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NATO & U.S. spreading ‘disinformation on Syria,’ says Veterans for Peace

The conflict in Syria is a war of aggression against Syria by a coalition of powerful states led by the US. ‘Socialists’ misrepresent it and facilitate this aggression by adopting the US/NATO narrative of a ‘revolution’ against a ‘tyrant’.

Rick Sterling

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At the recent annual convention of Veterans for Peace, VFP Vice President Gerry Condon said “The US peace movement has been demobilised by disinformation on Syria.”

Disinformation and propaganda on Syria takes three distinct forms. The first is the demonisation of the Syrian leadership. The second is the romanticisation of the opposition. The third form involves attacking anyone questioning the preceding characterisations.

There is a recent article which exemplifies all three of these forms. It is titled “Anti-Imperialism and the Syrian Revolution” by Ashley Smith of the International Socialist Organization (ISO). It’s a remarkable piece of misinformation and faulty analysis.  Because it is clear and well written, it is likely to mislead people who are not well informed on the facts regarding Syria. Hence the importance of critically reviewing it.

Technique 1: Demonize the enemy … “the Syrian regime and its brutal dictator”  

Smith starts off posing the question: Are you with the Syrian revolution or the brutal Assad dictatorship? The way he frames it, it’s not a difficult choice: yay for the revolution!

Like these false options, Ashley Smith’s article is a fairy tale devoid of reality.  His bias is shown as he criticises the Left for ignoring “Assad’s massacre of some 400,000 Syrians”. Included in this death count are 100 – 150 thousand Syrian soldiers and allies. Ashley blames Assad instead of the armed opposition for killing Syrian soldiers!

Another example of false propaganda is the discussion of the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21, 2013 in outer Damascus.  Neoconservatives speak of this event as “proving” Assad’s brutality – “killing his own people” – as well as the “failure” of President Obama to enforce his “red line”.  Ashley aligns with the neocons as he says “Barack Obama came under pressure to intervene militarily in Syria after the regime carried out a chemical weapons attack in a suburb of Damascus in 2013, but he backed a Russian-brokered resolution that protected Assad.”

In reality, the Damascus sarin gas attack was carried out by an opposition group with the goal of forcing the U.S. to directly attack the Syrian government. Soon after the event, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity issued a statement reporting reporting “the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident”.

Later on, Seymour Hersh wrote two lengthy investigations pointing to Jabhat al Nusra with Turkish support being culpable. Investigative journalist Robert Parry exposed the Human Rights Watch analysis blaming the Syrian government as a “junk heap of bad evidence”. In the Turkish parliament, Turkish deputies presented documents showing that Turkey provided sarin to Syrian “rebels”.  A detailed examination and analysis of all fact based stories in online at whoghouta.blogspot.com. Their conclusion is that “The only plausible scenario that fits the evidence is an attack by opposition forces.” 

Ashley Smith accuses the Syrian government of widespread torture. His main example is the case of Syrian Canadian Maher Arar who was arrested by US authorities in collusion with Canadian authorities, then rendered to Syria for interrogation in 2002.

Arar was beaten during the initial weeks of his interrogation in Syria. After ten months imprisonment, Syrian authorities determined he was not a terrorist and sent him back to Canada. Arar received an official apology and $10 Million from the Canadian government.

The most highly publicised accusation of rampant torture and murder by Syrian authorities is the case of “Caesar”.  The individual known as “Caesar” was presented as a defecting Syrian photographer who had 55,000 photos documenting 11,000 Syrians tortured by the brutal Assad dictatorship.

At the time, among mainstream media only the Christian Science Monitor was skeptical, describing it as “a well timed propaganda exercise”. In the past year it has been discovered that nearly half the photos show the opposite of what is claimed.

The Caesar story is essentially a fraud funded by Qatar with ‘for hire’ lawyers giving it a professional veneer and massive mainstream media promotion.

While western media routinely refers to Assad as a dictator, in fact he is elected and popular with the majority of Syrians.

