9/11: the deep state false flag that keeps on condoning Western terrorism at home and around the world

September 20, 2019

9/11: the deep state false flag that keeps on condoning Western terrorism at home and around the world

By: Jeff J. Brown for The Saker Blog

11 September 2019

Crosslinked with:

https://youtu.be/8k6jjP1Ez0E

https://soundcloud.com/44-days/911-the-deep-state-false-flag-that-keeps-on-condoning-western-terrorism-at-home-and-around-the-world

A tall building in a city Description automatically generated

Pictured above: In 2010, I saw this 23-second clip of the 52-story World Trade Center 7 collapsing and was gob smacked. As a certified science teacher with a good knowledge of physics, I could tell it was brought down by controlled demolition, with thermite cuts seen and heard on the face of the building, during its six-second freefall – saying to myself, “What the fugg?”. Unlike Harry Potter, you can’t suspend universal laws of physics. It was the beginning of my long and painful journey into the dark, evil heart of Western empire. As much as the bitter truth hurts, I’ve never looked back.

Many people would rather die than think; in fact, most do. – Bertrand Russell

In Book #2 of The China TrilogyChina Rising, I completely destroyed the official story about what happened on September 11, 2001. I am a certified science teacher and understand physics well. In 2010, after seeing the above clip of the 52-story WTC 7 coming down in free fall by controlled demolition, it was like becoming an actor in a Sherlock Holmes murder thriller. When one alibi is destroyed, the whole caper eventually gets exposed to the white light of truth. Unfortunately in this case, the culprits have not been brought to justice – yet.

After years of research and thousands of hours of investigation, I discovered just how evil and psychopathic Western elites really are, in their lust for power, property, capital and resources. To those ends, they pummel world citizens into fearful sheeple, with an endless cascade of false flag “terrorism” and “mass shootings”. No one wants to admit the bitter truth, but I refuse to live the rest of my life as a brainwashed, heavily-in-debt, super-consuming, useful idiot. We only get one chance on this planet and since 2010, my head has been held high.

The West’s neocons had been howling for years for a new Pearl Harbor (Project for the New American Century – PNAC) to shock the people into accepting global warfare on resource rich countries across Asia, from North Korea in the East to Libya in the West. Remember full spectrum dominance and George W. Bush’s grotesque “Axis of Evil”? With 9/11, these elite perps got the cowed public’s carte blanche to massacre, starve and sanction countless millions, destroy and occupy countries of their choosing, in order to steal the locals’ resources, plunder public treasuries for trillions of dollars and euros, via inflated “security” and corrupt arms contracts. A quick look at today’s headlines and world map shows just how lethal 9/11 was and is for millions of dark-skinned, mostly Muslim innocents around the world.

George Orwell wrote that the fascism of empire overseas always comes back to the home countries, to keep the natives just as oppressed as the colonies. It’s the only way the capitalist class can keep on robbing the citizens blind, as they are slowly driven into poverty and despair. Thus, 9/11 gave the elites the perceived mandate to shred civil and legal rights across Eurangloland. Using 9/11 as a wrecking ball, the Patriot Act and successive National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) have suborned Western constitutions into hollow charades. Your governments can detain you, search you and your property, seize your property, torture, disappear and kill you, with the stroke of a pen and without a shred of evidence. You are just getting a taste of Western, dystopian, police state destitution and government orchestrated propaganda, fear and loathing. It is going to get much, much worse. Hats off to author Suzanne Collins for her Hunger Games books. Art imitating life. That’s exactly where Euranglolanders are heading. Welcome to Panem, bay-bee.

Cui bono 9/11? Not you, that’s for sure. If you still cling to the absurd conspiracy theory that a gaggle of amateur Arabs with box cutters shut down the U.S.’s entire North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), you are in the dwindling minority. Latest polls show that a majority of Americans think their government is hiding the truth about 9/11. Well, DUH!

Alea iacta est. The die is cast and unfortunately, much damage has already been done, both at home and abroad. But with eyes wide open, we can all hope for an eventual Nuremburg-style crimes-against-humanity court to seek necessary justice and cloture, then we can work towards a more noble future for all of humankind.

Quit being a dupe and a patsy. The truth shall set you free. With dignity and awareness, you can hold your head high.

Jeff J. Brown is the author of The China Trilogy (https://chinarising.puntopress.com/2018/06/30/praise-for-the-china-trilogy-the-votes-are-in-it-r-o-c-k-s-what-are-you-waiting-for/), blogs and podcasts at www.chinarising.puntopress.com. His forthcoming book, Faster than a Speeding Bullet – the Chinese People’s Unstoppable Socialist Dream for Global Leadership into the 22nd Century, will be released in December, 2020.

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The Saker interviews Max van der Werff about the MH-17 conspiracy

The Saker interviews Max van der Werff about the MH-17 conspiracy

August 28, 2019

Introduction: MH17 is to Novorussia, what the Markale (also see here) has been to Bosnia and Racak (also see here) has been to Kosovo: a typical false flag operation which pursued two goals: first, of course, to justify a military aggression and, second, to force everybody to chose one of two options: first, either pretend to believe the official narrative or, second, be vilified and discredited. From this perspective, the MH17 false flag has been a tremendous success, mostly due to the extremely successful lobotomy inflicted by the legacy Ziomedia on the western public opinion (I would argue that the Skripal fairy tale is even more self-evidently ridiculous than the MH17 fairy tale, and yet that was also swallowed hook line and sinker by most western “experts”). But then, we live in a post-9/11 world, in which neither facts nor logic matter much anymore, except for a rather small amount of people, including Max van der Werff who has proven to be one of the most tenacious and courageous investigative journalists. I am most grateful for his time and answers!

The Saker

——-

The Saker: First, a question about yourself: why and how did you get involved in this topic of MH17? What did were you doing before you got involved in this topic?

Max van der Werff : The very moment the news of the shoot down of the Malaysian Boeing broke on July 17th 2014, I immediately realized this tragedy would have long term geopolitical implications. What further struck me was the fact most passengers were citizens of my country, The Netherlands.

Since childhood I have an interest in geopolitics and history. The fact my father was an immigrant from Indonesia surely contributed and as a teenager I read a lot about Dutch colonial history.

After Japan surrendered and World War II ended 150,000 Dutch troops were sent to restore Pax Hollandia in the old colony and the main motive was to restore the exploitation of the ‘wingewest’ (area for profit) as soon as possible. The Dutch elite had the opinion that the Japanese rule over the Dutch Indies was merely a short interruption and that Dutch colonial rule would be reinstated for generations to come. This fatally wrong perception of reality led to the Indonesian war of independence lasting from 1945 to end 1949 causing hundreds of thousands casualties.

Prior to my MH17 investigations I spent a lot of time in archives and on the ground in Indonesia searching for evidence of Dutch war crimes. There’s a documentary about my work: https://vimeo.com/288088492

The Saker: Now, let’s immediately jump into the core question: after having researched and analyzed the topic of MH17, what personal conclusion did you come to?

What do you believe really happened that day?

Max van der Werff : Having spent thousands of hours researching the case and being interviewed by the official Joint Investigation Team more than once my answer to your core question might be disappointing for some: I don’t know what happened.

Let me elaborate. Depending on political preferences all kinds of ‘experts’ claim to know for sure what happened exactly. One camp is sure it was a false flag, executed by Ukraine. The opposing camp is sure Russia is responsible. There are many variants as to who is an accomplice. On social media you see claims Ukraine was just a proxy for the CIA or Mossad. On the other side Russia just supplied the weapon and rebels shot down the airliner.

Then there are more exotic claims flight MH17 was shot down by a drone, a modernized Georgian SU-25 or by Israeli Python-5 missile(s) fired from the air or from the ground.

I have not encountered any credible evidence supporting any of the theories. This specifically includes the official version. Too many things simply do not add up. I’ve written a lot about the questionable evidence the official investigators have presented to the public so far and was one of the producers of a documentary that already has more than 200,000 views on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkDWwYk4-Ho

The Saker: I outlined my personal guesstimate here where I wrote that in my opinion the Ukronazis used the radar of a Buk battery to guide a Su-25 withing 8 clicks of the MH-17 at which point the Su-25 fired a R-60 IR missile which hit one of the engines which caused the Boeing to go into a sharp turn and lose altitude – the Su-25 easily caught up and finished the Boeing with its 30 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-2 autocannon (I explain my reasons in details here: https://thesaker.is/mh-17-one-year-later/). Do you have any elements of proof which would undermine/negate my guesstimate? Specifically, do you consider it as admitted by all sides now that a Buk missile did strike MH-17?

Max van der Werff : President Putin recently said: “We have our own version, we presented it, unfortunately, no one wants to listen to us. And until there is a real dialogue, we will not find the right answer to those questions that are still open

Link: https://sputniknews.com/world/201906201075985579-russia-has-its-own-version-on-mh17-crash/

For five years I am asking: What exactly is the Russian official version of events?

To my knowlegde the Russian Federation has never claimed the Malaysian Boeing was shot down by a buk missile. You have to be very precise here. Over the years Russian media have presented all kinds of versions about what happened. One version even more exotic than the other.

