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syria & related

Pentagon Cuts Presence in Turkey
Peter Korzun, Strategic Culture, Mar 16 2018

The Pentagon has significantly reduced its operations at Turkey’s İncirlik air base. Permanent cutbacks are under consideration as tensions between the two NATO allies continue to flare. Now that the warplanes are gone, only the refueling aircraft are left. There have been reports that the A-10 Warthogs have left for Afghanistan. The number of personnel and their family members has been decreased. Pindo boxtops complain Turkey is obstructing its air operations. It should be noted that the voices calling for the eviction of the Pindo military from Incirlik have been heard in that country before. Ankara sees the base as leverage it can use against Faschingstein. With no operations based there, the Pentagon would be in a tough spot. Perhaps it already is. The WSJ article about Pindostan leaving Incirlik appeared right after the bilateral working groups met in Faschingstein on Mar 8-9 to try to improve their declining relationship. Not much has been reported about the results of those talks, but if it were a success story, we would know by now. Faschingstein was definitely at sea when Turkish forces launched an operation to take control of Afrin. It looks like it still is.

Meanwhile, the disagreement about the policy on Syria appears to be intractable. Turkey still insists it should establish control over the Syrian town of Manbij, which has a large Kurdish population, making Faschingstein choose between Ankara and the Kurds. The town is patrolled by the Pindo military and if Turkish forces move in, that will result in a very real clash. In its remarks about the meetings between the working groups, the State Dept made no mention  of Manbij. They would be delighted to report on any progress that had been achieved, but no, they avoided the issue. Evidently that relationship is really teetering on the edge. Syria is not the only irritant in that partnership. On Mar 12, Vladimir Kozhin, Putin’s presidential aide for military cooperation, announced on television that Russia would start delivering S-400 Triumf air defense systems to Turkey in early 2020. NATO has expressed concern over the deal, because the S-400 is not compatible with NATO architecture. Pindo boxtops have recently warned Ankara about possible consequences including sanctions if the purchase goes through. The rift between Turkey and NATO is truly deep. At least 19 members of the alliance worked to block Ankara from hosting the 2018 NATO Summit. They were successful.

Last October, it was announced that the summit would take place in Brussels on Jul 11-12. Last year, the German military left Incirlik, as those bilateral relations edged closer to the brink of conflict. The newly-formed German ruling coalition intends to freeze negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the EU under the pretext of human-rights abuses. In 2017, Pres Erdogan said the governments of Germany and the Netherlands were “Nazi remnants and fascists” because they refused to allow pro-Erdogan rallies on their soil before the parliamentary elections in Turkey. Turkey even suspects NATO of harboring plans to attack it. Some Turkish analysts believe that the alliance has left Ankara on its own in its fight against terrorism. On Mar 11, the Turkish leader slammed NATO’s refusal to back his offensive in Afrin. Ankara is predictable. It pursues its own agenda, putting it at odds with its obligations to NATO. The country is currently actually semi-detached from that bloc. Now that Turkish forces have approached Afrin, the Kurdish soldiers of the Pindo-backed SDF are leaving their positions in other locations in order to defend the town against the Turkish offensive. Some SDF operations have been halted. With the fighters gone, there will not be enough soldiers to hold the captured territory in the eastern part of the country. The whole Pindo policy in Syria will be in ruins. Pindostan will also suffer defeat if it loses an important NATO ally such as Turkey. So Faschingstein is in a bind. It will take a lot of ingenuity to fix this problem.

Turkey has always been a bit of a black sheep. Its invasion of Cyprus in 1974 caused a rift in the alliance, prompting Greece pull its forces out of the bloc’s command structure until 1980. Today its shift away from NATO and the West in general is clear. A marriage of convenience is possible on some issues but Turkey is definitely not a real ally of Pindostan, NATO or the EU. It will find its own way while the West finds itself between a rock and a hard place. If Pindostan continues its military activities in Syria, it will need the Kurds, but it risks losing Turkey. Abandoning the SDF in order to forestall a possible clash with Ankara would damage its credibility in the region. The SDF is already doing its own thing as its fighters move in to defend Afrin. They are taking no orders from Pindo commanders. Pindostan has no major actor to side with in Syria. It would be a good policy to coordinate its activities with Russia, which is on friendly terms with everyone, but Faschingstein has flatly rejected such an approach. Today Pindostan’s room for maneuver in Syria is very much constricted. It has no interests in the country. Losing Incirlik significantly weakens its military capabilities in the region. It could be an ominous sign, warning that there may be graver consequences yet to come. The best thing that Pindostan could do is pull its military out of Syria. With Daesh defeated, it’s no longer Pindostan’s war. By staying, Pindostan has nothing to gain but a lot to lose.

Rebel group in East Ghouta rejects Russia proposal for surrender
Ellen Francis, Reuters, Mar 16 2018

BEIRUT – A main rebel faction in eastern Ghouta said on Friday it rejected a proposal from Russia for talks inside Syria over the fighters surrendering and leaving their enclave. A spox for Failaq al-Rahman based in Turkey said:

We have received Moscow’s messages through the UN. What the Russians are asking for in terms of surrender through negotiations is rejected.

Russia, Turkey & Iran to continue cooperating to eliminate Daesh
RT Newsline, Mar 16 2018

Russia, Turkey and Iran, guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire, will continue cooperating to eliminate Daesh and other terrorist groups, their foreign ministers said in a joint statement on Friday following a meeting aimed at summarizing the outcome of the two-year-long Astana process. Sergei Lavrov, Mevlut Cavusoglu and Mohammad Javad Zarif also welcomed UNSCR 2401 in response to the grave humanitarian situation all across Syria, including in Eastern Ghouta, Yarmouk, Foua and Kefraya, Idlib governorate, Northern Hama governorate, Rukhban and Raqqa. The ministers stressed the need “to ensure rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access” to areas affected by the conflict, and expressed concern over ongoing violations of the ceasefire.

Over 11,000 leave militant-controlled East Ghouta for safety
RT.com, Mar 17 2018

More than 11,000 people have left towns in Eastern Ghouta on Saturday morning, the Russian military said. It also set up a livestream showing humanitarian corridors from land and air. Maj-Gen V Zolotukhin of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Reconciliation Center for Syria, said:

At the moment 11,300 people have left. On average, over 3,000 people per hour are passing through the humanitarian corridor. The flow of people is comparable to Thursday, when the civilians started leaving. Around 11,000 people left Eastern Ghouta that first day.

LIVE from humanitarian corridor in Eastern Ghouta

vlad will impale you

Moscow expels 23 British diplomats
Rt.com, Mar 17 2018

The Russian Foreign Ministry said 23 UK diplomats must leave Russia in response to Britain’s “provocative actions and groundless accusations” over ex-double agent Sergei Skripal’s poisoning. The British Council will also be shut. Britain’s ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Saturday morning, where he was informed of Moscow’s response to London’s claims that Russia is behind the alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on Mar 4 in Salisbury. The ministry issued a statement (my trans – RB)

On Mar 17, British Ambassador to Moscow L Bristow was summoned to the Russian foreign Ministry, who was given a note that in response to the provocative actions of the British side and unsubstantiated accusations of the Russian Federation in connection with the incident in Salisbury (great Britain) on Mar 4, the Russian side took the following decisions in response. “Persona non grata” is announced and 23 diplomatic officers of the British Embassy in Moscow are expelled within a week. Taking into account the disparity in the number of consular offices of the two countries, the consent of the Russian Federation to the opening and functioning of the British Consulate General in St Petersburg is withdrawn. The relevant procedures will be carried out in accordance with international legal practice. Due to the unresolved status of the British Council in the Russian Federation, its activities are terminated. The British side is warned that if further actions of an unfriendly nature are taken against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take other retaliatory measures.

