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Russia ready to shoot down US aircraft and missiles in Syria. The US military knows it.

Russia has repeatedly warned it will shoot down US aircraft and missiles in Syria if its troops are threatened. The US has always heeded these warnings.

Alexander Mercouris

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There has been some discussion, especial on social media, as to whether or not Russia might shoot down US aircraft or missiles attacking Syria, and of the circumstances in which that might happen.

There have even been some suggestions that there are no circumstances where the Russians would ever shoot down US aircraft or missiles in Syria, and that the whole Russian military position in Syria is limited to fighting Jihadi terrorists and with respect to the US is essentially a bluff.

This is certainly wrong and is contradicted by the Russians’ own statements and by the actions they have taken.  Since this is a vitally important point, I have decided to discuss it in some detail.

Firstly, it is necessary to go back to the summer of 2015, when the Russians decided to intervene militarily in Syria.

At that point the military situation in Syria was in deep crisis.  With Saudi and Turkish support Al-Qaeda had brought together a coalition of Jihadi groups under the umbrella title of the ‘Army of Conquest’, which stormed the province of Idlib, capturing the provincial capital and threatening Aleppo, which by the late summer was completely surrounded and was about to fall.  Simultaneously ISIS, which had declared its Caliphate the previous year, captured Palmyra and brought all the eastern territories of Syria previously captured by the Jihadis under its control.

The greatest threat to the Syrian state came however from a plan – widely and openly discussed in the Western media and agreed by the US and Turkey – for the US to declare a no-fly zone over Syria whilst the Turkish army established ‘safe havens’ supposedly to protect civilians in Syria, but in reality intended as a cover for an armed invasion of the country.  As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, in Western parlance ‘no-fly zone’ means today unrestricted bombing campaign, and that is undoubtedly what in the summer of 2015 was being planned.  Subsequent events shows that it together with the Turkish invasion was planned to start sometime in September 2015.

The Russians were informed of these plans and were told that unless they arranged a ‘political transition’ (ie. the removal from power of President Assad) the Syrian government would soon collapse as a result of the Jihadi offensives, the incursions by the Turkish army and the US bombing campaign, and that ISIS would be in control of Damascus by October.  This was confirmed by Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to Britain, in an article published in the British media written in February 2016

Last summer we were told by our Western partners that in October Damascus would fall to IS (ie. the Islamic State – AM).

What they were planning to do next we don’t know.  Probably, they would have ended up painting the extremists white and accepting them as a Sunni state straddling Iraq and Syria.

Yakovenko’s claim received unexpected but conclusive corroboration when Wikileaks published secret recordings of comments US Secretary of State John Kerry made to a group of Syrian opposition leaders at the UN General Assembly last year.  During those comments – which have received startlingly little attention – Kerry frankly admitted that the US had not been fighting ISIS in Syria before the Russians intervened there because it was using ISIS to scare President Assad into stepping down.  Here is what Kerry said

And we know that this was growing, we were watching, we saw that DAESH [the IS] was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened.  (We) thought, however we could probably manage that Assad might then negotiate, but instead of negotiating he got Putin to support him.  I lost the argument for use of force in Syria.

The entirety of Kerry’s highly revealing comments can be heard here.

As Kerry admitted, the ploy failed because rather than allow the US to put its plans into effect and risk the fall of Damascus to ISIS Russia unexpectedly chose to intervene militarily in Syria.  The Russian action was intended to forestall and defeat the US plan, which it succeeding in doing.  In October 2015 the Financial Times admitted that the Russian deployment had scuppered US plans to declare a ‘no-fly zone’ in Syria.

Implicit in all of this is of course the implicit threat of military action by the Russians in the event that the US were to attempt to carry out its plan despite the Russian military presence in Syria.  The point is that though the Russians took on no legal obligation to defend Syria from US attack when they deployed there, there was no doubt even then that they would defend themselves in Syria if threatened or attacked, which is what imposing a ‘no fly zone’ would have required.  The US was not willing to take on the enormous risks of doing it, and this made the whole ‘no fly zone’ plan effectively impossible.

This became even clearer in November 2015 after the Turkish air force shot down a Russian SU-24 fighter bomber in Syria.  The Russians responded by deploying the S-400 surface to air missile system to Syria.  The purpose of that deployment was to defend Russia’s military forces from air attack – whether by Turkey or anyone else – with no conceivable reason to deploy such a system to Syria for any other purpose.

The US military fully understood this, which is why in September 2016, when talk of the US declaring a ‘no-fly zone’ in Syria re-started in the West in connection with the attack on the humanitarian convoy earlier that month and the fighting in Aleppo, General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Congressional testimony, said this would require the US to take control of Syrian air space, which would risk war with Russia

Right now… for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia

General Dunford’s full comments can be heard here.

The talk of the US imposing a ‘no fly zone’ and thereby intervening in the fighting in Aleppo, together with the US air raid on Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor in September 2016, provoked the Russians in October to deploy the S-300VM Antey-2500 surface to air missile system to Syria to supplement the S-400 system already deployed there.  The S-300VM Antey 2500 system is specifically designed to shoot down cruise missiles as well as aircraft.

The Russians also publicly declared that they would defend their troops in Syria if they were attacked, and warned the US of the capability of their air defence system in Syria.  This is what General Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman of the Russian Defence Ministry, said

Most officers of the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of the Warring Parties currently work ‘on the ground,’ delivering humanitarian aid and conducting negotiations with heads of settlements and armed groups in most Syrian provinces. 

That is why any missile or air strikes on the territory under control of the Syrian government, will create an obvious threat for Russian military.

And finally, I draw attention of ‘hotheads’ that after a strike on Syrian troops in Deir ez-Sor by planes of the coalition on September 17, we have taken all necessary measures to rule out any such ‘mistakes’ against Russian military and military facilities in Syria (NB: this clearly refers to the deployment of the S-300VM Antey-2500 systems to Syria – AM).

