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

Thu, 2019-06-13 23:48

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

— 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

— 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

— 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.

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

Thu, 2019-06-13 21:37

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

The post Robert Fisk: Sudan Protesters Were Right to Fear the Arrival of Saudi and UAE Money appeared first on MintPress News.

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

Thu, 2019-06-13 04:22

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

— 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

Thu, 2019-06-13 01:24

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

Wed, 2019-06-12 11:17

JERUSALEM, PALESTINE — (Opinion/Analysis) 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

Tue, 2019-06-11 21:55

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

Tue, 2019-06-11 10:59

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

— 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

— 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.

— 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.

— 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


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”

Tue, 2019-06-11 08:51

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

— 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?

— 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:

— 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:

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 #Idlib

— 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:”

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

Sat, 2019-06-08 23:36

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.

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…

— 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.”

— 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

Sat, 2019-06-08 04:14

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:

— 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.

Washington Office on Latin America Gets Behind US Regime Change Agenda in Venezuela

Tue, 2019-06-04 21:30

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a self-described “human rights” NGO (non-governmental organization), has been circulating a June 1 press release ostensibly urging the return of democracy to Venezuela.

The press release cites the “value” of “pressure mechanisms” such as “multilateral” sanctions when they are “linked to clear outcomes, and avoid harming the broader population.” But sanctions against Venezuela are largely unilateral coercive measures by the United States aimed at fomenting regime-change fever among the population and have resulted in the deaths of 40,000 Venezuelans during the Trump administration.

Addressing one round U.S. sanctions, WOLA touted the “several virtues” of the measures before generally condemning unspecified and “broad” sanctions that worsen the humanitarian crisis.

“We believe that a peaceful, democratic solution to Venezuela’s crisis must also involve creative and persistent diplomacy,” WOLA continued, adding a call for support for new elections.

It is convenient timing for the so-called human rights NGO to posture, since Venezuelan opposition leader and self-appointed “interim president” Juan Guaido has already demonstrated his inability to conduct a large-scale military coup, and his other attempts to overthrow the elected government of Venezuela have failed spectacularly.

WOLA goes on to state that it “supports” the mediation efforts between the government and the opposition by “the Norwegian government.” It does not disclose that its largest donor is, in fact, the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Moreover, those talks hit a stalemate. As the Miami Herald notes:

Between the different points discussed, the Guaido delegation went with a mandate that any proposal concerning a presidential election was conditioned on Maduro not holding power.”

In other words, the opposition refused to agree to reconcile through democratic elections if Maduro runs. Yet, twice in the press release, WOLA made clear its support for new elections. The press release is, in fact, the latest in a long list of provocations against the Venezuelan government by the so-called human rights organization.


Human rights NGO or imperial think tank?

WOLA’s presentation as a human-rights NGO is dubious at best. Its Wikipedia page reads more like that of a Beltway think tank, with funding from foreign governments and a myriad of various foundations and private individuals – including the George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and the Ford Foundation- which comprise the United States’ soft-power apparatus.

WOLA provides information and analysis for the White House and Congress and receives wide circulation in the media as an authority on Latin America, characteristics more indicative of a foreign policy think tank than a human rights NGO.

The group’s hypocrisy in its unequivocal support for the Venezuelan opposition while branding itself as pro-human rights has spurred Noam Chomsky and a handful of other academics and intellectuals to write at least two open letters to the organization, objecting to the group “endorsing much” of the Trump regime change gambit.

While WOLA is now supporting the mediation efforts of its biggest benefactor, the Norwegian government, Chomsky and his cohorts argued in a March 5 open letter that WOLA’s “opposition to the offers of mediation by Pope Francis as well as the neutral governments of Mexico and Uruguay” was “dangerous.”

“WOLA even rejects the involvement of the UN in negotiations, which the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has proposed, claiming that a UN role should be limited to overseeing a transition [of power,]” Chomsky and the other intellectuals added, concluding:

It is good that WOLA has distinguished itself … by opposing U.S. military intervention and the manipulation of humanitarian aid for political purposes. But that is not enough. It should unequivocally oppose the whole sordid regime change operation, the violations of international law, and the illegal sanctions that are causing so much suffering.”

WOLA responded to the letter but, according to the intellectuals, failed to address its main points. Moreover, “WOLA Senior Fellow David Smilde wrote in The New York Times that “Countries throughout the region and the United States … should continue to pressure Mr. Maduro by deepening the current sanctions regime.”

While not explicitly recognizing Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela, WOLA takes a consistent line against Nicolas Maduro. “I think what happened with Juan Guaido declaring himself president, or interim president, was in the works for a long time. It was not dictated from the United States,” Smilde assured Democracy Now! listeners, though a number of clues indicate the opposite.


Support for CIA-cutout USAID

WOLA’s hawkish stance on Venezuela may seem surprising for a “human rights” organization, but it is less of a shock for those familiar with WOLA’s history.

Jeremy Bigwood, a journalist who focuses on Latin America, writes:

WOLA also supports [the United States Agency for International Development] ‘democracy promotion.’ In most of Latin America, this has involved the creation, or outright buying, of local NGOs and unions by USAID with the aim to carry out U.S. policy, something that has nothing to do with democracy.”

MintPress News has covered USAID extensively. The CIA cutout is a favorite tool of U.S. regime-change efforts and has even trained the police forces of right-wing Latin American governments in torture techniques.

The organization has also held questionable views on the U.S.’s war on drugs, releasing a long-winded 2005 policy analysis of the U.S. drug war in Latin Ameria in which it advocated for “Rockefeller-style drug laws and private prisons.”


