Wednesday, 19 June 2019

“Israelis” Not Invited To Bahrain Conference, Event to Be Kept “Apolitical” – White House



The White House decided not to invite “Israelis” to the Bahrain economic conference it is planning for later on this month in Bahrain.
According to an unnamed official part of the Bahrain planning team, i24NEWS stated that the Zionist government won’t be invited, nor will any “Israeli” organizations or companies. This confirms an earlier report from Reuters saying “Israeli” officials would not be invited.
“This is a workshop where we will present our economic vision for the Palestinian people,” the unnamed official told i24NEWS. “As such, we want the focus to be on the economic aspect, not the political.”
However, as far as the US organizers are concerned, individual “Israeli” investors will be welcomed to take part in Bahrain, media reports estimated.
With less than 10 days to go, the fortunes of the first crucial date of the Trump administration’s so-called “Deal of the Century” rollout are still uncertain.
Jordan, which was earlier announced to be attending by the US, denied the claims on Sunday, saying they were still making decisions.
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Provocations in the Gulf of Oman: Will John Bolton Get His War on Iran?



Global Research, June 16, 2019
“America’s declared policy should be ending Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution before its 40th anniversary…Recognizing a new Iranian regime in 2019 would reverse the shame of once seeing our diplomats held hostage for 444 days.” – John Bolton (January 15, 2018) [1]
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Coincidentally or not, America’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran began within a month of John Bolton’s installment as National Security Advisor. On May 8th of 2018, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. was backing out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the U.S. under President Barrack Obama along with the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Germany and the EU in July of 2015. Consequently, the sanctions imposed on Iran previous to the JCPOA were reinstated, and additional sanctions imposed by the end of the year.
In April of this year, the Trump Administration took the unprecedented step of declaring the Middle East country’s military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to be a terrorist organization.
Two weeks later, the Trump Administration ended the waivers it had extended to other countries which had to that point allowed them to escape sanctions for purchasing Iranian oil. The aim of this manoeuvre being to strangle the Iranian economy by preventing its ability to profit from the sale of its main source of revenue.
Two weeks after that, Bolton announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force Bombers to the Middle East as part of an effort to “send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
The following week, four tankers were attacked in the Persian Gulf. Bolton and Secretary of State Pompeo blamed Iran for the attacks.
America’s choke-hold on Iran’s economy continued to tighten with further sanctions on May 8th of this year, the anniversary of Trump’s JCPOA pull-out.
Two weeks after that, President Trump ordered 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East, and was able to declare an emergency over Iran, allowing the White House to circumvent Congress, and move ahead with arms sales to allies Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
By early June, the administration started sending out conciliatory signals. The President indicated he, unlike his National Security Advisor, was not seeking regime change in Iran, and shortly afterwards, Secretary of State Pompeo said the U.S. was prepared to engage the Iranians “without preconditions.”
Then, on Thursday June 13, two ships in the Gulf of Oman were fired upon. U.S. officials including Trump are pointing to Iran as the guilty party, although Iranian officials categorically deny the accusation.
Is the world now on a trajectory toward war? Perhaps even a world war? This daunting possibility is at the heart of this week’s Global Research News Hour radio program.
First up, we hear from prominent Canadian intellectual Michel ChossudovskyProfessor Chossudovsky, while not completely ruling out the possibility of a “bloody nose” operation or other forms of economic warfare, argues that the U.S. cannot expect to fight and win a conventional Iraq style conflict in light of developments in strategic regional alliances over the last decade. Chossudovsky explains his reasoning in the first half hour.
Our second guest, Yves Engler, brings a Canadian angle to the conversation by outlining the enmity America’s northern neighbour has expressed toward the Islamic Republic and that has not changed substantially since the more ‘progressive’ Trudeau Liberals took power in 2015. Engler details the factors influencing Canadian policy and how Canadians can hope to redirect relations in a more positive and peaceful direction.
Finally, the noted journalist and geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar shares his insights into America’s shifting attitudes toward the Iranian government, the recent attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman, and what these developments say about divisions within the Trump Administration, and the prospect of a bloody war and economic depression rivalling anything the world has seen in the 21st century. (See transcript below.)
Professor Michel Chossudovsky is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Ottawa and the award-winning author of 11 books including his most recent America’s Long War Against Humanity. He is also the founder and director of the Centre for Research on Globalization and editor of Global Research.
Yves Engler is one of Canada’s foremost Canadian foreign policy critics and dissidents. He is the author of nine books on Canadian foreign policy including The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy (2009), and his most recent, Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada. His articles have appeared at rabble.ca, canadiandimension.com, and on his own site yvesengler.com.