The crews on duty will hardly have the time to calculate the missile’s flight path or try to find out their nationality. As for the laymen’s illusions about the existence of ‘invisible planes’ they may confront a disappointing reality.

These missile deployments and warnings from the Russians caused the US a week later to back down and declare publicly that they had no plans to intervene militarily in Syria.  Subsequently, a few weeks later, James Clapper, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, confirmed in Congressional testimony the capability of the Russian air defence system and Russia’s readiness to use it if its personnel were threatened

I wouldn’t put it past them to shoot down an American aircraft if they felt that was threatening to their forces on the ground.  The system they have there is very advanced, very capable and I don’t think they’d do it – deploy it – if they didn’t have some intention to use it

Simultaneously articles began to appear in the media obviously sourced from the US military that spoke of the US military’s apprehensions about the capability of the Russian air defence system and of the irresponsibility of calls by certain politicians and journalists to challenge it.

Thus an article appeared in The Washington Post which said the following

While there is some disagreement among military experts as to the capability of the Russian systems, particularly the newly deployed S-300, “the reality is, we’re very concerned anytime those are emplaced,” a U.S. Defense official said. Neither its touted ability to counter U.S. stealth technology, or to target low-flying aircraft, has ever been tested by the United States.  “It’s not like we’ve had any shoot at an F-35,” the official said of the next-generation U.S. fighter jet. “We’re not sure if any of our aircraft can defeat the S-300

Whilst an article appeared in the Guardian sourced from retired US military officials saying the following about Hillary Clinton’s talk of declaring a ‘no fly zone’

Retired senior US military pilots are increasingly alarmed that Hillary Clinton’s proposal for “no-fly zones” in Syria could lead to a military confrontation with Russia that could escalate to levels that were previously unthinkable in the post-cold war world.

The proposal of no-fly zones has been fiercely debated in Washington for the past five years, but has never attracted significant enthusiasm from the military because of the risk to pilots from Syrian air defenses and the presence of Russian warplanes.

Many in US national security circles consider the risk of an aerial confrontation with the Russians to be severe….

…..the most distinguishing feature of a Syria no-fly zone in 2017 would be the aerial presence of another great-power air force with an objective which is diametrically opposed to Washington’s.

Russia and the US currently share the skies above Syria and maintain a military-to-military communication channel to avoid confrontation.

But since they operate over different parts of the country and with different objectives – the US in the east against the Islamic State, Russia to the west against Assad’s opposition – a US-imposed no-fly zone would put their objectives into conflict. No one knows how either side would respond if Russian aircraft violated a US air cordon, nor how to de-escalate a clash before it spiralled into extended combat.

In recent days, in connection with the US missile strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base, the Russians have again reiterated their warnings about the capabilities of their air defence system in Syria and of their willingness to use it defend their troops there.

Thus five days ago, on 8th April 2017 – the day after the US missile strike – Lieutenant General Viktor Gumenny, Russian Air Defence and Missile Defence Troops commander and Aerospace Forces deputy commander, went on the radio station Ekho Mosvky to say the following

We have set up a group of forces in Syria over the past two years in line with the decision of the supreme commander-in-chief and the defence minister. Our bases in Khmeimim are protected today. Navy facilities in Tartus are protected. In such a way, we ensured our Aerospace Forces’ activities in terms of aircraft use

The Russians have made their position completely clear, and they have been doing so since the start of their intervention in Syria in September 2015.  Whilst they have taken on no legal obligations to defend Syria from external attack, they have repeatedly said they will defend themselves if they are themselves attacked or threatened in Syria, and they have also said they have the capability to do it.

The US for its part has repeatedly said it understands and accepts this.

Given that the US – as General Dunford has admitted – cannot intervene militarily to overthrow the Syrian government by for example declaring a ‘no fly zone’ over the whole of Syria without risking military confrontation with Russia, in any half-ways rational world that in effect rules the entirety of that option out.

This is why the US was so careful to inform Russia in advance of the missile strike on Sharyat air base, why the US has gone to such lengths since the missile strike to say that it is not planning a wider intervention in Syria to overthrow President Assad’s government, and why the US has been obliged to scale back its air operations in Syria since the Russians switched off the deconfliction hotline between their military in Syria and that of the US.

I have laboured these points because there seems to be some doubt about the extent of Russian willingness to shoot down US aircraft and missiles in Syria.  This is strange because the Russians have issued repeated warnings that they are prepared to do it, and that they will do it if they decide their personnel in Syria are being threatened, whilst the US for its part has gone out of its way to say that it has heeded these warnings and has adjusted its strategy in Syria in response to them.

Everything I have just said is a matter of fact and of public record.  It has been confirmed in public statements by members of both the Russian and US militaries.  It has also been confirmed by their actions. To refuse to recognise it is an exercise in denial.

None of this is to say that the situation has not become much more dangerous since the missile strike.

The point is that both the Jihadis in Syria and the regime change hardliners in Washington and elsewhere have now been emboldened, and an inexperienced US President obsessed with demonstrating his ‘toughness’ has shown that he can be easily pressured and manipulated by them.  The seeds for further escalation are now there, and unfortunately one can no longer be confident it will not happen.

However it is a fundamental error to think that if a truly major escalation – one going far beyond an isolated and ineffectual missile strike on a single Syrian air base – is threatened, the Russians will simply sit back and let it happen.  On the contrary they have clearly signalled that they won’t, and the US military has repeatedly made clear that it recognises the fact.  The Russian decision to switch off the deconfliction hotline is intended as a reminder to the US of this reality, and the scaling down by the US military of US air operations in Syria is intended at least in part as an acknowledgement of this signal.

General McMaster’s public comments show that he fully understands the situation, and that in his role as the President’s National Security Adviser he is explaining it to the President, and the President’s public comments show that for the moment he is listening to General McMaster’s and the US military’s advice.

The big unanswered question is whether the President – if he is goaded again – will continue to listen to the advice of General McMaster and of his other military chiefs, and what they – McMaster, Mattis and Dunford – will do if one day he does not.