“You’d have to be suicidal”

Anthropologist and Honduras expert Adrienne Pine wrote of WOLA in 2010:

Since I moved to D.C. last June, at least two dozen D.C. grassroots and non-profit activists have confided in me that they’ve been wishing for years that someone would challenge WOLA, but that, as one of them told me, ‘you’d have to be suicidal to do it.'”

That’s because the organization is “so powerful and well-connected that challenging it could seriously jeopardize organizations.”

In the aftermath of the coup d’etat in Honduras — which saw a military operation forcibly remove the leftist president, Manuel Zelaya, from power — WOLA Executive Director Joy Olson suggested that instead of Zelaya living in exile, he could instead be incarcerated inside Honduras.

Pine notes that WOLA founder Joseph Eldridge’s wife, María Otero, served as the United States Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs under Hillary Clinton during the coup, and WOLA worked closely with the State Department during that period to legitimize the coup government.

While it has not explicitly supported the faux government of Juan Guaido, WOLA’s stance in support of lethal sanctions against the Venezuelan people — sanctions that violate international law and the basic tenets of human rights — puts the organization once again squarely in the camp of U.S. empire and human-rights violations.

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 Washington Office on Latin America Gets Behind US Regime Change Agenda in Venezuela appeared first on MintPress News.

Media: Zombie Sightings, Like Unicorns, Are a Frequent Occurrence in North Korea

Tue, 2019-06-04 04:59

PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA — If the mainstream media is to be believed, North Korea is a land full of prison camps, zombies and unicorns.

On Friday, the right-wing South Korean Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that an anonymous source had informed them that Kim Yong Chol, the country’s envoy to the U.S., had been sent to a labor camp over the failure of talks with the Trump administration in Hanoi. Those claims were reported ubiquitously in American media, often without attribution to the original, singular anonymous source. Claims that four other high-ranking officials were either fired, executed or sent to prison camps also circulated widely. Now, media are being forced to walk things back after Kim Yong Chol was spotted with Chairman Kim Jong-un at an art performance.

When asked about the story, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “We’ve seen the reporting … we’re doing our best to check it out.”

While the other officials who were said to have been disappeared in various ways have not yet been spotted, there is an abundance of reasons to be skeptical of their reported fates.


The walking living

The State Department may also want to worry less about North Korea’s nuclear production and more about its apparent advanced necromancy program, because Kim Hyok-chol is far from the only person executed in the country still walking around and conducting business as usual.

In 2016, a North Korean defector claimed that military officer Ri Yong-gil had been executed and the media regurgitated the claim uncritically, as did South Korean politicians and military brass. Perhaps it was only when he passed over to the other side that he learned the necessary skills that qualified him for a promotion in 2018 to the position of Chief of General Staff.

In 2013, Hyon Song-wol, a famous singer in North Korea, was reported to have been executed by authorities in a “hail of machine gun fire while members of her orchestra looked on.” It appears that the bullets didn’t do any lasting damage to her lungs, however, as she is still singing her heart out with her all-girl pop band.

In 2010, South Korean media reported that a soccer coach had been executed in North Korea. So reporter Jean H. Lee was probably shocked when she “ran into him at the Pyongyang airport.”

Zombies aren’t the only mythical creatures endemic to the DPRK, if the media is to be believed. In 2014, it was widely reported that DPRK state news services announced the discovery of the lair belonging to a unicorn. That, however, turned out to be a mistranslation, but one not discovered prior to former Fox News firebrand Bill O’Reilly telling his massive audience that “the North Korean government announced that it found a unicorn.”

One article, which was updated after the mistake was realized, regurgitates a number of other odd claims, arguing that Koreans believe that Kim Jong-il, the late father of the current chairman, “reportedly invented the hamburger, wrote 1,500 books in college and shot 11 holes-in-one the first time he played golf, according to Time magazine.”

These claims are easy for Americans to believe because they have been conditioned to demonize North Korea since the 1950’s when America killed a fifth of the country’s population and bombed 85 percent of the buildings there.


A nation seen in caricature

North Korea has its problems, as do all other countries; but outsized claims about it proliferate in the West.

For example, Kim Jong-un did have his uncle executed. He did not, however, do it by having him “stripped naked and thrown into a cage before being eaten alive by 120 starving dogs.” It is also untrue that, as reports have stated, North Korean officials have been executed over “bad posture.”

Likewise, reports of a ban on sarcasm are as fake as reports that all North Korean men are forced to get the same haircut as Chairman Kim. The latter claim was debunked by a pair of YouTube comedians who actually traveled to North Korea to get a haircut and do a comedic documentary exposing the stenographic nature of the media’s reporting on the country.

The report last year that said that North Korea had accidentally dropped an intermediate-range ballistic missile on one of its own cities remains uncorroborated by satellite footage.

If this isn't more fake news about North Korea, I'll eat my own IRBM

— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) January 4, 2018

The reason fake news proliferates the way it does with North Korea is not just Western orientalism. It is difficult to verify information from the country, and those with first-hand knowledge of it — for example, the man who “defected” last year but turned out to be a fugitive from murder charges — typically have gripes against the government and find no shortage of incentives to lie.

In 2017, the South Korean government upped its reward for North Korean defectors with juice on DPRK state secrets to $860,000. Meanwhile, defectors are paid a generous hourly wage to share their horror stories with human-rights workers and the media.