Pepe Escobar is a veteran Brazilian Journalist, geopolitical analyst and Correspondent at large for Asia Times based out of Hong Kong. He has written for Tom Dispatch, Sputnik News, and Press TV, and RT. His articles appear in a number of websites including Global Research, and is a frequent commentator on radio and tv.
(Global Research News Hour Episode 264)
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Transcript – Interview with Pepe Escobar, June 14, 2019.
Global Research: I want to refer to a recent article you mentioned about a devastating hammer that Iran can use against the United States in the event of an overt attack. And the US knows it. What have your sources disclosed about the Strait of Hormuz and Iran’s capacity to fight back against an attack?
Pepe Escobar: Exactly. Look, I think the last article I published about it was after the Bilderberg meetings in fact. Because I was asked to investigate about at least some of the stuff they were discussing inside Bilderberg. I had a good banking source in fact. They did not disclose much. You know very well at Global Research how Bilderberg works–
GR: Chatham House Rules
PE: Exactly – you betcha. But I got some interesting information about how they were seeing the results of the European parliamentary elections as a sort of victory because now everyone in Europe is more or less the center-left and the center-right and the Greens are more or less on the same page, but from the point of view of Bilderbergers, there was a victory.
But then, I was asking, look I’m sure they discuss about China and Iran and all that, and my source was saying look, I cannot talk about this for obvious reasons. But then I got information from someone who’s above Bilderberg, if you can put it this way. This is one of my best sources for years, in fact. American, the only thing I can say is American. It’s not European, it’s not Asian.
And he told me look, I know what they discussed about Iran because the key information is actually on Trump’s desk. We all know that Trump doesn’t read anything, but this information came supported by Wall Street guys. And I’m talking about the big guys. Blackstone, Sumner Redstone, Jamie Dimon from JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs people including Goldman Sachs projections, you name it. So, Trump must have seen it at least, or at least somebody must have read it to him in two or three minutes.
And I had written about this before. Now more…the studies are more detailed. It’s about if, essentially, if the Strait of Hormuz is shut down, whatever the reason, it could be a false flag, like most probably what happened yesterday with the two tankers, the Norwegian tanker and the Japanese tanker transporting petrochemical products back to Asia, was not in the Strait of Hormuz, it was more on the open sea and the Gulf of Oman. If it was in the Strait of Hormuz, it would be much, much worse than what happened yesterday.
So the projections, including Goldman Sachs projections, if this happens and the Strait is closed, whatever the reason, because mostly insurers would not risk ensuring any vessel leaving the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, and then further afield, the price of the barrel of oil in less than 24 hours would be over 100, after one day or two, 200, after a week, 500, and there is some projections that after a while we would even reach 1000. And more than that, the implosion of Casino Capitalism as we know it, especially because of the…
And then we have different numbers. The derivatives, especially oil derivatives and other derivatives as well. There are all sorts of numbers concerning how many derivatives are out there, from 500 billion dollars, which is the official Bank of International Settlements figure to 2.5 quadrillion dollars, in fact. So, it gets very complicated. I had to fight with the… with Asia Times to say, look, you should publish all the figures, and they prefer to go for the lowest estimate. And one of my sources told me no, this is the… Swiss bankers know this figure, implying more or less his source was from the Bank of International Settlements, and he’s adamant that it’s 2.5 quadrillion dollars. So this means that the whole western economy would collapse in a matter of literally nanoseconds.
So, this was in my story for Asia Times. I also wrote about this for Consortium News and more, and for the past month or so, I discussed this with Iranians but not directly with the Revolutionary Guards. People who have access to IRGC information.
And always the IRGC are very secretive. They know, and they do have the necessary means to shut down the Strait, whichever way they want. And that’s why I got from my Iranian sources this time, they are so sure that the Americans won’t try anything stupid, because the Pentagon knows what Iran is capable of militarily. They know about all those missiles lining up the northern shore of the Persian Gulf on the Iranian side pointed at everything that moves in the Strait of Hormuz and also in the Gulf of Oman.
And that was the main reason that Trump wants to talk. And this was discussed at Bilderberg, every single thing that I’m telling you. Why? Because Mike Pompeo, at the last minute, scheduled that stop in Switzerland, especially in Bern, to talk to the president of Switzerland, but he also talked to the people at Bilderberg afterwards. Because Bilderberg was in Montreux, not very far. He went to Montreux as well. And they talk, and I’m sure they talk obviously no leaks whatsoever about it, but obviously Pompeo had to talk especially with Europeans who are terrified about this, and some Europeans knew about this information, because this information was circulated by bankers to European bankers as well. Bilderberg, everything connected. So this was the reason why Pompeo actually went to Switzerland at that time. This was an unscheduled stop; we have to remember this all the time.
So… but still we have the major problem on the table, which resurfaced yesterday. Are the neocons around Trump playing their last card to force him to do anything on a military side against Iran? Because if it’s…I would say we still don’t have a mega smoking gun, but it’s more or less sure that what happened yesterday was a false flag. We still don’t know exactly how it worked. But if that’s the case, and Trump saying today, no if they close the Strait of Hormuz it’s not going to be for long, which is a diversionist tactic, he knows, he should know by now what that would mean in terms of a disaster for the global economy.
