Author Archives: niqnaq

holy cow, batman! what do we do now??

Whither Afghanistan? Getting Out Is Harder Than Getting In
Philip Giraldi, Strategic Culture, Jul 22 2021

Photo: Parvez Parvez/Reuters

The inability of the US to comprehend what it was becoming involved in when, in the wake of 9/11, it declared a Global War on Terror, has to be reckoned one of the singular failures of national security policy over the past twenty years. Not only did the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq make bad situations worse, but the fact that no one is Washington was able to define “victory” and think in terms of an exit strategy has meant that the wars and instability are still with us. In their wake has been hundreds of thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars spent to accomplish absolutely nothing. As a result, Iraq is unstable and leans more heavily towards Iran than it does to Washington. The Iraqi Parliament has, in fact, asked US forces to leave the country, a request that has been ignored both by Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Trump actually threatened to freeze Iraqi bank assets to pressure the Iraqis into accepting the continued US occupation. At the same time, American troops illegally present in neighboring Syria, continue to occupy that country’s oil fields to deprive the government in Damascus of much needed resources. Neither Iraq nor Syria threatens the US in any way.

Given that history, it should be no surprise that the withdrawal from the twenty year-long nation-building project in Afghanistan, long overdue, is not quite going as smoothly as the Pentagon and White House apparently planned. US forces pulled out of their principal base in the country, Bagram Air Base, in the middle of the night without informing the incoming Afghan base commander. A frenzy of looting of the left behind equipment followed. The Taliban are racking up victory after victory against US- and NATO-trained Afghan government forces, who have the disadvantage of having to defend everywhere, making them vulnerable to attacks on an opportunity basis. The Taliban now plausibly claim to control 85% of the countryside, to include crossing points into Pakistan and several important towns and provinces. They recently (Jun 16 – RB) shocked observers by executing 22 Afghan Army commandos who had run out of ammunition and surrendered. The US government is quietly expecting a similar fate for the thousands of Afghans who collaborated with the regime installed by Washington and is hurriedly arranging for visas to get the most vulnerable out, eventually seeking to resettle them in friendly Middle Eastern countries as well as in the US.

By one estimate as many as 18k Afghans worked for US forces and they also have families that will have to go with them. There is particular concern that former interpreters, who would have been privy to decision making by Washington, will be most particularly targeted. The Biden White House has responded finally to the urgency of the issue by approving special flights to remove the most vulnerable to a third country for processing before determining if they can be allowed to take up residence in the US or elsewhere. To be sure, the struggle to rid the world of the wrong kind of terrorists has left the US weaker and more unfocused than it was in 2001. China, Russia and Iran are already maneuvering to fill the impending power vacuum in Central Asia by coming to terms with the likely Taliban takeover, which might come sooner that Joe Biden expects. If some kind of Afghan coalition government does emerge, it will belong to Russia and China, not the US.

Meanwhile, the US military itself, under the Biden Administration, is weaker and more riven by controversy than ever before. A recent 23-page report suggests that since Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s February order to “stand down” the entire US military for commanders to address “extremism” in its ranks, morale has sunk and many top soldiers have either retired or quit in disgust. During his confirmation hearings, Austin pledged that he would “rid our ranks of racists and extremists” but the reality is quite different, with the witch hunt in the ranks and endless promotion of diversity even hurting normal military readiness training. By next month the US military presence in Afghanistan will be reduced to a battalion of infantry to guard the Embassy and CIA station in Kabul, which is itself not sustainable unless some kind of workable Afghan government coalition can be achieved. Given the recent Taliban successes, that outcome appears to be increasingly unlikely. Maintaining the Embassy will also require a viable lifeline to the city’s airport and talks are underway with Turkey to determine if Ankara will be willing to base a stay behind battalion to maintain the air link. The Taliban have already announced that a Turkish presence at the airport will be unacceptable and warned Turkey that there would be revenge attacks against any remaining NATO troops after the US pulls out. Their spokesman issued a statement declaring:

The continuation of Turkey’s occupation will provoke feelings of hatred and enmity in our country towards Turkish officials, and will harm bilateral relations.

The US is also seeking an over the horizon offensive capability once the military has formally left Afghanistan. The intention would be to be able to strike targets in Afghanistan if a new government forms any alliances with terrorist groups that potentially threaten the US, as unlikely as that might be. At the present time, there are few options as the US would not be able to launch cruise missile or airstrikes through the neighboring countries that surround Afghanistan to the south, east and west, though a long-distance strike from warships in the Persian Gulf is technically possible. To the north there are, however, former Soviet central Asian states, the so-called “‘Stans”, that might be suitable for hosting some arrangement to base American equipment, aircraft and a caretaker force. Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, or Uzbekistan might be amenable to such a development, but both Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are members of the Russian-led CSTO. On Monday, Lavrov said that any US presence in a CSTO country would need the approval of the alliance, which the Kremlin will veto.

One might suggest that there is mistrust about the reliability of Joe Biden and company as a strategic partner, even though there is widespread concern that Afghanistan might become a rogue state. Nevertheless, Washington’s bullying in Iraq, Syria and also against Iran has failed to convince anyone that the USAF would make a good neighbor. So getting out of Afghanistan will be a lot trickier than going in. The US clearly wants to have some ability to intervene using air resources if the Taliban take over and misbehave, but that just might be a fantasy as the door is closing on options while China is waiting for its own door to open to bring the Afghans into their New Silk Road. And there is no escaping the fact that the entire Afghan adventure was one hell of a waste of lives and resources. Next time, maybe Washington will hesitate to charge in, but given the lack of any deep thinking going on in the White House, I suspect we Americans could easily find ourselves in yet another Afghanistan.

rick rozoff

US, NATO warships, warplanes hunt sharks (Russian subs) in North Atlantic
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 23 2021

US-led Anti-Submarine Warfare Exercise Shark Hunt 21 Kicks off in the Northern Atlantic with allies and partners
US Navy, Jul 23 2021

ATLANTIC OCEAN – Commander, Task Force 69 (CTF-69) kicked off Exercise Shark Hunt 2021, a multi-national anti-submarine warfare exercise being held in the Northern Atlantic, Jul 23. Led by the US Sixth Fleet undersea warfare commander, this year’s iteration features three Allied submarines, four surface ships, including the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), and seven aircraft, from Canada, the UK and the US.

USS Roosevelt Aegis-class interceptor-missile destroyer

Armenia not to participate in NATO war games in Georgia
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 23 2021

Armenia won’t take part in NATO’s Agile Spirit 2021 multinational military exercises: expert explains reasons
ArmenPress, Jul 23 2021

As for the possible political reasons, the experts mention the fact that according to the scenario of these exercises Russia, which is Armenia’s strategic ally, is sometimes chosen as a conventional opponent, and in this respect it’s obvious why Armenia is showing neutrality. “Compared to the Noble Partner, the Agile Spirit exercises prepare a bit different scenarios, the drills are more in an offensive and concentrated direction, and it’s clear to everyone whom they consider as an opponent, therefore if there is a chance for participation within the Noble Partner, our side has always taken part because they are military doctors and other units”, he said, adding that first of all the war and its consequences limit the opportunities of the Armenian side as there are serious problems which need to be solved.

Azeri martyrs conquered the summit of eternity
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 23 2021

A millennium ago warriors met in the Black Forest and saluted dead comrades who were to travel over a rainbow bridge to reach Valhalla, the hall of the slain, in Asgard. But that was in the Dark Ages. Nous avons changé tout cela.

A patriotic event entitled “Those who conquered the summit of eternity” was held in Sheki
Azertag, Jul 23 2021

Every Azerbaijani citizen, every serviceman, led by Muzaffar Supreme Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev, has great merits in the great victory of the Patriotic War, which began with the “Iron Fist” operation to liberate the historical lands of Azerbaijan occupied by the aggressor Armenia and restore the territorial integrity of our republic. The homeland never forgets these services. First of all, we are grateful to our martyrs, who wrote the epic of victory with their blood during the military operations, who rose to the peak of eternity, to our parents who brought them up, we are indebted to them. Copies of the first book, the first edition of the multi-volume “Martyrs of the Patriotic War” were presented to the families of martyrs.

A 21st-century wall of skulls

US, Ukraine, Turkey gear up Kosovo model for Russia
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 23 2021

Kent, Crimean Tatar MPs, govt officials discuss persecution of population in Crimea, Crimean Platform
Interfax Ukraine, Jul 23 2021

US Deputy Asst Sec State & Charge d’Affaires in Ukraine George Kent discussed with the leaders of the Crimean Tatar people, officials and MPs the situation in the temporarily occupied Crimea and the Crimean Platform summit. “Honored to meet with Crimean Tatar MPs and government officials to discuss Russia’a ongoing occupation of Crimea, persecution of the population, and the upcoming Crimean platform,” the US Embassy said on Facebook.

Parliament ratifies Ukraine–Turkey agreement on housing for Crimean Tatar people
Ukrinform, Jul 23 2021

The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine ratified a framework agreement between the governments of Ukraine and the Republic of Turkey on cooperation in the construction of housing for representatives of the Crimean Tatar people and benefit-entitled Ukrainian citizens.

