RUSSIA SLAMS ALLEGED ISRAELI STRIKE ON SYRIA

 

The Kremlin condemned an alleged Israeli strike against Damascus International Airport on Thursday, urging Israel and other countries to avoid carrying out any action that could heighten tensions in the region.

“We continue to consider that all countries need to refrain from any kind of actions that lead to an increase in tension in this already restive region and call for respect of the sovereignty of Syria,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

 

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later slammed the alleged Israeli strikes, calling them unacceptable.

“Gross violations of Syrian sovereignty, no matter how they are justified, are unacceptable,” she said, adding that “Moscow condemns acts of aggression against Syria.”

Earlier Thursday Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said that the reports of an air strike targeting Damascus Airport matches Israel’s policy of preventing the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah.

Katz, while not confirming outright that Israel struck the airport, stated that the “attack is consistent with our policy to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah by Iran.”

Katz, who is in the United States meeting with senior officials, made the comment after Arab media reported that Israel attacked a Hezbollah arms hub near Damascus airport with five sorties at around 3:25 a.m. No injuries were reported, but a large fireball was seen by locals.

Iranian Defense Minister Brig.-Gen. Hossein Dehghan also condemned the alleged strike and Syria’s official news agency SANA stated that Israel had fired “several missiles” from inside the Golan Heights “in a desperate attempt to raise the collapsed morale of terrorist groups due to the Syrian Army’s blows, and this aggression will not dissuade the army from continuing the war.”

According to an intelligence source who spoke to Reuters, the arms depot handles a large amount of weapons supplied by Iran, which regularly sends weapons to Syria via commercial and military cargo planes to Hezbollah and other Iranian- backed militias fighting for the regime of Bashar Assad.

Iran has been accused of using commercial planes to ferry troops and weapons into Syria. In 2011, Iran Air was singled out by the US Treasury in part due to its role in transporting “potentially dangerous Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-related cargo” as well as “missile or rocket components” to Syria. Sanctions against the airline were dropped in 2015 as part of the nuclear deal, but there continue to be indications that the airline flies in weapons and troops to the wartorn country.

According to Farzin Nadimi, a Washington-based analyst specializing in the security and defense affairs of Iran and the Persian Gulf region, “Iranian and Syrian airlines have hauled about 21,000 passengers between Tehran/Abadan and Damascus in the past two months alone, along with over 5,000 tons of supplies.”

Nadimi, who made the comment in a briefing for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, stated that all the flights are “fully chartered by the IRGC and usually unavailable to the general public,” and that the flights are also operated only at nighttime “in order to hinder satellite monitoring.”

According to a flight radar tracking site, flightradar24.com., four Iranian cargo planes had landed at Damascus Airport just hours before the alleged strike.

Israel has reiterated its view several times that any transfer of advanced weaponry to the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist group is a redline and that it will work to prevent any such movement.

While the IDF neither confirms nor denies the strikes, on Tuesday in a rare admission a senior officer said that last month Israel destroyed some 100 Syrian missiles, many of which were due to be delivered to Hezbollah.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is in Moscow for a security conference, said that Israel is concerned about Iranian activity in Syria and that Tehran is using Syria as a base for arms smuggling to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel, he said, “will not allow Iranian and Hezbollah forces to be amassed on the Golan Heights border.”

Advertisements

US ‘deeply concerned’ after Turkey bombs allies in Iraq and Syria

Washington (CNN)  US officials said they were “deeply concerned” after Turkey carried out a series of airstrikes Tuesday against US allies fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

A senior US defense official told CNN that the US was given about one hour’s advance notice of the strikes by the Turkish military. The official added that no US or coalition advisers were in the vicinity.
Turkish warplanes struck targets in northern Syria and the area of Sinjar in northern Iraq. The Turkish armed forces issued a statement saying it had “neutralized” 70 PKK “terrorist” fighters — 40 in northern Iraq and 30 others in northeastern Syria.
The Turkish government has been conducting a decades-long fight against the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that has carried out terrorist attacks in Turkey.
But Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces, America’s primary Syrian ally in the fight against ISIS, and the Iraq-based Kurdish Peshmerga both said that they suffered casualties as well as a result of the airstrikes.
“We are very concerned, deeply concerned, that Turkey conducted airstrikes earlier today in northern Syria as well as northern Iraq without proper coordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition to defeat ISIS,” acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Tuesday.
“We have expressed those concerns to the government of Turkey directly,” Toner added.
Satellite images give rare glimpse into Syria

Satellite images give rare glimpse into Syria 02:09
The Pentagon also released a statement on its concerns about the strikes.
“These ‎airstrikes were not approved by the Counter-ISIS Coalition and led to the unfortunate loss of life of our partner forces in the fight against ISIS, including the Kurdish Peshmerga,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway said.
A statement issued by the Peshmerga, the military arm of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, said that five of its fighters were killed in the air raid and another nine wounded. The KRG blamed the nearby presence of PKK fighters for the casualties. The government of Iraq also protested the unilateral airstrikes by Turkey.
“Given the extraordinarily complex battle space in these areas, it is vital that Turkey and all partners in the defeat-ISIS effort coordinate their actions closely as we work together to maintain maximum pressure on ISIS and ensure the safety of all Coalition personnel in theater,” Rankine-Galloway said.
Turkey has long been opposed to the PKK, considered a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the US.
Erdogan denies dictator charges

Erdogan denies dictator charges 01:42
Ankara sees the PKK and the Kurdish forces in the Syrian Democratic Forces — known as the YPG — as closely linked, while the US views them as distinct organizations. The US sees the SDF as the most effective force fighting ISIS in Syria supporting its push on the city of Raqqa, ISIS’ self-declared capital.
“We recognize the threat the PKK poses to Turkey, but Turkey cannot pursue that fight at the expense of our common fight against terrorists that threaten us all,” Rankine-Galloway said.
While Turkey has struck PKK targets in Iraq in the past, Turkey’s latest military action comes days after President Donald Trump called President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate him after he prevailed in a closely contested referendum that granted his presidency additional powers. Trump’s congratulatory call stood out among Western leaders, many of whom struck a less laudatory tone over the controversial vote.
In the wake of his referendum victory, some US officials had hoped that Erdogan would be more flexible in cooperating with — or at least tolerating — US efforts aimed at backing the SDF offensive on Raqqa.

Israel said to strike pro-Assad forces in Syria, killing 3

An Israeli attack on a Syrian camp for pro-government forces killed three fighters near the Golan Heights on Sunday, an official from the forces said.

The National Defense Forces (NDF), a pro-regime militia, said in a statement that the alleged Israeli strike targeted the Naba Fawar base in the area.

The NDF report said the three men killed were named Mohammad Ahmad Ibrahim, Safwan Ahmad Salibi and Osama Hamed Faraj.

An NDF official told AFP that it was unclear whether the damage was inflicted by an airstrike or shelling.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group confirmed the early Sunday attack but had no further details.

