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Mike Pompeo Has a Hard Time Kicking Old Habits

“I was the CIA director. We lied, We Cheated, We Stole”.  – Mike Pompeo

It appears that Mike Pompeo has a hard time kicking his old habits.  He appears to be as smug about lying as a CIA operative as he is as Secretary of State.  Categorically blaming the Iranians for the recent oil attack tankers has left allies scratching their heads; and perhaps leaving foes thinking: “Thank God my enemy is so stupid”!   

On June 13, 2019, as Ayatollah Khamenei was holding talks in Tehran with Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, two oil tankers carrying oil to Japan were attacked.  As investigations into the incident were just beginning, Pompeo had already concluded his assessment and had it ready for the press. Much to the audible surprise of the world, and without any proof or supporting documents, he laid the blame firmly at Iran’s feet citing “intelligence”.  

To his relief, in no time at all, US officials claimed that they had managed to get their hands on videos and pictures.  They presented a grainy video alleging to show an Iranian navy boat removing mines from the damaged Japanese ship.  It is easy to understand why the grainy video’s existence was necessary.

Precisely a month prior, on May 13th,  four oil tankers were damaged in the region.   The United States blamed Iran without any evidence.  Saudi Arabia followed suit. The rest of the world was skeptical and doubts floated about the about the accuracy of US claims.  This time around, Pompeo was saved by the video – although not for long! The Japanese vessel owner disputed the presence of mines damaging his vessel (as suggested in the blurry video).

Even allies were skeptical.  To enforce its position and allegations against Iran,  the Trump administration made its argument based on misinterpreting what Iran had said about the oil embargo.   Following Trump’s announcement on April 22nd that America would not renew US waivers for countries which imported oil from Iran, in essence, imposing an oil embargo, on April 25the Iranian government retorted by condemning America’s illegal demands and stated that no other country could take its share of the oil market.

The Trump team would like us to believe that what Iran meant was the sabotage of the oil tankers.   This is far from true. Iran was referring to its legal right under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which legally allows it to impede the passage of oil shipments through its territorial waters – the Strait of Hormuz.

While UNCLOS stipulates that vessels can exercise the right of innocent passage, and coastal states should not impede their passage, under the UNCLOS framework, a coastal state [Iran] can block ships from entering its territorial waters if the passage of the ships harms “peace, good order or security” of said state, as the passage of such ships would no longer be deemed “innocent”.   

Given Iran’s recourse to international law, American diplomacy at its all time low, and the rally behind Iran – if only verbally – it makes absolutely no sense for Iran to blow up oil tankers and turn the world opinion in favor of  Trump and his the warmongering advisors – Pompeo and Bolton.

But tankers were blown up.   What other motivation were there?  

Perhaps NOPEC – No to Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act.   In February, House passed a Bill that would cripple OPEC.   The Bill would prohibit OPEC from coordinating production and influencing prices.  While the Bill was said to provide a useful leverage for the White House, Persian Gulf Arab states sent their warnings to Wall Street.  

On April 5th, Saudi Arabia even threatened to drop Dollar for oil trades in order to discourage US from passing the NOPEC Bill.  The Saudi threat came on the heels of UAE cautions the prior month that if such bill passed, it would in effect, break up OPEC.  

Perhaps this was the reason behind Saudi Arabia’s lack of cooperation.   After Trump announced his Iran oil embargo, a senior US administration assured the world at large that Trump was confident Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates would fill any gap left in the oil market.  He was mistaken. On April 29th, the Saudi Energy Minister, Khaled el-Falih made it clear that Saudi Arabia would not “rush to boost oil supply to make up for a loss of Iranian crude”.  

After the May 13th incident, apparently America’s accusations did not carry any weight around the world, but they did have an impact on the jittery Saudis.   On June 3rd, Bloomberg reported that over the last month, the Saudis  raised their oil production to replace lost Iranian oil.    The oil market was satisfied and America could continue to put pressure on friend and foe to stop buying Iranian oil – there would be no shortages.

What then explains the second tanker incidents of June 13th?

Perhaps the motive is two-fold.  Firstly, the United States would reinforce its unfounded allegations that Iran is a ‘bad actor’ and discourage and dissuade the international community from cooperation with Iran.  And secondly, the hike in the price of oil as a result of the tanker attacks no doubt sent a sigh of relief to shale oil producers in the United States. A drop in oil prices would greatly harm or bankrupt US shale-focused, debt-dependent producers.

Not on Trump’s watch.  

Although many states in the US and some countries in the world have banned shale oil production due to its adverse effects on the environment, specifically water, the United States’ goal is to be the biggest producer and supplier of oil depending on its shale oil production.  Currently, according to the latest US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States is a net importer of oil.   With low oil prices, a halt or slowing of shale, the trend would continue to be an importer.

Having Saudi Arabia cower to US demands, demonizing Iran, intimidating allies and non-allies with fear of conflict in the region in order to press further demands on Iran, increase in the price of oil, and the weapons that would be purchased by US allies in the nervous neighborhood, seems like a win-win situation for America.  For now.

Feature Photo | Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with coalition forces at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, July 9, 2018. Andrew Harnik | AP

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich is an independent researcher and writer with a focus on U.S. foreign policy.

The post Mike Pompeo Has a Hard Time Kicking Old Habits appeared first on MintPress News.

Amid Sudan’s Brutal Crackdown, Trump Admin Appoints Envoy Who Helped Worsen War in South Sudan

KHARTOUM, SUDAN — Late Thursday evening, less than two weeks after murdering more than 100 civilian protesters, Sudan’s ruling military council tried to save face by telling a group of international reporters that those responsible for the slaughter had “deviated” from the official military plan to disperse protesters. Gen. Shams Eddin Kabashi, spokesman for the ruling military council, called the murders “painful and outrageous” and promised accountability while also downplaying the death toll, claiming that only 61 protesters were killed while the opposition has claimed the number of deaths surpassed 100.

“We feel sorry for what happened…We will show no leniency and we will hold accountable anyone, regardless of their rank, if proven to have committed violations,” the Associated Press quoted Kabashi as saying.

However, Kabashi failed to comment on recent reports that the official military plan had been discussed in advance with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — all authoritarian governments that back the current head of Sudan’s military council, Lt. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan Abdelrahman — and the fact that that very plan had involved removing protesters from their encampment by brute force.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the Trump administration, after being accused of inaction by the international community, also attempted to save face by appointing a new envoy to Sudan — Donald Booth, who was described by numerous media outlets simply as a “veteran diplomat,” despite his role in fomenting the war in South Sudan that has left nearly 400,000 dead. Booth’s appointment, much like the Sudanese military council’s own recent statements, appears aimed at mollifying international outrage while doing little to change the actual situation.

This outcome, though undeniably unfortunate, is hardly surprising given that the U.S. and its top two regional allies — Israel and Saudi Arabia — actively sought to remove the former leader of Sudan, Omar Bashir, and replace him with a regime more friendly to Saudi, Israeli and American interests.

 

A slaughter according to plan

On June 3, the Sudanese military ruling council — led by Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan Abdelrahman, who shares close ties to the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — approved a plan to clear a large encampment of protesters. In enacting that plan, Sudanese security forces used live ammunition, set tents on fire to force protesters out of the area, and killed an estimated 108 people and injured over 500 more, according to the Sudanese Doctors Central Committee, which is associated with the protesters.

The protesters had organized the encampment weeks prior as part of an effort to pressure the ruling military council to participate in the formation of a new civilian, transitional government and prevent the country from being ruled indefinitely by the military. The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition of political groups that represent the protesters, had been in talks with the military council to form such a transitional government, but those talks fell through in mid-May over disagreements over which faction — military or civilian — would hold the most influence.

Just three days after the massacre, Middle East Eye reported that Lt. Gen. Abdelrahman had discussed the violent removal of protesters from this encampment prior to the brutal crackdown while visiting the leadership of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. An anonymous Sudanese military expert told MEE:

The breaking up of the sit-in was one of the main points on the agenda that was discussed… Unless he [Lt. Gen. Abdelrahman] got the green light from his regional allies, he would not have been able to commit such a crime.”

The prospect of Abdelrahman seeking Saudi, UAE and Egyptian approval to consolidate control over Sudan’s government seems likely given that he “oversaw Sudanese troops fighting in the Saudi-led Yemen war and has close ties to senior Gulf military officials,” according to the Associated Press, and quickly received public support from these same three governments after taking charge of the ruling military council soon after the ouster of Bashir.

In addition, following Abdelrahman’s rise to power, Sudan’s military council has been offered $3 billion in “assistance” from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, an offer that analysts have widely described as coming with “strings attached.”

Given this context, the recent claims by the military council’s spokesman that the murder of civilian protesters was a “deviation” from the official plan appears to be merely an attempt to mollify the international outrage that followed the bloodshed just enough to prevent an international push to force the military council to give power to a civilian government, as protesters have demanded.

 

The new U.S. envoy brings his baggage

As international outrage over the murder of civilian protesters in Sudan grew, the U.S. government came under fire from critics for being “missing in action” while allowing Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt to greatly influence current events in Sudan. In a move that was interpreted by some analysts as a response to that criticism, the Trump administration announced last Wednesday that it would appoint a new special envoy to Sudan in a bid to help “stabilize” the country.

That special envoy, Donald Booth, was described by the mainstream press as a “seasoned former ambassador with extensive experience in Africa” and a “veteran diplomat.” However, those reports failed to note that Booth, who served in both the Bush and Obama administrations, was widely criticized for his role in helping destabilize and foment the civil war in South Sudan, a war for which the U.S. government holds a large share of responsibility.

South Sudan’s military parade at the country’s anniversary celebrations, at the John Garang mausoleum in Juba, South Sudan, Monday, July 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Shannon Jensen)

After the Obama administration oversaw and greatly influenced the partition of Sudan into Sudan and South Sudan in 2011, it appointed Donald Booth to be the U.S. special envoy to South Sudan in 2013. In this role, Booth was a key driver of the Obama-era policy of taking sides in the South Sudan civil war, a war that the U.S. helped to initiate and a war that Booth’s policies helped to foment. Booth helped keep the Obama administration firmly in support of South Sudan President Salva Kiir despite his ethnic cleansing campaign and the documented war crimes committed by forces under his control since the conflict began. The UN warned in 2017, two months after Booth had left his post as special envoy to South Sudan, that the Kiir-led government Booth had vociferously supported was planning to commit genocide against ethnic minorities.

While the other faction in South Sudan’s war — led by former Vice President of South Sudan Riek Machar — is hardly free of similar charges, the U.S.’ clear preference for Kirr over Machar has helped to swell the violence, which has produced an estimated (though likely severely underestimated) death toll of nearly 400,000.

According to Jon Temin, a member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff during the final years of the Obama administration, the administration’s decision — in which Booth was a major player — to not impose an arms embargo early on in the conflict and its decision to side so consistently with President Kiir led to much of the worst violence of the conflict, which different policies could have prevented. “The United States, at multiple stages, failed to step back and broadly reassess policy,” Temin claimed in a report published last year.

Booth’s appointment to be the new special envoy to Sudan seems illogical in light of his documented history of incompetence and support for brutal regimes in the region that are backed by the U.S. and U.S. allies. However, this dichotomy has become somewhat of a trend for the Trump administration, given the recent appointment of Elliott Abrams to be special envoy to Venezuela to help “restore democracy” despite Abrams’ history of arming genocidal paramilitary groups in the region and disguising weapons shipments as “humanitarian aid.”

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, center, waves from the back of a truck during a visit to North Kordofan, Sudan, Thursday, April 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

The U.S. is likely unwilling to push for civilian rule of Sudan unless it feels confident that Washington will be able to influence the country’s policies in a way that it was unable to during the decades-long rule of Omar Bashir. MintPress reported soon after Bashir’s overthrow in April that the U.S. had been seeking Bashir’s removal from power since at least the George W. Bush administration and that weakening Bashir’s government was a major factor in the U.S.-brokered partition of Sudan into Sudan and South Sudan under the Obama administration.

Following the failure of that partition to weaken and depose Bashir, the U.S. targeted his government largely by covert means, particularly through “soft power” organizations aimed at “democracy promotion,” such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Notably, according to the U.S. government’s own figures, funding of USAID’s activities in Sudan did not begin until after the 2011 creation of South Sudan.

During the failed U.S.-backed color revolution of 2013, USAID funding for activities in Sudan spiked from $93 million the year prior to $135 million. Notably, last year — as Sudan’s efforts to move away from the Saudi-led bloc became more clear — USAID’s funding of activities in Sudan reached an all-time high of nearly $197 million.

 

Washington carries water for its desert allies

In addition to the U.S.’ own interest in seeing Bashir’s removal from power and his replacement with a government more friendly to U.S. interests, Bashir’s ouster and subsequent replacement with a military council was an outcome sought by top U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel.

There were a variety of reasons for this. In the months prior to his overthrow, Bashir began to switch from a years-long alliance with Saudi Arabia and the UAE to an alliance with Qatar and Iran, while also opposing the Saudi-led effort to dominate the mineral wealth of the Red Sea, from which it had excluded Sudan. Not only that, but Bashir had begun reevaluating the country’s role in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, where Sudanese mercenary forces play a crucial role and where withdrawal of those forces could compel the Saudi-led Coalition to end the genocidal conflict.

In addition, there is clear evidence that Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, was involved in the April overthrow of Omar Bashir: Salah Gosh, then-chief of Sudanese intelligence, and Yossi Cohen, head of the Mossad, had met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference as part of a plan led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Israel to oust Bashir. After Bashir was overthrown, Gosh was one of the interim leaders of the military council currently controlling Sudan.

Israel sought Bashir’s ouster chiefly because he was one of the only Saudi-aligned leaders who opposed normalizing relations with Israel. In fact, Bashir openly stated in January, several weeks after the protests that would eventually oust him had begun, that he had been advised that he could ensure the stability of his rule were he to agree to normalize relations with Israel, suggesting that foreign interests eager to see those ties materialize were involved in Sudan’s protests. Days after that statement, Bashir rejected an offer to fly to Tel Aviv and publicly declared his strong opposition to “any possibility” of forging ties with Israel. Bashir had long held a reputation as an advocate for Palestinian causes and as a strong critic of Zionism.

Furthermore, the main reasons for Israel and Saudi Arabia’s interests in pushing for Bashir’s overthrow — reducing Sudanese support for Palestinian rights and preventing a Sudanese withdrawal from the war in Yemen, respectively — are objectives openly supported by the Trump administration. Thus, the Trump administration is likely uninterested in seeing Sudan’s military council transfer power to a civilian government if it feels that such a transfer would interfere with these key Israel and Saud interests in Sudan — especially since Bashir’s overthrow is also a long-time U.S. objective in its own right.

Given that, in the pursuit of similar interests, Israel and the Saudis have backed authoritarian regimes elsewhere in Africa — such as in Egypt and Libya — the Trump administration is likely to do only the bare minimum in order to manage international outrage at the growing list of atrocities committed by Sudanese security forces. Trump’s clear goal is to ensure that power in Sudan stays firmly in the hands of those who will serve the interests of the U.S.’ top regional allies, even if it means scuttling all hopes of a future, democratic Sudan.

Feature Photo | Sudanese Soldiers

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

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Pompeo Gulf of Oman Narrative Torpedoed by Vessel’s Japanese Owner

WASHINGTON — Just a day before the Trump administration blamed Iran for an attack on two oil tankers connected to Japan in the Gulf of Oman, without offering a shred of evidence, members of Congress revealed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had privately briefed them on possible justifications for a war on Iran.

The two oil tankers were targeted as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Iran, the first time a Japanese leader had gone to the country since its revolution 40 years ago. Abe was to act as a mediator between Washington and Tehran. This followed threats from the United States to sanction Japan, the world’s fourth-largest consumer of oil, for trading with Iran.

Reuters reports: “Japan was one of the main buyers of Iranian oil until last month, when Washington ordered all countries to halt all Iranian oil imports or face sanctions of their own.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.”

His U.S. counterpart, Pompeo, held a four-minute briefing on Friday about the incident, refusing to take any questions. It was just the latest pie-in-the-sky narrative from the former CIA director, who recently admitted that during his time at the agency, “We lied, we cheated, we stole.”

Reported attacks on Japan-related tankers occurred while PM @AbeShinzo was meeting with Ayatollah @khamenei_ir for extensive and friendly talks.

Suspicious doesn't begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.

Iran's proposed Regional Dialogue Forum is imperative.

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) June 13, 2019

Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s contention that the oil tankers were attacked with mines appears to be falling apart just one day later. The owner of one of the tankers said on Friday that “flying objects” were observed just before the fire broke out. The U.S., meanwhile, released video on Friday which they say shows Iranian vessels removing an unexploded mine.

Yet the owner of the vessel maintains that there were no mines — or torpedos — involved, denying that such could have been the case because the damage to the ship was above the waterline. He went so far as to call the whole notion of mines being responsible “false.”

Iranian vessels, it should be noted, rescued the crewmen on Thursday.

Remember the Maine, Operation Northwoods, Gulf of Tonkin, Kuwaiti incubator babies, Saddam’s WMD’s, Qaddafi soldiers’ Viagra spree, Last Messages From Aleppo, Douma, burning aid on Colombia-Venezuela bridge, and now today’s attacks in the Gulf of Oman. https://t.co/jnoIcXxUAS

— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) June 13, 2019

 

How to go to war without consent from Congress

Just one day prior to the alleged attacks, members of Congress were negotiating the defense budget when it was revealed that Pompeo had privately briefed them on potential justifications for a war with Iran, justifications that would render Congress’ control of war powers obsolete.

“The notion that the administration has never maintained that there are elements to the 2001 AUMF [Authorization for Use of Military Force] that would authorize their hostilities toward Iran is not consistent with my understanding of what they said to us,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said.

“We were absolutely presented with a full formal presentation on how the 2001 AUMF might authorize war on Iran,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI).

“Secretary Pompeo said it with his own words,” Slotkin added.

On Wednesday, Congress members were debating whether to add language to the defense budget bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), that would explicitly say the 2001 AUMF could not be used to justify war with Iran.

Congress is supposed to provide consent before the White House is allowed to go to war, a power that has largely been usurped since the War on Terror began. That’s largely because of the 2001 AUMF, which authorizes the president to:

use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

Under President Barack Obama, the AUMF was expanded to include the administration’s anti-ISIS campaign, despite the fact that ISIS did not even exist when the World Trade Center was attacked.

Is it only a matter of time before the 2001 AUMF is stretched to absurd lengths again, this time with IRGC? US courts have found Iran at fault for 9/11, and this document authorizes force against that. With the terrorist designation, Bolton has all he needs to justify a hot war.

— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) April 8, 2019

 

Following the State Department’s designation of Iran’s military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as a terrorist organization in April, MintPress News reported:

Notably, the CIA opened a new ‘mission center’ on Iran in June 2017 — when Pompeo was CIA director — aimed at ‘turning up the heat’ on Iran and making the country a ‘higher priority’ for American spies. Now, just under two years later, the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist group allows those clandestine operations to become ‘more robust’ and more overt thanks to the years-long expansion of the 2001 AUMF.”

The Trump administration has on several occasions attempted to link Iran to al-Qaeda, which might be true if we were living in the Twilight Zone. Iran, a Shia-led country, has longstanding hostilities with the Sunni extremist group and Iranian-backed forces have battled them on multiple fronts over the years. Despite the overwhelming lack of evidence, Trump himself has sought to tie the country to al-Qaeda and U.S. courts have ruled that Iran is responsible for 9/11, rulings which are similarly surreal.

Yet the Trump administration is reputed to deal in the land of alternative facts. According to Rep. Slotkin, during Pompeo’s briefing he “referenced a relationship between Iran and al-Qaeda.”

Given the post-truth playing field Trump likes to play ball on, compounded with the extreme hawkishness of his lackeys John Bolton and Pompeo, the threat of war with Iran has never been higher, and it appears the administration is bent on circumventing congressional approval. If the plan goes ahead, it would mark the most serious instance of blowback in the post 9/11 era and create a quagmire worse than Iraq, since Iran’s military is far stronger than the army of Saddam Hussein. Perhaps this is another instance of brinkmanship by the administration, or perhaps Pompeo sees it as making good on his vow to “continue to fight these battles… until the rapture.”

Feature photo | Gulf of Oman Tanker Attack

Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.

 

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American Gov’t, NGOs Fuel and Fund Hong Kong Anti-Extradition Protests

HONG KONG — Protesters in Hong Kong attempted to storm the parliament on Tuesday in opposition to an amendment to the autonomous territory’s extradition law with mainland China. The protest’s messaging and the groups associated with it, however, raise a number of questions about just how organic the movement is.

Some of the groups involved receive significant funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a CIA soft-power cutout that has played a critical role in innumerable U.S. regime-change operations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighed in on the bill, which is being considered in Hong Kong’s parliament, arguing that, should it pass, Congress would have to “no choice but to reassess whether Hong Kong is ‘sufficiently autonomous’ under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework.”

The State Department has also weighed in, saying it could “could undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and negatively impact the territory’s long-standing protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values.”

UK media cheerlead Hong Kong protesters who fear China will use 'non-political crimes to prosecute critics'. The same media that's spent 9 years cheerleading persecution, torture of whistleblowing platform founder Julian Assange for non-political crimes https://t.co/KuYyF0L5dS

— Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) June 12, 2019

The Canadian and British foreign ministries have also thrown their weight behind those opposing the bill.

By all indications, protesters are just getting started. On Wednesday, some told international media that they would try to storm parliament again. Protesters have been met with the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by police.

The protesters appear to be trying to raise awareness among Western audiences, using the “AntiExtraditionLaw” hashtag and signs in English. In one photograph, a group holds dozens of the old Hong Kong flags, when the territory was under the control of the British crown, while bearing a sign that accuses China of “colonialism.”

 

Major protests greet a minor change in law

The amendment to the extradition law would “allow Hong Kong to surrender fugitives on a case-by-case basis to jurisdictions that do not have long-term rendition agreements with the city.” Among those jurisdictions are mainland China and Taiwan. Ian Goodrum, an American journalist who works in China for the government-owned China Daily newspaper, told MintPress News:

It’s unfortunate there’s been all this hullabaloo over what is a fairly routine and reasonable adjustment to the law. As the law reads right now, there’s no legal way to prevent criminals in other parts of China from escaping charges by fleeing to Hong Kong. It would be like Louisiana — which, you’ll remember, has a unique justice system — refusing to send fugitives to Texas or California for crimes committed in those states.

Honestly, this is something that should have been part of the agreement made in advance of the 1997 handover. Back then bad actors used irrational fear of the mainland to kick the can down the road and we’re seeing the consequences today.”

Reminder that there is a Hong Konger wanted in Taiwan for murdering his pregnant girlfriend that cant be extradited to stand trial
That's what these Hong Kongers are protesting to keep https://t.co/dqDnt6OvKX

— Wes, B.A. (@ZhouChauster) June 11, 2019

 

The U.S. agenda ripples through major NGOs

Like the U.S. government, the NGO-industrial complex appears to be wholly on-board. Some 70 non-governmental organizations, many of them international, have endorsed an open letter urging for the bill to be killed. Yet it is signed only by three directors: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor (HKHRM).