Law on indigenous peoples comes into force in Ukraine
Ukrinform, 23 Jul 2021

According to the law, the concept of “indigenous people of Ukraine” is defined as an “autochthonous ethnic community that has formed on the territory of Ukraine.” According to the definition, the law proposes to establish that the indigenous peoples of Ukraine include Crimean Tatars, Karaites, and Krymchaks. President Volodymyr Zelensky signed the bill into law on Jul 21.

Putin’s strategic partner Turkey blasts him over Libya, echoing AFRICOM accusation
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 23 2021

‘Regular Russian troops stationed in Libya’
Daily Sabah, Jul 24, 2021

Regular Russian troops are now stationed in Libya, the head of the Democracy and Human Rights Foundation (DHRF), Emadeddin Muntasser, stated on Friday as the UN and international community have been urging mercenaries and foreign forces to withdraw from the war-torn country. The DHRF was told by Libya defense ministry sources speaking on condition of anonymity that regular Russian troops have been spotted near Jufra Airbase and provided proof with confidential aerial photographs and coordinates of the location of these troops. According to a statement by the DHRF, the copies of these were conveyed to members of the US, EU, UK and Libyan governments. Muntasser said: “While Russia has stationed members of the Wagner Group in the country since at least 2017, the deployment of regular members of the Russian armed forces is a clear escalation with serious repercussions for the national security of Libya, the US and the EU. In addition, the presence of these troops makes it clear that Russia has no intention to leave Libya anytime soon and eliminates the possibility of holding free and fair elections on Dec 24, as provided by the Libya Political Dialogue Forum. There will be no future for freedom, democracy, or human rights in regions where Putin maintains military bases, trades his veto power for influence and engages in media and electoral sabotage.”

Russia has been one of the biggest supporters of the putschist Gen Khalifa Haftar along with France, Egypt and the UAE, who also backed Haftar’s offensive on the capital Tripoli in 2019. Formed back in 2014 in Ukraine and owned by businessperson Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group is intensely involved in several conflicts. The group made its presence most pronounced in Syria and Libya, where Russia actively participated in the civil war and reportedly used the Wagner Group as its proxy in the region. Although Russia officially does not acknowledge any cooperation with the Wagner Group, the reports from the field prove otherwise. In Libya, Russia has backed Haftar in his fight to seize power from the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), which preceded the newly elected interim government under Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. AFRICOM accused Russia on Jul 24 2020 of “playing an unhelpful role in Libya by delivering supplies and equipment to the Wagner group.” The Wagner Group has 2k personnel in Libya, according to the command. Currently, the group has bases in the cities of Sirte and Jufra. The deadline for the departure of foreign mercenaries from Libya under the October cease-fire passed in January, but calls to accelerate the process continue as no movement has been announced or observed on the ground.

New war brewing: three Armenian soldiers shot by Azerbaijani invaders
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 23 2021

Three soldiers wounded as Azerbaijani forces open fire at Armenian positions in Gegharkunik – Defense Ministry
Panorama Armenia, Jul 23 2021

Three Armenian servicemen were injured after the Azerbaijani troops opened fire at the Armenian positions stationed in the Gegharkunik section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on Friday evening, the Defense Ministry said in a statement, adding the injuries are not life-threatening.

Expert: Armenia, Artsakh will face stronger regional and geopolitical confrontation in near future
Panorama Armenia, Jul 23 2021

Armenian security expert Tigran Abrahamyan, the head of the analytical center Henaket, reacted to Lavrov’s statement on the West. Lavrov said: “Now our Western colleagues are trying to expand their presence, including the military one, along the perimeter of our borders, including Central Asia and Transcaucasia.” Abrahamyan wrote on Facebook on Friday: “The fact that Russia clearly understands the key objective of Turkey taking a more active role in our region and its consequences is not even a subject of debate.”

Georgia: Liberating occupied territories in Black Sea region: Ukrainian troops arrive in “full force” for US-led war games
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 23 2021

Ukrainian servicemen participating in the multinational exercise Agile Spirit 2021 arrived in Georgia by sea in full force.
Georgian Ministry of Defemse, Jul 23 2021

The landing ship “Yuri Olepirenko” and the patrol boat ”Starobilsky” belonging to the Ukrainian Navy arrived in Poti port in the morning. Transportation of Ukrainian troops is provided by the Western Command of the Defense Forces in Senaki, the base of the 2nd Infantry Brigade and Akhaltsikhe, at the Orpholo firing range. Georgia will host the multinational military exercise Agile Spirit 2021 from Jul 26 to Aug 6. The exercises will be held in Senaki, 2nd Infantry Brigade, Field Camp Sorta , Orpholo Range, as well as in Vaziani, 4th Mechanized Brigade Range and Vaziani Military Airfield.

Photograph: Georgian Ministry of Defense

South Korea: NATO’s global partner in East Asia
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 23 2021

South Korea participated in the recently-concluded 32-nation Sea Breeze NATO air and naval warfare exercise in the Black Sea, where it was joined by fellow Asia-Pacific nations and NATO Partners Across the Globe members Australia, Japan and Pakistan.

NATO welcomes stronger cooperation with the Republic of Korea
NATO, Jul 23 2021

NATO officials welcomed Mr Kyung-Hyup Kim, Chairman of the Intelligence Committee of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, to NATO Headquarters on Thursday (Jul 22 2021) for talks on common security challenges and NATO’s partnership with Seoul.

NATO Sec-Gen Jens Stoltenberg in South Korea in 2017. Photo: NATO

Afghanistan: Turkey’s springboard for penetrating Central, South Asia
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 23 2021

An Afghan report from yesterday stated Abd’ul-Rashid Dostum left Turkey, where he allegedly went for medical attention, and has returned to northern Afghanistan, which he’s referred to as South Turkestan. He boasted of having obtained new Turkish arms. Mustafa Şentop (Turkish parliament speaker) and Mir Rahman Rahmani, the speaker of Afghanistan’s House of the People, had a phone conversation. Rahmani said:

We support all initiatives taken by Turkey for safeguarding Kabul airport. We believe that the Turkish Armed Forces would better assure the security of the airport than other countries. The Afghan parliament stands by Turkey.

Erdoğan said Tuesday that Turkey is considering operating the airport in the capital Kabul and is also ready to discuss the peace process with the Taliban. Ankara has been running military and logistic operations at the Kabul airport for six years as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission.

NATO states thwart China, Russia in UN High Representative for Bosnia appointment
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Jul 23 2021

Russian diplomat castigates new pick for UN High Representative for BiH
TASS, Jul 23 2021

Foreign Ministry spox Maria Zakharova pointed out that, in accordance with Appendix 10 to the 1995 Dayton Agreement, the UNSC must approve each new High Representative for BiH. The diplomat expressed regrets that the Russian-Chinese draft resolution on Schmidt’s appointment was not adopted during the Jul 22 UNSC vote. She stressed: “We are certain that the obsolete external trusteeship over a sovereign and independent Bosnia and Herzegovina is counterproductive; its destiny must be defined only by its peoples without any intervention or preaching from the outside.”

covid coercion in moscow

Jabs Under Duress: How Moscow’s Mayor is coercing compliance
But don’t worry, if you don’t like it you can just change your job.

Riley Waggaman, OffGuardian, Jul 23 2021

With Moscow’s hospitals facing unprecedented strain not seen since six months ago, Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has done away with antiquated notions of bodily autonomy and free commerce in order to save the city. Please clap. Muscovites collectively breathed a sigh of relief when Sobyanin announced last month that due to rising Covid hospitalizations, millions of residents would no longer be trusted with making personal medical decisions for themselves. In sectors such as transport, hospitality and leisure, businesses would need to meet a 60% vaccination quota among employees or risk exorbitant fines. few days later, the mayor announced the creation of now-defunct ‘Covid-free’ zones for double-dosed VIPs and Covid-conscious residents: Under the short-lived scheme, those who were fully vaccinated, or had recovered from the virus over the past 6 months, or were able to produce a negative PCR test from the last 72 hours, were eligible to receive a QR code granting them exclusive access to indoor seating in bars and restaurants. Those without these health IDs — the lepers — were banished to outdoor seating areas. When he unveiled this pioneering public health policy last month, Sobyanin had insisted that the digital health passes would be “necessary to keep people alive.” But starting from Jul 19 they will no longer be required. They never really caught on and, as a result, nearly 200 businesses in Moscow closed in under 3 weeks. To the untrained eye, these policies appear potentially coercive, which might reflect poorly on Sobyanin, considering that, historically, extortionary tactics have received 1-star Yelp reviews in the marketplace of ideas.

If he who employs coercion against me could mould me to his purposes by argument, no doubt he would. He pretends to punish me because his argument is strong; but he really punishes me because his argument is weak.”- William Godwin

Maybe that was true way back in the 1700s, but human nature has changed a lot since then. Besides, Godwin never had to worry about hospital capacity.

