Category Archives: Uncategorized

this is so typical

Man charged with making threatening calls to Jewish centers
Mike Schneider, AP, Apr 22 2017

ORLANDO, Fla — An 18-year-old man living in Israel left scores of messages graphically describing children’s deaths in calls to Jewish community centers and schools across Pindostan, using an online calling service to disguise his voice as a woman and hide his identity, according to a federal indictment filed Friday in Florida. A month after his arrest in Israel, Michael Ron David Kadar was charged with 28 counts of making threatening calls and conveying false information to police, according to the indictment filed Friday in federal court in Orlando. Separately, he was charged with three more counts of making threatening calls, conveying false information and cyber-stalking in an indictment filed in federal court in Athens, Georgia. Kadar has duel USraeli citizenship. The calls to the Jewish community centers and schools stoked fears of rising anti-Semitism and led to campus evacuations. Online federal court records in Florida showed no attorney listed for Kadar. At the time of his arrest last month, his lawyer in Israel said Kadar had a “very serious medical condition” that might have affected his behavior. She said the condition had prevented him from attending elementary school or high school or enlisting in the army. The JCC Association of North America said in a statement that it welcomes the charges against Kadar and that it is “enormously proud of the extraordinary commitment to safety and security” at the community centers. The Florida indictment said that Kadar made 245 threatening calls, most of them to Jewish community centers and schools, from January to March, using an online calling service that disguised his voice and allowed him to hide his identity. He recorded each of the calls himself and kept them in organized files at his home in Ashkelon, Israel, along with news articles describing the police responses to the threats, the indictment said. He also paid for the online calls using the semi-anonymous currency Bitcoin. A large antenna at his apartment building allowed him to make long-distance, outdoor wireless connections, the indictment said. The Florida indictment said recordings of the calls stripped of the software-enabled disguise revealed a speech impediment in the caller’s voice that matched Kadar’s. The Georgia indictment connects Kadar to several incidents of “swatting” in which authorities are called to respond to an emergency that ends up being fake. The indictment alleges that in January the University of Georgia Police Department received a phone call about a home invasion that ended up being untrue.

the bastards…

Trump says charges against Assange ‘OK’
AP, Apr 21 2017

Pres Trump says that if the Justice Dept wants to charge Julian Assange, “it’s OK with me.” Trump says he is not involved in that decision-making process but would support Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he charged Assange with a crime. The administration has stepped up its rhetoric against WikiLeaks in recent days, despite the fact that Trump welcomed the group’s release of John Podesta’s emails during the election. Sessions told reporters on Thursday that Assange’s arrest is a priority, as the Justice Dept steps up efforts to prosecute people who leak classified information to the media. D/CIA Pompeo last week denounced WikiLeaks as a “hostile intelligence service” and a threat to Pindo national security. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since Jun 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on a rape allegation and extradition to Pindostan for questioning over WikiLeaks’ releases of top secret government documents.

Pindostan steps up campaign against Julian Assange
Barry Grey, WSWS, Apr 22 2017

WSWS condemns the reported plans of the Pindo DoJ to charge Julian Assange with espionage and issue an arrest warrant against him. On Thursday, citing unnamed Pindo boxtops, CNN reported that the Trump DoJ had prepared charges against Assange based on supposed “proof” that WikiLeaks actively assisted Edward Snowden in releasing classified documents exposing the agency’s vast and illegal spying operations. At a press conference on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions indirectly gave credence to the report, saying:

We’ve already begun stepping up our efforts, and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.

There is enormous urgency to the development of the broadest possible campaign in defense of Assange. There is a real possibility that the issuing of an arrest warrant will be the prelude to the storming of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Assange has been forced to take refuge for the past five years, or a CIA-directed operation to kidnap or assassinate him. The sole “crime” of Assange has been to publish information about the criminal activities of the Pindosi government in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world, as well anti-democratic actions by the Pindo political establishment within Pindostan itself, in other words, to carry out the mission of serious and principled journalism. For this, Pindostan and vassal governments around the world, with the full backing of the corporate-controlled media, have hounded and threatened him, forcing him to hole up in the Ecuadorian embassy under threat of immediate arrest if he steps foot outside the building. Pindo politicians and intelligence figures have called for his assassination. The Obama administration and the British government sought to use bogus sex charges filed by Sweden to dislodge Assange so that he could be extradited to Pindostan to face life in prison or execution.

In Feb 2016, a UN human rights panel ruled that Assange’s persecution amounts to “arbitrary detention” and is a violation of international law. Pindostan, Britain and Sweden have simply ignored the ruling. During and after the 2016 Pindosi election campaign, Assange was branded a Russian agent as part of the campaign, spearheaded by the Demagog Party in alliance with the CIA, to whip up an anti-Russian war fever and attack Trump from the right as being “too soft” on Putin and the Kremlin. The Obama administration, the Clinton campaign and the intelligence agencies claimed, without any substantiation, that Moscow had hacked Clinton campaign emails and turned them over to WikiLeaks. Both WikiLeaks and the Kremlin denied that the Russian government was the source of the emails, whose devastating content, showing the systematic efforts of the Demagog Party establishment to sabotage the primary campaign of Bernie Sanders as well as Clinton’s groveling and lavishly paid speeches to Wall Street banks, was ignored by the media, which overwhelmingly backed the Clinton campaign. Now, under Trump, the vendetta against Assange is being intensified and openly transformed into a direct attack on the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech and the press.

Last week, D/CIA Pompeo gave an extraordinary speech at CSIS in Faschingstein in which he labeled WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” Pompeo, who last November argued that Snowden should be put to death, declared that Assange “has no First Amendment freedoms.” He said news organizations that reveal government secrets and crimes are “enemies” of Pindostan, and individuals who leak secret information about Pindo crimes are guilty of “treason.” This is a formula for the suppression of all news outlets, journalists and organizations that refuse to join the corporate media in serving as sounding boards for government propaganda and lies. In his speech, Pompeo went out of his way to praise “legitimate news organizations such as the NYT and the WaPo” which do the bidding of the CIA, calling them “truth-tellers extraordinaire.” Pompeo in effect declared opposition to the ruling class’s program of war and austerity and the control of the financial oligarchy over the entire political system to be treasonous and illegal. It is the CIA that will determine what speech is legal and what speech is criminal.

The CIA director’s remarks and the preparations to seek the arrest of Assange are bound up with the frenzied push by the Trump administration, with the full support of the Demagog Party and the media, to escalate the current wars and launch new ones, whether against North Korea, Iran or even Russia or China. These moves also follow WikiLeaks’ release last month of a massive trove of CIA documents on the agency’s programs of surveillance, hacking and cyber-warfare directed against the people of Pindostan and the world. The documents reveal, among other things, the CIA’s programs to seize control of Apple iPhones, Android operating system devices and devices running Microsoft Windows and turn them into devices for monitoring the words and actions of their users. WikiLeaks has promised to release another and even more massive dump of CIA documents in the near future. Pompeo heads an agency that has no peer when it comes to criminality, illegality and murder. It has overseen assassinations and coups, trained and armed fascist death squads, propped up and installed dictators, and run a program of torture of detainees in secret “black sites” around the world. The number of people killed by the CIA and its allies over the course of the agency’s 69-year history is in the tens of millions. It has long been known as “Murder Inc” for good reason.

