analysts anal suppositories say …

yet more on the enormous danger of warmongering fabrications

The Russian meddling fraud: WMDs revisited
Andre Damon and Joseph Kishore, WSWS, Feb 20 2018

Fifteen years ago, on Feb 5 2003, against the backdrop of worldwide mass demonstrations in opposition to the impending invasion of Iraq, Colin Powell argued before the UN that the government of Saddam Hussein was rapidly stockpiling “WMDs” which Iraq, together with AQ, were planning to use against Pindostan. In what was the climax of the Bush 43 administration’s campaign to justify war, Powell held up a model vial of anthrax, showed aerial photographs and presented detailed slides purporting to show the layout of Iraq’s “mobile production facilities.” There was only one problem with Powell’s presentation: it was a lie from beginning to end. WSWS the next day declared:

This is just the latest act in a diplomatic charade laced with cynicism and deceit. War against Iraq is not about “WMDs.” Rather, it is a war of colonial conquest, driven by a series of economic and geo-political aims that center on the seizure of Iraq’s oil resources and the assertion of Pindo global hegemony.

The response of the Pindo media was very different, particularly its liberal wing. Powell’s litany of lies was presented as the gospel truth, an unanswerable indictment of the Iraqi government. WaPo columnist Richard Cohen rushed off a column before he could have examined Powell’s allegations, declaring:

The evidence he presented to the UN, some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail, had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its WMDs, but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool or possibly a Frenchman could conclude otherwise.

The editorial board of the NYT, whose reporter Judith Miller was at the center of the Bush 43 administration’s campaign of lies, declared one week later:

There is ample evidence that Iraq has produced highly toxic VX nerve gas and anthrax and has the capacity to produce a lot more. It has concealed these materials, lied about them, and more recently failed to account for them to the current inspectors.

Subsequent developments would prove who was lying. The Bush 43 administration and its media accomplices conspired to drag Pindostan into a war that led to the deaths of more than one million people, a colossal crime for which no one has yet been held accountable. Fifteen years later, the script has been pulled from the closet and dusted off but this time, instead of WMDs, it is “Russian meddling.” Once again, assertions by intelligence agencies and operatives are treated as fact. Once again, the media is braying for war. Once again, the cynicism and hypocrisy of Pindostab are ignored. Pindostan intervenes in the domestic politics of every state on the planet, and has been relentlessly expanding its operations in Eastern Europe. The argument presented by the Pindo MSM is that the alleged existence a fly-by-night operation employing a few hundred people, with a budget amounting to a miniscule fraction of total election spending in Pindostan, constitutes in the words of the NYT:

… a virtual war against Pindostan through 21st-century tools of disinformation and propaganda.

In the countless articles and media commentary along this vein, nowhere can one find a serious analysis of the indictment itself, let alone an examination of the real motivations behind the campaign against Russia. The fact that the indictment does not even involve the Russian government or state officials is treated as a non-issue. While the present campaign over Russian “meddling” has much in common with the claims about WMDs, the implications are far more ominous. The GWOT is exhausted, in part because Pindostan is allied in Syria and elsewhere with the Islamic fundamentalist organizations it was purportedly fighting. More fundamentally, the quarter-century of invasions and occupations that followed the dissolution of the USSR is rapidly developing into a conflict between major nuclear-armed powers. The effort of the Pindo ruling class to offset its economic decline by using military force is leading mankind to the brink of another world war. As the National Defense Strategy published less than a month before the release of the indictments declared:

Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in Pindo natsec.

Russia is seen by dominant sections of the military intelligence apparatus as a principal obstacle to Pindo efforts to control the Middle East and to take on China, and it is this that has been at the center of the conflict between the Demagog Party and the Trump administration. There have already been a series of clashes in the past weeks between the world’s two largest nuclear-armed powers. On Feb 3, a Russian close-air support fighter was shot down by HTS (Nusra) fighters indirectly allied with Pindostan in its proxy war against Assad. Then on Feb 7 and 8, Russian soldiers were killed in Pindo air and artillery barrages in Deir Ezzor, in what survivors called a “massacre.” Both Pindo and Russian governments have sought to downplay the scale of the clash, but some sources have reported the number killed in the hundreds. Even as Pindo and Russian forces clashed in Syria, representatives of the Kremlin and the Pentagon sparred at the Munich Security Conference this weekend over the deployment and development of nuclear weapons. As it accuses Russia of violating the INF Treaty, Faschingstein this month issued a nuclear posture review envisioning a massive expansion of the deployment of battlefield nuclear weapons.

The indictments are intended to provide an appropriate narrative for military aggression motivated by different aims. At the same time, they serve as a ready-made pretext for censorship and domestic repression that goes far beyond the extraordinary measures adopted under the framework of the GWOT. Russia, the Pindo creeple are supposed to believe, uses domestic social opposition to weaken Pindostan, rendering political dissent effectively treasonous. Already, this campaign has led the major technology firms to implement far-reaching measures to censor political speech on the Internet. Google is manipulating its search results and Facebook is manipulating its news feeds, while seeking to turn the social media platform it has developed into an instrument of corporate state surveillance. Even more extreme measures are being planned and implemented, motivated by the basic principle that the greater the lie, the more aggressive the methods required to enforce it. The target is not Russia, but the Pindo working class. The ruling elite is well aware that as it plots war abroad, it stands upon a social powder keg at home. The working class must draw the necessary conclusions from its past experiences. In 2003, the Demagog Party supported the Bush 43 administration’s invasion of Iraq and provided it with the necessary political cover. Now, the Demagogs, along with their appendages among the organizations of the upper middle class, are at the forefront of the campaign for war, employing neo-McCarthyite tactics to criminalize opposition while seeking to subordinate all popular opposition to the Trump administration to its right-wing and militarist agenda. The urgent task is to mobilize the working class in Pindostan and internationally against the entire apparatus of the capitalist ruling elite. The fight against war and dictatorship is at the same time the fight against inequality and exploitation, for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a global socialist society.

CNN Roots Through “Troll Farm” Garbage, Gets Tossed Out
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Feb 20 2018

Following Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals on Friday for unsuccessfully attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election, CNN sent one of its most intrepid reporters to the St Petersburg “troll farm” uncovered by Mueller’s ever-widening and totally legitimate investigation. Chief International Correspondent Matthew Chance had his cameraman literally dig through the garbage outside of an office building which is home to the alleged Russian troll farm for clues. Chance told guest host Jim Sciutto:

This is the office in which that atmosphere of chaos was stoked from the Russian side. That’s why 13 Russian individuals, including the financial benefactor, the person who bankrolls that organization, have now been indicted in Pindostan.