Voluntary Vaccination: A Simple Matter Of Perspective

A small but noisy band of malcontents has accused Sobyanin of instituting a “compulsory” vaccination regime that somehow runs afoul of basic human rights. But what do the facts, and more importantly, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, say? Backing the mayor’s new approach to mass inoculation, Peskov insisted that “vaccination is voluntary because you can change your job.” Peskov seems to have a precise and highly sophisticated understanding of what constitutes compulsory vaccination. Perhaps non-voluntary vaccination is when Peskov knocks on your door with a Kalashnikov and asks politely for you to roll up your sleeve? Perhaps. Whatever it is, it is not what is happening right now. Dangerous vaccine-hesitant types might say it’s reprehensible to suggest that Muscovites are exercising free power of choice when they are forced to choose between feeding themselves and maintaining control over what goes into their bodies. What’s so reprehensible about it? Peskov has shrewdly identified a loophole in order to shield Russian authorities from moral considerations, this is what he is paid to do, and he does it very well. With so many Russians now at risk of losing employment, it would be irresponsible at the macroeconomic level to spew groundless aspersions that might undermine the Kremlin spokesman’s own job security.

The Science Can’t Wait

Then there are the worrywarts with their so-called safety concerns. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, and nearly every other vaccine on the market, has shown God-like results in its first year of clinical tests. Under ordinary circumstances, only another nine to fourteen more years of trials would be needed to secure regulatory approval for these miracle drugs. According to protocols set out by the IFPMA, a leading global pharmaceutical lobby, phase I clinical trials alone typically require two years, longer than Covid-19 has even been around to vaccinate against. Phase III trials often last between 5-10 years. Of course, all of the above remains 100% true today. But the tin foil hatters who object to worldwide emergency vaccine rollouts on ‘safety’ grounds still risk getting checkmated by facts and logic: If these vaccines are so bad, why is literally everyone using them? For the record: There’s only been one — only one! — global health boondoggle in the past decade in which countries around the world, including Russia, were persuaded to spend lots of money on potentially dangerous vaccines that they probably didn’t need. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic following an outbreak of H1N1 ‘swine flu’, without disclosing that several officials involved in this momentous decision had financial ties to pharmaceutical companies that stood to make huge profits from state-sponsored mass vaccine rollouts. One of the vaccines rushed out during this period, Pandemrix, was later linked to suspicious cases of narcolepsy in children. Thankfully that particular big pharma blend was not deployed in Russia.

Still, by early 2010, more than a million Muscovites had been vaccinated against swine flu, with media reports warning “refuseniks” that there could be severe consequences for not getting jabbed. Russian doctors also prescribed an anti-swine flu medication called Tamiflu, which was later found to be backed by bogus data. In the US, the H1N1 shot was made mandatory for New York healthcare workers. Around 90 million vaccines were administered across the country, but an almost equal number, 70m, were tossed after demand for the drug dried up. The vaccination program set US taxpayers back by $1. billion. A similarly odious spending spree occurred in Russia. One lawmaker, a retired FSB colonel and member of the Duma’s anti-corruption commission, suggested that Russia had been duped into wasting vast sums at a time when public funds were far from limitless. The Duma deputy, Igor Barinov, said in Nov 2009:

Russia has spent over 4b rubles on the fight against the new virus. Taking into account the state of the country’s economy, these funds could be spent on solving other problems, the relevance of which there is no doubt.

The only country that didn’t buy lots of experimental swine flu shots, Poland, insisted that the worldwide vaccination drive was “not honest and not safe.” But all of this all happened way back in 2009. Global health authorities have changed a lot since then.

The Hermetic Cult Of Hospital Capacity

Over the past twelve months or so it suddenly became extremely fashionable for governments to subordinate large swathes of human activity, and of the human experience itself, to “hospital capacity.” In a blog post explaining his “difficult, but necessary and responsible decision” to take custodianship over what needs to go into the bodies of several million Muscovites, Sobyanin pointed to the rapidly deteriorating situation in the city’s hospitals. After all, the city was seeing close to 2k/day hospitalizations. Basic tenets of medical privacy and free commerce needed to be fed through a woodchipper. Sobyanin’s deputy explained why: She revealed on Jun 16:

In 2-3 weeks there will be no beds left for Covid patients. It’s simple math that puts us in a tight box.

More than 12k beds were occupied at the time. According to the most recent publicly available information, Moscow currently has somewhere between 20k and 24k hospital beds reserved for Covid patients. On Jun 29, occupancy “approached” 15k beds, and this number has remained relatively constant since then. In other words: there are at least 20k Covid beds with 15k of them currently in use, providing a reserve of over 5k beds. Occupancy seems to have peaked by the end of June, but the total number of beds mustered to meet the surge did not come close to the 30k beds that had been made available for Covid patients more than a year earlier, in Mar-May 2020. We have seen these figures before. Last year, on Dec 24, the mayor had reported that the city was recording “about 2k/day hospitalizations.” Despite the increase in hospitalizations, Sobyanin said there were 5k hospital beds in reserve. He explained this was an adequate buffer and that the medical system would be able to “work calmly.” A statement issued by the mayor’s office about the surge in hospitalizations read:

So far, the city’s health care system is doing well.

A week prior, on Dec 16, there had been about 12k Muscovites hospitalized with the virus. So with a 5k-bed reserve that was declared sufficient six months earlier, a daily hospitalization influx previously deemed manageable, and Moscow having been able to produce as many as 30k Covid-dedicated beds more than a year ago, can the current situation truly be considered unprecedented? The answer to this question is obviously yes. All of the above data was mined from press releases and statements made to the media, because you cannot find an official up-to-date hospital bed tally on Russia’s official Covid dashboard, nor on any other government-run website. It’s true that millions of people are being asked to make personal sacrifices to protect hospital resources. But do they really deserve access to regularly updated figures showing how many beds have been reserved for Covid patients, and what percentage of them are currently occupied? Should Muscovites be entitled to all relevant information on this subject, so that they can examine this apparently life-altering data at any time of their choosing? That seems like an excessive and arbitrary request unless you are seriously suggesting health authorities and politicians are somehow not infallible. Indeed, Muscovites can rest easy knowing that policies dictating the most serious matters of life are not in any way reliant upon mystical-like devotion to closely-guarded statistics. Slightly off-topic, but we once met a man on a train to St Petersburg who belonged to a heretical sect of the Rosicrucian Order that believed the universe revolves around the number of available bananas in Bangkok, Thailand. He patiently explained to us that everything he did was directed towards ensuring there was an adequate supply of elongated, yellow fruit in the city. But when we pressed our acquaintance to disclose how many Bangkok bananas were uneaten at the present moment, he admitted that he did not know the number. Only the Thai Grocers Association had this information, and it was only dispensed periodically in small, hard-to-contextualize morsels. We later learned he was a lunatic who had escaped from a nearby psychiatric ward.

QR Codes: They Just Make Sense

By mid-June, Moscow was seeing for the first time levels of Covid hospitalizations that had not been seen since late December. Just as everything seemed hopeless, Sobyanin swooped in with a solution that was“complex, unpopular, but necessary to keep people alive.” The unvaccinated “accomplices of the epidemiological process”, as he referred to them, would henceforth be barred from dining-in unless they could cough up a PCR or antibodies test. These walking biohazards could still go ride the standing-room-only suburban trains and pack into metro cattle cars by their millions. But sitting down for a meal would be a big no-no. This is the premise that guided the rollout of these city-saving health passes. On Jul 16, Sobyanin abruptly announced that these “life-saving” passes were no longer necessary: Hospitalizations were on the decline and suddenly the city’s healthcare system was safe from implosion. He even revealed that 6k empty hospital beds could be reallocated to non-Covid patients. All the Muscovites who were in desperate need of QR-coded life-preservation 3 weeks ago have now been saved. Of course, it’s possible that there are other reasons why the QR codes are no longer deemed necessary. According to Moscow’s small business ombudsman, the digital health IDs massacred the city’s restaurants. She explained this unexpected side effect to Sobyanin as he was deliberating whether or not to keep using the life-giving passes:

We talked about the fact that almost 200 restaurants have closed in the last two weeks, and 220 in the entire last pandemic year. In two and a half weeks, we lost almost as many establishments as in the entire previous year, which was the hardest for the industry.

Sounds like a thundering triumph for public health and overall societal well being.