An IDF spokesperson said the army was not familiar with the incident. According to al-Jazeera, Israeli security sources denied that there had been an attack on Syrian positions.

On Friday the IDF struck positions affiliated with the Syrian army after three mortars fired from the Quneitra area landed in the Israeli Golan heights, Israeli military sources said.

No one was injured by the mortar fire.

The Israeli military said the mortar fire on Friday appeared to be spillover from the raging civil war in Syria.

Errant fire from fighting in the war-torn country has been common over the past several years.

The IDF has frequently retaliated against stray projectile strikes inside Israeli territory.

RUSSIA COMPLAINS TO US OVER EXCLUSION FROM SYRIA CHEMICAL PROBE

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Russia-complains-to-US-over-exclusion-from-Syria-chemical-probe-488626

 

MOSCOW – Russia has told the United States it regrets Washington’s opposition to letting its inspectors take part in an investigation into a chemical weapons attack in Syria earlier this month, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

It said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by phone to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the two sides agreed to consider one more time an “objective investigation into the incident” under the aegis of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

 

The US State Department said that during the call Tillerson reiterated to Lavrov his support for the OPCW’s existing investigative mechanism. They also discussed a range of issues, including those covered during Tillerson’s April 11-12 visit to Moscow, the department said in a statement.

The United States accused the Syrian army of carrying out the April 4 attack in which scores of people died from poison gas, and it responded by launching cruise missiles against a Syrian air base.

Russia has defended its ally Damascus and blamed the incident on rebels fighting the government of President Bashar Assad.

The episode added to a long list of disputes between the two countries and has dashed Russian hopes that ties might improve with Donald Trump in the White House. Trump said last week that relations with Moscow “may be at an all-time low.”

Referring to another irritant in the relationship, the Russian ministry said Lavrov called on Tillerson to hand back “Russian diplomatic property in the USA unlawfully confiscated by the Barack Obama administration.”

Former President Obama expelled 35 suspected Russian spies in December and ordered the Russians to depart two countryside vacation retreats outside Washington and New York that he said were linked to espionage.

The ministry said the parties had agreed to launch a working group soon “to seek ways to get rid of irritants in bilateral relations.”

Syria said to move jets to base used by Russia, fearing US strikes

Syria has reportedly placed the majority of its warplanes under Russian protection out of fears US will conduct additional airstrikes on its military installations.

US defense officials told media outlets on Thursday that nearly all of Syria’s operational fixed-wing aircraft were now stationed at Hmeimim Air Base, just south of the port city of Latakia.

Hmeimim is a Syrian airbase but has been exclusively operated by Russian forces since Moscow intervened in the bloody civil war to fight alongside Bashar Assad’s regime in mid-2015.

According to CNN, Russian forces have deployed anti-aircraft defense systems at Hmeimim as a protective measure.

US officials said the move was a likely effort to protect Syria’s remaining operational planes from a repeat of the April 7 US missile strike in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town that has been widely blamed on the Damascus regime.

In this image provided by the US Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches a tomahawk land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea, Friday, April 7, 2017. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/US Navy via AP)

The chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun killed at least 87 people, including many children, and images of the dead and of suffering victims provoked global outrage.

Much of the international community pointed the finger at the Assad regime for the attack, though it denied any responsibility.

In response, the US fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Sharat airbase, targeting radars, aircraft, and air defense systems at the base where the planes which bombed Khan Sheikhoun were stationed.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis at the time said the US cruise missile strike destroyed over 20 Syrian warplanes, some 20 percent of the regime’s working aircraft.

Last week Mattis reiterated warnings that further chemical weapons use by Assad will be met with fresh US action. “If they use chemical weapons, they are going to pay a very, very stiff price,” he said at the Pentagon last week.

On Wednesday, an Israeli defense official said Assad still possesses up to three tons of chemical weapons and said the US strike was not a turning point in the war “but rather another development in the fighting.”

The official also said Israeli intelligence indicated Assad personally approved the chemical attack.

“It’s hard for me to believe that he didn’t know about it,” the officer said.

Russia — which along with Iran has deployed forces to help Assad in the six-year-old civil war — reacted with fury to the US strike and has continued to cast doubt on the regime’s involvement in the chemical attack, to Washington’s disgust.

Though Washington had informed Russian forces in Syria of the retaliatory strike in advance to avoid casualties that could prompt a broader crisis, it has accused Moscow of waging a misinformation campaign surrounding the attack for defending Assad.

Syrian children receive treatment following a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, April 4, 2017. (AFP/Mohamed al-Bakour)

Russia has staunchly defended Damascus against accusations of war crimes from the West, and along with China, last week vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned the killings and demanded Assad cooperate with an international investigation into the attack.

Last week, as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson touched down in Moscow to confront the Kremlin over its support for Assad, President Vladimir Putin claimed the attack on Khan Sheikhoun was staged by Syrian rebels in order to encourage US intervention.

The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces. The fighting has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal to avert US strikes following a chemical weapons attack in opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people and sparked worldwide outrage.

Ahead of that disarmament, Assad’s government disclosed it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas.

In this April 11, 2017 file photo, US Defense Secretary James Mattis attends a news conference at the Pentagon. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under international supervision in 2014 and destroyed. But doubts began to emerge soon afterward that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed. There also is evidence that the Islamic State group and other insurgents have acquired chemical weapons.

Earlier this week, Assad’s former chemical weapons research chief told Britain’s The Telegraph newspaper that Syria had “at least 2,000 tons” of chemical weapons before the war and only declared 1,300. Former Brig. Gen. Zaher al-Sakat said the Syrian government still possessed hundreds of tons of chemical weapons.

Trump’s Missile Attack on Syria Justified With Fake Intelligence, Experts Say

On April 7, President Trump committed his first “act of war,” attacking Syria with missiles in response to what he said was a poison gas attack by the Syrian government that killed dozens. But the White House’s subsequent intelligence report offering its proof of Syria’s role was “false” and “fraudulent,” suggesting a “coverup” by a president acting without any intelligence and intentionally lying to the public.

These are the characterizations of two longtime experts in war studies and missile systems, which—along with coordinated comments by Vice President Mike Pence in South Korea and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Russia that America’s “strategic patience” is ending—suggest Trump may be seeking a war of choice, even if it involves fabricated intelligence.

President George W. Bush’s White House fabricated intelligence concerning Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction before his April 2003 invasion of Iraq. What seems to be unfolding at the top ranks of the Trump administration is similar to Bush’s pronouncements and evidence following the 9/11 terrorist attack.

This latest outburst of militarism began April 4, when it appears that poison gas, possibly the nerve agent sarin, killed dozens of Syrian civilians in the town of Khan Shaykhun. These deaths, among them women and children, are uncontested and documented on videos. Which poison gas was used, how it was delivered and who was behind the incident remain unanswered questions, said Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, though United Nations scientists and Turkish doctors who did autopsies have pointed to sarin.

