USA v. Distinguished Iranian/American Journalist Marzieh Hashemi

By Stephen Lendman
Source

Distinguished Press TV journalist/anchor’s unlawful arrest, detention and mistreatment by the FBI, on the pretext of being a material witness regarding a case her family knows nothing about, gave the US another international black eye.

What happened captured world headlines, hopefully enough to help hasten Marzieh’s release. Press TV, the Tehran Times, and other Iranian media continue giving the case extensive coverage.

International print and electronic media have had feature stories on what happened – including RT, Sputnik News, the NYT, Washington Post, AP News, Reuters, CBS, NBC, and ABC News, CNN, Fox News, Al Jazeera, the BBC, London Guardian, Haaretz, and numerous other outlets.

They’ve elevated Marzieh’s status as a distinguished international journalist to an even higher level than before what happened – by highlighting her unacceptable arrest, detention, and mistreatment uncharged. 

They explained what the NYT wrote as follows, saying “no reason (was) given for her arrest…(H)er Islamic head scarf (was) forcibly removed…(S)he was chained hand and foot, and…denied access to halal food and had eaten only crackers.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denounced what happened, saying “(t)he custody of Iran’s reporter in the US is highly political, and she should be released immediately.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said the following:

“The imprisonment of a reporter who is nonwhite and enters the US demonstrates how the approach of Mr. Trump’s government is based on racist and discriminatory policies within an apartheid regime. We hope that this innocent person is unconditionally released soon.”

Tehran Times editor Muhammad Qaderi said her mistreatment shows the real face of the US to the world community.

The Iranian High Council for Human Rights called “her violent and humiliating treatment” a brazen example of arbitrary arrest and detention, accusing the US of “illegal, unjustifiable and anti-human rights measures” – a flagrant violation of her fundamental rights, how Washington operates domestically and abroad.

Program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Alexandra Ellerbeck expressed concern about Marzieh’s arrest and detention. She “call(ed) on the US Department of Justice to immediately disclose the basis for her detention…”

Her colleague and friend Nader Talevzadeh called her arrest a “concocted (US) plan,” part of its hostility toward the Islamic Republic. “This is intimidation and a provocation against Iran,” he stressed.

Marzieh is unlawfully held by the FBI at an undisclosed Washington location with minimal family contact and no legal representation for days. 

Reportedly a lawyer has now been appointed on her behalf. Most so-called public defenders woefully ill-serve clients with little time available to present a proper defense everyone deserves in judicial proceedings.

According to federal authorities, Marzieh appeared twice before a US district judge on Friday, an appointed lawyer representing her.

A partially unsealed order for her arrest and detention provided no information about what happened and why, other than she’s held as a material witness to an unspecified criminal case her family knows nothing about.

She’s detained to give grand jury testimony. Witnesses before these proceedings are only present during their testimony to a prosecutor and grand jurors, no judge or legal representation present. 

Conducted to determine if a crime was committed, proceedings are secret, a majority of jurors required for an indictment to be issued.

Witnesses are required to answer questions by a prosecutor and jurors, criminal suspect(s) usually not present during proceedings.

Prosecutors try to establish probable cause to indict. They manipulate grand juries, gaming the system to get judgments they seek, justice denied time and again. Proceedings often amount to a sword for injustice, not a shield against it.

Witnesses accused of nothing can be indicted if prosecutors claim they gave false or misleading testimonies. They’re not told of the risk, making them vulnerable if this was the prosecutorial intent for demanding their testimony.

Clever ones can manipulate witnesses to unwittingly mislead. Anything said under oath or otherwise can be used against them. Given extreme US hostility toward Iran, Marzieh is vulnerable to a gross miscarriage of justice – besides what she’s endured so far.

A US citizen working in Iran for the past decade, dividing her time between both countries, she explained her conversion to Islam as follows, saying she “was born in a religious Christian family, and since 26 or 27 years ago I have become Muslim,” adding: 

“For me, embracing Islam is directly in relation to Islamic revolution of Iran and the characteristic of Imam Khomeini.” 

“When I was a student in America, I witnessed that the Iranian students are so active and I was so interested in political activities then, I used to ask them about their activities and purposes, why you protest?” 

“And they used to talk about the cruelty of the overset king and Imam Khomeini to me, and this was the first step for me becoming Muslim.” 

“I was looking for the truth and I wasn’t satisfied with my own religion, and I had no solution for the problem that the God has three parts of the Father, and the Son, and the holy Sprit, But still where one?” 

“I wasn’t convinced with answers when I asked from different people, when this issue happened to be in university, I started to study not only about Islam but about different religions, and simultaneously comparing them in theory and ideology, from Max Weber up to now, and thank God after I became Muslim.”

Explaining her career in journalism, she said “I am a Press TV correspondent and the editor in chief of Mahjubah magazine in America. I am a presenter and political analyst.” 

“Press TV is the first 24-hour English Channel in Iran. From the beginning of the Attack of America against Iraq, the people are watching it to know about the stand point of Iran and what Iran says, because the other channels weren’t covering the war, and it played a considerable role in Israel’s (undeclared war on) Gaza, so people are watching it to find out the truth and reality.”

Marzieh’s son Hossein fears she’ll be detained for an indefinite period, hopeful things will turn out otherwise, saying “(i)t doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. (W)e’re waiting to hear more.”

In March 2011, Obama’s Executive Order 13567 authorized indefinite detentions and military commission trials – violating America’s Fifth Amendment, stating:

“No person…shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” – constitutional law the US consistently breaches.

In December 2011, America’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) legitimized unconstitutional and international law prohibited indefinite detentions – everyone potentially vulnerable, including US citizens without just cause.