Sciutto asked:

You looked through the trash there? What did you find?

Chance answered, sheepishly:

Yes, we did. We came here expecting this office to be empty, but in fact all day here, we’ve been here throughout the course of the day, people have been going in and out. We went to the trash can to see what we could find with old people dumping rubbish there. New computers are being delivered here and they are throwing it away with the rubbish.

Later, Chance spoke with an actual Russian troll who appeared to be about 250 lbs underweight for his alleged profession and blew smoke in his face. When the CNN crew then attempted to enter the “troll farm,” they were promptly told to leave.

CNN talk trash in on-site hunt for Russian trolls, Feb 20 2018

The indictment last week accused 13 Russian citizens and three organizations of sowing dissent in Pindostan through operating sockpuppets. The actual allegations seem mostly to be economically motivated, but for the Pindo MSM it was the latest “smoking gun” in the year-long Russiagate saga. And some did a bit of investigative journalism of their own in going after the Russian trolls. CNN’s Matthew Chance went to the building in St Petersburg from which the infamous Internet Research Agency or “Russian troll farm” operated. Past tense, you notice. It has reportedly moved to a posh business center. But Chance believes the trolls may still be there, not dissuaded by the big “for rent” banner on the front of the building. Moving over to a dumpster located next to the building and inspecting the contents, he reported from the scene:

Sometimes you can learn a lot about the organization by the rubbish they throw out. This looks like polystyrene wrappers for some sort of computer or electronic stuff delivered recently. We saw what looked like boxes with new computers being delivered there. Clearly, it’s still operating. Whether it’s operating as a troll factory is unclear.

The reporter continued by interviewing a man who said he was journalist working for the news website Nevskie Novosti. The outlet is among the five most-circulated in St Petersburg, has existed since 2013 and is focused on Russian domestic news. Some media reports in Russia say it’s part of a media conglomerate operated by Evgeny Prigozhin, the prime suspect in the FBI indictment, which would explain renting a space located 10 minutes away from its main office, but hardly qualifies all its staff as internet trolls. But these are mere details, and CNN goes after the big picture. The dumpster episode was rehashed during a later live report from the same location, in which Chance told host Jim Sciutto:

This is the office in which that atmosphere of chaos was stoked from the Russian side. The person who bankrolls that organization has now been indicted in Pindostan. His name is Evgeny Prirozhkin (oh, those difficult Russian names!) and he is a figure very close to Vladimir Putin.

Despite earning the nickname of “Putin’s chef” from the Russian opposition media over his catering business, there is no clear indication that Prigozhin’s connection is essentially different from those of most Russians with fortunes originating in the free-for-all capitalism of the 1990s. The effort described in the indictment seems a bit sloppy for the super-dangerous intelligence service psy-op the Pindo media want it to be. But the Pindos now know that the Russian president launched an attack on Pindostan almost as bad as Pearl Harbor and 9/11, and he is doing it again right now! The dumpster never lies!

revenge of the giant sluggoths

“Russian bots” – How An Anti-Russian Lobby Creates Fake News
Moon of Alabama, Feb 20 2018

rubot-sRussian bot with ancient regalia

The Pindo MSM are going nuts. They now make up and report stories based on the uncritical acceptance of the outcome of an algorithm they do not understand and which is know to produce fake results. See for example these three stories:

From the last link:

SAN FRANCISCO — One hour after news broke about the school shooting in Florida last week, Twitter accounts suspected of having links to Russia released hundreds of posts taking up the gun control debate. The accounts addressed the news with the speed of a cable news network. Some adopted the hashtag #guncontrolnow. Others used #gunreformnow and #Parklandshooting. Earlier on Wednesday, before the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many of those accounts had been focused on the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

In other words, the “Twitter accounts suspected of having links to Russia” were following the current news just as cable news networks do. When a new sensational event happened they immediately jumped onto it. But the NYT authors go to length to claim that there is some nefarious Russian scheme behind this that uses automated accounts to spread divisive issues. Those claims are based on this propaganda project:

Last year, the Alliance for Securing Democracy, in conjunction with the German Marshall Fund, a public policy research group in Faschingstein, created a website that tracks hundreds of Twitter accounts of human users and suspected bots that they have linked to a Russian influence campaign.

The “Alliance for Securing Democracy” is run by military lobbyists, CIA minions and neocons. Its claimed task is:

… to publicly document and expose Vladimir Putin’s ongoing efforts to subvert democracy in Pindostan & Eurostan.

There is no evidence that Vladimir Putin made or makes such efforts. The ASD’s “Hamilton 68” website shows graphics with rankings of “top items” and “trending items” allegedly used by Russian bots or influence agents. There is nothing complicate behind it. It simply tracks the tweets of 600 Twitter users and aggregates the hashtags they use. It does not say which Twitter accounts its algorithms follows. It claims that the 600 were selected by one of three criteria:

  1. People who often tweet news that also appears on RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik News, two general news sites sponsored by the Russian government;
  2. People who “openly profess to be pro-Russian”; and
  3. Accounts that “appear to use automation” to boost the same themes that people in group 1 and 2 tweet about.

Nowhere does the group say how many of the 600 accounts it claims to track belong to which group. Are their 10 assumed bots or 590 in the surveyed 600 accounts? And how please does one “openly profess” to be pro-Russian? We don’t know and the ASD won’t say. On Dec 25 2017 the “Russian influence” agents or bots who want to sow divisiveness, according to NYT, wished everyone a Merry Christmas. The real method the Hamilton 68 group used to select the 600 accounts it tracks is unknown. The group does not say or show how it made it up. Despite that, NYT reporters Sheera Frenkel and Daisuke Wakabayashi continue with the false assumptions that most or all the accounts are automated, have something to do with Russia and are presumably nefarious:

Russian-linked bots have rallied around other divisive issues, often ones that Pres Trump has tweeted about. They promoted Twitter hashtags like #boycottnfl, #standforouranthem and #takeaknee. The automated Twitter accounts helped popularize the #releasethememo hashtag.

The Daily Beast reported earlier that the emphasized claim is definitely false:

Twitter’s internal analysis has thus far found that authentic American accounts, and not Russian imposters or automated bots, are driving #ReleaseTheMemo. There are no preliminary indications that the Twitter activity either driving the hashtag or engaging with it is either predominantly Russian.