The protests mark the latest flare-up in longstanding tensions over Hong Kong’s relationship with the mainland. In 2014, many of the groups associated with the current movement held an “Occupy” protest of their own over issues of autonomy.

A police officer blows the whistle to the protesters as they remove the barricades at an occupied area in Mong Kok district of Hong Kong Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. Hong Kong authorities cleared street barricades from a pro-democracy protest camp in the volatile Mong Kok district for a second day Wednesday after a night of clashes in which police arrested 116 people.

Ironically, the issue of autonomy is not just of importance to Hong Kongers, but to the United States government as well. And it’s not all just harshly worded statements: the U.S. government is pumping up some of the organizers with loads of cash via the NED.

Something about the Hong Kong protests' messaging seems tailor-made for Western audiences. Most signs I am seeing also happen to be in English pic.twitter.com/YP71XXCCOJ

— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) June 12, 2019

Maintaining Hong Kong’s distance from China has been important to the U.S. for decades. One former CIA agent even admitted that “Hong Kong was our listening post.”

As MintPress News previously reported:

The NED was founded in 1983 following a series of scandals that exposed the CIA’s blood-soaked covert actions against foreign governments. ‘It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA,’ NED President Carl Gershman told the New York Times in 1986. ‘We saw that in the Sixties, and that’s why it has been discontinued. We have not had the capability of doing this, and that’s why the endowment was created.’

Another NED founder, Allen Weinstein, conceded to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.’”

The NED has four main branches, at least two of which are active in Hong Kong: the Solidarity Center (SC) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The latter has been active in Hong Kong since 1997, and NED funding for Hong Kong-based groups has been “consistent,” says Louisa Greve, vice president of programs for Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. While NED funding for groups in Hong Kong actually dates back to 1994, 1997 was the year the territory was transferred from control by the British.

In 2018, NED granted $155,000 to SC and $200,000 to NDI for work in Hong Kong, and $90,000 to HKHRM, which is not itself a branch of NED but a partner in Hong Kong. Between 1995 and 2013, HKHRM received more than $1.9 million in funds from the NED.

The MacDonalds in Admiralty station concourse is doing a roaring trade again. Any good protest in the west, first thing we’d do is put a bin through the window. Here, it’s the protest site canteen. It was a 24 hr Maccy D’s in 2014 though, wonder if they’ll open late for us.

— Hong Kong Hermit (@HongKongHermit) June 12, 2019

Through its NDI and SC branches, NED has had close relations with other groups in Hong Kong. NDI has worked with the Hong Kong Journalist Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the (Hong Kong) Democratic Party. It isn’t clear whether these organizations have received funding from the NED. SC has, however, given $540,000 to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions in the course of just seven years.

The coalition cited by Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Free Press, as organizers of the anti-extradition law demonstrations is called the Civil Human Rights Front. That organization’s website lists the NED-funded HKHRM, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the Democratic Party as members of the coalition.

It is inconceivable that the organizers of the protests are unaware of the NED ties to some of its members. During the 2014 Occupy protests, Beijing made a big deal out of NED influence in the protests and the foreign influence they said it represented. The NED official, Greve, even told the U.S. government’s Voice of America outlet that “activists know the risks of working with NED partners” in Hong Kong, but do it anyway.

Feature photo | A protester bleeds from his face as he tries to stop a group of taxi drivers from trying to remove the barricades which are blocking off main roads, near a line of riot police at an occupied area, in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. Hong Kong student leaders and government officials talked but agreed on little Tuesday as the city’s Beijing-backed leader reaffirmed his unwillingness to compromise on the key demand of activists camped in the streets now for a fourth week.

Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.

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Robert Fisk: Sudan Protesters Were Right to Fear the Arrival of Saudi and UAE Money

The Sudanese democracy demonstrators were the first to protest at Saudi Arabia’s interference in their revolution. We all knew that the Saudis and the Emiratis had been funnelling millions of dollars into the regime of Omar al-Bashir, wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court and now chucked out of power by a Sisi-like military cabal. But it was the sit-in protesters who first thought up the slogan: “We do not want Saudi aid even if we have to eat beans and falafel!”

It was shouted, of course, along with the more familiar chants of ‘revolution of the people”.

Few noticed this little development – save, to give it credit, The Washington Post– but the dozens of waterlogged bodies being dragged from the Nile should focus our attention on the support which the Emiratis and especially the Saudis are now lavishing upon the pseudo-transitional military government in Sudan.

We should not be surprised. The frequent judicial head-chopping of Saudi prisoners after travesty trials, then the chopped-up remains of an executed Saudi journalist and now the decaying Sudanese corpses sloshing along the longest river in Africa – along with the Saudi-Emirati assault on Yemen and the subsequent slaughter – possess a kind of gruesome familiarity. Political problems resolved by cruel death.

What the hundreds of thousands of protesters, now hiding from the ruthlessness of the killer-militias unleashed by the new and supposedly temporary regime, want to know is simple – and it’s not whether Omar al-Bashir will go for trial

The protesters want answers about the true nature of the relationship between the Gulf states and two men: the “Rapid Support Forces” commander, the frightening Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo – aka “Hemeti” – and Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, the theoretical head of the military council which took over the country after they overthrew Bashir. Both men recently visited the Gulf states – and the Sudanese who were camped out in their capital want to know why Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates promised $3bn (£2.7bn) in aid to the transitional government.

Hence their preference for beans and falafel – the chickpea-filled patty which probably originated in Egypt – rather than Saudi cash. But talking of Egypt, the Sudanese also realise that their own new and revolutionary experience in demanding Bashir’s overthrow along with civilian rulers who will arrange democratic elections has some remarkable parallels with the experience of Cairo’s demonstrators after 2011.

Mubarak was the “Omar Bashir” of Egypt, of course, and General Mohamed Tantawi, Egyptian head of the supreme council of the armed forces military council, the Scaf (the job of which was to safeguard future elections, needless to say), played the role of Burhan, now head of Sudan’s military council. Real elections did give Egypt almost a year of rule by the freely elected if deeply flawed Muslim Brotherhood-dominated presidency of Mohamed Morsi – until General, soon to be Field Marshal, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi staged a military coup, restored dictatorship and received – surprise, surprise – vast economic assistance from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

The hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who staged the revolution against Mubarak have either been killed, fled, gone to ground or been arrested by the Egyptian security services. So no wonder would-be Sudanese revolutionaries – even though they would see their role as mere protesters for democracy – are fearful that they will soon suffer the same fate, and that those generous Gulf monarchies are about to strike again with more support for Burhan and his unpleasant companion.

Sisi himself chaired an emergency session of the African Union which gave Burhan’s military council three more months to arrange its “handover” to civilian power. If the Saudis helped Sisi in Egypt with their immense wealth, why not Burhan? What was the $3bn for, other than to prop up Burhan’s own regime – brought to power by national protests over Sudan’s bankrupt economy.

Sudan, specifically militias led by the disreputable and extremely dangerous Dagolo – more than 10,000 men, some of them guilty of war crimes in Darfur – have been fighting for the Saudis against the Houthis in Yemen. And Dagolo, according to Al Jazeera, met the Saudi crown prince early in May and promised to support the kingdom against “all threats and attacks from Iran and Houthi militias”. He would continue, he allegedly promised, to send Sudanese forces to help Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

Burhan recruited many of the Sudanese who went to fight in Yemen – a large number of whom had been under Dagolo’s command. So is it any surprise that Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman would want to continue his relationship with Dagolo? Anything would be better than parliamentary democracy in Sudan – especially of the Muslim Brotherhood kind which ruled Egypt after Mubarak.

Amid this potential act of “backstabbery” towards the protesters, the US has found itself in an even more embarrassing situation than it did in Egypt. The then-secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, continued to support the fading Mubarak regime until Barack Obama finally decided that his days were numbered. Then he welcomed Mohamed Morsi – but didn’t know whether to call Sisi’s subsequent coup a coup. To his credit, John McCain immediately said that it was.

Now, save for vague suggestions from the Trump administration that it condemns violence in Sudan, there has been no serious policy statement on the massive upheaval in the country. The US wants democracy in Sudan – presumably, because that is what its own government supposedly stands for in all nations – but everyone knows that Trump, in his perverse view of the world, regards the Saudi crown prince as a trusted ally – despite the murder of Jamal Kashoggi – and Sisi as “a great guy”.

As one former US assistant secretary of state told Foreign Policy magazine: “The leaders and governments of Saudi Arabia, [the] UAE and Egypt do not share our fundamental democratic values, and their views on what should happen in Sudan diverge significantly from the policies the United States should be pursuing.”

The EU, naturally enough, is keen as mustard on democratic elections, but – though it does not say so – is rather worried that the old ruling party, with its political machinery still in place – might win. Either way, the Gulf states and Egypt don’t want democracy in Sudan.

Are they so powerful that they can ensure the revolution will fail? Or so frightened of the influence of a Sudanese democracy on their own autocracies that the revolution must fail? The heaps of corpses stacked up in Cairo after Sisi crushed Morsi and the Brotherhood, the beheading of Shiite militants in Saudi Arabia, the chopping-up of Jamal Kashoggi and the Nile-dumping of Sudanese protesters show clearly that the forces which want to crush any revolution in Sudan will brook no opposition.

Feature Photo | A protester wears a Sudanese flag in front of burning tires and debris on road 60, near Khartoum’s army headquarters, in Khartoum, Sudan, June 3, 2019. At least 13 people have been killed Monday in the military’s assault on the sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum. The protesters have announced they are suspending talks with the military regarding the creation of a transitional government. Photo | AP

Robert Fisk is the multi-award winning Middle East correspondent of The Independent, based in Beirut. He has lived in the Arab world for more than 40 years, covering Lebanon, five Israeli invasions, the Iran-Iraq war, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Algerian civil war, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the Bosnian and Kosovo wars, the American invasion and occupation of Iraq and the 2011 Arab revolutions.

Source | The Independent

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American Gov’t, NGOs Fuel and Fund Hong Kong Anti-Extradition Protests

HONG KONG — Protesters in Hong Kong attempted to storm the parliament on Tuesday in opposition to an amendment to the autonomous territory’s extradition law with mainland China. The protest’s messaging and the groups associated with it, however, raise a number of questions about just how organic the movement is.

Some of the groups involved receive significant funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a CIA soft-power cutout that has played a critical role in innumerable U.S. regime-change operations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighed in on the bill, which is being considered in Hong Kong’s parliament, arguing that, should it pass, Congress would have to “no choice but to reassess whether Hong Kong is ‘sufficiently autonomous’ under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework.”

The State Department has also weighed in, saying it could “could undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and negatively impact the territory’s long-standing protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values.”

UK media cheerlead Hong Kong protesters who fear China will use 'non-political crimes to prosecute critics'. The same media that's spent 9 years cheerleading persecution, torture of whistleblowing platform founder Julian Assange for non-political crimes https://t.co/KuYyF0L5dS

— Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) June 12, 2019

The Canadian and British foreign ministries have also thrown their weight behind those opposing the bill.

By all indications, protesters are just getting started. On Wednesday, some told international media that they would try to storm parliament again. Protesters have been met with the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by police.

The protesters appear to be trying to raise awareness among Western audiences, using the “AntiExtraditionLaw” hashtag and signs in English. In one photograph, a group holds dozens of the old Hong Kong flags, when the territory was under the control of the British crown, while bearing a sign that accuses China of “colonialism.”

 

Major protests greet a minor change in law

The amendment to the extradition law would “allow Hong Kong to surrender fugitives on a case-by-case basis to jurisdictions that do not have long-term rendition agreements with the city.” Among those jurisdictions are mainland China and Taiwan. Ian Goodrum, an American journalist who works in China for the government-owned China Daily newspaper, told MintPress News:

It’s unfortunate there’s been all this hullabaloo over what is a fairly routine and reasonable adjustment to the law. As the law reads right now, there’s no legal way to prevent criminals in other parts of China from escaping charges by fleeing to Hong Kong. It would be like Louisiana — which, you’ll remember, has a unique justice system — refusing to send fugitives to Texas or California for crimes committed in those states.

Honestly, this is something that should have been part of the agreement made in advance of the 1997 handover. Back then bad actors used irrational fear of the mainland to kick the can down the road and we’re seeing the consequences today.”

Reminder that there is a Hong Konger wanted in Taiwan for murdering his pregnant girlfriend that cant be extradited to stand trial
That's what these Hong Kongers are protesting to keep https://t.co/dqDnt6OvKX

— Wes, B.A. (@ZhouChauster) June 11, 2019

 

The U.S. agenda ripples through major NGOs

Like the U.S. government, the NGO-industrial complex appears to be wholly on-board. Some 70 non-governmental organizations, many of them international, have endorsed an open letter urging for the bill to be killed. Yet it is signed only by three directors: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor (HKHRM).

The protests mark the latest flare-up in longstanding tensions over Hong Kong’s relationship with the mainland. In 2014, many of the groups associated with the current movement held an “Occupy” protest of their own over issues of autonomy.

A police officer blows the whistle to the protesters as they remove the barricades at an occupied area in Mong Kok district of Hong Kong Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. Hong Kong authorities cleared street barricades from a pro-democracy protest camp in the volatile Mong Kok district for a second day Wednesday after a night of clashes in which police arrested 116 people.

Ironically, the issue of autonomy is not just of importance to Hong Kongers, but to the United States government as well. And it’s not all just harshly worded statements: the U.S. government is pumping up some of the organizers with loads of cash via the NED.

Something about the Hong Kong protests' messaging seems tailor-made for Western audiences. Most signs I am seeing also happen to be in English pic.twitter.com/YP71XXCCOJ

— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) June 12, 2019

Maintaining Hong Kong’s distance from China has been important to the U.S. for decades. One former CIA agent even admitted that “Hong Kong was our listening post.”

As MintPress News previously reported:

The NED was founded in 1983 following a series of scandals that exposed the CIA’s blood-soaked covert actions against foreign governments. ‘It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA,’ NED President Carl Gershman told the New York Times in 1986. ‘We saw that in the Sixties, and that’s why it has been discontinued. We have not had the capability of doing this, and that’s why the endowment was created.’

Another NED founder, Allen Weinstein, conceded to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.’”

The NED has four main branches, at least two of which are active in Hong Kong: the Solidarity Center (SC) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The latter has been active in Hong Kong since 1997, and NED funding for Hong Kong-based groups has been “consistent,” says Louisa Greve, vice president of programs for Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. While NED funding for groups in Hong Kong actually dates back to 1994, 1997 was the year the territory was transferred from control by the British.

In 2018, NED granted $155,000 to SC and $200,000 to NDI for work in Hong Kong, and $90,000 to HKHRM, which is not itself a branch of NED but a partner in Hong Kong. Between 1995 and 2013, HKHRM received more than $1.9 million in funds from the NED.

The MacDonalds in Admiralty station concourse is doing a roaring trade again. Any good protest in the west, first thing we’d do is put a bin through the window. Here, it’s the protest site canteen. It was a 24 hr Maccy D’s in 2014 though, wonder if they’ll open late for us.

— Hong Kong Hermit (@HongKongHermit) June 12, 2019

Through its NDI and SC branches, NED has had close relations with other groups in Hong Kong. NDI has worked with the Hong Kong Journalist Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the (Hong Kong) Democratic Party. It isn’t clear whether these organizations have received funding from the NED. SC has, however, given $540,000 to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions in the course of just seven years.

The coalition cited by Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Free Press, as organizers of the anti-extradition law demonstrations is called the Civil Human Rights Front. That organization’s website lists the NED-funded HKHRM, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the Democratic Party as members of the coalition.

It is inconceivable that the organizers of the protests are unaware of the NED ties to some of its members. During the 2014 Occupy protests, Beijing made a big deal out of NED influence in the protests and the foreign influence they said it represented. The NED official, Greve, even told the U.S. government’s Voice of America outlet that “activists know the risks of working with NED partners” in Hong Kong, but do it anyway.

Feature photo | A protester bleeds from his face as he tries to stop a group of taxi drivers from trying to remove the barricades which are blocking off main roads, near a line of riot police at an occupied area, in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. Hong Kong student leaders and government officials talked but agreed on little Tuesday as the city’s Beijing-backed leader reaffirmed his unwillingness to compromise on the key demand of activists camped in the streets now for a fourth week.

Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.

The post American Gov’t, NGOs Fuel and Fund Hong Kong Anti-Extradition Protests appeared first on MintPress News.

This Is Not Journalism: Univision Warps Reality to Push US War Agenda

MIAMI — Univision’s Jorge Ramos, sometimes called the “Walter Cronkite of Latin America,” flagrantly lied about his interview with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in February, the recording, which was leaked to Univision itself, reveals. The network’s reporting on other issues surrounding Venezuela is also characterized by unprofessionalism and overreaching, according to an account by one activist.

MintPress News previously reported on the discrepancies in Jorge Ramos’ account of what happened during his U.S. government-approved interview with Maduro.

Ramos said he was detained after the interview and was unable to release it because his equipment was confiscated. Last week, however, Univision published the full interview.

Analyzing the footage in comparison with Ramos’ account of what happened reveals not just discrepancies, but outright lies. Ramos took to the New York Times op-ed section after he returned to the United States, saying that it was a video he took of Venezuelans dumpster diving that “broke” Maduro and caused him to end the interview, confiscate his equipment, and detain him for three hours.

The day before I had recorded on my cellphone three young men looking for food on the back of a garbage truck in a poor neighborhood minutes away from the presidential palace. I showed those images to Mr. Maduro. Each frame contradicted his narrative of a prosperous and progressive Venezuela 20 years after the revolution. That’s when he broke.

About 17 minutes into the interview, Mr. Maduro stood up, comically tried to block the images on my iPad and declared that the interview was over.”

The video from Univision directly contradicts that narrative, however. Ramos told Maduro that “Your revolution has failed terribly.” Maduro begins to try to counter the claim by talking about Venezuela’s public safety net which includes free housing for millions, and more. Ramos then cuts Maduro off, who then wipes his forehead in frustration.

WATCH: Univision's Jorge Ramos lied about his interview with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. He said in a NYT op-ed that Maduro cut the interview off after he showed him footage of Venezuelans dumpster diving, but Ramos actually tried to show him it after the interview ended pic.twitter.com/y8IAaY2mTc

— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) June 8, 2019

Looking at his laptop, Ramos then tells Maduro: “Let me show you the video of what I saw yesterday.”

That’s when Maduro ends the interview, telling Ramos “this interview doesn’t make any sense.” Maduro is already standing up and had already told Ramos “see you later” by the time Ramos took his laptop off his lap and attempted to show Maduro the video.

The blatant lie told by Ramos in the New York Times is part of a larger trend in Univision’s coverage, which reaches 60 percent of American households and makes Univision the largest Spanish-language network in the U.S.

 

Directing sources to lie

Following the stand-off over the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, one activist — who is unaffiliated with any of the groups that supported international law and the democratically-elected government of Venezuela’s claim over the embassy in Washington — showed up to support the Embassy Protection Collective’s attempt to keep the building out of the hands of Juan Guaido, the self-declared president of Venezuela.

The activist was carrying a flag of a socialist government allied with Venezuela when he was approached by a Univision reporter, the activist told MintPress News, initially off-the-record.

In an apparent attempt to tie the anti-war women’s group CODEPINK to supporters of the socialist government, the reporter asked the activist whether she could interview them and asked whether she could identify them as a member of CODEPINK.

The activist declined to identify as a member of the organization because they are not one, but agreed to the interview. The reporter took down the activist’s phone number and told them that she needed to check with her producer.

Later on, the activist got a phone call from the producer, who asked if they were a member of CODEPINK. The activist answered in the negative, and so the producer asked whether they would identify as a member of the group anyways. Once the activist refused again, Univision cancelled the interview.

Univision is a powerhouse in Spanish media, as is Ramos, while the embassy standoff was a major proxy conflict in the larger coup attempt. These narratives paint a grim portrait of the lengths to which Univision will go in violation of standard journalistic ethics in order to get a story that could help manufacture consensus in the U.S. for further conflict with Venezuela.

Feature photo | Univision’s Jorge Ramos shows a video he says his crew shot the previous day showing Venezuelan youth picking food scraps out of the back of a garbage truck in Caracas, during an interview at a hotel in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 25, 2019. According to Ramos, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro cut short an interview when he showed Maduro the same footage during the interview at Miraflores presidential palace, before leaving two hours later without having his crew’s equipment returned. Photo | AP

Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.

The post This Is Not Journalism: Univision Warps Reality to Push US War Agenda appeared first on MintPress News.

Yemeni Party Leader Dies as Saudi Airport Blockade Prevents His Travel Abroad for Treatment

SANA`A, YEMEN — Mohamed Abdel Rahman al-Rubai, the Secretary-General of the Union of Popular Forces (a long-standing Yemeni political party), died on Sunday in his home in Yemen’s capital Sana`a, when his doctors were unable to transfer him for treatment abroad owing to the closure of Sana`a International Airport by the Saudi-led Coalition. The Coalition has closed the airport since 2016 and its devastating blockade of Yemen’s ports is now in its fifth year.

Sana`a International Airport; June 11, 2019. (MintPress News — by Sultan Farage)

Al-Rubai, a high-ranking politician and parliamentarian, refused to support Coalition but did not call for resistance or fighting it. The Coalition nevertheless prevented him from traveling abroad for treatment. As in al-Rubai’s case, travel outside Yemen has become a distant dream for thousands of Yemenis stranded by the war in the country, as the Coalition has blocked even humanitarian flights from Sana`a Airport.

In the wake of al-Rubai`s unnecessary death, Mohammed Abdulsalam, a spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi Ansar Allah movement, said:

We had repeatedly informed the United Nations about the health condition of al-Rubai, who required treatment abroad. Unfortunately, the world body gave in to Saudi Arabia’s demands, and could not do anything to lift the siege on Sana`a Airport.”

The Saudi-UAE forces have blocked all Yemeni airports except for Aden and Sayoun airports, which often stop working. The two airports receive only Yemeni Airlines and Balqis Airlines planes – five planes in total. Al-Rayyan Airport in the city of Mukalla — the capital of Hadramout, in the southeast of Yemen — has been closed by UAE forces, which use it as a secret prison to arrest and torture its Yemeni opponents.

The five planes operating in Yemen through Aden and Sayoun airports in the south of the country are supposed to serve thousands of Yemenis, but the flights are mostly dominated by Coalition leaders, who cancel trips without any prior warning. In the last month, the Coalition canceled three flights of Bilqis and six flights of Yemen State Airlines, including three flights for Saturday and Sunday. A source in the Yemeni Airlines told Mint Press that the Coalition cancels flights without giving reasons.  

Mutasim al-Adini, head of the Yemeni regional airport office, told al Jazeera

“We send messages to the Coalition, every time there is a cancellation, that the cancellation of flights causes suffering to passengers, including humanitarian cases and patients in critical cases, but we do not receive any response.”

Moreover, the Coalition does not allow Yemen to operate Sana`a Airport as a domestic airport nor does it allow local airlines to operate flights to Aden and Sayoun airports or any other airports. Residents in northern areas wanting to travel abroad need to think hard before they make the decision to travel through Coalition-controlled areas, where they face humiliating and dangerous checkpoints, high costs, and great distance that often kills patients before they arrive.