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Did U.S. and Allies Commit War Crime by Bombing Syria on April 14th?

The US Government and its allies alleged that there had been a chemical weapons attack which the Syrian Government had perpetrated in the town of Douma Syria on April 7th.

Eric Zuesse

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Originally posted at strategic-culture.org:


Bombardment (or other military invasion) of a country that has not invaded nor threatened to invade the attacking country(s) is “aggression” under international law, and is the chief crime that the Nazis were hanged for at Nuremberg after World War II.

The US and its allies have routinely committed aggression, in places such as Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. A particular instance of it, to be discussed here, could be especially prosecutable, because the alleged ‘cause’ for the invasion could turn out to have been a provable lie, an intentional fabrication which had been concocted by the perpetrators so as to ‘justify’ their invasion. This particular instance was the US-and-allied bombing of Syria, by over a hundred missiles, on April 14th.

The concept here is “War of Aggression” in Wikipedia, whose article makes clear that certain types of invasions, such as in boundary-dispute cases, do not constitute a war-crime. That article cites a statement from the Nuremberg Tribunal: “To initiate a war of aggression … is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Lying about the cause for invading is almost invariably an important part of that “accumulated evil.” Hitler was infamous for doing it. Did the US do this on April 14th?

That Wikipedia article refers to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the standing body that possesses the authority to judge such cases. However, the US Government has refused to accept that Court’s authority, and prefers instead to be forced to a military surrender as the earlier fascist powers were, before it will yield to any such court’s authority. They know that that won’t happen, so are brazen in what they now are doing. The US Government rejects international law (except as applied to other countries — especially ones that the US aristocracy wants to conquer, such as Syria, Russia, Iran, and China). Because the US Government has not surrendered, as the earlier Axis powers did in WW II (when the US was a democracy, instead of a dictatorship as it now is), it maintains its freedom to do what the Germans and the Japanese and the Italians did in WW II — to do such things: aggressions. Like the earlier fascists, the US and allied aristocracies invade and expect to win and thus to possess immunity from prosecution for their crimes. Of course, thus far, they have succeeded, even after the blatant lying that had ‘justified’ the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

This does not mean, however, that the US Government will necessarily be free from the international ‘court’ of public opinion, if and when a demonstrable act of aggressive war by the US Government can be clearly and incontrovertibly presented to that ‘court’ (assuming, of course, that the news-media aren’t themselves likewise effectively controlled by the US Government and its allies — or by their aristocrats, who advertise in and own them).

For the international ‘court’ of public opinion to be applicable, a certain modicum of honesty on the press’s part will therefore be essential. The present article is consequently being submitted to all US-and-allied news-media for publication, broadcast, and public discussion, so as to enable the international ‘court’ of public opinion to function, on this matter (since the US Government blocks the ICC from having jurisdiction over it). The international ‘court’ of public opinion will be able to function only if these news-media publish the case that’s presented here. Otherwise, the public just won’t even have a chance. So, here is that case:

THE CASE

The US Government and its allies alleged that there had been a chemical weapons attack which the Syrian Government had perpetrated in the town of Douma Syria on April 7th. The US Government organized a bombardment of the Syrian Government, which occurred seven days later. The US Government did everything it could to prevent the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW, the internationally authorized body which investigates such matters) from inspecting the area, either before or after the US-and-allied bombing. The OPCW wanted to investigate in order to determine whether there had actually been the alleged chemical-weapons attack perpetrated by the Syrian Government, as the US regime and its allies had alleged in order to allegedly justify their April 14th invasion.

Some UN delegates were even afraid that the aggressive US might take “military action” in order to prevent an OPCW investigation there. Syria’s Government headlined on April 10th, “OPCW to send a fact-finding mission to Douma upon request of Syria and Russia”. Pamela Falk of CBS News reported on April 10th, that “Because the US and Russia draft resolutions are unlikely to pass the Security Council, the Russian mission to the UN is planning to introduce a resolution, obtained by CBS News, that supports an OPCW fact-finding mission to Douma.” But events were racing too fast for anything to issue from the UN The US and its allies were determined to invade, and quickly.

On the night of April 10th, RT bannered “Europe air traffic control issues alert over ‘possible air strikes on Syria within 72 hours’”. Infowars headlined on April 11th “REPORT: US SET TO TARGET 70 DIFFERENT SITES IN SYRIA” and reported that, “The United States is planning to target as many as 70 different sites in Syria, including some at which Russian soldiers are stationed, a source close to the Department of Defense has told Infowars. … According to the source, evidence provided by the controversial White Helmets group, which some have linked to jihadist groups in the region, will be used to justify the attack. The source added that Trump wasn’t supposed to tweet about the air strikes. Earlier today, Trump tweeted, ‘Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and smart! You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!’” He was international judge, jury, and executioner, like George W. Bush was regarding Iraq in 2003.

On April 12th, Breitbart News bannered “May Readies UK for Syria Strikes, Defies Strong Public Opposition” and reported: “Theresa May is clearing the way to launch attacks on the Syrian regime, despite multiple polls showing only one in five Brits support missile attacks.”

This would be an invasion by the aristocracies, not by the publics; these invading nations are dictatorships; their publics have no control over their nations’ international relations, none really at all. To call these nations ‘democracies’ is thus to insult democracy. These nations’ respective aristocracies make even such life-and-death decisions — invasions and other international war-crimes — regardless of the desires and interests of their subjects (called ‘citizens’). And they are doing it (like they did against Iraq in 2003, and against Libya in 2011) against a Government and nation that had never invaded nor even threatened to invade any of the invaders. It’s thus clearly “aggressive war.” Even if Syria’s Government had perpetrated a chemical attack in Douma, the invading nations have been invading without even having sought from the UN an authorization to do it. Back in 2003, when the same invaders destroyed Iraq, they at least tried to obtain a UN authorization to invade. When that effort failed, they simply ordered the UN’s weapons-inspectors out, so as not to kill them, too, in their war-crime. But Donald Trump and his allies didn’t even try to get a UN authorization. (And he has treated the OPCW’s investigators with just as much impatience and contempt as G.W. Bush had treated Hans Blix’s in 2003.)