So now we are way beyond this already, we are in a horrible stage where the United States has painted itself into a corner, saying, Pompeo saying, on the record, that to Iran they’re responsible without examining any evidence at all. Today, very, very important, earlier today, since yesterday and earlier today, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, guess who was in the same room? Putin, Modi, Xi, Imran Khan, and as an observer, Rouhani, President of Iran.
And obviously, they were discussing Iran. It was not on the final statement because Iran was an observer to the SCO. But they discussed, as far as, from my sources told me, it hasn’t leaked a lot so far, but they did discuss Iran, and Rouhani made a solemn promise, which was brilliant in geo-economic terms, to all SCO member nations: You’re going to have the… your companies, from any one of you, India, Pakistan, Russia, China, all the central Asians, all of your companies that invest the Iranian market, you’re going to have the best possible conditions anywhere. So, there’s going to be a lot of foreign investment from the SCO, companies from SCO member nations in the Iranian economy.
So, Iran, on the diplomatic side, they are doing very well. On the military side, as far as I know from my Iranian sources who know more or less in detail what the IRGC is doing, they tell me, look, they don’t care anymore, whatever the Americans say. And this comes straight from the top. from Ayatollah Khamenei when he says that it’s absolutely pointless to talk with the Americans. And Zarif is saying in a more diplomatic way to Ministers of Foreign Relations everywhere and leaders everywhere, including of course Putin and Xi. “We are ready for anything that happens, we want diplomacy of course, but if they ratchet up the pressure, we will ratchet up pressure from our side.” It’s getting to a very, very dangerous stalemate now, Michael.
GR: Yeah, I was wondering if you could address a point related… I guess you could call it palace intrigue in Washington. Because it’s been suggested by fellow Consortium News contributor of yours, John Kiriakou, that John Bolton’s days as national security advisor are numbered, given all the unwelcome provocations he’s directing at Iran. At the same time, the United States, Trump, presumably doesn’t want to have an unwinnable war on the eve of a major US presidential election campaign, nor does he want to bring down the global capitalist deck of cards. So, how… What options does he have? How can Trump avoid escalation with Iran without losing face at this point?
PE: Exactly, that’s a very good question. John’s information is very, very good. Because it ties with the information that I have from people in New York who do business with Trump. They told me the same thing. He’s absolutely furious, in fact, with the way he was painted into a corner by Bolton especially. Pompeo not so much. Pompeo is expected to go around blasting Iran. But Bolton is actually trying to implement something practical or false flag style on the ground. And now, Trump himself is painting himself into a corner. He is already accusing Iran of what happened in the Gulf of Oman on the record. How is he going to backtrack from that? Of course, now he cannot backtrack without just saying oh, look I was wrong, okay, here’s another tweet, I changed my mind!
So, it’s…what we know for sure is that he doesn’t want any kind of military scenario because he seems to know what that would imply. Considering the IRGC, their force, what they have, the missiles, and of course the financial angle, which is the derivatives crisis. At the same time, they keep ratcheting up the pressure under the so-called self-described maximum pressure campaign. And there’s no possibility of dialogue because this, what happened yesterday, was… when Prime Minister Shinzō Abe was talking to Khameini in Khameini’s office in Tehran, trying to defuse the whole situation, Japan as the intermediary, the messenger between Washington and Tehran, and this thing happens, this is completely cra– and anyone with an IQ higher than 12 can figure out that this doesn’t make any sense at all. Why would Iran attack a Japanese-owned tanker… the minute their prime minister is talking to the leader of the… This is completely absurd.
GR: And talking to the prime minister on behalf of Trump.
PE: On behalf of Trump – exactly, exactly! He had a letter. He had a letter which probably was sent by team Trump to Ayatollah Khameini. Khameini, from the beginning, he said look there’s nothing to talk about. In fact it’s fantastic. Somebody came up with two different pictures. Abe had the letter with him, he put it on the table when they were talking, and after a while he removed the letter from the table. A graphic sign that Khameini was not ready to read anything written by team Trump.
GR: Well, Pepe, I wish we had more time to discuss this, but, I know we’ve both got to go, but I want to thank you for lending your very knowledgeable voice to this critical discussion on breaking events.
PE: I hope this is helpful for everybody.
GR: We’ve been speaking with geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar. He joined us from Paris.
-end of interview –
The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM out of the University of Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at globalresearch.ca .
The Global Research News Hour now airs Fridays at 6pm PST, 8pm CST and 9pm EST on Alternative Current Radio (alternativecurrentradio.com)
Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:
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It is also available on 93.9 FM cable in the communities of SFU, Burnaby, New Westminister, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Surrey and Delta, in British Columbia, Canada. – Tune in  at its new time – Wednesdays at 4pm PT.
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Notes:
  1. John Bolton (January 15, 2018), ‘Beyond the Iran Nuclear Deal: U.S. Policy should be to end the Islamic Republic before its 40th anniversary’, Wall Street Journal; https://www.wsj.com/articles/beyond-the-iran-nuclear-deal-1516044178