“The Syrian government may well be responsible for the attack, or others may have been involved,” she said. “But without an independent, international investigation, we simply don’t know. That means the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) [an international body with 192 member countries] must be given a full and complete and open mandate to follow all leads and report fully.”

“Similarly, we have reports from Turkey that autopsies on some of the bodies indicated the gas was sarin; reportedly OPCW and/or U.N. scientists were present,” Bennis continued. “But the reports come only from the official Turkish medical/forensic authorities. Again, without a full and thorough independent investigation, all of the unknowns remain just that.”

What’s not unknown, however, is three days after the attack, on April 7, Trump ordered a cruise missile attack on a Syrian military airfield.

“This was an act of war,” Bennis said. “Even if we already knew, even if there was a credible source finding the Syrian government was responsible, that would not give the White House and the Pentagon the right to unilaterally attack Syria without U.N. authorization, when the U.S. was not attacked, without consultations with or authorization from Congress, in violation of the War Powers Act.”

On April 11, under mounting criticism, the White House issued a four-page report squarely blaming the Syrian regime for the gas attack, saying it was delivered by a plane from the airport that was hit by U.S. missiles and accusing Russia of lying by claiming that the poison gas was in the hands of guerrilla armies fighting the regime.

“The United States is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, against its own people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib Province on April 4, 2017,” the report began. “Our information indicates that the chemical agent was delivered by regime Su-22 fixed-wing aircraft… Our information indicates personnel historically associated with Syria’s chemical weapons program were at Shayrat Airfield in late March making preparations for an upcoming attack in Northern Syria, and they were present at the airfield on the day of the attack.”

The report continued, “We have confidence in our assessment because we have signals intelligence and geospatial intelligence, laboratory analysis of physiological samples collected from multiple victims, as well as a significant body of credible open source reporting, that tells a clear and consistent story.”

But these assertions are not clear, consistent or convincing, said Theodore Postol, a professor of Science, Technology, and International Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Postol, who has received numerous awards for his work on missile systems and has worked for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, looked at the same information sources cited by the White House and concluded in a 14-page analysis that, first of all, whatever happened in Khan Shaykhun was not the result of an air attack.

“It’s important to be clear about what I’m saying,” he told AlterNet. “I’m saying that a so-called White House intelligence report issued on April 11 is totally inconsistent with the claims it’s making. I’m not so much saying that I know what happened, because actually I don’t. What I do know is that this report was, to be blunt, fabricated without the intelligence methodologies that it claims to have used. Because I have data that I have been poring over… for example, there’s video data of this crater that they allege was the source of an air attack, an air munitions. It was not an air munition. You could see that very easily.”

“So the issue is that the White House issued a false intelligence report and the reasons [why] I don’t know,” Postol said. “But one possibility is they are trying to cover up their tracks because they didn’t know what was going on and they attacked a foreign power. And that is not good.”

Bennis agreed that the White House intelligence report doesn’t prove what it claims.

“The four-page white paper released by the White House, purporting to prove that the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical weapons attack, does not provide any of the actual evidence they claim to rely on,” she said, commenting by email. “It makes a set of assertions, describes the kind of information they have, and essentially then says ‘trust us.’ It appears to be a White House (that is, political) document, not the official position of intelligence agencies themselves. It does not provide anything close to proof, or even evidence, of the who, the what or the how of the chemical attack.”

Postol’s analysis is not the first time he has examined White House claims about poison gas use in Syria or weapons of war in Iraq. What he suspects may be happening in the Trump White House is alarming on its own terms and is different than what happened when President Obama was considering attacking the Syrian regime for a purported poison gas attack in 2013. In the case of Obama, Postol said the president was initially given bad intelligence blaming the Syrian regime and called off the attack because there was insufficient proof.

“The Obama administration had another incident like this in August of 2013,” he said. “It’s somewhat different. The president was incorrectly told that Syria was the perpetrator of the attack in Ghouta on August 21, 2013, and he was preparing to attack Syria when he was finally told, as he proceeded, that the intelligence did not solidly support that conclusion. That’s when he backed down. He didn’t back down because he didn’t have the courage to take the action.”

In contrast, it appears that President Trump is ordering military action without any intelligence confirmation beforehand, Postol said.

“The indication I now have, on April 11 the National Security Council put out a fraudulent—to be very clear—a fraudulent intelligence report, a report that could not possibly be what it claims to be,” he said. “That tells my bureaucrat’s nose that somebody in the White House wants to cover up something. And I think probably—again I don’t know—probably what I think they’re trying to cover up is that they took all these risks to the nation’s security without any intelligence to support it.”

That prospect is as alarming as it is well informed, and has serious ramifications.

“There’s something going on with our intelligence apparatus and the politics of operating it. And it’s not acceptable as far as I’m concerned,” Postol said. He added, “what needs to happen is not going to happen. What needs to happen is there has to be a full investigation of how this fraudulent report was produced. Who was involved? And who ordered it… It’s pretty clear to me at this point that an important decision was made, a decision that had potentially grave consequences for our national security without any intelligence at all. It was done, probably, for political purposes.”

The biggest risk in impulsively ordering a missile attack in Syria, he said, is “there was a risk that he [Trump] would inadvertently come into a military confrontation with Russia. He certainly caused a deep problematic reaction with Russia. And he has probably undermined our ability to defeat the Islamic State because we need Russia to defeat this entity. So it was a pretty important decision.”

Postol’s observations and reflections on a White House that is ordering military attacks without intelligence input, or issuing orders without a systematic check on its battle plans and targets (and subsequently “fabricating” intelligence reports for propagandistic media and public consumption), is eerily reminiscent of George W. Bush’s presidency. Some members of Bush’s intelligence team fabricated a case to invade Iraq based on Saddam Hussein’s purported weapons of mass destruction. Bush later said publicly that he had been misinformed about evidence that Iraq had a substantial weapons store. Journalists like James Fallows of the Atlantic have documented how Bush’s decision to launch a war of choice in Iraq came rapidly on the heels of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

What Trump and his top aides are doing now echoes Bush’s pre-war rhetoric and moves. Since the Syrian missile attack, Secretary of State Tillerson has repeatedly said, “our policy of strategic patience has ended.” Vice President Pence, speaking in South Korea on Monday, not only repeated those words, he suggested that the U.S. missile attack in Syrian was a sign of an America willing to use its military arms.

“Strategic patience has been the approach of the last American administration and beyond,” Pence said at a joint press conference with South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-Ahn, referring to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. “Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan. North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the Armed Forces of the United States in this region.”

Less than 100 days into Trump’s presidency, the White House has failed to pass a single major piece of legislation. Instead, beyond placing a right-wing justice on the Supreme Court with the GOP-majority U.S. Senate’s help, Trump has already committed an act of war: an unauthorized attack on a foreign power. And his administration has fabricated the evidence for that attack, an intelligence report that doesn’t prove what it purports.