 

A daily roll of unnecessary death

Alarming statistics from the Ministry of Health in Sana`a indicate that at least 20 to 30 patients die every day because of the closure of the airport, while there were 40,000 patients who needed to travel for treatment, who have already died. The closure of Sana`a Airport effectively seals Yemen off from the rest of the world, and dooms the 250,000 patients who need to travel abroad to treatment, while hospitals that are still operating within Yemen urgently require more medicine and medical supplies.

Doctors demanding the lifting of the siege on Sana`a International Airport; June 11, 2019. (MintPress News — Sultan Farage)

The airports blockade coincides with ongoing airstrikes on Sana`a and other parts of Yemen, which continuously put the lives of Yemeni civilians at serious risk. Since the beginning of this month, there have already been dozens of civilian casualties, including children, from renewed aerial bombardments.

Moreover, many doctors have fled the country, with deadly diseases spreading and health centers destroyed, shut down, or crippled by loss of their government funding in the economic war.

Mariem Ahmed Jabber, a 45-year-old mother of five, was in the last days of pregnancy, living in the village of al Dareb, in the  northern province of Amran. Mariem had a heart valve disease and needed to be operated on outside of Yemen but could not travel abroad because of the airports blockade. “Doctors have told us that it is difficult to have a heart catheter for a pregnant woman, so we have to travel to Jordan,” Nashan Jabber, son of Mariem, told MintPress.

Like Mariem, all Yemenis awaiting critical medical treatment abroad must find alternative routes to leave the country, including smuggling. Reaching other places also involves driving for 20 hours to reach Oman, which receives wounded Yemeni patients, at a cost of around $200 and usually travelling through areas where active fighting is taking place. And that is just the beginning of the ordeal.

 

Invalidating passports means taking lives

In March 2017, the government of the ousted former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, on direct order from the Coalition, announced the cancellation of the services provided by the Immigration and Passports in the capital Sana`a and the invalidity of all documents — including passports, entry visas for foreigners, residence permits, refugee cards, naturalization certificates and marriage licenses — issued by it. This means that millions of Yemenis, especially in the north, have no identity and can not travel unless they get a new identity from Coalition authorities in Aden.

Mariem, who died from her illness in the months after the March 2017 announcement, had a passport issued in 2012 by Immigration and Passports in Sana`a before the Houthis seized control of the Capital and renewed in 2016. “My mother`s health did not allow her to travel to Aden to obtain a new passport,” Nashawan Jabber told MintPress.

 

Targeting Saudi-Coalition airports

Nashwan remembers well his mother’s words that “Saudi Arabia does not want good for all Yemenis.” Now he has volunteered as a Yemeni fighter and decided to join the Jizan front. Like many of his Yemeni brothers, he believes that the siege on Yemen can be lifted only “if the venom is turned outward … to those [Saudis-UAE] truly deserving of it.”

As a result of mounting pressure, the Houthi Ansarullah movement announced on Sunday the airports of countries involved in the devastating military war and blockade against Yemen will be targeted as long as the embargo imposed on Sana`a International Airport remains in place.

Mohammad Abdulsalam, spokesman for the Houthis, said the blockade on Sana`a International Airport is something that cannot be tolerated at all and the Saudi aggressors must know that their airports are within firing range.

The Yemeni army has already begun targeting airports of Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday, Yemeni forces struck the Abha Airport with a cruise missile and brought a halt to air traffic in the area. The cruise missile — which the advanced U.S. systems defense provided to the Saudi regime had failed to intercept — directly hit the airport’s air traffic control tower and put it out of service.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed the Abha strike. The spokesman for the Saudi-led Coalition, Turki al-Maliki, said a Yemeni missile hit the airport’s arrivals hall, causing material damage. He claims that the attack wounded 26 civilians of different nationalities.

On Monday, Yemeni forces launched drone attacks on the King Khaled Air Base in Khamis Mushayt in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern Asir region. The Qasif-2K combat drones targeted advanced weapon stores, radar and control rooms, according to a military source speaking to MintPress

On Sunday, Yemen’s army launched drone attacks on the airport in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern Jizan region. The attacks by Qasif-2K combat drones targeted drone bunkers and stations at the Jizan airport, a source told MintPress. There have been no Saudi comments on the attacks so far.

A military source told MintPress that the attacks will continue until the lifting of the restriction on Sana`a Airport. “King Khalid International Airport, Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport will be targeted,” he added. Houthis have always targeted airports in Saudi Arabia and the UAE with ballistic missiles and drones, but this is the first time that multiple drones have been used in one attack.

The reopening of Sana`a Airport was part of the negotiations that took place in Sweden last year, but Saudi Arabia has refused to implement an agreement that would ease human suffering.  Despairing patients ask Yemen’s army to hit Coalition airports as their last hope to lift the siege on Sana`a International Airport. “The attacks on the countries of the Saudi-led aggression sure would be the most efficient way to end the blockade,” Nashwan said.

Feature photo | Bare shelves in a government hospital’s drug store in Sanaa, Yemen, August 16, 2017. Khaled Abdullah | Reuters

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post Yemeni Party Leader Dies as Saudi Airport Blockade Prevents His Travel Abroad for Treatment appeared first on MintPress News.

US Ambassador Quietly Delivers West Bank to Israel in NY Times Interview

JERUSALEM, PALESTINE — In a highly provocative statement — one that was most likely well planned — United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said in an interview this week to the New York Times that “Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”

Responses to this statement were quick to pop up, with the Israeli “Left” condemning and the Right expressing their agreement. Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gil’ad Erdan said:

The Trump administration’s view, which was expressed by Ambassador Friedman, is the only one that might bring about change and make the Palestinians understand that boycotting Israel and the United States and supporting terror and incitement won’t achieve anything.”

Erdan continued: “For years the Palestinians were told that time is in their favor and therefore (in addition to many other reasons) they refused.”

Bezalel Smutrich, chairman of the “National Unity” Party said that it seems the Americans finally understand that Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Smariah will “uproot the Arab desire for an independent state,” and that this desire is what is “fueling terrorism and the violent struggle for over one hundred years.”

It seems interestng that the Zionist perception is that more opression and more exclusion will convince the Palestinians to stop fighting for their rights.

On the Israeli Left the responses were quite strong. Ofer Cassif, of Hadash-Ta’al Party, tweeted “Neither the government of Israel nor the U.S. administration can hide the truth – the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are occupied Palestinian territories that will be released and lawfully returned to their owners as part of a just peace deal.”

לא יקום ולא יהיה! לא ממשלת ישראל ולא ממשל ארה"ב יסתירו את האמת: הגדה המערבית, רצועת עזה וירושלים המזרחית הם שטחים פלסטינים כבושים שישוחררו ויוחזרו כחוק לבעליהם במסגרת הסכם שלום צודק.

— Ofer Cassif עופר כסיף (@ofercass) June 8, 2019

Cassif went as far as publishing a letter he wrote to Ambassador Friedman, which was also turned into an ad saying, “We are not a US Protectorate.”

Mtanes Shehadeh, head of Balad Party, also tweeted, saying that permanent Israeli sovereignty of Palestinian territories would be a violation of International law.

ממשלת ישראל וממשל טראמפ חושבים שהם יכולים לכפות על העם הפלסטיני ועל האזור הסדרים הזויים וחד צדדיים, ולהפר את החוק הבינלאומי בכזאת קלות.
סיפוח הוא פשע מלחמה, ולישראל אין ולא תהיה שום ריבונות במ"מ אחד מהשטחים הכבושים.

— Mtanes Shihadeh (@MtanesShihadeh) June 10, 2019

 

The truth hurts

It is true everywhere that the truth hurts, but perhaps nowhere as much as in Palestine. In this particular case the truth is that if one accepts the legitimacy of Israel in the Galilee, the Naqab, Jerusalem or any other part of Palestine, then there is no room to draw an artificial line and say “this is as far as it goes and Israel has no right to Judea and Samaria.” Not to even mention the fact that the line that is used here — the “Green Line” that delineates the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — was drawn by Israel, based on Israeli interests when the Zionist state was established. And then — in 1967, when it no longer suited Israel’s needs — it was de facto eliminated by Israel.

When the cease fire lines were drawn in 1949, lines that defined the state of Israel and are known as the pre-1967 borders, it was Israel that decided what parts of Palestine would be included within the newly established Zionist state. It was clear to the Israeli military and politicians that these were not permanent boundaries. Israel’s first foreign minister, Moshe Sharet, mentions in his memoirs an occasion when important Jewish leaders came for a visit to Jerusalem. They were invited to a gathering where several speakers presented, one of whom was my father, then a young lieutenant colonel. Sharet notes with great pleasure how the young Peled made it clear that the eastern boundary of the State of Israel needed to be the Jordan River. He added that the military is prepared for the day when the government will give the order to complete that task.

It was about ten years later, and almost exactly 52 years ago, that my father was now one of the Israeli army’s generals and the job was completed. Israel’s eastern boundary was pushed all the way to the Jordan River and Judea and Samaria came within the boundaries of the state. Needless to recall here that Jewish settlements in these areas were built almost immediately and any talk of giving them up was considered treasonous.  

Just as we either accept racism as legitimate or we reject it, we either accept the legitimacy of Zionism or we reject it. There is no room for a middle way. If any proof is still needed that as long as Zionists control Palestine Palestinians will enjoy no rights, the past seven decades supply ample proof. As long as there is an “Israel,” Palestinians will continue to suffer from forced exile, arbitrary detention, and ongoing killing of civilians.

Is David Friedman, the former Trump lawyer and major supporter of settlements, right? No! However, if one accepts the legitimacy of the Zionist state then one might as well accept Ambassador Friedman’s statement and Israeli sovereignty over all of Palestine. The Zionist state claims all of Palestine to be “The Land of Israel,” and has in fact taken over and settled all of Palestine.

Consecutive Zionist governments have made it clear that there is no West Bank, only an area of The Land of Israel called Judea and Samaria. Israel makes it clear that settling Jewish people anywhere in the Land of Israel is a right that is not negotiable. No single form of opression by Israel will end until the entire system of Zionist occupation and oppression is brought to an end. It is like trying to put out fires while allowing the arsonist to keep pouring fuel into them. The arsonist is the Zionist state.

 

Not a random statement

David Friedman’s statement was not random and was not made out of the clear blue sky — he does, after all, represent the United States government. The statement is well timed and goes along with policies we have seen enacted by the Israeli government and supported by the Trump administration: recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel; defunding UNRWA; closing the Palestinian mission in Washington, and in fact deporting the head of the mission along with his family; the recognition of Israeli sovreignty over the Syrian Golan Heights; and the proposed state of “New Palestine.”

All of these point to the inevitable recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, and are part of the grand, so-called Deal of the Century.

Feature photo | President Donald Trump, left, turns to give a pen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, after signing a proclamation in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, Monday, March 25, 2019. Trump signed an official proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Other attending are, from left, White House adviser Jared Kushner, U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the U. S. Ron Dermer, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post US Ambassador Quietly Delivers West Bank to Israel in NY Times Interview appeared first on MintPress News.

How NeoCon Billionaire Paul Singer Is Driving the Outsourcing of US Tech Jobs to Israel

WASHINGTON — With nearly 6 million Americans unemployed and regular bouts of layoffs in the U.S. tech industry, major American tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Intel Corporation are nonetheless moving key operations, billions in investments, and thousands of jobs to Israel — a trend that has largely escaped media attention or concern from even “America first” politicians. The fact that this massive transfer of investment and jobs has been so overlooked is particularly striking given that it is largely the work of a single leading neoconservative Republican donor who has given millions of dollars to President Donald Trump.

To make matters worse, many of these top tech companies shifting investment and jobs to Israel at record rates continue to collect sizable U.S. government subsidies for their operations while they move critical aspects of their business abroad, continue to layoff thousands of American workers, and struggle to house their growing company branches in Israel. This is particularly troubling in light of the importance of the tech sector to the overall U.S. economy, as it accounts for 7.1 percent of total GDP and 11.6 percent of total private-sector payroll.

Furthermore, many of these companies are hiring members of controversial Israeli companies — known to have spied on Americans, American companies, and U.S. federal agencies — as well as numerous members of Israeli military intelligence as top managers and executives.

This massive transfer of the American tech industry has largely been the work of one leading Republican donor — billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who also funds the neoconservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Islamophobic and hawkish think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), and also funded the now-defunct Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).

Singer’s project to bolster Israel’s tech economy at the U.S.’ expense is known as Start-Up Nation Central, which he founded in response to the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to use nonviolent means to pressure Israel to comply with international law in relation to its treatment of Palestinians.

This project is directly linked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in recent years has publicly mentioned that it has been his “deliberate policy” to have former members of Israel’s “military and intelligence units … merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners” in order to make it all but impossible for major corporations and foreign governments to boycott Israel.

In this report, MintPress identifies dozens of former members of an elite Israeli military intelligence unit who now hold top positions at Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

Singer’s nonprofit organization has acted as the vehicle through which Netanyahu’s policy has been realized, via the group’s close connections to the Israeli PM and Singer’s long-time support for Netanyahu and the Likud Party. With deep ties to Netanyahu, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and controversial tech companies — like Amdocs — that spied on the American government, this Singer-funded organization has formed a nexus of connections between the public and private sectors of both the American and Israeli economies with the single goal of making Israel the new technology superpower, largely at the expense of the American economy and government, which currently gives $3.2 billion in aid to Israel annually.

 

Researched and developed in Israel

In recent years, the top U.S. tech companies have been shifting many of their most critical operations, particularly research and development, to one country: Israel. A 2016 report in Business Insider noted that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple had all opened up research and development (R&D) centers in recent years, with some of them having as many as three such centers in Israel, a country roughly the size of New Jersey. Other major tech companies that have also opened key operation and research centers in Israel include Sandisk, Nvidia, PayPal, Palantir and Dell. Forbes noted last year that the world’s top 10 tech companies were now “doing mission-critical work in Israel that’s core to their businesses back at HQ.”

Yet, some of these tech giants, particularly those based in the U.S., are heavily investing in their Israeli branches while laying off thousands of American employees, all while receiving millions of dollars in U.S. government subsidies funded by American taxpayers.

For example, Intel Corporation, which is the world’s second largest manufacturer of semiconductor computer chips and is headquartered in California, has long been a major employer in Israel, with over 10,000 employees in the Jewish state. However, earlier this year, Intel announced that it would be investing $11 billion in a new factory in Israel and would receive around $1 billion in an Israeli government grant for that investment. Just a matter of months after Intel announced its major new investment in Israel, it announced a new round of layoffs in the United States.

Yet this is just one recent example of what has become a trend for Intel. In 2018, Intel made public its plan to invest $5 billion in one of its Israeli factories and had invested an additional $15 billion in Israeli-created autonomous driving technology a year prior, creating thousands of Intel jobs in Israel. Notably, over that same time frame, Intel has cut nearly 12,000 jobs in the United States. While this great transfer of investment and jobs was undermining the U.S. economy and hurting American workers, particularly in the tech sector, Intel received over $25 million dollars in subsidies from the U.S. federal government.

A similar phenomenon has been occurring at another U.S.-based tech giant, Microsoft. Beginning in 2014 and continuing into 2018, Microsoft has laid off well over 20,000 employees, most of them Americans, in several different rounds of staff cuts. Over that same time period, Microsoft has been on a hiring spree in Israel, building new campuses and investing billions of dollars annually in its Israel-based research and development center and in other Israeli start-up companies, creating thousands of jobs abroad. In addition, Microsoft has been pumping millions of dollars into technology programs at Israeli universities and institutes, such as the Technion Institute. Over this same time frame, Microsoft has received nearly $197 million in subsidies from the state governments of Washington, Iowa and Virginia.

Though Israeli politicians and tech company executives have praised this dramatic shift as the result of Israel’s tech prowess and growing reputation as a technological innovation hub, much of this dramatic shift has been the work of the Netanyahu-tied Singer’s effort to counter a global movement aimed at boycotting Israel and to make Israel a global “cyber power.”

 

Start-Up Nation Central and the Neocons

Paul Singer | AP photo archive

In 2009, a book titled Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, written by American neoconservative Dan Senor and Jerusalem Post journalist Saul Singer (unrelated to Paul), quickly rose to the New York Times bestseller list for its depiction of Israel as the tech start-up capital of the world. The book — published by the Council on Foreign Relations, where Senor was then serving as Adjunct Senior Fellow — asserts that Israel’s success in producing so many start-up companies resulted from the combination of its liberal immigration laws and its “leverage of the business talents of young people with military experience.”

“The West needs innovation; Israel’s got it,” wrote Senor and Singer. In a post-publication interview with the blog Freakonomics, Senor asserted that service in the Israeli military was crucial to Israel’s tech sector success, stating that:

“Certain units have become technology boot camps, where 18- to 22-year-olds get thrown projects and missions that would make the heads spin of their counterparts in universities or the private sector anywhere else in the world. The Israelis come out of the military not just with hands-on exposure to next-gen technology, but with training in teamwork, mission orientation, leadership, and a desire to continue serving their country by contributing to its tech sector — a source of pride for just about every Israeli.”

The book, in addition to the many accolades it received from the mainstream press, left a lasting impact on top Republican donor Paul Singer, known for funding the most influential neoconservative think tanks in America, as noted above. Paul Singer was so inspired by Senor and Singer’s book that he decided to spend $20 million to fund and create an organization with a similar name. He created the Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC) just three years after the book’s release in 2012.

To achieve his vision, Singer – who is also a top donor to the Republican Party and Trump – tapped Israeli economist Eugene Kandel, who served as Netanyahu’s national economic adviser and chaired the Israeli National Economic Council from 2009 to 2015.

Senor was likely directly involved in the creation of SUNC, as he was then employed by Paul Singer and, with neoconservatives Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, co-founded the FPI, which Singer had long funded before it closed in 2017. In addition, Dan Senor’s sister, Wendy Singer (unrelated to either Paul or Saul), long-time director of Israel’s AIPAC office, became the organization’s executive director.

SUNC’s management team, in addition to Eugene Kandel and Wendy Singer, includes Guy Hilton as the organization’s general manager. Hilton is a long-time marketing executive at Israeli telecommunications company Amdocs, where he “transformed” the company’s marketing organization. Amdocs was once highly controversial in the United States after it was revealed by a 2001 Fox News investigation that numerous federal agencies had investigated the company, which then had contracts with the 25 largest telephone companies in the country, for its alleged role in an aggressive espionage operation that targeted the U.S. government. Hilton worked at Microsoft prior to joining Amdocs.

Beyond the management team, SUNC’s board of directors includes Paul Singer, Dan Senor and Terry Kassel — who work for Singer at his hedge fund, Elliott Management — and Rapheal Ouzan. Ouzan was an officer in the elite foreign military intelligence unit of Israel, Unit 8200, who co-founded BillGuard the day after he left that unit, which is often compared to the U.S.’ National Security Agency (NSA). Within five months of its founding, BillGuard was backed by funding from PayPal founder Peter Thiel and former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt. Ouzan is also connected to U.S. tech companies that have greatly expanded their Israeli branches since SUNC’s founding — such as Microsoft, Google, PayPal and Intel, all of which support Ouzan’s non-profit Israel Tech Challenge.

According to reports from the time published in Haaretz and Bloomberg, SUNC was explicitly founded to serve as “a foreign ministry for Israel’s tech industry” and “to strength Israel’s economy” while also aiming to counter the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to use a nonviolent boycott to end the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and Israeli apartheid, as well as the growth of illegal Jewish-only settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

Since its founding, SUNC has sought to transfer tech jobs from foreign companies to Israel by developing connections and influence with foreign governments and companies so that they “deepen their relationship with Israel’s tech industry.” Though SUNC has since expanded to include other sectors of the Israeli “start-up” economy, its focus has long remained on Israel’s tech, specifically its cybersecurity industry. Foreign investment in this single Israeli industry has grown from $227 million in 2014 to $815 million in 2018.

In addition to its own activities, SUNC appears to be closely linked to a similar organization, sponsored by Coca Cola and Daimler Mercedes Benz, called The Bridge, which also seeks to connect Israeli start-up companies with large international corporations. Indeed, SUNC, according to its website, was actually responsible for Daimler Mercedes Benz’s decision to join The Bridge, thanks to a delegation from the company that SUNC hosted in Israel and the connections made during that visit.

 

Teaming up with Israel’s Unit 8200

Members of Israel’s signals intelligence Unit 8200 work under a Saudi flag. Photo | Moti Milrod

Notably, SUNC has deep ties to Israel’s military intelligence unit known as Unit 8200 and, true to Start Up Nation’s praise of IDF service as key to Israel’s success, has been instrumental in connecting Unit 8200 alumni with key roles in foreign companies, particularly American tech companies. For instance, Maty Zwaig, a former lieutenant colonel in Unit 8200, is SUNC’s current director of human capital programs, and SUNC’s current manager of strategic programs, Tamar Weiss, is also a former member of the unit.

One particularly glaring connection between SUNC and Unit 8200 can be seen in Inbal Arieli, who served as SUNC’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships from 2014 to 2017 and continues to serve as a senior adviser to the organization. Arieli, a former lieutenant in Unit 8200, is the founder and head of the 8200 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support Program (EISP), which was the first start-up accelerator in Israel aimed at harnessing “the vast network and entrepreneurial DNA of [Unit] 8200 alumni” and is currently one of the top company accelerators in Israel. Arieli was the top executive at 8200 EISP while working at SUNC.

Another key connection between SUNC and Unit 8200 is SUNC’s promotion of Team8, a company-creation platform whose CEO and co-founder is Nadav Zafrir, former commander of Unit 8200. In addition to prominently featuring Team8 and Zafrir on the cybersecurity section of its website, SUNC also sponsored a talk by Zafrir and an Israeli government economist at the World Economic Forum, often referred to as “Davos,” that was attended personally by Paul Singer.

Team8’s investors include Google’s Eric Schmidt, Microsoft, and Walmart — and it recently hired former head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, retired Admiral Mike Rogers. Team8 described the decision to hire Rogers as being “instrumental in helping strategize” Team8’s expansion in the United States. However, Jake Williams, a veteran of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations hacking unit, told CyberScoop:

“Rogers is not being brought into this role because of his technical experience. …It’s purely because of his knowledge of classified operations and his ability to influence many in the U.S. government and private-sector contractors.”

In addition to connections to Unit 8200-linked groups like Team8 and 8200 EISP, SUNC also directly collaborates with the IDF in an initiative aimed at preparing young Israeli women to serve in Unit 8200. That initiative, called the CyberGirlz Club, is jointly funded by Israel’s Defense Ministry, SUNC and the Rashi Foundation, the philanthropic organization set up by the Leven family of Perrier-brand water, which has close ties to the Israeli government and IDF.

“Our aim is to bring the girls to this process already skilled, with the knowledge needed to pass the exams for Unit 8200 and serve in the military as programmers,” Zwaig told Israel National News.

 

Seeding American tech

The connections between SUNC and Unit 8200 are troubling for more than a few reasons, one of which being that Unit 8200, often likened to the U.S.’ NSA, closely coordinates with Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, and is responsible for 90 percent of the intelligence material obtained by the Israeli government, according to its former commander Yair Cohen. Cohen told Forbes in 2016, that “there isn’t a major operation, from the Mossad or any intelligence security agency, that 8200 is not involved in.” For obvious reasons, the fact that an organization founded by an American billionaire is actively promoting the presence of former military intelligence officers in foreign companies, specifically American companies, while also promoting the transfer of jobs and investment to that same country, is very troubling indeed.