The same is presumably true for the other hashtags. The Dutch IT specialist and blogger Marcel van den Berg was wondering how Dutch keywords and hashtags showed up in on the Hamilton 68 “Russian bots” dashboard. He found that the dashboard is a total fraud:

In recent weeks, I have been keeping a close eye on Hamilton 68. Every time a Dutch hashtag was shown on the website, I made a screenshot. Then I noted what was playing at that moment and I watched the Tweets with this hashtag. Again I could not find any Tweet that seemed to be from a Russian troll. In all cases, the hash tags that Hamilton 68 reported were trending topics in the Netherlands. In all cases there was much to do around the subject of the hashtag in the Netherlands. Many people were angry or shared their opinion on the subject on Twitter. And even if there were a few tweets with Russian connections between them, the effect is zero. Because they do not stand out among the many other, authentic Tweets.

Van den Berg lists a dozen examples he analyzed in depth. The anti-Russian Bellingcat group around couch blogger Eliot Higgins is sponsored by the NATO propaganda shop Atlantic Council. It sniffs through open source stuff to blame Russia or Syria wherever possible. Bellingcat were recently a victim of the “Russian bots,” or rather of the ASD website. On Feb 10, the hashtag #bellingcat trended to rank #2 of the dashboard.

According to the Hamilton 68 claims, this meant that Bellingcat was under assault of hordes of nefarious Russian government sponsored bots.

The Bellingcat folks looked into the issue and found that only six people on Twitter, none of them an automated account, had used the #bellingcat hashtag in the last 48 hours.

Some of the six may have opinions that may be “pro-Russian” but Higgins himself says:

The pro-NATO propaganda shop Bellingcat thus debunked the pro-NATO propaganda shop Alliance for Securing Democracy. The fraudsters who created the Hamilton 68 crap seem to have filled their database with rather normal people who’s opinions they personally dislike. Those then are the “Russian bots” who spread “Russian influence” and divisiveness. Moreover, what is the value of its information when six normal people out of millions of active Twitter users can push a hashtag with a handful of tweets to the top of the dashboard? But the Pindo media write long gushing stories about the dashboard and how it somehow shows automated Russian propaganda. They go to length to explain that this shows “Russian influence” and a “Russian” attempt to sow “divisiveness” into people’s minds. This is nuts. Last August, when the Hamilton 68 project was first released, The Nation was the only site critical of it. It predicted:

The import of GMF’s project is clear: Reporting on anything that might put Pindostan in a bad light is now tantamount to spreading Russian propaganda.

It is now even worse than that. The top ranking of the #merrychristmas hashtag shows that the algorithm does not even care about good or bad news. The tracked twitter accounts are normal people. The whole project is just a means to push fake stories about alleged “Russian influence” into Pindo media. Whenever some issue creeps up on its dashboard that somehow fits its false “Russian bots” and “divisiveness” narrative, the ASD contacts the media to spread its poison. The Pindo media, CNN, Wired, NYT, are by now obviously devoid of thinking journalists and fact checkers. They simply repackage the venom and spread it to the public. How long will it take until people die from it?

the global jew-nazi HQ of the future

Police encourage right-wing plans to seize Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa
Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, Feb 19 2018

Pres Trump’s declaration that Pindostan would move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was met with global condemnation and warnings that it could lead to a violent escalation. But another threat to Jerusalem’s status quo, though no less dangerous, has received little international attention by comparison. Right-wing Israeli activists gained significant ground in their goal to take over the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the last year. The so-called Temple Movement, which has backers in the Knesset and religious establishment, seeks to increase the number of Jews visiting the al-Aqsa mosque compound. The movement believes that swelling numbers of Jewish visitors will force the hand of the Israeli government to grant permission to Jews to pray there. That would pave the way for the holy site to be divided between Jews and Muslims. That has been the reality at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron ever since a Pindo-Jewish settler massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers there in 1994. Temple movement activists ultimately seek the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, also housed in the mosque compound, and the construction of a Jewish temple in its place. Ir Amim, a non-profit group which envisions Jerusalem as a capital shared by sovereign Israeli and Palestinian states, warns:

This final scenario may currently seem unrealistic, but in recent months we have clearly witnessed that the police are progressively acting in tandem with those advancing precisely this goal.

Where Israeli police once proved a barrier to Temple movement efforts, these activists now find cooperation and encouragement. More than 22,000 visits by Jews to the al-Aqsa mosque compound were recorded in late 2016 and the first three quarters of 2017, an increase of almost 60 percent from the 14,000 visits made one year prior. According to Ir Amim:

An Israeli attorney who has filed numerous petitions on behalf of Temple activists recently stated that Netanyahu will have to approve prayer for Jews on the Temple Mount when their number of ascents surpasses 100,000 a year. This means no more than 300 Jews on average each day. Many Jews visit the mosque compound motivated by the idea that their visits signify participation in the ongoing campaign to alter the status quo. And we have noticed a radical shift between police officers and Temple movement activists. Police once careful not to demonstrate personal bias favoring political activists with whom they come into contact in the line of service, have frequently been photographed in recent months with members of the Temple Movement, in public displays of affection.

The Jerusalem police district commander Yoram Halevy has been recorded on video embracing Temple mount activists and receiving a ritual blessing from an activist at an entrance to the compound (above – RB). Halevy threatened injuries and fatalities against Muslim worshippers after mass demonstrations were held in the streets of Jerusalem over new police restrictions at al-Aqsa mosque last July. Five Palestinians were killed amid a crackdown on Jerusalem protests that month. Ir Amim continues:

Temple activists were distinguished guests at a farewell party near an entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque compound for a police commander upon the conclusion of his post at the site. They were also officially invited to the ceremony marking transfer of responsibilities when the commander of the precinct completed his appointment. The outgoing commander went so far as to acknowledge them in his farewell speech. Imagery of cooperation and affection between Temple Movement activists and the police serves to stoke the motivation of supporters.

Police have meanwhile looked the other way when Temple activists have violated a prohibition against Jewish worship at the al-Aqsa mosque compound or worn provocative T-shirts advocating the destruction of the Dome of the Rock. Temple Movement signage now hangs at the entrance to the Mughrabi bridge, the entry-point for non-Muslim visitors to the holy site after crossing a police checkpoint, as if the right-wing activists “had been granted official public status over the area.” Police have allowed activists to hold religious classes at Mughrabi Gate, treated by the activists as an ad hoc yeshiva to train an army of worshippers once Jewish prayer at al-Aqsa is permitted. Ir Amim notes that the Islamic Waqf endowment that administers the al-Aqsa mosque compound has responded to these changes to the status quo with caution. Ir Amim points to Gilad Erdan, Israel’s strategic affairs minister who oversees a black ops program against BDS, as “the root of this provocative change in police conduct.” Erdan also holds the “internal security” portfolio in the Israeli government. According to Ir Amim:

During Erdan’s tenure, new officers have been appointed to sensitive positions relating to the Temple Mount. Temple activists report that the minister’s door is open to their representatives and that he is attentive to their concerns. The combination of Minister Erdan’s desire to strengthen the Temple movements and the police perceiving that erosion of the status quo does not meet with strong Muslim protest may encourage the Israeli authorities to take more hazardous steps which could lead to an escalation of violence as it did in the summers of 2014 and 2015, when the cost of attempts to infringe upon Muslims’ freedom of worship … was bloodshed in Jerusalem.