The claim of the government and the corporate press that Assange must be silenced to “protect the Pindo sheeple” from terrorists is a contemptible lie. It is well known that the CIA has armed and funded a host of AQ-linked Islamist terror organizations in the pursuit of its neocolonial intrigues and wars for regime-change from Afghanistan to Libya and Syria and beyond. Pompeo’s hysterical tirade has made clear that the attack on Assange and other whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning is an attack on the democratic rights of the entire population. It is the domestic component of the ever more reckless foreign policy of militarism and war. Pompeo and the politicians of both big-business parties are well aware that there is deep popular opposition to war as well as widespread support, particularly among young people, for Assange and others who dare to expose Pindosi secrets. The aim is to make an example of Assange, so as to intimidate political opposition and set a precedent for ever more open dictatorial forms of rule.

the sellout

Bannon Down, Pentagon Up, Neocons In?
Jim Lobe, LobeLog, Apr 19 2017

The apparent and surprisingly abrupt demise in Steve Bannon’s influence offers a major potential opening for neocons, many of whom opposed Trump’s election precisely because of his association with Bannon and the “Pindostan Firsters,” to return to power after so many years of being relegated to the sidelines. Bannon’s decline suggests that he no longer wields the kind of veto power that prevented the nomination of Elliott Abrams as deputy sec state. Moreover, the administration’s ongoing failure to fill key posts at the under-sec, asst sec & deputy asst sec levels across the government’s foreign-policy apparatus provides a veritable cornucopia of opportunities for aspiring neocons who didn’t express their opposition to the Trump campaign too loudly. The military brass, whose interests and general world-view are well represented by Gen McMaster and Gen Mattis, not to mention the various military veterans led by NSC chief of staff Gen Kellogg who are taking positions on the NSC, appears to be very much in the driver’s seat on key foreign policy issues, especially regarding the Greater Middle East. Their influence is evident not only in the attention they’ve paid to mending ties with NATO and north-east Asian allies, but also in the more forceful actions in the Greater Middle East of the past two weeks. These latter demonstrations of force seem designed above all to reassure Faschingstein’s traditional vassals in the region, who had worried most loudly about both Obama’s non-interventionism and Trump’s “Pindostan First” rhetoric, that Pindostan is not shy about exerting its military muscle.

Nor could it be lost on many observers that Bannon’s expulsion from the NSC took place immediately after Jared Kushner returned from his surprise visit to Iraq, hosted by Gen Dunford, reportedly the culmination of a calculated strategy of seduction by the Pentagon. Kushner has emerged as the chief conduit to Trump aside perhaps from Ivanka. The timing of Bannon’s fall from grace and Kushner’s reported role in it was particularly remarkable given that Kushner and Bannon were allied in opposing McMaster’s effort to fire Ezra Cohen-Watnick from the NSC, just a week before Kushner flew to Baghdad. The military’s emergence, at least for now, has a number of implications, some favorable to neocons, others not so much. On the favorable side of the ledger, there are clear areas of convergence between both the brass and the neocons (although it’s important to emphasize that neither is monolithic and that there are variations in opinion within both groups). Although both the military and the neocons give lip service to the importance of “soft power” in promoting Pindo interests abroad, they share the belief that ultimately, hard power is the only coin of the realm that really counts. With substantial experience in counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine in Iraq and Afghanistan, both McMaster and Mattis appreciate the importance of politics in military strategy in principle. But they are ultimately military men and hence naturally inclined to look in the first instance to military tools to pound in any loose nails, whether in the form of failing states or failing regional security structures. That hammer will likely look even more compelling as the Trump administration follows through on its budgetary proposals to deplete diplomatic and development capabilities.

Like neocons, they also appreciate large military budgets, and although they certainly oppose in principle the idea that Pindostan should play globocop for fear of over-extension, they have no problem with the notion of Pindo global military primacy and the necessity of maintaining hundreds of military bases around the world to uphold it. Moreover, the military and neocons share to some extent an enduring hostility toward certain states. The Pentagon is quite comfortable with an adversarial relationship with Russia, if only because it is familiar and ensures European adherence to NATO, which Pindostan will dominate for the foreseeable future. This applies in particular to McMaster, who spent the last couple of years planning for conflict with Russia. For similar reasons, the military is generally comfortable with a mostly hostile relationship toward Iran. Such a stance ensures close ties with Washington’s traditional allies/autocrats in the Gulf, whose insatiable demand for Pindo weaponry helps sustain the industrial base of the military as well as the compensation for retired flag officers who serve on the boards of the arms sellers. And Mattis has made clear on any number of occasions that he sees Iran as the greatest long-term threat to Pindo interests in the region and welcomes an opportunity to “push back” against what he has claimed are Tehran’s hegemonic ambitions there. All of this is clearly encouraging to neocons whose antipathy toward both the Islamic Republic and Russia is deeply ingrained and of long standing.

On the more negative side, however, the military as an institution naturally harbors a distrust of neocons, a distrust established by the Iraq debacle, in which the military still finds itself bogged down with no clear exit. “Regime change” and “nation-building,” much touted by neocons in the post-Cold War era, are dirty words among most of the brass, and have become synonymous with quagmire and over-extension and, much as they resist coming to terms with it, failure. Of course, many active-duty and retired senior military officers, of whom McMaster may well be one, consider the 2007-08 “Surge” heavily promoted by neocons to have been a great success, despite its manifest failure to achieve the strategic goal of political and sectarian reconciliation, that was undone by Obama’s “premature” withdrawal. But even the most ardent COINistas are aware that, absent a catastrophic attack on the Pindosi mainland, the the Pindo creeple will have very limited patience for major new investments of blood and treasure in the Middle East, especially given the general perception that Russia and China pose increasing threats to more important Pindo interests and vassals in Europe and East Asia respectively, compared to five or six years ago. The prevailing wisdom among the brass remains pretty much as former Sec Def Gates enunciated it before his retirement in 2011:

In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big Pindosi land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.

The military may indeed escalate its presence and loosen its rules of engagement in Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, and even Yemen in the coming months, but not so much as to attract sustained public attention and concern, despite the wishes of neocons like Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake, Gen (retd) Jack Keane or the Kagans. The desirability of a “light footprint” has become conventional wisdom at the Pentagon, while some neocons still believe that the Pindo occupation of post-WW2 Germany and Japan should be the model for Iraq. Besides Iraq’s legacy, the military has other reasons to resist neocon efforts to gain influence in the Trump administration. As successive flag officers, including one of their heroes, Gen (retd) David Petraeus, have testified, the virtually unconditional Pindo embrace of Israel has long made their efforts to enlist Arab support for Pindo military initiatives in the region more difficult. Of course, like Netanyahu, neocons argue that circumstances have changed over the last decade, that the reigning regional chaos and the fear of a rising Iran shared by both Israel and the Sunni states have created a new strategic convergence that has made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict virtually irrelevant. According to this view, Faschingstein’s perceived acquiescence in or support for expanding Israeli settlements in East Jayloomia and the West Bank and its quarantine of Gaza are no longer a big deal for Arab leaders. But this perception runs up against the reality that the Pentagon and CENTCOM have always faced in the region.

Even the most autocratic Arab leaders, including those who have intensified their covert intelligence and military cooperation with Israel in recent years, are worried about their own public opinion, and, that until Israel takes concrete steps toward the creation of a viable Palestinian state, their cooperation will remain limited as well as covert. In the meantime, the ever-present possibility of a new Palestinian uprising or another armed conflict in Gaza threatens both continuing cooperation as well as the Pindosi position in the region, to the extent that Faschingstein is seen as backing Israel. There are other differences. Despite the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, neocons have long believed that states necessarily constitute the greatest threat to Pindosi national security, while the military tends to take relatively more seriously threats posed by non-state actors such as Daesh & AQ, or for that matter al-Shabaab or Boko Haram, to which neocons pay almost no attention. Although some neocons are clearly Islamophobic and/or Arabophobic, in major part due to their Likudist worldview, the military sees that attitude as counter-productive, as shown most recently by McMaster’s opposition to the use of the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” and although neocons and the military share a strong antipathy toward Iran, the latter unlike the former appear to recognize that both countries share some common interests. Mattis in particular sees the nuclear deal as imperfect but very much worth preserving. Most neocons want to kill it, if not by simply tearing it up then indirectly, either through new congressional sanctions or other means designed to provoke Iran into renouncing it.