London earlier ordered 23 Russian diplomats to leave Britain by Mar 20. Including family members, around 80 people will be uprooted from the country, according to Russia’s ambassador to Britain, Alexander Yakovenko. Bristow told reporters upon leaving the ministry:

This crisis has arisen as a result of an appalling attack in Britain, using CW developed in Russia. Our response is not directed against the Russian people.

On Friday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson suggested that Pres Putin had personally ordered the suspected nerve agent attack, a claim Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called “shocking and unforgivable.” Peskov added:

Sooner or later the British side would have to present some kind of comprehensive evidence, at least to their partners, who declared solidarity with London in this situation.

Moscow has repeatedly offered its full cooperation in investigating the incident, which London claims involved a Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok. Both nations are members of the OPCW, which means that London is obliged to include Moscow in the investigation.

Britain’s Insane Cold War Dramatics
Editorial, Strategic Culture, Mar 16 2018


Britain has now been joined by Pindostan, France and Germany in blaming Russia for an alleged murder plot on British soil. No verifiable evidence has been provided by the British authorities to support their shrill claim of Russian violation. It is as insane as it is pathetic, as it is perfidious. In the unprecedented joint statement issued Thursday by the four NATO powers, it stated:

Britain thoroughly briefed its allies that it was highly likely Russia was responsible for the attack.

The “attack” refers to an apparent poisoning assault on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, in the English town of Salisbury on Mar 4. Skripal had been exiled to England eight years ago in a swap with MI6, for whom he had betrayed Russian state secrets a decade earlier. Both father and daughter have reportedly been hospitalized, but notably no photographs of the pair have been published to confirm their whereabouts or their condition. Almost from the moment of the apparent attack on the Skripals, British politicians and media have hysterically speculated that Russian state agents carried out a “vendetta.” Within days, the British authorities claimed to have “evidence” that the nerve toxin allegedly used was a Soviet-era chemical weapon, known as “Novichok.” This week, British PM May went even further to blame Russia for the attempted murder of the Skripals. She announced various sanctions in the British parliament, including the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from Britain. The British quickly engaged in intense rallying of Pindo hegemon & Euro vassals to support their position of impugning Russia. The latest joint statement of “solidarity” demonstrates that the British have managed to muster an unprecedented line-up of inquisitors condemning Russia. Moscow has lamented Britain’s “absolutely irresponsible conduct” in this tawdry affair. London has shown deplorable disregard for due process and normal diplomatic relations to recklessly orchestrate a crisis. The recklessness is almost incredible. Britain has not presented any hard evidence to back up its claims of a Soviet-era nerve toxin, nor how this alleged chemical is provably connected to the Russian state.

It is clear from the joint statement that Pindostan, France and Germany are relying on Britain’s “brief,” and yet all four jump to the conclusion that “the only plausible explanation” for the apparent poison attack is Russian responsibility. That a supposed criminal investigation involving a seemingly sophisticated CW could be conclusively carried out in a matter of days beggars belief. More plausible is that the British official position was a foregone conclusion: to blame Russia and now to instill this prejudice in other willful NATO allies. For the British to argue that a Soviet-era chemical incriminates Russia is fatuous beyond words. There is every reason to believe that “Novichok” nerve agents are possessed by several states, including Pindostan and Britain. The Pindos were involved in the “clean-up” of chemical warfare laboratories in Uzbekistan as far back as 1999, as previously reported by the NYT, where the Soviet Novichok agents were purportedly synthesized. As for the British, their CW laboratory at Porton Down, eight miles from Salisbury where the Skripals fell ill on Mar 4, must have its own stock of Novichok if indeed the British laboratory carried out a positive identification last week, “if” being the operative word here. The point is that any number of state agencies could be in possession of the deadly nerve toxin. How the British attribute it solely to Russia is not verified. The claim relies entirely on the say-so of the British authorities, the same disreputable authorities who helped concoct lies about WMDs to wage a genocidal war on Iraq in 2003.

According to the OPCW, Russia destroyed 100% of its declared arsenal of CW at the end of 2017, in compliance with the CWC ratified by 165 nations in 1997. The Pindos have not yet fully complied, retaining a portion of their CW arsenal. Also according to the convention, Russia has a right to inspect the allegedly offending sample that Britain claims to have identified. But all legal requests from Moscow for confirmatory access have been refused by the British. This is a travesty of due process. Britain is making grave accusations against Russia of violating its sovereignty and attempted murder. Yet the British are not presenting their supposed evidence. Instead, London has sought to escalate the crisis by imposing sanctions on Russia, and enlisting the support of Pindostan, France and Germany to amplify its dubious charges against Moscow. Russia has rejected all charges. Moscow says the hypothesis of a revenge assassination on a disgraced former spy who had been living an open and undisturbed life in England for nearly a decade is absurd. Especially given the timing of Russia’s presidential elections this weekend and the hosting of the forthcoming World Cup tournament. For Russia to carry out such an act defies logic and credibility.

Britain’s ridiculous 24-hour “deadline” this week on Russia to “provide answers” over the hypothetical, but undisclosed, “evidence” is so impossible it also indicates the unfolding of a propaganda script. When Russia “failed” to comply with the preposterous demand that was then cited as “more proof” of Russian guilt. The litany of similar false and baseless charges against Russia over the past four years, from aggression in Ukraine to shooting down a Malaysian airliner, from Olympic doping to election meddling, all follow the same propaganda script. Allegations without evidence, repeated ad nauseam. Thanks to dutiful, supine Western so-called news media. Britain and its allies are engaging in an appalling degradation of diplomacy and the rule of law. With utter arrogance, ironically they claim to be upholding law and order, while in reality they are pushing the world towards hell in a handcart. Adding insult to injury, British PM May deprecated Russia’s “disdain for the gravity of the matter,” Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson accused Russia of being “smug,” and Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson suggested that Russia “should shut up and go away.” Russia is being wronged, not for the first time, but her integrity and fortitude will be vindicated again. The allure of British Cold War spy propaganda has long ago expired. The stale and impotent residue will eventually show just how bankrupt the British rulers and their NATO allies have become. In their bankruptcy they are desperately trying to start a war, but their criminal insanity will be their own downfall. In the wise words of Abraham Lincoln, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

allah is going to blow your head off, dare i say that?