As most of your readers will know Almaz Antey, the company producing the missile system, gave a press conference and conducted a life experiment detonating a buk missile https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0r63cskl08o

During the press conference the Almaz Antey spokesman explained that the observed damage patterns in the hull of the Boeing could not have been caused by a buk missile fired from the location near Snizhne as claimed by the MH17 Joint Investigation Team. If a buk missile caused the damage, it must have been fired from an area southeast of the village Zaroshenskoye. Notice the little word “IF” in the sentence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsohFzbJ-vs

Concerning your assessment a Su-25 fired a R-60 IR missile. You do get some support for your theory from Zahar Omarov, chief researcher at the Central Research Institute of the Air Force of the Russian Ministry of Defense:

I can say that our results disprove the conclusion that the plane was shot down by a missile from a Buk-type anti-aircraft missile system. Most likely, it was an air-to-air missile with a mass of high-explosive fragmentation warheads not exceeding 33 kg (the mass of the warhead of the Buk missile is 70 kg).

Link https://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=2720372

Omarov repeatedly attended meetings of Russian delegations with members of the Dutch Safety Board. Here’s a very interesting segment of what he experienced during one of those meetings:

–QUOTE–

During the first meeting, in which I had to take part, and this was in February 2015, the Dutch reported that the plane, in their opinion, was shot down by a Buk anti-aircraft missile. Moreover, a definite modification of this missile was indicated, and, moreover, even the area from where it was launched was indicated.

I will not hide, we were very surprised. After all, before this, fragments of the aircraft with holes were examined, and there was not a single fragment with cut out sections that would indicate the conduct of any laboratory research.

I want to draw attention to such a dialogue that I had with a speaking expert.

–I asked a question: “Excuse me, did you investigate combat damage on fragments of an airplane?”

–Answer: “No. We are only planning to do this.”

–Question: “But how did you establish that the plane was shot down by Buk missile launcher?”

–Answer: “We found out from the Internet that the aircraft could have been hit either by a GSh-23 type air gun, or a R-60 type air missile, or a Buk anti-aircraft missile. One of the steel pieces found in the wreckage of the aircraft, in our opinion, is somewhat reminiscent of the shape of a “butterfly”. And we know that the warhead of one of the modifications of the Buk missile has damaging elements in the form of a “butterfly”. Therefore, of the three versions, the last was chosen.”

Logic, as they say, is iron. Something reminds me of our school exam. Dutch experts, apparently, have a good university education. However, for such work, education alone is not enough. Of course, experience is necessary, but even this is not the main thing. It is necessary to know, or, in extreme cases, at least conceptually understand the methodology for investigating such aviation events.

–UNQUOTE–

Now back to the type of air-to-air missile allegedly used. Omarov claims:

The warhead was equipped with compact striking elements in an amount of not more than 4000 pieces. The missile most likely had a matrix-type thermal imaging homing head or passive radar. I note that missiles with similar characteristics are not in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces and never have been.”

Source http://www.aviapanorama.ru/2016/02/rejs-mn-17-v-cnii-vvs-minoborony-rossii-oprovergnuty-vyvody-gollandskoj-komissii/

The Saker: Russia and Malaysia were denied the right to participate to the investigation. Can you outline what the legalities are to decide which countries do or do not get the chance to participate? Do Russia and Malaysia not have any legal instruments to invoke to challenge the absolutely ridiculous way the official inquiry was formed and, even more so, the way this commission of inquiry operated (such as using social media sites, but not official Russian data)? Russia is an IATA member, so is Malaysia. Can they not sue?

Max van der Werff : This is a question for legal experts, but I’m quite certain Malaysia would have a strong case. ICAO Annex 13 describes in detail how the composition of an air disaster investigation must be. For sure the country of the operator (in this case Malaysia Airlines) has to be part of the investigation from the very beginning, which we all know was not the case. Malaysia only was a llowed to become MH17 JIT member four months after the shoot down.

Russia could argue that Ukraine as a potential suspect of the crime is a member of the official investigation and to compensate this obvious anomaly the Russian Federation should be part of the investigative team too.

Connected to this issue Lawyer and expert international criminal law Geert-Jan Knoops argues:

In my view, the OM made a wrong choice by first setting up a trial model with the JIT team, with the Netherlands and The Hague District Court as the place of trial, then presenting the report with the suspects and then expecting Russia to cooperates. 

and

I think Russia might have been more cooperative if there had been trial in a neutral country, a non-JIT country.“

Source https://nos.nl/artikel/2289762-knoops-nederland-maakte-strategische-fout-bij-juridische-aanpak-mh17.html

The Saker: What is going on in Russia? First, they strongly hinted that some Ukie aircraft had shot MH17, then they declared that it was a Buk owned by the Ukronazis. So did they actually change their working hypothesis and ditched the Su-25 hypothesis to the (much less credible, at least in my opinion) Buk missile scenario?

Max van der Werff : Information management of the Russian Federation is of very low quality, to put it mildly. It took Russia four days to present its version of events and claimed a (most probably) Su-25 appeared on radar as it broke the 5,000 meter altitude. Russia also claimed it had deleted its radar data only to find a copy a few days before the official JIT press conference. And on those radar data a Russian expert explained there was no fighter jet visible. How credible is all this and how could it fail to explain why on one set of radar data a fighter jet is visible and on the other there is not?

Another criticism is Russia reacts when new accusations are disseminated by the official investigators, but fails to take the initiative and to communicate its own version of events in a simple, complete and credible narrative. More about this in two radio interviews with patrick Henningsen of 21st Century Wire en Chris Cook of Gorilla Radio.

https://21stcenturywire.com/2019/07/17/interview-max-van-der-werff-discusses-new-mh17-documentary-film/

http://www.gorilla-radio.com/2019/07/26/gorilla-radio-chris-cook-max-van-der-werff-july-25th-2019/

The Saker: If the quasi official hypothesis now is that a Buk was shot (by somebody, nevermind for the time being how did it)? In spite of the fact that a HUGE plume should have been seen and in spite of the fact that any such Buk launch was absolutely certain to be tracked and recorded by all sides? Does it not strike you that the Buk hypothesis is just not credible at all? To ask the question a little differently: do you think that challenging the Buk hypothesis is still a viable strategy or should I (and a few others) give up on our Su-25 hypothesis and accept the Buk theory as established beyond reasonable doubt (or even by a preponderance of evidence)?

Max van der Werff: The narrative of a buk missile fired from rebel held territory was the first narrative that circulated in western media and after five years it is unchanged and still the dominant narrative. It is now also the official version of the MH17 Joint Investigation Team.

To your question if challenging the Buk hypothesis is still a viable strategy the answer depends very much on who is questioning this hypothesis. For sure the Russian Federation knows a lot more than what it is sharing with the public.

The tragedy happened merely thirty kilometers from the Russian border. For me it is unthinkable Russia does not know exactly what happened on July 17th 2014. What facts and information does it hide after even five years and for what reasons? If a buk missile was not the murder weapon, why not explain this to the world with irrefutable evidence?

The Saker: Finally, do you believe that the full truth about MH17 will eventually come out and, if yes, roughly how and when?

Max van der Werff : For sure at some point in time the truth will come out. However, I am not sure we will be living long enough to witness this event.

The Saker: thank you so much for your time and replies!
——-
Afterword by The Saker:

During my years as an strategic intel analyst I had the chance to personally witness how the airspace over Europe is controlled in peacetime: not a single aircraft can take off without immediately being detected by numerous and redundant reconnaissance capabilities of many different actors including NATO, but also the various member states and even some neutral countries. I can only begin to image the degree, the concentration, of intelligence/reconnaissance means deployed by ALL SIDES of the conflict in the Donbass. There is absolutely NO doubt in my mind that both the Russians and the Empire have very detailed radar tracks, signal logs and God knows what else which gives them a 20/20 vision of everything which took place on that day (and before and after too, of course). This brings me to three different questions:

  1. Why are the Russians not releasing to the world the full and irrefutable evidence of what took place that day? I could understand why the Russians remained silent about 9/11, but in this case I really don’t get it!
  2. How are the various NATO states justifying that they are not simply showing the general public the full picture of what took place that day? Has nobody asked them point blank?
  3. How is it that journalists with a lot of contacts (say a Seymour Hersh or a Robert Fisk) not get at least ONE (even anonymous) source to give them the full picture? There must be HUNDREDS of people between all the US and EU intel agencies who know exactly what has taken place and most of those probably do not sympathize with the Ukronazi regime in Kiev). Why this deafening silence?

I think that MH-17 will go the way of the Kennedy assassination or the way of 9/11: everybody will know that the official version is a load of bull, everybody will have his/her version of what really might have taken place, and we will probably never know for sure.

Unless one of the hundreds of people of actually do know know the truth steps forward.

The Saker

A Major Conventional War Against Iran Is an Impossibility. Crisis within the US Command Structure

Global Research, August 03, 2019
Global Research 8 July 2019

Updated, July 21, 2019

In this article, we examine America’s war strategies, including its ability to launch an all out theater war against the Islamic Republic on Iran.

A follow-up article will focus on the History of US War Plans against Iran as well as the complexities underlying the Structure of Military Alliances. 

**

Under present conditions, an Iraq style all out Blitzkrieg involving the simultaneous deployment of ground, air and naval  forces is an impossibility. 