The military tends to appreciate the importance of mobilizing multilateral and especially vassal support for Pindosi policies, especially the use of force, but many neocons don’t accord such support so much importance, and ome are openly contemptuous of multilateralism and international law in general, believing that they unduly constrain Faschingstein’s freedom of action to do good for the world. Neocons see themselves above all as moral actors in a world of good and evil. The brass is more grounded in realism, albeit of a pretty hard-line nature. Thus to the extent that the military’s worldview emerges as dominant under Donald Trump, neocons may have a hard time gaining influence, but on some issues such as lobbying for a larger Pentagon budget, taking a more aggressive stance against Moscow, aligning Pindostan more closely with the Sunni Gulf states and promoting a more confrontational stance against Iran in the Middle East, neocons may gain an entrée. Just as the Pentagon deliberately courted Kushner, who appears like his father-in-law to be something of an empty vessel on foreign policy issues, despite the rapid expansion of his international responsibilities in the first 90 days, so others will. Abrams himself appears to have gotten the message. In his interview last week with Politico, he unsurprisingly praises Trump’s cruise-missile strikes against Syria and Kushner’s modesty. (“I don’t view him at all as an empire builder.”) At the end of the article, the author notes:

As for his own future with Trump, Abrams teased that it may still be in front of him, depending on how things shape up with Bannon and Kushner, the latter of whom he kept going out of his way to praise.

Although the deputy sec state position now appears to be taken, Abrams was also careful to laud his erstwhile promoter, Sec State Rex Tillerson. Now reportedly coordinating increasingly with Mattis and McMaster, Tillerson seems to have gained significant ground with Trump himself in recent weeks. Neocons may yet find a home at State, although I think Tillerson’s initial promotion of Abrams as his deputy was due primarily to the latter’s experience and skills as a bureaucratic infighter rather than for his ideological predispositions. Meanwhile, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who was promoted to the NSC Principals’ Committee on the same day that Bannon was expelled, appears to have become a neocon favorite for her Kirkpatrickesque denunciations of Russia, Syria and the UN itself. That she initially supported neocon heartthrob Sen Marco Rubio for president and has been aligned politically with Sen Lindsey Graham, who stressed Haley’s commitment to Israel when she was nominated as ambassador, also offers hope to neocons looking for avenues of influence and infiltration. Yet another avenue into the administration, perhaps the most effective, lies with Sheldon Adelson, the single biggest donor to the Trump campaign and inaugural festivities, as well as to Haley’s political action committee. As we noted in January, Kushner himself, along with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, had become a critical pro-Likud conduit between Trump and Adelson beginning shortly after Trump’s rather controversial appearance before the RJC at the beginning of the presidential campaign. Although Adelson has maintained a low profile since the inauguration, he clearly enjoys unusual access to both Kushner and Trump. The fact that of all people, Sean Spicer reportedly apologized personally to Adelson almost immediately after his “Holocaust Centers” fiasco last week serves as a helpful reminder that as much as the various factions, institutions and individuals jockey for power in the new administration, money and especially campaign cash still talks in Faschingstein. This is a reality that neocons absorbed long ago.

ends with pronouncement of Atlantic Council, the self-appointed thinktank to NATO

Pindostan will not give Exxon permission to drill in Russia
Yeganeh Torbati, Ernest Scheyder, Reuters, Apr 21 2017

WASHINGTON/SPRING, Tx – Pindostan will not make an exception for Pindo companies, including Exxon Mobil, seeking to drill in areas prohibited by Pindo sanctions on Russia, Treasury Sec Steven Mnuchin said on Friday. The unusually direct statement served to clarify that Pindostan would maintain a tough stance on sanctions against Moscow. Mnuchin said in a statement:

In consultation with Pres Trump, the Treasury Dept will not be issuing waivers to Pindo companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions.

Pindostan and EU imposed economic sanctions on Russia over its annexation of the Crimea region in 2014 and its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The sanctions forced Exxon, the world’s largest publicly traded oil producer, to wind down drilling in Russia’s Arctic in 2014. Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said:

We understand the statement today by Sec Mnuchin in consultation with Pres Trump.

Exxon had asked for and received in 2015 and 2016 waivers to operate a joint venture with Rosneft in Russia. EU sanctions do not keep European oil companies from operating in Russia, a point of annoyance for Exxon. The WSJ reported this week that Exxon had in recent months applied for a Treasury Dept waiver to drill with Rosneft. Jeffers said Exxon had not applied for waivers from Treasury since Trump took office. Any such request would have drawn attention because Exxon’s former CEO Rex Tillerson, is now sec state. Under his leadership, Exxon lobbied Congress on Russia sanctions, and Tillerson opposed sanctions against Russia in 2014, saying they would be ineffective. Thugs in Congress as well as Pindo vassals in Europe are anxious about any sign that the Trump administration might ease some of the sanctions imposed on Russia. During his confirmation hearing in January, Tillerson said he never personally lobbied against sanctions, and that he was not aware of Exxon Mobil directly doing so. Later, he acknowledged that he spoke to former Treasury Sec Jack Lew regarding gaps between Pindo & Euro sanctions on Russia. Tillerson has pledged to recuse himself until the end of this year from any matter involving Exxon Mobil unless he is authorized to participate. He also has until early May to sell his Exxon Mobil stock. Pindo companies frequently file license applications to the Treasury Dept asking permission to undertake activities that would otherwise be barred by sanctions. The Pindosi government weighs each application based on national security interests, the law and other factors. The refusal is unlikely to affect Exxon Mobil’s bottom line, as it has not been able to operate in Russia for several years, but it does hinder its growth potential. Treasury almost never comments publicly on license applications. Mnuchin’s statement will likely serve to clarify the Pindo stance on sanctions against Russia at a time when Pindo vassals are looking for clues to Pindo policy, observers said. Edward Fishman, a fellow at the Atlantic Council and former State Dept official during the Obama administration, said of Mnuchin’s statement:

It’s good from a regulatory perspective, as it provides clarity to Pindosi companies, but it’s also great from a foreign policy perspective. Any uncertainty about the future of sanctions scares our vassals, and encourages Russia to prolong its aggression in Ukraine.

MoA vs “sarin or a sarin-like substance”

Read this first:

RUSSIAN MOD AGREES: IDLIB GAS ATTACK WAS #SYRIAHOAX
Petri Krohn, MoA, Apr 20 2017

The Russian Ministry of Defence has changed their position on the “sarin gas attack” in Khan Sheikhoun. They now agree with what has been the ACLOS working hypothesis: the White Helmets staged the event and murdered the children.

Meanwhile, the number of unbiased experts, especially from western countries, asking these obvious questions increases every day. These specialists cannot explain how representatives of the White Helmets managed to work for such a long period of time and remain alive without gasmasks and special protection equipment. All doubts of professionals prove that the storm of accusations made by western politicians, who had ‘assigned the guilty’ without elementary inspection and objective investigation, is unsubstantiated.

This change may be the result of this section of Rossiya 1 News of the Week on Sunday. The Westerners interviewed are Theodore Postol, Rick Sterling, Peter Ford, Bernd Biedermann (German Air Defense Colonel) and Marcello Ferrada de Noli. A friend of mine was actually also interviewed over Skype, but he does not appear on the program. I was the first in 2013 to propose that only chlorine, not sarin was involved in the Ghouta chemical weapons incident. Soon afterward chlorine started to be used in most rebel gas attacks. I have been going through the alleged video evidence. It looks as if Khan Sheikhoun is like Ghouta. Hostages were gassed in some confined space. The evidence strongly indicates the “gas attack” or incident happened at the White Helmets compound. Victims are taken out but there is no evidence of anyone brought in for treatment. We also know that alleged chlorine victims from al-Lataminah were brought to the White Helmets cave the previous day, Apr 3. Video shows dead victims carried out of what appears to be the hazmat area inside the cave complex on the morning of Apr 4. Zombified victims are then taken on a tour of nearby towns and hospitals. There are some military or al-Nusra types in camo pants that may have overall control of the complex, but the White Helmets were clearly involved in the staging part of the operation.