“Cash payments in return for interviews with North Korean refugees have been standard practice in the field for years,” writes Jiyoung Song, who has been interviewing North Koreans as a human-rights researcher since 1999. He continues:

A government official from the South Korean ministry of unification told me the range of fees could vary wildly, from $50 to $500 per hour, depending on the quality of information.

But this practice raises a difficulty: how does the payment change the relation between a researcher and an interviewee, and what effect will it have on the story itself?

This practice also drives the demand for ‘saleable stories:’ the more exclusive, shocking or emotional, the higher the fee.”

In other words, there is an entire industry that incentivizes the creation of fake news about North Korea with cash rewards that would make even a journalist living in America begin to salivate like a pack of 120 starving dogs. The problem is that there is no incentive for journalists to actually get it right — in fact, it’s just the opposite because such explosive stories generate disproportional ad revenue through clicks.

But that’s all many of these news articles are: fairytales of zombies and unicorns.

Correction | A previous version of this story incorrectly named Kim Hyok-chol as the North Korean envoy to the United States allegedly sent to a labor camp, but Kim Yong Chol is the North Korean envoy to the United States. Hyok-chol was reported to have been executed, a claim which later turned out to be false.  We regret this error. 

Feature photo | The Arirang in Pyongyang, North Korea. Stephen | Flickr

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: Zombie Sightings, Like Unicorns, Are a Frequent Occurrence in North Korea appeared first on MintPress News.

Bipartisan Support for Trump’s Aggressive Iran Policy Reveals the Hollowness of Russiagate

Tue, 2019-06-04 03:06

In early May, MSNBC news host Rachel Maddow — known as one of the top promoters of the new Cold War and Russiagate in American media — emphatically endorsed regime change in Venezuela after she claimed that President Donald Trump’s hawkishness towards the South American country had changed, all because of a single phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Though Maddow’s claims were arguably the most extreme in suggesting that Trump was “taking orders” from Putin on Venezuela, she wasn’t alone in making them. For instance, Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks also made the claim that the Trump-Putin phone call on Venezuela was “direct evidence that he is literally taking orders from Putin.” In addition, several corporate media outlets supported this narrative by suggesting that Trump “echoed” Putin’s Venezuela stance after the phone call and directly contradicted his top staffers and even himself in doing so.

Yet now, strangely, those same corporate media voices remain silent on the Trump administration’s other regime-change project — in Iran — despite the fact that the Putin-led Russian government is set to be the biggest winner as tensions between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic boil over and threaten to send the Middle East into a fresh bout of destruction and chaos.


How Russia wins

As tensions between the U.S. and Iran have grown in recent months, analysts in both corporate and independent media have speculated about what country is set to benefit the most from the U.S.’ campaign of “maximum pressure” and regime change against the Islamic Republic. Of the many analyses, two countries have stood out as likely beneficiaries: Russia and China.

The cases for China and Russia’s benefit are somewhat similar given that the Trump administration’s focus on Iran results in less pressure on both Russia and China. This is despite the fact that, officially, the U.S.’ current National Defense Strategy explicitly calls for focusing attention on preparing for a “long war” against Russia and China to prevent either from superseding the U.S. as a global superpower. Yet, with the U.S. focused on regime change in Iran and Venezuela, Russia and China can avoid bearing the brunt of U.S. military adventurism, either directly or by proxy, while the U.S. wears itself thin by trying to do it all at once.

Several U.S. military analysts have been warning against war with Iran for precisely this reason. Nikolas Gvosdev, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, recently wrote in The Hill that the U.S. faces a lose-lose scenario by pursuing a militaristic, aggressive Iran policy:

To gear up for a major conflict with Iran, the U.S. would be forced to de-emphasize Europe’s eastern flank, allowing Russia more time and breathing space to consolidate its position. On the other hand, a U.S. campaign that is defined more by bellicose rhetoric and less by action will buttress Russia’s claim, already seemingly validated in Syria and in Venezuela, that the U.S. talks a good game but has no real stomach for projecting its power.”

Both countries also stand to benefit from Iran’s increasing desperation for trading partners unwilling to bow to the U.S. Currently, China represents 30 percent of Iran’s international trade and the current U.S. sanctions on Iran have pushed Tehran to rely more heavily on Russia, especially for weapons purchases, than it had while the Iran nuclear deal (officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) was in force.

However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that China, though it benefits to some degree, is not a clear winner amid current tensions, while Russia stands to gain the most. The reason for this is the effect of current and future U.S.-Iran tensions on the oil market. While China trusts Iran to be a key oil supplier even if there is a breach in U.S.-China relations, any shock to the oil market and any jump in oil prices — both of which are likely to occur if U.S.-Iran tensions continue to escalate — will spell disaster for the Chinese economy, given that China is now the world’s largest importer of oil.

Russia, on the other hand, stands to benefit massively from the chaos that U.S.-Iran tensions are set to unleash on the oil market and, by extension, oil prices. With the U.S. seeking to starve Iran of any and all oil export revenue, all countries that had been purchasing Iranian oil must seek new suppliers. Yet, with the prospect of a U.S-Iran conflict still ever-present, it will be those oil producers outside of the Middle East that will come out on top, since oil supply routes that do not pass through the Middle East do not risk supply disruptions that would be caused by a war in the region. Thus, Russia, owing to its location, will emerge as an oil producer of extreme importance. Furthermore, given that such instability in the Middle East will lead to a surge in global oil prices, Russia will be able to export more oil at a higher price and will see its economy and geopolitical clout benefit greatly as a result.