No proof is needed, no habeas, due process or equal protection afforded anyone targeted. The 1215 Magna Carta states the following:

“No free man (woman or child) shall be seized, or imprisoned, or stripped of his (or her) rights or possessions, or outlawed, or exiled, or deprived of his (or her) standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him (or her), or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his (or her) equals, or by the law of the land.”

“Due process of law” later substituted for “the law of the land.” It’s inviolable, breaching it flagrantly unconstitutional. The Fifth Amendment’s due process guarantee applies to US federal, state and local governance, no exceptions permitted.

Yet targeted individuals are extrajudicially arrested and detained at home and abroad, held indefinitely uncharged and untried, based on suspicions, hearsay, secret evidence, or any other pretext.

Constitutional law and Supreme Court rulings, affirming the inviolability of due process and equal protection rights, are breached by the US time and again.

Friday district court proceedings provided no information about Marziah’s detention, other than explaining she’s not accused of a crime – not so far.

What the Trump regime has in mind is unknown until things unfold ahead. Marziah is being used, a victim of US contempt for the fundamental rights of everyone, doing whatever it pleases unaccountably.

Reuters cited an unnamed US federal source, saying Press TV is being investigated as an Iranian “propaganda outlet.”

It’s a preeminent truth-telling news service, featuring distinguished guests, providing in-depth information on major world issues, explaining what everyone needs to know.

It’s polar opposite managed news misinformation and disinformation featured by US and other Western media, suppressing what should be featured.

It’s unclear what’s ahead for Marzieh. It’s very clear that her arrest, detention and mistreatment constitute flagrant constitutional and international law violations.

What happened to her and countless others in America can happen to anyone. Their struggle for justice is ours!

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The Corruption of the American Republic

By Michael Howard
Source

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According to Gallup Poll, record numbers of American citizens—16 percent—are eager to permanently move to another country. For Americans aged 15-29, the figure nearly doubles to 30 percent. Likewise for the poorest fifth of the country, 13 percent of whom wished to emigrate under Obama. A quarter of these dreamers would reportedly select Canada as their new home, in spite of universal healthcare and other egalitarian horrors. And yet, Gallup also reports that the United States remains the number one destination for “potential migrants” in other parts of the world, mostly Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, not, alas, Scandinavia, Trump’s preferred source of immigrants.

What do we know that they don’t? For starters, life expectancy in The Land of the Free has been trending down for the last two years, which is more or less unheard of in a developed country not at war. Drug overdoses and suicides are way up, the latter by more than 30 points since 1999. Of the more than 39,000 deaths via gunshot in 2017 (the most in five decades), almost two-thirds were self-inflicted. There were more than 300 mass shootings in the US in 2018. Happiness, indeed, is a warm gun.

In other news, the richest 1 percent of Americans own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. About 40 percent of American families owe debt worth far more than the sum of their assets. Wages for working people, when adjusted for inflation, haven’t risen in more than four decades, and in fact peaked in 1973. The supposed unemployment rate is only “low” because it doesn’t factor in the untold numbers of people who have given up looking for decent jobs that don’t exist, shipped abroad thanks to bipartisan “free trade” agreements. The routinely cited figure of 4 percent is meaningless. Food insecurity, or “a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household,” affects over 40 million Americans, including 12 million children, per the USDA. Roughly the same number live without health insurance, unable to afford the extravagant premiums and deductibles.

At the same time, our corporate masters get fatter off wealth, not that they create, but rather fish out of the economy using rent-seeking tactics and horde in offshore tax havens. Economist Michael Hudson employs the term “fictitious capital,” which he describes as

purely extractive claims for income, as distinct from profits and wages earned from tangible means of production. Real capital referred to factories, machinery and tools, things that were used to produce output, as well as education, research and public infrastructure. But an ownership privilege like a title to land and other real estate, a patent or the monopoly privilege to charge whatever the market will bear for a restricted patent, without reference to actual production costs, does not add anything to production. It is purely extractive, yielding economic rent, not profits on real capital investment.

We the People, of course, must remain in blissful ignorance of these realities, lest we all immigrate to Canada or, better yet, come together and form a common front against corporate power and its marionettes on Capitol Hill. The latter prospect must never be allowed to materialize. Hence the identity politics game, in which all sides happily participate, egged on by the corporate media. Politicians play the game because it’s the only way they can appeal to their base. Subsidizing the rich, kicking working people into the gutter, destroying the planet and starting wars for all kinds of ulterior motives—all bipartisan projects—aren’t likely to mobilize voters. They require diversionary issues: guns, gay marriage, abortion, immigration, gender, patriarchy, white privilege, racism, statues, sexual misconduct, pronouns, Jesus, etc. Many are serious subjects worthy of attention and debate, but it’s important to recognize that they’re being exploited by the owners of the economy, and thus the country, as instruments of deflection and division.

These topics are permitted a place in the national discourse via the major media because they have nothing to do with class—indeed, they completely obscure the issue of class, pushing it beyond the margins of public consciousness. While we squabble about whether this or that building ought to be renamed, the ruling class is picking our pockets and using the money to populate Congress with loyal servants.

Bernie Sanders threatened to explode this long-standing architecture of psychological manipulation. Therefore he had to be stopped. And he was. But then Clinton got Trumped. There’s the rub. Trump the (Enfant) Terrible ascended to the throne, and the Crisis of Democracy commenced. Or so the crafty Dems would have us believe. In reality, Trump, with his deranged jingoism and petulant narcissism, is only marginally worse than the majority of miscreants infesting Washington, which is saying an awful lot. He’s a nasty scourge on what was already a deeply corrupted and diseased republic, no doubt God’s judgment on the US for all the bloody horrors it has unleashed upon the rest of the world.