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Our Reality Can Beat Up Your Reality. Spreading False News Stories on Iran

Taxpayer-Funded Propaganda for Trolls, by Trolls
Global Research, June 17, 2019
Twitter has declared victory over disinformation, deplatforming thousands of pro-Iranian Twitter accounts this week to coincide with US Secretary of State “Rapture Mike” Pompeo’s evidence-free declaration that Iran had attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. But the mass deletion is merely an effort to distract from the implosion of two anti-Iran troll campaigns dedicated to smearing pro-peace Americans, both tacitly Twitter-approved. And there’s plenty more where those came from. As US media and politicians continues to hyperventilate about Russian bots, who’s the real troll-master?
Pompeo was out front with the blame hours after the attack, absent a shred of proof beyond unspecified “intelligence” and a few other dubious incidents in the Middle East that the US has previously pinned on Iran (also absent a shred of proof). But even mainstream media has initially been reluctant to take his word for it, mostly because the narrative is so improbable – Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe was in Tehran when it happened, promising to make the “utmost effort” to de-escalate tensions, when, as if on cue, one Japanese ship and another carrying Japanese cargo were hit? What are the odds?
When even CNN acknowledged that the attack “doesn’t appear to benefit any of the protagonists in the region,” and Bloomberg admitted “Iran has little to gain” from blowing up the ships of its esteemed guest, Pompeo clearly understood another route of influence was required. Who better to call in for reinforcements than Twitter, which has demonstrated time and again its willingness to serve the US’ preferred narrative with mass deplatformings? 4,779 accounts believed to be “associated or backed by Iran” were removed – less than an hour after Pompeo’s declaration of Iranian guilt – for nothing more than tweeting “global news content, often with an angle that benefited the diplomatic and geostrategic views of the Iranian state.” This was deemed “platform manipulation,” and therefore unacceptable.
One troll down, thousands more to go
Tweeting with an angle that benefits the diplomatic and geostrategic views of the American state, however, is perfectly acceptable – at least, it wasn’t Twitter that brought the “Iran Disinformation Project” crashing to a halt earlier this month. The State Department officially ended its @IranDisinfo influence operation after the social media initiative, ostensibly created to “counter Iranian propaganda,” went rogue, smearing any and all critics of Trump’s hawkish Iran policy as paid operatives of the Iranian government. Human rights activists, students, journalists, academics, even insufficiently-militant American propagandists at RFE/RL, Voice of America and other US-funded outlets were attacked by @IranDisinfo – all on the US taxpayer’s dime.
Congress only learned of the project in a closed-door hearing on Monday, when the State Department confessed the troll campaign had taken $1.5 million in taxpayers’ money to attack those same taxpayers – all in the name of promoting “freedom of expression and free access to information.” The group contracted to operate Iran Disinfo, E-Collaborative for Civic Education, is run by an Iranian immigrant and claims to focus on strengthening “civil society” and “democracy” back home, though its work is almost exclusively US-focused and its connections with pro-war think tanks like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies have alarmed congressional staffers.
“What rules are in place to prevent state-funded organization from smearing American citizens? If there wasn’t public outcry, would the Administration have suspended funding for Iran Disinfo?” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) tweeted after the mea culpa meeting. While the State Department was long barred from directing government-funded propaganda at its own citizens, that rule was quietly repealed in 2013 with the passage of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act, which gave its narrative-spinners free reign to run influence operations at home. And while the Pentagon is technically forbidden from running psychological operations (“psy-ops”) against American citizens, that rule goes out the window in case of “domestic emergencies” – and the domestic emergency declared by then-President George W. Bush days after the September 11 terror attacks remains in effect, 18 years later.
Trump’s favorite anti-Iran troll
Nor was the State Department’s trolling operation the only anti-Iran psy-op to be unmasked in recent weeks. Heshmat Alavi, an anti-Iranian columnist promoted by the Trump administration and published in Forbes, the Hill, and several other outlets, was exposed by the Intercept as a propaganda construct operated by the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a controversial Iranian exile group often called a cult that has only recently lobbied its way off the US’ terror list. The MEK is notorious for buying the endorsement of American political figures, and national security adviser John Bolton, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani are among those who have spoken at its events.
Heshmat Alavi’s stories were used to sell Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal to the Washington Post and other more reputable outlets, as well as to promote the MEK as a “main Iranian opposition group” and viable option for post-regime-change leadership of Iran – even though it is very much fringe and hated by the majority of Iranians for fighting on the side of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Indeed, Alavi’s relentless advocacy for the MEK may have scared off a few of the sites that initially published his work.
None of the editors who’d published Alavi’s work had ever spoken to him and none could provide the Intercept with any evidence that he was not, in fact, “a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK.” Defectors confirmed that Alavi is a small part of a massive US-directed propaganda campaign.
“We were always active in making false news stories to spread to the foreign press and in Iran,” a Canadian MEK defector told the Intercept, describing a comprehensive online propaganda operation run out of the group’s former base in Iraq that sought to control the narrative about Iran on Facebook and Twitter. Alavi may be gone, his account quietly suspended by Twitter in the wake of the Intercept’s unmasking and his stories pulled from Forbes and the Diplomat, but there are more where he came from. The Intercept delivered Twitter all the evidence they needed to take down the MEK’s trolling network, a swamp of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” in which Alavi was a prominent node, but the social network sat on its hands.
Friends funding fiends
Add to this toxic US-approved stew the Israeli astroturf operation Act.IL, which in 2018 took $1.1 million from Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs to troll Americans critical of Israeli policies, including its hostility toward Iran. Initially founded to combat the Iran nuclear deal, the Ministry’s mission has pivoted to combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, for which it receives significant US funding (Israeli Lt-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi admitted in 2012 that American taxpayers contribute more to the country’s defense budget than Israeli taxpayers). Act.IL boasts it has gotten Americans fired from their jobs, and the app encourages users to accuse American students and journalists who support BDS of antisemitism, mass-report their posts, and otherwise engage in what would be called “coordinated inauthentic behavior” if any other country did it.
Act.IL is by no means the only Israeli trolling campaign aimed at American eyeballs, either. Psy-Group, the Israeli private intelligence company that infamously pitched a social media influence operation to the Trump campaign, ran a multi-pronged online smear operation to influence a local election in California in 2017 and has pitched dozens more. The Israel on Campus Coalition attacks pro-Palestinian student activists and professors through coordinated social media campaigns, while The Israel Project operates a network of Facebook groups whose admitted purpose is to smuggle pro-Israeli propaganda into users’ newsfeeds by concealing it among bland inspirational messages.
Such clear-cut deception by state-sponsored actors is a blatant violation of Facebook’s policies as they’ve been applied to other users, but the site claims the Israeli groups are kosher. Yet of the pro-Iran accounts deleted by Twitter, one “set” included 248 accounts “engaged with discussions related to Israel specifically” – these were shut down for nothing more than their country of origin, even as inauthentic accounts run by Israel were given carte-blanche to spew propaganda. Twitter and Facebook don’t mind being weaponized in the propaganda wars, as long as they’re working for the “right” side.
As 21st century wars are fought more and more in the informational sphere, the brightly-colored propaganda posters of the previous century have been replaced with relatively sophisticated social media influence operations. What Pompeo can’t accomplish by lying to the American public, the State Department will attempt to achieve through the slow and steady drip of disinformation.
US politicians, meanwhile, remain so fixated on the “Russian trolls stole the election!” narrative they’ve been flogging for the last three years that the Senate last week unanimously passed a bill to restrict entry to any foreign national convicted of “election meddling,” a toothless piece of legislative virtue-signaling that reveals their utter disconnection from reality. It’s more than a little ironic that they’d embrace and even pay for foreign meddling as long as they believe the trolls are working for them.
As Friedrich Nietzsche said,
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” Or a troll.
*
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This article was originally published in abbreviated form on RT.
Helen Buyniski‘s work has been published at RT, Ghion Journal, Progressive Radio Network, and Veterans Today, among other outlets. A journalist and photographer based in New York City, Helen has a BA in Journalism from New School University and also studied at Columbia University and New York University. Find more of her work at http://www.helenofdestroy.com and http://medium.com/@helen.buyniski, or follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
All images in this article are from the author