Also on April 12thRussian Television reported, “The first four chemical weapons experts from the OPCW have arrived in Syria on a fact-finding mission (FFM) into the April 7 Douma incident.”

The US had barred at the Security Council any OPCW findings prior to any invasion; but on the day of the US-and-allied invasion, April 14th, the OPCW announced its determination to investigate Douma, notwithstanding the US regime’s opposition to that. The OPCW insisted upon doing their job, maybe even to expose that this invasion had been a war-crime, if that’s what it was. So, the OPCW simply took upon itself to act, to gather evidence.

This investigation had been wanted by Syria and Russia, but the US and its allies tried at the United Nations to block it. Now that the OPCW was in Syria, the US and its allies charged that the Syrian Government didn’t want any such investigation, and was delaying it so as to hide evidence; the Syrian Government responded that it needed some time in order to be able to make Douma safe enough to allow OPCW investigators to work there. Some armed anti-Government fighters still remained inside Douma. The OPCW were waiting for the Government’s go-ahead to enter Douma.

On Wednesday, April 18th, Reuters headlined “Head of chemical weapons watchdog: UN security team was shot at in Douma”, and reported that,

The head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Wednesday that a UN security team doing reconnaissance in Douma, Syria came under gunfire a day earlier, sources told Reuters.

OPCW Director General Ahmet Üzümcü told a meeting at the organization’s headquarters in The Hague that the security team was forced to withdraw, delaying the arrival of chemical weapons inspectors due to visit the site.

America’s allegations that Syria was overstating the dangers to the OPCW investigators were now clearly lies. It was manifestly the case. The lies from the American side poured like a river, just as usually had been the case — most infamously during the lead-up to the 2003 invasion and destruction of Iraq, which likewise was rushed through on the basis of lies, by the US and its allies.

Also on April 18th, TruePublica bannered “Syrian ‘Rebels’ Used Sarin Nerve Gas Sold By Britain” and reported that the UK Government had “granted licences for the sale of chemical weapons ingredients and components to Syria ten months after the uprising began.” The poorly written text in that news-report failed to make unambiguously clear in its opening, whether these chemicals had been sold to Syria’s Government and/or to the US-UK-backed jihadists who were trying to overthrow it. But both seem to have been the case, and some of these were “donations” and not merely sales; so, at least some of them went to the jihadists whom UK was backing, and weren’t sales to the Syrian Government. (See bottom of page 50 in this document, saying “the revision of the Syria sanctions regime led to some licence revocations in July 2012 for the export of chemicals,” and “the Government is satisfied that no gifting package contravenes its policy,” but the TruePublica report failed to link to any documentation whatsoever, for its vaguely written allegation here, neither to this document nor to anything.) So: the chemical incidents that the US and UK regimes were blaming against Syria’s Government might actually all have been due instead to “chemical” “donations,” by the accusing countries, those foreign invader-regimes, donated to their jihadist allies now in Syria, working in conjunction to provide fake excuses for the US and its allies to invade. Britain might have supplied the terrorists chemical weapons, in this particular instance. Furthermore, on 8 September 2013, London’s Metro newspaper had headlined “British government confirms chemicals were sold to Syria between 2004 and 2010”. And on 7 October 2013, Christof Lehmann’s NSNBC news-site bannered “Top US and Saudi Officials responsible for Chemical Weapons in Syria”. Those were alleged to have been donations of such chemicals to the jihadists. Furthermore, America’s two leading scientists on such matters, Theodore Postol and Richard Lloyd, issued the most-detailed investigation ever of the 21 August 2013 Ghouta chemical attack in Syria that US President Obama was trying to use as a ‘justification’ to invade that nation, and they concluded “the US Government’s Interpretation of the Technical Intelligence It Gathered Prior to and After the August 21 Attack CANNOT POSSIBLY BE CORRECT.” Furthermore Robert Parry at his Consortium News reported on 23 December 2013 that “Ake Sellstrom, the head of the United Nations mission investigating chemical weapons use in Syria, agrees that the vector analysis – at the heart of the New York Times’ indictment of the Syrian government for the deadly Aug. 21 Sarin gas attack – doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.” That fact explained why Gareth Porter at Inter Press Service had headlined on 27 August 2013, “In Rush to Strike Syria, US Tried to Derail UN Probe”. As Seymour Hersh reported in the London Review of Books on 19 December 2013, “The White House’s misrepresentation of what it knew about the attack, and when, was matched by its readiness to ignore intelligence that could undermine the narrative.” Obama continued in George W. Bush’s footsteps, though as a candidate he had condemned Bush’s international policies. Trump now was doing the same. The US regime (like in 2003) simply didn’t want the truth to become publicly known. America’s Republican Party aristocrats and their politicians and news-media had blamed Obama for being too soft against Assad for not bombing Syria, but actually Obama was merely less brazen than his successor Donald Trump (financed by Republican Party aristocrats who had financed Bush) has turned out to be. The US and its allies were clearly lying about the Ghouta incident, just like they had done about “Saddam’s WMD.” So, UK firms, and also “US and Saudi Officials,” might have given jihadists such chemicals. What’s especially damning is the “donations,” since those would have been to the jihadists, in order for them to set up “false-flag” attacks (such as they did in Ghouta), to be blamed against Assad. And still today in the US and allied countries the politicians and news-media refer to Obama as having been indecisive instead of a liar on the Ghouta incident, and Assad is unquestioningly presumed to have been to blame for the Ghouta chemical attack, just as the US-and-allied aristocracies want.

Finally, on April 21st of 2018, the Syrian Government announced that Douma was sufficiently safe for the OPCW inspectors to be able to investigate, and the OPCW entered there, and began its work.