Don says he has accomplished more in his first two years in office than any other president. Let’s take a look. So far he has used unilateral military force against a sovereign state twice, hacked the corporate tax rate down to 21 percent, quit the Paris climate accord, started a trade war with China, moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, stopped funding the UN program for Palestinian refugees, condemned the International Court of Justice, tried to pass a healthcare bill that would have thrown millions of Americans off their insurance, unilaterally voided the Iran nuclear deal, unilaterally imposed sanctions on Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, etc., threatened to militarily attack Venezuela, deployed more troops to Afghanistan, attacked migrants at the US-Mexico border, separated migrant children from their parents, enlarged the military budget to more than $700 billion, sent armaments to Kiev, expelled Russian diplomats over the dubious Skripal affair, negotiated a contract to sell billions of dollars’ worth of munitions to the barbaric regime in Riyadh, refused to condemn the cold-blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi, blackmailed Africa by threatening to stop funding peacekeeping missions, hired reptiles Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, promised to terminate the INF, and promised to expand the US’ nuclear arsenal.

All of which is appalling; all must be opposed. As it happens, Trump’s main opposition, led by the Democratic Party and their toadies in the media, and known formally by their cultish name, The Resistance, are every bit as repellent and, yes, dangerous as he is. Even before Hillary Clinton lost the election, her campaign had an excuse up their sleeve: it was them Russians. Four months after the election, Clinton’s former propaganda minister Jennifer Palmieri revealed the new Democratic agenda in the Washington Post. “If we make plain that what Russia has done is nothing less than an attack on our republic, the public will be with us. And the more we talk about it, the more they’ll be with us.””Democrats should push for this relentlessly and above all else. They should talk about it in every interview.””If those Republicans feel enough heat for helping Vladi­mir Putin attack the United States to assist Trump, they will abandon the White House and support an independent commission.”

Let the neo-McCarthyism begin! Clinton’s formula worked like a charm. Soon a strident anti-Russia groupthink had solidified among the mainstream liberal media. Blind, deaf and dumb as a result of their personal hatred of Trump, readers of the New York Times and viewers of MSNBCswallowed every Trump-Putin collusion story whole, no matter how wild or unsubstantiated. Many turned out to be, literally, fake news. Glenn Greenwald wrote about this phenomenon at length for The Intercept. Journalists challenging or simply asking questions about the veracity of the official narrative were, are, dismissed as “useful idiots” and “Kremlin stooges” (ouch!). A long list of alternative media were slyly smeared in the Washington Post as pro-Russian propaganda websites. Maniacal conspiracy theorists became Collusion Gurus on Twitter and have since gained a degree of mainstream legitimacy, popping up now and then on cable news. War criminal George Bush was rehabilitated after giving a piece of candy to Michelle Obama. Neoconservative screwballs like Billy Kristol and Max Boot were embraced by The Resistance for their valiant anti-Putin conformity.

Moreover, the alleged Russian hack was likened to both 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, so often that the outrageous analogy grew banal and laughable—though not perhaps for those who lost friends and family in those genuine attacks on the United States. “This is our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11,” is how one particularly demented analysis in Politico concluded. “In the past, we have risen to the defense of our values, our ideologies and our institutions. It’s time for another fight.” Bomb’s away!

Therein lies the danger of The Resistance. Like all cults, its single-minded purpose, in this case confronting and provoking and isolating Russia, overrides all other considerations. Most cult members celebrated Trump’s most egregious doings, like attacking Syria and shipping weapons to Ukraine, both of which had the potential to ignite a major military crisis. This is what The Resistance craves. Conflict with nuclear Russia. What would you rather have: A president with a mind to collude with Russia, or one with a mind to invade Russia? I think, and fear, that a considerable percent of the American public would oft for the latter now. For that we can thank The Resistance.

New START, the treaty reducing and limiting active warheads stockpiled by the US and Russia, is set to expire in 2021. Putin spoke about it during his annual press conference in December, asserting that there “have not been any negotiations” with Washington to renew the agreement. “We know how to secure our safety. But, in general, it’s very bad for humanity as it takes us closer to a very dangerous line. It is a very serious question and it is a shame it is being underestimated … We are now witnessing the collapse of the international system of nuclear containment.” He’s been issuing these warnings for years. In 2016 he said: “You people in turn do not feel a sense of the impending danger—this is what worries me. How do you not understand that the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction? I don’t know how to get through to you anymore.” Indeed.

In their pathological mission to avenge their humiliating loss to Donald Trump, the Democrats and their mindless followers have completely lost the plot and are turning the entire world into a powder keg. Every candidate in the 2020 primary will have to have as a central pillar of his or her campaign a fanatic hostility to Putin and Russia generally. They’ll have to talk tough about taking Putin on, about defending NATO from nonexistent Russian aggression, about protecting the homeland from further Pearl Harbor-like attacks. Forget about rapprochement—how likely is an extension of New START? As we’ve seen, merely having a conversation with Vladimir Putin is now akin to high treason. Heaven forbid we open a line of diplomacy with Moscow and cooperate on issues of international security.

Regardless of who wins the White House in 2020, US-Russia relations will worsen—hard to envisage—and the risk of nuclear war will increase. Upgraded and modernized tactical nukes, designed for use on the battlefield, as they’ll only vaporize 10,000 instead of 100,000, are being manufactured and added to our weapons systems as I write. It’s a miracle we got out of the first Cold War alive. Now we’re marching, to the beat of the liberal war drum, headlong into another.