Particularly troubling is the fact that, since SUNC’s founding, the number of former Unit 8200 members in top positions in American tech companies has skyrocketed. Based on a non-exhaustive analysis conducted by Mintpress of over 200 LinkedIn accounts of former Israeli military intelligence and intelligence officers in three major tech companies, numerous former Unit 8200 alumni were found to currently hold top managerial or executive positions in Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

At Microsoft, managers for at least 15 of the company’s products and programs — including Microsoft’s lead managers for engineering, product strategy, threat analytics and cloud business intelligence — publicly listed their affiliation with Unit 8200 on their LinkedIn accounts. In addition, the general manager of Microsoft’s Israeli Research and Development Center is also a former member of Unit 8200. In total, of the 200 accounts analyzed, 50 of them currently worked for Microsoft.

Similarly, at Google, 28 former Unit 8200 members at the company were identified from their LinkedIn accounts. Among them are Google’s Engineering Director, its strategic partner manager, two growth marketing leads, its lead technical manager, and six product and program managers, including Google’s manager for trust and safety search.

Facebook also has several Unit 8200 members in prominent positions, though fewer than Google and Microsoft. MintPress identified at least 13 Unit 8200 alumni working for Facebook, including its director of engineering, lead manager for express wi-fi, and technical program manager. Notably, Facebook has spent the last several years collaborating with Israel’s government to censor Israel’s critics.

Of course, there is likely much more influence of Unit 8200 on these companies than this non-exhaustive analysis revealed, given that many of these companies acquired several Israeli start-ups run by and staffed by many Unit 8200 alumni who subsequently went on to found new companies and start-ups a few years or shortly after acquisition. Furthermore, due to the limitations of LinkedIn’s set-up, MintPress was not able to access the complete list of Unit 8200 alumni at these three tech companies, meaning that the eye-opening numbers found were generated by a relatively small sample.

This jump in Unit 8200 members in top positions in tech companies of global importance is actually a policy long promoted by Netanyahu, whose long-time economic adviser is the chief executive at SUNC. During an interview with Fox News last year, Netanyahu was asked by Fox News host Mark Levin if the large growth seen in recent years in Israel’s technology sector was part of Netanyahu’s plan. Netanyahu responded, “That’s very much my plan … It’s a very deliberate policy.” He later added that “Israel had technology because the military, especially military intelligence, produced a lot of capabilities. These incredibly gifted young men and women who come out of the military or the Mossad, they want to start their start-ups.”

Netanyahu further outlined this policy at the 2019 Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv, where he stated that Israel’s emergence as one of the top five “cyber powers” had “required allowing this combination of military intelligence, academia and industry to converge in one place” and that this further required allowing “our graduates of our military and intelligence units to merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners.” The direct tie-ins of SUNC to Netanyahu and the fact that Paul Singer has also been a long-time political donor and backer of Netanyahu suggest that SUNC is a key part of Netanyahu’s policy of placing former military intelligence and intelligence operatives in strategic positions in major technology companies.

Notably, just as SUNC was founded to counter the BDS movement, Netanyahu has asserted that this policy of ensuring Israel’s role as a “cyber power” is aimed at increasing its diplomatic power and specifically undermining BDS as well as the United Nations, which has repeatedly condemned Israel’s government for war crimes and violations of international law in relation to the Palestinians.

 

Building the bi-national surveillance state

A Google data center in Hamina, Finland. (AP/Google)

 

Top U.S. tech companies have filled top positions with former members of Israeli military intelligence and moved strategic and critical operations to Israel, boosting Israel’s economy at the expense of America’s, and SUNC’s role in this marked shift merits scrutiny.

A powerful American billionaire has built an influential organization with deep connections to the U.S.-Israel lobby (AIPAC), an Israeli company that has been repeatedly investigated for spying on the U.S. government (Amdocs), and the elite Israeli military intelligence unit (Unit 8200) that has used its influential connections to the U.S. government and the U.S. private sector to dramatically shift the operations and make-up of major companies in a critical sector of the U.S. economy.

Further consider that U.S. government documents leaked by Edward Snowden have flagged Israel as “leading threat” to the infrastructure of U.S. financial and banking institutions, which use much of the software produced by these top tech companies, and have also flagged Israel as a top espionage threat. One U.S. government document cited Israel as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the U.S. behind Russia and China. Thus, Paul Singer’s pet project in Start-Up Nation Central has undermined not only the U.S. economy but arguably U.S. national security as well.

This concern is further exacerbated by the deep ties connecting top tech companies like Microsoft and Google to the U.S. military. Microsoft and Google are both key military contractors — Microsoft in particular, given that it is set to win a lucrative contract for the Pentagon’s cloud management and has partnered with the Department of Defense to produce a “secure” election system known as ElectionGuard that is set to be implemented in some U.S. states for the 2020 general election.

Top Photo: Paul Singer | AP photo archive

 

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

The post How NeoCon Billionaire Paul Singer Is Driving the Outsourcing of US Tech Jobs to Israel appeared first on MintPress News.

Media Paints Jihadist Commander Who Pledged Allegiance to ISIS as a Soccer Star With the Voice of an Angel

DAMASCUS, SYRIA — If you’ve read the headlines about the death of “Syrian activist” Abdel Basset al-Sarout, you probably think he was a pretty cool guy. Headlines referring to him as a “Syrian footballer, singer and rebel” make him seem like he could have been the love child of Pelé and Freddie Mercury with the politics of Che Guevara.

Sarout may have sang, played soccer, and rebelled, but he was certainly no peace-loving hippie. A more accurate version for the descriptor would read “Syrian footballer, singer [of al-Qaeda’s hymns] and [CIA-backed jihadist] rebel [commander].”

 

Sing it with me: “The World Trade Center is a pile of rubble.”

It is true that Sarout, as the media suggests, became the face of the revolution. So, fittingly, Sarout sang songs glorifying al-Qaeda’s destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City, a terrorist attack that left 3,000 innocent civilians dead.

In one video, Sarout led a group of America’s beloved “moderate rebels” in singing al-Qaeda’s most famous song:

We destroyed America with a civilian airliner. The World Trade Center is a pile of rubble. The World Trade Center is a pile of rubble.”

Osama Bin Laden — the one who terrorizes America. With the strength of our faith and our weapon is the PIKA [PK machine gun]. With the strength of our faith and our weapon is the PIKA.”

Video shows Abdel Baset Sarout leading a chorus of terrorists singing a famous Al-Qaeda song which boasts about destroying the WTC and turning it into a pile of rubble on 9/11 and praises Osama Bin Laden. This is the same man who is being hailed as a hero by Western Media. #Syria pic.twitter.com/cZRmf0ZW1h

— Walid (@walid970721) June 9, 2019

In another video, Sarout is among a group singing about how they intend to kill Alawites, a religious minority to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs:

If they say terrorist, it is an honor to me. Our terrorism is a blessing and a divine call. Alawite police, be patient, oh Alawites. We are coming to slaughter you without an agreement.”

In other videos, Sarout calls not just for genocide against the Syrian Alawite minority but also for the expulsion of Shias:

We are all jihadists! Homs has taken the decision. We want to exterminate the Alawites. Shias must leave!”

Western thought leaders are lionizing Abdel Baset al-Sarout who was killed fighting the Syrian army. They conveniently omit that he fought in a militia allied with al-Qaeda and pledged allegiance to ISIS. From my mini-documentary: The Syria Deception https://t.co/MpdkUbJkP7 pic.twitter.com/vLThkIMZFB

— Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) June 8, 2019

That was from a rally in Homs, Syria, where Sarout made a name for himself as a supposed “rebel icon.” Shortly before he left the city before it was liberated by the government, Sarout recorded a video of his analysis of where the opposition to Assad should go next. In it, he calls for an alliance between the rebel groups of Homs and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, and Daesh.

We know that these two groups are not politicized and have the same goals as us and are working for God and that they care about Islam and Muslims. Unfortunately some among them consider us apostates and drug addicts, but God willing we will work shoulder to shoulder with them when we leave [Homs].

We are not Christians or Shia, afraid of suicide belts and car bombs. We consider those to be strengths of ours. God willing they will be just that. This message is to the Islamic State and our brothers in Jabhat al-Nusra: that when we come out [of Homs] we will all be as one, hand fighting Christians and not fighting internally.”

After leaving Homs, Sarout went even further than before, personally pledging allegiance to ISIS, according to an Al-Jazeera Arabic report. Photos even show him holding their infamous flag.

I for one am shocked to see the media whitewashing the legacy of Abdelbaset Sarout, a commander of Jaish al-Izza (Army of Glory), which received weapons and training from the CIA. pic.twitter.com/2eD5qeWrrj

— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) June 10, 2019

Sarout would go on to become a commander in the Jaysh al-Izza (Army of Glory) group. Once a branch of the nebulous Free Syrian Army, Jaysh al-Izza was reportedly supported by the Central Intelligence Agency with training and equipment under its program. Weapons supplied to the group reportedly include anti-tank missiles. Underscoring Jaysh al-Izza’s close relationship with Jabhat al-Nusra, which later rebranded as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), HTS has reportedly used the CIA-supplied weapons in its fighting with the Syrian government and bombings against civilians.

 

From pledging allegiance to ISIS to “rebel icon”: anatomy of the media’s whitewashing

Despite his terrorist affiliations, the mainstream media has rewritten Sarout’s legacy to their liking. Even al-Jazeera, which reported Sarout’s pledge to ISIS, called him a “rebel icon” in its English-language video report on his death. That video made no mention of any of Sarout’s terrorist ties.

Other news outlets from gulf petro-monarchies funding the proxy war on Syria even call Sarout a “martyr.” Meanwhile, an analysis from Israel’s Haaretz newspaper worried over the fate of other “fighting poets.” While the BBC’s headline played it straight, opting to just provide his name and that he died, the British public broadcaster called him “a symbol of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad” and quoted another commander in Jaish al-Izza calling him a “martyr” in the article’s body.

Eulogies for Abdelbasset Sarout go like..
"He may have made some mistakes, but …"

A mistake is not checking the date on the milk before pouring it into your coffee, not urging the "revolution" to unite with ISIS in order to kill Christians. pic.twitter.com/wOyY1IL2Qs

— Lina Arabi (@LinaArabii) June 8, 2019

 

Did media fact-checkers all take the day off?

Below are a sample of headlines whitewashing Sarout’s jihadist “activism:”

American publications:

New York Times — Syrian Soccer Star, Symbol of Revolt, Dies After Battle

The Daily Beast — Syrian Soccer Goalie and Rebel Icon Killed in Northwestern Syria

NBC News — ‘Guardian of freedom’: Syrian soccer goalie who became rebel icon dies in battle

SFGate — Soccer goalie who joined Syrian rebel fighters dies in battle

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — World briefs: Syrian soccer goalie who became rebel icon dies in battle

Israeli publications:

Haaretz — The Syrian Nightingale Is Dead, and Soon Other Fighting Poets May Be Silenced

Haaretz — Syrian Soccer Player and Icon of anti-Assad Movement Dies From Battle Wound

Jerusalem Post — Star Footballer Turned Rebel Icon Dies in Syria Fighting

Times of Israel — Hundreds attend funeral of Syrian soccer goalkeeper who became rebel icon

British publications:

Daily Mail — Hundreds of mourners attend funeral of Syrian goalkeeper who became figurehead of the opposition before being killed by Bashar al-Assad’s forces

The Guardian — Syrian footballer and ‘singer of revolution’ killed in conflict

Middle East Eye — Syrian footballer, singer and rebel Abd al-Basset al-Sarout killed in northern Syria

United Arab Emirates publications:

The National — Abdelbaset Sarout: Syria’s ‘singer of the revolution’ dies defending Idlib

The National– Abdelbaset Sarout: showman Syrian rebel who declined adulation

Wire services (publications that provide other outlets with syndicated services, allowing them reprint their articles):

Reuters — Syrian rebel town buries goalie who became ‘singer of the revolution’

Associated Press — Syrian soccer goalie who became rebel icon dies in battle

Rudaw (Kurdish publication) via Agency France Presse — Syrian soccer goalkeeper killed in Idlib clashes — Rudaw

Turkish publications:
Anadolu Agency — Syrian revolution hero martyred after Hama clashes

Daily Sabah — Hero of Syrian revolution killed after Hama clashes

Hong Kong:

South China Morning Post — Abdelbasset Sarout, star soccer player turned rebel icon, dies in Syria fighting

Qatar:

Al Jazeera — Syrian goalkeeper who became rebel icon dies in Hama battle

While Sarout’s open calls for genocide and sectarianism were totally whitewashed by the press, his case takes its place in a long tradition of deception regarding the proxy war. In perhaps the most sophisticated propaganda campaign in the history of modern warfare, Syria’s White Helmets have worked hand-in-glove with jihadists while on the payroll of Western governments, while Western journalists have upheld ISIS recruiters as “experts” on the war. Sarout’s death is a sober reminder that citizens must fact check the media, since they refuse to do it themselves.

Feature photo | Abdel Basset al-Sarout

Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News

The post Media Paints Jihadist Commander Who Pledged Allegiance to ISIS as a Soccer Star With the Voice of an Angel appeared first on MintPress News.

In the Western Media Narrative, SAA-Targeted Underground Bunkers and Terrorist-Run Prisons Become “Hospitals”

IDLIB PROVINCE, SYRIA (Report) — In recently liberated Qalaat Al Madiq — 500 meters from As Suqaylabiyah, a predominantly Christian town near Syria’s embattled Idlib province — the White Helmets, a controversial rescue group financed primarily by the U.K. Foreign Office, was found to have an established presence in a network of tunnels. The tunnels zigzagged under a former wheat factory that had since been converted into a headquarters of Nusra Front/HTS — Al Qaeda in Syria.

Syrian army finds yet another "White Helmet" and "al-Nusra" joint headquarters
Video by Russian war correspondent Oleg Blokhin pic.twitter.com/ambtRijaDS

— R&U Videos (@r_u_vid) May 12, 2019

This has been a pattern repeated in many of the areas liberated from extremist groups in Syria: a White Helmets presence alongside the Nusra Front, or whichever extremist group happens to dominate specific districts of the occupied territories. Invariably, the majority of the White Helmet operatives departed upon the seemingly endless stream of green buses that carried the various cadres of armed groups from liberated regions of Syria into Idlib.

Underground hospital in Zamalka, Eastern Ghouta; April 2018. (Photo: SANA)

In Eastern Ghouta, many of the temporary medical centers, which provided treatment almost exclusively to extremist armed factions, were also built underground. I visited a number of them after Eastern Ghouta was liberated in early 2018. They were linked by a vast maze of tunnels that snaked below most of the districts controlled by the armed groups, providing cover for the fighters during SAA military campaigns.

A recent video from occupied Northern Hama, neighboring Idlib, shows members of Jaish Al Izza, an armed terrorist organization, gathering in a series of underground tunnels and caverns used as meeting rooms. The video shows Jaish Al Izza General Commander, Major Jamil al-Saleh, congratulating a group of fighters on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr. At least one of the fighters is wearing an Al Qaeda armband in the video, which was apparently later doctored to conceal the Nusra Front affiliation.

Despite Jaish Al Izza’s well-established affiliation with Al Qaeda, South Front, a website that provides extensive coverage of the Syrian conflict, revealed that when Jaish Al Izza was established in 2013 it was initially listed among a group of “moderate” rebels eligible for U.S support through the CIA’s Timber Sycamore train-and-equip program, which was approved by then-U.S. President Barack Obama:

The group received loads of weapons from the U.S. including Grad rockets, as well as Fagot and TOW anti-tank guided missiles [ATGMs]. … Jaysh al-Izza’s ‘special relationships’ with HTS and its high-tolerance to al-Qaeda ideology confirms the radical views of the group’s fighters and leader. Jaysh al-Izza members are not even making much efforts to hide this after the suspension of the U.S. support in 2017.”

The hospital masquerade

This use of underground facilities as makeshift medical centers for fighters and the conversion of existing hospitals into Sharia courts, military centers, prisons and torture chambers was demonstrated in East Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta prior to the Idlib campaign.

A wing of the Ibn Khaldoun mental health hospital in Aleppo, occupied by a succession of armed groups including Nusra Front and Free Syrian Army. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Ahmad Aldayh, prisoner of the armed groups in the former Eye and Childrens hospital complex in East Aleppo. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

In May 2017, I interviewed Ahmad Aldayh, who had been imprisoned by Jabhat Al Shamiya, another of Syria’s myriad anti-government extremist groups and an Al Qaeda affiliate, in the Eye and Children’s Hospital complex in East Aleppo. Aldayh described a hospital that had been converted into a Sharia court, prison and torture chambers and was simultaneously being used as a military center by the succession of armed groups that took control of the complex during the five-year occupation of East Aleppo. Aldayh gives a detailed account of the brutality and savagery of the armed groups towards civilians detained in the former hospital buildings.

 

After liberation of East Aleppo from Nusra Front-led occupation, Russian medical teams established makeshift hospitals in Jibreen to treat civilians, the majority of whom had received no medical care during the five-year occupation. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

This context is often airbrushed by Western press and NATO-aligned “humanitarian” organizations — including Amnesty International, which reported on the targeting of Idlib “schools, hospitals and blood banks” without mention of the daily war crimes carried out by the armed groups against civilians in government-secured border areas.

Why are you showing alleged CCTV footage from East #Aleppo (Al Quds hospital) which was not destroyed, as described by media in 2016. Are you claiming this hospital is in #Idlib? https://t.co/cuBisBdLXa

— vanessa beeley (@VanessaBeeley) June 5, 2019

Media outlets affiliated with some of these terrorist groups have been exposed trying to recycle footage of hospitals allegedly destroyed in East Aleppo in 2016 to criminalize the Syrian government in Idlib 2019, but this falsification seems not to have deterred some in the Western press who persevere with the “Syrian-government-targeting-hospitals” narrative regardless of the questions that should be raised.

Today, claims that the Pulse of Life Hospital in Hass, Idlib has been targeted: https://t.co/XTvHCz67JG

— vanessa beeley (@VanessaBeeley) May 5, 2019

The Pulse of Life example

Recently, it was claimed that the Pulse of Life (POL) hospital in the town of Hass, south of Idlib, had been destroyed. Images of what looks suspiciously like an underground military bunker were shared liberally across a number of media platforms, including in the opening scene of a Sky News report from inside Idlib.

However, in September 2018, Al Qaeda supporter and journalist, Hadi Al Abdullah, informed us that the POL hospital had been ‘destroyed by Russia.’ In his report, members of the White Helmets can be seen clambering over the smoldering rubble of the alleged remains of the hospital. It is hard to imagine how such a structure could have been rebuilt in time to be re-destroyed less than a year after the initial reports.

Screenshot from Saudi-financed Orient News channel showing aftermath of alleged attack on POL hospital. (Photo: Via @MichaKobs)

If the POL was fully destroyed as a working hospital in September 2018, why have media outlets in the West not questioned what the underground complex is currently being used for? Is it still a makeshift medical center servicing armed groups? If it is a civilian hospital, as the media is claiming, why is there no evidence of civilian presence, no cars, no ambulances, no patients? In Saqba, Eastern Ghouta, I was told by civilians that the White Helmet center was out of bounds for civilians — is that the case for this alleged hospital? None of these questions have been asked or answered in the mainstream media reports.

This didn’t stop the likes of Sky News and EA Worldview from republishing the images in reports demonizing the Syrian Army and its allies for targeting hospitals. Here, the alleged second destruction of the POL leads a report from Sky News:

#Idlib | @SkyNews May 28
Hospitals in Idlib have been targeted by the #Syrian regime to drive out civilians from the country's last rebel-held city.

full story from Sky's sp| correspondent @AlexCrawfordSky in Idlib https://t.co/WkfzK6S4ej pic.twitter.com/Tp0VhJfgBI | #Trump #MAGA

— ???????????????????? ???????????????????????? (@trump020) June 3, 2019

EA Worldview is managed by Professor Scott Lucas, an aggressive advocate of regime change in Syria. Lucas is employed by Birmingham University but is also a consultant at the The Toran Center for Strategic Research and Studies, which claims to foster the intellectual and scholarly understanding of modern-day geopolitics and to facilitate analysis of foreign policy strategy and outcomes. The Toran Center is comprised of a cartel of sympathizers and even former members of the various armed groups fighting Syria’s government and heavily promotes regime change in Syria.

Lucas was swift to employ images of the “destroyed” POL hospital to push “Russia-Regime war on Syria’s hospitals” headlines.

Doctors halt sharing of coordinates of medical facilities after Russia & #Assad regime attack the hospitals and clinics in NW #Syria https://t.co/OXPVzEkUbt#Hama #Idlib pic.twitter.com/eitkBM5o4E

— EA WorldView (@EA_WorldView) June 4, 2019

One-eye-blind reporting

Author Janine Di Giovanni, another vehement supporter of NATO-backed regime change in Syria, recently penned an article in the New York Times entitled “In Syria Even the Hospitals are not Safe.” Di Giovanni claims that “Bashar Al Assad [personally] attacks medical facilities to break the will of the people — and to destroy evidence of his war crimes.”

Di Giovanni fails to mention the rebuilding and restoration of the hospitals in areas of Syria that were previously occupied by the multi-faceted armed groups, which had either destroyed or systematically taken over hospitals and schools before converting them into detention centers, sharia courtrooms, and torture chambers.

Di Giovanni also fails to mention, for example, the 2013 destruction of the Al Kindi hospital in Aleppo by armed extremist groups. Al Kindi had been one of the largest and most progressive cancer specializing hospitals in the Middle East prior to the double suicide truck attack that reduced much of it to rubble. Professor Tim Anderson, author of The Dirty War on Syria, outlined the Western-sponsored armed groups’ campaign to decimate health services and hospitals across Syria in his May 2016 article, “Aleppo hospital smokescreen:”

Dr al Nayef (former Health Minister) told us that, since March 2011, 67 of the country’s 94 national hospitals had been attacked and damaged, with 41 out of service. 174 health workers had been killed, 127 wounded and 33 kidnapped. Further, 1921 primary health centres had been damaged, and 678 were out of service. 421 ambulances had been lost or were out of service, and 197 support vehicles had been damaged, with 169 out of service.

In the New York Times article, Di Giovanni promotes a letter written by “medics” and the Al Qaeda-affiliated White Helmets, whose center was directly below the military center of the armed group in freshly liberated Qalaat Al Madiq, northern Hama. The letter, published by the Syria Campaign, calls for the cessation of bombing in Idlib, “which is supposed to be a demilitarised zone” — a misleading statement by Di Giovanni that encourages her readers to believe that all of Idlib is a demilitarized zone and that Al Qaeda offshoots are not legitimate targets of the Syrian allied forces.

Perhaps Di Giovanni didn’t comprehend the terms of the Russian/Turkish Sochi agreement, which created a 15-20 kilometer buffer zone that was supposed to be emptied of heavy weapons and hardcore radical groups such as HTS. Perhaps she doesn’t know that the demilitarization never happened, or that HTS and its affiliates have been systematically targeting towns in the Syrian government-protected territories bordering their enclaves.