Although not wealthy, Syria was largely self-sufficient with a semi-socialist state apparatus including free health-care, free education and large industries 51% owned by the state. You do not see pervasive western fast food, banks, and other corporate entities in Syrian cities.  In the wake of protests, the government pushed through reforms which ended the one party system. There are now political parties across the political spectrum. These are a genuine ‘moderate opposition’. The June 2014 election confirmed Assad’s popularity despite the denials of those who have never been there. 

Technique 2: Romanticize the opposition … “the Syrian Revolution”

Ashley Smith echoes mainstream media which portrays the conflict as a “civil war” which began with peaceful democratic loving Syrian revolutionaries beaten by a brutal regime.

In reality there was a violent faction from the start. In the first protests in Deraa seven police were killed. Two weeks later there was a massacre of 60 security forces in Deraa.  In Homs, an eye-witness recounted the situation: 

“From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”

In the first two months, hundreds of police and security forces were killed.

Ashley and company listen to Americans and British citizens and mistakenly believe they are listening to real Syrians.  Some of these people left Syria at age 3. Some of them have never lived in Syria. Thus you have fantasy portrayals such as “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War”.

A more realistic picture is given by a Syrian who still lives in Aleppo. He writes under the name “Edward Dark” and describes how he and his friends quickly regretted the take-over of Aleppo by armed groups in summer 2012. He describes one friend’s reaction as the reality was hitting home:

“How could we have been so stupid? We were betrayed!”. And another says: “Tell your children someday that we once had a beautiful country, but we destroyed it because of our ignorance and hatred.”

Edward Dark is a harsh critic of President Assad and Baath Party.  He is also naive regarding the role of US Ambassador Robert Ford.  But his description of early protesters and the arrival of armed opposition rings true and more authentic than the portrayal of Yassin-Kassab and Al Shami.

In fact many of the idealised “Syrian revolutionaries” promoted by the authors of “Burning Country” are trained and paid agents of the US and UK.  The Aleppo Media Center which produces many of the videos is a US creation.  The White Helmets which purport to be Syrian, independent and unarmed first responders are a creation of the US and UK. The banner boys from Kafranbel are another western funded operation. In her book about her time as Secretary of State, Clinton boasts of providing “training for more than a thousand activists, students, and independent journalists” (p. 464).

Why do the enemies of Syria create such organizations?  Partly as a way to channel money and support to the armed opposition. Also to serve as propaganda tools to confuse the situation and generate support for the real goal: regime change.

For example, White Helmets mostly work in areas dominated by the Syrian Al Qaeda.  Unlike legitimate organisations such as the Red Crescent, they never work in areas controlled by the government. And they are also active on the propaganda front, continually pushing for US / NATO intervention via a  “no fly zone”. The misinformation of Ashley Smith and ISO confuses unwitting people and helps the enemies of Syria in their drive for regime change.   

In contrast with the romanticised delusions of Ashley Smith and the authors of “Burning Country”, the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency gave an accurate assessment in August 2012:

“Events are taking a clear sectarian direction.  The Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”

Technique 3: Attack Those who Question the Dogma … “You’re an Assad supporter!”

Ashley Smith does not criticise the NATO and Gulf states that are violating international law and the UN charter by funding and supplying a proxy army to attack Syria.  Instead, he criticises left groups who oppose the aggression.

That is a sign of how far off track ISO is. They did the same thing regarding Libya and have evidently learned nothing from that disaster. Ashley Smith should go and tour Libya now to savour the “revolution” he promoted.

Ashley Smith’s theme with respect to Syria (peaceful popular uprising against brutal dictator) is the same theme promoted by neoconservatives and the mainstream media.  When they encounter a different perspective,  they cry out, “You are an Assad supporter!”. Never mind that many genuine progressives do not say that. What we say is that it is for the Syrian people to determine their government, not foreigners.

Smith criticises the British Stop the War coalition for having “adapted to Assad supporters” and for “giving a platform to allies of the dictatorship”, specifically “regime apologist Mother Superior Agnes Mariam”.