More than 250 Arabs and 35 Jews were killed in a year-long wave of protest and violence following unchecked Israeli assaults and incursions on the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Sep 2015. IOF slew several more Palestinians, including children, during protests against Trump’s Jerusalem declaration. The brutal force used by police against Palestinians protesting Israeli designs on Jerusalem is starkly contrasted by their leniency towards Jewish mobs who rampage through its Old City. On Wednesday, Mustafa al-Mughrabi, a Palestinian resident of the Old City, was severely injured by a crowd of Israelis while they were exiting the al-Aqsa mosque compound. Police “called the incident a fight,” Haaretz reported. Honenu, a legal aid organization that represents Israelis accused of harming Palestinians, claims that a group of Jews “were attacked by a number of Arab assailants and were forced to defend themselves.” Video shows a bloodied al-Mughrabi lying on the ground, his body convulsing:

Al-Mughrabi told Ma’an News that he was beaten after Jews leaving al-Aqsa approached a group of his friends who were standing near the exit, and al-Mughrabi went up to them to see what was the matter. He lost consciousness during the attack. Video shows police escorting a large number of right-wing Jews at the al-Aqsa compound earlier that day:

The evening before al-Mughrabi was attacked, construction began on a new major settlement project a short distance away from the al-Aqsa mosque compound. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights stated that the building of the three-story religious study center falls under Israel’s “policy to make a Jewish majority in the city and change its character.”

two thieves and a liar

PACOM admiral advocates war footing against China
James Cogan, WSWS, Feb 20 2018

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) dedicated two days of hearings last Thursday and Friday to “security challenges” and “strategic competition” with China in the “Indo-Asia-Pacific region.” The hearing took place in the wake of the publication by the Pentagon of its new National Defense Strategy, which labelled China and Russia as the primary threats to Pindo security and insisted on the need to “prioritise preparedness for war.” The sole witness at the Feb 14 hearing was Adm H Harris, commander of PACOM, who was nominated just days before by Pres Trump to fill the vacant post of ambassador to Australia. Harris and his headquarters submitted a 20,500-word statement to the committee, and he fielded questions for over two hours. The admiral portrayed the Pindo military, with its $1.4t two-year budget, 1.3m active personnel, 11 aircraft carrier battle groups and arsenal of over 4,000 ground, air and sea-launched nuclear weapons, as under-resourced, under-manned and in danger of being overtaken by military rivals. He complained that it did not have enough forward-deployed munitions and logistics, while bases and infrastructure on the West Coast were run down. He bitterly condemned the minor limits on increased military spending that were imposed by Congress via budget sequestration in 2013, which were lifted in the latest budget. Repeating a line that appears regularly in his speeches, he asserted:

If PACOM has to fight tonight, I don’t want it to be a fair fight. If it’s a knife fight, I want to bring a gun. If it’s a gun fight, I want to bring in the artillery, and the artillery of all of our allies. I have said during my last two appearances before this Committee, that sequestration could reduce us to wielding a butter knife in this fight. This is unacceptable. We must not let that happen. … China has developed and fielded capability and capacity to challenge our regional maritime dominance. I need increased lethality, specifically ships and aircraft equipped with faster and more survivable weapons systems. Longer-range offensive weapons on every platform are an imperative.

Harris accused China, as he has before, of seeking to militarise the South China Sea and turn islets and reefs into “forward military posts.” Pindostan should never accept a challenge to its ability to deploy military forces directly off China’s coast, he said. Harris presented a vision of the world in which Pindo economic and strategic interests are under siege from not only a rising China but also from Russia, from “rogue states” such as NK, from international terrorism, from transnational crime, and even from piracy and natural disasters. He asserted:

Our military remains the most powerful in the world, but our relative advantage and ability to counter these threats have declined. For PACOM to continue to underpin Pindo diplomatic efforts and deter future conflict against peer competitors, rogue states and transnational threats, the joint force must maintain a clear ability to fight and win when called upon to do so.

Harris’s witness statement left no doubt that he believes military spending must be ramped up by hundreds of billions of dollars. His wish list for new hardware ranged from missile defense systems, dozens more ships and submarines, more fifth generation fighters, through to more lethal cluster bombs. Harris argued to the HASC that Pindostan needs to go on a war footing, with every aspect of economic and social life subordinated to the armed forces. His perspective would require even more savage cutbacks to social spending. It is incompatible with even the façade of democracy that now exists. And not only in Pindostan. Harris indicated that all the key Pindo vassals in Asia, meaning specifically Japan, SK and Australia, as well as the Philippines and Thailand, must likewise boost war preparations. He proposed that Pindostan seek greater military involvement by France and Britain in operations targeting Chinese influence. He named Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and the Pacific Island states as all potential participants in the Pindo “camp.” Above all he stressed the burgeoning strategic ties between Pindostan and India. It had the “potential to be the most consequential bilateral relationship of the 21st century,” due to India’s “growing influence and expanding military.” Questioned about the possibility of war, Harris stated:

At the end of the day the ability to wage war is important, or you become a paper tiger. I’m hopeful that it won’t come to a conflict with China, but we all must be prepared for that if it should come to that.

In a second hearing on Feb 15, Aaron Friedberg from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and Ely Ratner from the CFR made sweeping accusations of Chinese “interference” in Pindo politics and society so as to demonise Beijing as Pindostan prepares for war. Friedberg testified:

China is now using a combination of its rapidly growing military, economic and political or information warfare capabilities to try to weaken the Pindo position in Asia, with the aim of displacing it as the preponderant regional power.

He called for action against Chinese “political warfare” within Pindostan, including purported efforts to develop relations with universities and academics, politicians, former government official and Hollywood studios. Chinese students and migrants were accused of being used “to support Beijing’s aims.” Ratner, in his statement, declared:

Beijing is working overseas, including in Pindostan, to undermine academic freedom, censor foreign media, restrict the free flow of information and curb civil society. Beijing is also promoting its own state-led model of development in explicit contrast to liberal democracy.