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Tuesday, 18 June 2019

موسكو تمتلك تصوّراً للحل… وتنتظر قمة العشرين



يونيو 15, 2019

ناصر قنديل

– ترفض موسكو على أعلى مستويات القرار فيها التعامل مع ما يشهده الخليج من تصعيد وتوتر بصفته شأناً أميركياً إيرانياً. فالذي يجري هو من تداعيات الانسحاب الأميركي من التفاهم الدولي مع إيران حول ملفها النووي مقابل رفع العقوبات عنها، وروسيا الشريك في الاتفاق ليست غير معنية، ولا تستطيع التسليم بأن الاتفاق النووي مع إيران هو اتفاق أميركي إيراني، وأن الآخرين هم مجرد شهود عليه، وبالتالي يسقط الاتفاق لأن أحد طرفيه قد قرّر الخروج منه، والعقوبات الأميركية التي تدفع ثمنها ومثلها الصين ودول أخرى، تمثل في الملف النووي الإيراني أضعف حلقاتها القانونية، لأنها عقوبات تنتهك قراراً أممياً صدّق التفاهم حول الملف النووي الإيراني.

– تدرك موسكو أن العروض الأميركية السخية التي قدمت لها مراراً للتخلي عن مواقف وتحالفات، ليست حرصاً على شراكة ولا اعترافاً بدور، بل محاولة للعب بالدور الروسي لتجريد موسكو من حلفاء وعزلهم وبعد إضعافهم العودة لتصفية الحساب مع روسيا، لذلك روسيا لا تشتري العروض الأميركية، وهي كما فعلت في المسألة السورية ستفعل في المسألة الإيرانية، والعقوبات الأمميّة على إيران التي أزيلت بموافقة أميركية بقرار أممي لن تعود مهما حاولت واشنطن تقديم الإغراءات. فموسكو وبكين هما العدو الأول بنظر واشنطن كما ترى القيادة الروسية، وإيران عقدة محورية تستنزف الأحادية الأميركية وتقوّي موقع روسيا والصين. وتفكيك العقدة الإيرانية سيسهل التقدم الأميركي نحو خط الاشتباك مع روسيا والصين.

– موسكو تتمسك بدور الشريك الكامل في السياسة الدولية، والشراكة لا تعني شراكة معالجة نتائج القرارات الأميركية الأحادية، بل الشراكة في القرارات. وموسكو لم يشاورها أحد من الأميركيين بالانسحاب من التفاهم النووي مع إيران، فلا يستطيع أحد أن يطالبها بتحمّل تبعات قرارات أحاديّة بعروض شراكة متأخرة، ومَن يريد الشراكة يشاور قبل القرار ويربط قراره بحاصل التشاور، خصوصاً أن الملف المعني هو حاصل تعاون دولي امتدّ لسنوات كانت روسيا وأميركا والدول الدائمة العضويّة في مجلس الأمن الدولي وألمانيا شركاء كاملين فيه، وكان الحد الأدنى من مقتضيات احترام هذه الشراكة التي قامت وراء التفاهم مع إيران على ملفها النووي، يستدعي أن تأتي واشنطن لدعوة الخمسة زائداً واحداً إلى اجتماع تعرض خلاله مآخذها وتطرح مطالبها وتترك مجالاً أمام الشركاء للقيام بما يرونه مناسباً لحماية التفاهم من داخل أحكامه، ويتوافق الشركاء على كيفية التعامل مع هذه الملاحظات وتلك المطالب، لكن الذي حدث أن واشنطن انسحبت من التفاهم وقررت عقوبات أحادية على إيران والشركاء في الاتفاق إن هم واصلوا الالتزام بهذا الاتفاق المصادق عليه بقرار أممي، ومجاراة واشنطن في فعلتها يعني نهاية دور روسيا دولياً ونهاية دور مجلس الأمن، وسيادة منطق العقوبات كبديل قليل الكلفة عن التدخل العسكري في تنفيذ السياسات الأميركية.

موسكو تجد أن اللحظة مناسبة بوجود قوة بحجم إيران مستعدّة للمواجهة، لتقويض سياسة العقوبات، كما وجدت في سورية شريكاً مستعداً للمواجهة لتقويض سياسة التدخل في رسم مستقبل أنظمة الحكم في بلدان العالم، ومثلما نجحت روسيا في الفوز بمعركة الدفاع عن مفهوم السيادة الوطنية للدول، بفعل ثبات الدولة السورية في خط المواجهة، تثق روسيا بثبات القيادة الإيرانية في مواجهة محاولات الترويض والتطويع بقوة العقوبات، كما تثق بالطريق المسدود الذي ستبلغه واشنطن في محاولة جرّ طهران للتفاوض من موقع الضعف، وعليها أن تتحمل نتائج التوتر والتصعيد الناتجين عن سياساتها، وتقديم الأجوبة حول كيفية حمايتها أسواق النفط واستقرارها، ومدى جهوزيتها لخوض حرب يعرف الجميع نتائجها الكارثية وتعرف واشنطن أن كلفتها فوق قدرتها على التحمل.