No Price Is Too High For Public Health

It’s undeniable that Moscow is marching towards a bright and very healthy future. But one lingering question remains: Are we certain that enough resources and civilization-bending measures are being deployed in order to guarantee that every Russian is vaccinated? After all, you cannot put a ruble-denominated price on public health. Unfortunately, we continue to see anti-vaccine sedition posing as alleged concern for “other” public health issues that purportedly exist in Russia. For example, some might cynically propagate the fantasy that money going towards vaccines could be better spent on upgrading the healthcare system’s infrastructure. A Russian government audit published last year found that a surprising number of medical facilities across the country were without running water or central heating. With compulsory vaccine regimes now instituted in regions across the country, it’s possible that some Russians who are being instructed to get vaccinated in order to safeguard the healthcare system live in areas where the local clinic has no running water. This is a real nuisance because now anti-vax radicals might argue that probably a health clinic should have 20th-century infrastructure before people should be expected to take an experimental medication in order to protect it. Then again, maybe they have a point.

whitney on pegasus

Pegasus is Just the Tip of the Israeli Cyber Spying Iceberg, with Whitney Webb
Mnar Adley, MintPressNews, Jul 23 2021

Edward Snowden has called it “the story of the year.” An Israeli spying company has been caught selling software to authoritarian regimes that have used it to surveil more than 50k people worldwide. That company is NSO, founded in 2010 by former members of Unit 8200, the Israeli military’s notorious intelligence squad. Their product is called Pegasus, and it was sold to military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies in 40 countries, among them some of the world’s worst human rights abusing governments. On this “MintCast,” investigative journalist Whitney Webb joins Mnar Adley today to discuss Pegasus, Toka, and the global Israeli cyberspying network. Whitney Webb is a writer and researcher for the outlets Unlimited Hangout and The Last American Vagabond. She principally covers intelligence, technology, surveillance, and civil liberties. Between 2017 and 2020, she was also a senior investigative reporter for MintPress. Her latest article, “Meet Toka, the Most Dangerous Israeli Spyware Firm You’ve Never Heard Of,” was published by MintPress earlier this week.

Pegasus is able to attack the cellphones of targeted individuals without them realizing it, monitoring and recording their calls, texts and accessing other information stored on their devices. Dozens of human rights activists, nearly 200 journalists, several Arab royals, and more than 600 politicians are known to have had their communications spied on and compromised. Among those include French President Emmanuel Macron, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan and president of Iraq, Barham Salih. Close associates of the WaPo journalist Jamal Khashoggi were also attacked and compromised just before his murder by Saudi operatives in 2018, strongly indicating that the information gleaned through Pegasus was crucial in this endeavor. NSO vehemently denied that their product was used in his assassination. Yet it also put out a statement insisting that it had no access to what its clients did with the software: two seemingly contradictory assertions.

The Pegasus story has made major waves in India, too, where it was revealed Prime Minister Narendra Modi had used it to spy on his political opponents in the run-up to the 2019 elections. The Indian Congress Party has accused the prime minister of committing treason. Also disclosed was that the government hacked the phone of a woman who accused the Chief Justice of India of raping her, a revelation undermining the entire justice system and the concept of a fair trial. Yet a new MintPress News investigation asserts that Pegasus is merely the tip of the Israeli cyber spying iceberg and that another piece of software, Toka, is far more dangerous and outrageous. Toka markets itself as “a one-stop hacking shop for governments that require extra capability to fight terrorists and other threats to national security in the digital domain.” The company’s software is designed to infiltrate any device connected to the internet, not just smartphones. Toka is a product of the Israeli national security state, having been co-founded by former prime minister, Ehud Barak, and was also designed by members of Unit 8200, leading Webb to suggest that it is a front for the Israeli government.

Israel’s Entryism and the Campaign to Create a Binational Security State
Lowkey, MintPress News, Jul 21 2021

The new MintPress podcast, “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations that are in the public interest to know about including intelligence, lobby, and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media. For the launch of “The Watchdog,” we examine the idea that Israel, through well-camouflaged proxies, has been making efforts to merge with the US national security state. The podcast delves deep into two organizations we deemed essential to this process of entryism. For this task, we enlisted the help of the prolific writer, researcher into intelligence, surveillance, civil liberties, and big tech on the macro and the micro-level, Whitney Webb. The first part of the podcast focuses on the IDF Unit 8200, a military intelligence unit in the Israeli Army known for monitoring Palestinian communication and using that information to blackmail them. The unit has also carried out cyber attacks on other states. Unit 8200 gave birth to the NSO Group, the supposedly private company responsible for the Pegasus Spywarewhich has recently been used around the world to target dissidents, journalists, activists, and more. The lesson which must come from this global scandal is that companies with any Unit 8200 involvement must be seriously examined. The NSO group is far from the only way in which Unit 8200 actors have been able to insinuate themselves into the business of other governments. Following a 2012 policy set by the Benjamin Netanyahu government, Israel set about siphoning the functions of its military intelligence into private companies. Former Unit 8200 members set up staff and numerous important cybersecurity companies across the world, tasked with guarding swathes of very sensitive data.

Whitney Webb explores her research by looking at Unit 8200 founded and-or staffed organizations like Cybereason, National Start-up Central, and Cyber Threat Intelligence League which between them have access to masses of information in both the US and UK. Lowkey draws a connection between Cybereason, their partner Leidos and the 2012 British census. He also delves into the recently widely referenced cybersecurity company Proofpoint, identifying for the first time the connection between this company and Unit 8200. This information is visible to both former and current employees of the Israeli government leads to a power imbalance which is allowing Israel to not only prevent any possibility of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions being practiced in the most vital sectors but also helps to create a binational security state entrenched with its interests. The second organization discussed as a key part of Israel’s entryism into the US security state is the ADL. Webb reveals some of the context around the founding of the organization over a century ago and details of its trajectory to today. Lowkey pointed out that an internal FBI memo in 1969 had questioned whether the ADL violated US law by failing to register a foreign agent and asserted that it would be “incredible” to assume it was not being furnished by the Israeli government in its infiltration activities targeting Arab-American student groups. Webb defined the ADL as “an intelligence agency posing as a civil rights organization.” She also added to Lowkey’s point that it had not only spied on Arab-American student groups but also groups like Greenpeace and those that were working to end apartheid in South Africa, they were sending information they got from these infiltrations to Mossad and the Apartheid regime. Today, the ADL is not only designated as a “trusted-flagger” by Youtube but it also has been seen to use social media posts to report people to the FBI. The ADL’s collaboration with the FBI started small in the civil rights era and has now developed to the point that the ADL is now the largest nongovernmental trainer of law enforcement in the US. It has been made clear that in Biden’s new Domestic Homeland Security policy arrangement, individuals are being flagged by the ADL, who are then directing the FBI to investigate them. The reasons for investigation as potential domestic terrorists can be as simple as an individual’s social media history. Lowkey points to the ADL campaigns against Ilhan Omar, Marc Lamont Hill and Linda Sarsour, and Webb describes the organization “as an arm of the Israel Lobby.” These two organizations must be studied critically if we are to understand the way Israel projects its power into other places, particularly in the USA.

bonus: vanessa interview

Revealed: UK has spent £350m promoting regime change in Syria – interview with Vanessa Beeley
Kevork Almassian, Syriana Analysis, Jul 23 2021

A recent article in the Declassified revealed that the UK government has spent at least 350-million pounds or 476 million dollars promoting the so-called armed opposition and projects in areas outside the control of the Syrian government. The author of the article Mark Curtis is confident that the UK has pursued with this subsidy “to install a pro-Western government in Damascus and nurture opposition-held areas as an alternative to Assad’s rule.”

Books to read (Affiliate links):
The Struggle of Major Powers Over Syria: https://amzn.to/3li5oha​​​​​​​​​​
War and Chaos in the Middle East: An Arab Perspective (German edition): https://amzn.to/30QQ1mG​​​​​​​​​
The Dirty War on Syria: https://amzn.to/2Q1u2ah​​​​​​​​​​
Voices from Syria: https://amzn.to/3vsRoWw​​​​​​​​​​
The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives
Electronic: https://amzn.to/3eH1mgX​​​​​​​​​​
Hard Copy: https://amzn.to/3tq6HxB​​​​​​​​​​

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rt.com censored this vanessa beeley article on idlib to protect turkey and cover russia’s ass

Syrian Civilians Attacked by Terrorists using American Weapons
Vanessa Beeley, OffGuardian, Jul 23 2021

RT has this headline: “The bombs rain down as I visit the Idlib frontlines, and witness the atrocities committed against civilians by NATO-backed terror.” RT inserts the picture below, with accompanying caption as shown. And at the very commencement of the text, RT inserts: “Children are being killed, homes are being shelled, and fields scorched, often by Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists armed with US-made weapons or by Turkish artillery. Where’s the outcry in the West against these war crimes?”

A young child injured during a recent attack on homes in Jurin, a Syrian village near the frontlines of Idlib.
Photo: Vanessa Beeley

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres celebrated the extension of a “humanitarian” border crossing at Bab Al Hawa, on Jul 10, as a “lifeline for millions of people.” Many Syrians would rather describe it as a “lifeline” for Al Qaeda. On Jul 15, I visited Jurin, a village to the north of the Hama governorate and only 5km from the Syrian allied military frontlines with the Al Qaeda-dominated armed groups controlling Idlib, north-west Syria. We arrived at around 9 am to the boom of mortar and rocket fire from the Jabal az Zawiya mountain that is under control of Turkish-backed armed groups. Jurin is in the Al Ghab plains at the foot of two mountain ranges and is an easy target for the elevated terrorist positions, occupying Jabal az Zawiya. On Jun 20, a three-year-old child, Massa Akram Saleh, was murdered by the armed groups who targeted her family home, injuring her father and brother, five-year-old Akram Saleh, whose body was lacerated by shrapnel wounds. Massa was rushed to Al Sqeilbiyyeh hospital, a journey of one hour, but later died. Her brother and father are still receiving treatment. Massa’s grandfather told me:

If this had been a child of the militants, the UN would have made a big case of it. Hundreds of children have died in our area but it is as if nobody died at all.