Smith is misinformed on this issue also, but it is doubly revealing. In fact, Mother Agnes was hosted on the tour by Syria Solidarity Movement.  When she was in London, she was invited to speak at a Stop the War rally. To his great discredit, the keynote speaker Jeremy Scahill, who is closely aligned with ISO, threatened to withdraw from the conference if Mother Agnes spoke.  Scahill has done great journalistic work exposing Blackwater and Drone Warfare. 

However that does not excuse the complicity leading to blackmail regarding a Palestinian Lebanese nun who has shown immense courage in promoting reconciliation and peace in Syria. However, that action is typical of some misguided “socialist” groups, the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies. Mother Agnes was verbally attacked and abused by these groups throughout her tour, which otherwise met with great success. Mother Agnes has lived in Syria for over twenty years.  She consistently says that Syria needs reform, but you don’t do that by destroying it.

Ashley Smith goes on to criticize the US Peace Council for recently sending a delegation to Syria and having the audacity to talk with “Assad and his henchmen”. He sounds like the right wing hawks who denounced Jane Fonda for going to North Vietnam in the 1970’s. Smith displays a dogmatic and closed-minded view; what kind of “international socialism” does he represent? 

Smith criticizes Green Party candidates Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka for “remaining silent about Putin’s and Assad’s atrocities”. This is another measure of how far off track the ISO is.  They evidently are not aware of international law or they don’t care about it. The Assad government has a right to defend itself against terrorist attacks which are sponsored, funded and supplied by foreign governments.

Syria also has a right to request help from Russia and Iran. But with tunnel-vision dogma, Ashley Smith and ISO do not care. They seem to be supporting instead of opposing imperialist aggression, violations of international law, and the death and destruction these have led to.

Ashley disparages the Syrian government and people who have continued to fight against the forces of sectarianism promoted by NATO, Israel and the Gulf monarchies. Ashley and ISO would do well to send some people to see the reality of Syria. They would find it very different than their fevered imagination or what they have been led to believe by fake Syrians and Muslim Brotherhood dogmatists.

Genuine progressives are not “Assad supporters”. Rather, we are opponents of imperialist aggression and supporters of international law–which says it’s the right of Syrians to determine who leads them. That would mean real Syrians, not those raised in or paid by the West. 

Ashley Smith’s Inaccurate Overall Analysis

Ashley Smith gives a very inaccurate analysis of the overall geopolitical situation in Syria and beyond.

He says

“The US has been seeking a resolution that might push Assad aside, but that above all maintains his regime in power”. He goes on to say ‘U.S. policy from the beginning has been to preserve the core of Assad’s state.”

Ashley believes

“the U.S. has retreated in general from outright regime change as its strategy in the Middle East”.

This is absurd. In reality the US and allies Israel and Saudi Arabia have been pushing for ‘regime change’ in Syria for over a decade. In 2005 CNN host Christiane Amanpour expressed the situation bluntly:

“Mr. President, you know the rhetoric of regime change is headed towards you from the United States. They are actively looking for a new Syrian leader. They’re granting visas and visits to Syrian opposition politicians. They’re talking about isolating you diplomatically and, perhaps, a coup d’etat or your regime crumbling. What are you thinking about that?”

In 2007, Seymour Hersh wrote about the destabilization efforts in his article “The Redirection”.

In 2010, Secretary of State Clinton spoke of “changing Syria’s behavior” and threatened

“President Assad is making decisions that could mean war or peace for the region …. We know he’s hearing from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. It is crucial that he also hear directly from us, so that the potential consequences of his actions are clear.”

Secretary Clinton appointed Robert Ford to become US Ambassador to Syria. Ford was previously the chief political officer in Baghdad for Ambassador John Negroponte.  Who is John Negroponte? He was Ambassador to Honduras overseeing the Nicaraguan Contras and El Salvador death squads in the 1980’s. Negroponte’s arrival in Iraq in 2004 led to ‘the El Salvador option’ (sectarian death squads)  in Iraq. 