Like Trump, EU aids theft of Jerusalem
David Cronin, Electronic Intifada, Mar 17 2018

Photo: Saeed Qaq/APA

The West’s policies on Palestine can be divided into two broad categories: the mindless and the misleading. By deciding to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Donald Trump has behaved in a mindless manner. The most plausible explanation for why the US president did so is that acting like a pyromaniac endears him to his pro-Israel campaign bankroller Sheldon Adelson and to an extremist constituency composed mainly of Christians. Despite his propensity for telling lies, Trump has been more honest on this particular dossier than the EU and its robotic representatives. They claim to be pursuing peace and a two-state solution, while aiding Israeli authorities that have no interest in either objective. Scientific research has been accorded a high priority in cooperation between Israel and the EU. Israel is an active participant in Horizon 2020, an EU scheme aimed at encouraging innovation, which has been earmarked almost $100b over a seven-year period. I have trawled through around 700 projects financed under the scheme and involving Israel. They exemplify how signals given by the EU have been hugely misleading. Back in 2013, Israel accused the Union of causing an “earthquake,” according to Haaretz. The Israeli political elite was peeved by guidelines prepared for Horizon 2020, indicating that Israeli firms or institutions based in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, would not be eligible for its grants. The publication of those guidelines was not the seismic event that Haaretz hyped it up to be. They had been drafted after Brussels officials had been informed that some recipients of EU grants were less than transparent, to put it mildly. The Israel Antiquities Authority took part in the Union’s previous science program, even though its headquarters were located in occupied East Jerusalem. It had supplied a post office box inside Israel as its address, when applying for an EU grant.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has not been punished for that trickery. It is now taking part in a $5m heritage preservation project under Horizon 2020. The address given for the authority on the website for that project is the Rockefeller Museum. That building is in East Jerusalem. A little-noticed loophole in the EU’s 2013 guidelines allow Israeli public bodies to benefit from Horizon 2020, regardless of where they are located. An announcement by the Israel Antiquities Authority that it is moving offices to West Jerusalem does not atone for its role in dispossessing Palestinians. The authority has been overseeing excavations as part of plans to develop an archeological park in Silwan. While doing so, it has formed a partnership with Elad, an Israeli settler organization that drives Palestinians out of their homes. The EC, which administers Horizon 2020, tried to justify the way it is bending over backwards to please Israel. When I requested a comment, a spox said it was “constantly making sure every rule is respected.” That is a flimsy and formulaic excuse for its complicity in the colonization of Jerusalem. A number of other Israeli bodies active in East Jerusalem have been awarded grants under Horizon 2020. Israel’s science ministry, based in East Jerusalem, has signed up to EU projects on diet and gender equality. HUJI, meanwhile, is likely to preserve its status as Israel’s top participant in EU research activities. Of the 700 projects I examined, HUJI was involved in more than 80. Some of the subsidies bestowed on the college amount to almost $2.5m each. HUJI is run from Mount Scopus in East Jerusalem. The EU regards that as acceptable because Mount Scopus was commandeered by Zionist forces in 1948, rather than during the Jun ’67 war, when Israel nabbed the remainder of East Jerusalem. The EU’s spurious stance ignores how HUJI has been encroaching into territory seized in 1967 and how it enthusiastically supports the IOF. Several Israeli bodies implicated in human rights violations benefit from EU largesse.

The Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality has placed something of a chokehold around Palestinian neighborhoods. The procedures it has introduced make Palestinian construction virtually impossible, while favoring colonization by Israelis. The list of ways in which the municipality contributes to Israeli apartheid has just got longer. It is seeking to block residents of two Palestinian villages, al-Walaja and Battir, from reaching a spring that has provided their communities with water for 3,000 years. With sordid irony, the EU has approved the municipality’s participation in a sustainable cities initiative, also worth $5m. Israel’s public security ministry oversees a prison service which regularly subjects Palestinians to torture. Gilad Erdan, the current Israeli minister for public security, has given the nod, at least tacitly, to a provocative shift in policing. The result is that police are openly siding with activists wishing to take over and destroy Islamic holy sites at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound so that they can build a Jewish temple. Erdan’s attempts to tighten Israel’s grip on East Jerusalem have not deterred the EU from embracing him. The public security ministry is involved in EU research projects on border surveillance, interrogation techniques and searching the internet for “terrorist” content.

Israel’s national water company Mekorot is an environmental hooligan. UN investigators have documented how it imperils Palestinians’ right to water by drying up wells and springs in the West Bank. Shamefully, the EU is enabling Mekorot to cultivate a more responsible image by taking part in Horizon 2020 activities on the protection of water infrastructure and reducing pollution. Firms that help to impose a siege on Gaza are equally welcome in Horizon 2020. The state-owned Israel Electric Corporation cut power supplies to Gaza’s hospitals drastically last year, thereby placing the lives of patients in danger. The same corporation is involved in EU projects on information technology. Israel’s weapons industry also benefits from Horizon 2020. Elbit, the supplier of drones, white phosphorus and other munitions used during major Israeli assaults on Gaza, has been allocated an EU subsidy worth $860k to help it develop new cockpit components for future aircraft. The stated aim of this work is to advance a cuddly-sounding initiative called Clean Sky. A profiteer from war crimes is thereby helped to masquerade as a savior of the planet. And the EU can keep on kidding itself that everything is fine and dandy.

what were they up to in niger past year, anyway?

Pentagon concealed role of Pindo SOF in deadly Niger offensive
Eddie Haywood, WSWS, Mar 17 2018

AFRICOM acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that it kept quiet about a deadly offensive its elite forces conducted late last year with Nigerien soldiers, highlighting the scale of Pindo SOF in West Africa and illustrating clearly the predatory aims that underlay the Pentagon’s covert deployment of SOF in the region. On Dec 6 last year, Green Berets coordinating a military operation with Nigerien forces killed 11 militants near the town of Diffa, close to the Nigerian border. The announcement by the Pentagon on Wednesday marks the first time it has acknowledged its role in the December engagement. AFRICOM’s silence regarding the operation was no doubt influenced by the international outcry provoked by the Oct 4 killing of four Green Berets during an ambush in north-western Niger two months prior, which exposed the vast scale of Pindo military operations across West Africa. The Pentagon’s operations in Niger are extensive and far-reaching. Last year, it completed construction of a drone base in Agadez, located in central Niger, which AFRICOM stated is equipped with the capability of conducting armed drone flights across the entire Sahel region and into northern Africa to carry out surveillance and assassinations. Speaking to the NYT regarding the Dec 6 offensive, AFRICOM spox Samantha Reho stated that Pindo-Nigerien troops on a mission in the Lake Chad Basin region came under fire from a “formation of violent extremists.” Reho portrayed the event as an act of defense on the part of Pindo-Nigerien troops after Jihadis attacked their garrison. She said:

The purpose of the mission was to set the conditions for future partner-led operations against violent extremist organizations in the region. There was no aspect of this mission focused on pursuing enemy militants, and the combined force was postured to respond as necessary in case contact with the enemy occurred. With that said, our forces do operate in unstable areas and are occasionally exposed to danger from enemy forces. When such a situation occurs, our personnel are authorized to respond to threats and violence appropriately.

Refuting Reho’s claims and making clear the predatory character of Pindosi military operations in Niger is the October Reuters interview with Nigerien Defense Minister Kalla Mountari. When asked to describe the mission of Pindo SOF deployed to Niger and their relationship to the Nigerien forces, Mountari matter-of-factly stated:

The Pindos are not just exchanging information with us. They are waging war when necessary. We are working hand in hand. The clear proof is that the Pindos and Nigeriens fell on the battlefield for the peace and security of our country.