موسكو تملك تصوراً يقوم على تقاطعات مصالح بالتهدئة بعدما تكتشف واشنطن محدودية تأثير سياساتها، وتطلب الوساطة، والتصور يأخذ بالاعتبار صعوبة عودة واشنطن للاتفاق النووي كما يأخذ بالاعتبار جهوزية الشركاء الآخرين لإيجاد مخارج لتفادي العقوبات الأميركية، لكن المطلوب ألا يتم ذلك بالتصادم مع واشنطن، وهذا ينتظر القراءة الأميركية لكيفية التعامل مع التدهور الحاصل في الخليج، واقتراب مهلة خروج إيران من الاتفاق النووي وعودتها للتخصيب المرتفع لليورانيوم، وإمكانية التفكير الجدي بفرص العودة إلى ما قبل الأول من أيار الماضي، تتراجع واشنطن عن إلغاء الاستثناءات من العقوبات وتتراجع إيران عن الخروج من الاتفاق النووي لستة شهور، ويدور خلالها حوار هادئ حول التسويات الإقليمية وضمان الملاحة الإقليمية والنفطية، والمهلة قابلة للتجديد لأكثر من مرة طالما أن الحلول كما الحروب مستبعَدة.

في قمة العشرين ستكتشف موسكو ما إذا كانت واشنطن جاهزة، أم أن مواجهة كالتي شهدتها سورية ولو بأشكال مختلفة، ستكون ضرورية لنضج الموقف الأميركي للبحث بمبادرات قليلة الكلفة لتفادي أثمان باهظة؟

هذا بعض ما قالته مصادر سياسية معنية بأوضاع المنطقة تسنى لها الاطلاع على الموقف الروسي على هامش قمة شانغهاي التي شارك فيها الرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين ووزير الخارجية الروسية سيرغي لافروف.

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Sunday, 16 June 2019

Convenient "Tanker Attacks" as US Seeks War with Iran



June 13, 2019 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO)
…it would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it. 
– Brookings Institution, “Which Path to Persia?” 2009 
For the second time since the United States unilaterally withdrew from the so-called Iran Nuclear Deal, Western reports of “suspected attacks” on oil tankers near the Stait of Hormuz have attempted to implicate Iran.
The London Guardian in an article titled, “Two oil tankers struck in suspected attacks in Gulf of Oman,” would claim:
Two oil tankers have been hit in suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman and the crews evacuated, a month after a similar incident in which four tankers in the region were struck.
The article also claimed:
Gulf tensions have been close to boiling point for weeks as the US puts “maximum economic pressure” on Tehran in an attempt to force it to reopen talks about the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of last year. 