The grandfather describes a daily deluge of attacks from the Turkey-assisted armed groups, targeting the triangle of Jurin, Al Safafeh and Zkereh. He begs the Syrian forces to push the militants at least as far as the M4 highway and away from the region, to bring an end to the ceaseless aggression. This is an aggression that apparently is not worth mentioning in UN reports on the cross border “humanitarian” activity. He thanks the Syrian Arab Army for doing everything they can to keep the extremist groups at bay.

A mother with her baby and the grandmother of three-year-old martyr, Massa Saleh in Jurin.
Photo: Vanessa Beeley

While the grandfather is talking to me, a mother carrying a baby, hugging her children, is cowering and weeping in the background as the shells continue to fall. Next to her is Massa’s grandmother who cannot move without her walking frame. One shell had hit the outer wall of the house just before we arrived, another had blown a two meter crater in the garden behind the extended family home. A third exploded five meters from where I was standing while I interviewed a second family member, Ghaith Ghazi Saleh. He told me:

We are being targeted on a daily basis with shells from Az Zawiya mountain. During the last two or three years we have seen Turkish convoys coming into the area not more than 2km from our farmlands, they prevent us from cultivating our farmlands [..] the artillery that bombards us is Turkish. The coordinates are provided by the terrorists.

On left the rocket that targeted the Saleh household on Jun 15 2021 and on the right the debris from the strike in the hallway.
Photo: Vanessa Beeley

Saleh informed me that the armed groups target schools, residential areas and civilian infrastructure. They even targeted a funeral procession and a condolences gathering two years ago, according to Saleh. He describes the Turkish and armed group destruction of the land. Saleh talks of the intensification of militant aggression to target Russian/Syrian humanitarian corridors that are an effort to allow Syrian civilians to safely escape the armed occupation of north-west Syria. This is something that I had previously witnessed in Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta as civilians attempted to flee to the safety of Syrian Arab Army humanitarian collection points, they were cruelly shelled or sniped by the occupying extremist groups, furious that their human shields were evading them.

US-Manufactured Weapons In The Hands Of Al Qaeda Affiliates

It is no secret that the CIA Timber Sycamore operation supplied US-manufactured weapons to “moderate” extremist groups that mysteriously ended up in the hands of terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. Weapons that included the TOW anti-tank missiles that are liberally used by the Idlib armed groups against civilian targets which is an undeniable war crime according to investigative journalist, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, who has specialised in uncovering the illegal arms trade in Syria. In Gaytandzhieva’s latest investigation, she reveals that the Pentagon is “buying $2.8b worth of weapons for conflict zones around the world. Most of the weapons are destined for Syria.” Videos and images released by the armed groups clearly show that Hayat Tahrir As Sham (HTS) an Al Qaeda offshoot have been supplied with US TOW missiles in Idlib.

During my visit to Jurin, I was shown a number of weapons that had been used against civilian infrastructure and residential areas. They included a 155mm Turkish Army artillery shell and an unexploded US-origin TOW missile. According to residents, Turkey is supplying the armed groups with incendiary missiles which are being used to torch farmland and agricultural crops, again a familiar tactic to starve civilians and force them to leave their land. I was shown fields that were blackened and burned as evidence of this barbaric practice.

The scorched earth policy in Jurin, Turkey and terrorist groups have deliberately burned agricultural crops and farmland.
Photo: Vanessa Beeley

It must raise the question, how do these weapons enter Idlib? Press TV journalist, Serena Shim, revealed in 2013 that World Food Programme (WFP) “humanitarian” aid trucks were being used to smuggle ISIS terrorists and weapons into Syria via the Turkish border crossings. Shortly after Shim reported on this nefarious activity, she died in a suspicious car accident after being threatened by Turkish authorities. 2020 Nobel Peace Laureate WFP still has a presence and involvement in Bab Al Hawa. In 2021 the official border crossings have been reduced down to one, Bab Al Hawa. A Russian UN representative statement informs us that:

The UN still has no presence in Idlib de-escalation zone which is controlled by international terrorists and fighters. It’s not a secret that the terrorist groups control certain areas of the de-escalation zone and use the UN humanitarian aid as a tool to exert pressure on [the] civil population and openly make profit from such deliveries.

In May, Sedat Peker, a gangster and former aide of Turkish President Recep Erdogan exposed the trafficking of weapons and vehicles from Turkey to Al Qaeda by a contractor called SADAT that was run by Erdogan’s former military advisor.

Who Controls Bab Al Hawa?

According to an Al Monitor article in May 2020, HTS seize at least 10% of the ‘humanitarian” aid entering Bab Al Hawa. HTS benefit from illicit trade of UN-supplied equipment and aid and have a monopoly over the processing of oil stolen by the US Coalition and proxies in occupied North-East Syria via their lucrative WATAD operation. The HTS warlords make an estimated $130m per month from this criminal merchanting of Syrian resources and UN “aid” while imposing heavy taxes and “customs fees” on civilians to supplement their dwindling foreign assistance. Syrian analyst, Ibrahim Mohammad, highlighted a May 2020 report in Amjad Media, a known Nusra Front (Al Qaeda) media outlet that revealed the establishment of a military “unified operations room” in Bab Al Hawa which included Turkish military officers and HTS fighters. In other words, an Al Qaeda central command supported by NATO member state, Turkey. Other recent articles highlighting the true purpose of the US Coalition determination to maintain Bab Al Hawa can be found here and here.

Turkey Is Embedded In Idlib To Support Al Qaeda And Target Syrian Civilians

Map showing the proximity of the Turkish military base in Quqfin to Jurin.

Nine months ago a Turkish convoy entered Quqfin to the east of Jurin and established a military observation base. According to the Syrian military personnel I spoke to in Jurin, this Turkish base is providing surveillance and coordinates for HTS enabling them to target not military installations but civilian infrastructure, schools, farmland and homes. Turkey is enabling war crimes and committing them, according to Syrian residents in Jurin.

The Turkish military base in Quqfin providing surveillance for HTS/Al Qaeda.
Photo: Syrian Media in Jurin

Zeyzoun Power Plant, Turkish-Backed Industrial Theft Of Syrian Infrastructure

In May 2020 the former Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Dr Bashar Al Jaafari, detailed the Turkish sponsored theft of the largest power station in north-west Syria, Zeyzoun power plant. The plant supplied electricity to the Al Ghab region where Jurin is located, Hama, Latakia, Tartous (on the coast) and to Idlib. The plant was destroyed by the armed groups under Turkish control prior to plundering the remains and transporting them to Turkey via the Bab Al Hawa “humanitarian” crossing. This left the Al Ghab area with extended electricity outages which are exacerbated by the US direct and proxy occupation of Syrian oil resources in the North East. Destruction of essential civilian infrastructure is, again, a war crime. Various groups have occupied Zeyzoun since 2015 but the dominant warlord is still HTS or Al Qaeda. However, according to a field source at the time of the dismantlement and destruction, it was members of the salafist Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) that brought engineering equipment and machinery to Zeyzoun to dismember the plant for scrap and revenue. The same group had been accused of theft of electrical transformers and agricultural crops to trade and provide income as their financial backing had largely dried up. The power plant comprised three gas generators each with a capacity of 128 megawatts, powered by gas and fuel. The following is a video of the final demolition of the power plant by the TIP:

Combined with the US Coalition illegal occupation of fuel resources, the damages sustained by the electricity and energy sectors in Syria and sanctions have devastatingly impacted on the ability of the Syrian state to provide electricity and power to civilians. This is a deliberate policy by the US/UK alliance to collectively punish the Syrian people and to coerce them into opposition to the Syrian government and Presidency. The destruction of Zayzoun alone will need an estimated $450m to restore. The NATO-member-state extremist proxies have deliberately destroyed and looted Syrian infrastructure in every region they have occupied, this is not coincidence. In October 2015, the US Coalition directly bombed the Aleppo power station plunging the region into darkness. This sadistic tactic had been employed previously in Iraq in 1991and is ongoing today with the ISIS destruction of electrical power grids and stations, actions by a terrorist group that the US has empowered, equipped and trained despite it being the false pretext for the US/UK/EU military footprint in the Middle East. It is a major part of the psychological war being waged against the Syrian people to bring them to heel and to force “regime change.”

All of the above was removed, including the youtube video.

Why Did Russia Sanction The 6-Month Extension For The Bab Al Hawa Crossing?