A potential geopolitical killing

In addition to a great boost to its oil sector, Russia also stands to make unique geopolitical gains, particularly in the Middle East and beyond. For instance, in Syria, Russia is increasingly seeking to use its pull with Syria’s government as a major bargaining chip with Israel and the U.S., as made clear by the upcoming trilateral summit on the Middle East between Russia, Israel and the U.S. The main focus of that summit will likely be the fate of the presence of foreign militaries in Syria, particularly Iranian and U.S. forces.

The summit will likely be dominated by Russia and Israel, given Israel’s influence over the U.S., and particularly over National Security Adviser John Bolton, who will represent the U.S. at the summit. Israel’s key interest in Syria at this stage of the conflict is the removal of Iranian forces from Syria. Russia is likely to oblige that request, as doing so would allow Russia to dominate a post-war Syria at Iran’s expense. This seems to be a current Russian objective in Syria, given recent reports of in-fighting among Russian and Iranian forces in Northern Syria.

Russian soldiers next to an American armored personnel carrier on a train displaying war trophies from Syria, May 9. 2019. Alexander Zemlianichenko | AP

However, Russia is unlikely to help reduce Iran’s Syria presence if doing so would favor the United States’ occupation of Syrian territory or threaten to upset Russia’s own interests in Syria. Thus, in this case, Russia is counting on Israel’s influence on the Trump administration to ensure that, if Iranian forces vacate Syria, it will be Russia that will dominate the country post-conflict.

Russia also stands to gain geopolitically from the isolationism being forced on Iran by the Trump administration. Indeed, U.S. pressure on Iran has already served Russian interests by pushing Iran further towards Russia, giving Moscow the status of an increasingly important economic partner of Tehran. While benefiting the Russian economy, closer economic ties between Moscow and Iran would also give Russia a leg up in discussions with the U.S., as Washington may then need to make concessions to or coordinate with Russia in future efforts to pressure Iran.

Meanwhile, Russia stands to reap major profits by selling more weapons to Iran, and to gain geopolitical clout by further cementing is role as a mediator of conflict by promoting compliance with the JCPOA and opposing regime change. Iran’s dwindling options for strategic alliances with non-U.S. aligned countries will make it difficult for Tehran to resist Russian demands on key issues, including the Syria conflict.

Another major geopolitical win for Russia that has resulted from the U.S.’ current Iran policy is the tension that that policy has engendered between the U.S. and its European allies. When the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA, it began the development of a rift between the U.S. and its key European allies who are also JCPOA signatories — particularly France, Germany and the United Kingdom. As a signatory, Russia’s stance on Iran has revolved around the JCPOA, with Russia having urged Iran to remain in the deal “no matter what,” advice that Iran does not now seem keen to follow.

Russia’s stance on JCPOA is likely aimed just as much at Europe as it is at Iran, since promoting the agreement amid the U.S. unilateral withdrawal paints Russia as more predictable and stable in terms of its political stances and diplomacy in comparison to the U.S. If nothing else, Putin is known for excelling at taking advantage of the missteps made by his geopolitical adversaries.

This i all part of a careful public image that Russia is seeking to cultivate with European countries as it hopes to attract them to do business with Russian oil and gas companies as the Middle East now seemingly approaches another era of extreme instability. By promoting the JCPOA alongside Europe, Russia makes increased Russo-European cooperation seem more attractive.

As U.S.-Iran tensions mount, particularly if armed conflict breaks out, importing goods from Russia, especially oil and gas, will appear more attractive and safer in comparison to goods that originate from or pass through the Middle East before arriving in Europe. Depending on how the situation plays out, Europe — driven by concerns about stability and reliability — may be willing to risk angering the U.S. to pursue increased economic cooperation with Russia, even though doing so would run counter to current U.S. and NATO objectives.


Putin plays Netanyahu

While it is often difficult to find accurate, honest reporting on Vladimir Putin –reporting that is neither too biased against him nor too much in his favor — it is generally acknowledged that Putin, above all else, is interested in advancing Russia’s national interest and is a cunning strategist who often thinks several steps ahead of both his allies and his adversaries.

In viewing the ratcheting up of tensions between the U.S. and Iran, Putin’s modus operandi remains unchanged and, upon closer examination, it is clear that he is giving the hotheads driving this still-escalating situation just enough rope to hang themselves. Meanwhile, Russia is waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces and further cement its already acknowledged role as the new foreign “peacemaker” in the Middle East while gaining economic and geopolitical clout in the process.

Prior to the Israeli election earlier this year, Israeli media noted on several occasions that Putin was backing the reelection of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, including when Putin hosted Netanyahu at a sudden pre-election summit. Israeli newspaper Haaretz described Putin’s decision to host Netanyahu at the time as aimed at helping Netanyahu secure the “crucial Russian vote” among Russian-Israeli Jews in order to “outflank” his competitors. In another instance, Putin was alleged to have further helped Netanyahu’s reelection odds by having Russian special forces find and deliver the remains of Zachary Baumel — an Israeli soldier who had gone missing in Lebanon in 1982 — to Israel just ahead of the election.

Putin and Netanyahu meet at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 4, 2019. Alexander Zemlianichenko | AP

Putin’s direct support of Netanyahu may seem odd to observers of geopolitics, given that the two have often been at odds over Syria. However, Putin and Netanyahu have developed an effective working relationship and Russia and Israel enjoy relatively strong bilateral ties and economic agreements.