Chlorine, Not Sarin, Was Used In The Khan Sheikhun Incident
Moon of Alabama, Apr 20 2017

Those who blame the Syrian government for the allegedly chemical incident in Khan Sheikhun on Apr 4 are now playing up the analysis of the OPCW. But the results of the OPCW tests are inconsistent with all observed and reported technical and medical facts of the incident. Yesterday the OPCW Director General Ambassador Üzümcü, a Turkish career diplomat and former NATO ambassador, released the first analytic results of the OPCW investigation into the Khan Sheikhun incident:

The biomedical samples collected from three victims during their autopsies were analysed at two OPCW-designated laboratories. The results of the analyses indicate that the victims were exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance. Biomedical samples from seven individuals undergoing treatment at hospitals were also analysed in two other OPCW-designated laboratories. Similarly, the results of these analyses indicate exposure to sarin or a sarin-like substance. Dir-Gen Üzümcü stated clearly: “The results of these analyses from four OPCW-designated laboratories indicate exposure to sarin or a sarin-like substance.”

“Sarin or a sarin-like substance” is noted three times a row. Sarin is also mentioned in the headline. Someone is pushing that meme hard. But the OPCW did not conclude that a chemical attack occurred in Khan Sheikhun. It suggested nothing about the incident itself. It only talked about biomedical samples of several persons, nothing more, nothing less. It also did not give any hint of how much exposure the persons in question received. Was it a minimal traceable amount that had no effect, or did they die from it? The OPCW does not say. A “sarin-like substance” could be a different chemical weapon than sarin. Soman is a possible candidate which would be more consistent with the smell several witnesses described after the incident. Many general insecticides belong to the same class of chemicals as sarin and soman. They are organophosphates. Sarin was originally developed as an insecticide. All such compounds could be a source of the exposure found by the OPCW. These chemicals degrade within hours or days. A forensic analysis will not find the original substance, but only decomposition products of some organophosphate. That is the reason why the OPCW result is not fixed on sarin but also mentions “sarin-like substances.”

Another question is where those samples come from. Who “collected” them? And what is the chain of evidence that connects the samples to the incident? The OPCW has not send an investigation team to Khan Sheikhun. No samples were taken in Khan Sheikhun by its own inspectors. While Russia and Syria have asked for OPCW inspections on the ground, Tahrir al-Sham, which controls the Khan Sheikhun area, has not asked for inspectors. Without its agreement any investigation mission is simply too dangerous. None of the OPCW inspectors is interested in literally losing his head to those terrorists. AQ propaganda organizations in Khan Sheikhun were the first to claim that sarin was used on the ground. “Western” media and governments later repeated those claims before any further investigations could have been done. The very first claim I found was made by the former British doctor Shajul Islam, who works for the terrorists. This video of him of “doctors “and “patients” in an emergency room in Khan Sheikhun was pure theater, taken over a longer time period. The main presenter, Shajul Islam, is a well-known criminal Takfiri with links to the British secret service. He talks of sarin, even though the “patients” around him show no signs of sarin effects and the emergency personnel in the video are unprotected against potent chemical agents. A White House assessment later claimed that it had evidence that sarin was used. It used the claim to justify the bombing of the al-Shayrat Syrian military airfield. But the White House assessment contains no evidence. It includes a number of factually false statements. It claims, for example:

The WHO stated on Apr 5 that its analysis of victims of the attack in Syria showed the had been exposed to nerve agents.

The WHO report from Apr 5 stated no such thing. It only noted:

Serious reports of the use of highly toxic chemicals in an attack in Khan Shaykhun.

It made no analysis of its own. It only mentions reports. Immediately after the incident, bodies of dead and wounded were brought to Turkey, where they were taken into hospital. AQ or AQ-aligned personnel must have transported them. It is a three-hour car ride from Khan Sheikhun to the Turkish border. The incident happened on Apr 4. First reports by the Turkish government news agency Anadolu mentioned only chlorine:

At least 100 people were killed Tuesday when Assad regime warplanes carried out a chlorine gas attack in Syria’s north-western Idlib province, according to Syrian opposition Health Minister Firas Jundi. … A local civil defense official earlier told Anadolu Agency a regime aircraft carried out a chlorine gas attack on the town early Tuesday.

The first OPCW statement on Apr 4 referred to chlorine, not sarin or similar:

The OPCW is investigating the incident in southern Idlib under the ongoing mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission, which is “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.”

The first report of the Turkish government also said chlorine. The UNSC convened on Apr 6 to discuss the incident. Hurriyet reported:

Turkey sent a report to the UN just before a UNSC meeting to address accusations that the Syrian government staged a CW attack on Apr 4, stating that the gas used in the attack was chlorine gas. Turkey’s CBRN teams prepared an initial report over the possible material of the alleged chemical attack, relying on the symptoms of and tests conducted on the victims and their testimonies. The report stated that the initial findings of the tests, conducted on around 30 victims brought to Turkey for treatment, pointed to a chlorine gas attack.

Thirty victims were brought to Turkey immediately after the incident. But the Turkish doctors and CBRN specialist did not consider sarin but chlorine gas to be involved. Chlorine is a much less potent chemical. Chlorine is not designated as CW under the CW regulations. This fact is often obfuscated for propaganda reasons. The symptoms of chlorine ingestion and the effects of sarin exposure are quite different. It is extremely unlikely that the emergency doctors and CW specialists misdiagnosed the issue when the patients arrived and were taken care of. The 30 casualties arriving in Turkey were not the casualties of a sarin incident. But then the Turkish Health Ministry started to tell a different story:

The poison used in the deadly chemical bomb attack in a rebel-held part of northern Syria this week was the banned nerve agent sarin, the Turkish Health Ministry said in a statement on Thursday. … “According to the results of preliminary tests,” the statement said, “patients were exposed to chemical material (Sarin).” … The Turkish statement did not elaborate on how the sarin had been identified in the assault on Tuesday, but it said some of the telling symptoms seen in the victims included “lung edema, increase in lung weight and bleeding in lungs.”

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emergency Response Database:

At high exposure levels, irritation of the upper respiratory tract and accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) contribute to a sensation of choking.

But that is from the CDC entry for chlorine. The CDC entry for sarin mentions “fluid accumulation in the airways” as one symptom among many more conspicuous ones. It does not mention an edema in the lungs. Contradicting the first Turkish reports, the Turkish Health Ministry claimed “sarin” in parenthesis! But the symptom it described as proof was not of sarin, but of chlorine exposure. The Turkish Justice Minister also made a statement, but did not mention sarin at all:

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters that “Autopsies were carried out on three of the bodies after they were brought from Idlib. The results of the autopsy confirms that chemical weapons were used,” quoted by state-run Anadolu news agency.”This scientific investigation also confirms that Assad used chemical weapons,” Bozdag added, without giving further details. … Bozdag said autopsies were conducted with the “participation” of officials from the WHO in the southern province of Adana, together with officials from the OPCW. But WHO immediately countered Bozdag’s claims that it was involved in the postmortem, saying the organisation did not conduct autopsies as “it is not our mandate” (&) also stressed that no samples or swabs had been taken by WHO, despite claims by the Adana prosecutor that “examples” had been sent to the organisation and the OPCW.