On April 22nd, RT headlined “‘Whole story was staged’: Germany’s ZDF reporter says Douma incident was false flag attack” and reported that “‘People told us in a very convincing manner that this whole story was staged,’ Uli Gack, a reporter with the German ZDF public broadcaster, said (referring to the alleged Douma chemical attack) while he spoke live on ZDF Heute (‘Today’) show on Saturday.” He had entered along with the OPCW investigators.

The OPCW receives funding from the US Government and so has never yet made public their findings regarding Douma. On 5 November 2013, Reuters reported that “The United States has been the biggest contributor to the OPCW’s fund for the Syria mission, with Britain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland also contributing.” Obviously, if the OPCW findings indicate that this alleged event wasn’t really a chemical attack by the Syrian Government but instead was staged by the anti-Government fighters who are supported by the US Government, or otherwise was not planned by the Syrian Government, then the US and its allied Governments (UK, and France) who bombed Syrian Government facilities on April 14th are war-criminals, irrespective of whether they can be prosecuted for that, or for anything else. They’re then just international gangsters, but will be known to be that by an honest OPCW report. So, the US has done everything possible to block it.

Since the OPCW has refused, even as of this late date, to make public its findings, that ZDF Heute news-report, from their reporter who accompanied the OPCW investigators, is perhaps the only independent evidence yet available regarding whether the US-and-allied bombing-campaign on April 14th was a war-crime. (Of course, also, no US or British or French ‘news’ medium has done any follow-up report regarding whether their Government is a war-criminal on this.)

The journalist in that April 20th ZDF report speaks German very fast there, and no translation-option is provided in the video. Furthermore, the video will be gone entirely, after a year (“Video available until 20.04.2019, 19:00”) even in its spoken-only, German-only, version, and so my written news-report and translation here won’t merely make the ZDF report’s contents available to English-speaking audiences for the first time, but it will also provide these contents in a permanent form, which can be included in the various web archives, which that video is not. (Videos are often not archivable. They unfortunately have this severe problem, as historical evidence.)

It’s a two-minute and 29 second video. Here is the video (for as long as it’s still online).

In it, ZDF’s reporter Uli Gack said: “IS [Islamic State] had created the attack. The place was a commando post for the Islamists who had installed chlorine containers and were waiting that this place, highly interesting for the Syrian airforce, would be bombarded, which happened, and the chlorine containers were bombarded. People say that several provocations of this type had happened in Douma. During one of these so-called exercises by the IS, people had been exposed to the gas, which was filmed and then shown as proof for the April 7 attack. I cannot put my hand into the fire for this, but there seems truth in the stories.”

Interviewer (also from ZDF, which is a German Government channel, and Germany is allied with the US and therefore supports US propaganda against Syria’s Government) then asks: “So, why would Assad or the Russians hinder the examinations of the facts?”

Gack: “The terrain under places like Homs is like Swiss cheese, everywhere cells appear from the underground and it is dangerous for the examiners. At least, this could be true. The traces of the gas are disappearing slowly and it may be impossible to know who is responsible.”

On May 4th, the OPCW announced that their collection of evidence regarding the Douma incident was now over, the analysis of it would require “three to four weeks,” and “At this time, it is not possible to give a timeframe for when the Douma report will be issued to States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention,” meaning that they were struggling to find a way to present an honest report which wouldn’t hurt their employer, OPCW.

The OPCW reported on July 24th, that “The Secretariat has verified the destruction of all 27 chemical weapons production facilities (CWPFs) declared by the Syrian Arab Republic.”

On September 6th, the UN reported that, “IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, updating the Council on the implementation of resolution 2118 (2013) on the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, said that the Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had verified the destruction of all 27 chemical weapons production facilities declared by that country.” This announcement was made at that time because the jihadists in Syria’s most-densely pro-jihadist province, Idlib, the American Government’s allies there, had been documented by the Syrian and Russian Governments to have prepared in Idlib yet another assembly of chemicals to be ready to be spread by a Syrian and Russian bombing campaign, which had been planned by Syria and its ally Russia, in order to exterminate the jihadists in Idlib. So, clearly, any further banned chemicals on Syrian territory would be from the US and its allies, not from Syria and its allies. This crucial fact has not been reported to the American people by American ‘news’ media. The US regime still harbors hopes of sparking a chemical release in Syria that they can blame against Syria’s Government as an excuse to bomb it further — to commit still more aggressions against Syria.

On September 24th, the OPCW reported that, “The FFM [Fact-Finding Mission] continues to collect and analyse information with regard to the alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon in Douma and will provide a final report on its findings in due course.” Presumably, the OPCW wants to find a way to phrase their report so that the US Government and its allies won’t discontinue funding the OPCW. Perhaps by the time it is finally issued, the ‘news’ media won’t need to give it more than a perfunctory and extremely brief ‘news’ report, with a dull headline. (If even that.) After all: On May 4th, the OPCW had announced that their collection of evidence regarding the Douma incident was over, and the analysis of it would require “three to four weeks,” so that the analysis was completed by around June 1st — and yet it hasn’t been made public.

This is like a repeat of what the US regime and its allies had done to Iraq in 2003, regarding “Saddam’s WMD” that didn’t exist — invasion on the basis of lies about “weapons of mass destruction” — as if the US regime isn’t itself the world’s worst producers of such things and users of them, too: “pots calling the kettle black” and then invading that kettle. The UN is terrifically exercised about eliminating chemical-and biological weapons stockpiles from weak countries such as Iraq and Syria, but what about eliminating them from the world’s most powerful countries, which are even storing ebola virus for military use (or at least the US and UK Governments are)? What about that? Nothing. There’s no International Criminal Court to judge these leaders, who really are international war-criminals, even if OPCW ends up saying that Assad had been a domestic war-criminal. To be an international war-criminal is vastly more heinous, and there can be no reasonable doubt that the leaders of the US alliance are that.