Since the conflict in Syria began in 2011 the US has spent many billions of dollars trying to overthrow the Syrian government or force it to change policy. The supply of sophisticated and deadly weaponry continues.  In April 2016 it was reported that the US recently supplied 994 tons of sophisticated rocket launchers, anti tank and other heavy weapons to “moderate rebels” who ally with the Syrian Al Qaeda ( Jabhat al Nusra recently renamed Jabhat Fatah al Sham).

Ashley’s theory that the US is intent on “preserving” the Syrian state and the US has “given up” on regime change is not supported by the facts.

Ashley continues the faulty analysis by saying

“the U.S. is solely and obsessively focused on defeating this counterrevolutionary force (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria”

and

“the Obama administration has struck a de facto alliance with Russia”. 

This is more theory without evidence. The US coalition was doing little to stop ISIS and looked the other way as ISIS went across the open desert to attack and occupy Palmyra.  They were similarly looking the other way as ISIS sent hundreds of trucks filled with oil from eastern Syria into Turkey each day. 

It was not until Russia entered the scene in support of Syria one year ago, that the US coalition got embarrassed into actually attacking ISIS. 

As to a “de facto alliance”, this is what Russia has implored the US to do, largely without response.  In the past two weeks the U.S. has threatened Russian and Syrian planes not to attack US ground forces inside Syria and refused to come to agreement with Russia that “moderate rebels” working with acknowledged terrorists are not “moderate” and can be targeted.

The Obama administration is trying to prevent the collapse of the regime change project by stalling and delay. Perhaps they wish to keep the project alive for a more aggressive US policy. Hillary Clinton continues to talk about a “no fly zone”. Her allies in Congress have recently initiated HR5732 which will escalate economic and financial sanctions against Syria and assess the implementation of a “no fly zone”. 

Ashley Smith suggests that large portions of the US left have been avidly supporting “oppressive regimes” such as Syria and Iran.  He mocks those on the left who suggested the Iranian ‘green movement’ was US-influenced. His mockery is exposed as ignorance by none other than Hillary Clinton herself.  In her book “Hard Choices” she recounts how they arranged for Twitter to postpone a system upgrade which would have taken the social media giant offline at a critical time, right after the 2009 Iranian election. Hillary and her group at the State Dept were actively promoting the protests in Iran. 

Dangerous Times Ahead

Some Middle East analysts have made the faulty analysis that Israel is not involved in the aggression against Syria.

In reality, Israeli interests are at the core of the US policy against Syria. The Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. was explicit: “Israel wanted Assad gone since start of civil war”. He also said “bad guys supported by Iran” are worse than “bad guys not supported by Iran”. 

In other words, Israel prefers chaos and Al Qaeda to a stable independent Syria. 

Saudi Arabia is the other key U.S. ally seeking overthrow in Syria.  With its close connections to the oil industry, military industrial complex and Wall Street, Saudi Arabia has enormous influence in Washington. It has been mercilessly bombing Yemen for the last 18 months and continues funding and promoting the proxy war against Syria.

Both Saudi Arabia and Israel seek the same thing: breaking the resistance alliance which runs from Iran through Syria to Lebanon.  They are in alliance with US neoconservatives who still dream of “a new American Century” where the US fights multiple wars to enforce its exceptional and sole supremacy. Along with some other countries, these are the forces of reaction violating international law and promoting the war against Syria. 

The tide is turning against the forces pushing for ‘regime change’ in Syria. But they have not yet given up and may even escalate.  Now is when progressives in the West need to raise our voices in opposition to this aggression. Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka can hopefully bring much more attention to this critical issue. Bernie Sanders and his supporters need to speak out against Hillary Clinton’s statements and plans.

There are good people in ISO which does good work in many areas. We hope they will re-examine their assumptions, beliefs and actions regarding Syria. In the dangerous times ahead, we need them to be resisting the drive to war in Syria, not condoning or supporting it.

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Fake news media FREAK OUT over Trump and NATO (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 172.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the media meltdown over remarks that U.S. President Trump may have made with regard to NATO, and how neo-liberal war hawks championing the alliance as some sort of foreign policy projection of peace and democracy, are really just supporting aggression, war, and the eventual weakening of the United States.