Meantime, the republic will continue to go to rot that the empire may live a little longer, all discretionary money going to the Pentagon and containing The Russian Threat. Infrastructure and education will decay, healthcare will remain a corporate racket, suicides will keep going up, life expectancy down, wages will stay static and, most consequentially, society will continue pulling itself apart, an organized fight for real equality more remote than ever before. All will be subordinated to the imperatives of corporate domination and military hegemony. Nothing else matters.

On September 17, 1787, Benjamin Franklin addressed the Constitutional Convention with the following words:

I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.

Two-hundred and thirty-one years later, have we become so corrupted?

Trump Retreats from His Promise of Withdrawal While Al-Qaeda Makes Progress in Syria

By Elijah. J. Magnier
Source

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Al-Nusra front – al-Qaeda rebranded as HTS (Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham) – is expanding its influence and military control over entire Syrian cities and villages in northern and western rural Aleppo. Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, the ex- ISIS (the Islamic State terror group) Emir of Syria and the self proclaimed Emir of al-Qaeda in the Levant, is ordering his forces to move towards Idlib and its rural area, mainly against the cities of Ariha, Jabal al-Zawiya and Maarrat al-No’man. His aim is to complete the control by his jihadists of the entire area defined in the Astana talks – by Russia and Turkey – where a ceasefire was established last year in order to stop the advance of the Syrian army to recover the northern territory. Idlib and its surroundings is today the location where the greatest number of jihadists ever to be united in one single geographic area in the Middle East are gathered. They are fully armed with the most advanced US weapons, notably guided anti-tank TOW missiles and armed drones, together with hundreds of suicide bombers ready to fight and die.

Up to now, Joulani has managed to dissolve over 14 Syrian armed groups, described by the West as “moderate”. These groups were financed and equipped by Turkey, whose forces have not reacted so far and have allowed Joulani’s group to consolidate power. Turkey’s policy may undermine the Astana deal, which aims to eliminate the presence and force of jihadists in the north of Syria.

Meanwhile, the US president Donald Trump – who has claimed that ISIS is already defeated and that in Syria “there is only death and sand” – and his establishment are doubling back on the previously announced schedule of withdrawal from Syria: The President’s national security advisor John Bolton said on Sunday that the US will consider withdrawing when ISIS is defeated and Turkey ensures the safety of US-allied Kurdish fighters. Trump is aware that ISIS is located in only 3 or 4 villages today along the east of the Euphrates river, on the DeirEzzour-al Qaem front. It is clear that the US establishment is exerting pressure on the inexperienced President to slow down withdrawal from Syria. But there are further, undeclared arguments for this sudden change of plan.

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Firstly, from the military and geo-political standpoint, the US has a lot to lose in pulling out of the Levant. Its presence is effectively hassling Iran and its allies, and it is disturbing Russia, Syria and Iraq who consider the forces of Washington a continuous source of trouble. The US does not seem willing to see the end of ISIS, a group that Israel has repeatedly said it would rather see in control of Syria. The presence of US occupation forces in Northeast Syria is considered a platform for it to continue exerting US hegemony on the Middle East; the US presence is, from Israel’s point of view, a welcome source of friction between two superpowers operating on the same territory in Syria.

Secondly, the Iraqi parliament is waving in the face of Trump the serious possibility of ordering US forces to pull out of Iraq. Trump triggered the Iraqi reaction by rebuffing protocol and refusing to meet the Iraqi Prime Minister, Speaker and President on Iraqi soil during his recent visit to the Iraqi-US base in Ayn al-Assad in Anbar, Iraq.

If Iraq pushes the US forces out of Mesopotamia, these will be completely out of the Levant as well – if Trump fulfils his promises to withdraw in 30 days to four months – to the detriment of US-Israeli interests in the Middle East.

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Thirdly, it cannot be ruled out that the new conquests of al-Qaeda in Syria might offer an additional pretext for the US establishment to slow down or even reject the idea of withdrawal from Syria. The Russia-Turkey-Iran Astana deal had stopped any attack on the city and rural area of Idlib at a time when the US establishment was ready to bomb the Syrian army on the false pretext that Damascus intended to use chemical weapons in the area. The Astana deal took away any possibility for the US to be an active player in Syria. Moreover, the meeting in Moscow last month between Russia and Turkey led to agreement to freeze any Turkish advance towards the area of Manbij, allowing the Syrian army to take up a position in the area and for the YPG Kurds to pull out their forces, to the displeasure of Washington. That also disturbed Washington’s plans to see Ankara’s forces (not Damascus’s) replacing the US occupation forces after their departure. The presence of the US in North-East Syria was fast becoming meaningless.

A new development then forced itself onto Syrian geopolitics. The rebranded Al-Qaeda in the Levant (HTS), along with its foreign fighters, took control of the demarcation line established by Astana between Turkey and Russia. This gives the Russian and Syrian forces the legitimacy to bomb the al-Qaeda controlled area and to disregard the Astana deal. Turkey, meanwhile, is not interfering in the events of the last week and seems unwilling to finish off the jihadists as it had previously agreed to do in discussions with Russia.

Today al-Qaeda is eliminating many of Turkey’s allies and those who were financed, armed and trained by the US. Nevertheless, if Syria and Russia retain their initial plan to attack Idlib, the US will find a new opportunity to bomb the Syrian army and to intervene and disrupt Moscow’s plan to end the Syrian war.

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Al-Qaeda’s control of the demarcation line will – no doubt – trigger a confrontation with the Syrian army. Al-Qaeda will likely bomb Aleppo so as to claim it is reviving the Syrian revolution and rejecting any deal with Damascus. Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, the ex-ISIS emir and leader of HTS, claims that president Erdogan of Turkey is “Kafer” (a disbeliever), and that therefore no forces would fight under the Turkish flag even though the Turkish presence in Syria is allowing Joulani’s power to grow as Turkey offers necessary logistics and supply lines to his group.