For several reasons. US hegemony in the Middle East has been weakened largely as a result of the evolving structure of military alliances.

The US does not have the ability to carry out such a project.

There are two main factors which determine America’s military agenda in relation to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

1. Iran’s Military

There is the issue of Iran’s military capabilities (ground forces, navy, air force, missile defense), namely its ability to effectively resist and respond to an all out conventional war involving the deployment of US and Allied forces. Within the realm of conventional warfare,  Iran has sizeable military capabilities. Iran is to acquire Russia’s S400 state of the art air defense system.

Iran is ranked as “a major military power” in the Middle East, with an estimated 534,000 active personnel in the army, navy, air force and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It has advanced ballistic missile capabilities as well as a national defense industry. In the case of a US air attack, Iran would target US military facilities in the Persian Gulf.

2. Evolving Structure of Military Alliances

The second consideration has to do with the evolving structure of military alliances (2003-2019) which is largely to the detriment of the United States.

Several of America’s staunchest allies are sleeping with the enemy.

Countries which have borders with Iran including Turkey and Pakistan have military cooperation agreements with Iran. While this in itself excludes the possibility of a ground war, it also affects the planning of US and allied naval and air operations.

Until recently both Turkey (NATO heavyweight) and Pakistan were among America’s faithful allies, hosting US military bases.

From a broader military standpoint, Turkey is actively cooperating with both Iran and Russia. Moreover, Ankara has acquired (July 12, 2019) ahead of schedule Russia’s state of the art S-400 air defense system while de facto opting out from the integrated US-NATO-Israel air defense system.

Needless to say the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is in crisis. Turkey’s exit from NATO is almost de facto. America can no longer rely on its staunchest allies. Moreover, US and Turkish supported militia are fighting one another in Syria.

Moreover, several NATO member states have taken a firm stance against Washington’s Iran policy:  “European allies are grappling with mounting disagreements over foreign policy and growing irritated with Washington’s arrogant leadership style.”

“The most important manifestation of growing European discontent with U.S. leadership is the move by France and other powers to create an independent, “Europeans only” defense capability” (See National Interest, May 24, 2019)

Iraq has also indicated that it will not cooperate with the US in the case of a ground war against Iran.

Under present conditions, none of Iran’s neigbouring states including Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia would allow US-Allied ground forces to transit through their territory. Neither would they cooperate with the US in the conduct of an air war.

In recent developments, Azerbaijan which in the wake of the Cold War became a US ally as well as a member of NATO’s partnership for peace has changed sides. The earlier US-Azeri military cooperation agreements are virtually defunct including the post-Soviet GUAM military alliance (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova).

Bilateral military and intelligence agreements between Iran and Azerbaijan were signed in December 2018. In turn, Iran collaborates extensively with Turkmenistan. With regard to Afghanistan, the internal situation with the Taliban controlling a large part of Afghan territory, would not favor a large scale deployment of US and allied ground forces on the Iran-Afghan border.


Visibly, the policy of strategic encirclement against Iran formulated in the wake of the Iraq war (2003) is no longer functional. Iran has friendly relations with neighbouring countries, which previously were within the US sphere of influence.

The US is increasingly isolated in the Middle East and does not have the support of its NATO allies

Under these conditions, a major conventional theater war by the US involving the deployment of ground forces would be suicide.

This does not mean, however, that war will not take place. In some regards, with the advances in military technologies, an Iraq-style war is obsolete.

We are nonetheless at a dangerous crossroads. Other diabolical forms of military intervention directed against Iran are currently on the drawing board of the Pentagon. These include:

  • various forms of “limited warfare”, ie. targeted missile attacks,
  • US and Allied support of terrorist paramilitary groups
  • so-called “bloody nose operations” (including the use of tactical nuclear weapons),
  • acts of political destabilization and color revolutions
  • false flag attacks and military threats,
  • sabotage, confiscation of financial assets, extensive economic sanctions,
  • electromagnetic and climatic warfare, environmental modification techniques (ENMOD)
  • cyberwarfare
  • chemical and biological warfare.

US Central Command Forward Headquarters Located in Enemy Territory

Another consideration has to do with the crisis within the US Command structure.

USCENTCOM is the theater-level Combatant Command for all operations in the broader Middle East region extending from Afghanistan to North Africa. It is the most important Combat Command of the Unified Command structure. It has led and coordinated several major Middle East war theaters including Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003). It is also involved in Syria.

In the case of a war with Iran, operations in the Middle East would be coordinated by US Central Command with headquarters in Tampa, Florida in permanent liaison with its forward command headquarters in Qatar.

In late June 2019, after Iran shot down a U.S. drone President Trump “called off the swiftly planned military strikes on Iran” while intimating in his tweet that “any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force.”

US Central Command (CENTCOM), confirmed the deployment of the US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters to the al-Udeid airbase in Qatar, intended to “defend American forces and interests” in the region against Iran. (See Michael Welch, Persian Peril, Global Research, June 30, 2019). Sounds scary?

“The base is technically Qatari property playing host to the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command.” With 11,000 US military personnel, it is described as “one of the U.S. military’s most enduring and most strategically positioned operations on the planet”   (Washington Times). Al-Udeid also hosts the US Air Force’s 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, considered to be “America’s most vital overseas air command”.

What both the media and military analysts fail to acknowledge is that US CENTCOM’s forward Middle East headquarters at the al-Udeid military base close to Doha de facto “lies in enemy territory”

Since the May 2017 split of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Qatar has become a staunch ally of both Iran and Turkey (which is also an ally of Iran). While they have no “official” military cooperation agreement with Iran, they share in joint ownership with Iran the largest Worldwide maritime gas fields (see map below).

The split of the GCC has led to a shift in military alliances: In May 2017 Saudi Arabia blocked Qatar’s only land border. In turn Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE have blocked air transportation as well as commercial maritime shipments to Doha.

What is unfolding since May 2017 is a shift in Qatar’s trade routes with the establishment of bilateral agreements with Iran, Turkey as well as Pakistan. In this regard, Russia, Iran, and Qatar provide over half of the world’s known gas reserves.

The Al-Udeid base near Doha is America’s largest military base in the Middle East. In turn, Turkey has now established its own military facility in Qatar. Turkey is no longer an ally of the US. Turkish proxy forces in Syria are fighting US supported militia.

Turkey is now aligned with Russia and Iran. Ankara has now confirmed that it will be acquiring Russia’s S-400 missile air defense system which requires military cooperation with Moscow.

Qatar is swarming with Iranian businessmen, security personnel and experts in the oil and gas industry (with possible links to Iran intelligence?), not to mention the presence of Russian and Chinese personnel.

Question. How on earth can you launch a war on Iran from the territory of a close ally of Iran?

From a strategic point of view it does not make sense. And this is but the tip of the iceberg.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric underlying the official US-Qatar military relationship, The Atlantic Council, a think tank with close ties to both the Pentagon and NATO, confirms that Qatar is now a firm ally of both Iran and Turkey:

Put simply, for Qatar to maintain its independence, Doha will have essentially no choice but to maintain its strong partnership with Turkey, which has been an important ally from the perspective of military support and food security, as well as Iran. The odds are good that Iranian-Qatari ties will continue to strengthen even if Tehran and Doha agree to disagree on certain issues … On June 15 [2019], President Hassan Rouhani emphasizedthat improving relations with Qatar is a high priority for Iranian policymakers. … Rouhani told the Qatari emir that “stability and security of regional countries are intertwined” and Qatar’s head of state, in turn, stressed that Doha seeks a stronger partnership with the Islamic Republic. (Atlantic Council, June 2019, emphasis added)

What this latest statement by the Atlantic Council suggests is while Qatar hosts USCENTCOM’s forward headquarters, Iran and Qatar are (unofficially) collaborating in the area of “security” (i e. intelligence and military cooperation).

Sloppy military planning, sloppy US foreign policy? sloppy intelligence?

Trump’s statement confirms that they are planning to launch the war against Iran from their forward US Centcom headquarters at the Al Udeid military base, located in enemy territory. Is it rhetoric or sheer stupidity?

The Split of the GCC

The split of the GCC has resulted in the creation of a so-called Iran-Turkey-Qatar axis which has contributed to weakening US hegemony in the Middle East. While Turkey has entered into a military cooperation with Russia, Pakistan is allied with China. And Pakistan has become a major partner of Qatar.

Following the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in disarray with Qatar siding with Iran and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatar is of utmost strategic significance because it shares with Iran the world’s largest maritime gas fields in the Persian Gulf. (see map above). Moreover, since the GCC split-up Kuwait is no longer aligned Saudi Arabia. It nonetheless maintains a close relationship with Washington. Kuwait hosts seven active US military facilities, the most important of which is Camp Doha.

Needless to say, the May 2017 split of the GCC has undermined Trump’s resolve to create an “Arab NATO” (overseen by Saudi Arabia) directed against Iran. This project is virtually defunct, following Egypt’s withdrawal in April 2019.

The Gulf of Oman 

With the 2017 split up of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Oman appears to be aligned with Iran. Under these circumstances, the transit of US war ships to the headquarters of the US Fifth fleet in Bahrain not to mention the conduct of naval operations in the Persian Gulf are potentially in jeopardy.