As Postol said, something is going on with the nation’s intelligence apparatus and the politics surrounding it, and it’s not making the world a safer place.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

Syria “Bus Bombing” Conducted By Terrorists, Not Syrian Government; No Red Lines?

http://www.renegadetribune.com/syria-bus-bombing-conducted-terrorists-not-syrian-government-no-red-lines/
By Brandon Turbeville

Days after pushing the patience of the world with its missile attack on the al-Sha’aryat airbase, America’s puppet troops committed yet another atrocity that is provoking international attention. While the justification provided by the United States missile attack was a highly questionable gas attack (which all the evidence points toward being the handiwork of Western-backed terrorists), the recent incident involves an attack on several buses leaving government-held towns of Kefraya and Foah.

The attack was a suicide bombing aimed at the buses carrying refugees set to be evacuated from both towns to more secure government-held areas. The transportation of these civilians is part of the recent “four cities” agreement between the Syrian government and Western-backed terrorist forces to evacuate civilians to Syrian-government territory or terrorist supporters to terrorist held territory. The other villages involved in the transfer were the terrorist-held Zabadani and Madaya. The plan was devised to minimize civilian casualties and to eliminate the necessity to reclaim territory isolated by opposing forces, a plan that was facilitated by Iran and Qatar.

Around 126 people were killed in the attacks, including at least 80 children, according to the pro-terrorist Syrian Observatory For Human Rights.

The BBC reports slightly different numbers, recounting the story as follows:

At least 68 children were among 126 people killed in Saturday’s bomb attack on buses carrying evacuees from besieged Syrian towns, activists say. A vehicle filled with explosives hit the convoy near Aleppo.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said at least 109 evacuees from government-held towns were killed, along with aid workers and rebel soldiers. Many more were injured in the attack, the group said. The explosion shattered buses and set cars on fire, leaving a trail of bodies, as the convoy waited in rebel territory near Aleppo.

Interestingly enough, many mainstream media outlets are attempting to blame the bombing on the Syrian government, despite the fact that the attack was a suicide bombing, a hallmark of the Western-backed “opposition.” In addition, it has yet to be explained why the Syrian government would bomb its own “loyalists” which it negotiated to have evacuated or why the Syrian government would benefit from doing so.

Indeed, witness testimony definitively points to the bombs being a coordinated act by the terrorists. As Eva Bartlett writes,

Al Ikhbaria, Syrian TV, has multiple updates on the carnage wrought by the terrorist attack on these buses that carried civilians, including scenes of the injured civilians in hospital.

“A witness to the massacre told a Syrian journalist (shared by journalist Maytham al-Ashkar): ”The ‘rebels’ brought a bus full of crisps. They tried to gather as many kids as possible around the vehicle. Then we heard a really loud explosion. A lot of children were killed, many were injured.”

Journalist Vanessa Beeley, reporting from inside Syria, stated that the terrorists responsible for the bombing was Ahrar al-Sham, an organization considered “moderate” by the United States.

Bartlett continues, pointing out that there is no “red line” regarding these atrocities,

A journalist with U-News who sent photos and videos of the massacre of civilians asked the anguished rhetorical question one asks in such repeated situations: “Where are the mainstream media? Why don’t they report the barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack on Foua and Kafraya?”

The answer is that the genuine torment these civilians have endured for years will never be fairly reported, it does not serve the agenda of demonizing the leader of Syria and the national army in order to win western public opinion for yet another ‘humanitarian’ intervention which destroys the Syrian nation and installs chaos in the place of the legitimate government.

None of the people terrorized by these mercenaries of the NATO/Zionist/Gulf/Turkish alliance over the years will be respected or recognized by the Western press, be they women and children victims of rocket attacks, sniping and mortar terrorism in and around Damascus; Syrian and allied journalists assassinated by the ‘moderates’; civilians of Aleppo for years bombed, sniped at and besieged by terrorist factions; or especially liberated civilians from eastern areas of Aleppo whose horrific testimonies directly negate the myth of ‘rebels’, ‘moderates’, or the falsity of Assad as the problem and the Syrian Arab Army as the ‘aggressor’.

As with civilian victims of suicide bombs in Beirut and Homs, Jableh and Tartous, (which I visited in July 2016) the civilians of Foua and Kafraya are rendered by the Western corporate media as either invisible or a sect not worthy of human consideration. Ironically, while Foua and Kafraya may contain a predominate number of Shia Muslims, residents of the villages have told me how they intermarried with their neighbouring Sunni Syrians, and shared the celebrations of other faiths’, as is common in secular Syria.

Pointing out the hypocrisy of Western media reporting, Bartlett adds,

The Western corporate media’s reporting on massacres like the recent suicide bombings of several buses full of civilians in Syria deserves some scathing critique. Consider these lines from an article by Lizzie Dearden for the UK Independent:

“A car bomb has hit a convoy of buses carrying civilians evacuated from besieged towns in Syria, killing at least 24 people. The blast hit the Rashidin area on the outskirts of Aleppo, where dozens of buses carrying mostly Shia Muslim families from pro-government villages were waiting to enter the city. Photos that were too graphic to publish showed a huge fire raging next to bodies scattered on the ground next to charred buses with blown-out windows, including those of children.”

If the area in question were a terrorist-occupied area, Dearden’s report would read something like this: “A regime-dropped barrel bomb has killed a convoy of buses carrying innocent civilians, mostly women and children, who were being evacuated from rebel areas of Syria. The deadly 8.0 magntitude Hiroshima barrel bomb hit Sunni Muslim families from freedom-loving rebel areas…” etc. etc.

Do note in the reporting of ‘journalists’ like Dearden and other presstitutes, the downplaying of actual documented Syrian civilian deaths at the hands of terrorists dubbed ‘rebels’. Do note the sectarian language (rejected by most Syrians). Do note the implication that acts of terrorism on Syrians in government secured areas of the country must be considered as not credible (but physics-defying alleged school-bombings or alleged chemical weapons attacks should be believed). Also note the kind of reporting on this attack that was produced by CNN. While stating that “no group has claimed responsibility”, CNN felt the need to get a word from that paragon of immorality, Abdul Rahman of the utterly discredited ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’:

“During a televised interview, Rami Abdul Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said a suicide bomber claimed he was carrying food items and blew himself up in a fuel station. Abdul Rahman said he doesn’t believe the Syrian regime is behind the attack. He said the regime kills scores of people daily using all types of weaponry and doesn’t need to kill its own sympathizers.”

Yes indeed, just in case you were distracted by the US-backed terrorist bombing of buses full of civilians, CNN used the pathetic quisling Rahman to remind you of the ‘evils of the regime’ and to admit that, despite the ‘evil’ of Assad, he has not yet found a need to kill his own sympathiziers.

Regarding the “photos that were too graphic to publish” by the Independent; please explain to the families of these mutilated Syrians why their graphic murders were too distasteful to Western sensitivities when graphic images of dead and injured children are splashed across Western media broadsheets when the alleged author of such attacks is the Syrian or Russian military.