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Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO, Authored by David Swanson:


The New York Times loves NATO, but should you?

Judging by comments in social media and the real world, millions of people in the United States have gone from having little or no opinion on NATO, or from opposing NATO as the world’s biggest military force responsible for disastrous wars in places like Afghanistan (for Democrats) or Libya (for Republicans), to believing NATO to be a tremendous force for good in the world.

I believe this notion to be propped up by a series of misconceptions that stand in dire need of correction.

1. NATO is not a war-legalizing body, quite the opposite. NATO, like the United Nations, is an international institution that has something or other to do with war, but transferring the UN’s claimed authority to legalize a war to NATO has no support whatsoever in reality. The crime of attacking another nation maintains an absolutely unaltered legal status whether or not NATO is involved. Yet NATO is used within the U.S. and by other NATO members as cover to wage wars under the pretense that they are somehow more legal or acceptable. This misconception is not the only way in which NATO works against the rule of law. Placing a primarily-U.S. war under the banner of NATO also helps to prevent Congressional oversight of that war. Placing nuclear weapons in “non-nuclear” nations, in violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty, is also excused with the claim that the nations are NATO members (so what?). And NATO, of course, assigns nations the responsibility to go to war if other nations go to war — a responsibility that requires them to be prepared for war, with all the damage such preparation does.

2. NATO is not a defensive institution. According to the New York Times, NATO has “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is an article of faith, based on the unsubstantiated belief that Soviet and Russian aggression toward NATO members has existed for 70 years and that NATO has deterred it rather than provoked it. In violation of a promise made, NATO has expanded eastward, right up to the border of Russia, and installed missiles there. Russia has not done the reverse. The Soviet Union has, of course, ended. NATO has waged aggressive wars far from the North Atlantic, bombing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. NATO has added a partnership with Colombia, abandoning all pretense of its purpose being in the North Atlantic. No NATO member has been attacked or credibly threatened with attack, apart from small-scale non-state blowback from NATO’s wars of aggression.

3. Trump is not trying to destroy NATO. Donald Trump, as a candidate and as U.S. President, has wondered aloud and even promised all kinds of things and, in many cases, the exact opposite as well. When it comes to actions, Trump has not taken any actions to limit or end or withdraw from NATO. He has demanded that NATO members buy more weapons, which is of course a horrible idea. Even in the realm of rhetoric, when European officials have discussed creating a European military, independent of the United States, Trump has replied by demanding that they instead support NATO.

4. If Trump were trying to destroy NATO, that would tell us nothing about NATO. Trump has claimed to want to destroy lots of things, good and bad. Should I support NAFTA or corporate media or the Cold War or the F35 or anything at all, simply because some negative comment about it escapes Trump’s mouth? Should I cheer for every abuse ever committed by the CIA or the FBI because they investigate Trump? Should I long for hostility between nuclear-armed governments because Democrats claim Trump is a Russian agent? When Trump defies Russia to expand NATO, or to withdraw from a disarmament treaty or from an agreement with Iran, or to ship weapons to Ukraine, or to try to block Russian energy deals in Europe, or to oppose Russian initiatives on banning cyber-war or weapons in space, should I cheer for such consistent defiance of Trump’s Russian master, and do so simply because Russia is, so implausibly, his so-inept master? Or should I form my own opinion of things, including of NATO?

5. Trump is not working for, and was not elected by, Russia.According to the New York Times, “Russia’s meddling in American elections and its efforts to prevent former satellite states from joining the alliance have aimed to weaken what it views as an enemy next door, the American officials said.” But are anonymous “American officials” really needed to acquire Russia’s openly expressed opinion that NATO is a threatening military alliance that has moved weapons and troops to states on Russia’s border? And has anyone produced the slightest documentation of the Russian government’s aims in an activity it has never admitted to, namely “meddling in American elections,” — an activity the United States has of course openly admitted to in regard to Russian elections? We have yet to see any evidence that Russia stole or otherwise acquired any of the Democratic Party emails that documented that party’s rigging of its primary elections in favor of Clinton over Sanders, or even any claim that the tiny amount of weird Facebook ads purchased by Russians could possibly have influenced the outcome of anything. Supposedly Trump is even serving Russia by demanding that Turkey not attack Kurds. But is using non-military means to discourage Turkish war-making necessarily the worst thing? Would it be if your favorite party or politician did it? If Trump encouraged a Turkish war, would that also be a bad thing because Trump did it, or would it be a bad thing for substantive reasons?