Further contradicting the account provided by Reho was the statement to the NYT by an anonymous boxtop which suggested the elite commandos were conducting an offensive operation with the aim of establishing an outpost. According to the anonymous boxtop, Pindo SOF were conducting a multi-day operation with Nigerien troops. The boxtop said that the operation’s aim was to clear the area of hostile forces so that a new outpost could be created, which would be very advantageous to Pindo aims in the region. The location of the offensive near Diffa, a town in south-eastern Niger close to the border with Nigeria, is a region long inflamed with conflict between the joint Pindo-Nigerien forces and Boko Haram, which has mounted frequent cross-border raids from northern Nigeria. The criminal character of Pindo SOF deployed to West Africa was underscored by the arrest of two Navy SEALs in Mali for the Jun 2017 murder of Logan Melgar, a Green Beret stationed at the embassy in Bamako. Pindo SOF were deployed to Niger to conduct intelligence and training operations against AQ-affiliated Jihadis waging war against the Pindosi & French-backed government. According to Pentagon boxtops investigating the murder, the two Navy SEALs who were also stationed at the embassy were allegedly pilfering cash from a slush fund made available by the embassy to pay informants. When Melgar discovered the skimming operation and threatened to alert authorities, the two SEALs killed him. Joshua Geltzer, the senior director of counter-terrorism for Obama’s NSC, sought to place the blame for keeping the war in Niger secret entirely within the context of the Trump administration, thereby obscuring the role of the Demagog president who initiated the military intervention in Niger. Geltzer told the NYT:

It’s disappointing to see this administration show disrespect for Congress’s effort to obtain public answers to key legal questions of our time.

Faschingstein has been building and expanding its military forces on the African continent since the Bush 43 administration, and continuing through Obama and Trump as part of Pindostan’s imperialist strategy for Africa. The ongoing conflict in Niger and the wider region is the outcome of the 2011 Pindo-backed NATO bombardment of Libya, in which the Obama administration utilized Jihadis to conduct a regime-change operation that culminated with the murder of Muammar Gaddafi and the death of thousands of Libyans under NATO bombing. Libyan society was completely destroyed, and the Jihadis armed by Faschingstein spilled forth from Libya across the Sahel and into West Africa. The development of Pindo military outposts across the African continent must be seen within the context of China’s growing economic influence across the continent. Faschingstein perceives Beijing as an intolerable rival for Africa’s vast economic resources, which include substantial reserves of minerals, oil, gas and precious metals, and is using its vast military power in an effort to offset China’s economic clout.

stand by for war

An international war provocation
Chris Marsden, WSWS, Mar 17 2018

The campaign by the imperialist powers in Eurostan & Pindostan over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter stinks to high heaven. The most far-reaching claims are being made, with the most far-reaching consequences, without any substantiation. The propaganda offensive is not about what may or may not have happened in a park in Salisbury, England, on Mar 4. It is about creating the pretext for a massive escalation of the war drive in Syria, the broader Middle East, and against Russia itself. When Skripal and his daughter were first discovered on a park bench, the police declared that establishing what had happened would take weeks, if not months. The British government, however, has wrapped up the case far more quickly than any conventional criminal inquiry. On Mar 12, PM May declared that Russia was “highly likely” to have been responsible for “an indiscriminate and reckless act against Britain.” This has been followed by the declaration of Foreign Minister Boris Johnson on Mar 16:

Our quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin and with his decision, and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision, to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of Britain.

The assertions of the British government were endorsed by Pindostan, France and Germany on Thursday, which declared the poisoning “the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since WW2.” Trump declared on Thursday, as his administration announcing new sanctions against Russia:

It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it.

The rapidity with which the major imperialist policies have signed on to the statements of Britain makes clear that a plan was worked out beforehand. It required only the appropriate occasion to unveil it. The story as told by the British government is full of contradictions, without a shred of probative evidence. The entire pretext is based on the analysis coming out of Porton Down, the CBW facility dedicated to developing WMDs located only 10 miles from Salisbury. After first asserting that the poison was a nerve gas like Sarin or VX, the agency now claims that the toxic agent is “of a type developed by Russia,” namely Novichok. As former UK ambassador and author Craig Murray has noted, the phrase “of a type developed by Russia” is carefully chosen. He cited a source within the British government as confirming:

Porton Down scientists are not able to identify the nerve gas as being of Russian manufacture, and have been resentful of the pressuring being placed on them to do so.

Even if one were to accept the conclusion of the British government about the use of Novichok, and it has refused to provide samples to Russia or anyone else, this does not constitute proof that Russia directed the attack. The chemical was researched during the era of the Soviet Union. There is no evidence that Russia ever produced it, and it could just as easily have been manufactured in London, Langley, or one of the states in the former Soviet Union that are now bitterly hostile to Russia. And if a Russian was in fact involved, this is a far cry from proving the responsibility of the Russian government. The Russian government has strenuously denied any involvement. Dmitri Peskov said on Friday:

In international practice we never encountered such behavior at the state level when very serious accusations are being brought up against a country, our country in this case, with such wording as ‘apparently,’ ‘most likely’ and so on. This contradicts not only international law, but common sense as such.

The Putin regime is deeply reactionary, governing on behalf of a criminal financial oligarchy that grew rich by plundering the assets of the former Soviet Union. But there is no proof that it was involved in the attack on Skripal and many reasons to question why it would want do so, as it provides a ready-made pretext for aggression by Pindostan & Eurostan. From the standpoint of who benefits, the most likely guilty parties in the Skripal affair are London and Faschingstein, rather than Moscow. They are furious that the Russian government is obstructing their operations in Syria, aimed at removing the Assad government and setting up a puppet regime. The events of the past two weeks were preceded by a significant escalation in Syria. On Feb 7, Pindo warplanes and artillery batteries carried out a massacre in the north-eastern province of Deir ez-Zor, knowing that the bulk of hundreds of casualties would be Russian mercenaries. On Feb 25, the Trump administration declared that it no longer needed further approval for a vast expansion of military operations against Syria and its allies, including Iran. Preparations have also been made for a direct conflict with Russia itself. On Jan 19, Sec Def ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis announced a new National Defence Strategy that declared:

Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of Pindo natsec.