Britain’s state-owned BBC, no stranger to the propagation war porn when it serves the NATO agenda, headlined rather blandly: “Syria war: Huge bomb kills dozens of evacuees in Syria“.

Had the bombing in question been attributed to the Syrian army, or Russians, you can bet the headline would have read something like: “Murderous Regime Bombs Innocent Civilians in Rebel-held Area Just Days After Worst Chemical Attack in the History of the World”.

Of course, I do not believe for a moment that the allegations of the western-propagated Idlib chemical incident are true, but this is the sort of headline the Western corporate media runs, irrespective of actual evidence, of which they have none as regards the alleged chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun.

Please recall that just days after the US-led coalition murdered anywhere between 60 and 80 Syrian soldiers in Deir ez-Zor, Western governments, their jihadi proxies and the Western press deflected attention by attacking a UN humanitarian convoy and blaming Syria and/or Russia.

I highly encourage the readers to access Eva Bartlett’s article, “No ‘Red-Lines’ After US-Backed Terrorists Massacre Idlib’s Foua Civilians.

It now remains to be seen whether or not the United States will use this recent attack by its own proxies as a justification for more escalation in the Syrian conflict or whether the Trump administration will simply ignore the deaths of these “beautiful babies.” Either way, the treachery and hypocrisy of the West will be on full display.


This article originally appeared on Activist Post.

Assad Opponents Seek Justice for Syria’s War Victims

ISTANBUL — The evidence is staggering.

Three tons of captured Syrian government documents, providing a chilling and extensive catalog of the state’s war crimes, are held by a single organization in Europe. A Syrian police photographer fled with pictures of more than 6,000 dead at the hands of the state, many of them tortured. The smartphone alone has broken war’s barriers: Records of crimes are now so graphic, so immediate, so overwhelming.

Yet six years since the war began, this mountain of documentation — more perhaps than in any conflict before it — has brought little justice. The people behind the violence remain free, and there is no clear path to bring the bulk of the evidence before any court, anywhere.

More than 400,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war. Half the country’s population has been displaced. Syrian human rights groups list more than 100,000 people as missing, either detained or killed. Tens of thousands languish in government custody, where torture, deprivation, filth and overcrowding are so severe that a United Nations commission said they amounted to “extermination,” a crime against humanity.

In Aleppo last July, Syrian civil defense workers rescued a young man from beneath the rubble of a building hit by airstrikes. CreditThaer Mohammed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But so far, there is only one war-crimes case pending against Syrian officials: filed in Spain, over a man who died in government custody.

No cases have gone to the International Criminal Court. Syria never joined it, so the court’s chief prosecutor cannot start an investigation on her own. The United Nations Security Council could refer a case to the court, but Russia has repeatedly used its veto power to shield Syria from international condemnation. And even if the Council were to take action, President Bashar al-Assad and his top officials are battened down in Damascus, making their arrests difficult, to say the least.

Earlier this month, the outside world was jolted by a chemical attack that killed more than 80 people. In response, President Trump let loose 59 Tomahawk missiles and called Mr. Assad an “animal.”

Victims of the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4. More than 80 people died, and President Trump responded with a hail of Tomahawk missiles. CreditAlaa Alyousef, via Associated Press

As Mr. Assad has consolidated his control of Syria’s major cities, some countries that have long opposed him have signaled a new willingness to accept his rule as the fastest way to end the war, encourage refugees to go home and accelerate the fight against the jihadists. As bad as Mr. Assad may be, some argue, Syria would be worse without him.

Mr. Assad’s opponents counter that keeping a head of state with so much blood on his hands perpetuates the war.

The chemical attack was just his most recent atrocity, after years of torture, enforced disappearances, siege warfare and indiscriminate bombing of civilian neighborhoods and hospitals. Such violence will continue as long as Mr. Assad and his security apparatus remain, his enemies say.

“This is not some abstract human rights issue,” said Laila Alodaat, a Syrian human rights lawyer at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. “This lies at the core of this conflict and of any possible solution or reconciliation. Hundreds of thousands of victims and their families need justice, remedy and assurance that the future will be free from such violations.”

Syria’s war has seen atrocities by all sides. Rebels have shelled civilian neighborhoods, and the jihadists of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have deployed suicide bombers, tortured enemies and executed prisoners, often in well-produced videos.

But the largest number of violations by far have been by the Syrian government and its allies, investigators say, because they wield the apparatus of the state, including a formal military with an air force, extensive security services and networks of prisons.

Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, in the country’s Parliament last year in Damascus. He has said that prisoners are dealt with according to the law. CreditSyrian Arab News Agency

The Syrian government portrays the conflict as an international conspiracy to destroy the country and equates all opposition with foreign-backed terrorism. It denies that its forces have deployed chemical weapons or committed atrocities.

In an interview last year, Mr. Assad said in response to a question from The New York Times that all prisoners are dealt with according to the law and dismissed the accounts of thousands of families who say their loved ones have disappeared without a trace.

“These are allegations,” Mr. Assad said. “What are the facts?”

6 Years of Impunity

The Syrian uprising began with detention and torture in March 2011: A dozen boys were held after one of their friends wrote on a wall, “It’s your turn, Doctor,” suggesting that Mr. Assad, a former ophthalmologist, would be the next Arab leader to fall. They were arrested, beaten, tortured and forced to sign confessions, one told The Times.

One of the Syrian boys who was arrested and tortured in 2011 after anti-government graffiti appeared on a wall. CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

As demonstrations spread, so did arrests. Syria already had a well-documented network of prisons where torture and forced confessions were common. But it expanded to what a United Nations Commission of Inquiry and human rights groups have described as an industrial scale, holding tens of thousands at any one time. Thousands have been executed in just one facility, Saydnaya prison, Amnesty International found.

The United Nations commission, in a report last year, quoted a defector from an intelligence agency as saying officers had orders to arrest male demonstrators between the ages of 16 and 40; another defector described his training in techniques that detainees have described, like beatings with cables, hanging by the wrists and electrocution.

Dozens of people over the years have told The Times in detail about their arrests and detentions and the disappearances of their relatives into the maw of the security system, from early 2011 to this month.

The arrests cut across political and socioeconomic lines. Yahya and Ma’an Sharbaji, two brothers, were arrested with a friend, Ghiath Matar, in September 2011, after leading protests in Daraya, a Damascus suburb. They had been part of a Muslim student group arrested years before for activities like holding discussions on liberalizing Islam and working for peaceful change. Mr. Matar’s body was returned to his family with signs of torture; the Sharbaji brothers have not been seen since, according to the family.

In September 2012, Abdelaziz al-Khair, a leftist dissident, disappeared with his stepson Maher Tahan while leaving the Damascus airport, having flown in from abroad for an opposition conference.

His wife, Fadwa Mahmoud, has teamed up with Mr. Sharbaji’s sister Bayan, and other women with missing family members, to fight for the rights of the detained and disappeared.