Among the Joulani commanders, there were (and many still are active) – to name a few – the Libyan Abu Usama (Intel officer in Idlib), the Jordanians Sami al-Aridi (scholar and religious leader), Abu Julayleb (Emir of Lattakia), Abu Hussein (Emir of Idlib), Abu al-Yaman (head of the “army”), Abu Hafas (intel officer), the Egyptians Abu al-Yaqzan (religious affairs), Abu Abdallah (religious affair Lattakia), and the Tunisians Abu Omar (Justice and religious affairs), Abu Haidara (religious affairs Idlib). Thousands of foreign fighters fight among its ranks and others have moved towards Hurras al-Deen (HAD) and Jabhat Ansar al-Deen (JAD), a more radical version of HTS. Today al-Joulani is providing a perfect justification for US occupation forces to stay in Syria, waiting for further developments, and possibly a reshuffle of the power on the ground.

ISIS is no longer a threat to the US. In fact, it holds today Al-Susah, Morashida, Safafina and al-Shajlah, all under the protection of US forces. Therefore, the terror group doesn’t represent a reason for Trump to keep occupying Syrian territory. Moreover, Bolton is asking Turkey to offer guarantee to protect the YPG Kurds, the Syrian branch of the PKK, the sworn enemy of Turkey and a group on the US State Department terrorist list.

Bolton is basically demanding from Turkey the impossible, showing the weakness of a President whose administration forces him to continuously recant on his promises. US intentions towards Syria don’t correspond to the positive response evoked by Trump’s initial promise to pull out US troops, even if Russia, Iran and Syria never believed him. Nevertheless, Damascus considers it is high time for the Kurds to choose their side and drop their protection of the US so as to force their early departure.

Seven Gates of Damascus and Concrete Walls of Kabul

By Andre Vltchek
Source

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Two terrible wars, two mighty destructions, but two absolutely opposite outcomes.

In Syria, it may be autumn now, but almost the entire country is blossoming again, literally rising from ashes. Two thousand miles east from there, Afghanistan is smashed against its ancient rocks, bleeding and broken. There, it does not really matter what season it is; life is simply dreadful and hope appears to be in permanent exile.

Damascus, the ancient and splendid capital of Syria, now the Syrian Arab Republic, is back to life again. People go out until late at night, there are events; there is music and vibrant social life. Not all, but many are smiling again. Checkpoints are diminishing, and now one does not even have to go through metal detectors in order to enter museums, cafes and some of the international hotels.

The people of Damascus are optimistic, some of them are ecstatic. They fought hard, they lost hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, but they won! They finally won, against all odds, supported by their true friends and comrades. They are proud of what they have achieved, and rightly so!

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Humiliated on so many occasions, for so long, the Arab people suddenly rose and demonstrated to the world and to themselves that they can defeat invaders, no matter how powerful they are; no matter how canny and revolting their tactics are. As I wrote on several previous occasions, Aleppo is the ‘Stalingrad of the Middle East’. It is a mighty symbol. There, fascism and imperialism were stopped. Unsurprisingly, because of its stamina, courage and aptitude, the center of Pan-Arabism – Syria – has become, once again, the most important country for the freedom-loving people of the region.

Syria has many friends, among them China, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. But the most determined of them, the most reliable, remains Russia.

The Russians stood by its historical ally, even when things looked bad, almost hopeless; even when the terrorists trained and implanted into Syria by the West, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, were flattening entire ancient cities, and millions of refugees flowing out of the country, through the all seven gates of Damascus, and from all major cities, as well as towns and villages.

The Russians worked hard, often ‘behind the scenes’; on the diplomatic front, but also on the frontlines, providing essential air support, de-mining entire neighborhoods, helping with food supplies, logistics, strategy. Russians died in Syria, we do not know the precise numbers, but there definitely were casualties; some even say, ‘substantial’. However, Russia never waved its flag, never beat its chest in self-congratulatory gestures. What had to be done, was done, as an internationalist duty; quietly, proudly and with great courage and determination.

The Syrian people know all this; they understand, and they are grateful. For both nations, words are not necessary; at least not now. Their deep fraternal alliance is sealed. They fought together against darkness, terror and neo-colonialism, and they won.

When Russian military convoys pass through Syrian roads, there is no security. They stop at local eateries to refresh themselves, they talk to locals. When Russian people walk through Syrian cities, they feel no fear. They are not seen or treated as a ‘foreign military force’. They are now part of Syria. They are part of the family. Syrians make them feel at home.

In Kabul, I always face walls. Walls are all around me; concrete walls, as well as barbed wire.

Some walls are as tall as 4-5 storey buildings, with watchtowers on every corner, outfitted with bulletproof glass.

Local people, pedestrians, look like sleep-walkers. They are resigned. They are used to those hollow barrels of guns pointed at their heads, chests, feet, even at their children.

Almost everyone here is outraged by the occupation, but no one knows what to do; how to resist. The NATO invasion force is both brutal and overwhelming; its commanders and soldiers are cold, calculating, and merciless, obsessed with protecting themselves and only themselves.

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Heavily armored British and US military convoys are ready to shoot at ‘anything that moves’ even in a vaguely hostile fashion.

Afghan people get killed, almost all of them‘surgically’ or ‘remotely’. Western lives are ‘too precious’ for engaging in honest man-to-man combat. Slaughtering is done by drones, by ‘smart bombs’, or by shooting from those monstrous vehicles that crisscross Afghan cities and the countryside.