In the international court of public opinion, today’s fascist powers could yet be internationally responded-to by consumer boycotts of their mega-corporate brands (whose owners control those fascist governments), and by other means. Furthermore, there exists the possibility of international economic sanctions against such fascist regimes, which kill millions and endanger the whole world. And, also, why are politicians in the US-allied nations being re-elected by the publics there? Certainly those voters don’t want to be controlled by the US regime’s stooges, as now is the case there. An exposure of the US regime as being an international fascist dictatorship could produce real results, even if the US regime continues stiffing the International Criminal Court. Whether the OPCW will risk doing this — calling out the US alliance’s lie on this occasion — is the question. But, for the sake of world peace, they ought to do it, not cave to their funders. Otherwise, how much longer will this decades-long string, of invasions by the US and its allies (such as of Iraq 2003, Libya 2011, and Syria and Yemen now), continue? If the ICC cannot prosecute America’s Presidents, then what use is it, really? So, all that is left here is an honest OPCW — if it is honest — and honest news-media (if they too will be honest).

What is at stake here could be whether fascist control of the world will be stopped, at all — ever.

A typical example of the depth of the enormously profitable corruption in the US, by which millions of Americans get routinely destroyed in order to expand yet further the wealth of America’s billionaires, the aristocrats, is summarily described here and here. This documentary, which is only summarized there, demonstrates that not only the people in the invaded countries are being destroyed by these aristocrats. Fascism is bad for everyone except the very few people who are enriched (enormously) by it, the super-rich who stand behind it, and who control it.

PS: 

What is the historical and ideological source of this fascism, which is now gripping the world? On 10 July 2018, I headlined at The Saker, “Vladimir Putin’s Basic Disagreement with The West” and attributed the source of the US-UK alliance to the UK magnate, Cecil Rhodes, late in the 1800s. He saw that in order for the British Empire to continue expanding, it would need to do so in alliance with the then-emerging US empire — a tight alliance between these two aristocracies — and that it should include also Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In 1877, he wrote: “I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. I contend that every acre added to our territory means the birth of more of the English race who otherwise would not be brought into existence. Added to this, the absorption of the greater portion of the world under our rule simply means the end of all wars.” He rationalized: further conquest by this ‘race’ would be the only path to permanent peace. The concept of ‘national security’, then, means, to them, expanding this particular empire, until it rules the entire planet. That’s their goal. That’s their ‘Paradise’. As I document also there, the American billionaire George Soros carries on today in Rhodes’s footsteps, to expand the US-UK empire. But the idea is not his; it is Rhodes’s. And today it has come to be based on two specific mechanisms. The US dollar as the world’s reserve currency is one bastion of this neo-Rhodes-ian system. The City of London’s constituting the bastion of the half of the world’s privately-owned wealth (most of the global aristocracy’s wealth) that’s hidden in offshore locations, where there is complete secrecy and non-accountability to any government, is the other half of this Rhodes-ian Paradise. It’s actually a global aristocratic gangland. That’s the reality of the Rhodes-ian system, which is today’s fascist Axis.

Here are three Snowden-released confidential documents that are typical as being Rhodes-ian:

One document, dated 12 November 2004, is headed “TOP SECRET” and to be sent “TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL” or to the entire core Rhodes empire, and it related that “From 4 – 6 October, Lt Gen Hayden and GCHQ [Government Communications Headquarters, in Cheltenham, England] Director David Pepper co-chaired the annual NSA-GCHQ Joint Management Review (JMR) at Chevening House. The fine Palladian house, the country residence of the UK Foreign Secretary, dates back to 1630. It is set in 27 acres of gardens, within an estate of 3,000 acres, and is located 23 miles south of London, in the Kent countryside.” It said “that NSA and GCHQ must work hard to keep one another apprised and well connected throughout (actually one of NSA’s Special US Liaison Officer, London’s key responsibilities); A validation of the common cause that joins our two nations.”

Another document, dated 19 November 2004, is likewise headed “TOP SECRET” and to be sent “TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL.” It’s headlined “Leaders Peer into the Future, See Global System.” It said: “Last week, SIGINT leaders flew in from around the world to attend the annual SIGINT Site Commanders Operational Review here at Fort Meade. This year’s SCOR conference focused on how we are to govern the global SIGINT network in the 21st century. It went very well.”

Another document, dated 24 November 2004, is likewise headed “TOP SECRET” and to be sent “TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL.” It’s headlined “Finding the Achilles’ Heel.” It said: “JWAC [Joint Warfare Analysis Center] provides the combatant commands, Joint Staff, and other customers with effects-based precision targeting options for selected networks and nodes in order to carry out the national security and military strategies of the United States during peace, crisis, and war.” It discussed “Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. As we continue the Global War on Terrorism, new opportunities are identified and analytic partnerships are formed.”

Tim Shorrock at Salon wrote on 10 June 2013:

“The largest concentration of cyber power on the planet is the intersection of the Baltimore Parkway and Maryland Route 32,” says Michael V. Hayden, who oversaw the privatization effort as NSA director from 1999 to 2005. He was referring not to the NSA itself but to the business park about a mile down the road from the giant black edifice that houses NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. There, all of NSA’s major contractors, from Booz to SAIC to Northrop Grumman, carry out their surveillance and intelligence work for the agency.

So: Lt. Gen. Hayden in London on 12 November was preparing what would be presented at Ft. Meade on 19 November to America’s SIGINT from around the world. Then, on 24 November, JWAC was discussing “effects-based precision targeting options” that the entire SIGINT would adopt, after that meeting which Hayden had had 12 days earlier at the luxurious and private country residence of the UK Foreign Secretary. This “TOP SECRET” meeting seems to have been an instance of close coordination between US and UK. No announcement was ever made regarding what was said or agreed-to at any of those top-secret meetings.

But, above all: Why were only the Rhodes circle of nations’ leaders (“TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL”) included in these “TOP SECRET” US Government communications? Why not also French? Why not also Israeli? Why not also Saudi? Why not also Japanese? Etc.? (In other words: why not all other aristocracies that are allied with America’s aristocracy.) None of those countries were allowed to participate in these crucial and secret meetings.