About 100,000 Syrians are still detained or missing, Ms. Mahmoud said in an interview, which affects perhaps a million family members. When men disappear, women, in a society with laws that privilege male authority, are left in limbo.

“They cannot grieve, they cannot remarry, they cannot sell property, the family has lost their breadwinner,” she said.

It is rare to meet a Syrian refugee family that does not have a detained or disappeared member, and rarer still to find a former detainee who has not been tortured, said Sareta Ashraph, until recently the chief analyst for the United Nations commission.

K.K., a lawyer, was arrested in 2014, two years after he participated in a demonstration — with government permission — in Aleppo. He had also represented detainees, acidly commenting one too many times on a court system that finished trials in minutes and gave lawyers no access to their clients or the supposed evidence against them.

He described his eight-month ordeal in hours of interviews: daily beatings, cramming into a cell so packed that there was no room to lie down. He spent three months, he said, with personal space smaller than the size of a manhole.

In one of his first interrogations, he said, he was forced to count the blows, reaching 80 before he passed out.

Doused with cold water, he awoke to be hung for hours by his wrists, bound behind his back with handcuffs. Later, he saw a young detainee get doused with kerosene, and set on fire. It took him 20 days to die, untreated, of infection.

The torture went on until K.K. signed a confession of financing “terrorist” demonstrations — entirely fiction, he said, dictated by his captors.

Now K.K. works with other Syrian lawyers and detainees to compile lists of victims, hoping their records will someday make a difference.

Other alleged war crimes take place in full view.

By 2013, bombings of rebel-held neighborhoods by artillery and warplanes had become routine. Hundreds of videos showed mutilated civilians, including women and children, pulled from rubble.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have lived under government siege, according to the United Nations, which has been repeatedly denied permission to deliver food and medical supplies. The chemical attacks of 2013, which killed more than 1,400 people in several Damascus suburbs, struck besieged areas like the town of Moadhamiyeh, making treating victims more difficult.

A man received oxygen after a chemical attack on a Damascus suburb in 2013. Chemical attacks on several suburbs killed more than 1,400 people at the time. CreditAmmar Dar/Reuters

There have been dozens of cases of starvation, many of them children, and ill and elderly people.

The conflict has also seen what a recent paper by The Lancet and the American University of Beirut called “the weaponization of health care” — citing the arrest of doctors and systematic attacks on medical facilities. Nearly 800 medical personnel have been killed, more than 90 percent by the government, according to studies by Physicians for Human Rights.

In the days before the chemical attack this month, the main hospital in the area was hit by an airstrike. And a hospital several miles south was hit by another chemical attack — one of what medical groups working in opposition areas say have been dozens since Syria’s government promised to give up its chemical weapons in 2014.

Since this month’s chemical attack, residents have reported several attacks with incendiary weapons in Idlib and neighboring Hama provinces, uploading videos that show blinding fires typical of weapons like thermite and white phosphorus. They cause severe burns, similar to napalm, and their use is prohibited in civilian areas.

Many who have suffered lost hope of redress long ago.

A Syrian man who did four stints of detention and torture for bringing humanitarian aid to wounded protesters and rebels recounted his experiences, but then expressed despair that anything would come of it.

“Countries don’t need this evidence — they already know what’s happening,” said the man, Abu Ali al-Hamwi, using his nom de guerre because his mother is in government-controlled Syria.

“We are just pawns on a chessboard. I have women friends who were detained, raped, got pregnant, were tortured with acid.”

He shrugged.

“There is no justice,” he said. “And because there is no justice, there is no hope.”

Limited Steps Toward Justice

As the war has dragged on, groups of activists, lawyers and others in Syria and beyond are documenting atrocities in hopes of one day bringing perpetrators to account.

An Aleppo canal was lined with bodies of people believed to have been shot by supporters of the Syrian government in 2013. CreditThomas Rassloff/European Pressphoto Agency

Some film the aftermath of attacks and compile lists of the dead. Others are experienced war-crimes prosecutors who have begun building cases against Mr. Assad and other government officials.

The most systematic effort is by the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, a nonprofit group that has spent years taking captured government documents out of Syria.

The group, funded by Western governments, now has more than 750,000 Syrian government documents that contain hundreds of thousands of names, including those of top players in Syria’s security apparatus, according to William H. Wiley, the group’s executive director.

So far, the group has prepared eight detailed case briefs against ranking Syrian security and intelligence officials, Mr. Wiley said. Seven of them directly implicate Mr. Assad.

“Obviously, President Assad figures prominently in certain of the case files,” Mr. Wiley said via Skype from his office in a European city that his organization keeps secret for fear of being targeted by the Syrian government. “Pretty much the entire military and intelligence security infrastructure of the regime is now featured in one or more of the prosecution briefs.”

Strengthening these efforts are more than 50,000 images smuggled out of Syria in 2013 by a police photographer code-named Caesar, which show the dead and tortured bodies of thousands of detainees inside government security branches.

A display of the “Caesar” photographs at the United Nations headquarters in New York in 2015. Caesar is the code name of a police photographer who smuggled images of torture out of Syria. CreditLucas Jackson/Reuters

The photos have been verified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and determined to contain images of 6,700 individuals, according to Stephen J. Rapp, who served as ambassador at large for war crimes during the Obama administration.

More than 700 of the people in the photos have been identified by name, opening other avenues for potential prosecution. Indeed, one of those photos led to the most concrete legal action yet against Syrian officials.

In 2014, Amal Hag Hamdo Anfalis, a Spanish-Syrian hairdresser, received a text message from her niece containing a photo of a body she had seen on Facebook. She immediately recognized her brother, a truck driver who had disappeared at a Syrian government checkpoint a year earlier.

“As soon as I saw it, I completely collapsed and my children were wondering why I was crying,” she said by phone from Madrid. “My children recognized him right away. They looked at the photo and said, ‘That’s our uncle.’”

The image was from the Caesar archive, parts of which activists had been posting online to identify victims.

Last month, a Spanish judge agreed to open an investigation into alleged state terrorism, accusing nine Syrian security and intelligence officials of using government institutions to commit mass crimes against civilians.

The defendants include Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa; Ali Mamlouk, head of the National Security Bureau; Gen. Jamil Hassan, head of air force intelligence; and senior officers at the prison where Ms. Hamdo believes her brother was detained and killed.

“To me, success in this case will be to keep it alive, to make these people’s lives as complicated and miserable as possible,” said Almudena Bernabeu, co-founder of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, which filed the case.

Other groups are preparing cases or pushing for investigations by domestic courts in France, Britain, Germany and elsewhere.

But even those working for war-crimes prosecutions face substantial barriers during a conflict.

The road to the International Criminal Court appears blocked, and European courts have trouble getting access to the accused. So the best-case scenario is often an international warrant that could lead to the suspects’ arrests should they set foot in a country willing to cooperate.