The Justice Minister claimed that samples had been given to the WHO and OPCW from the very first autopsies. But the WHO clearly denies that. I find no OPCW statement on this. Did it receive any of those first samples, or only some that were later produced by Turkish authorities? In 2013, a Turkish court under Justice Minister Bozdag set one suspected Ahrar al-Sham member free after he was caught with sarin precursors. The person was later sentenced in absentia as he had fled back to Syria. Ahrar al-Sham, while not in charge, has a presence in Khan Sheikhun. The neuroscientist and neuropharmacologist Denis O’Brien, a PhD with a research and teaching career in that field, analyzed the symtoms of the casualties that were depicted in the various videos coming out of Khan Sheikhun. His detailed diagnostics and chemical-biological explanations are humorously titled Top Ten Ways to Tell When You’re Being Spoofed by a False-Flag Sarin Attack. O’Brian notes the total absence of feces, urine, vomit and cyanosis (turning blue) in the videos. Sarin exposure causes, according to the CDC database, “Nausea, vomiting (emesis), diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramping.” Sarin effected patients would spontaneously shit, piss and vomit all over. But the casualties in the videos, even the “dead” ones, have clean undies. The “clinic” in the videos has clean floors. The patients show red skin color, not oxygen deprived blue. The patients in the videos were not effected by sarin.

Medical personal and rescue workers in the videos and pictures also show none of the typical sarin symptoms. Sarin degrades relatively fast. Half of the potency will be gone within five hours after release, depending on environmental factors. But these rescue workers and medical personal were immediately involved with the casualties. They do not wear any reasonable protection. They would have been dead or at least effected if sarin would have been involved in any relevant concentration. The Turkish doctors and chemical weapon specialists who received the first patients diagnosed chlorine exposure, not sarin. The first news and Turkish reports to the UN speak of chlorine, not sarin. It is only the Turkish Health Minister who mentions sarin, in parentheses, but then lists a symptom of severe chlorine exposure as one of sarin. Neither the casualties nor the unprotected medical personal involved in the incident show any effect of sarin exposure. The only one who claimed “sarin” early on was an AQ-aligned former doctor in a staged propaganda video. Fifteen days after the incident the OPCW say that samples (it was given?) “indicate exposure to sarin or a sarin-like substance.” Turkey has been the supply and support lifeline for Ahrar al-Sham as well as for AQ in Syria. The samples given to the OPCW were taken by Turkish personal in Turkey. The current head of the OPCW is a Turkish civil servant. It is in the interest of Turkey and its terrorist clients in Syria to blame the Syrian government for chemical weapon use. The medical and technical evidence is not consistent with a sarin attack by the Syrian government. All of the videos and pictures of the incident were taken in AQ-controlled territory. All witnesses were under AQ control. How much of the incident was staged for videos (see AQ doctor video above) or how many of the witnesses were told to lie is not testable under current circumstance. The Syrian government insist that it had given up all its CW and keeps no stocks. The Russian government also asserts that no CW attack took place. The OPCW analysis may well have found that samples it received indicated some organophosphate exposure. But the chain of evidence for these samples is very dubious. The amount of exposure was not defined. The observable facts of the incident do not support the conclusion that sarin was present in the Khan Sheikhun incident.

Note: Part of the above is based on the work and tweets of Ali Ornek.

Mattis says Syria dispersed warplanes, retains chemical weapons
Idris Ali, Reuters, Apr 21 2017

TEL AVIV – Sec Def Mad Dog Mattis said on Friday that Syria had dispersed its warplanes in recent days and that it retained chemical weapons, an issue he said would have to be taken up diplomatically. During a press conference alongside his Israeli counterpart, Mattis was asked whether the Syrian military had moved warplanes to a Russian base in Latakia. Mattis said:

They have dispersed their aircraft, no doubt. They have dispersed their aircraft in recent days. The bottom line is, I can say authoritatively they have retained some CW. It’s a violation of the UNSCRs, and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically.

Israel’s military said on Wednesday it believes Syrian forces still possess several tonnes of chemical weapons. A senior Israeli military officer told Israeli reporters that “a few tonnes of CW” remained in the hands of Assad’s forces, a military official told Reuters. Mattis later met Netanyahu in Jayloomia. Before they spoke, Netanyahu said he was optimistic. The two countries are working to set a more positive tone after eight years of friction under Obama.

another glance at the tangled roots of vocativ (among other things)

Who Makes Millions Off Israel’s Top Cyber-Spy Agency?
Ruti Levy, Haaretz, Apr 21 2017

Check Point Software Technologies is one of Israel’s biggest high-tech success stories. Founded nearly a quarter of a century ago, it pioneered computer firewalls, today employs more than 3,000 people and has a market cap of some $18b. What’s less known is that Gil Shwed, the company’s co-founder and CEO, learned the ins and outs of network security while serving in Unit 8200. But the army, and the Israeli taxpayer who paid for Shwed’s education, has never received a share of the profits. In fact, a good part of the tens of billions of dollars of intellectual property that Israel’s high-tech sector has generated over the years came in the areas where Unit 8200 specializes: telecommunications and cyber-security. No less than nine committees over the last decade have looked into how the IDF could be retaining rights to intellectual property developed and share in profits, but they have been confounded by questions about how to map the progress of an idea to a commercial product, how to share any profits, and about who should benefit. The high-tech industry thinks it would be a mistake to try, of course. They say that creating a government administration to monitor intellectual property and collect royalties would cause investors and even engineers to flee. Arik Kleinstein of Glilot Capital says:

It would be a death blow to the industry! Investors would be afraid to invest in start-ups founded by Unit 8200 veterans. High-tech is a competitive industry, and we’re on the same level as Pindosi start-ups that don’t need to get approvals from the Pentagon. No-one who understands the industry and lives in it could ever support the idea!

Many in the industry downplay the contribution of military technology altogether. Ronen Nir, a partner at Carmel Ventures, who served 13 years in 8200, says:

It’s exaggerated. A start-up is like a marathon running for years with ups and downs. Combat experience with its focus on goals, leadership and teamwork is no less critical for success than the technology edge.

Yet the fact is Unit 8200 and the IDF’s other technology units have been the classrooms for large numbers of Israel’s top tech leaders. They include people like Adam Singolda, the founder and CEO of Taboola; the five founders of Nice Systems; Zohar Zisapel, the serial entrepreneur and head of Rad-Binet Group; Avishai Abrahami, the cofounder and CEO of Wix; and Nir Zuk, the founder of Palo Alto Networks, to name a few. Etai Shai, a Tel Aviv attorney, distinguishes between the training the army gives its tech recruits and any technology they develop while on the job. He says:

A software course, for instance, is not IP that belongs to the army. The legal framework of IP doesn’t prove an answer to commercializing the tools the army provides soldiers, which they can take with them.

But one entrepreneur who served in Unit 8200 says the distinction isn’t so simple. He says:

The most valuable asset tech people take from their service is great knowledge about technology problems and their solutions, and the ability not to repeat mistakes when they’re developing a specific technology. These are commercial secrets. It’s not for no reason that cyber-security companies love to recruit only Unit 8200 vets.