6. If Trump were elected by and working for Russia, that would tell us nothing about NATO. Imagine if Boris Yeltsin were indebted to the United States and ended the Soviet Union. Would that tell us whether ending the Soviet Union was a good thing, or whether the Soviet Union was obsolete for serious reasons? If Trump were a Russian pawn and began reversing all of his policies on Russia to match that status, including restoring his support for the INF Treaty and engaging in major disarmament negotiations, and we ended up with a world of dramatically reduced military spending and nuclear armaments, with the possibility of all dying in a nuclear apocalypse significantly lowered, would that too simply be a bad thing because Trump?

7. Russia is not a military threat to the world. That Russia would cheer NATO’s demise tells us nothing about whether we should cheer too. Numerous individuals and entities who indisputably helped to put Trump in the White House would dramatically oppose and others support NATO’s demise. We can’t go by their opinions either, since they don’t all agree. We really are obliged to think for ourselves. Russia is a heavily armed militarized nation that commits the crime of war not infrequently. Russia is a top weapons supplier to the world. All of that should be denounced for what it is, not because of who Russia is or who Trump is. But Russia spends a tiny fraction of what the United States does on militarism. Russia has been reducing its military spending each year, while the United States has been increasing its military spending. U.S. annual increases have sometimes exceeded Russia’s entire military budget. The United States has bombed nine nations in the past year, Russia one. The United States has troops in 175 nations, Russia in 3. Gallup and Pew find populations around the world viewing the United States, not Russia, as the top threat to peace in the world. Russia has asked to join NATO and the EU and been rejected, NATO members placing more value on Russia as an enemy. Anonymous U.S. military officials describe the current cold war as driven by weapons profits. Those profits are massive, and NATO now accounts for about three-quarters of military spending and weapons dealing on the globe.

8. Crimea has not been seized. According to the New York Times, “American national security officials believe that Russia has largely focused on undermining solidarity between the United States and Europe after it annexed Crimea in 2014. Its goal was to upend NATO, which Moscow views as a threat.” Again we have an anonymous claim as to a goal of a government in committing an action that never occurred. We can be fairly certain such things are simply made up. The vote by the people of Crimea to re-join Russia is commonly called the Seizure of Crimea. This infamous seizure is hard to grasp. It involved a grand total of zero casualties. The vote itself has never been re-done. In fact, to my knowledge, not a single believer in the Seizure of Crimea has ever advocated for re-doing the vote. Coincidentally, polling has repeatedly found the people of Crimea to be happy with their vote. I’ve not seen any written or oral statement from Russia threatening war or violence in Crimea. If the threat was implicit, there remains the problem of being unable to find Crimeans who say they felt threatened. (Although I have seen reports of discrimination against Tartars during the past 4 years.) If the vote was influenced by the implicit threat, there remains the problem that polls consistently get the same result. Of course, a U.S.-backed coup had just occurred in Kiev, meaning that Crimea — just like a Honduran immigrant — was voting to secede from a coup government, by no means an action consistently frowned upon by the United States.

9. NATO is not an engaged alternative to isolationism. The notion that supporting NATO is a way to cooperate with the world ignores superior non-deadly ways to cooperate with the world. A nonviolent, cooperative, treaty-joining, law-enforcing alternative to the imperialism-or-isolationism trap is no more difficult to think of or to act on than treating drug addiction or crime or poverty as reason to help people rather than to punish them. The opposite of bombing people is not ignoring them. The opposite of bombing people is embracing them. By the standards of the U.S. communications corporations Switzerland must be the most isolationist land because it doesn’t join in bombing anyone. The fact that it supports the rule of law and global cooperation, and hosts gatherings of nations seeking to work together is simply not relevant.