Kevin Jon Heller, a law professor at SOAS at the University of London, said that the evidence collected for Syria could be nearly as strong as that used in the Nuremberg trials of Nazi figures after World War II.

A man cried over his son near an Aleppo hospital in 2013. The boy was killed by the Syrian Army.CreditManu Brabo/Associated Press

“The problem as I see it is not so much what mechanism one can use to bring accountability, but how you actually get your hands on the people you want to prosecute,” he said.

The limited prospects for prosecution have led some to pursue other kinds of justice.

“I don’t think criminal prosecution alone is going to solve what has happened in my country,” said Mohammad Al Abdallah, a two-time political prisoner who directs the Syria Justice and Accountability Center in Washington. “Institutional reform is more important than prosecution because it is what will have the longer-term impact on the country.”

Alex Whiting, a Harvard law professor, said accountability is a matter of politics and so far Syria has not been high in the world’s priorities. But he has been surprised, tenuously, since the latest chemical attack.

“Suddenly there is a turn in the world against Assad, which could lead to him being pushed from power, opening a space for accountability in the future,” he said. “I’m not going to say it’s likely, but it certainly seems more possible.”

5 MAJOR STORIES THAT BLOW THE “OFFICIAL” NARRATIVE ON SYRIA OUT OF THE WATER

Syria

As Americans, even those who previously despised him, rally behind President Donald Trump’s bombardment of Syria, they are failing to realize the atrocious lies, half truths and controversy surrounding the United States’ history with Syria as well as the creation and support of Islamist extremism. While there has yet to be definitive proof of the recent alleged sarin gas attack in Syria, if one looks at the known disinformation as well as what top experts in the field are saying, it can be deduced that the US government is, at the very minimum, not being entirely truthful with its people.

If one goes even further down the rabbit hole, believing the government’s official position on Syria becomes absolutely asinine.

Below is a list of five different stories that should make you question everything the United States has told you about Syria.

1. Just Before the Strike, Politifact Retracted ‘Mostly True’ Ruling on No Chemical Weapons in Syria

Just before Trump sent 59 Tomahawk missiles hurling into the Syrian airbase, Politifact retracted a story it published in 2014 titled, “Kerry: We got ‘100 percent’ of chemical weapons out of Syria.” John Kerry, then Secretary of State, told NBC’s Meet The Press on July 20th, 2014, “we struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.”

Upon learning of Kerry’s claim, Politifact investigated, even asking the State Department for more information. The department pointed Politifact to Ahmet Üzümcü, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, who said in a statement, “The last of the remaining chemicals identified for removal from Syria were loaded this afternoon aboard the Danish ship Ark Futura.” Fast-forward three years, and we now know that statement cannot possibly still be true — or at least not very helpful to the official narrative. After it was alleged that Bashar al Asad’s government used chemical weapons against innocents this week, Politifact withdrew its article from its site.

2. Award-winning Journalist Says Hillary Approved Sending Sarin to Rebels Used to Frame Assad, Start Syrian War

World-renowned journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed, in a series of interviews and books, that the Obama Administration falsely blamed the government of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad for the sarin gas attack that Obama was trying to use as an excuse to invade Syria.

As Eric Zuesse explained in Strategic Culture, Hersh pointed to a report from British intelligence saying that the sarin that was used didn’t come from Assad’s stockpiles. Hersh also said that a secret agreement in 2012 was reached between the Obama Administration and the leaders of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, to set up a sarin gas attack and blame it on Assad so that the US could invade and overthrow Assad.

By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria.

Hersh didn’t say whether these ‘arms’ included the precursor chemicals for making sarin which were stockpiled in Libya, explains Zuesse in his report. But there have been multiple independent reports that Libya’s Gaddafi possessed such stockpiles, and also that the US Consulate in Benghazi Libya was operating a “rat line” for Gaddafi’s captured weapons into Syria through Turkey.

While Hersh didn’t specifically say ‘Clinton transported the gas,’ he implicated her directly in this ‘rat line’ of arms which the sarin gas was part of.

Of Hillary Clinton’s involvement, Hersh told AlterNet that Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who died in the storming of the Benghazi embassy,

The only thing we know is that she was very close to Petraeus who was the CIA director at the time … she’s not out of the loop, she knows when there’s covert ops.  That ambassador who was killed, he was known as a guy, from what I understand, as somebody, who would not get in the way of the CIA. As I wrote, on the day of the mission he was meeting with the CIA base chief and the shipping company. He was certainly involved, aware and witting of everything that was going on. And there’s no way somebody in that sensitive of a position is not talking to the boss, by some channel.

3. Putin Revealed ISIS, the Ostensible Enemy of the US in Syria, is Funded by 40 Countries, Including G20 Members

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in 2015, that he has shared intelligence with the other G20 member states, which reveals the 40 countries from which ISIS finances the majority of their terrorist activities. The list reportedly included a number of G20 countries.

“I provided examples based on our data on the financing of different Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) units by private individuals. This money, as we have established, comes from 40 countries and, there aresome of the G20 members among them,” Putin told reporters in 2015.

4. 2 Years After an American Journalist Was Killed, Her ‘Conspiracy Theories’ on Syria were Proven as Facts

Serena Shim is an American citizen of Lebanese descent who was born near Detroit. Shim worked for Iranian broadcaster Press TV as a foreign correspondent covering wars, legitimate protests and fake uprisings in multiple countries. She reported live from Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon during the conflict since 2011, including in the critical region of Daraa during the beginning of protests, which are misrepresented by American media as the reasons for the fake civil war.

Serena Shim was killed two years ago on October 19, 2014, in Turkey while reporting on the intense battle for the Syrian border city of Kobani which was the focus of international media attention. She was 29 when she died.

It is claimed she was killed in a car accident with a cement truck. However, physical details about the case raise questions about the official explanation by Turkish officials. There are also conflicting stories about the timeline after her death and before the family received her body, which indicate actions by the government of Turkey and possibly the United States.

5. Declassified CIA Doc Reveals Plan to Destroy Syria for Oil Pipeline, Predicts Current Crisis

Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that the CIA’s own documents which have recently been declassified, show the United States’ intentions to disrupt Syria for oil interests — since at least 1983.

“Bringing Real Muscle to Bear Against Syria,” is the title of an assessment from former CIA officer Graham Fuller which actuality discusses Syria under Assad’s predecessor — his father, Hafez al-Assad — and is dated September 14, 1983, amid the Iran-Iraq War.

Fuller’s analysis, points out Activist Post’s Brandon Turbeville, evinces Assad as a nuisance hindering American empire’s lust to control vast fossil fuel stores and protect ally, Israel, against multiple threats in the Middle East. Destabilization of Iraq and Iran also features prominently in the intricate U.S. plan to deal with the irritant, elder Assad — who, incidentally, recognized Western ulterior motives for what they were.