The government’s right to intellectual property developed by soldiers or civilians working in the defense sector is anchored in a 1969 patent law and a 1992 directive by the Defense Ministry. It requires them to appeal to a committee to decide what rights accrue to the state. However, no one was appointed to the panel until 2012, and since then it has met just three times, to discuss five applications. In each case, the committee decided that the intellectual property was developed outside of service and the state had no rights to it. As to private businesses that took the army’s intellectual property, the Defense Ministry says that in 2015 it opposed one patent that was being registered and reached a compromise with the other side. It currently has two others being adjudicated. Several years ago, the government cracked down on doctors in government hospitals developing products and selling the commercial rights, after the giant Pindo firm Medtronic acquired the Israeli start-up Ventor Technologies for $325m. The problem was Ventor’s intellectual property was developed by Dr Ehud Shvemental, who worked at Sheba Medical Center Tel Hashomer. The government entered into intense negotiations and eventually settled for 30% of the pretax profits. Since then, the Knesset has regularized the rules. Nava Swersky Sofer, who was formerly head of a company called Yissum which handled commercialization of intellectual property for HUJI, says:

Tzahal should follow the lead of the universities. There they distinguish between learning and investing, so that academic institutions only demand rights to intellectual property developed by those getting master’s degrees or higher. We assume that those getting bachelor’s degrees are at the training stage. You could do the same things vis-a-vis soldiers, by distinguishing between enlistees and those in the professional army.

this is the same rosneft that carter page was accused of being in cahoots with

Exxon seeks OK to resume Russian oil venture
AP, Apr 19 2017

FASCHINGSTEIN – Exxon Mobil is seeking permission from the Pindosi government for approval to resume drilling around the Black Sea in partnership with Rosneft, according to a person familiar with the matter. The oil giant’s request is being reviewed by the Trump administration and is certain to draw extra scrutiny because it involves a company formerly run by Sec State Tillerson. The drilling venture was blocked when Pindostan imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014. Exxon applied to the Treasury Dept for a waiver from the sanctions in 2015, during the Obama administration. Exxon has publicly disclosed licenses for other work in Russia that required waivers. A State Dept spox said Tillerson has recused himself from any matters involving Exxon for two years, and is not involved with any decision involving the company before any government agency. Tillerson retired as Exxon CEO at the end of last year. Exxon disclosed in regulatory filings in 2015 and 2016 that it received three licenses from the Treasury Dept’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFEC) to conduct “limited administrative actions” with Rosneft. The company said it was complying with all sanctions regarding investments in Russia. Among other things, companies were prohibited from transferring advanced technology used to drill offshore and in shale formations. Exxon was ordered to stop drilling in the Kara Sea off Russia’s northern coast. The head of Exxon’s Russian partner, Rosneft, was personally blacklisted. As Exxon CEO, Tillerson opposed the sanctions, telling shareholders in 2014 that sanctions were usually ineffective and caused very broad collateral damage. Tillerson and Exxon agreed to the venture with Rosneft in 2011. The Russia sanctions have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars. Exxon reported in 2015 that its potential losses related to the Rosneft venture could run to $1b. If the sanctions are lifted Exxon could push ahead with lucrative exploration and production opportunities in the Black Sea, Siberia and the Russian Arctic. Exxon’s ambitions could be complicated by concern over what the intelligence agencies have concluded were Russian cyber-attacks to interfere with the presidential election last year. Congress is also investigating possible ties between aides to then-candidate Trump and Russian officials (specifically, Rosneft- RB). Exxon’s critics said that if the Trump administration approved Exxon’s request, which was reported first by the WSJ, then Congress should block it on grounds of environmental and national interest.

the spooks are engaged in such infantile smearing of trump it’s downright sad

The Spy State Unleashed – And You’re Next!
Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com, Apr 21 2017

After hearing about an alleged Russian plot to throw the election to Donald Trump for eight months, amid leaks by former government and intelligence boxtops galore, this media narrative being pushed relentlessly by Rachel Maddow and the fake journalists over at CNN has come to naught. I’ve pinned a tweet to the top of my Twitter profile that’s my answer to this sort of nonsense:

None of the official reports issued by our intelligence agencies and made public contains a lick of real evidence that the Kremlin guided and encouraged Trump’s rise to power. They consist of simple assertions and exclamations of high confidence, without giving anyone any reason to feel the least amount of confidence in their conclusions. They hide behind the old excuse of protecting sources and methods, to explain their failure to provide what could be defined even loosely as proof of their allegations. Yet some of these sources and methods have come to light anyway, as the leakers desperately try to salvage their failing narrative. The latest theory of the conspiracy theorists is that Carter Page, an economic consultant specializing in Russian energy resources who served as an unpaid and informal advisor to the Trump campaign, is the key link between it and the Russian intelligence agencies. A report in the WaPo alleges that the FBI obtained an order from the FISA court allowing it to spy on Page, and CNN followed up with a story telling us that the pretext for the surveillance request was the infamous dirty dossier compiled by ex-MI6 agent Chris Steele, which alleges that Carter Page was bribed with offers of a deal with Rosneft, in exchange for somehow effecting a 180-degree turnabout in Pindo policy in Ukraine. Steele was paid initially by a mysterious group of anti-Trump Republicans, and later by an opposition research firm linked to the Demagogs. Furthermore, Steele paid his sources, thus providing an incentive to make stuff up, or at least blow marginal intelligence out of proportion. In a letter to FBI director Comey requesting documents relating to this arrangement, Sen Chuck Grassley writes:

The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr Steele to investigate the Rethug nominee for President in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends.

The media and other Clinton deadenders are unconcerned about the implications of such an arrangement. That the FBI and who-knows-what other “intelligence” agencies were paying Steele to spy on the opposition party in the run-up to, and in the aftermath of, a presidential election is just routine as far as these people are concerned. It doesn’t matter to them that a bought-&-paid-for dossier consisting of unconfirmed speculation was the basis for the FISA court’s approval of a request to spy on the Trump campaign. Evidence? Facts? Don’t be so old-fashioned! The Surveillance State is a lawless entity, and there’s no use trying to tie it to traditional standards of legality, never mind propriety! The NYT reports that the FBI’s interest in Page was sparked when he went to Russia and made a speech criticizing Pindosi foreign policy:

When he became a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign last year and gave a Russia-friendly speech at a prestigious Moscow institute, it soon caught the bureau’s attention. That trip last July was a catalyst for the FBI investigation into connections between Russia and Pres Trump’s campaign, according to current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials.

It doesn’t take much to attract the FBI’s attention! All you have to do is dissent from the foreign policy “consensus”! As Mollie Hemingway notes over at The Federalist:

If this is true that this was the catalyst, it is concerning. The NYT article explains at great length how little a role Page had in the campaign and how far from central he was, to put it mildly. It notes that he worked in Russia and was critical of Pindo foreign policy toward Russia. At no point is anything illegal alleged. To be clear, since many in the media are not clear on this point, it is still legal in this country to be critical of Pindo foreign policy toward another country.

It may still be legal to be critical of Pindosi foreign policy, but it’s also legal to spy on you if you get too noisy about it. When, as Hemingway notes, you have a secret court that has only denied permission to spy on Pindosis a mere 12 times out of some 34,000 requests, then the standard of legality is formally met, but in reality what you have is a police state apparatus in place. The FISA court and its legal underpinnings have been around since 1978, and in all that time we never heard a peep out of anyone but a few marginalized libertarians pointing out its potential for political repression. Now suddenly conservatives are waking up the fact that our “intelligence” agencies are policing the political discourse, because it’s their ox being gored. Well, better late than never. It’s not like the FBI has been politically neutral all these years, and lest you think it’s just the left they’ve gone after, here’s a little bit of largely hidden history for you. FDR sicced the feds on the Pindostan First Committee and other opponents of going to war in Europe in the run-up to WW2. He had his Attorney General charge war opponents with sedition and the media, far from rising up against this abuse of power, cheered the President on. Indeed a WaPo reporter named Dillard Stokes collaborated with the FBI in setting up the defendants for the phony charge of encouraging mutiny in the armed forces. I don’t recall anyone at the Federalist rushing to the defense of Antiwar.com when it was revealed that the FBI was spying on us due to our foreign policy position. Not a single conservative voice was raised in protest at their designation of myself and our webmaster Eric Garris as possible agents of a foreign power, a conclusion based on absolutely nothing substantial. First they came for the right, and liberals said nothing but “Good job!” Then they came for the left, and conservatives said “But communism!” Then they came for Antiwar.com, and nobody said a word. Now that they’re coming for Trump and the left is once again cheering while the right is aghast, and the Trump administration, far from dismantling the apparatus of repression, wants to give “law enforcement” a blank check to spy on the Pindo creeple! Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