The Fifth Fleet is under the command of US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). (NAVCENT’s area of responsibility consists of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea).

With the split up of the GCC, Oman is now aligned with Iran. Under these circumstances, the transit of US war ships to the headquarters of the US Fifth fleet in Bahrain not to mention the conduct of naval operations in the Persian Gulf would potentially be in jeopardy.

The strait of Hormuz which constitutes the entry point to the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman is controlled by Iran and the Sultanate of Oman (see map, Oman territory at the tip of the Strait).

The width of the strait at one point is of the order of 39 km. All major vessels must transit through Iran and/or Oman territorial waters, under so-called customary transit passage provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

More generally, the structure of alliances is in jeopardy. The US cannot reasonably wage a full-fledged conventional theatre war on Iran without the support of its longstanding allies which are now “sleeping with the enemy”.

Trump’s Fractured “Arab NATO”. History of the Split up of the GCC. 

Amidst the collapse of  America’s sphere of influence in the Middle East, Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) consisted at the outset of his presidency in an improvised attempt to rebuild the structure of military alliances. What the Trump administration had in mind was the formation of a Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), or  “Arab NATO”. This US-sponsored blueprint was slated to include Egypt and Jordan together with the six member states of the GCC.

The draft of the MESA Alliance had been prepared in Washington prior to Trump’s historic May 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia, meeting up with King Salman, leaders of the GCC as well as “more than 50 high-ranking officials from the Arab and Islamic worlds in an unprecedented US-Islamic summit.”

The Riyadh Declaration, issued at the conclusion of the summit on May 21, 2017, announced the intention to establish MESA in Riyadh.” (Arab News, February 19, 2019). The stated mandate of the “Arab NATO”  was to “to combat Iranian hegemony” in the Middle East.

Two days later on May 23, 2017 following this historic meeting, Saudi Arabia ordered the blockade of Qatar, called for an embargo and suspension of diplomatic relations with Doha, on the grounds that The Emir of Qatar was allegedly collaborating with Tehran.

What was the hidden agenda? No doubt it had already been decided upon in Riyadh on May 21, 2017  with the tacit approval of US officials.

The  plan was to exclude Qatar from the proposed MESA Alliance and the GCC, while maintaining the GCC intact.

What happened was a Saudi embargo on Qatar (with the unofficial approval of Washington) which resulted in the   fracture of the GCC with Oman and Kuwait siding with Qatar. In other words,  the GCC was split down the middle. Saudi Arabia was weakened and the “Arab NATO” blueprint was defunct from the very outset.


May 21, 2017: US-Islamic Summit in Riyadh

May 23, 2017: The blockade and embargo of Qatar following alleged statements by the Emir of Qatar. Was this event staged?

June 5, 2019: Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt sever diplomatic relations, cut off land, air and sea transportation with Qatar  accusing it of  supporting Iran.

June 7, 2017, Turkey’s parliament pass legislation allowing Turkish troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar

January 2018, Qatar initiates talks with Russia with a view to acquiring Russia’s  S-400 air defense system.


Flash forward to mid-April 2019: Trump is back in Riyadh: This time the Saudi Monarchy was entrusted by Washington to formally launching the failed Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) (first formulated in 2017) despite the fact that three of the invited GCC member states, namely Kuwait, Oman and Qatar were committed to the normalization of relations with Iran. In turn, the Egyptian government of President Sisi decided to boycott the Riyadh summit and withdraw from the “Arab NATO” proposal. Cairo also clarified its position vis a vis Tehran.  Egypt firmly objected to Trump’s plan because it “would increase tensions with Iran”.

Trump’s objective was to create an “Arab Block”. What he got in return was a truncated MESA “Arab Block” made up of a fractured GCC with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Jordan.

Egypt withdraws.

Kuwait and Oman officially took a neutral stance.

Qatar sided with the enemy, thereby further jeopardizing America’s sphere of influence in the Persian Gulf.

An utter geopolitical failure. What kind of alliance is that.

And US Central Command’s Forward headquarters is still located in Qatar despite the fact that two years earlier on May 23, 2017, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was accused by Saudi Arabia and the UAE of collaborating with Iran.

It is unclear who gave the order to impose the embargo on Qatar. Saudi Arabia would not have taken that decision without consulting Washington. Visibly, Washington’s intent was to create an Arab NATO Alliance (An Arab Block) directed against Iran “to do the dirty work for us”.

Trump and the Emir of Qatar, UN General Assembly, October 2017, White House photo

The rest is history, the Pentagon decided to maintain US Central Command’s forward headquarters in Qatar, which happens to be Iran’s closest ally and partner.

A foreign policy blunder? Establishing your “official” headquarters in enemy territory, while “unofficially” redeploying part of the war planes, military personnel and command functions to other locations (e.g. in Saudi Arabia)?

No press reports, no questions in the US Congress. Nobody seemed to have noticed that Trump’s war on Iran, if it were to be carried out, would be conducted from the territory of Iran’s closest ally.

An impossibility?

***

Part II of this essay focuses on the history and contradictions of US war preparations directed against Iran starting in 1995 as well as the evolution of military alliances.

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The Trump-Bolton Duo Is Just Like the Bush-Cheney Duo: Warmongers Using Lies to Start Illegal Wars

Global Research, June 18, 2019

[False flag operations:] “The powers-that-be understand that to create the appropriate atmosphere for war, it’s necessary to create within the general populace a hatred, fear or mistrust of others regardless of whether those others belong to a certain group of people or to a religion or a nation.” James Morcan (1978- ), New Zealander-born Australian writer.

[Definition: A ‘false flag operation’ is a horrific, staged event—blamed on a political enemy—and used as pretext to start a war or to enact draconian laws in the name of national security].

Almost all wars begin with false flag operations.” Larry Chin (d. of b. unknown), North American author, (in ‘False Flagging the World towards War. The CIA Weaponizes Hollywood’, Dec. 27, 2014).

Definition of reverse projection: attributing to others what you are doing yourself as the reason for attacking them.” John McMurtry (1939- ), Canadian philosopher, (in ‘The Moral Decoding of 9-11: Beyond the U.S. Criminal State’, Journal of 9/11 Studies, Feb.2013).

That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrels of nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between nations, it becomes the more unpardonable.” Thomas Paine (1737-1809), American Founding father, pamphleteer, (in ‘The Rights of Man’, c. 1792).

I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, and we stoleIt was like — we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment. Mike Pompeo (1963- ), former CIA director and now Secretary of State in the Trump administration, (in April 2019, while speaking at Texas A&M University.)

***

History repeats itself. Indeed, those who live by war are at it again. Their crime: starting illegal wars by committing false flag attacks and blaming other countries for their own criminal acts. On this, the Donald Trump-John Bolton duo is just like the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney duo. It is amazing that in an era of 24-hour news, this could still going on.

We recall that in 2002-2003, the latter duo, with the help of U.K.’s Tony Blair, lied their way into a war of aggression against Iraq, by pretending that Saddam Hussein had a massive stockpile of “weapons of mass destruction”and that he was ready to attack the United States proper. On October 6, 2002, George W. Bush scared Americans with his big Mushroom Cloud analogy.  —It was all bogus. —It was a pure fabrication that the gullible (!) U.S. Congress, the corporate media, and most of the American public, swallowed hook, line and sinker.

Now, in 2019, a short sixteen years later, the same stratagem seems to being used to start another illegal war of aggression, this time against the country of Iran. The masters of deception are at it again. Their secret agents and those of their Israeli and Saudi allies, in the Middle East, seem to have just launched an unprovoked attack, in international waters, against a Japanese tanker, and they have rushed to the cameras to accuse Iran. They claim that the latter country used mines to attack the tanker.

This time, they were unlucky. —The owner of the Japanese tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, immediately rebuked that “official” version. Yutaka Katada, president of the Kokuka Sangyo shipping company, declared that the attack came from a bombing from above the water. Indeed, Mr. Katada told reporters:

Source: The Washington Post

The crew are saying it was hit with a flying object. They say something came flying toward them, then there was an explosion, then there was a hole in the vessel.”

His company issued a statement saying that “the hull (of the ship) has been breached above the waterline on the starboard side”, and it was not hit by a mine below the waterline, as the Trump administration has insinuated. —[N. B.: There was also a less serious attack on a Norwegian ship, the Front Altair.]

Thus, this time the false flag makers have not succeeded. But, you can be sure that they will be back at it, sooner or later, just as they, and their well financed al-Qaeda allies, launched a few false flag “chemical” attacks in Syria, and blamed them on the Syrian Assad government.

Donald Trump has too much to gain personally from a nice little war to distract the media and the public from the Mueller report and from all his mounting political problems. In his case, he surely would benefit from a “wag-the-dog” scenario that John Bolton and his friends in the Middle East could easily invent. As a matter of fact, two weeks ago, warmonger John Bolton was coincidently in the Middle East, in the United Arab Emirates, just before the attacks!

Besides the Japanese ship owner’s denial, it is important to point out that  at the moment of the attack on the Japanese tanker, the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Shinzo Abe, was in Iran, having talks with the Iranian government about economic cooperation between the two countries about oil shipments. Since Iran is the victim of unilateral U. S. economic sanctions, to derail such an economic cooperation between Japan and Iran could have been the triggered motivation to launch a false flag operation. It did not work. But you can be sure that the responsible party will not be prosecuted.