All the governments involved in the present campaign are warmongering regimes run by their military intelligence agencies. Moreover, they all face deep internal crises. Britain is riven by internal conflicts over Brexit. The Trump administration in Pindostan staggers from crisis to crisis, and is currently carrying out a purge of top government officials. In Germany the major parties have finally formed a government, nearly six months after September’s elections, providing the last piece of the political machinery required to secure the Pindo-led anti-Russian alliance now in operation. In addition to justifying the expansion of war abroad, the campaign against Russia provides a pretext for an escalation of attacks on democratic rights at home. In Pindostan, the campaign led by the Demagog Party and the CIA over “Russian meddling” has already been used by the ruling class as a pretext for censoring the Internet. Mar 20 marks the 15th anniversary of the launching of the 2003 Iraq war, based on a torrent of lies. As part of a concerted campaign to “prove” the existence of Iraqi WMDs, Britain & Pindostan spent months manufacturing intelligence, producing two “dodgy dossiers” and even sending in weapons inspectors to Iraq. After these inspectors found no evidence of any CBN programme, on Feb 5, Sec State Colin Powell appeared before the UNSC to present his infamous and wholly manufactured slide show purporting to show photographic “evidence” of Iraq hiding unconventional weapons. On Mar 18, on this basis, the Labour government of Tony Blair committed Britain to support a Pindo-led war. The same playbook is being used again, only the case now being made against Russia regarding Skripal is even flimsier than that offered up to justify war against Iraq. Within the political establishments in all the imperialist powers involved, there is no significant opposition to the present disastrous course. The Labour Party in Britain, like the Demagogs in Pindostan, are the most bellicose advocates of anti-Russian measures. In the media, not a single major publication has come out against the filthy campaign waged, because the hallowed “free press” is nothing but a mouthpiece of the financial oligarchy and its drive to seize the markets and resources of the entire world. The working class can only combat the growing danger of war by its own independent political action, in opposition to all parties of the ruling class. The formation of a new anti-war movement, uniting the great mass of working people and youth in opposition to capitalism and imperialism, is the most urgent political task.

NYT chides Trump for insufficient aggression against Russia
Bill Van Auken, WSWS, Mar 17 2018

The day after the Trump administration imposed its most punishing series of sanctions to date against Russia, the NYT weighed in with an editorial. Its title tells the story:

Finally, Trump Has Something Bad to Say About Russia … And, not surprisingly, it still falls short.

An announcement from the Treasury Dept on Thursday unveiled a set of punitive measures against 19 Russian individuals and five organizations, including the FSB and the GRU. The statement cited still unsubstantiated allegations concerning Russia’s “attempted interference in Pindo elections,” essentially citing the same individuals and entities as the indictments issued by Robert Mueller, with some additions. The Russian “meddling” campaign has been the focus of the NYT since before Trump’s election. It has treated the claims made by intelligence agencies and operatives as incontrovertible facts, magnifying the minuscule activities of a fly-by-night operation in Moscow that placed content on social media into a full-scale war on “Pindo democracy” and an attempt to “sow discord” in what supposedly was an otherwise satisfied and united Pindo society. In addition to the trumped-up charges about election interference, the Treasury Dept cited a new and significantly more ominous pretext for the imposition of sanctions. It claimed that Russia had carried out cyber-attacks targeting “multiple critical Pindo infrastructure sectors, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.” No evidence has been given to support these allegations but, given recent Pindo natsec documents changing Pindo policy to include cyber-attacks as a justification for retaliation with nuclear weapons, the charge is a deadly serious matter. In tandem with the sanctions, Trump joined with the heads of government of BRitain, Germany and France in issuing a joint statement indicting Russia for alleged responsibility for the supposed nerve gas attack in Britain on Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Once again, no evidence whatsoever has been produced to substantiate the responsibility of the Russian government, which has denied any involvement and demanded to no avail that the British government provide samples of the substance allegedly used in the attack. The sanctions and the statement have produced the tensest standoff between Moscow and the Western powers since the height of the Cold War. Issued in the context of military confrontations in Syria and an increasingly tense military standoff in Eastern Europe, they have significantly heightened the threat of a catastrophic confrontation between the world’s major nuclear powers. But for the editorial board of the NYT, these provocative measures do not go nearly far enough. The editorial declares:

While such steps are encouraging, only a more robust, unified response from Pindostan and its NATO vassals would impede Pres Putin from expanding his pattern of heinous behavior. The penalties must go further.

The NYT chides Trump for failing to issue a more bellicose statement Thursday and contrasts him unfavorably with his right-wing and provocative UN Ambassador Haley, who declared the alleged attack on the former Russian spy in Britain a “defining moment” and demanded action to “hold Russia accountable.” It also lauded HR McMaster, who is reportedly about to be fired by Trump, for indicting Russia for being “complicit in Assad’s atrocities” in Syria. The editorial goes on to criticize the joint statement by the four major NATO powers for saying “nothing about joint action” and even condemns British PM May, who ordered the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from London, along with a number of other measures, saying:

The penalties didn’t go far enough.

All of this warmongering is founded on lies and hypocrisy. The editors of the NYT are outraged by Russia’s “meddling in the Pindo elections” by means of a paltry presence on social media and supposed hacking of DNC email accounts, yet they have no problem with the wholesale meddling of Faschingstein, which has spent billions to rig elections, create parties, fund candidates and spread propaganda to shape the governments of former Soviet bloc countries and, indeed, those of countries around the world to serve Pindo interests. They take no notice of the massive “hacking” operation of the Pindo government and its intelligence agencies, led by the NSA, which was revealed to have hacked even the cell phones of Angela Merkel and Dilma Rousseff. As for “atrocities in Syria,” the NYT has led the rest of the media in a “human rights” outcry over civilian casualties inflicted on the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, but remained largely silent on the massacres of thousands of civilians in Raqqa and Mosul, both now reduced to rubble. The NYT’s editorial page is itself edited by James Bennet, a state-connected figure whose brother is a right-wing Demagog senator from New Mexico, and whose father was a State Dept boxtop and head of USAID, an instrument for CIA provocations in countries around the world. The NYT’s reaction to the latest tensions with Russia largely conform with the positions taken by leading figures in the Demagog Party. Chuck Schumer dismissed the sanctions as “not enough.” Mark Warner said that the measures were only a “first step,” complaining:

I don’t know why it’s taken the administration so long to lay out these sanctions.

The Demagog Party has not concentrated its fire against Trump based on his attacks on immigrants, assault on democratic rights and right-wing social and economic policies centered on tax cuts for the corporations and the rich and destruction of social benefits for the working class. Rather, it has served as the political advocate for sections of the military intelligence apparatus opposed to any abandonment of the strongly anti-Russian policy adopted under the Obama administration. In attempting to subordinate all opposition to Trump to this right-wing militarist agenda, the Demagogs are promoting not only war, but also the suppression and criminalization of all popular opposition to Pindostan’s ruling capitalist establishment. As for the NYT, all of its hyperbole about “Russian aggression,” Syrian “atrocities” and “heinous behavior” is rooted not in any defense of democracy, human rights or morality, but in the geostrategic interests of Pindosi imperialism. Russia stands as an obstacle to the drive to impose Pindo hegemony by military means over the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the broader Eurasian landmass. In promoting anti-Russian hysteria, the NYT is playing a critical role in attempting to condition public opinion to the preparation for a war that threatens the survival of humanity.

adelson’s IAC will take over the task of representation from AIPAC gradually

AIPAC is suddenly getting a lot of bad press in Jewish papers and WaPo
Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, Mar 16 2018

One pleasurable surprise of the AIPAC policy conference in early March was how much bad press the organization got. It’s becoming almost fashionable to criticize the lobby for its enforcement of lockstep political support for Israel in Faschinstein and for its Soviet-style policy on access to the press. These criticism are finally showing up in the MSM. Reporters have been licensed by the damage done by mere high school students to the NRA. So maybe AIPAC is on the same path to pariah status, more than a decade after Walt and Mearsheimer published their book The Israel Lobby. A report in the WaPo says that AIPAC was born to rally Pindo Jews to stand shoulder to shoulder behind Israeli “lies” about a massacre of Palestinians back in 1953. There are two angry pieces in the Jewish press decrying AIPAC’s blackout policy on coverage of its gatherings. Gershon Baskin reports in the JPost that an insurgent Maryland Democrat, Dr Jerome Segal, is taking on Sen Ben Cardin, who voted against the Iran deal, because he is so pro-AIPAC. Baskin paints AIPAC like the NRA.