News shorts from Antiwar.com:

CW Watchdog Spurns Russian Call for New Syria Probe
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, Apr 20 2017

The OPCW is conducting a very limited fact-finding into this month’s accused gas attack in Syria’s Idlib Province, simply determining what sort of chemical people were exposed to. Russia and Iran were both pushing for a new, bigger investigation, but the OPCW has “overwhelmingly” rejected that idea, arguing that it would harm the credibility of the fact-finding mission if they had to carry out the broader investigation seeking specifics. The Russian proposal sought an investigation into whether or not the chemical exposure was actually an attack with a weapon, how such a weapon would have been delivered, and most importantly visiting the Shayrat airbase, which Pindostan attacked after the incident, to follow through on Pindosi claims that chemicals are being stored at the site. The OPCW fact-finding mission found that the people were likely exposed to sarin or something similar, but all the other questions remain totally unanswered. This is likely to be a victory for the West, as Pindostan and its vassals have opposed any deeper investigation, claiming Syria’s guilt is obvious.

Attorney General Sessions Seeks to Jail Publishers of Leaks
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, Apr 20 2017

Reports that Pindostan is about to bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appear to be just the tip of the iceberg, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying he wants to put people in jail for publishing classified leaks any time a “case can be made.” Where a case can be made is the tricky part, as despite years of demonizing publishers of embarrassing leaks, constitutional assurances of freedom of the press likely preclude any move against journalists for publishing newsworthy information, and as Assange lawyer Barry Pollack pointed out, there is no basis for treating WikiLeaks any different from any other publisher. That’s a big part of why years of looking into leaks by the Obama Administration never led to any actual charges for publishers, and then-Attorney General Eric Holder conceded that it was unlikely they’d ever charge anyone with violation of the Espionage Act for journalism. D/CIA Pompeo may have given some insight into the path the Trump Administration is going, saying that Julian Assange has no First Amendment rights because he’s “not Pindosi.” This might open up charges for foreign publishers, though it’s also unclear if the courts will buy this argument.

Pindostan Won’t Investigate Results of MOAB Bombing in Afghanistan
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, Apr 20 2017

Aiming to deflect criticism about the Trump Administration’s use of the MOAB, or “Mother of All Bombs,” in the Nangarhar Province, Afghan officials issued a pair of dubious death tolls, first claiming a few dozen Daesh killed, then ratcheting that number up when the first figure didn’t play very well in the media. Underscoring just how little Pindostan cares about the consequences of the strikes, Sec Def Mad Dog Mattis has insisted that Pindostan will never carry out any sort of investigation into what the result of the bombing was at all, saying they don’t want to “get into that.” Mattis insisted that he has “full confidence” in the commanders who made the decision to drop the MOAB, and that figuring out what happened was “probably not a good use of our troops’ time.” Instead, the official record will just assume that the incident went well. The political leadership probably won’t make any sort of effort to look into what the MOAB did either, with the administration focusing primarily on the “message” that the bombing sent to North Korea about Trump’s “resolve,” even though by all indications the decision on the MOAB was made well down the chain of command.

UN Rejects Ukraine’s Call to Order Russia to Stop Supporting Rebels
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, Apr 19 2017

UN judges at the Hague today rejected calls by the Ukrainian government to order Russia to stop supporting secessionist rebels in eastern Ukraine, saying that there is no treaty requirement which would provide a basis for making such an order. Ukraine had argued that global treaties on terrorism would apply to the case, but the court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to claim that Russia would have any reason to believe the rebels might commit terrorist acts against the government. The Ukrainian government has been labeling the rebels, mostly ethnic Russians, as terrorists from the start of the eastern civil war, which was launched when the rebels attempted to secede after a 2014 regime change in the western capital led to attempts by the government to eliminate Russian as an official language, and restricting economically vital trade along the Russiian border. The court did, however, agree with Ukraine’s call to require Russia to continue education in Ukrainian language for ethnic Tatars in the Crimean Peninsula. The Tatars are a minority in Crimea, but generally opposed the secession of Crimea from Ukraine, and its accession into the Russian Federation. The Ukrainians claimed not allowing the Tatars to continue education in Ukrainian amounted to ethnic discrimination against them.

cet animal est très méchant: quand on l’attaque, il se défend.

Ahmadinejad barred from re-running for Iran presidency
Deutsche Welle, Apr 20 2017

Pres Rouhani was among the six candidates approved by Iran’s Guardian Council on Thursday to run in next month’s presidential election. Ebrahim Raisi, the leading candidate and the greatest threat to Rouhani’s presidency, was also approved by the clerical body. Iranian state television reported that the council, which is responsible for vetting prospective candidates, had disqualified Ahmadinejad from rerunning (below). Ahmadinejad shocked the country last week when he put his name forward as a candidate, defying Ayatollah Khamenei, who had told him not to run. Analysts reckoned that the former president put his name forward to pressure the council into approving the candidacy of Hamid Baghaie, but he was also disqualified from running, reportedly due to embezzlement charges. More than 1,600 put themselves forward to run in the May 19 election, although the clerical body only ever selects around six candidates. Although the Interior Ministry said it would formally announce the candidates by Sunday, state TV reported that the other candidates who made the cut were Tehran’s Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, Senior Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, former culture minister Mostafa Mirsali, and veteran politician Mostafa Hashemitaba.

Ahmadinejad to run in presidential election, defying Ayatollah
Deutche Welle, Apr 12 2017

Election officials in Tehran appeared stunned on Wednesday as Iran’s former firebrand presidentsubmitted the necessary paperwork to run as a candidate in next month’s presidential election. While it remained unclear whether Mahmoud Ahmadinejad genuinely intended to run for president again, the move poses a direct challenge to the authority of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and upends an election many thought would easily be won by ruling Pres Rouhani. Ahmadinejad, who served two four-year terms from 2005 to 2013, registered alongside his former deputy, Hamid Baghaie, who is also running. Ahmadinejad said his only intention was to support Baghaie, without offering further explanation. Analysts say that by putting his name forward, Ahmadinejad could bolster Baghaie’s chances of winning, since disqualifying both men could prove politically costly for the Guardian Council, which will vet and approve the prospective candidates. Tehran-based analyst Soroush Farhadian described Ahmadinejad’s prospective candidacy as “an organized mutiny against Iran’s ruling system.” Khamenei had told Ahmadinejad not to run in this year’s election, deeming him too divisive a figure.

Fissures continue to linger inside Iran ever since Ahmadinejad’s contested reelection in 2009 sparked violent unrest and a sweeping crackdown that saw dozens of people killed and thousands detained. Invoking memories of the 2009 protests, Khamenei said in September that he had recommended an unnamed candidate not to seek office as it would bring about a “polarized situation” that would be “harmful to the country.” The next month, Ahmadinejad announced in a statement that he would abide by the order. However, Ahmadinejad reneged on Wednesday, telling reporters that Khamenei’s “advice was not a ban” and he remained committed to his “mortal promise,” reiterating that his only intention was to support Baghaie. Iran’s presidential election, scheduled for May 19, is seen by many as a referendum on the 2015 nuclear agreement. While the deal has seen international financial and trade sanctions lifted on Tehran, many of the benefits have yet to trickle down to the average Iranian. That leaves many of spoils open to any candidate able to stoke conservative, nationalist or anti-establishment sentiments on the domestic front and stand up to Pres Trump and the West on the international front. After overseeing Iran’s nuclear expansion, vowing to eliminate Israel and questioning the scale of the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad and his allies would tick most of those boxes.