Pindostan had to “prioritise defense resources for the China challenge.” To do so, Ratner advocated abandoning costly operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East, avoiding so-called “wars of choice” with NK and Iran, and massively boosting military forces in Asia. He called for concerted action by Pindostan, Japan and other countries to undermine Chinese investment and development plans in Eurasia as part of its “One Belt, One Road” strategy. Ratner concluded by calling for action to “root out Chinese Communist Party influence operations in Pindostan.” Painting a truly bizarre portrait of Pindostan, he alleged:

As a result of various forms of Chinese espionage and coercion, Pindo schools and universities are avoiding topics Beijing deems sensitive, students in Pindostan are intimidated from speaking freely, Pindo media outlets and scholars are self-censoring, Pindo companies are curbing their speech to placate China, and millions of Pindos are subject to veiled Chinese propaganda through Communist Party-run online, television, print and radio media.

Such rhetoric, with all its xenophobic overtones, has one motive: to ideologically justify the war preparations advocated by Harris and anti-China hawks throughout the corporate & political military intelligence establishment. Campaigns against purported Chinese interference and influence are well underway in Australia and New Zealand. The Australian parliament is currently considering draconian legislation that would criminalise political opposition to the militarist stance of Pindostan and its vassals and a range of commercial activities with so-called “overseas organisations.” While Pindo politics has been largely consumed by the accusations of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election, the HASC hearings are another sign that efforts are being made to shift the focus onto China.

the big swindlers

Faschingstein delivers new ultimatum on Iran
Bill Van Auken, WSWS, Feb 20 2018

The State Dept has issued a fresh ultimatum on the Iran nuclear deal to Germany, Britain and France demanding that they commit themselves to altering the JCPoA agreement along the lines demanded by Pres Trump or face its unilateral abrogation by Pindostan. A secret State Dept cable obtained by Reuters presents what are essentially the same demands made by Trump last January. At that time, he announced that he was prepared to relaunch all-out economic warfare against Iran unless the Euro powers joined Faschingstein in imposing a rewritten nuclear accord on Tehran, including provisions that the Iranian government cannot and will not accept. The occasion for Trump’s threat was his reluctant announcement on Jan 12 that he had decided to waive the reimposition of sanctions. He vowed that this would be the last time he issued such a waiver, unless his conditions were met. The next deadline for waiving the sanctions is May 12. The message from the State Dept to the Euro vassals asks:

We want a commitment that we should work together to seek a supplemental or follow-on agreement that addresses Iran’s development or testing long-range missiles, ensures strong IAEA inspections, and fixes the flaws of the sunset clause.

Faschingstein has demanded that Iran grant IAEA inspectors immediate and unlimited access to any site in the country, including military bases; the elimination of sunset clauses in the JCPoA; and drastically limiting if not outlawing Iran’s ballistic missile program. While presented by Reuters and other media as a softening of the position outlined by Trump in January, the cable makes it clear that Pindostan is continuing to present its presumed vassals in Eurostan with an ultimatum. It says:

In the absence of a clear commitment from your side to address these issues, Pindostan will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. If at any time the President judges that such commitment is not within reach, the President indicated he would end Pindo participation in the deal.

The cable’s “talking points” stress:

The Trump administration’s strategy to counter the Iranian regime’s reckless aggression addresses the full range of Iranian threats, of which Iran’s nuclear program is only one element.

The clear implication is that Faschingstein is embarked on a trajectory of war with Iran, whether with or without the collaboration of its NATO vassals in Berlin, London and Paris. Should they join with Pindostan in ripping up the nuclear accord, it will set them on a collision course not only with Iran but also with Russia and China, the two other signatories to the JCPoA. Pindostan has spelled out its own intentions in its recent National Security Strategy, lumping Iran together with NK under the category of “rogue states” that represent a threat to Pindo “national interests” and are to be confronted and defeated. None of the Euro powers responded directly to the cable, which the State Dept itself refused to discuss. Asked about the Pindo demands in an online media briefing, the French Foreign Ministry declared:

The French position on the Iran nuclear deal is known. As the President of the Republic has said, we reaffirm our full attachment to the global action plan and its strict implementation. We shall continue to talk about the Iran nuclear program with our Euro and Pindo partners.

The Euro powers are pursuing their own imperialist interests in the Middle East and are increasingly at odds with Pindo interests and strategies. The lifting of sanctions against Iran was greeted by European corporations as an opportunity to generate a fresh stream of profits through billions of dollars in new investments and trade deals. Many of these plans remain unfulfilled because of concerns that Pindostan will target companies with unilateral sanctions, and that their investments could go up in smoke in the event of a new and catastrophic war in the Middle East. While hostile to Iran’s growing influence in the region, the Euro powers are increasingly alarmed at the prospect that Faschingstein’s strategy of forging a regional anti-Iranian alliance with Israel and the Toads, together with the other Sunni Gulf oil sheikdoms, will produce a military confrontation that could cut off oil supplies upon which Europe depends and unleash a political and refugee crisis that will spill onto the continent. Faschingstein has issued its latest ultimatum in the midst of an explosive escalation of regional tensions, driven in the main by Pindo and Israeli aggression. Netanyahu spelled out Tel Aviv’s aggressive stance against Iran in a bellicose speech to the Munich Security Conference on Sunday. Holding up what he claimed was a piece of an Iranian drone shot down over Israeli-occupied Syrian territory in the Golan Heights, he denounced Iran as “the greatest threat to the world,” equated it with Nazi Germany, and made a clear threat to attack it, an action that his government would undertake only with Pindo backing. He said:

We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves, and we will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.

Israel responded to the alleged overflight of the drone, which Tehran insists was launched by independent Syrian militia elements in Syria, by targeting Iranian personnel in Syria with air strikes. Syrian air defense succeeded in shooting down an IAF F-16i, the first such loss for the IAF since the early 1980s. Speaking in response to Netanyahu at the Munich conference, Iranian foreign minister Zarif attributed the frenzied tone of Netanyahu’s speech to the downing of the warplane and remarked:

And so the myth of invincibility of Israel, of the Israeli military, has crumbled.

The military and intelligence apparatus and its loyal stenographers in the corporate media are churning out continuous war propaganda against Iran. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, H R McMaster declared:

So the time is now, we think, to act against Iran. What’s particularly concerning is that this network of proxies is becoming more and more capable, as Iran seeds more and more destructive weapons into these networks.

