departed Turkey for Riyadh Tuesday afternoon after the Saudis, in a sudden reversal, denied Turkey’s requests to search Otaibi’s residence, saying his home was off limits to investigators.

The The Middle East Eye then reported that Saudi Arabia had transferred $100 million to the US State Department, described as funds for US efforts against Islamic State groups, which were approved months ago. Critics however claim that the transfer’s timing is suspicious.

When US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew into Riyadh to discuss the disappearance and likely death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia transferred $100m to the State Department for US efforts against the Islamic State (IS) group, the New York Times reported late Tuesday.

While the funding was approved earlier in the summer, critics have viewed the timing of the transfer payment with suspicion.

“The timing of this is no coincidence,” a US official told the New York Times.

The US State Department envoy for the anti-IS coalition said in a statement on Wednesday that they “expected the contribution to be finalized in the fall time frame”.

“The specific transfer of funds has been long in process and has nothing to do with other events or the secretary’s visit,” envoy Brett McGurk said.

The White House has not seemed alarmed amid a barrage of questions about Khashoggi’s disappearance, what Saudi officials know about it and its close ties to Saudi rulers and the country’s powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in particular.

US President Donald Trump has called for people to give the Saudis the benefit of the doubt, stressing Washington’s business and geopolitical interests in staying close to Riyadh.

Trump tweeted that he spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who “totally denied any knowledge of what took place” in Istanbul. Trump said MBS told him “that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter”.

After Pompeo’s meetings with the king and crown prince on Tuesday, Pompeo said Saudi Arabia has committed to conducting a full investigation.

Asked whether they said Khashoggi was alive or dead, Pompeo said: “They didn’t talk about any of the facts.”

Via Zerohedge…

After returning from his trip to Riyadh and Ankara where he addressed the burgeoning diplomatic crisis over the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a mercifully brief press conference at the White House where he took only two questions from reporters who were skeptical about the US’s decision to give the Saudis the benefit of the doubt to pursue their own investigation of the incident.

While Pompeo didn’t have any new information to offer, he did say that he spoke with President Trump about allowing the Suadis “a few more days” to complete their investigation, after Trump said earlier Thursday that he expected the probe to wrap up within 72 hours.

To be sure, Pompeo also emphasized the importance of the US-Saudi partnership to US interests in the region, but between the dual investigations in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Pompeo said he’s confident that we will get to the bottom of what happened inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

In response to a question about the disturbing details of Khashoggi’s final moments that have leaked to the press, Pompeo acknowledged that “there are lots of stories out there” but that the administration would “allow the process to unfold” and eventually “make a determination for ourselves about what happened there based on the facts that are presented to us.”

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