During this outrageous occupation, it matters nil how many Afghan civilians get killed, as long as the US or European lives get spared. Most of the Western soldiers deployed in Afghanistan are professionals. They are not defending their country. They are paid to do ‘their job’, efficiently, at any price. And of course, “Safety First”. Safety for themselves.

After the West occupied Afghanistan in 2001, between 100,000 and 170,000 Afghan civilians have been killed. Millions were forced to leave their country as refugees. Afghanistan now ranks second from the bottom (after Yemen) in Asia, on the HDI list (Human Development Index, compiled by UNDP). Its life expectancy is the lowest in Asia (WHO).

I work in both Syria and Afghanistan, and consider it my duty to point at the differences between two countries, and these two wars.

Both Syria and Afghanistan were attacked by the West. One resisted and won, the other one was occupied by mainly North American and European forces, and consequently destroyed.

After working in some 160 countries on this planet, and after covering and witnessing countless wars and conflicts (most of them ignited or provoked by the West and its allies), I can clearly see the pattern: almost all the countries that fell into the ‘Western sphere of influence’are now ruined, plundered and destroyed; they are experiencing great disparities between the tiny number of ‘elites’ (individuals who collaborate with the West) and the great majority of those who live in poverty. Most of the countries with close ties to Russia or China (or both), are prospering and developing, enjoying self-governance and respect for their cultures, political systems, and economic structures.

It is only because of the corporate mass media and biased education system, as well as the almost fully pro-Western orientation of the ‘social media’, that these shocking contrasts between two blocs (yes, we have two major blocs of countries, again) are not constantly highlighted and discussed.

During my recent visit to Syria, I spoke to many people living in Damascus, Homs, and Ein Tarma.

What I witnessed could be often described as“joy through tears”. The price of victory has been steep. But joy it is, nevertheless. The unity of the Syrian people and their government is obvious and remarkable.

Anger towards the ‘rebels’ and towards the West is ubiquitous. I will soon describe the situation in my upcoming reports. But this time, I only wanted to compare the situation in two cities, two countries and two wars.

In Damascus, I feel like writing poetry, again. In Kabul, I am only inspired to write a long and depressing obituary.

I love both of these ancient cities, but of course, I love them differently.

Frankly speaking, in the 18 years of Western occupation, Kabul has been converted into a militarized, fragmented and colonized hell on earth. Everybody knows it: the poor know it, and even the government is aware of it.

destroyed drug addicts in Kabul d5a0f

In Kabul, entire neighborhoods already ‘gave up’. They are inhabited by individuals who are forced to live in gutters, or under bridges. Many of those people are stoned, hooked on locally made narcotics, the production of which is supported by the Western occupation armies. I saw and photographed a US military base openly surrounded by poppy plantations. I heard testimonies of local people, about the British military engaging in negotiations, and cooperating with the local narco-mafias.

Now the Western embassies, NGO’s and ‘international organizations’ operating in Afghanistan, have managed to intellectually and morally corrupt and indoctrinate a substantial group of local people, who are receiving scholarship, getting ‘trained’ in Europe, and are tugging the official line of the occupiers.

They are working day and night to legitimize the nightmare into which their country has been tossed.

But older people who still remember both the Soviet era and socialist Afghanistan, are predominantly ‘pro-Russian’, mourning in frustration those days of Afghan liberation, progress, and determined building of the nation. ‘Soviet’ bread factories, water channels, pipelines, electric high-voltage towers, and schools are still used to this day, all over the country. While, gender equality, secularism, and the anti-feudalist struggle of those days are now, during the Western occupation, de facto illegal.

Afghans are known to be proud and determined people. But now their pride has been broken, while determination has been drowned in the sea of pessimism and depression. The Western occupation did not bring peace, it did not bring prosperity, independence of democracy (if democracy is understood as the ‘rule of the people’).

These days, the biggest dream of a young man or woman in Kabul is to serve the occupiers – to get ‘educated’ in a Western-style school, and to get a job at a US embassy or at one of the UN agencies.

In Damascus, everyone is now talking about the rebuilding of the nation.

‘How and when will the damaged neighborhoods be rebuilt? Is the pre-war construction of the metro going to resume anytime soon? Is life going to be better than before?’

People cannot wait. I witnessed families, communities, restoring their own buildings, houses and streets.

Yes, in Damascus I saw true revolutionary optimism in action, optimism which I described in my recent book Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism”. Because the Syrian state itself is now, once again, increasingly revolutionary. The so-called ‘opposition’ has been mostly nothing else other than a Western-sponsored subversion; an attempt to take Syria back to the dark days of colonialism.

Damascus and the Syrian government do not need tremendous walls, enormous spy blimps levitating in the sky; they do not need armored vehicles at every corner and the omnipresent SUV’s with deadly machine guns.

On the other hand, the occupiers of Kabul need all those deadly symbols of power in order to maintain control. Still they cannot scare people into supporting or loving them.

In Damascus, I simply walked into the office of my fellow novelist, who happened to be the Syrian Minister of Education. In Kabul, I often have to pass through metal detectors even when I just want to visit a toilet.

In Damascus, there is hope, and life, at every corner. Cafes are packed, people talk, argue, laugh together, and smoke waterpipes. Museums and libraries are full of people too. The Opera House is performing; the zoo is flourishing, all despite the war, despite all the difficulties.

In Kabul, life stopped. Except for the traffic, and for traditional markets. Even the National Museum is now a fortress, and as a result, almost no one can be found inside.

just eating out at night in Damascus c0034

People in Damascus are not too familiar with what goes on in Kabul. But they know plenty about Baghdad, Tripoli and Gaza. And they would rather die than allow themselves to be occupied by the West or its implants.

Two wars, two fates, two totally distinct cities.