Iran has repeatedly said it has no knowledge of the incidents and did not instruct any surrogate forces to attack Gulf shipping, or Saudi oil installations.
The Guardian would admit that “investigations” into the previous alleged attacks in May carried out by the UAE found “sophisticated mines” were used, but fell short of implicating Iran as a culprit.
The article would note US National Security Advisor John Bolton would – without evidence – claim that Iran “was almost certainly involved.”
All Too Convenient 
This news of “attacked” oil tankers near the Stait of Hormuz blamed by the US on Iran – comes all too conveniently on the heels of additional steps taken by Washington to pressure Iran’s economy and further undermine the Iranian government.
The US just recently ended waivers for nations buying Iranian oil. Nations including Japan, South Korea, Turkey, China, and India will now face US sanctions if they continue importing Iranian oil.
Coincidentally, one of ships “attacked” this week was carrying “Japan-related cargo,” the Guardian would report.
Also convenient was the US’ recent designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) just ahead of this series of provocations attributed to Iran.
AP in a May 2019 article titled, “President Trump Warns Iran Over ‘Sabotaged’ Oil Tankers in Gulf,” would claim:
Four oil tankers anchored in the Mideast were damaged by what Gulf officials described as sabotage, though satellite images obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday showed no major visible damage to the vessels.
Two ships allegedly were Saudi, one Emirati, and one Norwegian. The article also claimed:
A U.S. official in Washington, without offering any evidence, told the AP that an American military team’s initial assessment indicated Iran or Iranian allies used explosives to blow holes in the ships.
And that:
The U.S. already had warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged, still-unspecified threats from Tehran. 
This more recent incident will likely be further exploited by the US to continue building up its military forces in the region, applying pressure on Iran, and moving the entire globe closer toward war with Iran.
The US has already arrayed its forces across the Middle East to aid in ongoing proxy wars against Iran and its allies as well as prepare for conventional war with Tehran itself.
All of this amounts to a renewed push toward a more direct conflict between the United States and Iran after years of proxy war in Syria Washington-backed forces have decisively lost.
It is also a continuation of long-standing US foreign policy regarding Iran put into motion over a decade ago and carried out by each respective presidency since.
Washington’s Long-Standing Plans 
Continued sanctions and the elimination of waivers are part of Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the “Iran Nuclear Deal.” The deal was signed in 2015 with the US withdrawing in 2018.
While the decision is portrayed as political differences between former US President Barack Obama and current US President Donald Trump – in reality – the plan’s proposal, signing, and then withdrawal from by the US was planned in detail as early as 2009 as a means of justifying long sought-after war with Iran.
In their 2009 paper, “Which Path to Persia?: Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran” (PDF), the corporate-financier funded Brookings Institution would first admit the complications of US-led military aggression against Iran (emphasis added):
...any military operation against Iran will likely be very unpopular around the world and require the proper international context—both to ensure the logistical support the operation would require and to minimize the blowback from it. 
The paper then lays out how the US could appear to the world as a peacemaker and depict Iran’s betrayal of a “very good deal” as the pretext for an otherwise reluctant US military response (emphasis added):
The best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however, grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that the Iranians were given but then rejected a superb offerone so good that only a regime determined to acquire nuclear weapons and acquire them for the wrong reasons would turn it down. Under those circumstances, the United States (or Israel) could portray its operations as taken in sorrow, not anger, and at least some in the international community would conclude that the Iranians “brought it on themselves” by refusing a very good deal.
And from 2009 onward, this is precisely what the United States set out to achieve.
First with President Obama’s signing of the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, up to and including President Trump’s attempts to backtrack from it based on fabricated claims Iran failed to honor the agreement.
The 2009 policy paper also discussed “goading” Iran into war, claiming (emphasis added):
With provocation, the international diplomatic and domestic political requirements of an invasion [of Iran] would be mitigated, and the more outrageous the Iranian provocation (and the less that the United States is seen to be goading Iran), the more these challenges would be diminished. In the absence of a sufficiently horrific provocation, meeting these requirements would be daunting.
Unmentioned directly, but also an obvious method for achieving Washington’s goal of provoking war with Iran would be the US simply staging an “Iranian provocation” itself.
As the US had done in Vietnam following the Gulf of Tonkin incident, or US fabrications regardings “weapons of mass destruction” Washington claimed Iraq held in its possession, the US has a clear track record of not just simply provoking provocations, but staging them itself.
The Brookings paper even admits to the unlikelihood of Iran falling into Washington’s trap, lamenting (emphasis added):
…it is certainly the case that if Washington sought such a provocation, it could take actions that might make it more likely that Tehran would do so (although being too obvious about this could nullify the provocation). However, since it would be up to Iran to make the provocative move, which Iran has been wary of doing most times in the past, the United States would never know for sure when it would get the requisite Iranian provocation. In fact, it might never come at all.
The alleged sabotaging of oil tankers off the shore of the UAE in May and now additional “attacks” this month could be the beginning of a series of staged provocations aimed at leveraging the recent listing of the IRGC as a “terrorist organization” coupled with increased economic pressure as a result of US sanctions re-initiated after the US’ own withdrawal from the Iran Deal.
Synergies Toward War 
The US has already attempted to leverage allegations in May of “Iranian sabotage” to further build its case against Iran. Washington hopes that either war – or at least the impending threat of war – coupled with crippling economic sanctions, and continued support of political and armed sedition within Iran itself will create the synergies required for dividing and destroying Iran’s political order.
In a wider regional context, the US has seen political losses particularly in Iraq where Iranian influence has been on the rise. Militarily, US-backed proxy forces have been defeated in Syria with Iran and Russia both establishing permanent and significant footholds there.
Despite the setbacks, the success of Washington’s designs against Tehran still depends mainly on America’s ability to offer political and economic incentives coupled with equally effective threats to friend and foe alike – in order to isolate Iran.
How likely this is to succeed remains questionable – decades of US sanctions, covert and overt aggression, as well as proxy wars have left Iran resilient and with more influence across the region now than ever. Still, Washington’s capacity for sowing regional destruction or dividing and destroying Iran should not be underestimated.
The intentional creation of – then withdrawal from the Iran Deal, the US’ persistent military presence in the Middle East, and sanctions aimed at Iran all indicate that US policymakers remain dedicated isolating and undermining Iran. It will continue to do so until its geopolitical goals are met, or until a new international order creates conditions in the Middle East and throughout the global economy making US regime change against Iran impossible.
Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

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The curious case of the tankers


June 14, 2019
by Nat South for The Saker Blog
I have taken the opportunity to look at the recent incident involving two outbound tankers in the Gulf of Oman. I have got some questions or two, (or three) about certain parts of the incident, from a civilian mariner’s perspective mostly.
There are various conflating aspects to the event, and questions need to be asked, yet journalists do not seemingly wish to ask the awkward but necessary questions these days.
Background
The two tankers identified as the ‘Front Altair’, a Marshall Islands flagged vessel and the ‘Kokuka Courageous’, a Panama-flagged vessel.
Front AltairKokuka Courageous
Managed by Frontline, (Norway – Bermuda)Managed by Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Singapore/ Japan)
23 crew(11 Russian, 11 Philippine, 1 Georgian)21 crew (Philippine)
Aframax – 86% loadedHandy – fully loaded
75,000 MT of Naphtha25,000 MT Methanol
Ruwais, UAEQatar & KSA
TaiwanSingapore
Hyundai Dubai rescued crewCoastal Ace rescued crew
Transferred by SAR boat to Iranian portTransferred to USS Bainbridge
Radio message: “torpedo attack”Japanese CEO: “flying objects”
Hit on starboard amidships – “in fire’Hit on starboard Twice over 3-hour period – engine room fire
Stopped at 02:47GMTStopped at 06:20GMT
Both tankers were outbound (south east) of the Strait of Hormuz. Both suffered from explosion on the starboard side, (the side facing international waters). Past AIS tracks of both vessels shown here. The U.S. Navy reported receiving distress messages at 06:12am and 07:00am.
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We’ve captured the activity of the vessels that raced to the area to help the crew of  &  Courageous.
Watch the vessels  Dubai,  &  in this past track video.      
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The activity of the vessels was captured in this past AIS track video. It shows the vessels that went to the tankers, to help the crew of the tankers. The assisting vessels are: Hyundai Dubai, tug ‘E-Two’, the Coastal Ace & ‘Naji 10’.
Contradictions and questions
The US military released a video  claiming to show an Iranian naval boat removing an unexploded limpet mine from the hull of the ‘Kokuka Courageous’ in an apparent attempt to recover evidence of its participation. I will comment more about the video later on, but we have already the ludicrous situation where the information provided by the US contradicts the statement made by the Japanese ship management company, who did not believe the ship was damaged by a mine, but by flying objects. The president of Kokuka Sangyo Marine, (shipowners), Yutaka Katada, said “there is no possibility of mine attack as the attack is well above the waterline.”