Yet, beyond the ties that have been forged between the two countries in recent years, Putin likely knows that he can play Netanyahu’s weaknesses to his advantage. For instance, Putin is acutely aware of the benefits to be reaped from increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran and is also aware of the key role that Netanyahu has played and continues to play in driving the Trump administration’s Iran policy. Netanyahu’s near-obsession with regime change in Iran and the practical likelihood that a U.S.-Iran war would be “unwinnable” for the U.S. and would leave its military weakened and distracted are points that Putin is likely eager to exploit in pursuance of Russian geopolitical goals.

Russia seeks to play the role of mediator but only to a certain extent and has kept its attitude towards Iran intentionally vague when dealing with the Israeli government, so much so that Israeli officials have cited Russia’s unknown stance towards Iran as a major difficulty in negotiating the deconfliction of Russian and Israeli forces in Syria. This is likely because Russia doesn’t seek to aid either side amid escalating tensions, instead waiting for the current tensions to play out, as it stands to make gains in either case.

That Russia stands to gain from current U.S.-Iran tensions hasn’t been lost on all Israeli officials, however. Earlier this month, a former Israeli intelligence official, Yakkov Kedmi, openly stated that not only is a war against Iran “unwinnable” for the U.S. and its regional allies, but further that Russia would be the only major country to benefit from any military conflict pitting the Americans against the Iranians. Appearing on Russian television program Evening with Vladimir Solovyov, Kedmi stated that, if war does break out, the U.S. “won’t remain whole” after the conflict and that “if anyone wins, it’ll be Russia.”

“If the price of oil exceeds $100 per barrel, it hits the Chinese economy. Most of all, it hits the European and American economies,” Kedmi stated. “If you double the price,” he added, “[global] industry will be ruined. First of all, it will happen in the U.S.” To that, the program’s host, Vladimir Solovyov, asserted that “Their [American] industry will be [ruined]. It’ll be the opposite in our country. Our economy will begin to develop. We’ll feel like kings with golden diamond-studded wheels on our cars.”


Why the Russiagaters are silent on Iran

Given Russia — and Putin’s — clear benefit from the continuing U.S. escalation with Iran and a potential military conflict, it is striking that Putin’s fiercest critics in the American media have remained silent about this clear pay-off as the Trump administration continues to pursue an aggressive, hawkish Iran policy that hardly benefits the U.S. and instead benefits its supposed adversary. This is especially notable in light of the fact that these same American critics of Russia and Putin’s leadership were recently accusing Trump of “taking orders” from Putin by altering his Venezuela policy in a way that was perceived to benefit Russian over American interests.

This dichotomy is most easily deconstructed by noting that top promoters of Russiagate and news personalities known for their hyperfocus on Putin rarely call for any policy that would involve a reduction in tensions or less militarism abroad. Indeed, all too often, the “solutions” offered by these journalists involve sending weapons to U.S. proxy forces, shooting missiles at Russian allies, sanctioning Russia and its allies, and other “useful reminders of the military strength of the Western alliance” between the U.S. and NATO.

Without fail, the suggested solutions of how to counter Putin from the U.S. media and political establishment almost always involve “pushing back” with force equal to or greater than the perceived aggression. Rarely do they involve backing down or unwinding tensions, even in the cases where doing so would clearly challenge key geopolitical objectives of the Russian government.

In the case of Russia’s benefit from Trump’s Iran policy, the benefit is so clear that it has been voiced in several mainstream media outlets — including CNN, The Hill, Forbes and Bloomberg —  with most of those reports focusing exclusively on the oil angle. However, while Russia’s advantage has been noted, it is also clear that Trump’s current Iran policy has avoided inflaming the Russiagate hysteria that has marked media coverage of other Trump policies and statements that were perceived as being “pro-Putin” for the past few years.

One reason that the media has skipped a prime opportunity for another Russiagate frenzy is the fact that many of the driving forces behind Russiagate are also supportive of regime change in Iran. Indeed, while Russiagate has recently been cast by Trump and prominent Republicans as a “hoax” narrative exclusive to Democrats, prominent neoconservatives have long been pivotal in creating and fomenting Russigate for over five years.

For instance, the origins of the infamous Steele dossier — which was used to assert that Russia’s government had a litany of salacious blackmail on Trump that it would use to manipulate him as president — trace back to top neoconservative Republican donor Paul Singer. That dossier was subsequently circulated within the Obama administration during the 2016 campaign by neoconservatives Victoria Nuland and the late Senator John McCain.

Many of the same neoconservative figures who have helped stoke Russiagate and pounced on the resulting climate of hysteria to promote increased militarism as the solution, also support regime change in Iran. Michael McFaul — U.S. Ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration — is both a strong advocate for aggressive U.S. measures to counter Putin and also a vocal proponent of U.S.-led regime change in Iran. Similarly, on the supposed other side of the political spectrum, Bill Kristol — well-known neoconservative writer, an icon of the establishment “resistance” to Trump, and a promoter of Russiagate — also strongly supports hawkish measures to contain Russia and is a long-time, vocal supporter of regime change in Iran.

While the tense situation between the U.S. and Iran is undeniably troubling, the relative silence among figures in U.S. media and politics who claim to be Putin’s fiercest critics with regard to Trump’s aggressive Iran policy reveals a stark truth about Russiagate. The goal of Russiagate is not actually about “countering” Putin or Russian geopolitical influence; it is about promoting the expansion and widespread adoption of hyper-militarism by both the establishment left and establishment right in the United States.

While Russia often serves as a useful “boogeyman” in service to this agenda of promoting militaristic policies, the odd moments when those same policies actually benefit Russia and do not run into hysterical opposition from the political and media establishment provide a rare glimpse into the real motivations behind Cold War 2.0 and the dubious validity of the media-driven narratives upon which current anti-Russian hysteria is based.