As the six-page document continues,

Syria continues to maintain a hammerlock on two key U.S. interests in the Middle East:

  • Syrian refusal to withdraw its troops from Lebanon ensures Israeli occupation in the south;
  • Syrian closure of the Iraqi pipeline has been a key factor in bringing Iraq to its financial knees, impelling it towards dangerous internationalization of the war in the Gulf.

Diplomatic initiatives to date have had little effect on Assad who has so far correctly calculated the play of forces in the area and concluded that they are only weakly arrayed against him. If the U.S. is to rein in Syria’s spoiling role, it can only do so through the exertion of real muscle which will pose a vital threat to Assad’s position and power.

There you have it. Now you can see how utterly preposterous this dangerous and deadly game the United States is playing in the Middle East. It’s time we demand #HandsOffSyria — before it’s too late.

Matt Agorist is the co-founder of TheFreeThoughtProject.com, where this article first appeared. He is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. . and now on Steemit.

U.S. Takes Sharper Tone on Russia’s Role in Syria

WASHINGTON — President Trump and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson sought on Wednesday to isolate President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for backing the Syrian government in the wake of its lethal chemical weapons attack on civilians, and worked to build international pressure on Moscow to change course.

In Washington, Moscow and New York, the Trump administration publicly chastised Mr. Putin but privately worked to hash out increasingly bitter differences with him. At the same time, Mr. Trump embraced NATO — a military alliance he had previously derided as obsolete — as an effective and vital force for peace and security in a region where Russia has been an aggressive actor.

During his presidential campaign, and in his early days in office, Mr. Trump’s approach to foreign policy included speaking warmly of Mr. Putin and the prospects of a United States alliance with Russia. He had also questioned the usefulness of NATO, and the concept of an alliance for common defense to counterbalance Moscow’s belligerence.

In an interview that aired on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Putin was partly to blame for the conflict in Syria and denounced him for backing President Bashar al-Assad, whom he called an “animal.” Later at the White House, Mr. Trump said that Russia had likely known in advance of the Syrian government’s plan to unleash a nerve agent against its own people, and asserted that the United States’ relations with Moscow were at an “all-time low.”

 

In Moscow, Mr. Tillerson came away from a two-hour meeting with Mr. Putin — the first such face-to-face session of the Trump administration — without reaching agreement on facts involving the chemical weapons assault in Syria or Russian interference in the American election. And sharply diverging from the meeting of the minds between the United States and Russia that Mr. Trump frequently aspired to when he was campaigning, there was no visible warming of the relationship.

“There is a low level of trust between our countries,” Mr. Tillerson told reporters at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov. “The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.”

The most immediate casualty of the clash was Russia’s decision last week to suspend a communication channel, set up in 2015, to share information about American and Russian air operations over Syria to avoid possible conflict. Mr. Lavrov said on Wednesday that “we’re willing to put it back into force” if Washington and Moscow can resolve their differences.

Further punctuating the Syria dispute, Russia on Wednesday vetoed a Western-backed resolution at the United Nations Security Council that condemned the chemical weapons attack. It was the eighth time in the six-year-old Syrian civil war that Russia, one of the five permanent Security Council members, had used its veto power to shield the government in Damascus. But in a possible sign of Russia’s isolation on the chemical weapons issue, China, the permanent member that usually votes with Russia on Syria resolutions, abstained.

The vote came the day after Mr. Trump spoke by phone to President Xi Jinping of China, whom he hosted last week at a summit at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Fla. White House officials said they credited the relationship between the two leaders that was forged during the visit, and the conversation Tuesday evening, with helping to influence China’s vote.

The day began with harsh words from Mr. Trump toward Mr. Putin, whom he had once praised effusively.

“I really think there’s going to be a lot of pressure on Russia to make sure that peace happens, because frankly, if Russia didn’t go in and back this animal, we wouldn’t have a problem right now,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network, referring to Mr. Assad. “Putin is backing a person that’s truly an evil person, and I think it’s very bad for Russia. I think it’s very bad for mankind. It’s very bad for this world.”

Later, after a meeting at the White House with Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, Mr. Trump went out of his way to praise the military institution, which he called a “great alliance,” and to express disappointment with Russia.

Asked whether it was possible that Syrian forces could have launched the chemical attack without Russia’s knowledge, Mr. Trump said: “It’s certainly possible; I think it’s probably unlikely.”

“I would like to think that they didn’t know, but certainly they could have. They were there,” Mr. Trump said of the Russians during a 30-minute news conference at the White House.

Even as they have intensified their criticism of Russia for backing Mr. Assad, other senior Trump administration officials, including Mr. Tillerson and Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense, have been careful to say there is no consensus that Moscow had foreknowledge that the Assad government planned to launch a chemical assault.

“Right now, we’re not getting along with Russia at all — we may be at an all-time low in terms of a relationship with Russia,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday. Still, he held out hope that the United States and Russia could come to terms, suggesting that Mr. Tillerson’s talks with Mr. Putin had gone better than expected.

A quick détente seemed a remote possibility, given the level of tension surrounding the aftermath of the Syrian chemical weapons attack. On Tuesday, the White House accused Mr. Putin’s government of covering up evidence that Mr. Assad had been responsible for the sarin assault, which was launched from a base where Russian troops are operating.

Mr. Putin shot back that the charge was fabricated and accused the administration of Mr. Trump, who American intelligence agencies believe benefited during the election campaign from Russian cyberattacks intended to embarrass his Democratic rival, of fabricating the evidence to create a fake confrontation.

Amid the rift with Russia, Mr. Trump made a striking reversal on NATO, saying the alliance had transformed into an effective one since he took office.

“I said it was obsolete; it’s no longer obsolete,” Mr. Trump said, standing beside Mr. Stoltenberg.

Mr. Trump attributed his change of heart to unspecified transformations within NATO, which he said were a direct response to criticism he had leveled that the alliance was not doing enough to combat terrorism.

“I complained about that a long time ago,” Mr. Trump said, “and they changed.”

It was not clear what the president was referring to; NATO forces have been fighting alongside the United States in Afghanistan for more than a decade, an effort focused on combating terrorist groups including the Taliban.

Still, the turnabout drew praise from some lawmakers who had been concerned with Mr. Trump’s previous stance.

“Without NATO, the Soviet Union would be quarterbacking half of Europe today and Putin knows it,” said Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska. “NATO is the most successful military alliance in human history. This was the right decision.”

His comments came hours after a senior White House official said the Trump administration had supported the admission of Montenegro into NATO this week, in part to counter the influence of Russia in the small Balkan nation. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official cited “credible reports” that Moscow had backed a plot for a violent Election Day attack there last fall.

Mr. Trump on Tuesday signed the paperwork allowing Montenegro to enter NATO, two weeks after the Senate approved the move in a March 28 vote. The country’s admission, White House officials said in a statement, should signal to other nations aspiring to join the alliance that “the door to membership in the Euro-Atlantic community of nations remains open and that countries in the western Balkans are free to choose their own future and select their own partners without outside interference or intimidation.”