Conclusion

We live in an era when people with low morals, sponsored by people with tons of money, can gain power and do a lot of damage. How our democracies can survive in such a context remains an open question.

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This article was originally published on the author’s blog site: Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay.

International economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book “The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, of the book “The New American Empire”, and the recent book, in French “La régression tranquille du Québec, 1980-2018“. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

SMOKING GUN? FALSE FLAG? U.S. RELEASES VIDEO ALLEGEDLY SHOWING IRAN’S MINE ON TANKER HULL

https://southfront.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/2-1.mp4?_=1

Just hours after remarks blaiming Iran for the recent incident in the Gulf of Oman by US State Secretary Mike Pompeo, Central Command issued a statement claiming that it has evidence confirming these accusations. The statement claimed that Iranian forces were spotted removing “a probable unexploded limpet mine” from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

The video released by Central Command shows a boat coming up to the side of the tanker. An individual stands up on the bow of the boat and removes some object from the tanker’s hull. The US says that the object is likely an unexploded mine.

The full text of Central Command statement:

“U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local time from the motor tanker (M/T) Altair and a second one at 7a.m. local time from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

Both vessels were in international waters in the Gulf of Oman approximately 10 nautical miles apart at the time of the distress calls. USS Bainbridge was approximately 40 nautical miles away from the M/T Altair at the time of the attack, and immediately began closing the distance.

At 8:09 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) in the vicinity of the M/T Altair.

At 9:12 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observes the FAC/FIAC pull a raft from the M/T Altair from the water.

At 9:26 a.m. local time the Iranians requested that the motor vessel Hyundai Dubai, which had rescued the sailors from the M/T Altair, to turn the crew over to the Iranian FIACs. The motor vessel Hyundai Dubai complied with the request and transferred the crew of the M/T Altair to the Iranian FIACs.

At 11:05 a.m. local time USS Bainbridge approaches the Dutch tug Coastal Ace, which had rescued the crew of twenty-one sailors from the M/T Kokuka Courageous who had abandoned their ship after discovering a probable unexploded limpet mine on their hull following an initial explosion.

While the Hendijan patrol boat appeared to attempt to get to the tug Coastal Ace before USS Bainbridge, the mariners were rescued by USS Bainbridge at the request of the master of the M/T Kokuka Courageous. The rescued sailors are currently aboard USS Bainbridge.

At 4:10 p.m. local time an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

The U.S. and our partners in the region will take all necessary measures to defend ourselves and our interests.  Today’s attacks are a clear threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce.

The U.S. and the international community, stand ready to defend our interests, including the freedom of navigation.

The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. However, we will defend our interests.

– attributable to Capt. Bill Urban, Lead Spokesman for U.S. Central Command”

Smoking Gun? False Flag? U.S. Releases Video Allegedly Showing Iran's Mine On Tanker Hull

Click to see the full-size image

Smoking Gun? False Flag? U.S. Releases Video Allegedly Showing Iran's Mine On Tanker Hull

Click to see the full-size image

While the statement seems to be pretty anti-Iranian, in fact, the US appears to be have no evidence to confirm that the supposed “mine” was Iranian. Bloomberg:

Senior administration officials said that at least one of the ships was attacked by mines. In a briefing with reporters, they showed a photo of a tanker, the Courageous, with a hole in its side caused by a mine that exploded, they said, and an undetonated mine lodged inside.

The officials said they didn’t know for sure whether the mines were Iranian. The U.S. concluded that Iran was responsible for the attacks based on intelligence sources and the absence of any better explanation, the officials said. They declined to elaborate on the intelligence sources.

On June 14, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that Washington should stop playing a blame game through “suspicious” attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East, describing the US behavior as “worrying”.

The suspicious nature of incidents for oil tankers is not a joke. It is not only not funny, but it is also worrying and alarming,” Mousavi said in a statement.

The US and its allies have just got a fresh formal pretext for further economic and maybe even military agression against Iran. Who may have been interested in this?

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

Before pointing the finger at Russia and Syria, the U.S. should answer for its own record in regard to chemical weapons

Source

Written by Brian Kalman exclusively for SouthFront; Brian Kalman is a management professional in the marine transportation industry. He was an officer in the US Navy for eleven years.

The world is once again witnessing the height of U.S. hypocrisy as members of the U.S. State Department ratchet up anti-Russian and anti-Syrian rhetoric surrounding the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the UK. Ambassador Nikki Haley has warned Syria, Iran and Russia that they will be held accountable for their pre-determined use of chemical weapons in Idlib on innocent civilians. No evidence was provided to support her threats. The United States carried out cruise missile strikes on two previous occasions, and each time provided no evidence to prove their assertion that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in attacking civilians, nor was any rational reason given for such an obviously irrational decision on the part of the Syrian state. No evidence has ever been provided to justify the clear international crime of aggression committed by the United States on these two earlier occasions. Now, the UK and the U.S. are both attempting to accuse the Russian government of using chemical weapons in an alleged attempted assassination of a Russian national on UK soil. Once again, no real evidence has been presented, only assertions and hearsay.

On Thursday September 13th, Assistant Secretary of State Manisha Singh declared before the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that the United States would level the most severe of sanctions against Russia, including breaking all diplomatic ties, if Russia refused to admit its guilt in perpetrating the Skripal assassination fiasco and refused to submit to International inspections by the OPCW of its alleged chemical weapons and biological weapons programs. She stated that Russia would have to meet this requirement by an arbitrary November 4th deadline, set by the United States in accordance with a U.S. law, not an international law. H.R. 1724 – Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 specifies in part:

Title III: Control and Elimination of Chemical and Biological Weapons – Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 – Declares it is U.S. policy to: (1) seek multilaterally coordinated efforts with other countries to control the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons; and (2) strengthen efforts to control chemical agents, precursors, and equipment.

Requires the President to use the U.S. export control laws to control the export of defense articles, defense services, goods, and technologies that he determines would assist a country in acquiring the capability to produce or use such weapons.

Amends the Export Administration Act of 1979 to require the Secretary of Commerce to establish a list of goods and technology that would assist a foreign government or group in acquiring chemical or biological weapons. Requires a validated export license for the export of such items to certain countries of concern.

Requires the President to impose certain sanctions against foreign persons if he determines that they knowingly contributed to the efforts of a country to acquire, use, or stockpile chemical or biological weapons. Declares such sanctions to include: (1) denial of U.S. procurement contracts for goods or services from such foreign persons; and (2) prohibition against importation of products from such persons. Authorizes the President to waive imposition of such sanctions if he determines that is in the national security interests of the United States.

Amends the Arms Export Control Act to set forth similar provisions.

Requires the President to make a determination with respect to whether a country has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals. Authorizes specified congressional committees to request the President to make such determination with respect to the use of such weapons.

Requires the President to impose the following sanctions against foreign countries that have been found to have used such weapons: (1) termination of assistance under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (except humanitarian assistance and agricultural commodities); (2) termination of arms sales and arms sales financing; (3) denial of U.S. credit; and (4) prohibition of the export of certain goods and technology. Directs the President to impose at least three of the following additional sanctions unless such countries cease the use of such weapons and provide assurances that they will not use, and will allow inspections with respect to, such weapons: (1) opposition to the extension of multilateral development bank assistance; (2) prohibition of U.S. bank loans (except loans for food or agricultural commodities); (3) further export prohibitions; (4) import restrictions; (5) suspension of diplomatic relations; and (6) termination of air carrier landing rights. Provides for the removal and waiver of such sanctions.

Requires the President to submit to the Congress annual reports on the efforts of countries to acquire chemical or biological weapons.

Repeals certain duplicative provisions of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993.

It is important to note that nowhere in this law is there a legal commitment made by the United States itself, to eliminate its own chemical and biological weapons capabilities. This is not an oversight, yet speaks to the imperial hypocrisy of the United States and an acknowledgement that it alone has been the largest perpetrator of chemical weapons use and proliferation for more than 50 years. It currently maintains the largest stockpile of both chemical and biological warfare agents of any nation on the planet, and continues to expand its biological weapons research and development on a scale far larger than any other country.

U.S. History of Chemical Weapons Use and Complicity in War Crimes

While the U.S. Department of Defense maintains that its massive biological research programs are meant to counter and defend against new biological weapons being developed, they are in fact developing bio-weapons in the process.

International Obligations and the OPCW

Russia is one of 192 signatories (state and non-state parties) of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, along with the United States. On September 27th, 2017 it was announced by Russia and the OPCW, that Russia had verified the total destruction of its large chemical weapons stockpile dating from the years of the Soviet Union, estimated at 39,967 metric tons of chemical agents. Russia was obligated to do this by 2020, yet was able to accomplish the task three years ahead of schedule. Under the original agreement, both the U.S. and Russia were obligated to accomplish this by 2007, but both nations required an extension of the deadline.