Feature photo | August 26 2018: wanted posters of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Berlin wall. Putin’s face is shown dripping in blood with the caption “bloody Vladimir.” Robert David Hart | Shutterstock

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 Bipartisan Support for Trump’s Aggressive Iran Policy Reveals the Hollowness of Russiagate appeared first on MintPress News.

For the US and Israel, Iran Works Best as a Perpetual Threat

Tue, 2019-06-04 01:32

JERUSALEM, PALESTINE — According to a story in Haaretz, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said recently that “the United States will respond with military force if its interests are attacked by Iran.” However, there are several reasons why Israel and the U.S. will not attack Iran, at least not directly.

Al Jazeera reports that Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, said that the idea of war is “far-fetched” because Washington and its allies know they would pay a heavy price. Nasrallah is most likely right.


Drums of war

Notwithstanding the rhetoric coming from Washington, where the national security advisor and secretary of state have been busy pushing for war, the U.S. is not prepared to pay the consequences for attacking Iran. While it is hard to dispute that the U.S. has superior military strength and, should it decide to do so, can destroy Tehran, there is more to war than just sheer military power.

The same can be said for Israel. While politicians and commanders in Tel-Aviv tend to flex their muscles in public, it is unlikely they could stomach an all-out war with a well trained and motivated army.

According to a piece in the New York Times, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should a war with Iran take place. There is most likely another report somewhere that says how many of them will return in body bags, and that is the report they are not likely to make public.


The cost of war

Neither Israel nor the U.S. could possibly be prepared for the cost of such a war. The cost in dollars is one thing, but then there is the cost in human life, which includes the heavy toll that will be paid for the day and days after an initial attack takes place. Maintaining an ongoing war against what will surely be a dedicated and relentless ground resistance to any foreign presence on Iranian soil is something Israel and the U.S. are likely to avoid at all costs. Israel faced a dedicated resistance during its occupation of South Lebanon and eventually left, licking its wounds, in 2000. When in 2006 it attempted to invade with ground forces, the Lebanese fighters proved too much for Israel’s elite forces and they once again escaped in humiliation.

The U.S. does not have the stomach to face a motivated, patriotic resistance the likes of which it saw in Vietnam, and to a large degree still faces in Iraq and Afghanistan. While some voters in Israel and the U.S. may see attacking Iran favorably today, once the cost becomes clear and once the bodies start coming back, it would be a completely different story.


Why attack?

While attacking Iran would prove to be fruitless, threatening an attack on Iran and not attacking is far more useful. Both Israel and the U.S. need Iran: they need to be able to point to Iran as a threat, as a menace, as the source of terrorism and evil in the world. That threat is also an important part of any election campaign for politicians in both countries. The fact that Iran is none of those things is beside the point.

Both Trump and Netanyahu have hyped the Iranian threat to bolster their campaigns. Photos | AP

Iran supports forces of resistance like Hamas and Hezbollah that would never have existed had it not been for Israeli violence and occupation of Palestine and southern Lebanon. Israel needs an enemy it can point to as a threat to its existence. While it still claims that the Palestinians are an existential threat, at least militarily that has never been true and fewer people are buying it. Iran, on the other hand, is persuasively painted as evil and menacing thanks to a dedicated and vociferous campaign in Israel and the U.S. that has worked to demonize it for many years. Never mind the fact that Iran’s resistance to Israel and its support of the Palestinian struggle is politically and morally right.



Israel has not fought a war against an organized army since 1973. The Israeli air force pilots, who operate state-of-the-art warplanes, have not faced any serious force that possesses effective anti-aircraft capabilities in decades. Judging by Israel’s confrontations with Hamas and Hezbollah fighters, it is quite clear that Israeli ground forces are not capable of standing up to, never mind defeating, a well trained, motivated fighting force, even when it possesses inferior weapons.

U.S. forces have not successfully fought an actual regular army since World War II. The wars in which it has been engaged since then, with the exception perhaps of the Korean War, were largely against guerilla forces and the U.S. paid a heavy toll in its attempts to fight them. So it is not at all clear whether it can succeed in defeating the Iranian army.

Both Israeli and U.S. leaders are given reports that estimate the body count in case of a war. It is not unlikely that the leaders of both countries have seen these reports and fear the consequences of an all-out war with Iran.

Feature photo | President Donald Trump and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk towards the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019. Manuel Balce Ceneta | AP

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 For the US and Israel, Iran Works Best as a Perpetual Threat appeared first on MintPress News.

Netanyahu is Gambling on New Elections to Stay in Power

Tue, 2019-06-04 00:03

JERUSALEM — For the first time in the history of the state of Israel, the head of the party that won the largest number of seats has failed to form a coalition government. Rather than allowing the head of the party that came in second to attempt to form a government, the Knesset voted to hold re-elections only six weeks after Israelis first cast their ballots.

Could this be the end the political career of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? It seems that this is indeed what the heads of several political parties here are determined to achieve. Not unlike hyenas who see a broken down and weak lion and go for the kill, the same Israeli politicians who made a coalition government with him impossible see a weak Netanyahu and hope that another election will finish him off. Still, elections are a risk for all involved — one that Netanyahu decided to take.