The NYT published a lengthy piece Monday based on interviews with Israeli military officers and government officials along with representatives of Pindo, Israeli and Toad-funded think-tanks alleging that Iran is “creating an infrastructure to threaten Israel.” Needless to say, the article made no mention of Israel’s own funding and aid for militias attacking the Syrian government. The same issue of the NYT carried an opinion piece by Nikki Haley claiming falsely that a report issued by the UN proved that Iran has shipped missiles to the Houthi rebels in Yemen to fire at the Toads. The actual report found that “remnants” of the missiles were of Iranian origin, while providing no evidence as to how they got there. Haley insists that the world must “act before a missile hits a school or a hospital and leads to a dangerous military escalation that provokes a Saudi military response.” She echoes the “big lies” of Joseph Goebbels. That the Toads have been bombing Yemeni schools, hospitals, neighborhoods and infrastructure for nearly three years, killing some 13,000 Yemeni civilians and plunging the country’s population into the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet, goes unmentioned. Haley is also silent on the fact that Pindostan has provided the vast majority of the bombs and missiles dropped on the Yemeni people, while mounting logistical and refueling operations that make the mass slaughter possible.

For now, Pindostan wants Eurostan just to commit to improve Iran deal
Arshad Mohammed, John Irish, Robin Emmott, Reuters, Feb 18 2018

FASCHINGSTEIN/ PARIS/ MUNICH – Pindostan has sketched out a path under which three key European allies would simply commit to try to improve the Iran nuclear deal over time in return for Pres Trump renewing Pindo sanctions relief in May. The approach, outlined in a State Dept cable obtained by Reuters and an interview with a senior Foggy Bottom boxtop this week, still faces obstacles. The vassals of Eurostan are uncertain what will satisfy Trump and are reluctant to make such a commitment only to find that he asks them for more, sources said. The cable’s characterization of what Pindostan wants from Eurostan, which has not been previously reported, sets a lower standard than laid out by Trump in January, and so might facilitate a meeting of the minds, sources said. The crux of the Jul 2015 agreement was that Iran would restrict its nuclear program in return for relief from sanctions. Trump sees three defects in the deal, its failure to address Iran’s ballistic missile program, the terms under which international inspectors can visit suspect Iranian nuclear sites, and “sunset” clauses under which limits on the Iranian nuclear program start to expire after 10 years. He wants all three strengthened, and delivered an ultimatum to Eurostan on Jan 12, saying they must agree to “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal” or he would refuse to extend the sanctions relief. Sanctions will resume unless Trump issues fresh “waivers” to suspend them on May 12. “This is a last chance,” he said. Reaching a full-blown international accord by the May 12 deadline is seen as an impossibility by some sources even if there was agreement on the underlying issues, which there is not. In an interview last week, a senior State Dept boxtop said:

The effort with the Europeans is a two-phase process. During the first phase, from Jan 12 to May 12, we will seek to get Eurostan to agree on the weaknesses that need to be fixed. We want a commitment from them that these are the deficiencies that need to be addressed, and an agreement that we will seek an agreement. That’s it. The second phase, to begin immediately after May 12, will take that understanding to the other parties to the deal, Iran, Russia and China, to see if there is some way to address these issues. There are three possible avenues to do this: amend the existing pact, negotiate a supplemental agreement, or seek a new UNSCR to make the changes. If we were to pursue a supplemental accord, we would request the support of Iran, Russia and China, but we could live with just the agreement of Germany, France and Britain, which could create their own supplemental agreement to reimpose sanctions if the Iranians violated any of the new conditions that they would set.

In a meeting not been previously reported, Pindo boxtops will meet boxtops from Britain, France and Germany in Paris on Tuesday to discuss how to meet Trump’s demands, sources said. Eurostan boxtops said in interviews they did not know if the view laid out in the cable will prevail in Faschingstein. Ultimately, they said, all that counts is Trump’s judgment on whether to renew the sanctions waivers that expire on May 12. Eurostan boxtops said on Friday:

Has the Trump administration shifted its stance? We don’t know. The reality is that what we are doing now is to try to get the best package possible to convince Trump on missiles, inspections and the sunset clauses. Nobody knows what Trump will do or wants.

That confusion is caused in part by disagreements among different parts of the Pindo administration and the fundamental unpredictability of what Trump may ultimately decide. The State Dept cable was “a little softer” than Trump’s statement, said Richard Boucher, a former State Dept spox. Boucher and three other former sources flagged the difference between Trump’s demand that Eurostan reach an “agreement to fix the terrible flaws” of the deal and the cable’s less demanding language seeking a “commitment” to “work together” to “seek” a supplemental accord that “addresses” its deficiencies. Boucher said:

The president to me was holding out a higher standard. They have to agree and negotiate and we have to get an agreement, whereas the other one was, we have to get their commitment to go down this road.

an interview with devin nunes

Russia Probe
Full Measure, Feb 18 2018


There are numerous investigations going on, but one of them, at least, is coming to a close. That is the HPSCI investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion. As of today, that Thug-led investigation hasn’t turned up any improper ties to Russia, but has revealed something perhaps larger and even more serious. We asked to sit down with both the top Demagogs & Thugs on the committee, only the Thug chairman Devin Nunes agreed.