10. April 4 belongs to Martin Luther King, Jr., not militarism. War is a leading contributor to the growing global refugee and climate crises, the basis for the militarization of the police, a top cause of the erosion of civil liberties, and a catalyst for racism and bigotry. A growing coalition is calling for the abolition of NATO, the promotion of peace, the redirection of resources to human and environmental needs, and the demilitarization of our cultures. Instead of celebrating NATO’s 70thanniversary, we’re celebrating peace on April 4, in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech against war on April 4, 1967, as well as his assassination on April 4, 1968.

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Turkey prepared to take Syria’s Manbij, won’t let it turn into ‘swamp’ like N. Iraq

Turkey sees the US-backed Kurdish YPG militias as an extension of the PKK and considers them terrorists as well.

RT

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Ankara has “almost completed” preparations for another military operation in Syria and will launch it if “promises” made by other parties about the protection of its borders are not kept, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

Turkey still hopes that talks with the US, Russia and “other parties” will allow it to ensure its security without resorting to force but it is still ready to proceed with a military option and will not “wait forever,” Erdogan said. He was referring to Ankara’s plans for the northern Syrian territories east of the Euphrates River, which it seeks to turn into a “security zone”free of any Kurdish militias.

“We are on our border with our forces and following developments closely. If promises made to us are kept and the process goes on, that’s fine. Otherwise, we inform that we have almost completed our preparations and will take steps in line with our own strategy,” the president said, addressing a group of businessmen in Ankara on Monday.

He did not elaborate on the promises made. However, they are apparently linked to the withdrawal of the Kurdish YPG militia from the Manbij area and the regions along the border with Turkey. “We will never allow a safe zone to turn into a new swamp,” Erdogan said, referring to the northern Syrian territories and comparing them to the northern Iraq, where the militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – an organization that Ankara considers a terrorist group – have been entrenched for decades.

Turkey sees the US-backed Kurdish YPG militias, which form the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as an extension of the PKK and considers them terrorists as well. “Our proposal for a security zone under Turkey’s control aims to keep terror organizations away from our borders,” the Turkish president said.

He went on to explain that Ankara does not seek any territorial gains in its military campaigns in Syria but merely seeks to restore order in the war-ravaged country. “We will provide security for Manbij and then we will hand over the city to its real owners,” Erdogan said. “Syria belongs to Syrians.”

Turkey also seeks to establish a “security zone 20 miles [32 kilometers] deep” into Syria, Erdogan said, adding that he already discussed this issue with the US President Donald Trump. “Those who insistently want to keep us away from these regions are seeking to strengthen terror organizations,” he added.

Ankara has been long planning to push YPG units out of the area east of the Euphrates River. Its operation was delayed by the US withdrawal from Syria. However, Erdogan repeatedly hinted that his patience is wearing thin and he is not ready to wait much longer. He warned Trump against backtracking on his pledge to withdraw some 2,000 US forces out of Syria following a suicide attack in Manbij that killed four Americans. If the US president halted the withdrawal, it would mean that Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) had won, Erdogan argued.

He has also reiterated that Turkey is ready to take over Manbij “without delay.” The US military is currently working on security arrangements with the Turkish forces to create a buffer zone between Turkey and the Kurdish fighters. The Kurds, meanwhile, invited the Syrian government to take over the city and have reportedly begun to leave the area. Turkey has dismissed the reports saying its a “psyop”.

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Political Knives Dull Themselves on the Rock of Brexit Article 50

The invocation of Article 50 was undertaken by an act of Parliament. And it will take another act of Parliament to undo it.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored Tom Luongo via Strategic Culture Foundation:


Theresa “The Gypsum Lady” May went through an extraordinary twenty-four hours. First, seeing her truly horrific Brexit deal go down in historic defeat and then, somehow, surviving a ‘No-Confidence’ vote which left her in a stronger position than before it.