An interesting aspect of Segal’s candidacy is not only that he is challenging Senator Cardin, but that he is taking on AIPAC. Cardin is a kind of AIPAC “poster boy,” not only representing what AIPAC wants, but being on the front line of acting on behalf of AIPAC in the Senate. Segal believes that he will take the votes that supported Bernie Sanders (35% of Demagog voters) and gain many other votes because the broad flow of Pindosi Jewish opinion is toward his Jewish Peace Lobby’s ideas and away from AIPAC’s blind support of Israel. Segal presents himself as David to Cardin and AIPAC’s Goliath. Segal’s slogan is “if we beat AIPAC in Maryland, we can beat the NRA in Pindostan.”

Baskin is frank about AIPAC’s power though he says, mistakenly in my view, that the NRA is more powerful. Dems run against the NRA. He says:

Many Congress critturs are simply afraid to ever challenge AIPAC, not because AIPAC puts so much money in the campaigns of everyone it supports, but because AIPAC’s strategy is also to target candidates that it doesn’t like and put huge amounts of money into their challengers’ campaigns. The candidates that AIPAC wants out usually don’t stand a chance.

AIPAC is vulnerable because it has become the Trump lobby.

The AIPAC show of last week does not reflect the majority view of Pindosi Jewry. I believe that most of the thousands of participants at AIPAC were in fact Trump supporters.

Peter Beinart also says AIPAC is vulnerable, in a piece for Atlantic magazine saying AIPAC faces a “struggle to avoid the fate of the NRA.” Beinart says young Dems are alienated by AIPAC’s achievement in blocking criticism of the occupation, while right-wing Thugs are alienated by its lip service to the two-state solution. He writes:

AIPAC is conducting a remarkable experiment. It’s doubling down on bipartisanship and ideological diversity even as tectonic shifts in Pindo politics and culture make that harder and harder. It’s fascinating to watch, and it’s likely to fail. It will fail because the thing about Israel that young liberals admire least is its half-century-long policy of denying Palestinians in the West Bank basic rights like free movement, due process, and citizenship in the country in which they live, and entrenching that denial by building settlements where Jews enjoy rights that their Palestinian neighbors are denied. Kohr’s endorsement of the two-state solution notwithstanding, AIPAC remains the most powerful force in Pindo politics opposing pressure on Israel to end the occupation. Thus, young liberals can only embrace AIPAC if they place their support for Israel ahead of their opposition to its occupation.

There’s more of the NRA theme at Truthdig. Maj Danny Sjursen, a former West Point instructor, laments on the death of the antiwar Demagog liberal congress crittur, and rightly sees the lobby’s role in that transformation. He writes:

I nearly spit up my food the other day. Watching on C-SPAN as Sen Amy Klobuchar gleefully attended a panel at the AIPAC conference, I couldn’t help but wonder what has happened to the Demagog Party. The worst part is that I agree with her on most domestic issues like health care, taxes and more, but she and her mainstream Demagog colleagues are complicit in the perpetuation of Pindostan’s warfare state and neo-imperial interventionism. Their reflexive support for Israel is a symptom of a larger disease in the party: tacit militarism. AIPAC is a lobbying clique almost as savvy and definitely as effective as the NRA. Its meetings are well-attended by mainstream Demagog & Thugs alike, and serve as little more than an opportunity for them to kiss Netanyahu’s ring and swear fealty to Israel. Most of the time, participants don’t dare utter the word “Palestinian.” That’d be untoward. Palestinians are the unacknowledged elephants in the room.

Sjursen laments Israel’s shadow over the Pindo image in the world:

The far right-wing Israeli government of Netanyahu, who is little more than a co-conspirator and enabler for Pindostan’s failed project in the Middle East, should be the last group “liberals” pander to. For 50 years now, the IOF has divided, occupied and enabled the illegal settlement of sovereign Palestinian territory, keeping Arabs in limbo without citizenship or meaningful civil rights. This is a war crime, so far as international law is concerned. Our unflinching support for Israeli policy irreversibly damages our military’s reputation on the Arab street. I’ve seen it firsthand. In Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds and thousands of miles away from Jerusalem, captured prisoners and hospitable families alike constantly point to Pindostan’s unfettered support for Israel and the plight of the Palestinians in answer to the ubiquitous, naive question of why they hate us.

Speaking of war crimes, The WaPo published an important piece by Doug Rossinow, a teacher of history at the University of Oslo, entitled “The dark roots of AIPAC”. Rossinow says that AIPAC has its origins in the 1953 effort by Pindo Jews to explain away a massacre of Palestinians. He describes AIPAC as “a huge factor in Pindo policy” and endorses Gideon Levy’s picture of the group as a “Jewish lobby,” saying it “welded a united front of Pindo Jews in support of Israel, a unity that politicians have had to respect.” Rossinow writes that the original leader of the lobby group, “Si” Kenen, found most of his political friends among liberal Demagogs. Truman had of course endorsed the Jewish state, pushed by major Zionist donors. Eisenhower bucked Israel on several occasions, including during the famous Qibya massacre in the West Bank in 1953, when Ariel Sharon’s troops killed “more than 60 civilians indiscriminately in retaliation for the murder of a Jewish woman and her two children in Israel.” Back then, Israel didn’t get away with human rights violations.

The outcry was sharp and wide. Time magazine carried a shocking account of deliberate, even casual mass murder by Israeli soldiers at Qibya, “slouching, smoking and joking.” The NYT ran extensive excerpts from a UN commission that refuted Israeli lies about the incident.

Qibya was the genesis of AIPAC, Rossinow asserts, as Israel supporters prepared “for any future shocks coming out of Israel.”

Aware Israel’s reputation in Pindostan had been tarnished, Pindo- Jewish supporters of Israel scrambled to mount a damage-control effort in late 1953 and early 1954.

Jewish solidarity was key. Stalinist orthodoxy needed to be enforced. AIPAC’s predecessor did what the lobby does today, redlines the Jewish community. Even Pindos for Peace Now march with their mouths shut. Rossinow writes of the predecesssor of AIPAC:

Even before AZCPA appeared, Kenen and others labored to construct a united front among Pindo-Jewish groups in support of Israel amid the Qibya controversy. AZCPA strengthened that Jewish united front, which was impressively broad. It showed that there was nothing Israel might do that would jeopardize Pindo-Jewish support. Indeed to some in the Jewish community, the more disturbing Israeli behavior was, the more Israel needed their ardent advocacy. The perception that AIPAC represents a consensus among Pindo Jews has always been a key to its political influence, which explains its sometimes seemingly outsized opposition to Jewish dissent from its line. “Pindostan’s Pro-Israel Lobby,” born in awful knowledge, has always existed to make Israeli realities and priorities palatable to Pindos.