Russia and Syria have historically opposed the UN “aid’ runs via Turkey for reasons that become obvious when considering the benefits for Al Qaeda. Many were surprised that Russia in the end approved the 6 month extension. However, there is a promised “substantive” UNSG report into the Cross Border Mechanism transparency which will be of concern to the US Coalition and Turkey as Russia will presumably be gathering evidence to prove that much of the aid is destined for Al Qaeda and to sustain the war against the Syrian government. I believe Russia took this decision to prevent US accusations of belligerence post the Biden, Putin summit in Geneva while hoping to ensure that terrorist sponsorship by NATO member states is fully exposed and that those involved should be held accountable for the resulting war crimes. Many Syrians, however, including those suffering daily attacks in Jurin and the other frontline villages will deem this decision a political one which will have dire consequences for their communities. This is another example of how this externally fomented and sustained war has impacted so horrifically upon the Syrian people, leaving nobody untouched by tragedy and loss.

The above marked section was censored, and replaced with this : “My opinion, not shared by all experts in Moscow, is that Russia took this decision to prevent US accusations of belligerence, while ensuring that terrorist sponsorship by NATO member states is out in the open and those involved should be held accountable for the resulting war crimes.”

Bab Al Hawa Is Not A Lifeline For The Syrian Civilians Of Jurin

One thing is clear from my recent visit to the Idlib battle frontlines, the Bab Al Hawa border crossing is not the “humanitarian” lifeline as described by US, UK representatives and aligned officials at the UN. For these civilians, it represents the perpetual threat of death or injury, the destruction of their livelihood and a life of deprivation, bloodshed and fear. Western media is still amplifying the alleged “war crimes” of Sryian and Russian forces battling to liberate Syrian territory from the clutches of terrorist groups that would massacre the residents of Jurin in an instant if they could break through Syrian and Russian defences. Two days after my visit, during the night of Jul 17, eleven civilians were injured by HTS shelling, including one child. This is the reality of this war, never explored by the NATO-aligned media outlets and “humanitarian” agencies who seek only to demonise the Syrian government and to “disappear” these inconvenient Syrians who expose the moral vacuum of their Syria narratives.

whitney webb with elizabeth lea vos

The CIA and The Finders with Elizabeth Vos
Whitney Webb, Unlimited Hangout, Jul 23 2021

In this episode, Whitney is joined by independent journalist Elizabeth Vos, who has recently written a series on the Finders, a cult that ritually and sexually abused children, for MintPress News. Discussed in the depth is the evidence of the CIA’s ties to the Finders and the government cover up that followed the arrests of its leaders. Originally published Jul 20 2021 on Rokfin.com

south front

Turkish Interior Minister Visits Afrin, As Idlib Militant Commanders Rally Their Troops
South Front, Jul 23 2021

Less than 24 hours after the Israeli strike on an unknown compound near Syria’s Aleppo province, details are beginning to emerge. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that the strikes had killed 5 “pro-Iranian fighters” allied to the Damascus government. Two were Syrian, while three were not. Additionally, SOHR claimed that Israeli F-16 warplanes destroyed a base used by pro-Iranian groups and a nearby weapons depot. This was somehow achieved with only a single missile striking its target, as seven of the eight munitions launched at Syrian soil were intercepted by Pantsir-S and Buk-M2 systems of the Syrian Arab Air Defense Forces. The chaos caused by the Israeli strike, provided ample opportunity for the so-called “moderate opposition” in nearby Greater Idlib to motivate its ranks, and even organize an attack on the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). On Jul 18, the al-Fateh al-Mubin Operations Room, the largest military formation in the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib, placed its militants on high alert. Two days later, to commemorate Eid, Abu Mohammad al-Julani the leader of HTS visited foreign jihadist dignitaries. Simultaneously, Turkish Interior Minister Soleyman Soylu visited the cities of Azaz and Afrin, both occupied by Turkey since 2017, to commemorate the holiday. Amer al-Sheikh Abu Ubaidah, leader of the Ahrar al-Sham movement, an al-Qaeda affiliate, visited his soldiers stationed near the front lines in Greater Idlib. Finally, “Brigadier General” Fadlallah al-Hajji commander of the National Liberation Front (NLF) visited his troops. NLF is part of the Syrian National Army (SNA), a Turkish-backed militant faction. It is more than likely that Eid commemoration is a pretext, for coordinating the actions of all the factions in Greater Idlib, as well as the Turkish Armed Forces. And, sure enough, on Jul 20, four terrorists of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) carried out a suicidal raid on an SAA post in the town of Mizanaz in the western countryside of Aleppo. Five SAA soldiers were killed in the attack. Recently, militants in Greater Idlib have escalated their attacks on the SAA and shelled a number of government-held towns and villages around the region. Ahrar al-Sham terrorists used heavy artillery to attack SAA positions in Qalaat Shalef in the northern countryside of Lattakia. Instead of attempting to preserve the ceasefire and force the militants to adhere to it, Turkey instead shelled the M4 highway north of Raqqa, killing one civilian and injuring three others. A storm is “highly likely” coming in northern Syria, and all the pawns are taking their places as Ankara prepares to open the floodgates of violence.

Taliban Deny Responsibility For Kabul Attack, As Their Gains Continue
South Front, Jul 23 2021

Three rockets landed in two different areas near the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. This happened while President Ashraf Ghani and other high-ranking officials were praying to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha on Jul 20. Images shown on national broadcaster Tolo TV showed Ghani and the group calmly continuing their prayers, as if to show that the government is on the back foot, but it hasn’t given up. Eyes were immediately turned to the Taliban; however, the group denied the attack saying that they had decided to adhere to a weekend ceasefire over Eid. Allegedly, Daesh had claimed responsibility for the attack. It is likely true, as ISIS carried out a similar attack in Mar 2020. Back then four rockets fell on the edge of the palace compound during Ghani’s inauguration as president. Taliban don’t need to target the presidential palace during a religious holiday, as they have more than enough of the upper hand in the conflict, currently. Despite some recent gains by the Afghan army. On Jul 20, the Afghan Army reportedly recaptured Garmsir district in Helmand province, as well as the Malistan district in Ghazni province. Still, the Taliban has more than tripled the number of districts it controls, from 73 to 221, since US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of US forces on Apr 14. A truce over the entire Eid wasn’t achieved during negotiations in Doha, and Taliban continue with their gains. On Jul 19, Taliban captured Najrab district, while Afghan Army took control over Surkhe Parsa east of Kabul. To aid in the fight, the US handed over new attack helicopters to Afghanistan government forces, after at least three helicopters were destroyed by Taliban in the recent days. According to the reports 7 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were delivered to Kabul. The Afghan Air Force is one of the few hopes left for Afghanistan, as the Afghan special forces who have received training from the US are stretched thin fighting on numerous fronts. It is unlikely that the new helicopters will be enough to turn the tide, but some adequate resistance has evidently been mounted over the last several days, judging by some of the districts that are being recaptured. Still, the strategic centers that are alongside highways, near border passings or other significant infrastructure and were captured by Taliban, remain under their control. In a statement, the Taliban said “thousands of soldiers” had “defected and embraced the open arms of the Islamic Emirate,” which it claims is the true leadership of the Afghan people.

Protests In Greater Idlib Around Turkish Military Posts
South Front, Jul 23 2021




On Jul 22, angry locals gathered around a number of Turkish military posts in the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib to protest against what they called “ceasefire violations” by Syrian government forces. The protesters, numbered in the hundreds, burned dozens of tires on the gates of Turkish posts and chanted against the ceasefire that was brokered by Russia and Turkey on Mar 5 of last year. In the last few weeks, Syrian government forces stepped up their strikes on Greater Idlib, mainly on the al-Zawiya Mount in the southern part of the region. However, these strikes were only a response to the repeated violations of the ceasefire by al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the de-facto ruler of Greater Idlib, and its Turkish-backed allies. Just a few hours before the protests, the HTS-led al-Fateh al-Mubeen Operations Room targeted a Syrian military post in southern Greater Idlib with an anti-tank guided missile. At least one service member was killed. While the protesters ignored HTS’ key rule in destabilizing Greater Idlib, they demanded Turkey to put an end to government shelling by political or military means. Turkey has been actively supporting HTS and other factions in Greater Idlib. Weapons supplied by Turkey were used to violate the ceasefire at least twice in the last few weeks. Ankara’s forces in the region are also acting as a “human shield” for HTS and its allies. HTS rules Greater Idlib with an iron fist, to say the least. This explains why the locals opted to protest against Turkey instead of the terrorsit group.

Russian Reconciliation Center Claims Syrian Air Defense Intercepted All Missiles In Recent Israeli Attack
South Front, Jul 23 2021

The Syrian Arab Air Defense Forces (SyAADF) intercepted and shot down all missiles launched by Israeli warplanes during the Jul 22 attack on Homs, deputy head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, Rear-Adm Alexander Vadim Kulit, announced on Jul 23:

Two Israeli F-16 fighter jets launched four guided missiles from Lebanese airspace at positions in the governorate of Homs between 1:11 and 1:19 am on Jul 22. All four missiles were destroyed by Buk-M2E systems of the SyAADF.