Ahmadinejad may want to lead Iran again
Thomas Latschan, Deutsche Welle, Jul 6 2016

The world let out a collective sigh of relief when Hassan Rouhani replaced a termed-out Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran’s president in 2013. As president, Ahmadinejad had done much to deepen the rift between Iran and the international community. Negotiations for a nuclear deal had come to a dead end; the country was isolated and in an economic abyss. To make matters worse, Ahmadinejad consistently made headlines with vitriolic statements aimed at USrael. He was also controversial domestically. His 2009 re-election was accompanied by mass protests and accusations of fraud. Rouhani’s 2013 landslide victory was thought to have signaled the end of such contentiousness. Ahmadinejad himself said he was retiring from politics for good and that he wanted to return to teaching at university. In his last days in office, the plan seemed to be in place: the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution announced that it had granted him permission to found his own university in Tehran. Yet the plan fell through because of a lack of finances, among other things. Ultimately, the former president was also unable to completely turn his back on politics. Ayatollah Khamenei created a position for him on the Expediency Council, an assembly created to resolve differences between Majlis and the Guardian Council. After a while, the former president became conspicuously silent, not saying a word publicly for years. A few weeks ago, Ahmadinejad reappeared, touring the countryside and giving ever more public lectures. To the cheers of his supporters, he has railed against the nuclear deal. The Berlin-based, Iranian-born publisher Bahman Nirumand said:

He has harshly criticized the Rouhani administration at such appearances. He says that the Islamic Republic is on the wrong path, that the principles of the Iranian Revolution are being betrayed, and that Rouhani is leading the country astray.

Iran will elect a new president in the spring of 2017 and observers believe that Ahmadinejad is positioning himself to run again. His former govt spox has supposedly filed papers with the election board to that end. Further, the Iranian daily newspaper Shargh recently reported on “plans for a big comeback campaign.” Nirumand, who publishes a monthly report on Iran for the Heinrich Böll Foundation, affiliated with Germany’s Greens, said:

Many Iranians had had high hopes that the lifting of sanctions after the nuclear deal would improve their economic situation. But that hasn’t happened. None of the preliminary agreements that Iran reached with Western investors ever went anywhere, because banks were simply not prepared to finance the deals. Such stories are getting a lot of coverage in Iran, especially in the conservative press, and revolutionary leader Khamenei has continued to warn about putting too much trust in Pindostan, saying: ‘Even if we do everything that they want, they will always want something else.’ And now those on the right see that claim being confirmed.

Ahmadinejad apparently thinks that he might be able to profit from the growing disillusionment. There is very little to suggest that Iran would be better off under a new Ahmadinejad presidency. Ahmadinejad took office in 2005 on the promise of creating millions of jobs for Iranians and lowering the inflation rate of the rial. He achieved neither, quite the opposite in fact. Thanks in part to international sanctions but also to gross mismanagement on the part of the government, by the time he stepped down in 2013, Iran found itself in a deep recession. During Ahmadinejad’s tenure, inflation climbed to 30% and unemployed was stuck at 12%. Those are the official numbers; the picture was no doubt much bleaker. Many Iranians have mixed emotions about a comeback by Ahmadinejad. Nirumand said:

His record as president was dismal. He destroyed the economy, although oil revenues during his first four years in office were unusually high. It has been estimated that $200b of those revenues disappeared. True, he has a lot of supporters out in the provinces, but, on the other hand, a lot of conservatives have spoken out against him in parliament and in public. Grand Ayatollah Khamenei steadfastly supported Ahmadinejad during his first four years, but after that there were a number of major differences between the two. Therefore, I cannot imagine Ahmadinejad being re-elected as president. If he were, it would mean a complete change of course, both domestically and internationally, and that would be catastrophic for the whole country.

Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani was Ahmadinejad’s chief nuclear negotiator and is now a self-proclaimed opponent of the former president. Larijani has said:

For Iranians, the idea that someone who had two relatively unsuccessful terms in office would run for president again in 2017, is not very appealing.

super emptive monster mash

Russia ‘moves troops and equipment’ to NK border
Roland Oliphant, Telegraph (UK), Apr 20 2017

Russia has moved heavy military equipment towards its border with North Korea amid mounting fears of a military clash between Pyongyang and Pindostan. A flurry of military activity in Russia’s far east came as the UNSC strongly condemned North Korea’s latest missile test and threatened to impose new sanctions against Pyongyang for its “highly destabilizing behavior.” In a unanimous statement, the SC demanded that NK “conduct no further nuclear tests” and said Pyongyang’s “illegal missile activities” were “greatly increasing tension in the region and beyond.” Residents and local media in Russia’s Far East reported large military convoys travelling in the direction of the NK border since the weekend, in what appear to be contingency plans to contain fallout from a possible military clash between Pindostan and NK. A video published by local news site DVHab.ru showed a train carrying twelve tracked vehicles, including Tor surface to air missile systems, travelling through Khabarovsk in the direction of Vladivostok. A man can be heard saying in the film:

Some say the situation around North Korea is a fiction, but this is the third train of equipment we’ve seen since this morning. Looks like something is being sent to the Korean border.

Heavy equipment including APCs and helicopters were also seen travelling south on the Khabarovsk-Vladivostok highway on Saturday and Sunday, Vostok Media reported citing local residents. A Russian military spokesman said the flurry of military activity was part of “routine” exercises. Col A Gordeev, a spox for the Eastern Military District, told the site:

Mass troop movements can be seen in various regions of the district at the moment: we are inspecting bases in the whole military district from Baikal to Chukotka: units are leaving their bases for field exercises in unfamiliar areas.

Gordeev said the Tor missiles filmed in Khabarovsk region were likely returning from exercises in neighbouring Buryatia last month. The movements have not been confirmed by the Kremlin. The movements, which have not been confirmed by the Kremlin, follow reports in SK media that China has moved an extra 150,000 troops to its own border with NK. At a meeting with top officials on Thursday, South Korea’s acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn repeatedly called for the military and security ministries to maintain vigilance. The defence ministry said Pindo & SK air forces were conducting an annual training exercise codenamed Max Thunder until Apr 28. NK routinely labels such exercises preparations for invasion. South Korean presidential candidates clashed on Wednesday night in a debate over the planned deployment in South Korea of the THAAD anti-missile system, which has angered China. Frontrunner Moon Jae-in was criticised for leaving his options open before the May 9 election. On Monday, Hwang and Pence reaffirmed their plans to go ahead with the THAAD, but the decision will be up to the next South Korean president. For its part, China says the system’s powerful radar is a threat to its security. Pindostan and Russia clashed at the UNSC on Wednesday over a Pindo draft statement to condemn NK’s latest missile test. Diplomats said China had agreed to the statement. Such statements by the 15-member council have to be agreed by consensus. Previous statements denouncing missile launches “welcomed efforts by council members, as well as other states, to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue.” The latest draft statement dropped “through dialogue” and Russia requested it be included again. The Russian UN mission said in a statement:

When we requested to restore the agreed language that was of political importance and expressed commitment to continue to work on the draft … the Pindosi delegation without providing any explanations cancelled work on the draft.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spox Lu Kang said China believed in the UNSC maintaining unity. He told reporters:

Speaking with one voice is extremely important to the SC appropriately responding to the relevant issue on the peninsula.

There has been some confusion over the whereabouts of an aircraft carrier group after Trump said last week he had sent an “armada” as a warning to NK even as the ships were still far from Korean waters. PACOM explained that the USS Carl Vinson strike group first had to complete a shorter-than-planned period of training with Australia. It was now heading for the Western Pacific as ordered, it said. The Global Times wondered whether the misdirection was deliberate. It said:

The truth seems to be that the Pindosi military and president jointly created fake news, and it is without doubt a rare scandal in Pindosi history, which will be bound to cripple Trump’s and Pindostan’s dignity.