Although admitting to a total stockpile of 28,000 metric tons of chemical agents, the U.S. admits to destroying 90% of its chemical arsenal. The U.S. requested and was granted an extension out to 2023 to achieve verified elimination of 100% of its chemical weapons. The only other signatory of the law other than the United States not to have already met the requirements is Iraq. It must be stated that much of the chemical weapons in the Iraqi arsenal are based on the chemical warfare agents supplied to the Saddam Hussein regime during the height of the Iran-Iraq war by the United States and other western nations. Saddam used some of these U.S. supplied weapons to murder thousands of Iraqi Kurds in the town of Halabja in 1988. Estimates range between 3,000 – 7,000 deaths and over 10,000 injured.

U.S. History of Chemical Weapons Use and Complicity in War Crimes

Saddam Hussein was a valued asset of the United States and its Western allies for decades. Hussein pictured above with former French President Jacque Chirac and U.S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Not only did the United States, and France for that matter, provide chemical weapons to the Saddam regime, but the U.S. intelligence agencies provided the Iraqi military with vital battlefield intelligence, including satellite imagery in aiding them in the war. The U.S. was well aware that the Saddam regime had used chemical weapons in at least four offensives during the war. Of course they knew, they had facilitated the transfer of these weapons to help the Iraqis prosecute a war of aggression against Iran. Declassified CIA documents clearly show that the United States was well aware that the Iraqis had used chemical weapons at least four times between 1983 and 1988. Iran had accused Iraq of using chemical weapons, and tried to build a case to bring before the United Nations. The United States withheld its knowledge of course, and continued to aid its ally in perpetrating these crimes against humanity.

U.S. History of Chemical Weapons Use and Complicity in War Crimes

Perhaps the most powerful photo taken of the Halabja chemical attack perpetrated against Iraqi Kurds. This woman died running with her child in an attempt to save her, yet could not escape the deadly effects of the chemical agents used. Their embrace will forever symbolize both human love and sacrifice, and unfathomable human cruelty.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has lied through her teeth repeatedly in her statements before the U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly. She has stated repeatedly that Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people in Ghouta in 2013, Khan Shaykhun in 2017 and Douma in 2018, yet has not supplied one shred of evidence beyond dubious social media posts of unknown provenance. She has also stated that the United States is certain that it could only be the Syrian government, as no other party in the conflict zone could possibly possess chemical weapons. Here’s the problem with her statement. Firstly, the United States and the OPCW verified that Syria destroyed or surrendered all of its chemical weapons agents. On its official website, the OPCW states:

“Veolia, the US firm contracted by the OPCW to dispose of part of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile, has completed disposal of 75 cylinders of hydrogen fluoride at its facility in Texas.

This completes destruction of all chemical weapons declared by the Syrian Arab Republic.  The need to devise a technical solution for treating a number of cylinders in a deteriorated and hazardous condition had delayed the disposal process.

Commenting on this development, the Director-General of the OPCW, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, said: “This process closes an important chapter in the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapon programme as we continue efforts to clarify Syria’s declaration and address ongoing use of toxic chemicals as weapons in that country.”

Secondly, the OPCW and the UN have both verified that opposition forces within Syria have used chemical agents as weapons on numerous occasions during the conflict. Not only has Carla Del Ponte, UN human rights investigator, former UN Chief Prosecutor and ICC attorney stated that opposition forces had used chemical weapons, but also the former OPCW head field investigator in Syria Jerry Smith stated to the BBC that he found it very unlikely that the government perpetrated these chemical attacks.. As recently as October of last year the U.S. State Department itself seemed to acknowledge the same truth in its warning to U.S. citizens traveling to Syria. The travel warning stated:

“Tactics of ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons.

They have targeted major city centers, road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces, in Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr provinces.”

U.S. History of using Chemical Weapons and Supporting Those that Do

The last country in the world that should lecture anyone on the possession and use of WMDs is the United States. Not only is the United States the only country in history to ever target civilians with multiple atomic bombs, it has used chemical weapons against the populations of Southeast Asia and Iraq in the past. Now, they were smart enough not to use mustard gas and anthrax, but the accumulative effects of Agent Orange and depleted uranium in these populations has been devastating, and will not only cause great harm and pain for these populations, but will leave the land poisoned for generations.

The United States sprayed copious quantities of TCDD (dioxin tetrachlordibenzo-para-dioxin), a class 1 carcinogen all over regions of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in an attempt to defoliate the jungle environment, and thus rob their enemy of an environment they excelled at fighting in and hiding in as part of Operation Ranch Hand. Known as Agent Orange, the chemical was banned in the U.S. in 1970. Although extremely hard to quantify, the devastating effects of dioxin exposure in the Vietnamese population are easily identifiable, as the same effects were observed in U.S. veterans that returned home after exposure to the toxin. Abnormally high levels of various cancers and debilitating birth defects are present in Southeast Asian populations in areas of greatest use of Agent Orange. Dioxins remain in the soil and water table, as they do not degrade naturally. Dioxin also bio-accumulates in the fatty tissues of animals and thus remains in the food supply.

U.S. History of Chemical Weapons Use and Complicity in War Crimes

One of the many young Vietnamese born long after the war with debilitating, neurodevelopmental diseases and birth defects due to Agent Orange exposure of their parents.

The United States learned little from the crime it perpetrated in Southeast Asia, nor did it seem to care as it repeated a similar offense in two successive invasions of Iraq. Having failed to achieve its aim of defeating Iran through its brutal Iraqi proxy, even after helping the Saddam Hussein regime in chemical warfare attacks against Iranian soldiers and Iraqi Kurdish civilians, the United States largely ignored the numerous atrocities carried out by one of its favorite dictators. The U.S. would turn on its erstwhile henchman in 1990, after Saddam decided to attack one of its favorite corrupt emirates in the region. The resulting 1991 invasion of Iraq saw the heavy use of depleted uranium armored piercing rounds. Depleted uranium is extremely dense, and thus good for piercing hardened steel or composite armor. The follow-on invasion of 2003 brought more death and destruction, and more depleted uranium.

U.S. History of Chemical Weapons Use and Complicity in War Crimes

Locations of depleted uranium munitions used by U.S. Airforce A-10 ground attack aircraft in Iraq during the 2003 invasion. Depleted Uranium is also used in anti-armor munitions utilized by all U.S. tanks and armored fighting vehicles as well, so the true breadth of distribution and employment of depleted uranium in the above map are understated.

The U.S. has not funded the reclamation and disposal of depleted uranium contaminated scrap in Iraq. The new Iraqi government has started cleaning up the approximately 350 sites identified as having depleted uranium contamination in the country, mostly around Basra and Baghdad, yet also scattered over the entire country. It is estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000 metric tons of depleted uranium used in various munitions fired during the invasion of 2003 alone. It is hard to narrow down the exact amount as the U.S. military has failed to provide any definitive numbers. Iraqi doctors have recorded and reported higher cases of cancers in adult patients and increased birth defects in children being born in Iraq since the invasion took place. The U.S. government seems determined to undermine any attempts to draw direct correlations between this recorded phenomenon and its use of depleted uranium in two successive wars in Iraq. It has also fought all attempts by U.S. war veterans suffering from various cancers and neurological diseases from their similar exposure in both wars.

Continued Support of War Criminals

Nikki Haley fails to acknowledge the historic role of the United States government’s support of some of the world’s most horrible regimes in the past. From the Khmer Rouge and Saddam Hussein then, to Saudi Arabia and Tahrir al-Sham now, the United States has supported many of the world’s most deplorable violators of human rights. Yet Nikki Haley has the arrogance and delusional belief that she has the moral high ground in chastising Syria and Russia before the U.N.?

Just this week U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo clarified that the Saudi and UAE have acted in good faith in taking steps to reduce civilian casualties in their military operations in Yemen and that the U.S. military would keep providing both material and direct support to both nations in prosecuting their illegal war. U.S. manufactured and supplied bombs are being used to kill civilians in Yemen regularly, amounting to an estimated 15,000 killed or injured civilians over a period of three years. This does not take into account the deaths and suffering associated with the humanitarian crisis that has resulted from the Saudi-led coalition destroying virtually all infrastructure in the Houthi controlled part of the country. I am sure that it is also just another “unintended consequence” that al-Qaeda has expanded and strengthened its position in Yemen as a direct result of the conflict. When will any member state in the U.N. finally tell Nikki Haley that the Security Council must acknowledge that al-Qaeda has always been a proxy of Saudi Arabia and the United States?

U.S. History of Chemical Weapons Use and Complicity in War Crimes

Children injured when a Saudi airstrike targeted a school bus in Saada, Yemen. A total of 51 civilians, 40 of them children below the age of 15 were killed in the strike. The United States supplies the aircraft, bombs, aerial refueling and intelligence gathering resources to support the bombing campaign.

Nikki Haley continues to claim that Russia is directly facilitating an impending humanitarian disaster and war crime in the impending Syrian military operations to retake Idlib province, destroy a host of ISIS and al-Qaeda linked terrorist groups and liberate hundreds of thousands of civilians. She said the same thing during the battle to liberate Aleppo. Her lies were revealed when the SAA and Russia finally liberated the city and Syrian civilians who were kept as prisoners there by the Islamic terrorists were finally free of the horror of their captivity. Is it no wonder that tens of thousands of Syrian refugees displaced by the conflict are now returning to their home country?