Photos from Lebanon confirmed that at least one Israeli SPICE 1000 guided glide bomb was shot down by Syrian air-defense fire. Nevertheless, new satellite images from Homs show extensive damage at al-Daba Air Base in the southern countryside of the governorate. At least six hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) were either destroyed or badly damaged. Furthermore, large parts of the base were scorched. Al-Daba air base, formerly operated by the Syrian Arab Air Force, is currently the main logistic center of Lebanon’s Hezbollah in Syria. The July 22 Israeli attack was clearly successful, to some extent. This was the second aerial attack to target Syria this week. The first attack, which took place on July 19, targeted several positions in the northern Syrian governorate of Aleppo. According to the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, seven Israeli missiles were intercepted by Pantsir-S and Buk-M2E systems of the SyAADF.

‘Absolute Lie’: Afghan Government Denies Taliban’s Claim Of Controlling 90% Of Border
South Front, Jul 23 2021

The Afghan Ministry of Defense has called The Taliban’s claim to hold 90% of the country’s borders an “absolute lie.” Fawad Aman, deputy spox for the ministry, told the AFP on Jul 23: “It is baseless propaganda.” Aman stressed that Afghan government forces are still in of control of the country’s borders and all “main cities and highways.” The Taliban made the claim after advancing in several border areas and capturing crossings with Iran, Turkmenistan and Pakistan. On Jul 8, the Taliban captured the Islam Qala border crossing with Iran. On Jul 9, the group’s fighters captured the Torghundi border crossing with Turkmenistan. On Jul 14, the group took over the Wesh–Chaman border crossing on the border with Pakistan. The Taliban stepped up its operations against Afghan government forces after May 1, when the US announced a plan to pull its troops out from Afghanistan before September 11. Currently, nearly half the country’s districts are allegedly in the hand of the group. Afghanistan appears to be heading to a long, intense civil war. The intra-Afghan peace process is on halt, with the Taliban demanding the formation of a new government.

Taliban Demand President Ashraf Ghani’s Resignation, As Reports Surface Of Beheaded Translator For US Army
South Front, Jul 23 2021

On Jul 22, the Taliban reportedly said that it was necessary for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to resign. This is a prerequisite peace in Afghanistan and a ceasefire. To achieve it, a new government needs to be formed, without Ghani, according to a report by the AP. Suheil Shahin, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, told the agency:

We do not believe in a monopoly of power, because previous Afghan governments that sought to do so were not successful. We don’t want to repeat the same formula. Negotiations with the government side are a good start. Meanwhile, the repeated demands of the Afghan authorities for a ceasefire are tantamount to the “surrender” of the Taliban. They do not want reconciliation, but they want surrender. Before there can be a ceasefire in the country, it is necessary to reach an agreement on a new government acceptable to us and other Afghans. Then there will be no war. The new government will allow women to work, participate in politics and attend school, but they will have to wear the hijab. In the areas occupied by us, we must ensure the operation of universities, schools and markets as before. Nobody, absolutely nobody, including me, wants a civil war.

Meanwhile, to show that those who cooperated with the US are not welcome, to put it lightly, the Taliban reportedly beheaded Sohail Pardis, a translator for the US Army in Afghanistan. He was driving from his home in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to nearby Khost province to pick up his sister for the upcoming Eid holiday celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan. It was supposed to be a happy occasion enjoyed with family. But during the five-hour trip on May 12, as Pardis, 32, drove through a stretch of desert, his vehicle was blocked at a checkpoint by Taliban militants. Just days prior, Pardis had confided to his friend that he was receiving death threats from the Taliban, who had discovered he had worked as a translator for the US Army for 16 months during the 20-year-long conflict. His friend and co-worker Abd’ul-Haq Ayoubi told CNN:

They were telling him you are a spy for the Americans, you are the eyes of the Americans and you are infidel, and we will kill you and your family.

On Jul 14, the White House said it was launching, “Operation Allies Refuge,” an effort to relocate the thousands of Afghan interpreters and translators who worked for the US and whose lives are now at risk. The evacuation will begin in the last week of July for Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants already in the pipeline, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing. Previously, the Biden administration said it was in talks with a number of countries to act as safe havens until the US can complete the long visa process, a clear sign the government is well aware of the looming threat posed by the Taliban. Spox John Kirby said on Wednesday that the Pentagon “is considering options” where Afghan nationals and their families could potentially go. Kirby said:

We’re still examining possibilities for overseas locations to include some departmental installations that would be capable of supporting planned relocation efforts with appropriate temporary residences and supporting infrastructure.

caitlin: “we” = our bosses

Our World Is Dying Because We Don’t Value Un-Making Things
Caitlin Johnstone, Jul 23 2021

I talk a lot about how we’re destroying our environment with a global system where human behavior is driven by the pursuit of profit, how the power structure which dominates that system does so by violence, exploitation, oppression, and the threat of nuclear war, and how we’re all going to die if we don’t change this system. Whenever I say this I get a bunch of capitalism cultists bleating “You just don’t understand economics bruh,” which is the line they’ve been trained to say to anyone they see criticizing capitalism. It’s silly for a number of reasons, among them the fact that nobody who regurgitates that line understands economics themselves, and the fact that one’s understanding of economics has nothing to do with the death of the ecosystem our species relies on for survival. The claim that anyone who opposes capitalism “just doesn’t understand economics” is premised on the notion that unfettered capitalism is the best way for a civilization to attain economic growth, which is arguably true; governments like China saw their economies explode when they started implementing elements of capitalism for pragmatic reasons.

If you want to create a bunch of stuff and generate a tremendous amount of wealth, a good way to do that is by giving the capitalist class the protection of the state so they can rake in billions of dollars exploiting the global proletariat without being guillotined. Problem is, that only looks like a valid point if economic growth is the only value by which you judge a system’s success. If you value quality of life, overall happiness, health, average lifespan, education, eliminating poverty, homelessness and hunger, and many other possible metrics, nations like the US are far from ideal. If you value avoiding climate collapse, then the only way to think capitalism is the answer is to espouse on blind faith the belief that the world will be saved by greedy union-busting tech oligarchs who just want to make more stuff and send us all to space.

That’s not to say that socialism in and of itself has all the answers on this front either. Nations which have attempted socialism have not historically had the best environmental records, and even a hypothetical ideal socialist society where workers own all the means of production would not be inherently dissuaded from destroying the environment for profit. What we need, if we are to turn away from the path of extinction and begin working in collaboration with our ecosystem, is a society which values the un-making of things. Since the dawn of civilization humanity has valued achievement, conquest, invention, creation; it has valued doing things, and it has not valued the undoing of things. Creating a new kind of machine will bring you fame and fortune and put your name in the history books, while figuring out how to clean up all the pollution caused by the manufacturing and operation of that machine will not. Discovering a new way to kill thousands of people at a time will make you rich, while choosing to sit on that invention instead of unleashing that horror upon the world will not. Cutting down a tree to make toothpicks will make you money, while leaving it to grow for future generations will not.

Interestingly, this disparity parallels with the inequality in traditional gender roles throughout the ages. While hunter-gatherer societies were largely egalitarian, after the invention of agriculture some twelve thousand years ago women came to be generally regarded as second-class citizens because they were unable to do fieldwork or conquer other tribes for their land. Since that time women have had very little say in the construction of our society and its values systems, and for that reason the work they traditionally do, cleaning, caring, conserving, resolving conflicts and building community, has gone unrewarded by money or esteem compared to traditional men’s work. Doing and making are valued, undoing and unmaking are not. The rise of capitalism poured rocket fuel on this dynamic. Most mothers will tell you it’s a pretty thankless job compared to how much labor you pour into it from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you lay your head down at night. Because so much of her work goes into disappearing things: dirty diapers, laundry, messy floors, dishes in the sink, owwies, tears, tantrums. People who are conditioned by a society that has for millennia only valued making and doing tend to only notice when her work doesn’t get done. Their attention scans right over all the undoing she spent all day working on; it’s not paid, it’s not rewarded, and for the most part it’s not even appreciated.

In the same way, and for the same reason, people’s attention tends to scan right over the obvious solutions to the ecocidal trajectory our species has been on. Because thousands of years of conditioning have trained us to value doing things and making things and turning over a profit, our attention skips right over the simple solution right under our noses to do less and unmake things and stop pursuing profit at the expense of future generations. This is why people who are awake to what’s going on in our world so often feel hopeless and despondent, and why the quote “it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism” resonates with so many. Because we live in a society that has no framework or conceptual infrastructure for valuing the disappearing of things, and because making things and turning a profit has no answer for our situation, solutions look impossible. But solutions are not impossible. They just won’t involve turning millionaires into billionaires and billionaires into trillionaires.Cleaning up this mess will take a lot of work and cost a lot, and the reward for that investment won’t be anyone getting rich or any power structure securing a geostrategic advantage, it will be a future for our children and grandchildren. The oceans, for example, are one of our planet’s biggest carbon sinks, and their ability to function as such is being choked off by plastics in the water. Getting that plastic out of there in an environment-friendly way won’t turn a profit like clearing a forest or drilling an oil field will, so if we leave it to the Captains of Industry nothing will be done about it. Capitalism offers no incentive to do it.