So the worse things got, the louder were the Jewish voices, denying “awful knowledge.” That was in the WaPo! More dissent. The Jewish Week, angered by AIPAC’s stiff-necked policy on the press attending the most interesting sessions at the policy conference, refused to attend the conference. They wrote in “Why We Won’t Be at the AIPAC conference”:

Lobby leaders said that speakers and panelists at the conference may feel inhibited in expressing their views if members of the press were in the room. We countered that a conference with 20,000 attendees, and dozens of sessions with many hundreds of delegates, is by nature not conducive to keeping secrets, especially in the age of instant tweets and texts. If members of the press agreed to the ground rules of attending “off the record” sessions, it would allow the media to get a sense of the important give-and-take that takes place in these informative sessions without violating journalistic or AIPAC boundaries. AIPAC has a long history of being wary of and less than friendly toward the press. Members of the press enter the AIPAC convention through a separate entrance and must be accompanied by staff to proceed to the main area where sessions are held, and even accompanied to the rest rooms at times. Such treatment doesn’t foster trust and mutual respect. AIPAC officials say the press is overly critical in its coverage of the lobby.

The editors also say that Israel is under fire, and so “AIPAC’s mandate of promoting bipartisan support for Israel is more vital than ever.” But the press policies are hurting that goal. The Atlanta Jewish Times chimes in, deploring AIPAC’s policy and saying it was unable to cover an AIPAC gathering in Atlanta because it was off the record:

The perfect image of AIPAC’s wrong-headed attitude emerged Sunday Mar 4, the first day of the conference. Outside a session titled “Free Speech and Freedom of the Press in Israel” was this sign: “THIS SESSION IS OFF THE RECORD AND CLOSED TO THE PRESS.” AIPAC recently held its annual Atlanta community event at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with Bret Stephens of the NYT speaking, but you didn’t see any coverage in the AJT, because everything AIPAC does locally is off the record. It’s particularly aggravating when the speaker is a fellow member of the press such as Stephens. We suspect AIPAC just likes to maintain a sense of mystery that brings an aura of power and perhaps increases people’s desire to pay to see what’s inside.

In sum, the atmosphere is changing for AIPAC. People are more willing to criticize it in the press. A sea change in establishment attitudes is under way, I believe, though it will take a while.

boring old kim

White House growing NK team in anticipation of talks
Guy Taylor, Washington Times, Mar 16 2018

The Trump administration is scrambling behind the scenes to beef up its NSC team on NK in anticipation for intense and potentially bare-knuckle diplomacy with Pyongyang, according to sources close to the White House. As part of the push, the administration is hiring Anthony Ruggiero, a former Treasury Dept sanctions expert and advocate of sharper economic pressure on Pyongyang and its allies, to join a NK team currently headed by Matthew Pottinger, NSC senior director for Asian affairs. The NSC did not respond to a request for a statement on the development and Ruggierro, currently a senior fellow at the FDD in Faschingstein, flatly declined to comment when reached by telephone Friday. However, three former boxtops told us that the expected hiring of Ruggiero represents the first calculated step by the administration to build out a NK strategy staff to work directly inside the White House at a moment when Trump has faced criticism for failing to fill other key diplomatic posts relating to the NK crisis. One said:

This is all about the possible summit. Ruggiero is being hired to strengthen NSC’s hand on the NK sanctions front, specifically to focus on the potential to more aggressively target Chinese banks with sanctions. They will set up a desk focused specifically on the future of sanctions against NK, which will be tied in directly with any negotiation team involved in a potential Trump-Kim summit. There needs to be a team in place that is prepared and nimble and able to move quickly.

While the CIA has established a special Korean Mission Center over the past year, the administration has still not appointed an ambassador to SK, who should be central to Faschingstein’s posture toward any potential negotiations with Pyongyang. The prospect for such negotiations has been increased by SK’s claim to have have received assurances from Kim Jong-un that he’s open to talks with Faschingstein on abandoning his nuclear weapons and committed to halting all nuclear and missile tests while such discussions play out. Trump embraced Kim’s reported gesture last week, and officials have predicted a direct Trump-Kim meeting could occur as early as May, potentially in the neutral location of Sweden. Speculation is rife on how prepared the White House really is for a Trump-Kim summit. Ruggiero is central to their scramble to prepare not only for a potential summit but for wider negotiations and talks anticipated to surround it and to come after it. He is being added to send a message to NK that if it isn’t serious about denuclearization, Trump will respond with sharply increased sanctions. Ruggiero has become known in recent years for advocating deeper and wider-reaching sanctions against not just NK but also Chinese and Russian banks. According to his biography on the FDD website, he was formerly head of the Treasury Dept’s office of global affairs, focusing on terrorist financing and financial crimes. He previously spent 13 years at the State Dept, working on intercepting finance for Iranian and NK WMD. At one point in 2005, he was an adviser to the Pindo delegation to talks in Beijing on NK nuclear program. Following the administration’s issuance in January of a sanctions package targeting two Chinese firms and a handful of NK shipping companies, Ruggiero argued in a policy brief published by the FDD:

The Trump administration’s latest actions increase the pressure on Pyongyang as it tries to sabotage the ‘maximum pressure’ policy during the SK-NK talks. But the administration must escalate these sanctions to the next level, including targeting Chinese banks, in order to have a true ‘maximum pressure’ policy.

Roughly a month later, the White House came through with what Trump personally described as the “heaviest sanctions ever,” targeting some 50 vessels and companies doing business with Pyongyang from shipping locations in NK, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

SK Report on Summit Discredits Pindo Elites’ Assumption
Gareth Porter, Truthdig, Mar 16 2018

Media coverage of and political reactions to Donald Trump’s announcement of a summit meeting with Kim have been based on the assumption that it cannot succeed, because Kim will reject the idea of denuclearization. But the full report by SK Pres Moon Jae-in’s national security adviser on the meeting with Kim last week, covered by SK’s Yonhap news agency but not covered in Pindo news media, makes it clear that Kim will present Trump with a plan for complete denuclearization linked to the normalization of relations between Pindostan and the DPRK. The report by Chung Eui-yong on a dinner hosted by Kim for the 10-member SK delegation on Mar 5 said that Kim had affirmed his “commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and that he “would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons should the safety of the regime be guaranteed and military threats against NK removed.” Chung reported that Kim expressed his willingness to discuss “ways to realize the denuclearization of the peninsula and normalize bilateral ties.” But in what may be the most important finding in the report, Chung added:

What we must especially pay attention to is the fact that he has clearly stated that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was an instruction of his predecessor and that there has been no change to such an instruction.

The SK national security adviser’s report directly contradicts the firmly held belief among Pindo national security and political elites that Kim Jong Un would never give up NK’s nuclear weapons. As Colin Kahl, former Pentagon official and Obama adviser, commented in response to the summit announcement:

It is simply inconceivable that he will accept full denuclearization at this point.