It looks like May rightly calculated that the twenty or so Tory Remainers would put party before the European Union as their personal political positions would be terminally weakened if they voted her out of office.

While there is little stomach in the British Parliament for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, there is less for allowing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister. And that is the crux of why the incessant calls to delay Brexit, call for a ‘people’s vote’ or, in Corbyn’s case, “take a no-deal Brexit off the table,’ ultimately lead to a whole lot of political knife-fighting and very little substantive action.

The day-to-day headline spam is designed to wear down people’s resistance and make it feel like Brexit getting betrayed is inevitable. That has been the British Deep State’s and EU’s game plan all along and they hoped they could arm-twist enough people in parliament to succeed.

But the problem for them now, since the clock has nearly run out, is the invocation of Article 50 was undertaken by an act of Parliament. And it will take another act of Parliament to undo it.

And I don’t see anyone on the Remainer side working towards that end. That should be your clue as to what happens next.

Why? Because they know they don’t have the time to get that act past Parliament. So, the rest of this is simply a PR campaign to push public opinion far enough to allow for an illegal canceling or postponing of Brexit.

But it’s not working.

According to the latest polls, Brits overwhelmingly want the original Brexit vote respectedLeave even has a 5-6 point lead over Remain.

And, I think Theresa May now realizes this. It is why she invited the no-confidence vote against her. She knew she had the votes and it would give her the ammunition to ignore Corbyn’s hysterical ranting about taking a no-deal Brexit off the table.

Whether she realizes that the only negotiating tool she has with the EU is the threat of a No-Deal Brexit, exactly like Nigel Farage and those committed to Brexit have been telling her for two years is still, however, up in the air.

It looks like she’s finally starting to get it.

The net result is we are seeing a similar outing of the nefarious, behind-the-scenes, power brokers in the public eye similar to what’s been happening in the US with Donald Trump and Russiagate.

May has been singularly unimpressive in her handling of Brexit. I’ve been convinced from the beginning that betraying Brexit was always her goal. Negotiating a deal unacceptable to anyone was meant to exhaust everyone into the position to just throwing up their hands and canceling the whole thing.

The EU has been in the driver’s seat the entire time because most of the British establishment has been on their side and it was only the people who needed to be disrespected.

So, after all of these shananigans we are back to where we were last week. May has cut off all avenues of discussion. She won’t commit to taking ‘no-deal’ off the table to tweak Corbyn. She won’t substantively move on any other issue. This is likely to push her deal through as a last-minute panic move.

Corbyn is still hoping to get new elections to take power, and the majority of MP’s who don’t want to leave the EU keep fighting among themselves to cock up the entire works.

All they are doing is expending pound after pound of political capital beating themselves against their own act of Parliament which goes into effect on March 29th.

By the time that date comes around the frustration, shame and humiliation of how Parliament has mishandled Brexit will make it difficult for a lot of Remainers to hold together their majority as public opinion has decidedly turned against them.

In the past the EU has had that façade of democratic support undermining any change at the political level. With Brexit (and with budget talks in Italy) that is not the case. The people are angry.

The peak moment for Remainers to stage a bipartisan political coup against May should have been the most recent no-confidence vote.

With May surviving that it implies that Remainers are not willing to die politically for their cause.

This should begin to see defectors over the next couple of weeks as they realize they don’t have a hand to play either.

And by May refusing to rule out a ‘no-deal’ Brexit it has finally brought the EU around to throw a bone towards the British. Their admitting they would extend Article 50 is just that. But they know that’s a non-starter as that is the one thing May has been steadfast in holding to.

On March 29th with or without a deal the U.K. is out of the EU. Because despite the European Court of Justice’s decision, Britain’s parliament can only cancel Article 50 at this point by acting illegally.

Not that I would put that past these people, but then that opens up a can of worms that most British MP’s will not go along with. The personal stakes are simply too high.

When dealing with politicians, never bet against their vanity or their pocketbook. In May’s case she may finally have realized she could have the legacy of getting Britain out of the EU just before it collapses.

And all she has to do between now and the end of March is, precisely, nothing.

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