Election results

In Israel’s government, no one party ever wins the 61-seat majority in the Knesset needed to form a government. This means that coalition agreements between the large parties and the smaller ones are needed before a government can be presented. The elections that took place on April 9 ended with a win for Netanyahu. However, even though he received more seats in the Knesset than ever before, he had only a slim lead over the party that came in second. The question is always whether or not the head of the party who won the most seats can put together a coalition with enough votes to form a government and the assumption was that Netanyahu, the master of this trade, would be able to do so. But that was not the case.


What happened

When the dust settled and the horse trading commenced, Netanyahu began to work with anyone who would support him. The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish or Haredi parties, which between them received 16 seats in the Knesset, were obvious partners. They have serious issues regarding the State’s attempts to force the Haredi community to serve in the army, breaking away from a seven-decade status quo in which they were exempt. Pending satisfaction on that score, they were in.

Netanyahu needed more partners to reach the required 61 votes. Two other partners brought him to 56 but he still needed another party to join the coalition, and that is where the wheels came off the wagon. The next logical party to join him was led by Avigdor Lieberman, a corrupt, violent politician about whom volumes can be written. Lieberman served as Netanyahu’s minister of defense and then resigned because he felt that Netanyahu was not tough enough on Hamas in Gaza.

Lieberman said he would not compromise on the issue of the Haredi draft — he supports a law that would force that community to be conscripted into the army — and thus it was impossible for him to join a coalition with the Haredi parties. The only other option was a national unity government, where the two largest parties unite and create a broad coalition. This is quite common in Israel, as the leaders of two parties that fought each other tooth and nail stand together and say that for the sake of the nation they will “put their differences aside.“

Related | How Israel’s Conscription Law Assaults its Own Ultra-Orthodox Community

This would have been a win-win situation. Netanyahu would have remained in his post, and the political newcomer, former Army chief Benny Gantz, would likely have been minister of defense. Yet Gantz’s joining would mean the departure of the Haredi parties, as his party supports the Haredi draft. This would have been a worthwhile trade for Netanyahu, as Gantz brings 35 seats to the Knesset. However, Gantz announced that while his party was willing to join a coalition government with the Likud Party, they would not do so with Netanyahu at its helm.

Legally, Gantz as the head of the next largest party, was to be given a chance to form his own coalition. However, Netanyahu made an unprecedented move to dissolve the Knesset and call for new elections.


What’s next is anyone’s guess

Netanyahu clearly believes he has a chance to get more seats if the Israeli electorate has another chance to vote. The rest of the political leadership in Israel clearly wants Netanyahu out. Now it is a war of attrition and whoever has the toughest nerves and the best campaign will win.

Netanyahu is the only Israeli politician who can demonstrate any real achievement. Having been in office for a decade, he has impacted the economy, and most people living here would say they are quite happy with his policies. He was behind the passing of the Nation-State Law, which codifies and give a constitutional stamp of approval to the violation of Palestinians rights, and he can show that he has had the support of every U.S. administration, including the Obama administration, notwithstanding the fact that relations between the two heads of state were known to be cold.

The next three months will either see Netanyahu removed from the political scene in Israel — an unlikely scenario — or, more likely, with the next election bringing similar if not identical results as the first, see Netanyahu keep his post, bringing Gantz to work for him as minister of defense.

Feature photo | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during statements to the press in Jerusalem, May 30, 2019 after meeting with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to push the Trump administration’s long-awaited ‘deal of the century.’ Ariel Schalit | AP

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 Netanyahu is Gambling on New Elections to Stay in Power appeared first on MintPress News.

Mass Demonstrations Against Saudi Summit and US “Deal” Mark Quds Day in Yemen

Sat, 2019-06-01 03:09

SANA’A, YEMEN — Massive demonstrations took place across Yemen’s major provinces on Friday to oppose a meeting of leaders of Arab and Islamic countries who gathered in Saudi Arabia. Demonstrators also rallied against the Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century” — as Friday is also international “Quds Day,” when protests are held across the world to show solidarity with Palestinians.

Saudi Arabia hosted Arab leaders for three summits in the holy city of Mecca in a bid to rally support against Yemen, and to curb what they claim is Iranian-backed terrorism. The summits come amid escalating tensions between the United States and Iran and follow a series of Houthi retaliatory attacks against a Saudi oil pipeline deep inside Saudi territory, which resulted in the temporary shutdown of the pipeline.

In Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a, hundreds of thousands of residents from the suburbs of the city and from neighboring provinces gathered on Airport Street carrying Yemeni flags and holding banners emblazoned with messages challenging the Saudi regime and encouraging Yemen’s Army to continue to target the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In Hodeida province in western Yemen, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets despite the ever-present threat of incoming artillery shells, snipers’ bullets, and Saudi warplanes hovering above. Saudi warplanes are ever-present in the skies over Hodeida but intensified their presence as residents began preparations for the upcoming rallies.

The demonstrations, which were organized by the Houthis with the support of local residents, featured a military parade of Houthi armored vehicles, tanks, military crews, and weapons, as well as infantry forces. The move was an intentional message to the Saudi-led Coalition, who has beefed up its military presence in the port city in violation of the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement.

Houthi military vehicles take part in demonstrations in Hodeida

In the Sada’a province in northern Yemen, hundreds of thousands rallied in Ibb, Taiz, al-Jawf, Reimah, Dhamar, Amran, the northwest province of Hajjah, and the central province of al–Mahweet.  

The protests drew crowds from across Yemen’s deceleration divides: Shaafa’is, Salafis, Zaydis, and Twthis, as well as most major national parties, were among the protests. The Grand Mufti of Yemen — Shams al-Din Sharaf al-Din, the highest religious authority in Yemen — was the keynote speaker at the rally in Sana`a, where he derided the gathering of Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, and said that the summit was little more than cover for the Coalition’s hideous crimes and would serve as a pretext to mobilize more mercenaries to Yemen under the pretext of protecting Mecca.