The seven gates of Damascus are wide open. Refugees are returning from all directions, from all corners of the world. It is time for reconciliation, for rebuilding the nation, for making Syria even greater than it was before the conflict.

Kabul, often rocked by explosions, is fragmented by horrid walls. Engines of helicopters are roaring above. Blimps with their deadly eyes monitoring everything on the ground. Drones, tanks, huge armored vehicles. Beggars, homeless people, slums. Huge Afghan flag flying above Kabul. A ‘modified flag’, not the same as in the socialist past.

In Syria, finally the united nation has managed to defeat imperialism, fanaticism and sectarianism.

In Afghanistan, the nation got divided, then humiliated, then stripped of its former glory.

Damascus belongs to its people. In Kabul, people are dwarfed by concrete walls and military bases erected by foreign invaders.

In Damascus, people were fighting, even dying for their country and their city.

In Kabul, people are scared to even speak about fighting for freedom.

Damascus won. It is free again.

Kabul will win, too. Perhaps not today, not this year, but it will. I believe it will.

I love both cities. But one is now celebrating, while the other one is still suffering, in unimaginable pain.

Moscow Demands Answers after FBI Arrests Russian

 

 January 5, 2019

Flags of Russia and US

Russia said Saturday it wanted an explanation from Washington over the arrest of one of its nationals, as Moscow continued to hold a US citizen for alleged espionage.

FBI agents arrested Dmitry Makarenko on December 29 on Saipan, a US island in the western Pacific and he had since been taken to Florida, a Russian foreign ministry statement said.

It did not detail the accusations against him but said the US authorities had failed to inform them of his arrest and they had only found out from his family.

Meanwhile, a top Russian diplomat on Saturday said the case of Paul Whelan, the US national detained in Moscow, was very serious.

Whelan, a security official at a US auto parts company and former US Marine, was arrested on December 28 “while carrying out an act of espionage”, the FSB security service announced.

“The situation around Mr Whelan is very serious,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told RIA Novosti news agency.

“He came to Russia, as we understand, to take measures to carry out intelligence activities in violation of Russian law,” he said, indicating that Whelan had not yet been formally charged.

But Whelan’s lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov told RIA Novosti on Thursday that his client had been charged — with espionage.

Whelan’s family said he was visiting Moscow for a friend’s wedding and US security experts have raised doubts that he was a spy, given a reportedly chequered history in the US military.

Some observers believe his arrest was in retaliation for last year’s arrest in the US of a Russian woman called Maria Butina.

Butina was indicted and pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government — a legal charge sometimes used against foreign intelligence agents.

Analysts have speculated that Moscow might be hoping to swap Whelan for Butina or another Russian held by the United States.

Ryabkov said that given the fact that Whelan has not yet been charged, it was too early to talk about his possible release in a spy swap.

Although Whelan entered Russia on his US passport, he also holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship.

Ryabkov said the question of which country’s diplomats would have access to Whelan would be decided on a case-by-case basis, based on conventions on consular relations.

Source: AFP

US/Israeli New Year’s Resolution on Iran

By Stephen Lendman
Source

US/Israeli Iran bashing has been ongoing for nearly 40 years, regime change the objective of both countries.

Long-planned US naked aggression on the Islamic Republic may be coming if its political, economic, financial, and propaganda war fails to achieve its objective.

A year ago ahead of Trump’s inauguration, a joint House/Senate Resolution 10: Authorization of Use of Force Against Iran Resolution was introduced.

Though not adopted, it called for “us(ing) the Armed Forces of the United States as the President determines necessary and appropriate in order to achieve the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons” – knowing the Islamic Republic’s legitimate nuclear program has no military component.

Time and again, its leadership called for eliminating these weapons. Nothing suggests they intend developing them, nor does any evidence indicate Iran threatens Israel, the US, or any other countries. 

It’s the region’s leading proponent of peace and stability, its agenda polar opposite how the US, NATO, Israel, and their imperial partners operate.

The issue about Iran is its sovereign independence, its refusal to subordinate its sovereignty to US interests, the way all countries everywhere should operate.

US sanctions and other actions against the Islamic Republic are flagrantly illegal. Its claims about its regional policies are Big Lies.

A Trump regime State Department report on Iran vilified the country with malicious disinformation.

It lied claiming the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “regularly threatens freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf while its Aerospace Force directs the country’s ballistic missile program in defiance of Security Council resolutions.”

It lied saying Tehran supports regional terrorist groups, adding “(s)ince 1979, Iran has made it a policy of state to actively direct, facilitate, and carry out terrorist activity globally” – a US, NATO, Israeli specialty, polar opposite how the Islamic Republic operates.

It lied claiming “Iran’s development of ballistic missiles…pose a critical threat to regional security.” The Islamic Republic’s military and legitimate weapons are solely for defense.

Iran hasn’t attacked another country in centuries. It threatens none now. The US, NATO, Israel, and their imperial partners threaten everyone everywhere.

A further litany of Big Lies followed, how the US operates ahead of and while pursuing regime change actions against targeted countries, Iran a prime one.

That’s what US imperialism is all about, a diabolical plot for global hegemony by whatever it takes to achieve its aims, endless wars its favored strategy.

Will Iran be targeted in the new year? Will Trump regime hardliners go this far to replace its legitimate government with pro-Western puppet rule?

On Tuesday, Mike Pompeo and Benjamin Netanyahu met face-to-face. They vowed to continue jointly cooperating on countering Syria and nonexistent Iranian “aggression” – whether US forces stay or leave the Syrian Arab Republic.