Perhaps Di Giovanni doesn’t understand that Turkey has been exploiting the ceasefires to reinforce and multiply the hardcore factions that could serve Turkey’s interests in the region. If so, Di Giovanni has a responsibility to her readers to inform herself of the facts rather than producing unsubstantiated and misleading narratives.

Di Giovanni dismisses Syrian government claims that targeted hospitals are occupied by the terrorists and armed groups, without addressing the evidence that hospitals and schools were occupied by militant factions in East Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta, Quneitra, Daraa, Homs, and across Syria. She seems to have forgotten that the U.S. Coalition excused their pulverization of Raqqa, Mosul and their targeting of hospitals in those cities and in Deir Ezzor because they claimed ISIS occupied those buildings.

In Yemen, 375 hospitals have been destroyed by the Saudi Coalition using bombs predominantly supplied by the U.S., U.K. and France. To date, Di Giovanni has not condemned how the United States supplies weapons to a Saudi regime that is conducting wholesale slaughter and waging a deliberate campaign of starvation against the Yemeni people, whose only crime is to reject Saudi colonization and decades of corruption.

Di Giovanni states, “the most threatening way you can terrorize a population is to bomb hospitals and kill doctors.” She is right, of course, but the doctors being targeted are in government-secured border towns like Mhardeh and As Suqaylabiyah, and districts of West Aleppo, where hospitals are routinely targeted by armed extremist groups. In May of 2019, the local hospital emergency room in As Suqaylabiyah was hit and damaged by Grad missiles fired by HTS from areas north of Qalaat al Madiq and the hospital and its perimeters were targeted multiple times.

The wanton destruction of medical facilities in liberated areas of Syria is irrelevant to Di Giovanni and the Western press. Medical centers in Syrian government-controlled areas are being crippled by economic sanctions that profoundly affect their ability to provide healthcare for civilians in wartime and in post-war Syria.

An apparently U.K. Fire Service-supplied Hazmat suit found in the White Helmet center underground below the Nusra Front military center in Qalaat Al Madiq, Northern Hama. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

While the White Helmets and Western sponsored hospitals effectively serving the armed-group communities in Idlib receive endless supplies of materials and state-of-the-art medical equipment from their NATO member-state sponsors and associated organizations, Syrian hospitals in the 80 percent of Syria back under the control of the Syrian government are literally starved of even the most basic essentials needed to provide adequate health care for civilians.

The White Helmets’ role

During a 2018 visit to refugee centers in Hama that are harboring families that fled the armed-group invasion of Idlib province — particularly from Idlib City in March 2015, when the city was fully taken over by Nusra Front-led armed groups — I met with a young volunteer for Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). This volunteer had worked in the armed-group occupied territories until it became too dangerous. When I asked her for an informed opinion on the White Helmets as a supposed “humanitarian” NGO, she told me:

White Helmets are terrorists. They are specialists in acting & drama, not humanitarian work. The White Helmets abuse the “humanitarian” title to gain trust and to brainwash people in Syria and outside. They are a big lie. There are many foreigners working in the #WhiteHelmets.”

Her analysis was echoed by the Director of SARC in Aleppo when I interviewed him in January 2018. He told me:

We never saw them [White Helmets] operate in East Aleppo; they belonged to the terrorists. They received money from outside, from more than one country.”

A recent video has just been unearthed by an independent researcher on Twitter showing White Helmets demonstrating with Jaish Al Fatah (Army of Conquest) in Idlib 2015. Jaish Al Fatah were a coalition of extremist armed groups that included Nusra Front. The coalition was co-ordinated by Riyadh-trained and -financed Sheikh Abdullah Muhaysini, who has a reputation for training child suicide bombers in Syria and for orchestrating some of the most horrifying atrocites committed against Syrian civilians and army personnel.  

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Di Giovanni persists in the unequivocal defense of the U.K.-manufactured White Helmets accused by Syrian civilians of child abduction, organ trafficking, participation in executions of civilians and prisoners of war, and the faking of “chemical weapon” events in Douma, Eastern Ghouta, April 2018. Events that fraudulently facilitated the unlawful bombing of Syrian territory by the U.S Coalition on 13th April 2018. These “chemical weapon” events will be covered in more detail in another part of this Mint Press Idlib series.

Child injured in West Aleppo by missiles fired from Nusra Front strongholds in Idlib. (Photo: SANA)

The civilians affected by the daily missiles showered down upon them by the armed groups working alongside the White Helmets are to be ignored by Di Giovanni and written out of the script she presents to her Jackson Institute, Yale audience. For her, the children hunted down, maimed and killed in As Suqaylabiyah, Mhardeh, the surrounding villages, and West Aleppo simply do not exist.

 

Who created the cycle of violence?

War is destructive and during a war, it is sadly inevitable that civilians will die or be injured. They are caught up in its ferocity and their lives are devastated. What Di Giovanni fails to do is to explain who created the cycle of violence that has ravaged Syria for eight years. Di Giovanni fails to express outrage over the fact that the United States and its allies in the U.K., European Union, the Gulf States, Turkey and Israel have been equipping, arming, financing and promoting extremist armed factions that have laid waste to cities, historical heritage sites, and civilization across Syria.

The Syrian government has no choice but to liberate Idlib from the terrorist infestation it endures because Syrian civilians will keep dying if these groups are allowed to expand and put down deeper sectarian roots in the region

No other government in the world would tolerate such an invasion of its territory and persecution of its people by foreign mercenaries and hardcore radical factions among its own society. The fact that the Syrian government has offered amnesty and reconciliation to Syrian armed militants during all liberation operations is a testament to its ability to forgive and heal the country.

Meanwhile, the majority of Western states that sit in judgement of the Syrian government wage perpetual war against weaker nations that will not come into line with their globalist policies and engage in ever-increasing forms of repression of free speech and dissent at home and abroad. The recent hounding of journalist Julian Assange is a perfect example of the West’s hunting down and incarceration of those who challenge the establishment narratives or threaten their hegemony.  

Anyone who pretends they are anti-regime change while bashing the Syrian state’s efforts to annihilate terrorists is, in effect, pro-regime change and supportive of Al Qaeda and other terror groups. As the FSA once said: “We are all Nusra.”

— Sharmine Narwani (@snarwani) March 24, 2018

As Peter Ford, former U.K. Ambassador to Syria from 2003 to 2006, has said recently:

Geir Pedersen, the UN special envoy for Syria, continues to call forlornly for a ceasefire and a ‘political solution.’ A ceasefire would mean abandoning the people of Idlib indefinitely to jihadi control and allowing the consolidation of an Al Qaida caliphate and safe haven. HTS scoff at any idea of political negotiations.”

 

Idlib’s hospitals: the official statistics

As I was countering the “hospital” narratives in Aleppo, I highlighted the number of official, state-registered hospitals compared to the often sensationalist numbers being touted by media in the West, whose statistics were often provided by armed ‘opposition’ groups, their affiliated “citizen journalists/activists,” and the discredited White Helmets.

Screenshot of Syrian Ministry of Health records of hospitals in all provinces of Syria, 2017.

The official number of hospitals in Idlib province, as reported, by the Syrian Ministry of Health’s website, is 34, including private and public institutions. The names of the hospitals and the town or city where they are situated are also published by the ministry. These statistics were updated in 2017.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has been responsible for much of the sensationalist reporting on the Syrian conflict. SNHR are the primary purveyors of the “barrel bomb” propaganda and have recently been pushing the latest “chemical weapon” narrative during the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) military operations in Idlib and the surrounding countryside

SNHR statistics claim that 24 hospitals have already been destroyed or damaged by the SAA and its allies in Idlib. There is scant identification of the hospitals and no cross-reference to the official Syrian register of hospitals. On May 5, 2019, SNHR reported that the Kafr Nabel “surgical hospital” was targeted by Russian warplanes. According to the Syrian Health Ministry, there are two hospitals in Kafr Nabel: the Al-Khatib Hospital — general surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, orthopedics — and Dar Al Hikmah, a general hospital. Identification should have been clarified by SNHR.

Let us pause for a moment and compare the information I have just provided, on the hospitals in Idlib, to the recent information fed to Western media, NGOs, and governments by the White Helmet “propaganda construct:”

Hmm…

Interesting map of "hospitals" in #Idlib "made by #WhiteHelmets"

*15! hospitals*! on a short stretch along the frontline#Syria pic.twitter.com/uk0H0q3RWS

— MalinkaTanya P (@Malinka1102) May 17, 2019

Another enterprising Twitter account pointed out that even Google maps show only two hospitals in the same area, while the White Helmets claim the existence of 15 hospitals and four White Helmet centers. That information should, at the very least, raise doubts over the veracity of their analysis

Many of the “hospitals” described by the Western media and “humanitarian” organizations may well be underground triage units serving armed extremist groups. They may be official hospitals that have been taken over and converted into military centers and civilian detention centers and torture chambers.

Di Giovanni featured one such “hospital” in her New York Times article. The Hope Hospital for Children was allegedly built in three months in 2017 by “British trained Syrian anesthetist Rola Hallam” in Ghandoura, “a small town in the northern Aleppo countryside.” Di Giovanni describes how Hallam passes through several “armed checkpoints” to reach the site of the hospital. Of course, she fails to explain that those  checkpoints will be manned by Al Qaeda or one of the myriad affiliates operating in the area, and that Hallam somehow manages to pass through them unharmed or unchecked.

She also fails to remind us that Hallam featured in a 2013 BBC Panorama report, “Saving Syria’s Children,” which has since been forensically investigated and proven by researcher Robert Stuart to almost certainly have been a staged event. Hallam has a fiercely pro-NATO-intervention background and position. Her father, Dr. Mousa Al Kurdi, was “involved politically” with the controversial Syrian National Council originally supported by Hillary Clinton during the early stages of the U.S. war against Syria. While Hallam has denied these allegations, according to a report for Sputnik News, Al Kurdi personally confirmed his affiliations:

…[I]n a 2012 Al Jazeera interview, he [Dr. Mousa Al Kurdi] passionately advocated for the Syrian National Council’s recognition as the “sole representative” of all Syrians. He also boasted of how at that year’s Friends of Syria summit in Istanbul — attended by Hillary Clinton — he told the foreign ministers of several governments, including Victoria Nuland of the U.S. State Department, ‘either you defend us or you arm the Free Syrian Army to defend us — you have the choice.’”

 

Seeing through the lies and half-truths

It is important to remain vigilant amid what is effectively an emotive and misleading media “hospital” campaign designed to secure public support for the financing, arming and promotion of armed groups that threaten the lives of Syrian civilians on a daily basis.

We owe this vigilance to the families of the children killed or injured in As Suqaylabiyah, Mhardeh, West Aleppo, and all the towns and villages under threat of Grad missile attack by armed groups often idolized in the West as “rebels.”

Mhardeh came under attack from HTS and affiliated armed groups June 6, 2019.This is the power plant in Mhardeh being targeted during previous attacks. (Photo: Supplied by NDF)

On June 6, 2019, for example, armed groups, including Jaish Al Izza, attempted to infiltrate the surroundings of Kafarhoud and Tal Melh, villages in the northwestern countryside of the Syrian Christian town of Mhardeh. The threat against the already beleaguered civilians of this town was elevated until the SAA was victorious in driving back the advance.

A resident of Mhardeh has just informed me that during the armed-group attacks yesterday, Mhardeh Hospital was hit four times by Grad missiles — thankfully no injuries were incurred among the medical staff or patients, but two rooms were destroyed. We will not see outrage in Western media over these criminal militant attacks on a civilian hospital.

I was informed by civilians in the area that the SAA also simultaneously targeted armed-group gatherings in the area and destroyed essential supply routes of Jaish Al Izza (Al Qaeda-linked) in Morek, Kafar Zita, al-Arbaein and Hasraya, in Hama northwestern countryside. In my on-the-ground experience, this is the reality of this military campaign: a defensive campaign by the Syrian allied forces to protect civilian lives. Depicting it any other way or defending the armed groups is putting these civilian lives at risk.

Enough. No more child martyrs in Idlib and Hama border towns like As Suqaylabiyah; May 12, 2019, under daily attack by Western-sponsored terrorists. (Photo: Salm photography)

If we fail to question and counter the overwhelming bias on display in the Western press, we condemn these civilians to the sustained threat of the deaths of more children and the destruction of more homes and hospitals that serve the majority of people across Syria who have chosen to reject the sectarian tyranny forced upon them by the neocolonialist governments in the West.

We should be outraged that these child murderers have been let loose by our governments to prey upon the people of Syria. We should not allow ourselves to be collectively hypnotized into believing the media hype that would portray murderers as heroes, and the Syrian people and government struggling to expel them from their country as the villains.

Feature photo | After liberation of East Aleppo from Nusra Front-led occupation, Russian medical teams established makeshift hospitals in Jibreen to treat civilians, the majority of whom had received no medical care during the five-year occupation. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist, peace activist, photographer and associate editor at 21st Century Wire. Vanessa was a finalist for one of the most prestigious journalism awards – the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism – whose winners have included the likes of Robert Parry in 2017, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Nick Davies and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism team. You can support Vanessa’s journalism through her Patreon Page.

The post In the Western Media Narrative, SAA-Targeted Underground Bunkers and Terrorist-Run Prisons Become “Hospitals” appeared first on MintPress News.

Sky News and the Western Press Have Once Again Failed Syria

Recent storylines from the Western press on the “Idlib” narrative, particularly the extraordinary spate of “on-the-ground” reports from Sky News reporter Alex Crawford, have failed to paint an accurate picture of the reality faced by Syrian civilians.

Brett McGurk – the U.S. government’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL — described Idlib as “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11,” adding that the presence of Al Qaeda in Idlib was a “huge problem” and had been so “for some time.” Mint Press journalist Whitney Webb covered McGurk’s statements and U.S. policy in Idlib in late 2018.

McGurk’s statement seems to have been forgotten by both corporate media and “human rights” commentators alike since the Syrian Army’s military campaign to liberate areas of Idlib began in earnest a few weeks ago. In fact, there seems to be an ongoing campaign by the Western press to normalize militant groups affiliated with Al Qaeda.

On May 27, 2019 a headline in a Reuters article read “Idlib government chief urges defense against Assad attack” (emphasis added). The “head” of the Idlib “Salvation Government,” Fawaz Hilal, was calling upon Turkey to intervene on their behalf to protect them from SAA military advances.

While Reuters openly admits that the Salvation Government is heavily backed by Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS)/Al Qaeda, there is minimal reference to the daily war crimes committed by armed groups against civilians in Syrian government-secured territory as a valid reason for the uptick in Syrian military operations to liberate areas of Idlib province.

The reader is ultimately left with the impression that the Salvation Government is legitimate Syrian “opposition” rather than an Al Qaeda construct established with the involvement of the notorious Abu Mohammed Al-Jolani.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants in Idlib execute Syrian civilians accused of working with Russia. These extrajudicial executions are commonplace in terrorist controlled areas of Syria. Photo | Iba’a

Even the partisan Crisis Group, which tends to lean heavily in favor of the U.S. Coalition, described the Salvation Government’s clear Al Qaeda affiliations and its role in securing financing for the violent, extremist organization. A January 2019 Crisis Group report concluded:

The centrepiece of HTS’s project is the ‘Salvation Government,’ formed in November 2017 … For HTS, the Salvation Government seems to be both a political project and a money-making tool.”

 

Supposed to be a safe place

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and former European director of Human Rights Watch, told the BBC:

Idlib was supposed to be a safe place. Where war should not be, so it has to end. We cannot have war take place in what is essentially a refugee camp.”

SYRIA: As air raid attacks intensify across #Idlib, Secretary General @NRC_Egeland tells @BBCWorld news: "Idlib was supposed to be a safe place. Where war should not be, so it has to end. We cannot have war take place in what is essentially a refugee camp."

— NRC (@NRC_Norway) May 29, 2019

Egeland “disappeared” the estimated 120,000 terrorist fighters controlling the majority of Idlib province and pockets of northern Hama. Aleppo MP and head of the Aleppo Chamber of Commerce, Fares Shehabi, told the BBC in September 2018 that 100,000 extremist fighters were controlling Idlib, 40,000 of whom were “hard-core radicals.”

Shehabi has since told me that he believes the numbers to have increased to 120,000 extremist fighters, with up to 50,000 hard-core radicals that Shehabi says includes large numbers of foreign mercenaries, hardline soldiers from around the world. While these numbers may be on the high side, it is clear that the size of the Al Qaeda-dominated force in Idlib is alarming.

Armed extremists leaving Al Waer, Homs for Idlib in January 2018. Some of the fighters’ clothing bore Nusra Front insignia. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Considerable numbers of “hard-core” extremists were bused to Idlib after the liberation of East Aleppo, Homs, Eastern Ghouta and southern provinces of Syria from December 2016 through July/August 2018 as part of Syrian government amnesty and reconciliation deals.

By whitewashing the role of the Idlib mercenaries and extremist groups — which include Jaish Al Islam, who ruled Douma with a regime of torture, execution, slave labor and imprisonment — the Western press has acted as de facto protection racketeers for the very forces exploiting civilians as human shields in Idlib and preventing their exodus via the Russian/Syrian-established humanitarian corridors.

MUST WATCH
.
Residents of refugee camp in #Atme village (northern #Idlib CS) suffer from #HTS activities. Motivated by financial benefit, jihadists force displaced #Syria|ns to leave the camp! It would be useful video for western audience to realize who rules in Idlib… pic.twitter.com/G11ntjPjeY

— SMM Syria (@smmsyria) June 6, 2019

This is a familiar pattern that was seen previously during the liberation of East Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta, when extremist groups would shell or snipe fleeing civilians, often blaming the crimes on advancing SAA forces.

 

A narrow escape?

Sky News’ Alex Crawford first produced a story from inside Idlib, claiming her team had been “deliberately” targeted by Syrian government forces. Crawford and her team said a Syrian drone had zeroed in on them, relaying their location to the SAA.

“The Sky News crew – clearly identified as journalists – was deliberately targeted and attacked by Syrian regime forces using military drones to pinpoint our location, before launching a series of strikes.” https://t.co/E2xVkMsHOE

— Louisa Loveluck (@leloveluck) May 23, 2019

Crawford most likely entered Idlib via the Turkish border and was being escorted by the HTS fighters on motorbikes, which were visible in a longer video published by Sky News. Under these circumstances and in the midst of an ongoing military campaign, traveling with a known extremist group through their enclave while they were actively engaged in combat with the Syrian Army would indicate that the SAA was not targeting journalists, but instead the extremists with whom they traveled.

The military drones — which Crawford alleges were used to “pinpoint” her team’s location prior to a “deliberate” attack — were never shown in the video produced by Sky News, nor is there any sound of drone activity in the video. This reporter has heard drones in action in Gaza during the 2012 Israeli offensive and their sound is very audible, particularly when they descend to attack or close-surveillance altitude.

A screenshot from the Sky News report shows Crawford’s team lacking any ‘press’ tabards

Crawford and the Sky News team also don’t appear to be wearing “Press” tabards or helmets in their video report, although it is difficult to distinguish much at all in the report, save a lot of confusion and expletives from Crawford.

An HTS or affiliated fighter on a motorbike in footage from Sky News. Screenshot | Sky News

Crawford’s Sky News report carried the headline: “Syria: Sky News witnesses horrors of Syria’s last rebel outpost” (emphasis added), reducing HTS — an established terror group — to simply “rebels.”

The “civilian activist” described by Crawford  in her report is none other than Nusra Front acolyte Bilal Abdul Kareem, who is (by his own admission) on the U.S terrorist “kill list.” In a July 2018 Rolling Stone article, Kareem claimed that he was tipped off by a Turkish source that “he had been put on a list of targets at Incirlik Air base, a launching pad for American drones.

Bilal Abdul Kareem is pictured with the leader of an armed militant group in Aleppo, Syria. Photo | OGN

Crawford’s working with Kareem, while wearing a “long black abaya” without any press identification in HTS-held territory, was not only a foolhardy enterprise, but a very risky endeavor in a time of war.

Sky News is not the first media outlet to collaborate with Kareem. In a July, 2017 article for Mint Press News, journalist Whitney Webb delved into Kareem’s working relationship with CNN when Kareem assisted in the making of the Clarissa Ward award winning documentary, “Undercover in Syria”.

Kareem was responsible for organising access to the extremist-held territory for the CNN team. In the article, Webb highlights the armed group members who were interviewed by journalist Max Blumenthal – who “confirmed that Kareem was a well-known member of al-Nusra and was commonly referred to as the “American mujahid.”

Was Crawford unaware of Kareem’s ties to Al Qaeda when the Sky News team chose him as their “activist” escort and fixer?

According to its report, Sky News retreated to the town of Khan Sheikhoun, another Nusra Front/HTS stronghold in Idlib. The ease of movement with which Sky News was able to traverse Idlib territory, which is amongst the most densely populated by Al Qaeda offshoots and extremist underling groups, without threat of kidnap or worse is perplexing. Journalists are regularly targeted or kidnapped by terrorist groups operating in Syria.

 

The last “last hospital”

When challenged on the veracity of her maiden report from Idlib, Crawford resorted to a tried and tested rallying cry for Western journalists still clamoring to paint Syria’s opposition forces as legitimate anti-government resistance – the last hospital:

To the apologists: targeting hospitals is a war crime whatever has happened in previous conflicts and whoever the attackers – east, west, whoever. No proper journalist is suggesting otherwise.

— Alex Crawford (@AlexCrawfordSky) May 29, 2019

Crawford expressed outrage at the alleged targeting of “hospitals” by the Syrian government and its allies. The “last hospital” narrative, previously used heavily in East Aleppo, comprised repeatedly recycled sensationalist headlines that the Syrian government and its allies were deliberately targeting the last remaining hospital in a given area during the final stages of liberation from armed groups — a narrative discredited by independent journalists reporting on the ground in Aleppo during the final stages of the military campaign to liberate East Aleppo from the grip of international terrorism.

Civilians arrive at the Jebrin registration center in December 2016 after fleeing armed militant groups to government-controlled areas during the liberation of East Aleppo. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

I covered the “last hospital” narrative in a separate article for MintPress, where I highlight how this narrative is deployed by many in the Western press as a distraction from the reality in Syria. It was previously brought into play — as the SAA were sweeping East Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta clean of the occupying sectarian gangs — in order to effectively protect the extremist militants who had ruled these areas for more than five years, inflicting their brutal, violent ideology upon captive civilians. The narratives served to effectively delay the release from occupation for these civilians, who were desperate to escape to the safety of government-held areas.

 

Idlib reality succinctly described

Peter Ford, former U.K. ambassador to Syria, explained the current operations in Idlib very succinctly:

In brief, what is happening at the moment is not a full-scale assault by Syrian government forces aimed at liberating the whole of Idlib. Rather it is a limited operation, the main goal of which is to chip away at the southern fringes of what is effectively the Al Qaeda caliphate.”

The reporting from the likes of Alex Crawford and Sky News does not convey this reality nor does it reveal the existence of the Al Qaeda caliphate described by Ford. Crawford has entirely disappeared the extremist group’s aggression against the border towns and villages which has been ongoing since the establishment of the “deconfliction zones” in September 2018 and which entirely validates the Syrian military response to defend civilians against further bloodshed to halt those violations.

It must also not be forgotten that another of the Sochi agreement terms was the freeing up of the M5 highway that links Idlib to the rest of Syria and ultimately serves as the main trade route from Turkey to Syria and on into Jordan, whose trade borders with Syria have been successfully reopened after liberation of the south of Syria from the armed-group’s occupation.