For more than four years Saudi Arabia, backed by the collective military might of the world’s most powerful nations, has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen, leaving tens of thousands of civilians dead and causing the collapse of the country’s health services.

According to Yemeni military leaders who spoke to MintPress, the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. are a direct response to the crimes committed Saudi-led Coalition airstrikes in Yemen, which have been repeatedly criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups for intentionally targeting civilians.


Quds Day celebrated, U.S. “deal” condemned

Demonstrations also focused heavily on solidarity with Palestinians on international “Quds Day.”  Quds Day falls on the last Friday of every Ramadan and rallies are held across the globe in a show of support for the Palestinian cause. Demonstrations condemned the so-called U.S. Deal of the Century and vowed to support Palestinians facing the prospect of losing their rights under the U.S.-brokered plan.

On Thursday, the leader of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement reiterated his country’s support for Palestine in the face of Israeli occupation, calling on the Yemeni people to express their solidarity with Palestinians by partaking in International Quds Day rallies.

This year’s Quds Day rallies come weeks before a high-profile summit to be held in the Bahraini capital Manama, where the Trump administration is expected to unveil its so-called “Deal of the Century” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Protesters in Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Bahrain also took to the streets on Friday to mark Quds Day, in an impassioned show of opposition to the “deal.”


Saudis fanning the flames with Mecca allegation

Saudi Arabia recently accused the Houthis of launching ballistic missiles towards Mecca, which hosts millions of Muslim pilgrims around the year, especially in the month of Ramadan. However, the Kingdom provided no evidence to back its claims and the accusation is being seen by many as an attempt to rally the support of the Muslim world against Yemen. Any attack on Mecca would be seen in the Muslim world as a sacrilegious act and would serve to galvanize popular support for the Saudi-led Coalition war in Yemen, which has drawn international condemnation and engendered support for the Yemeni people.

Col. Turki al-Malki, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, points to a screen showing what he said was evidence of Iranian support to the Houthis in Yemen in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 31, 2019. Amr Nabil | AP

In fact, from the very first moment that Saudi Arabia made the claim of a Houthi attack on Mecca, Arab social media was hit with a wave of posts rife with sectarian hatred and praise for the Saudi royal family. “The claims that we targeted Mecca seem like a desperate attempt to gain justification for a war which has killed thousands of civilians,” Mohammed al-Houthis told demonstrators in Yemen.

Indeed, as Arab leaders arrived at the International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, they were greeted by a government-organized exhibition that included a number of fragments of the wreckage of Yemeni missiles and drones.

Mohammed Abdulsalam, spokesman for the Houthi movement, said in response to the exhibition that it is a Saudi attempt to divert attention from its brutal crimes, which it couldn’t cover with a thousand exhibits. He added: “You are the ones who ignited the aggression against Yemen, so stop your aggression and our response will be stopped.”

On March 26, 2015, Saudi Arabia, supported by the United States, launched a large-scale attack on Yemen under the pretext of reinstating ousted former President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and defeating the Houthi Ansar Allah movement, which had gained popular support following the Arab Spring.

After four years of war, the Saudi Coalition has been unable to defeat the Houthis, nor to restore the popularly-ousted Hadi to power. The Houthis, who comprise a major component of Yemen’s resistance to Saudi interference in their country, have recently begun a series of retaliatory attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arabia Emirates.

Feature photo | Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni take part in Quds Day protests in Sana’a Yemen. Photo | Ansarallah Media Center

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

The post Mass Demonstrations Against Saudi Summit and US “Deal” Mark Quds Day in Yemen appeared first on MintPress News.

MintCast Interviews Filmmaker Robbie Martin: The Neoconservative Endgame

Fri, 2019-05-31 20:56

MintCast co-hosts Alan MacLeod and Whitney Webb recently spoke to Robbie Martin (@FluorescentGrey), a filmmaker whose recent documentary series A Very Heavy Agenda explores how prominent Bush-era neo-conservatives have continued to dominate the Washington foreign policy debate and have been instrumental in creating and fomenting Russiagate and Cold War 2.0.

Neoconservatives, or Neocons, have been a key force in Washington for decades and seem to maintain their influence regardless of what political party controls the presidency or Congress. MintCast’s discussion with Martin first focuses on the origins of the term and the movement and follows its trajectory to the present. Martin makes the case that the ultimate goal of the neoconservative movement is to gain favor from both the establishment left and establishment right in order to indefinitely dominate U.S. foreign policy, and that the neocons are closer to that goal now more than ever.

MacLeod, Webb and Martin then discussed the role of the neocons in creating what is now known as “Russiagate” years before Trump was even a presidential candidate and how a top neoconservative donor in the Republican party was largely responsible for the controversial “Steele dossier” despite the fact that the president and other prominent Republicans have since accused Democrats of having been exclusively responsible for promoting the Russiagate narrative.

The discussion concludes with a focus on neoconservatism in the Trump era, with a special focus on National Security Advisor John Bolton and the push for war in Iran and Venezuela. Here, Martin asserts that Trump and Bolton are playing “good cop” and “bad cop”, respectively, with Trump casting himself as a dove compared to Bolton’s hawkishness as a foreign policy negotiating tactic and as a means of placating his base domestically.

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Watch the trailer for A Robbie Martin’s A Very Heavy Agenda:

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