Apparently Nikki Haley sees no issue at all in Imperial America supporting Saudi Arabia and the UAE killing Yemeni civilians by the thousands in Yemen. The U.S. not only supplies the bombs, but directly provides in-flight refueling of the aircraft and the intelligence used to conduct the “precision” strikes that target schools, hospitals, funerals, and even school bus loads of children. Does this surprise anyone? U.S. coalition airstrikes against ISIL in Raqqa and Mosul killed an estimated 6,000 civilians. In Raqqa, U.S. aircraft conducted 90% of the airstrikes, and the U.S. fired at least 30,000 artillery rounds into the city. The U.S. has yet to pay any political or legal price for its indiscriminant destruction of these cities.

U.S. History of Chemical Weapons Use and Complicity in War Crimes

One of thousands of airstrikes carried out on the Syrian city of Raqqa. The U.S. led coalition was widely criticized for its blatant disregard for civilian casualties in its targeting of the city as part of its offensive to destroy ISIL. They have yet to be held accountable for the estimated 800-1,000 civilians deaths caused.

The Russian Response

Russia needs to finally accept the reality that there is nothing to be gained by negotiating, or attempting to collaborate with the United States in solving problems. It’s like a shepherd using a wolf to defend his flock, or a detective enlisting the aid of a criminal to solve a crime that the criminal is a co-conspirator in perpetrating. It is illogical in the extreme. The Russian U.N. mission needs to call out Nikki Haley and the U.S. on its own deplorable record and hypocrisy and while seeking  the aid of other member states, must also realizing that most of them are bought-off by Washington. Hasn’t Haley repeatedly threatened to stop giving money to nations that do not support her resolutions?

The Russians need to realize that they can never have a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship with the political and financial elites that control the United States. Russia will always find a friend in the American people, but Washington? This same elite despises the American people more than it does Putin or Assad. If it wasn’t for working class American citizens fed up with the U.S. establishment elite, we would likely already be in a direct war with Russia, China and Iran. I hope that the Russian political and military leadership understands this. Stop trying to placate Washington and start preparing to defend your nation. The Deep State will not stop at Ukraine or Syria. They desire the complete subjugation of Russia and a return to the Yeltsin days, or worse

DAMASCUS TRADE FAIR AND FESTIVAL OF THE CROSS MARK THE RETURN OF PEACE TO MUCH OF SYRIA

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A Maaloula fire spinner during the annual September Festival of the Holy Cross in Maaloula, Syria. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

Eva Bartlett attends the Damascus International Trade fair and the annual Maaloula Festival of the Cross to see how Syrians in areas liberated from jihadi rule are defiantly celebrating their new found freedoms.

September 24, 2018, Mint Press News

DAMASCUS and MAALOULA, SYRIA — (Report) In April 2018 I returned to Syria, visiting recently-liberated areas in eastern Ghouta and also travelling to the southern village of Hadar — which at the time was under continual bombardment by terrorists just to the south, with the assistance of Israel and its observation towers over the region.

My focus last April and May was highlighting this media-neglected issue, but also going to the site of the concocted and yet-unproven allegations of a chemical weapons attack. Indeed, as I wrote, no one at the hospital in question, nor the people of Douma I spoke with on the street, believed a chemical attack had occurred. Instead, they were more concerned with detailing the horrors and starvation they had lived under the rule of Jaysh al-Islam and other terrorist factions.

So, the focus of my last visit to Syria, which has been warred upon for the last seven years, was in highlighting the crimes of the terrorist factions against civilians, but also the crimes of the Western and regional nations promoting war propaganda and baseless accusations against Syria and its allies.

In early September, I returned to Syria for more uplifting reasons: to attend two important annual events that in recent years were interrupted due to terrorism: The annual Damascus International Trade Fair and Maaloula’s annual Holy Cross Festival. 

A Crowded, Peaceful Damascus International Trade Fair and Revival

This year, both went on in a cheerful climate, and the only blasts were celebratory ones. The resumption and successful holding of these events is a clear indication that Syria is returning to peace, and is closer than ever to ending the war that the NATO-Gulf-Israeli alliance plotted years before 2011.

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At the Damascus International Trade Fair Ground, Opening Night. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

In 2017 the trade fair, in its first year resumed since 2012, was attacked by terrorists who were then occupying eastern Ghouta. Six people were killed. On September 6, the opening night of the 2018 fair, I encountered Fares Shehabi, a Syrian MP who elaborated on the murders:

“Those in eastern Ghouta, the so-called ‘rebels’, al-Qaeda gangs, they targeted the entry of this fair and killed some people — visitors and participants. One lady from old Damascus was killed. She was participating in this fair — she had a clothing garment factory — and she was killed at the door.”

Watch | Aleppo MP Fares Shehabi on the re-opening of the Damascus International Fair

This year, with Damascus’ Yarmouk district (formerly occupied by ISIS and al-Qaeda) liberated, and with the liberation of eastern Ghouta — the source of most of the missiles and mortars that killed over 10,000 civilians in Damascus alone — there was no concern that the deadly attack of 2017 would be repeated.

The official opening ceremony included a year-by-year overview of the six decades of fairs past — minus the years 2012-16 — and various stunning musical and dance performances.

I revisited the fairgrounds just south of Damascus after the opening events and while walking around I saw the diversity that is Syrian culture, including young women dressed how they chose — something unthinkable under the rule of the fanatical extremists who occupied the now-liberated areas. In fact, under their rule, women wouldn’t be out strolling period, much less doing so with male friends.

The atmosphere was in that regard less that of a trade fair and more of a public park with people sprawled on lawns, picnicking and children playing. Elsewhere, music blasted from fair booths and from stages set up to entertain the crowds, including a children’s concert where a young boy impressively crooned a song by legendary Syrian singer George Wassouf.

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A crowd watches a children’s singing competition at the Damascus International Trade Fair. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

A novelty at this year’s fair was the Sahab 73 two-seater plane, designed and built by Syrian engineers — the “first nationally-made aircraft,” as SANA reported.

Fares al-Kartally, the fair’s General Director, told me that of the 48 countries participating, 27 of them were officially participating through their embassies and 21 through companies and agents. The latter included companies from France, Britain, Spain, and some Arab countries, including Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

In fact, 1,722 companies participated in the trade fair, the main participants being Russian, Indian and Iranian. That said, walking around the exhibits, I also saw South Korean, Cuban, and countries neighbouring Syria participating, offering services and goods from textiles, medicines, cosmetics, and food products to products and skills for Syria’s much-needed reconstruction. Of that reconstruction phase, al-Kartally noted it is Syria that will decide who will participate in its reconstruction.

A representative of a Russian company specializing in metal and steel production for warehouses and agricultural use told me:

“It’s just this year that you will be able to foresee the next steps for Syria. Last year, it was very hard to tell when this will be over. This year, we thought it was the right time to participate. We believe this is the right time to come and help the government of Syria, through Russian cooperation, to rebuild Syria, the infrastructure and food security.”

Corporate media has spun this as being a bidding ground for exclusively Russian and Iranian companies. But in reality, while Russia and Iran definitely have a strong presence here, many other nations are present.

In any case, Russia and Iran have not imposed criminal sanctions on Syria, nor have they supported terrorists there. To the contrary, they have been a vital part of the defeat of terrorism in Syria, and a return to peace and stability in liberated areas, providing the peace that allowed the fair to take place.

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Flags of countries participating in the Damascus International Trade Fair fly outside of the fairgrounds in Damascus, Syria. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

In our conversation on the opening night, Fares Shehabi said:

We expect high participation from many countries and local firms. It’s about a political statement, an economic statement, that we won this war and we will win also the reconstruction war, and this is just one proof of it.”

Notably absent were companies from Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

As al-Kartally reflected:

In 2007, I took a course in strategic planning in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The instructor was American. He was talking about countries witnessing rapid economic growth, so I mentioned Syria. He looked at me and laughed, and said, ‘These countries will create problems for you,’ referring to Saudi Arabia and its allies.”

And indeed, they did.

However — after seven years of war, untold tragic loss of life, and immense destruction in areas occupied or targeted by terrorists — the tide is turning for Syria. Rebuilding will be a challenging process, to put it mildly, but more importantly, in my experience, most Syrians first and foremost want an end to terrorism. That wish has been widely granted — thanks to the Syrian army, government, and Syria’s political and military allies.

Yet Idlib remains occupied by al-Qaeda and other fanatics. And eastern Syria remains occupied by the U.S., its allied forces and other fanatics — including ISIS — who seem to flourish wherever an American presence has a hand.

According to al-Kartally, the 2017 trade fair saw over 2.2 million visitors attend over the course of 10 days:

Last year’s Fair was the first held in many years during the crisis and for people it was a chance to get out and breathe after feeling suffocated for so long.”

On September 7, its first day open to the public, this year’s fair saw 112,000 visitors. On the fifth day, nearly 220,000 visitors attended. By September 14, the eighth day of the fair, a reported half million visitors went to the fairgrounds.

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Fair-goers walk through the fairgrounds at the Damascus International Trade Fair in Damascus , Syria. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

One night at around 8 p.m., I walked out of the fairgrounds to hail down a taxi on the airport road. I walked past a parking lot filled with buses providing free transportation to and from the fair. Adding to the masses already at the fair, people streamed in to spend their night out with family or friends.