Q: What is the investigation that the House intelligence committee is covering?
A: Well we have a Russian Investigation going on whether or not there was collusion between any campaign and the Russians. That’s coming to a close. We’ve never had any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Q: So you’re comfortable with saying at this point, you don’t see anything there?
A: No, There’s nothing there.
Q: What else?
A: So in that investigation, we’ve unearthed things that are very concerning. We know that there are un-maskings that occurred and probably were leaked to the media. So this is, so these were, this is an intelligence products that were put together. The names or the names of the Americans were masked.
Q: Because it’s so sensitive, Americans aren’t supposed to be spied on by our intelligence agencies. So when they are captured, their names are-
A: Are masked –
Q: Right, Masked, inside the government.
A: And what we found was happening is, in the last administration, they were unmasking hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of American’s names. They were unmasking people for what I would say, for lack of a better definition, were for political purposes.
Q: How could they use that information?
A: We have no evidence, that they leaked this information, okay. We only know that we only know this. That names were unmasked. And those names ended up in the newspaper.
Q: In a derogatory sense, in terms of political enemies of the Obama Administration.
A: Right, it’s like political dirt to create a narrative and a spin with the mainstream media.
Q: You reported what you learned early on, on the unmaskings to President Trump and were criticized by a Demagog counterpart of the committee, Adam Schiff. Who said you quote, Made a midnight run to the White House, where you misrepresented where you received the information. There was an ethics investigation into that, and you were cleared. But how would you answer Adam Schiff’s criticism that you behaved improperly?
A: Well, most of the time I ignore political nonsense in this town. What I will say is that all of those stories were totally fake from the beginning. When I got that information okay, which was not at midnight. I didn’t jump out of any cars. That was totally fake. It was all made up nonsense. I went out and held a press availability, where I told the press, Look, I’ve, I found this information. It has nothing to do with Russia. I’m going to go explain this to the POTUS. Because I’m the only one that really can do it. And then I went and did that. Briefed the President. Afterwards, I went and talked to the press at the White House. So my reward for transparency, total transparency with the with the media and everybody involved was to be brought up under a false ethics accusation. That has since everyone’s learned was total nonsense and it’s been dismissed.
Q: On the unmaskings, one very tangible bit of evidence that to me looks like a crime is the fact that the Pindo Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, it looked like she had made a masking request on a near-daily basis, which is amazing in 2016. It’s pretty incredible. Yet she reportedly told Congress, most of those were not really her.
A: Yeah.
Q: Wouldn’t that mean somebody committed a serious National Security Crime if they used her name to request unmaskings of Pindo Citizens?
A: Yeah, so we don’t know what the truth is there. I think it’s highly unlikely that she was not the one who was giving permission to make those unmasking requests.
Q: So you don’t believe her?
A: I just don’t know how that’s possible.
Q: There appears to be a serious conflict of interest that the intelligence community, FBI, who are in charge of the investigation some of these things, are implicated in some of these alleged misdeeds. How do you get around that? How can this be investigated fairly, when the only prosecutorial authority really rests with the people accused of wrongdoing?
A: Yeah, and I think what you’re, and now what you’re getting into is the FISA abuse. So I want to, I think we want to make sure we make that change, the difference there. So there was unmaskings that we unearthed, then there are the FISA abuse that we’ve discovered.
Q: That’s the secret court. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, where intelligence officials can go to try to get wiretaps on US citizens or foreign actors.
A: That’s right. And so this is where the FBI and the Justice Department because they’re involved in this FISA Abuse. Because they’re the ones who make, to go before the secret court to get the warrants, they’re all involved, they’re all implicated in this.
Q: But the most you can do about it to be clear, is to just raise the issue. Congress can’t prosecute or refer cases for prosecution.
A: Congress can, right. Congress can make criminal referrals. Congress can
Q: To the people accused of wrongdoing in this case.
A: Right, right. So there’s really nowhere for it to go. And that’s I think a lot of people. We are a separate equal branch of government, but we don’t have the ability to prosecute people. And that’s the challenge.
Q: Why is the Carter Page wiretap interview so important? Carter Page is the former Trump volunteer, advisor, who was wiretapped apparently, at least four times. Three times by the way, apparently after President Trump was elected. Why is that wiretap so important?
A: It really boils down to this. You had a campaign. The Hillary Campaign and the Democratic Party went out and paid for dirt. They got it from Russians by the way. Then they used that dirt and funneled it into the FBI. The FBI then used that dirt to get a warrant on a US citizen who was part of the other campaign. A limited role, yes. But still, to do that, it’s wrong.
Q: We asked your Democrat counterpart Adam Schiff for an interview, but he wouldn’t do it. He said that the memo that you put out was misleading and omitted material facts.
A: Because we didn’t want to disclose any sources and methods. We tried to reduce the memo down to what we believed the American people needed to know. What was most important? So we put in the memo, the things that were used before the FISA court in order to justify the warrant. Was there other information? Sure. But it wasn’t, it wasn’t important in terms of the justification of the warrant.
Q: Congressman Adam Schiff says, your goal is to put the FBI on trial, and to put special counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation on trial.
A: Yeah, well FISA abuse has nothing to do with, with the Mueller investigation. As it relates to Department of Justice and the FBI, if they need to be put on trial, we will put them on trial. The reason that Congress exists is to oversee these agencies that we created. DOJ and FBI are not above the law. Congress created them, we oversee them, and we fund them. And if they’re committing abuse for a secret court, getting warrants on American citizens, you’re darn right that we’re going to put them on trial.
Q: What would you say is the takeaway?
A: And I think people are just starting to learn now what really happened. Because as we peel more and more of this back, I think more and more Pindos get educated. And I think that they’re gonna demand that changes are made.

Nunes: FBI and DoJ Perps Could Be Put on Trial
Ray McGovern, Consortium News, Feb 19 2018

Throwing down the gauntlet on alleged abuse of the FISA Court by the DoJ and the FBI, HPSCI Chair Devin Nunes stated that there could be legal consequences for officials who may have misled the FISA court. He said:

If they need to be put on trial, we will put them on trial. The reason Congress exists is to oversee these agencies that we created.

Nunes took this highly unusual, no-holds-barred stance during an interview with Emmy-award winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson, which aired on Sunday. Attkisson said she had invited both Nunes and Schiff, but that only Nunes agreed. She asked him about Schiff’s charge that Nunes’ goal was “to put the FBI and DOJ on trial.” What followed was very atypical bluntness: candor normally considered quite unacceptable in polite circles of the Faschingstein Establishment. Rather than play the diplomat and disavow what Schiff contended was Nunes’ goal, Nunes said in effect let the chips fall where they may. He unapologetically averred that a criminal trial might well be the outcome, stating emphatically:

DOJ and FBI are not above the law. If they are committing abuse before a secret court getting warrants on Pindo citizens, you’re darn right that we’re going to put them on trial.

The stakes are very high. Current and former senior officials, not only from DoJ and FBI but from other agencies like the CIA and NSA, whom documents and testimony show were involved in providing faulty information to justify a FISA warrant to monitor former Trump campaign official Carter Page, may suddenly find themselves in considerable legal jeopardy, like felony territory. This was not supposed to happen. Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in, remember? Back when the FISA surveillance warrant of Page was obtained, just weeks before the Nov 2016 election, they saw no need to hide their tracks, because even if their extra-curricular activities were discovered, the perps would have looked forward to awards rather than penalties under a Trump presidency. Thus, the knives will be coming out. Mostly because the mainstream media will make a major effort, together with Schiff-mates in the Demagog Party to marginalize Nunes, those who find themselves in jeopardy can be expected to push back strongly. If past is precedent, they will be confident that, with their powerful allies within the “Deep State” they will be able to counter Nunes and show him and the other congressional investigation committee chairs, where the power lies. The conventional wisdom is that Nunes and the others have bit off far more than they can chew. The odds do not favor folks including oversight committee chairs who buck the system. On the other hand, the presumptive perps have not run into a chairman like Nunes in the four decades since Lucien Nedzi, Otis Pike and Frank Church ran tough, explosive hearings on the abuses of a previous generation Deep State, including massive domestic spying revealed by Seymour Hersh in Dec 1974. This is largely why the congressional intelligence oversight committees were later established, and why the FISA law was passed in 1978. At this point, one is tempted to say plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, but that would be only half correct in this context. Scoundrels will always take liberties with the law to spy on others. But the huge difference today is that MSM have no room for those who uncover government crimes and abuse. And this will be a major impediment to efforts by Nunes and other committee chairs to inform the public.