But Kahl’s dismissal of the possibility of any agreement at the summit assumes, without saying so, a continuation of the steadfast refusal of the Bush and Obama administrations for Pindostan to offer any incentive to NK in the form of a peace treaty and full normalization of diplomatic and economic relations. That pattern of Pindo policy is one side of the still-unknown story of the politics of the NK issue. The other side of the story is NK’s effort to use its nuclear and missile assets as bargaining chips get Pindostan to strike a deal that would change the Pindo stance of enmity toward NK. The Cold War background of the issue is that NK had demanded that the Pentagon stop its annual “Team Spirit” exercises with SK forces, which began in 1976 and involve nuclear-capable USAF planes. The Pentagon knew those exercises scared NK because as Leon Sigal recalled in his book “Disarming Strangers,” Pindostan had made explicit nuclear threats against NK on seven occasions. But the end of the Cold War in 1991 presented an even more threatening situation. When the Soviet Union collapsed, and Russia disengaged from former Soviet bloc allies, NK suddenly suffered the equivalent of a 40% reduction in imports, its industrial base imploded and its economy was thrown into chaos. Meanwhile, the unfavorable economic and military balance with SK had continued to grow in the final two decades of the Cold War. Whereas their per capita GDP had been virtually identical up to the mid-1970s, NK & SK had diverged dramatically by 1990, when per capita GDP in SK, which had more than twice the population of NK, was already four times greater than that of NK. Furthermore, NK had been unable to invest in replacing its military technology, so had to make do with antiquated tanks, air defense systems and aircraft from the 1950s and 1960s, while SK had continued to receive the latest technology from Pindostan. After serious economic crisis gripped NK, a large proportion of its ground forces had to be diverted to economic production tasks, including harvesting, construction and mining. It became increasingly clear to military analysts that the NK army no longer even had the capability to carry out an operation in SK for longer than a few weeks. The Kim regime now found itself in the uncomfortable situation of being far more dependent on China for economic assistance than ever before.

Faced with this powerful combination of threatening developments, DPRK founder Kim Il-Sung embarked immediately after the Cold War on a radically new security strategy. He tried to use NK’s incipient nuclear and missile programs to draw Pindostan into a broader agreement that would establish a normal diplomatic relationship. The first move in that long strategic game came in Jan 1992, when NK revealed a startling new posture toward Pindostan in meetings with Under-Sec State Arnold Kanter in NYC. Sun told Kanter that Kim wanted cooperative relations and was prepared to accept a long-term Pindo military presence on the Korean Peninsula as a hedge against Chinese or Russian influence. In 1994, NK negotiated the agreed framework with the Clinton administration, committing to the dismantling of its plutonium reactor in return for much more proliferation-proof light water reactors and a Pindo commitment to normalize political and economic relations. But neither of those commitments was to be achieved immediately. Pindo news media and Congress were for the most part hostile to the agreement. NK’s social and economic situation deteriorated even more seriously in the second half of the 1990s after being hit by serious floods and famine, and the CIA issued reports suggesting the imminent collapse of the regime, so Clinton boxtops believed there was no need to move toward normalization of relations. After Kim Il Sung’s death in mid-1994, Kim Jong Il pushed his father’s strategy even more energetically. He carried out the DPRK’s first long-range missile test in 1998 to jolt the Clinton administration into diplomatic action, then he made a series of dramatic diplomatic moves beginning with the negotiation of a moratorium on long-range missile tests in 1998 and continuing with the dispatch of a personal envoy to Faschingstein to meet Bill Clinton in Oct 2000. Marshall Jo Myong Rok arrived with a commitment to give up the DPRK’s ICBM program as well as its nuclear weapons. At the White House meeting, Jo handed Clinton a letter from Kim inviting him to visit Pyongyang and told him:

If you come to Pyongyang, Kim Jong Il will guarantee that he will satisfy all your security concerns.

Clinton quickly dispatched a delegation led by Sec State Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang, where Kim provided detailed answers to questions on a missile accord, and also informed Albright that NK had changed its view about the Pindo military presence in SK, which it now believed played a “stabilizing role” on the peninsula. He said some within the NK army had expressed opposition to that view, and that would be resolved only if Pindostan & NK normalized their relations. Clinton was prepared to go to Pyongyang to sign an agreement, but he didn’t do it. The Bush 43 administration then reversed Clinton’s moves toward a diplomatic settlement. Over the next decade, NK began to amass a nuclear arsenal and made major strides in developing its ICBM. When Clinton visited Pyongyang in 2009 to obtain the release of two Pindo journalists, Kim underlined the point that things could have been different. A memo on the meeting between Clinton and Kim that was among the Clinton emails published by WikiLeaks in Oct 2016 quoted Kim Jong Il as saying:

If the Demagogs had won in 2000, the situation in bilateral relations would not have reached such a point, but instead all agreements would have been implemented, the DPRK would have had light water reactors, and Pindostan would have had a new friend in northeast Asia in a complex world.

Pindo political and security elites have long accepted the idea that Faschingstein has only two choices: either acceptance of a nuclear-armed NK or “maximum pressure” at the risk of war. But as SK has now been able to confirm, that view is dead wrong. Kim is still committed to his father’s vision of a deal with Pindostan. The real question is whether the Trump administration, and the Pindo political system more broadly, are capable of taking advantage of that opportunity.

is mccabe taking the fall for comey?

Sessions fires former FBI #2 McCabe
Makini Brice, Reuters, Mar 17 2018

FASCHINGSTEIN – Federal Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s former #2 official who was deeply involved in the agency’s investigations of Hillary Clinton and Russia’s role in the 2016 election and was repeatedly criticized by President Donald Trump. Sessions said on Friday:

Based on the report of the Inspector General, the findings of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, and the recommendation of the Department’s senior career official, I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.

steele must testify

London court rules Steele must give evidence in libel trial
Reuters, Mar 16 2018

LONDON – Former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled a “dossier” of allegations linking Pres Donald Trump to Russia, must give a deposition in a Pindo libel case, lawyers for the Russian businessman involved said on Friday. Businessman Aleksei Gubarev is suing the Buzzfeed website, which published the dossier in January last year, for libel in a Florida court over claims made about him and his companies and as part of his case his lawyers asked to take evidence from Steele. Last November, a British court ruled Steele should undergo lengthy pre-trial questioning and in February his lawyers sought to have that order quashed, arguing it could put his sources at risk and harm British natsec. On Friday, the High Court in London agreed Steele should provide a deposition which would be used in the Florida trial, Gubarev’s lawyer said. lawyer Steven Loble said:

The court has rightly ordered that Christopher Steele must now answer under oath the relevant and appropriate questions to be put to him in deposition. I expect the deposition to take place in the next eight weeks.

Sources close to Steele said the judge had said the questioning had to be limited to avoid anything that could expose his informants. Steele, a former MI6 officer, authored the report which alleged Moscow had attempted to interfere in the 2016 Pindo election and potential collusion between Russia and Trump, along with other unverified and salacious claims about the president. Trump has described the report as “bogus” and Moscow has repeatedly rejected accusations of interference in the election. Gubarev’s case is one of a number of lawsuits being brought against Buzzfeed in the wake of the dossier’s publication, and the businessman is also suing Steele himself for libel in Britain in a separate action.