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タンカー運航の国華産業社長「砲弾による攻撃を受けた」https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20190613/k10011951311000.html  
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Questions, questions: then there is the question of timing of an attack of a Japanese owned tanker at a time when the Japanese PM was in Iran for talks.
To add to the confusion, there were reports that the Dutch crew of the ‘Coastal Ace’ who first noted a suspicious object on the hull of the tanker. This then morphed into reports that the USS Bainbridge seeing a suspect device, as shown in the timeline provided by the US Navy.
Regarding the other tanker, ‘Front Altair’, the ‘Hyundai Dubai’ was the first ship on scene who responded to the distress message and rescued the crew. Subsequently, it seems the master of this vessel gave a report on VHF: video & audio (unconfirmed).
The audio is rather telling & factual (it is a Russian speaker apparently), as he relays information from the ‘Front Altair’, ‘torpedo attack” is mentioned. (I am assuming is it is pan, pan or urgency message; it is not a distress message).
The U.S. by releasing a grainy black & white video segment, accused Iran of removing a mine from the other tanker, ‘Kokuka Courageous’, as apparent evidence of its involvement in the attacks of the two tankers. The video raises more questions than provides answers.
If both the civilian crew of the ‘Coastal Ace’ and the ‘USS Bainbridge’ both saw the ‘mine’, late morning, then why leave the important evidence in place on the hull of the tanker for several hours? For the Iranians to pick it up later?
USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) was operating in the vicinity and provided immediate assistance to the M/V Kokuka Courageous.”
Immediate? Note that assistance didn’t extend to making safe a suspicious device ‘immediately’.
At 11:05 a.m. local time USS Bainbridge approaches the Dutch tug Coastal Ace, which had rescued the crew of twenty-one sailors from the M/T Kokuka Courageous who had abandoned their ship after discovering a probable unexploded limpet mine on their hull following an initial explosion.”
“At 4:10 p.m. local time an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.”
Timings put in bold for emphasis by author.
The poor quality of the video, apparently taken from a P-8 US navy aircraft, is astounding, given that it took place at 16:00, on a sunlit day. Compare the quality and availability of the metrics between what happened during the encounter between the ‘Admiral Vinogradov’ and the ‘USS Chancellorsville, last week:
I know that optical quality is downgraded for security reasons, but this is beyond a joke in the days of HD and high-quality images on mobile phones.
Not exactly covert, to retrieve a ‘mine’ right under the noses of the US Navy? Especially when you can see in the video people on the Iranian boat looking towards a ship (?) and quite possibly the US aircraft as well. Anyway, does it take 10 people all crowded on the bow to remove a ‘mine’? Unusual EOD method there.
Does it occur to anyone that it might be a person releasing something so that the boat can leave the tanker’s side, a mooring line attachment, a magnetic device? There is no proof to suggest it was a limpet mine removed from the tanker.
The other thing that really bugs me as someone with maritime experience, is the fact that the US Navy was quite relaxed about a fully loaded tanker with methanol with an apparent explosive device attached to the hull amidships.
I personally wouldn’t be calm, due to the implication of having a toxic, polluting and highly flammable cargo, possibly seconds from being ignited. I’d be getting an EOD team over quickly to ID it, to make it safe and hand it over as a crucial piece of evidence. Yet, I cannot ascertain that any of that actually happened while the USS Bainbridge was in the vicinity of the tanker. I guess it was better to wait a few hours and let the Iranians do it. Surreal.
Instead, it seems that the US Navy stood by idly for hours, watched and let the Iranians approach the tanker, so as to gather ‘evidence’.
Another thing, this PowerPoint from the US is rather remarkable:
I guess using a telephoto lens wasn’t appropriate, to get a close-up of the darned ‘mine’ thing. Again, compare this with the US naval person on the ‘USS Chancellorsville’, merrily snapping away at the ‘Admiral Vinogradov’.
Just on this point, I like the witticism on social media:
the Pentagon should start using Huawei cameras for better video quality”.
This a good ‘un too:
Breaking: The US Navy has confirmed that there has been a reported attack on US tankers in the Gulf of Oman.” Posted by SkyNews at 12:37 am 13 June
Credibility has gone down the drain, as the tweet is still live as I write this a day later.
I know it seems little silly observations, but some of these observations could have been made by journalists when presented with official statements. Yet the most obvious question is:
Why would Iran attack two tankers near to the Strait of Hormuz, in the vicinity of US naval forces”? Some comments provided by this Military Times article. I’ll leave that for others to comment and analyze.
I’ll add more in the comments section.
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