Screenshot from an AJE video depicting hard-core extremists still occupying Idlib “deconfliction zones” after deadline had expired according to Sochi agreement; October 2018.

The HTS control of significant areas of the M5 route has prevented this agreed-upon development and is another reason for the recent intensification of Syrian allied military activity in Idlib — again ignored completely by the majority of the Western press, whose selective coverage plays into the hands of these extremist groups.

Were Sky News to adhere to true journalism ethics, it would identify Turkey, a member of NATO, as the cause of the recent military confrontation that is threatening civilian lives on both sides of the Idlib/Hama border. As Peter Ford states:

The jihadis have been bolstered with arms supplied by Turkey (including tanks and deadly U.S.-made TOW anti-tank weapons) and paid for by Qatar, which also pays salaries. As long as Turkey continues to prop up the jihadis and Qatar to fund them, fighting is likely to continue, with the [Syrian] government continuing to put its faith in softening up with aerial bombing and artillery shelling rather than risk its sparse ground forces.”

Ford even offers a pragmatic solution in Idlib, never presented or even examined by the Western press:

The only way realistically to limit the fighting is for Turkey to withdraw its support for the jihadis and let them melt back into the Turkish border zone where they could affiliate with the Turkish-controlled militias there. This would still leave a problem for later but Idlib could breathe.”

 

A deliberate attempt to mislead

There is no nuance to the Sky News reports, no analysis of complexity, no diverging opinions or context. Therefore, in my opinion, this is not journalism; it is a deliberate intent to mislead a gullible public fed a media diet of “war on terror” fear and insecurity for years. It is information bias and cynical misdirection of narratives designed to support U.S. military adventurism in Syria and the region.

After Crawford was taken to task by educated Twitter accounts, she put out a Tweet stating:

Sometimes, just sometimes, twitter and some on it, make me want to explode with frustration at the unregulated untruths and constant misrepresentation of facts without check.”

No, Ms. Crawford, what is happening is that people who inform themselves no longer accept unregulated untruths and constant misrepresentation of facts without check from media channels whose public trust has been irreparably eroded by years of falsification and obfuscation of “facts” in relation to the U.S. Coalition war waged against Syria since 2011.

The recently published documentary, The Veto, a collaboration between Syrian journalist Rafiq Lutf and this correspondent, exposes the depth of media complicity in sustaining the Syrian conflict and the level of fabrication by CNN and other mainstream channels that have heavily influenced public opinion against the Syrian government since the early days of the campaign to topple President Bashar Al Assad from power and to destabilize the country.

The true frustration explosion is the public response to the conversion of their media into a fifth column for power and the resulting mayhem, bloodshed and misery it brings to the peoples of countries targeted for regime change or resource plundering by the U.S. and allied globalist nations — powers that have zero regard for “human rights” when it comes to achieving their aims and no qualms about usurping any government or population that stands in their way.

We live in an unprecedented age of media and state deceit and the expression of frustration is a natural reaction when we wake up to this gaslighting abuse. Crawford and other establishment journalists who have effectively served the abusers — the state mind-controllers — need to be aware that the long-time victims are finally turning against them. They have two choices: to continue serving power or finally becoming agents of the people. Which will it be?

Feature photo | Armed extremists leaving Al Waer, Homs en route to Idlib in January 2018. The fighter at the forefront of the photograph is wearing a Nusra Front/Al Qaeda armband. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist, peace activist, photographer and associate editor at 21st Century Wire. Vanessa was a finalist for one of the most prestigious journalism awards – the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism – whose winners have included the likes of Robert Parry in 2017, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Nick Davies and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism team. You can support Vanessa’s journalism through her Patreon Page.

The post Sky News and the Western Press Have Once Again Failed Syria appeared first on MintPress News.

For Fourth Year Saudi Barrages Bring Death and Loss to Yemeni Families on Eid

HODEIDA, YEMEN — “This is our Eid gift from Saudi Arabia,” a visitor to a private hospital in Hodeida told MintPress as he pulled back a blood-soaked blue plastic cover draping the lifeless body of his child. The girl, whose torso and arms were dotted with holes from high-caliber bullets, did not make it to her second birthday — she was killed in a barrage of gunfire let loose by Saudi Coalition gunmen as they peppered residential neighborhoods on Al-Shuhada Street in the al Hali directorate of Hodeida. An elderly woman and a man were also killed in the attack, which severely injured at least three other residents.

The attack on Al-Shuhada Street was one of many carried out by the Saudi-led Coalition in the first three days of Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday marking the end of the month of Ramadan. Dozens of civilians, including women and children, were also killed in the attacks.

On the first day of Eid al-Fitr, three people were killed and nine were wounded when Coalition warplanes swarmed villages in the Hasha district of Dhal’i province. That attack came less than two weeks after Coalition gunmen shelled a family home in the same province, killing two women and injuring a child.

In Hajjah, scores of civilians were killed when missiles launched by military vessels moored in Yemen’s territorial waters rained down upon the province’s residents. “That two massacres were committed by the U.S.-backed Saudi-led Coalition in Dhali and Hajjah on Eid al-Fitr proves [the Coalition’s] criminal bloody and brutal policy in Yemen,”  Mohammed Abdulsalam, a spokesman for Ansar Allah, said in the wake of the attacks.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in Yemen since January 2016 according to a new report by the Armed Conflict and Location Event Data Project (ACLED) issued last Thursday, including 10,000 people who were killed in the past five months alone. The ACLED report recorded 3,155 direct attacks that targeted civilians, resulting in more than 7,000 civilian deaths.

 

Another Eid, another barrage

For the fourth consecutive year, Eid al-Fitr has done little to bring quiet to Yemen’s war-weary residents. In Hodeida, airstrikes have been replaced with a new norm: snipers, artillery shells, and missiles. Despite a Houthi withdrawal from three key ports in the province under a U.N.-sponsored cease-fire deal, the Saudi-led Coalition continues to hammer the strategic port city, leaving its residents increasingly pessimistic about internationally backed efforts to end the four-year war.

Blue plastic body bags have become a familiar site in Yemen’s hospitals following Saudi airstrikes. Photo | Ahmed Abdulkareem

On Tuesday, Saudi airstrikes leveled Hodeida’s Zubariyah water and sewage station, which services 80 percent of the city’s residents. The attack fell on the same day that Saudi Arabia announced it was taking “humanitarian steps” to rescue an Iranian sailor from Yemen’s coastal waters “for medical reasons.” The accident was the talk of many of Hodeida’s residents, who questioned the Saudi claims and their reason for saving a stranded sailor while causing civilians in Hodeida to die of thirst.

Most humanitarian groups maintain that since the United Nation brokered a truce between Yemen’s Houthis and the Saudi-led Coalition in Stockholm, Sweden, the lives of thousands of civilians in Yemen, especially in Hodeida, have actually worsened. The number of internally displaced people has increased to 3.3 million according to the UN’s own figures, marking a sharp uptick from the 2.2 million people recorded last Eid.

For Yemen’s residents, Saudi-led Coalition attacks have affected their ability to celebrate Eid, as they have affected every aspect of their lives. Loved ones are no longer present, lost to the brutal war; the blockade, the diseases and the famine have all radically altered what has traditionally been a joyous occasion.

 

“We have surprises”

For its part, Yemen’s army —  loyal to the Houthis — has vowed a strong military response to ongoing Saudi attacks. Houthi fighters recently seized more than 20 military positions in Saudi Arabia’s southern Najran province in a 96-hour period, killing 200 Saudi troops and their allied mercenary forces. Saudi military equipment was seized and at least 20 armored vehicles were destroyed. The media branch of Yemen’s Ansar Allah released footage on Friday showing Saudi military locations in Najran being overrun by Houthi fighters. Saudi Arabia has yet to comment on the attacks.

Yemen’s Defense Minister, Mohammed Nasser al-Atifi, recently told reporters that Yemen has made great strides in its defense sector which will, “surprise Saudi Arabia and its allies. We have surprises that they can never see coming.” He added that Yemen is currently in the final stages of developing various air defenses.

Although Saudi Arabia is equipped with the latest U.S.-supplied weaponry — everything from M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley fighting vehicles to AH-64D Apache helicopters — as well as having an air force equipped with a high-tech arsenal, footage of the attacks shows Saudi troops fleeing their posts upon confrontation, leaving behind weapons caches including American-made armored vehicles, Kalashnikovs, and sniper rifles.

In the oil-rich province of Al-Jouf, which sits adjacent to the Saudi border, a convergence of fighters from the Yemeni army, the Houthis and local residents recaptured 26 military sites and an estimated 40 square kilometer area in Khab and Sha’f. The area had been used as a staging ground by Saudi Arabia. At least 10 armored vehicles were reportedly destroyed in the battle.

A source inside of Yemen’s military, who wished to remain anonymous, told MintPress that Yemeni forces plan to launch more military operations in a bid to control more Saudi military sites in the regions of Jizan, Asir, and Najran, as long as the Coalition continues its attacks on Yemen.

 

300 targets

In the Coalition-controlled port city of Aden, Yemen’s army launched a drone attack on a Saudi military parade at the Ras Abbas military camp on Monday. The attack was carried out using a domestically manufactured Qasef-2K (Striker-2K) drone and reportedly killed high-level Saudi -led Coalition officers. The Saudi-owned Al-Hadath television channel later quoted sources claiming that air defenses had shot down a drone west of Aden.

Brigadier General Yahya Saree, the spokesman for Yemeni armed forces, said of the Aden attack, “The enemy should have learned a lesson from the Al Anad Air Base incident, but taking the Yemeni wisdom and talent lightly will open the gates of hell to them.” Saree was referring to a drone strike in Lahij province on January 10 that killed several Saudi military commanders, including Hadi’s top intelligence official and deputy army chief of staff. “The bank of targets is widening day by day,” Saree added.

The attack was among 300 Saudi-led Coalition targets announced last month by the Houthis. The targets are said to include military headquarters and strategic facilities inside Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Saudi-led Coalition military targets inside Yemen. Attacks on the 300 targets began with an attack on a major oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia with explosive-laden drones on May 14.

 

Learning from an enemy

In a bid to secure Yemen’s skies from the ever-present threat of Saudi-led Coalition drones, the Houthis and their allies are investing heavily in the development of a nascent air-defense system. On Friday, a U.S.-made MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down in Hodeida. In Najran, a Saudi drone was downed on Wednesday. Last month a U.S.-made General Atomics MQ-1 Predator drone was shot down using a surface-to-air missile.

شاهد | الدفاعات الجوية اليمنية تقلب معادلة التفوق الجوي الاستطلاعي للعدو بإسقاطها لـ 4 طائرات استطلاعية حديثة #انفروا_خفافا_وثقالا #أعيادنا_جبهاتنا#اليمن #Yemen

للتنزيل عبر التيليجرام:https://t.co/cc6aOmzfQs pic.twitter.com/JTa4AQPy79

— المركز الإعلامي لأنصار الله (@AnsarAllahMC) June 7, 2019

Saudi warplanes often target the wreckage of their own downed aircraft hoping to hinder the Houthis’ ability to reverse engineer the highly-prized U.S. technology. The MQ-9 Reaper — which can travel vast distances, be piloted from thousands of miles away, hover in the sky for hours, and unleash a fury of Hellfire missiles — would be a rare prize for the Houthis, who have had some success in reverse-engineering military technology for their own gain.

Yemen’s Defense Minister, Mohammed Nasser al-Atifi, said the country has already made great strides in its defense sector, which he vowed would “surprise” Saudi Arabia and its allies. Speaking at the gathering of troops on the Saudi-Yemen border on Thursday, al-Atifi said that the military had developed advanced weapons as well as technology that met the country’s need to defend its sovereignty, unity, and independence. He went to say that Yemeni armed forces are moving forward with manufacturing missiles as well as armed and offensive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), rockets, and other kinds of weapons.

Drones are an ever-present reality in Yemeni and Saudi Arabian skies, offering the Houthis more opportunities to down them and thereby develop their own technical abilities — which the Houthis hope that, combined with some semblance of an air-defense system, will create enough of a deterrent to end the U.S.-backed war on their country.

Feature photo | A malnourished child looks out from the door of his family’s shelter in Hodeida, Yemen, May 26, 2019/ Khaled Abdullah | Reuters

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post For Fourth Year Saudi Barrages Bring Death and Loss to Yemeni Families on Eid appeared first on MintPress News.

LGBTQ Protest Under Fire from Zionists for Banning Pro-Israel Symbols

A “Dyke March” scheduled for Friday in Washington is under attack by Zionist groups for its ban on Israeli pride flags at the event.

Dyke marches are a tradition in the U.S. that typically precede regular pride marches: they are distinguishable because they tend to engage in direct action, such as dropping banners and blocking traffic, and the participants typically hold more radical politics.

In 2017, a group of activists with a pro-Israel lobbying group called A Wider Bridge instigated a massive scandal in the media after they went to the explicitly anti-Zionist Chicago Dyke March and unfurled Israeli flags with rainbows on them. After screaming at activists participating in the march, they were asked by organizers to ditch the flags.

What followed was a media firestorm and denunciations of the Chicago Dyke March by online influencers and journalists, claiming it was an example of anti-Semitism on the left. Their argument was that because the flags had Stars of David on them, they were symbols of queer Jewish identity.

At the time, the media told the story as though the women who disrupted the march were just regular participants, erasing their membership in A Wider Bridge. The lobbying group’s primary funders also bankroll anti-gay, anti-Muslim, and pro-settlement activists.

At the time, I argued in an opinion piece that the flags were not Jewish symbols; that there is no universal conception of the meaning of symbols — including the Star of David — nor are they dissociable from their material contexts. Thus, in that sense, a Star of David around a person’s neck is not a Zionist symbol but a Jewish one, whereas a Star of David painted on a boulder at a checkpoint in the illegally occupied West Bank is a Zionist symbol.

Zionism refers to the idea of Israel belonging to Jews as their exclusive, God-given right. Once a more religious movement, the creation of the Israeli state and its repeated land grabs, ethnic cleansings, and violations of human rights have rendered the movement one of far-right ethnonationalism.

Facing relentless charges of anti-Semitism over my view of the flag as a Zionist symbol, I wrote at the time: “My earliest experience with [the Star of David] was probably as a charm around my mother’s neck. In adulthood, it was on the tag of the yarmulke I would wear when I’d help make a minyan.” It was a distinction that I think was and still is important.

The context of the Star of David on a rainbow flag is one of Israel’s most vital symbols in its international Hasbara (a term for Israeli propaganda) campaign: that being Israel’s supposed friendliness to gay rights. Armed with talking points like that, apartheid Israel is able to get away with claiming that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, even though Palestinians don’t have equal rights and Benjamin Netanyahu currently occupies the positions of prime minister, defense minister, health minister, education minister and, for a brief period earlier this week, justice minister.

On Thursday, private messages between the DC Dyke March and a Jewish woman named AJ Campbell started making the rounds to journalists, likely having been forwarded to them by the woman. She asked the DC Dyke March whether she would be allowed to bring the Israeli pride flag. Following the lead of the Dyke March in Chicago, DC organizers deliberated internally and told her no.

 

Alleged anti-Semitic group stacked with Jews

MintPress News has confirmed that at least five organizers working with the DC Dyke March are Jewish, and some of them are central figures in the organizing process. Two have written an op-ed explaining their position. They note that symbols of Judaism are allowed, but symbols of “oppressive nationalism” are not. They write:

The Star of David represents more than just Israel when not on a flag and can be brought to the march in many other forms without question. It is not the only symbol available to us. We welcome yarmulkes, tallitot, tefillin, rainbow pomegranates, Lions of Judah, Hamsas, chai, a menorah and anything that doesn’t directly replicate nationalist images and symbols.”

One Jewish anti-Zionist organizer, Bethany Zaiman, spoke to MintPress News yesterday after reports started emerging of the ban. Zaiman elaborated on the reasons for the ban:

It’s a symbol of the Israeli state, not of all Jews everywhere but the Israeli state in particular, and the Israeli state is involved in military apartheid and occupying Palestinian land.

Pinkwashing is something that Israel has been famously a part of, which is where they embrace symbols of queer identity and queer liberation to prove they are a democratic state; that they’re welcoming and open. But it erases the existence of violent state regimes that they are also a part of and actually isn’t for queer liberation. Queer liberation has to involve all queers, including and especially Palestinian queers or it’s not really liberation.

The DC Dyke March has taken an anti-Zionist stance, which means we have asked that people not bring Israeli flags with rainbows on them. We’re asking people to not bring any signs of nationalist identity that overtly oppresses other people who may also be at the DC Dyke March.

It’s important to us that our identity as Jews is celebrated in a way that makes space for others, especially Palestinian dykes who will also be there tomorrow.”

“We stand on a long history of Jewish lesbian feminists who have done this sort of organizing work,” Zaiman added.

Bethany Zaiman @bzaiman says Zionist groups are painting the DC Dyke March as not inclusive of Jews & even anti-Semitic even though many Jews are involved. She says Israel uses queer symbols to try to prove they are open & democratic & distract from their military apartheid pic.twitter.com/zRLE4szTJA

— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) June 6, 2019

Despite the careful messaging, the DC Dyke March has been condemned as anti-Semitic. As can be seen with Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K., painting leftist critics of Israel as anti-Semites is a top priority of the super-powerful Hasbarist groups around the world

 

A well-coordinated opposition

A number of articles have already been published criticizing the DC Dyke March, including from major Jewish publications like The Forward, the Jerusalem Post and more. One op-ed from Julie Tagen, who does not disclose that she is Rep. Jamie Raskin’s (D-MD) chief of staff, states that she had worked with A Wider Bridge previously. She was also Deputy National Finance Director for the Democratic National Committee for a few years:

Several years ago, I had the privilege of going on one of A Wider Bridge’s LGBTQ Leadership Missions to Israel. A Wider Bridge is a North American organization that is building support for Israel and LGBTQ Israelis. I was able to build a personal rather than political relationship with Israel through my experience with A Wider Bridge.”

But her relationship isn’t entirely personal, it seems. She has shared articles claiming “I’m done apologizing for Israel,” “If you love Israel, don’t boycott it,” and “I stand with Israel.”

Meanwhile, A Wider Bridge has put out a statement attacking the DC Dyke March. The organization’s slogan: “Equality IN Israel and Equality FOR Israel.”

Signed on to the statement is AJ Campbell, the woman who initially corresponded with the march, learning that she could not bring the Israeli pride flags.

Campbell is the former director of Nice Jewish Girls and founder of the Jacob’s Tent Project, both of which are Jewish LGBTQ organizations with apparent Zionist leanings. Also signed on to the statement is Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Zioness Movement.

A Wider Bridge, the Zioness Movement, and the Jewish Democratic Council of America are planning a counter-protest to the DC Dyke March, encouraging people to bring banned flags and noting “We will have Zioness posters.”

The counter-protest planners say they will “show up proudly to fight” anti-Semitism.

Bethany Zaiman, one of the Jewish organizers working with the DC Dyke March, told MintPress News that they suspected they would face opposition. She says that the counter-protesters will find no anti-Semitism.

MintPress News will cover the march on Facebook Live and with videos on Twitter after 5:00pm EST.

Feature photo | Israelis attend a gay pride parade in Jerusalem, Sept. 18, 2014. Tsafrir Abayov | AP

Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News

The post LGBTQ Protest Under Fire from Zionists for Banning Pro-Israel Symbols appeared first on MintPress News.

As Suqaylabiyah: The Syrian Christian Town Near Idlib the West Has Never Heard Of

On the 12th of May, 2019, Jaish Al Izza — an armed affiliate of Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS) — an Al Qaeda rebrand that controls the majority of Idlib province and Northern Hama — targeted the Syrian Christian town of As Suqaylabiyah, situated on the border of terrorist-held areas.

The attacks came just after the Syrian Arab Army liberation of Qalaat Al Madiq, a town only 500 meters from As Suqaylabiyah. The civilians of As Suqaylabiyah had seen this advance by the SAA as a victory — many of the attacks on their town had emanated from Qalaat Al Madiq, a Nusra Front stronghold intermittently populated by other extremist groups, among them Jaish Al Islam, which was evacuated from Douma in April 2018, and Jaish Al Izza, the HTS/Nusra affiliate.

The Monastery in As Suqaylabiyah, frequently targeted by extremist militant groups in Northern Hama and Idlib. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

“We thought we could finally begin to breathe, that we could finally allow our children back out onto the streets of our city and into the schools again…,” one mother told me after the attacks.

The HTS terrorists targeted residential areas and the town’s monastery. Set high on the hill overlooking As Suqaylabiyah, the monastery doubled as a community center and school. HTS deliberately targeted the monastery, falsely claiming it to be a military center.

Families grieving the loss of children killed in As Suqaylabiyah, May 12, 2019. Photo | Gaith Al Abdullah

The HTS-linked Amjad News media channel reported on their Telegram group that “Jihadists targeted Skeilbiyyeh Operations room. Grad missiles achieved direct hits. 3 Shabiha killed.”

Shabiha is the derogatory term used by terrorist groups to describe anyone loyal to the Syrian government or army but in reality, it is used to excuse the murder of virtually anyone who does not adhere to the violent, sectarian ideology of many of Syria’s armed groups.

This callous dismissal of the deaths of innocent civilians and children is not only a common theme among the armed-groups’ media reports but is often mirrored in the Western press’ dismissal of civilians murdered by the militant groups they promote as rebels, government supporters or loyalists.

It is a familiar technique deployed to effectively dehumanize civilian deaths, in many cases to erase them from Western public consciousness, while amplifying the narrative that the Syrian government and Army are carrying out “unprovoked” attacks against civilians in areas under terrorist control. A prime example of this heinous information bias was the media reporting of the massacre in Rashideen in April 2017, when evacuees from the Nusra Front-besieged Idlib villages of Kafarya and Foua were massacred in the southern Aleppo district by a suicide truck attack.

I was present in Aleppo on the day of this horrific attack and interviewed survivors and families of the victims. I wrote a full report on the massacre in Rashideen and the media betrayal and politicization of the deaths of more than 100 civilians, the majority of them children. The following excerpt is taken from my article for 21st Century Wire where I expose the cynical CNN and Telegraph description of murdered children as “government supporters:”

Both CNN and the UK Telegraph were quick to dismiss the deaths among these persecuted minority communities inside Syria as a “hiccup” or the unfortunate demise of “supporters of Bashar Al Assad” – once more politicizing the death and mutilation of children to serve their narrative.The Telegraph edited its report after it was called out by RT for its cold-blooded dismissal of the murdered children as “government supporters” but a screenshot was taken beforehand.”

The four children killed in the HTS attack on As Suqaylabiyah on May 12, 2019. Photo | Gaith Al Abdullah

Four children — Bashar Nemeh, Jessica Karajian, Suhair Adnan and Engi Faisal Razouk — along with an adult woman, Hala Mkashkash, were murdered in the horrifying attack on As Suqaylabiyah, their young lives wiped out by Grad missiles almost certainly supplied to the extremist groups by the U.S or its allies.