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On September 15, the fair’s final day, Israel again illegally targeted Syria, firing missiles — which were intercepted by Syrian air defenses — towards the Damascus International Airport, not far from the fairgrounds.

The response of the fairgoers was to dance defiantly.

As Fares Shehabi wrote, “This is how Syrians attending Damascus International Fair reacted to the Israeli assault on the adjacent airport..! Defiance..! With people like that we cannot be defeated.”

As Syrian comedian Treka reported, the fair captures the sentiments many visitors were feeling: impressed that, so soon after the liberation of eastern Ghouta and Damascus, there had been so much change for the better in and around Damascus; encouraged that the war on Syria is drawing to an end and peace will prevail; and immense admiration for the Syrian people for remaining steadfast for their country, and with their army — which has, with Syria’s allies, nearly eradicated terrorism in Syria.

Life, Love, Peace: The Maaloula Festival of the Cross

From September 2013 to April 2014, the ancient mountainside village of Maaloula, which lies in the Damascus countryside, was subject to terror attacks, snipers, and occupation by armed groups that Western leadership and some members of the media wanted us to believe were bringing democracy and freedom to Syria. These groups systematically destroyed the town’s heritage, stealing or burning ancient relics and breaking ancient altars and tombs in their plundering for valuables.

In June 2014, two months after it was liberated, I visited Maaloula. The destruction was fresh — historic holy places burned, looted, destroyed.

As I wrote then:

There was the expected destruction from battles waged by and on the terrorists. There was further—clearly-intentional—destruction meted out systematically by the al-Qaeda death squads—particularly on Christian, cultural, and heritage sites. …

In Maaloula, terrorists likewise took great apparent pleasure in destroying and desecrating Christian relics, to the extent of gouging out the eyes from icons and mosaics and shooting down the large clifftop Jesus and Mary statues which had overlooked the village. They likewise burned, robbed and vandalized churches and homes. …

Outside of the early fourth century A.D. Monastery of Sts. Sergius et Bacchus, NDF volunteers and other locals swept rubble, and prepared for the long process of restoration. Inside the ancient church, light poured through mortar holes in the unadorned white dome smashed by terrorist-fired mortars. According to the General, when the SAA had pushed the invaders back beyond the monastery, the terrorists fired mortars towards the monastery and village. They later occupied the monastery, then looted and vandalized it. …

‘They stole many idols from here, including the oldest one in the church,’ the volunteer said. The smashed altar with its unique ridged rim is said to be from between 330 and 325 A.D. ‘In other churches, the altar is rectangular and flat. And only here the altar is a half-circle and rimmed, like the altars of pagans for their animal sacrifice,’ she explained. …

The arson at the tenth-century Convent of St. Thekla was visible from the street, the top two floors utterly blackened by fires set by the invaders. …

In the convent’s Church of St. John the Baptist they likewise set fires, black soot reaching the painted dome high above. They completely destroyed the altar, as well as the pews—which presumably fueled the fire. Throughout the halls of the convent and inside the church itself, NATO’s mercenaries tore, stabbed, burned, or stole Christian iconography, looting what they could, meticulously destroying what was unmovable. Since none of that was possible for the images painted directly on stone walls, they instead machine-gunned the eyes and faces of Mary and Jesus, as well as a stone cross.”

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A Maaloula local defence soldier traces the 2013/14 battles on a map of the town. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

When I revisited in the summer of 2016, much had changed. The area was cleaned and stores had reopened. In September of 2013, I wrote about the point-blank assassinations of unarmed Maaloula citizens and of the defenders of Maaloula — locals who left their trades to take up arms in defense of their historic town and people. Not long after, invading terrorists, under the guise of anti-government rebels, assassinated an elderly man who had refused to leave his town.

wrote at the time:

On a street below, near the main square, a man and some children collected water from a spring. It was at that spring on September 17, 2013, that 65-year-old farmer Zaki Tabib was shot in his head by a terrorist sniper. Tabib was one of about fifteen mostly-elderly villagers who had refused to evacuate a week earlier.

Abdo Haddad, also one of Tabib’s nephews, commented on the stoicness of his uncle and men like him: ‘These old men are so pure in their heart that they don’t believe someone in their village would kill them.’”

Left bleeding on the street, Tabib was dead by the time his two courageous nephews braved a torrent of sniper fire to retrieve his body, in order to give him a proper burial.

On that 2016 visit, I also wrote about the destruction that still plagued the town:

Piles of rubble lay at many corners, and gaping holes in some walls remained evidence of the near total damage to the old part of the village. Although official estimates were that 80 percent of the homes were damaged, Abdo Haddad pointed out that “damage” in most cases means missing entire walls, and that in fact every house in the old quarter suffered damage, from mild to entire.

Many homes were boobytrapped by terrorists, to further kill and destroy. ‘They rigged houses so that when someone opened the door, an electrical trigger with a small charge would detonate and explode a gas canister,’ Haddad explained, saying that they could not count the number of rigged houses, maybe tens, maybe more: ‘The whole village was on fire. For the safety of the soldiers, in many cases the army had to blow the booby trap instead of defusing it.”

The church walls and dome roof of St. Thekla convent remained blackened with soot from the fires terrorists lit within. Local stonemasons stood on scaffolding, patiently rebuilding the thick walls in the traditional manner. Up the long staircase above the convent, the tomb in the cliffside grotto remained sooty black but was tidied up, with a few of the icons returned until complete restoration is possible. Other icons will never be returned — destroyed or stolen by the terrorist bandits, which occupied the convent.”

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Mikhael Taalab, Anton Taalab, and Serkis Zakhen, assassinated by terrorists on September 7, 2013. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

Upon my return to Maaloula on September 13, 2018, I stood on Abdo Haddad’s balcony looking out upon one of the town’s historic mountains. It was from these mountaintops that terrorists rolled explosive-stuffed tires onto the simple homes below. It was from these mountaintops that terrorist snipers killed Zaki Tabib.

On September 13, those mountaintops were adorned with the traditional brightly-lit crosses of the Festival of the Cross.

I attended mass in Maaloula’s Catholic church. The rituals of countless years continue, as do the devotion of Maaloula’s residents, with both clergy and congregation singing the mournful lyrics sung for centuries. This is the culture that Western-backed fanatics attempted to destroy.

Watch | Mass during Maaloula’s Festival of the Cross

From devotion to celebration

Immediately following the mass, the congregation quickly exited into the church square. By the time I arrived at the door, the exit was nearly impassable as so many people had amassed in the square. Pushing through, I saw the cause of the crowd: raised on the shoulders of residents, two men sang songs traditional to the Festival of the Cross, swigging frequently from plastic bottles of Arak in their hands. The crowd periodically cheered at their words, and eventually moved — cheering, singing — to the main square.

By the time I made it to the main square, it was likewise completely full of celebrants, many swigging Arak, cheering, singing traditional songs, and praising their army and president. Mini-Syrian flags abounded, as did people on balconies to watch the festive chaos. This went on for over an hour before crowds started moving up the mountains. Later, down in the town square, they were dancing.

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Crowds gather to in Maaloula Syria’s town square to celebrating the Festival of the Holy Cross. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

When I later made this arduous hike up often-challenging mountainside, it was nearing sunset. Strong, young Maaloula men were stationed at more difficult points of the mountain trail, pulling people up when necessary.

One such young man joined me to help me navigate the path, sometimes leading me down steep inclines on shortcuts to the top.

Reaching the top in darkness, the glare of multiple crosses and the blazing bonfire was enough illumination to see masses of people, mostly young but also elderly and families, standing and sitting perilously close to the mountain edge, overlooking the glowing village below.

Periodically, a burst of whirling light burst out, as people in the town square far below spun fire. Throughout the night, crowds sat drumming, singing, and watching the bonfire.

Watch | Devotees attend Maaloula’s Festival of the Holy Cross

I asked Abdo Haddad to summarize the importance of the Festival of the Cross. He said (video):

“Tonight we are celebrating the finding of the cross that happened 1700 years ago. This celebration is represented by putting fire on top of the mountains, from Jerusalem to Constantinople, to tell the people in Constantinople that the cross was found.

Maaloula is the only place in the world that is still celebrating this custom.

The only time that this custom stopped is when the so-called rebels and other “revolution” people in Syria invaded Maaloula, and instead of putting fire on top of the mountain, they put our houses on fire. But since we are sons and daughters of life, we kept on celebrating it since Maaloula was liberated by the Syrian army in 2014.

So we celebrate life now, and we celebrate the cross.

We were born here 3,000 years ago and we’ll keep existing until the end of time.”

In 2016, Syria’s First Lady, Mrs. Asma al-Assad, was interviewed by Russia 24. During that interview, she spoke of the struggles Syria has faced during its ancient existence. Particularly poignant, and fitting to end with, were these words:

“Syria comprises of land that has been continuously inhabited for a very long time. Over thousands of years, this soil has been exposed to dozens of wars and invasions. Some areas were completely destroyed. I know that Syria can and will rebuild itself. … As Syrians, we’ve always prevailed and this period in our history is no different. It is known or often said that Syria means ‘rising sun.’ And Syrians will rise again, that I can assure you.”

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