Is “the special relationship” the core of the US empire? Is that what it basically is? If so, it’s what Rhodes wanted. And it certainly isn’t democracy, not anywhere. It’s privatized government, in the hands of the US and UK aristocracies, which control the generals and the weapons-making firms whose boards the generals join after their ‘public’ service. This is an entity that’s independent of any treaty the US Government has. It stands above any of America’s treaties. And, yet, this alliance never faced the US Constitution’s requirements in order to be able to become a treaty obligation or right with any foreign nation. The US Government has — to put this matter in clear terms — been taken over by international gangsters, US and foreign, who work closely together, via agents everywhere, answerable ultimately only to the US and UK aristocracies, and beyond any laws at all, entirely unConstitutional.

It is fascist, and it is trying to expand — they’re more like Adolf Hitler, than like Francisco Franco. It’s aggressive war, to control the world. It’s clearly war-criminal.

That’s what the OPCW is now facing.

To understand it more fully, I recommend especially two videos:

——

The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire (Documentary)

Operation Gladio – Full 1992 documentary BBC

What they show is the basic history that all students, everywhere, should know before they head off to college, so that they can understand the broader context in which their professors are functioning. And that’s the context I described in my “Vladimir Putin’s Basic Disagreement with The West”.

Here is an operation by the Rhodes-ians, under the leadership of US President Barack Obama:

Here is an act of partisan resistance against those nazis, today.

These wars are on in many places. One shouldn’t have to be targets that the new nazis are trying to kill, before one becomes knowledgeable about whom they are, and what they really stand for. Any nation’s politicians who support the new nazism are enemies of the people whom they had promised to represent. For example, this is the real reason why America’s NSA actually isn’t recording just the metadata on every phone call to or from every phone in America, but is also recording every phone-conversation, in blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution; and not only Trump’s appointee to the US Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh lies to endorse it, but also his colleague on the US DC Circuit Appeals Court, Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland did. They actually don’t care about the US Constitution; they just pay “lip service” to it. This is how these gangsters-in-suits run the country. Obviously, there is bipartisan support, by America’s aristocrats, for establishing a total-surveillance government. Whereas Garland refused to say why he voted for it, Kavanaugh said his reason was that “national security” overrides the US Constitution. And, now, he is on the Supreme Court, which interprets the US Constitution. He’s normal there, not unusual. He’s not the basic problem; the aristocracy that he serves is the basic problem.

Will the OPCW stand up against it? Or will it instead serve its masters? Blaming the invaded Government is so much safer than blaming the invaded ones, especially for an authority that’s being paid by the invading ones.

But, if the OPCW won’t do it, who will? Who even can? And, what kind of world would that then leave us with?

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Trump ready to drop hammer on Saudi Prince if he murdered Jamal Khashoggi (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 134.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Donald Trump went on 60 Minutes and vowed “severe punishment” on Saudi Arabia if it turns out that missing Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Trump told 60 Minutes that so far Saudi Arabia has denied playing a part in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, but says the case is being investigated.

Trump has sat down in an interview wit CBS News to discuss the missing journalist, issuing a serious and stern warning to the Saudi Kingdom.

In an interview excerpt released from the 60 Minutes” interview, the US President noted that “nobody knows” whether Saudi officials are involved although they “deny it vehemently.”

Trump said that the Saudis deny “in every way you can imagine” having anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance when his son-in-law Jared Kushner spoke with the Saudi crown prince.

Trump stressed that Saudi Arabia may still be responsible and an investigation is ongoing.

“Could it be them? Yes,” the president said.

“It’s being looked at very, very strongly. We would be very upset and angry if that was the case.”

“We’re going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment,”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the explosive story surrounding missing WaPo Jamal Khashoggi, and how this may be Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman undoing, should evidence surface that he ordered the killing of Khashoggi.

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Via Zerohedge

Khashoggi, a Saudi critic of the regime who wrote for the Washington Post, disappeared since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to pick up a document for his upcoming wedding. Turkish officials have said they believe he was killed and dismembered there.

On Saturday, the Turkish pro-government newspaper Sabah daily reported that Turkey’s investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance revealed recordings made on his Apple Watch purportedly indicating he was tortured and killed. The report was published  after a delegation from Saudi Arabia arrived in Turkey for a joint investigation into his disappearance.

“The moments when Khashoggi was interrogated, tortured and murdered were recorded in the Apple Watch’s memory,” the paper said, adding that the watch had synched with his iPhone, which his fiancée was carrying outside the consulate. The Turkish newspaper said Saudi intelligence agents had realized after he died that the watch was recording and they used his finger print to unlock it, deleting some files, but not all of them. The recordings were subsequently found on his phone, it said.

That said, considering that Turkey has all too often stretched reality to suit its various political goals and ambitions – the “failed” 2016 coup coming to mind – any official Turkish version of events, especially one based on “sources” and without factual backing should be taken with a grain of salt.

Perhaps that explains why despite the escalation in rhetoric, Trump was still hesitant. In Trump’s interview, the president said new actions should not jeopardize the Saudi military equipment contracts held by companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon which he said would put jobs at risk.

Using the economy as a straw man to avoid cracking down on Riyadh, Trump siad that “I don’t want to hurt jobs. I don’t want to lose an order like that,” he said. “There are other ways of punishing, to use a word that’s a pretty harsh word, but it’s true.”

“There’s a lot at stake,” Mr. Trump continued, “And, maybe especially so because this man was a reporter. There’s something, you’ll be surprised to hear me say that, there’s something really terrible and disgusting about that if that was the case.”

As Bloomberg notes, Trump’s hesitation to strike back at the kingdom reflects close ties the White House has nurtured with the nation’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and his administration’s acquiescence to other Saudi actions that have drawn international condemnation.

What is perhaps more bizarre is that the true Saudi transgression, its ongoing war against political and religious opponents in Yemen has failed to lead to any condemnation, by either the president or the suddenly all too vocal Congress. Under Trump, the U.S. has continued to back – and equip – a Saudi bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen that’s killed thousands of civilians, providing American logistical support and weapons.