Funeral of the four children killed in the HTS attacks on As Suqaylabiyah May 12, 2019. Photo | Salm photography

Five other children were injured by shrapnel, including Marcel, the brother of Bashar Nemeh, one of the children killed in the attack. Marcel suffered terrible head injuries and was rushed to Hama national hospital for emergency treatment. Just six days later, he succumbed to his wounds and died in the hospital.

The Nemeh brothers’ father was killed in 2014. He had joined the Syrian Arab Army to defend his country against the influx of Western-sponsored terrorist groups that began in 2011. Yasmeen Zarrouf, their mother, was left entirely alone in the world, her husband and two precious boys torn from her life in a war that has been enabled and sustained by Western media, governments and aligned institutions.

Marcel and Bashar, two of the children killed in the HTS attack on As Suqaylabiyah, May 2019, and their father, killed in 2014 fighting Western-backed militants in Syria. Photo | As Suqaylabiyah Facebook page

I have visited As Suqaylabiyah many times over the last year and have personally experienced a number of the attacks on the town by the HTS-dominated terrorist groups embedded in the surrounding countryside. In September 2018, As Suqaylabiyah and the neighboring town of Mhardeh were targeted with prohibited ground-launched cluster munitions and Grad missiles. In Mhardeh, 13 civilians were killed in the attack, another massacre that barely registered in Western reporting.

The shock that resonated throughout As Suqaylabiyah after the deaths of four children in May 2019 was unprecedented. I visited the town about a week after the attack. Mothers spoke to me of their grief and fears. Exams were about to begin and children would have to be gathered in the school every morning for a number of days. The panic was palpable. For days, the children would be sitting targets and the terrorists would clearly not hesitate to strike at the heart of the community in their long-standing efforts to drive these steadfast people from their land.

Relatives of the children killed in an HTS attack light candles in the streets of the Old City in As Suqaylabiyah. Photo | Ghaith AlAbdullah

Hundreds of candles were lit, illuminating the streets that the martyred children used to play in. Mothers, siblings who would never see their loved ones again stood by the flickering lights that were all that remained of the laughter that had echoed only a few days before in the narrow streets where the children rode their bicycles and kicked their football against the missile-scarred stone walls.

The funeral of Marcel Nemeh, six days after his mother buried his brother, Bashar Nemeh, May, 2019. Photo | Ghaith AlAbdullah

The funeral of Marcel Nemeh, just six days after his mother had buried his brother, was another brutal blow to the already traumatized citizens of the town. I spoke to a friend of Yasmeen, Marcel’s mother, who told me that this was a dark time for a mother whose world had been left a bottomless pit of despair and loss. These children have not been honored or even registered in any Western press, they have been ignored and dismissed like so many before them.

A memorial to the child martyrs in As Suqaylabiyah. Photo | Ghaith AlAbdullah

The grief of the entire town has been “disappeared” in the West, while in As Suqaylabiyah the images of the children join those of the more than 106 victims of terrorist attacks, whose photographs line the walls of the town in honor of the volunteer National Defence Forces (NDF) and other civilians whose lives have been lost defending the town against terrorist attacks since 2011.

Children killed in As Suqaylabiyah are immortalized in a memorial to the 106 residents of the town killed since 2011. Photo | Ghaith AlAbdullah

This recent intensification of attacks against As Suqaylabiyah has led to the establishment of a local initiative to train the wives and female relatives of those killed as snipers to defend the town against the increasing threat of an armed invasion by militants, as the Syrian Arab Army pushes them out of the so-called “deconfliction” zones established by Russia and Turkey in September 2018.

Turkey has repeatedly violated the agreement that led to the creation of the “deconfliction” zones.  They have established military points inside Idlib and have systematically been reinforcing armed extremist groups with military operatives, weapons and equipment. As Suqaylabiyah, Mhardeh, surrounding villages, and even West Aleppo have been repeatedly targeted by armed groups in the faux “deconfliction” zones, where terrorists are still using heavy weapons that were supposed to have been removed as part of the  Russian/Turkish Sochi agreement.

I spoke to a group of female snipers in As Suqaylabiyah, their names withheld for their own security. Each spoke to me about the martyrdom of her husband, son or brother and told me that the taking up of arms gave them all a sense of purpose, a way to turn their loss into constructive, defensive action, a way to serve their town and to support the young men from the town who volunteered in the NDF.

I could not help feeling a deep sadness that women my age and younger should feel that the only way to assuage their grief was to fight in a senseless war not of their making — but this is Syria, where time and time again I am told that every Syrian will take up arms to defend their country against international terrorism.

What many people in the West are unaware of, thanks to the deliberate misrepresentation by their state-aligned media, is that the Syrian Arab Army is the Syrian people. It is an inclusive conscript army, its soldiers come from every sect and community across Syria. They are a reflection of Syria’s secular society in total contrast to the grim sectarian composition of the extremist forces promoted by the West as “freedom and democracy fighters”.

Members of the National Defence Forces and their commander, Nabel Alabdalla (center) carry children’s coffins through the city. Photo | Salm Photography

The National Defence Forces of As Suqaylabiyah were among the coffin bearers on the day of the funeral of the child martyrs. These young men and their Commander, Nabel Alabdalla, have defended their town and their country for eight years. Many have sacrificed their lives so their families and the people of Syria may survive this war with their secular state intact.

They are of the people, for the people. Any media narrative that fails to defend these Syrian soldiers who are fighting international terrorism on behalf of their people and their homeland is heinously misrepresenting the conflict and the Syrian military role in removing the Western-incubated terrorist cancer from this world, in my opinion.

Commander of the As Suqaylabiyah National Defense Forces, Nabel Alabdalla. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

As Nabel Alabdalla said to me after one Grad missile attack on the town:

We confirm that we always carry the candles of love and peace in one hand and the other hand is on the trigger of our gun. We will never leave this land.”

This is Syria.

Feature photo | Families grieving the loss of children killed in As Suqaylabiyah, May 12, 2019. Photo | Salm Photography

Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist, peace activist, photographer and associate editor at 21st Century Wire. Vanessa was a finalist for one of the most prestigious journalism awards – the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism – whose winners have included the likes of Robert Parry in 2017, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Nick Davies and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism team. You can support Vanessa’s journalism through her Patreon Page.

The post As Suqaylabiyah: The Syrian Christian Town Near Idlib the West Has Never Heard Of appeared first on MintPress News.

The Trust Project: Big Media and Silicon Valley’s Weaponized Algorithms Silence Dissent

After the failure of Newsguard — the news rating system backed by a cadre of prominent neoconservative personalities — to gain traction among American tech and social media companies, another organization has quietly stepped in to direct the news algorithms of tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.

Though different from Newsguard, this group, known as “The Trust Project,” has a similar goal of restoring “trust” in corporate, mainstream media outlets, relative to independent alternatives, by applying “trust indicators” to social-media news algorithms in a decidedly untransparent way. The funding of “The Trust Project” — coming largely from big tech companies like Google; government-connected tech oligarchs like Pierre Omidyar; and the Knight Foundation, a key Newsguard investor — suggests that an ulterior motive in its tireless promotion of “traditional” mainstream media outlets is to limit the success of dissenting alternatives.

Of particular importance is the fact that the Trust Project’s “trust indicators” are already being used to control what news is promoted and suppressed by top search engines like Google and Bing and massive social-media networks like Facebook. Though the descriptions of these “trust indicators” — eight of which are currently in use — are publicly available, the way they are being used by major tech and social media companies is not.

The Trust Project’s goal is to increase public trust in the very same traditional media outlets that Newsguard favored and to use HTML-embedded codes in favored news articles to promote their content at the expense of independent alternatives. Even if its effort to promote “trust” in establishment media fail, its embedded-code hidden within participating news sites allow those establishment outlets to skirt the same algorithms currently targeting their independent competition, making such issues of “trust” largely irrelevant as it moves to homogenize the online media landscape in favor of mainstream media.  

The Trust Project’s director, Sally Lehrman, made it clear that, in her view, the lack of public trust in mainstream media and its declining readership is the result of unwanted “competition by principle-free enterprises [that] further undermines its [journalism’s] very role and purpose as an engine for democracy.”

 

Getting to know the Trust Project

The Trust Project describes itself as “a consortium of top news companies” involved in developing “transparency standards that help you easily assess the quality and credibility of journalism.” It has done this by creating what it calls “Trust Indicators,” which the project’s website describes as “a digital standard that meets people’s needs.” However, far from meeting “people’s needs,” the Trust Indicators seem aimed at manipulating search engine and social-media news algorithms to the benefit of the project’s media partners, rather than to the benefit of the general public.

The origins of the Trust Project date back to a 2012 “roundtable” hosted by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, a center funded by former Apple CEO Mike Markkula. That roundtable became known as the Roundtable on Digital Journalism Ethics and was created by journalist Sally Lehrman, then working at the Markkula Center, in connection with the New Media Executive Roundtable and Online Credibility Watch of the Society of Professional Journalists. Lehrman has explicitly stated that the Trust Project is open only to “news organizations that adhere to traditional standards.”

The specific idea that spurred the creation of the Trust Project itself was born at a 2014 meeting of that roundtable, when Lehrman “asked a specialist in machine learning at Twitter, and Richard Gingras, head of Google News, if algorithms could be used to support ethics instead of hurting them, and they said yes. Gingras agreed to collaborate.” In other words, the idea behind the Trust Project, from the start, was aimed at gaming search-engine and social-media algorithms in collusion with major tech companies like Google and Twitter.

Sally Lehrman discusses the Trust Project at 2018 WordCamp For Publishers

As the Trust Project itself notes, the means of altering algorithms were developed in tandem with tech-giant executives like Gingras and “top editors in the industry from 80 news outlets and institutions,” all of which are corporate, mainstream media outlets. Notably, the Trust Project’s media partners, involved in creating these new “standards” for news algorithms, include major publications owned by wealthy oligarchs: the Washington Post, owned by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos; the Economist, directed by the wealthy Rothschild family; and the Globe and Mail, owned by Canada’s richest family, the Thomsons, who also own Thomson Reuters. Other Trust Project partners include The New York Times, Mic, Hearst Television, the BBC and the USA Today network.

Other major outlets are represented on the News Leadership Council of the Markkula Center, including the Financial Times, Gizmodo Media, and The Wall Street Journal. That council — which also includes Gingras and Andrew Anker, Facebook’s Director of Product Management — “guides the Trust Project on our Trust Indicators.”

These “Trust Indicators” are the core of the Trust Project’s activities and reveal one of the key mechanisms through which Google, Twitter and Facebook have been altering their algorithms to favor outlets with good “Trust Indicator” scores. Trust Indicators, on their face, are aimed at making news publications “more transparent” as a means of generating increased trust with the public. Though a total of 37 have been developed, it appears only eight of them are currently being used.

These eight indicators are listed and described by the Trust Project as follows:

  • Best Practices: What are the news outlet’s standards? Who funds it? What is the outlet’s mission? Plus commitments to ethics, diverse voices, accuracy, making corrections and other standards.
  • Author/Reporter Expertise: Who made this? Details about the journalist, including their expertise and other stories they have worked on.
  • Type of Work: What is this? Labels to distinguish opinion, analysis and advertiser (or sponsored) content from news reports.
  • Citations and References: What’s the source? For investigative or in-depth stories, access to the sources behind the facts and assertions.
  • Methods: How was it built? Also for in-depth stories, information about why reporters chose to pursue a story and how they went about the process.
  • Locally Sourced? Was the reporting done on the scene, with deep knowledge about the local situation or community? Lets you know when the story has local origin or expertise.
  • Diverse Voices: What are the newsroom’s efforts and commitments to bringing in diverse perspectives? Readers noticed when certain voices, ethnicities, or political persuasions were missing.
  • Actionable Feedback: Can we participate? A newsroom’s efforts to engage the public’s help in setting coverage priorities, contributing to the reporting process, ensuring accuracy and other areas. Readers want to participate and provide feedback that might alter or expand a story.

How the Trust Project makes these indicators available to the public can be seen in its new project, the Newsroom Transparency Tracker, where it provides a table of “transparency” for participating media outlets. Notably, that table conflates actual transparency practices with simply providing the Trust Project with outlet policies and guidelines related to the above indicators.

For example, The Economist gets a perfect transparency “score” for having provided the Trust Project links to its ethics policy, mission statement and other information requested by the project. However, the fact that those policies exist and are provided to the Trust Project does not mean that the publication’s policies are, in fact, transparent or ethical in terms of their content or in practice. The fact that The Economist provided links to its policies does not make the publication more transparent, but — in the context of the Newsroom Transparency Tracker’s table — it provides the appearance of transparency, though such policy disclosures by The Economist are unlikely to translate into any changes to its well-known biases and slanted reporting towards certain issues.

 

Trust Indicators manipulate big tech algorithms

The true power of the Trust Indicators comes in a form that is not visible to the general public. These Trust Indicators, while occasionally displayed on partner websites, are also coupled with “machine-readable signals” embedded in the HTML code of participating websites and articles used by Facebook, Google, Bing and Twitter. As Lehrman noted in a 2017 article, the Trust Project was then “already working with these four companies, all of which have said they want to use our indicators to prioritize honest, well-reported news over fakery and falsehood.” Gingras of Google News also noted that the Trust Indicators are used by Google as “cues to help search engines better understand and rank results … [and] to help the myriad algorithmic systems that mold our media lives.”

A press release from the Trust Project last year further underscores the importance of the embedded “indicators” to alter social-media and search-engine algorithms:

While each Indicator is visible to users on the pages of the Project’s news partners, it is also embedded in the article and site code for machines to read — providing the first, standardized technical language that offers contextual information about news sites’ commitments to transparency.”

Despite claiming to increase public knowledge of “news sites’ commitments to transparency,” the way that major tech companies like Google and Facebook are using these indicators is anything but transparent. Indeed, it is largely unknown how these indicators are used, though there are a few clues.

For instance, CBS News cited Craig Newmark — the billionaire founder of Craigslist, who provided the Trust Project’s seed funding — as suggesting that “Google’s search algorithm could rank trusted sources above others in search results” by using the project’s Trust Indicators.

Last year, the Trust Project stated that Bing used “the ‘Type of Work’ Trust Indicator to display whether an article is news, opinion or analysis.” It also stated that “when Facebook launched its process to index news Pages, they worked with the Trust Project to make it easy for any publisher to add optional information about their Page.” In Google’s case, Gingras was quoted as saying that Google News uses the indicators “to assess the relative authoritativeness of news organizations and authors. We’re looking forward to developing new ways to use the indicators.”

Notably, the machine-readable version of these Trust Indicators is available only to participating institutions, which are currently corporate, mainstream publications. Though WordPress and Drupal plug-ins are being developed to make those embedded signals to search engines and social media available to smaller publishers, it will be made available only to “qualified publishers,” a determination that will presumably be made by the Trust Project and its associates.

Richard Gingras, in a statement made in 2017, noted that “the indicators can help our algorithms better understand authoritative journalism — and help us to better surface it to consumers.” Thus, it is abundantly clear that these indicators, which are embedded only into “qualified” and “authoritative” news websites, will be used to slant search-engine and social-media news algorithms in favor of establishment news websites.

The bottom line is that these embedded and exclusive indicators allow certain news outlets to avoid the crushing effects of recent algorithm changes that have seen traffic to many news websites, including MintPress, plummet in recent years. This is leading towards a homogenization of the online news landscape by starving independent competitors of web traffic while Trust Project-approved outlets are given an escape valve through algorithm manipulation.

 

The tech billionaires behind the Trust Project

Given the Trust Project’s rich-get-richer impact on the online news landscape, it is not surprising to find that it is funded by rich and powerfl figures and forces with a clear stake in controlling the flow of news and information online.

According to its website, the Trust Project currently receives funding from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Google, Facebook, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (often abbreviated as the Knight Foundation), and the Markkula Foundation. Its website also states that Google was “an early financial supporter” and that it had originally been funded by Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist. As previously mentioned, the Trust Project’s co-founder is Richard Gingras, current Google vice president of News. The Trust Project’s website described Gingras’s current role with the organization as “a powerful evangelist” who “can always be counted upon for expert advice and encouragement.” Newmark’s current role at the Trust Project is described as that of a “funder and valued connector.”

Google VP Richard Gingras testifies at a British Committee Hearing on “Fake News”

Newmark, through Craig Newmark Philanthropies, who provided the initial funding for the Trust Project, and has also funded other related initiatives like the News Integrity Initiative at the City University of New York, which shares many of the same financiers as the Trust Project, including Facebook, Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, and the Knight Foundation. The Trust Project is listed as a collaborator of the News Integrity Initiative. Newmark is also very active in several news-related NGOs with similar overlap. For instance, he sits on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a longtime recipient of massive grants from the Omidyar Network, and Politifact.com, which is funded in part by Omidyar’s Democracy Fund.

Newmark is currently working with Vivian Schiller as his “strategic adviser” in his media investments. Schiller is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, former head of news at Twitter, and a veteran of well-known mainstream outlets like NPR, CNN, The New York Times and NBC News. She is also a director of the Scott Trust, which owns The Guardian.

The Markkula Foundation, one of the key funders of the Trust Project, exercises considerable influence over the organization through the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, which originally incubated the organization and whose News Leadership Council plays an important role at the Trust Project. That council’s membership includes representatives of Facebook, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Financial Times and Google, and “guides the Trust Project on our Trust Indicators and advises on core issues related to information literacy and rebuilding trust in journalism within a fractious, so-called post-fact environment.”

Both the Markkula Foundation and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics were founded by A. M. “Mike” Markkula, former CEO of Apple. The Markkula Center’s Journalism Ethics program is currently headed by Subramaniam Vincent, a former software engineer and consultant for Intel and Cisco Systems who has worked to bring together big data with local journalism and is an advocate for the use of “ethical-AI [artificial intelligence] to ingest, sort, and classify news.”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is another interesting funder of the Trust Project, given that this same foundation is also a key investor in Newsguard, the controversial, biased news rating system with deep connections to government insiders and self-described government propagandists. There is considerable overlap between Newsguard and the Trust Project, with the latter citing Newsguard as a partner and also stating that Newsguard’s demonstrably biased ratings use the project’s “trust indicators” in its full-length reviews of news websites, which Newsguard calls “nutrition labels.” In addition, becoming a Trust Project participant is a factor that “supports a positive evaluation” from Newsguard, according to a press release from last year.

Notably, Sally Lehrman, who leads the Trust Project, described the project’s trust indicators for news as ”along the lines of a nutrition label on a package of food” when the Trust Project was created nearly a year before Newsguard launched, suggesting some intellectual overlap.

A previous MintPress exposé revealed Newsguard’s numerous conflicts of interest and a ratings system strongly biased in favor of well-known, traditional media outlets — even when those outlets have a dubious track record of promoting so-called “fake news.” It should come as no surprise that the Trust Project’s goal is to increase public trust in the very same traditional media outlets that Newsguard favored and to use HTML-embedded codes in news articles to promote their content at the expense of independent alternatives.

 

A familiar face in the war against independent media

The Democracy Fund, another top funder of the Trust Project and a bipartisan foundation that was established by eBay founder and PayPal owner Omidyar in 2011 “out of deep respect for the U.S. Constitution and our nation’s core democratic values.” It is a spin-off of the Omidyar Network and, after splitting off as an independent company in 2014, became a member of the Omidyar Group. The fund’s National Advisory Committee includes former Bush and Obama administration officials and representatives of Facebook, Microsoft, NBC News, ABC News and Gizmodo Media group.

The Democracy Fund’s involvement in the Trust Project is notable because of the other media projects it funds, such as the new media empire of arch-neoconservative Bill Kristol, who has a long history of creating and disseminating falsehoods that have been used to justify the U.S. war in Iraq and other hawkish foreign policy stances. As a recent MintPress series revealed, Omidyar’s Democracy Fund provides financial support to Kristol’s Defending Democracy Together initiative and also supports Kristol’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund think tank that is best known for its cryptic Hamilton68 “Russian bot” dashboard. Omidyar’s Democracy Fund has also donated to the German Marshall Fund’s Defending Digital Democracy project and directly to the German Marshall Fund itself. In addition, Charles Sykes, a co-founder and editor-at-large of Kristol’s new publication The Bulwark, is on the Democracy Fund’s National Advisory Committee.

An acolyte of Kristol’s who works at the German Marshall Fund, Jamie Fly, stated last October that the coordinated social-media purges of independent media pages known for their criticisms of U.S. empire and U.S. police violence was “just the beginning” and hinted that the German Marshall Fund had a hand in past social media purges and, presumably, a role in future purges. Thus, the Democracy Fund’s links to neoconservatives who promote the censoring of independent media sites that are critical of militaristic U.S. foreign policy jibe with the fund’s underlying interest in the Trust Project.

Omidyar’s involvement with the Trust Project is interesting for another reason, namely that Omidyar is the main backer behind the efforts of the controversial Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to become a key driver of which outlets are censored by Silicon Valley tech giants. The ADL was initially founded to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all” but critics say that over the years it has begun labeling critics of Israel’s government as “anti-Semites.”

For example, content that characterizes Israeli policies towards Palestinians as “racist” or “apartheid-like” is considered “hate speech” by the ADL, as is accusing Israel of war crimes or attempted ethnic cleansing. The ADL has even described explicitly Jewish organizations that are critical of Israel’s government as being “anti-Semitic.”

In March 2017, the Omidyar Network provided the “critical seed capital” need to launch the ADL’s “new Silicon Valley center aimed at tackling this rising wave of intolerance and to collaborate more closely with technology companies to promote democracy and social justice.” That Omidyar-funded ADL center allowed the ADL to team up with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft — all of whom also collaborate with the Trust Project — to create a Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab. Since then, these companies and their subsidiaries, including Google’s YouTube, have relied on the ADL to flag “controversial” content.

Given the fact that the Trust Project shares with the ADL a key funder (Pierre Omidyar) and several external tech partners, it remains to be seen whether there is overlap between how major tech companies like Google and Facebook use the Trust Indicators in its algorithms and the influence of the ADL on those very same algorithms.

 

Outsourcing censorship

Of course, the most interesting and troubling donors of the Trust Project are Google and Facebook, both of which are using the very project they fund as a “third party” to justify their manipulation of newsfeed and search-engine algorithms. Google’s intimate involvement from the very inception of the Trust Project tags it as an extension of Google that has since been marketed as an “independent” organization tasked with justifying algorithm changes that favor certain news outlets over others.

Facebook, similarly, funds the Trust Project and also employs the “trust indicators” it funds to alter its newsfeed algorithm. Facebook’s other partners in altering this algorithm include the Atlantic Council — funded by the U.S. government, NATO, and weapons manufacturers, among others — and Facebook has also directly teamed up with foreign governments, such as the government of Israel, to suppress accurate yet dissenting information that the government in question wanted removed from the social-media platform.

The murkiness between “private” censorship, censorship by tech oligarchs, and censorship by government is particularly marked in the Trust Project. The private financiers of the Trust Project that also use its product to promote certain news content over others — namely Google and Facebook — have ties to the U.S. government, with Google being a government contractor and Facebook sporting a growing body of former-government officials in top company positions, including a co-author of the controversial Patriot Act as the company’s general counsel.

A similar tangle surrounds Pierre Omidyar, funder of the Trust Project through the Democracy Fund, who is extremely well-connected to the U.S. government, especially the military-industrial complex and intelligence communities. And partnering with media outlets like the Washington Post, whose owner is Jeff Bezos, spawns more conflicts of interests, given that Bezos’ company, Amazon, is also a major U.S. government contractor.