Commenting for the first time on Trump’s troop withdrawal announcement, Pompeo said it “in no way changes anything that this administration is working on alongside Israel,” adding:

“The counter-ISIS campaign (sic) continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression (sic) continue, and our commitment to Middle East stability (sic) and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made.”

Netanyahu said that “(w)e’re going to (continue) our intense (regional) cooperation” in countering Syria and Iran,” turning truth on its head claiming Israeli actions are for “self-defense” – ignoring that the US and Israel have no enemies in the Middle East or anywhere else, just invented ones to unjustifiably justify waging forever wars.

Deputy State Department spokesman Robert Palladino lied, saying Pompeo and Netanyahu “discussed the unacceptable threat that regional aggression and provocation by Iran and its agents (sic) poses to Israeli and regional security.”

When repeated endlessly, Big Lies take on a life of their own, Iran unjustifiably assaulted by them since its 1979 revolution.

Relentless US-led hostility toward the country failed to achieve its objectives? Is war on the Islamic Republic likely in the new year?

For sure, US/Israeli hostility toward Iran will continue intensively, perhaps escalate beyond what’s now ongoing.

It’s unknown how far Trump and Netanyahu will go. War remains an ominous possibility – risking Russian involvement if launched, heightening the chance for East/West confrontation beyond what’s happened so far.

Previous articles discussed the ominous possibility of US launched global war with nuclear weapons, hardliners in Washington thinking they can win.

US war plans were prepared long ago and updated against all its adversaries, notably Russia, China and Iran. 

The sole purpose of NATO is to pursue Washington’s imperial objectives, including its endless wars, wanting ruling authorities in all sovereign independent countries eliminated.

That’s where things are heading because militarist hardliners run Washington’s geopolitical agenda.

US presidents are frontmen for their policies. Their aim to colonize and control planet earth may destroy it. Their drive for global hegemony should scare everyone.

Trump U-Turning on Syria Pullout?

By Stephen Lendman
Source

Whether Pentagon forces stay or leave Syria, whether some stay, others redeployed cross-border to Iraq or elsewhere, Washington’s regional and overall imperial agenda remains unchanged – under Republicans and undemocratic Dems.

Post-9/11, US wars, as well as post-war violence and chaos, continue with no prospects for peace and stability returning to nations attacked any time soon.

Afghanistan is the prototype for US wars of aggression – against invented enemies because real ones don’t exist.

In its 18th year, the AfPak war rages endlessly, a forever war, an unwinnable one with no prospect for resolving it any time in the foreseeable future. US strategy is all about waging it endlessly, not winning.

Syria is following the same pattern, war in its 8th year with no end in sight – despite Syrian forces regaining control over most of the country.

The Pentagon has a reported 18 bases in Syria, at least one more being constructed. Its commanders are highly unlikely to abandon them or leave key bases established in neighboring Iraq, including two new ones, an al-Rutbah base around 60 miles from the Syrian border.

US regional bases are used as platforms for warmaking. Pentagon troops are in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries as hostile invaders. 

No US plans exist to turn a page for peace in the region or anywhere else. Washington’s agenda features endless wars of aggression, part of its longstanding plan for global hegemony, ignoring the rule of law, mindless of the human toll.

Most of what’s going on is unreported or misreported in the mainstream. Millions of post-9/11 casualties are of no consequences to militarists in charge of Washington’s geopolitical agenda – peace and stability considered abhorrent notions.

Trump is captive to dark forces controlling him, a businessman/TV personality – ignorant about affairs of state.

Nothing he says is credible, time and again saying one thing, then doing something entirely different. Will he U-turn on announced troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan?

Regime hardliners, congressional leaders, and Pentagon commanders strongly oppose the idea. According to Bloomberg News, neocon Senator Lindsey Graham said the following after meeting with Trump privately:

“I feel better about Syria than I felt before (we met). I think the president is taking (his announced troop pullout) seriously, and the trip to Iraq was well timed.” 

He spoke to Joint Chiefs chairman General Joseph Dunford. He’s “reconsidering how we do this” – referring to withdrawing US forces from Syria.

Graham, Trump, and everyone else claiming US forces are in Syria and Iraq to combat ISIS have things upside down. Washington created and supports the scourge of ISIS it claims to oppose.

The same goes for al-Qaeda, its al-Nusra offshoot in Syria, and other terrorist groups – used as US proxy forces, supported by Pentagon terror-bombing in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.

The cold, hard reality of US warmaking is polar opposite how it’s publicly reported – including by major media, operating as press agents for Washington’s imperial and neoliberal agendas, supporting what demands condemnation.

According to Bloomberg News, “(t)he White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Trump is considering reversing the decision” on Syria.

He “already has backed away from the notion of an immediate withdrawal, saying a week ago that the pullout of US troops from the area would be “slow & highly coordinated” – after speaking to Turkey’s Erdogan before Christmas.

On CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Graham said Trump “promised to destroy ISIS. He’s going to keep that promise. We’re not there yet.”

The Big Lie persists. Trump’s knowledge about ISIS consists of rubbish fed him by his handlers, along with Fox News misinformation and disinformation, his favorite TV channel.

Despite being president and commander-in-chief of America’s military, he may not know the truth about ISIS and likeminded terrorist groups – created and used by the Pentagon and CIA as imperial foot soldiers in US war theaters.

Based on Graham’s comments after meeting with Trump, perhaps he’ll U-turn on withdrawing US forces from Syria and Afghanistan – what’s most likely entirely or partially.

The alternative would be to replace US forces with others from NATO countries, France most likely, perhaps Britain as well – and/or agreeing to deploy paramilitary mercenaries in place of Pentagon troops.

What’s coming will likely be clear early in the new year. Whatever unfolds ahead, Washington’s war on humanity remains unchanged.

 

 

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