Meanwhile, as senators push for sanctions against the Saudis if the murder allegations prove true, Trump has said only that he’d take unspecified action. “He went in and it doesn’t look like he came out,” the president observed in a Fox News interview.

Saudi Arabia insists Khashoggi left its consulate alive shortly, while Turkey claims it has proof, so far undisclosed, that the reporter was tortured and killed inside the consulate. What really happened has yet to be determined.

 

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Italy Declares War on Merkel and the EU

Alternate for Germany (AfD) is now pushing up towards 20% nationally.

The Duran

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Authored by Tom Luongo via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


If there were ever any doubts that the leaders of the Euroskeptic coalition that now runs Italy has a plan to defy the European Union its proposed budget should quell them. Both Deputy Prime Ministers, Luigi Di Maio of Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini of The League, were adamant about locking horns with European Union leadership over all issues of sovereignty between now and May’s European Parliamentary elections.

Their budget proposal which included both tax cuts and universal income blew past the EU budget limit of 2.0% of GDP, coming in at 2.4%. It has put their Finance Minister, Giovanni Tria, in a difficult position because Tria doesn’t want to negotiate this budget with Brussels, preferring a less confrontational, read more pro-EU, approach.

Salvini and Di Maio, however, have other plans. And since I began covering this story last year on my blog, I’ve said that it was imperative that Salvini force the issue of the Troika’s demands – the EU, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – back down their throats on debt restructuring/forgiveness.

What I meant then, and I was focused on Salvini’s emergence as the leader of this fight, was that Salvini and Italy, because they are more than technically insolvent, have all the leverage in the negotiations. The size of their outstanding debt and the liabilities existent on the balance sheets of banks across Europe, most notably the nearly $1 trillion in TARGET 2 liabilities, are something Juncker, Draghi, Merkel and Christine LaGarde at the IMF simply cannot ignore.

But, to do this Salvini and now Di Maio have to make a good faith effort to negotiate a good deal for Italy with Brussels, Berlin and the IMF. This is why the budget squeaked past the 2.0% limit and then they walked it back to 2.0% but with provisions they knew would anger the EU finance ministers.

The point of this is to push Brussels and paint them as the bad guys to shift public sentiment back towards an Italeave position. Italy’s problems are not solvable with Germany holding the purse strings for all the EU countries.

So, the first prong of their assault on the power structure of the EU is this, challenge them on their budget while making strong statements to the rest of Europe that they are not looking to exit the euro. If they do, it will be Germany forcing that situation.

The other prong of the assault is to remake the EU from within, which Salvini has openly stated is one of his goals.

It started more than a month ago when he met with Hungarian President Viktor Orban who agreed on a strategy of creating a ‘League of Leagues’ to unite the opposition to the current technocratic rule on the European Commission.

They were clear then that the goal was to wrest control of the European Commission Presidency from the coalition backing current President Jean-Claude Juncker.

With the rise in the polls of Euroskeptic parties across Europe, Salvini and Orban can drive real change in the structure of the parties within the European Parliament. The European People’s Party, which Orban’s Fidesz party is a member of, is vulnerable to losing its senior position in any coalition because of the huge change in Italy’s electoral make-up along with that in Austria with the less radical Sebastian Kurz.

But, the big swing is on the table in Germany. Alternate for Germany (AfD) is now pushing up towards 20% nationally and the next hurdle for its growth is this weekend’s Bavarian state elections. If AfD out polls the Greens and denies the CSU a path to a coalition government without them then that could have spillover effects for Angela Merkel.

The latest polls have AfD averaging around 11% versus a strong push up to 18% by the Greens. The CSU has collapsed to just 35%. How accurate these polls are are anyone’s guess at this point, but given recent history I would not be surprised to see AfD outperform their polling numbers on Sunday.

Figure 1: Source Wahlrecht.de

Because if they do and the CSU/Green total is less than 50%, the CSU may be forced to form a three-headed coalition to freeze out AfD. And this is assuming that the CSU and the Greens could form any workable coalition in the first place.

That would truly upset CSU leaders and the cries to break the Union with Merkel’s CDU would grow louder.

And with Merkel dealing with internal CDU disloyalty the possibility rises quickly that her national coalition could collapse amid external pressure from Salvini and Di Maio over budget and debt issues.

The markets are beginning to wake up to the fact that this political battle is not going to go as smoothly for Germany and the Troika as it did for Greece. Salvini and Di Maio are not Varoufakis and Tsipras and Italy is simply way more important than Greece.

The euro is weakening by the day while Italian bond yields are spiking. Traders do not know what to do as each statement by an official associated with this fight moves Italian debt markets by 20 basis points.

And, I shouldn’t have to say this too many times but 20 basis point moves in sovereign debt markets is the definition of ‘not normal.’

Populist forces within the EU are angry and their power is growing. The technocrats in Brussels still seem to think that the old rules apply but they do not. Scare tactics will not work on these men because they know that the ultimate move is to simply make preparations for a new currency, be it the mini-BOT that has been floated previously by Salvini or a new lira.

My read on the current state of affairs is as follows. Since the ECB is the only marginal buyer of Italian debt, which has been the case for more than a year now, any sharp rise in bond yields is a result of the ECB simply backing off that buying and market forces taking over.

This is the ECB’s biggest weapon. It will try to scare everyone by allowing Italy’s fiscal position to erode quickly making it impossible for them to issue debt at sustainable yields. But, it does so at the expense of the value of the bonds it and other European banks already hold. Because they are dropping in value, undercutting the solvency of those banks.

If the Italian leadership holds the line and refuse to back down, then they call the ECB’s bluff on allowing rates to rise. The ECB has to come back in, begin buying to support the price, and the regroup for the next battle.

That’s what we’ve been seeing for a few months now in the Italian bond market. That’s where this war is being waged as well as the headlines. And Salvini and Di Maio understand it. Because if they didn’t they would have already folded.

Instead they have doubled down on their opposition to Brussels and Berlin and added new vectors to their attacks.

This will not end well.

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