This growing nexus binding Silicon Valley companies and oligarchs, mainstream media outlets and the government suggests that these entities have increasingly similar and complementary interests, among which is the censorship of independent watchdog journalists and news outlets that seek to challenge their power and narratives.

The Trust Project was created as a way of outsourcing censorship of independent news sites while attempting to salvage the tattered reputation of mainstream media outlets and return the U.S. and international media landscape to years past when such outlets were able to dominate the narrative.

While it seems unlikely that’s its initiatives will succeed in restoring trust to mainstream media given the many recent and continuing examples of those same “traditional” media outlets circulating fake news and failing to cover crucial aspects of events, the Trust Project’s development of hidden algorithm-altering codes in participating websites shows that its real goal is not about improving public trust but about providing a facade of independence to Silicon Valley censorship of independent media outlets that speak truth to power.

Feature photo |  Trust Project founder Sally Lehrman speaks at the 2018 organization of News Ombudsmen conference. Photo | ONO

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

The post The Trust Project: Big Media and Silicon Valley’s Weaponized Algorithms Silence Dissent appeared first on MintPress News.

Facing the Facts: Israel Cannot Escape ICC Jurisdiction

The Chief Military Advocate General of the Israeli army, Sharon Afek, and the US Department of Defense General Counsel, Paul Ney, shared a platform at the ‘International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict’, which took place in Herzliya, Israel between May 28-30.

Their panel witnessed some of the most misconstrued interpretations of international law ever recorded. It was as if Afek and Ney were literally making up their own law on warfare and armed conflict, with no regard to what international law actually stipulates.

Unsurprisingly, both Afek and Ney agreed on many things, including that Israel and the US are blameless in all of their military conflicts, and that they will always be united against any attempt to hold them accountable for war crimes by the International Court of Justice (ICC).

Their tirade against the ICC mirrors that of their own leaders. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-ICC position is familiar, last April, US President Donald Trump virulently expressed his contempt for the global organization and everything it represents.   

“Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response,” Trump said in a writing on April 12.

While Trump’s (and Netanyahu’s) divisive language is nothing new, Afek and Ney were entrusted with the difficult task of using legal language to explain their countries’ aversion for international law.

Prior to the Herzliya Conference, Afek addressed the Israel Bar Association convention in Eilat on May 26. Here, too, he made some ludicrous claims as he absolved, in advance, Israeli soldiers who kill Palestinians.

“A soldier who is in a life-threatening situation and acts to defend himself (or) others (he) is responsible for, is receiving and will continue receiving full back-up from the Israeli army,” he said.

The above assertion appears far more sinister once we remember Afek’s views on what constitutes a “life-threatening situation”, as he had articulated in Herzliya a few days later.

“Thousands of Gaza’s residents (try) to breach the border fence,” he said, with reference to the non-violent March of Return at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel.

The Gaza protesters “are led by a terrorist organization that deliberately uses civilians to carry out attacks,” Afek said.

Afek sees unarmed protests in Gaza as a form of terrorism, thus concurring with an earlier statement made by then-Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on April 8, 2018, when he declared that “there are no innocents in Gaza.”

Palestinians shot in the legs during protests at the Gaza border with Israel await treatment at a Gaza City clinic run by Doctors Without Borders. Felipe Dana | AP

Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy, however, is not confined to the Gaza Strip but is also implemented with the same degree of violent enthusiasm in the West Bank.

‘No attacker, male or female, should make it out of any attack alive,’ Lieberman said in 2015. His orders were followed implicitly, as hundreds of Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Jerusalem for allegedly trying to attack Israeli occupation soldiers or armed illegal Jewish settlers.

Unlike democratic political systems everywhere, in Israel, the occupation soldier becomes the interpreter and enforcer of the law.

Putting this policy into practice in Gaza is even more horrendous as unarmed protesters are often being killed by Israeli snipers from long distances. Even journalists and medics have not been spared the same tragic fate as the hundreds of civilians who were killed since the start of the protests in March 2018.

Last February, the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Gaza’s protests concluded that “it has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”

In his attack on the ICC at the Herzliya Conference, Afek contended that “Israel is a law-abiding country, with an independent and strong judicial system, and there is no reason for its actions to be scrutinized by the ICC.”

The Israeli General goes on to reprimand the ICC by urging it to focus on “dealing with the main issues for which it was founded.”

Has Afek even read the Rome Statute? The first Article states that the ICC has the “power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute.”

Article 5 elaborates the nature of these serious crimes, which include: “(a) The crime of genocide; (b) Crimes against humanity; (c) War crimes; (d) The crime of aggression.”

Israel has been accused of at least two of these crimes – war crimes and crimes against humanity – repeatedly, including in the February report by the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry.

Afek may argue that none of this is relevant to Israel, for the latter is not “a party to the Rome Statute,” therefore, does not fall within ICC’s legal jurisdiction.

Wrong again.

Ayman Hamed, 18 was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers for allegedly throwing stones in Ramallah, Jan. 26, 2019. Nasser Nasser | AP

Article 12 of the Rome Statute allows for ICC’s jurisdiction in two cases; first, if the State in which the alleged crime has occurred is itself a party of the Statute and, second, if the State where the crime has occurred agrees to submit itself to the jurisdiction of the court.

While it is true that Israel is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, Palestine has, since 2015, agreed to submit itself to the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Moreover, in April 2015, the State of Palestine formally became a member of the ICC, thus giving the court jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed in the Occupied Territories since June 13 2014. These crimes include human rights violations carried out during the Israeli war on Gaza in July-August of the same year.

Afek’s skewed understanding of international law went unchallenged at the Herzliya Conference, as he was flanked by equally misguided interpreters of international law.

However, nothing proclaimed by Israel’s top military prosecutor or his government will alter the facts. Israeli war crimes must not go unpunished; Israel’s judicial system is untrustworthy and the ICC has the legal right and moral duty to carry out the will of the international community and hold to account those responsible for war crimes anywhere, including Israel.

Feature photo | A Palestinian boy looks at a damage after an Israeli raid killed Ashraf Naalweh in the Asker refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus, Dec. 13, 2018. Majdi Mohammed | AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a widely published and translated author, an internationally syndicated columnist and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter (2015), and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB. Visit his website at  www.ramzybaroud.net.

The post Facing the Facts: Israel Cannot Escape ICC Jurisdiction appeared first on MintPress News.

The US is Waging a Quiet Scientific War Against Iran

Science diplomacy has long been recognized as one of the most powerful reconciliation tools and has a proven track record in building bridges and helping pave the way for cooperation on broader issues, especially between politically opposed countries. Over the past few decades, successive American administrations, along with experts and scientists, including those at the National Academies, have traditionally encouraged greater scientific exchange and collaboration.

In 1961 John F. Kennedy established a science cooperation agreement with Japan, following appeals to repair the broken dialogue between the two countries’ intellectual communities after World War II. That agreement helped round out a tenuous relationship at the time, rooted only in security concerns. In the 1970s, US diplomats took several science initiatives during their talks with China, and when official diplomatic ties were established in 1979, science played a big role in the shaping of renewed efforts.

At the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union had a number of programs facilitating collaboration and exchange between the two countries’ scientific and technical communities. The science diplomacy again gained popularity during the administration of Barack Obama. In 2009, President Obama called for partnership during his “A New Beginning” speech in Cairo, Egypt. These partnerships would include a greater focus on engagement of the Muslim world through science, technology, and innovation building and connecting scientists from the US to scientists in Muslim-majority countries.

 

US-Iranian scientific cooperation

Iran, the country whose scientific output is reported to be the fastest in the world over the last four decades, is no exception to the aforementioned form of collaboration and globalization of science. Iranians welcome scientists from all over the world to Iran for a visit and participation in seminars, scientific associations, or collaborations. Many Nobel laureates and influential scientists such as Bruce Alberts, F. Sherwood Rowland, Kurt Wüthrich, Stephen Hawking, and Pierre-Gilles de Gennes visited Iran before and after the Iranian revolution. Some universities also hosted American and European scientists as guest lecturers.

Although sanctions have caused a shift in Iran’s trading partners from West to East, scientific collaboration has remained largely oriented towards the West. Over the last two decades, Iran’s top partners for scientific collaboration were the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany, in that order. Iranian and American scientists have coauthored thousands of articles in scientific publications.

This collaboration has been fostered through a number of mechanisms; in the United States, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have advanced these efforts. These organizations have fostered formal and informal exchange of scientists, clinicians, bioethicists, and others, resulting in collaborative research that has contributed to important gains in knowledge of a range of medical and health conditions and concerns.

Sami Erol Gelenbe, right, and Amin Shokrollahi receive lran’s $500,000 Mustafa Science & Tech award at ceremony in Tehran, Dec. 3, 2017. Vahid Salemi | AP

The NAS prioritized foodborne illness, with particular attention to disease surveillance and approaches to addressing food contamination. The activities comprised workshops, joint planning meetings, individual exchanges, and a three-year pilot project related to food-borne disease surveillance carried out in Iran. More than 500 scientists representing 80 institutions in the United States and Iran were involved during the first decade of the initiative. The NAS also reports that hundreds of additional scientists in the two countries met with their scientific peers during the visits and that thousands of others were present, in person or virtually, at scientific lectures.

Another important area of cooperation is on researching stem cells. The relevant announcement was made in 2002 by Ali Khamenei, who praised research on surplus embryos created as part of fertility experiments as a lofty mission that could help Iran and the Islamic world reclaim its position as a globally important player. The result has been that scientists have had the freedom to conduct experiments that are rather envied by many in the United States, for example, where comparable research has been precluded by the interventions of conservative and influential religious figures.

Iranian scientists thus enjoy a level of freedom in their scientific endeavors not typically seen even in the programs of larger Western countries, due to the regulatory practices of those countries and questions surrounding the ethical viability of using embryonic stem cells for research purposes. The American-like debates surrounding the relationship between conception and life are not found in the Iranian stem cell community.

According to data released by Iran’s Vice-Presidency for Science and Technology, by the end of 2016, Iran ranked 20th in the world with a total number of 6,360 scientific papers in the field of stem cell sciences and regenerative medicine including cell therapy, gene therapy, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, tissue engineering, and biomaterials. In terms of published papers in the field of stem cell sciences and regenerative medicine, Iran is ranked first in the Middle East and Islamic world.

“It’s remarkable that they were able to do what they’ve done,” Konrad Hochedlinger of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital said in 2009. Even with their limited infrastructure, Iranian scientists have managed to isolate six human and eight mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) lines over the past decade, and then successfully turn these cells into functional pancreatic, heart, splenic, and liver cells.

Iran was the 10th country in the world to successfully isolate human ESCs in 2003, and the fifth country to reprogram human skin cells to an embryonic-like state to create so-called induced pluripotent stem cells in 2008. Other landmark achievements include the application of stem cell therapy for treating the spinal cord injury, coaxing human ESCs to become mature, insulin-producing cells in 2004, cloning the country’s first sheep at the Royan Institute in 2006, conducting the world’s first human ESC proteomics study in 2006, the use of bone marrow cells to repair the cornea, and a new method to speed up tissue recovery in cornea transplant operations. More interestingly, under Iran’s highest political and religious authority Barkat Pharmaceutical Group, a substituent of Headquarters for Executing the Order of Imam Khomeini (EIKO) or Setad, in cooperation with Royan Institute in 2014 established CellTech Pharmed to meet the ongoing demands for stem cell therapy in Iran. It is a recognized leader in the manufacturing and distribution of cell-based therapies that is developing a therapeutic stem cell platform technology using discoveries made at the Royan Institute and Barakat Pharmaceutical Group.

 

Lured and detained: the case of Masoud Soleimani

Top Iranian stem cell scientist Dr. Masoud Soleimani, a professor and biomedical researcher at the Tarbiat Modares University (TMU) in Tehran, was one of numerous Iranian scientists who freely cooperated with their US counterparts. In mid-2018, Soleimani had been invited by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to conduct a research program and to undertake a six-month study there, so he left for the US on 22 October 2018.

However, upon arriving at the Chicago airport, his horror had begun. He was immediately arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), his visa was canceled and he was transferred to Dayton prison in Atlanta, Georgia for unspecified reasons. According to Leonard Franco, his Atlanta attorney, Soleimani has since been held behind bars without bond. Neither the FBI nor the US prosecutors have so far officially commented on his detention. During Soleimani’s sole court appearance on 14 May, he was told he was charged with “trying to transfer some ‘growth hormone vials’ via two students to Iran.”

Soleimani’s attorney also revealed that Byung Jin Pak, the US attorney in Atlanta, secured Soleimani’s indictment on 12 June 2018, just a month after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, and Soleimani had been fully unaware of such an indictment when he flew to the US. Franco said that Soleimani’s treatment by federal authorities, the revocation of his visa and the decision to detain him without bond doesn’t square with Soleimani’s international reputation as a scholar, professor, and doctor widely known in the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Soleimani has no criminal history anywhere in the world.

Well-known Iranian stem cell researcher Masoud Soleimani

Franco and Page Pate, another Atlanta lawyer, said that they had been puzzled by the federal government’s decision to prosecute Soleimani and two of his former students, Mahboobe Ghaedi and Maryam Jazayeri, for purported trade sanction violations over eight vials of human growth hormone. The hormone, which is a form of synthetic protein, was seized from Jazayeri in 2016 by customs authorities in Atlanta when she was heading to Iran to give it to Soleimani for research purposes. Jazayeri had received the hormone from Ghaedi.

The seizure occurred at a time when Washington was still a signatory to the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) and anti-Iran sanctions had not been reimposed yet. The growth hormone is not banned in the US or Iran and was being used exclusively for medical research, which is still considered largely exempt from US sanctions, Franco said. However, Ghaedi and Jazayeri faced similar federal charges for attempting to supply Soleimani with the growth hormone. Ghaedi is a permanent American resident and an assistant professor at Yale University’s School of Medicine, and Jazayeri is a naturalized US citizen and Kentucky resident and has conducted medical research at the University of Louisville. Both are currently free on $250,000 and $200,000 bond, respectively. Pate, who represents Jazayeri, said his client was “completely confused by all this.”

Franco also stated that he “truly don’t understand the government’s decision to prosecute,” adding that it appeared to be “some type of policy argument.” Motions to dismiss the charges are pending in federal court in Atlanta in front of US District Judge Eleanor Ross. However, Federal prosecutors in Atlanta have not yet responded to the motions. According to TMU authorities, hearing this case has been adjourned for at least three times since October and the TMU and Soleimani’ family have so far paid $70,000 to his lawyers to prove his innocence, but all to no avail.

“For months, we weren’t given any clear answers until we managed to find out where he was by hiring a lawyer and following up,” Soleimani’s brother Rasoul said. “The vials were not subject to sanctions and have a purely medical use… the Americans’ absurd claims have baffled everyone inside and outside the country,” he added. Rasoul also revealed that the professor had been pressed to confess that the purchase of the growth hormones had been made with an intent to “circumvent the American sanctions” against Iran. US authorities said such a confession would pave the way for a plea bargain, his brother said, adding, however, that Soleimani refused to accept the offer.

The brother of Masoud Soleimani also detailed how he and his family have been suffering as a result of poor contact with the prisoner and no clear prospect of his release. Speaking to the Iranian media, Rasoul said Masoud has not spoken of being tortured in incarceration, deflecting the matter during the conversation he has been able to have with him. “He would not speak comfortably, and immediately change the subject every time,” he said, adding that his brother would not broach the matter because conversations were being recorded at the facility. “This prison is not safe,” he added, calling the detention center among the worst in the United States.

Rasoul had emphasized that his brother is certainly the hostage of the US government. “How can a researcher and a physician, who does not have any criminal record and boasts numerous articles published in international circles, be placed in detention?” he asked. Masoud’s brother also regretted that their mother had suffered apoplexy following his detention and slipped into a coma.

 

From science diplomacy to anti-science terror

The case of Masoud Soleimani is not unique, taking into account that almost 50 Iranian nationals are currently imprisoned in the United States under various pretexts, mainly bypassing the US sanctions. Mansour Gholami, Iran’s Minister of Science, Research and Technology, explained that the United States identified a number of Iranian professors and issued visas for them, but arrested them upon their arrival in the US’s soil.

Massoud Shadjareh, the chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said that the US government is determined to pursue the policy of harassing Iranian scientists and intellectuals. “They have created hellhole to abuse individuals and deny them justice and this seems part and parcel of a policy of targeting not just the scientists but in order to pull back the Iranian scientific achievements,” Shadjareh argued.

Not so long ago, scientists were true diplomats of pacifism, but today they became a favorite target to decelerate the national progress and discourage future generations of scientists. Intimidation, harassment and even killing of Iranian scientists is nothing new, given that Masoud Alimohammadi, Majid Shahriari, Darioush Rezaeinejad and Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan were victims of terrorist assassinations in the early 2010s, while Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani survived a similar attempt.

Responsibility for all these attacks lies with the same political elites that have recently imposed unilateral sanctions which are indiscriminately targeting the entire Iranian population, especially the most vulnerable ones like hospital patients and flood victims. Iranian scientists are no exception. The only difference is that previously they had been victims of covert operations, and today they are victims of the unconcealed official policy.

Feature photo | Iranian scientists work on animal cloning at the Royan Research Institute in Isfahan, Iran. Vahid Salemi | AP

Ivan Kesic is a Croatia-based freelance writer and open-source data analyst who has contributed to “Balkans Post” & “Sahar Balkan.” He worked as a writer at the Cultural Center of Iran in Zagreb from 2010 to 2016.

Published with special permission from the author from Antiwar.com

The post The US is Waging a Quiet Scientific War Against Iran appeared first on MintPress News.

Following US Lead on Assange, Australia Goes on Assault Spree Against Free Press

SYDNEY — Since the United States charged journalist Julian Assange with 17 counts of Espionage Act violations — charges that could see Assange facing the death penalty — Australia appears to be following America’s lead and cracking down on free press, particularly journalists and publications that publish government secrets.

Australia — Assange’s nation of origin and a Five Eyes member — has conducted two raids in as many days. The first was on Tuesday, when Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided journalist Annika Smethurst’s home with a warrant to search her phone and computer.

The raid was in response to an article Smethurst published last year that used leaked documents and correspondences from the country’s defense secretary and the head of the Home Affairs Department seeking to allow the Australian Signals Directorate, which is equivalent to the U.S. National Security Agency, to spy on its own citizens.

Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo, in the leaked document, seemed to indicate that Australia had been relying on Five Eyes partners to spy on its citizens for them:

Traditional law enforcement does not have the technical capacity to fully identify, detect and disrupt systemic transnational organised crime and is ordinarily limited to dependence on foreign partners.”

The proposal would have allowed Australian spies to bypass that burden and spy on their own citizens themselves.

 

As with Assange, journalist/publisher may face prosecution for leaks

The police raid on Smethurst’s residence was done in response to “the alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret, which is an extremely serious matter with the potential to undermine Australia’s national security,” AFP said. The emphasis on the act of publishing, rather than the leaking from whomever blew the whistle, indicates that Smethurst may be the subject of prosecution down the road. Following the raid, AFP said it would not be arresting anyone “today.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was grilled on the raid while visiting London. He said it “never troubles me that our laws are being upheld,” adding that the matters pertain to the AFP “and not the government.” He also refused to comment on Smethurst’s original story.

“Australia believes strongly in the freedom of the press and we have clear rules and protections for the freedom of the press,” he told reporters.

.@BenFordham on the Home Affairs Department's leaked information that up to six boats are attempting to come to Australia: There is not a hope in hell of me revealing my sources. I work in a business that’s based on freedom of the press.

MORE: https://t.co/8OO6XZzVYi #SkyLiveNow pic.twitter.com/4H8hDIO5Xc

— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) June 4, 2019

 

Knocks on a second door

Hours after the raid, radio broadcaster Ben Fordham was contacted by the Home Affairs Department over a story he covered the day prior regarding a group of six boats filled with refugees attempting to reach Australia.

“We were told Home Affairs would investigate the disclosure and they would like me to assist that investigation,” Fordham said on the radio. He said he was repeatedly told that he was not the subject of the investigation and added that “there is not a hope in hell” that he would reveal his sources.

He has been contacted two more times since. On one of those occasions, he was told that the Home Affairs investigation could lead to a criminal investigation by the AFP.

15 sandwiches and 12 flat whites arrive. Raids aren’t what they used to be pic.twitter.com/JDuJ7PUHZY

— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019

 

And a third — with warrant to “add, copy, delete or alter” files

On Wednesday, AFP arrived at the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) News office with a warrant naming two reporters and the news director (Daniel Oakes, Samuel Clark, and Gaven Morris respectively). According to ABC Executive Editor John Lyons, who viewed and tweeted the first two pages of the warrant, it allows police to “add, copy, delete or alter” materials in ABC’s computers.

Morris tweeted that Clark and Oakes are two of ABC’s “finest journalists,” adding that they are “honest and committed to telling the truth… just like Annika Smethurst.”

The raid was in response to a report published by ABC that showed evidence of extrajudicial killings of unarmed men and children in Afghanistan by elite special forces. It also provided additional information on the Australian soldier who severed the hands off of dead insurgents with scalpels.

“I've never seen an assault on the media as savage as this… I've never seen a warrant this comprehensive & I'd say scary… The chilling message is not so much for the journalists, but it's also for the public,” head of ABC Investigations @TheLyonsDen tells @PatsKarvelas #auspol pic.twitter.com/8sB4KVe8WY

— ABC News (@abcnews) June 5, 2019

According to Lyons, AFP seized 9,214 files in total. “There are six AFP officers and about four ABC lawyers,” he added. “I’ve never seen an assault on the media as savage as this one we’re seeing today.”

Lyons went on to discuss the scope of the warrant and how it allows for the deletion and alteration of ABC files. “I don’t think it is standard,” he said, adding:

Australian Federal Police have come into the ABC and have the power now to be going through those 9,214 documents and essentially deleting anything they want. They can just decide that that email, or that particular correspondence, has never existed. They can change material. They have the power to go into an email and change what anybody wrote: what a manager of the ABC wrote to the Defense Department’s media unit.”

 

Emboldened and not backing down

While a number of pro-press freedom groups have denounced the raid, the Australian government does not appear to be backing down.

While Australia passed “sweeping” anti-espionage laws in 2018, the current crackdown follows the example of the United States in its charges against and attempt to extradite Julian Assange. Those new anti-espionage laws allow for the prosecution of a journalist on charges of unauthorized disclosure, according to the Australian Law Council.

Nonetheless, in the case of the two journalists in Australia, as well as ABC, the raids and investigations have been conducted against reports on classified material, Assange’s bread and butter. Australian authorities are clearly emboldened to violate press freedom norms following the extradition attempt by the United States against Australia’s own citizen. Indeed, Australia’s actions against journalists this week are likely only the beginning.

Feature photo | A man stands next to a pile of subsidized food to be distributed under a Maduro government program named “CLAP,” in the Catia district of Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 31, 2019. An independent U.N. human rights monitor says economic sanctions are compounding a “grave crisis” in Venezuela. Rodrigo Abd | AP

Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.

The post Following US Lead on Assange, Australia Goes on Assault Spree Against Free Press appeared first on MintPress News.

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