Ending growth for its own sake, producing less, consuming less, paying people to stay home instead of commuting to pointless jobs; all of these would help the ecosystem far more than producing some new battery made of strip-mined materials. But there’s no profit, so they’re overlooked as viable solutions. You’re only ever going to look for solutions to problems through the reality tunnel you’ve been conditioned to look through. For thousands of years human civilization has been valuing the making of more things and devaluing the unmaking of things, when the latter is what we need right now.A hidden cost is mental illness. In order to manipulate people to buy things that they don’t need with money they don’t have to keep capitalism from collapsing, you need to keep up a non-stop barrage of trauma-inducing consumerist propaganda. We are all suffering from various mental disorders, from the subtle to the extreme, as a result of this relentless onslaught of brainwashing. Some of these disorders are so prevalent that people assume they are normal. Everything from eating disorders and obesity, to hoarding and shopping addictions, can be traced back to advertising constantly and repetitively ringing our pavlovian bells, while also constantly reminding us that we are not perfect or whole or worthy of love (but maybe if you buy this you will be). Many readers will attest that you don’t have to be that far along in your waking up journey to start becoming really sensitive to the psychological violence of TV advertising. A TV ad break suddenly becomes physically repellant. In the future we will look back on how coercive and non-consensual mass-scale advertising is and shake our heads in wonder that it was ever allowed to be a thing. Of course, by then, advertising will barely work because too many people will be too awake to manipulate in mass numbers.

But for now, we are manipulated by the millions into consuming massive amounts of products that aren’t good for us, don’t serve us, or are just another thing that we won’t hardly use but we need to find some cupboard space for. Ending advertising would allow so much health to rebuild in our minds and reduce consumption of materials dramatically; but ending advertising would mean ending capitalism. They are inseparable. We have the tools now to find everything we need via word-of-mouth, but capitalism requires infinite growth. Even your mom-and-pop shop owner feel the pressure to grow in order to keep up cash flow and cover increasing overheads.Growth is baked in to capitalism, and right now we need more than anything just to chill. Do less, be less, compete less, expect less of ourselves and each other, produce less, consume less, commute less; but take more naps, be more kind, be more gentle with ourselves and each other, laugh more, cry more, feel more, and regenerate all the energy stolen from us from a rat race that we were never gonna win anyway.Only when we have systems in place that make this possible will we find the energy to start cleaning up our world and begin living in harmony and integrity with the very ecosystem that we are intrinsically a part of.

pj & steve watson

1,250 Clergy Members Warn Vaccine Passports Would Create “Medical Apartheid” in UK
PJ Watson, Summit News, Jul 23 2021

1,250 prominent clergy members in the UK have warned that the introduction of mandatory vaccine passports to attend church would create “medical apartheid” and would be “divisive, discriminatory, and destructive.” As we highlighted yesterday, the ‘mission creep’ of vaccine passports is already expanding, with vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi indicating that the program could be extended further to sporting and business events, music venues and festivals. When asked by LBC radio host Nick Ferrari whether the scheme could be further expanded to ban the unvaccinated from attending church, business minister Paul Scully responded:

We’re not ruling anything out.

Now 1,250 clergy members from various Christian denominations have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning that the “introduction of vaccine passports would constitute an unethical form of coercion and violation of the principle of informed consent.” Noting that many Christians don’t wish to take the vaccine due to “serious issues of conscience related to the ethics of vaccine manufacture or testing,” the letter also says the vaccine passports risk, “creating a two-tier society, a medical apartheid in which an underclass of people who decline vaccination are excluded from significant areas of public life.” The letter warns:

This scheme has the potential to bring about the end of liberal democracy as we know it and to create a surveillance state in which the government uses technology to control certain aspects of citizens’ lives. As such, this constitutes one of the most dangerous policy proposals ever to be made in the history of British politics.

With some nightclub owners refusing to enforce the policy if it becomes law, the backlash is growing against vaccine passports. Protesters in Greece, France and now Italy have all hit the streets to demonstrate against the draconian measure, with another large demonstration planned by anti-lockdown activists for this Saturday in London. It remains to be seen whether there will be enough opposition to vote down the law in Parliament, although as per usual, polls show that a majority of the British public actually supports the idea.

Fauci Says Rand Paul “Totally Distorted Reality” By Accusing Him Of Lying To Congress
Steve Watson, Summit News, Jul 22 2021

Anthony Fauci was once again provided a platform Thursday by MSNBC to deny any wrong doing on his behalf as regards funding gain of function research in Wuhan. Fauci accused Rand Paul of “slander” after the Senator again clashed with Fauci this week, accusing him of lying before Congress. As we reported Wednesday, Senator Paul has vowed to seek a criminal referral from the Dept of Justice. Fauci declared:

I don’t any take great pleasure, Ari, in clashing with the senator. I have a great deal of respect for the institution of the Senate of the United States. But he was completely out of line. He totally distorted reality. And he made some inflammatory and, I believe, slanderous remarks about lying under oath, which is completely nonsense. I mean, and some of the things he says are so distorted and out of tune with reality, I had to call him on that. I didn’t enjoy it, but I had to do that because he was completely out of line. Totally inappropriate.

Note that Fauci didn’t actually provide any details or evidence against what Senator Paul said, because he can’t. And the MSNBC host was just fine with that.

Rather bizarrely, over at CNN a nugget of truth did emerge as regards Fauci, when conservative commentator Mary Katharine Ham was allowed to slam the media for “fangirling” over Fauci. She continued:

Senator Paul understood the assignment here. He’s asking about a tough subject that admittedly none of us are experts on, but I would like to know a lot more about. And despite his protestations, tough questions for Dr. Anthony Fauci are not attacks on science itself.

Ham further slammed Fauci for repeatedly “shading” the truth, pointing to Fauci’s dismissal of the lab leak possibility, noting that is why he is not trusted by Americans.

Alabama Governor Declares ‘It’s Time To Blame The Unvaccinated For COVID’
Steve Watson, Summit News, Jul 23 2021

The governor of Alabama stated Thursday that it is “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for rising cases of COVID in the state. Governor Kay Ivey made the comments during a press briefing, declaring:

Let’s be crystal clear about this issue. The new cases of Covid are because of unvaccinated folks. Almost 100% of the new hospitalizations are with unvaccinated folks. And the deaths are certainly occurring with the unvaccinated folks. These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain. We got to get folks to take the shot. The vaccine is the greatest weapon we have to fight COVID. There is no question about that the data proves it. I’ve taken the shot back in December, both shots. It’s just the thing to do. The unvaccinated is who we need to focus on. Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down. I’ve done all I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something, but I can’t make you take care of yourself.

Ivey’s comments come amid wall to wall media coverage of doctors in Alabama declaring that young people are dying en mass from COVID while begging to be given the vaccine only to be told ‘it’s too late’ and that they should have gotten the shots sooner.

CNN: Segregate Unvaccinated, Make Them Pay For Tests Every Day
Steve Watson, Summit News, Jul 23 2021

CNN continued its wall to wall broadcasts calling for unvaccinated people to be punished, with analysts again calling for those who haven’t gotten the COVID shots to be segregated from society and forced to pay for tests every single day. First up was CNN’s resident medical health “expert” Dr Leana Wen who called for vaccine passports and forever masking. Wen said:

I think it depends on the circumstance, so if you’re going to the grocery store, and the grocery store doesn’t have the capacity to enforce some kind of proof of vaccination, then they have to say that indoor masking needs to apply, because we don’t know who’s vaccinated and who’s not. The same thing for schools. Schools, you can’t expect the teacher in every school to be asking ‘well you’re not wearing a mask so are you vaccinated or not?’ And so that’s the case, everyone should be wearing masks. But I can imagine there are already concert venues or workplaces that are saying ‘if you are not vaccinated, you can’t come, or you have to get a negative test.’ And that’s what’s needed in order to really incentivize vaccines at this point.

Wen previously suggested that life should be made as difficult as possible for those who are still opting not to take the shots, and that Americans should be banned from engaging in social events and forced to undergo PCR tests twice a week if they want to stay unvaccinated. She also previously advocated directly linking the amount of freedom Americans should be allowed to their vaccination status. Next up on CNN, which should probably be renamed VNN, was Former White House senior COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt who proclaimed that the Biden administration should become “very aggressive” and force unvaccinated workers and students to take daily tests and to cover the costs themselves. Slavitt declared:

We should be really seriously considering whether schools, workplaces, government agencies ought to be saying, ‘Hey, if you’re coming here, you need to be vaccinated. If you’re not, you need to show you have a negative test every single day.’ Look, if people say they don’t want to be vaccinated, which some people might say, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say that’s fine. We want you to show up every morning an hour before work and get a negative test. Maybe even at your own expense. Until the point where people will say, you know what? It makes more sense to actually get vaccinated. If you give people that option, I think you’re going to see more and more people take the option to get vaccinated.

https://content.jwplatform.com/players/mo1DENfe-o73dHpYz.html

“Option.” Right. In other words, force people to take vaccines by crippling them financially and ostracising them from society. The latest VNN ravings come on the heels of a leaked internal email from CNN’s Washington bureau chief complaining that the “carrot” is no longer working in terms of convincing Americans to get vaccinated and that authorities need to start using the “stick.”