One glaring sign of the media’s unwillingness to displease corporate masters and official Faschingstein is the harsh reality that Seymour Hersh’s most recent investigations, using his large array of government sources to explore front-burner issues, have not been able to find a home in any English-speaking newspaper or journal. In a sense, this provides what might be called a “confidence-building” factor, giving some assurance to deep-state perps that they will be able to ride this out, and that congressional committee chairs will once again learn to know their (subservient) place. Much will depend on whether top DoJ and FBI officials can bring themselves to reverse course and give priority to the oath they took to support and defend the COTUS against all enemies foreign and domestic. This should not be too much to hope for, but it will require uncommon courage in facing up honestly to the major misdeeds appear to have occurred and letting the chips fall where they may. Besides, it would be the right thing to do. Nunes is projecting calm confidence that once he and Trey Gowdey, chair of the House Oversight Committee, release documentary evidence showing what their investigations have turned up, it will be hard for DoJ and FBI boxtops to dissimulate. In the interview with Attkisson, Nunes covered a number of other significant issues:

  • The committee is closing down its investigation into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign. No evidence of collusion was found.
  • The apparently widespread practice of “unmasking” the identities of Pindos under surveillance. On this point, Nunes said, “In the last administration they were unmasking hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Pindos’ names. They were unmasking for what I would say for lack of a better definition were for political purposes.”
  • Asked about Schiff’s criticism that he behaved improperly on what he called the “midnight run to the White House,” Nunes responded: “Well, most of the time I ignore political nonsense in this town. What I will say is that all of those stories were totally fake from the beginning.”

Not since Watergate has there been so high a degree of political tension here in Faschingstein but the stakes for our Republic are even higher this time. Assuming abuse of FISA court procedures is documented and those responsible for playing fast and loose with the required justification for legal warrants are not held to account, the division of powers enshrined in the Constitution will be in peril. A denouement can be expected in the coming months.

has russia declared war invisibly on pindostan? um… no

Is That Russia Troll Farm an Act of War?
Patrick Buchanan, Feb 20 2018

According to the indictment by Robert Mueller, Russian trolls operating out of St Petersburg took Pindo identities on social media and became players in our 2016 election. On divisive racial and religious issues, the trolls took both sides. In the presidential election, the trolls favored Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein and Donald Trump, and almost never Hillary Clinton. One imaginative Russian troll urged Trumpsters to dress up a female volunteer in an orange prison jump suit, put her in a cage on a flatbed truck, then append the slogan, “Lock Her Up!” How grave a matter is this? This Russian troll farm is “the equivalent (of) Pearl Harbor,” says Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who would head up the House Judiciary Committee if Demagogs retake the House, handling any impeachment. When MSNBC’s Chris Hayes pressed him, Nadler doubled down: The Russians “are destroying our democratic process.” While the Russian trolling may not equal Pearl Harbor in its violence, said Nadler, in its “seriousness, it is very much on a par” with Japan’s surprise attack. Trump’s reaction to the hysteria that broke out after the Russian indictments:

They are laughing their asses off in Moscow.

According to Sunday’s WaPo, the troll story is old news in Russia, where reporters uncovered it last year and it was no big deal. While Mueller’s indictments confirm that Russians meddled in the election, what explains the shock and the fear for “our democracy”? Is the Great Republic about to fall because a bunch of trolls tweeted in our election? As for Russian trolling in our election, do we really have clean hands when it comes to meddling in elections and the internal politics of regimes we dislike? McCain and Nuland egged on the Maidan Square crowds in Kiev that overthrew the elected government of Ukraine. When the democratically-elected regime of Mohammed Morsi was overthrown, Pindostan readily accepted the coup as a victory for our side and continued aid to Egypt as tens of thousands of MBs were imprisoned. Are the CIA and NED under orders not to try to influence the outcome of elections in nations in whose ruling regimes we believe we have a stake? Laura Ingraham asked former DCI James Woolsey this weekend:

Have we ever tried to meddle in other countries’ elections?

With a grin, Woolsey replied:

Oh, probably!

Ingraham interrupted:

We don’t do that anymore though? We don’t mess around in other people’s elections, Jim?

Woolsey said with a smile:

Well … Only for a very good cause!

Indeed, what is the NED all about, if not aiding the pro-Pindo side in foreign nations and their elections? Did Pindostan have no active role in the “color-coded revolutions” that have changed regimes from Serbia to Ukraine to Georgia? When Thugs discuss Iran on Capitol Hill, the phrase “regime change” is frequently heard. When the “Green Revolution” took to the streets of Tehran to protest massively against the re-election of Pres Ahmadinejad in 2009, Thugs denounced Pres Obama for not intervening more energetically to alter the outcome. When China, Russia and Egypt expel NGOs, are their suspicions that some have been seeded with Pindo agents merely marks of paranoia? The Pindo role in the overthrow of PM Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, and of Pres Diem in Saigon in 1963 are established facts. When the democratically-elected Marxist Salvador Allende was overthrown in Chile in 1973 and committed suicide with an AK-47 given to him by Fidel Castro, the Nixon White House may have had no direct role, but the White House welcomed the ascendancy of Gen Augusto Pinochet. What do these indictments of Russians tell us? After 18 months, the Comey-Mueller FBI/DoJ investigation into the hacking of the DNC + Podesta has yet to produce evidence of collusion. We do have evidence that retired MI6 officer and Trump hater Christopher Steele was paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and DNC to dig up dirt on Trump, and that he colluded with Kremlin agents to produce a dossier of scurrilous and unsubstantiated charges to destroy the candidacy of Donald Trump, and that the FBI used this disinformation to get FISA Court warrants to surveil and wiretap the Trump campaign. Why is this conspiracy and collusion with Russians less worthy of Mueller’s attention than a troll farm in St Petersburg?

Pindosta’s Election Meddling Would Indeed Justify Other Countries Retaliating In Kind
Caitlin Johnstone,, Feb 20 2018

There is still no clear proof that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 Pindo elections in any meaningful way. Which is weird, because Russia and every other country on earth would be perfectly justified in doing so. Like every single hotly publicized Russiagate “bombshell” that has broken since this nonsense began, Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian social media trolls was paraded around as proof of something hugely significant (an “act of war” in this case), but on closer examination turns out to be empty. Moon of Alabama recently made a solid argument that has also been advanced by Russiagate skeptics like TYT’s Michael Tracey and Max Blumenthal pointing out that there is in fact no evidence that the troll farming operation was an attempt to manipulate the Pindo election, nor indeed that it had any ties to the Russian government at all, nor indeed that it was anything other than a crafty Russian civilian’s money making scheme. The notion that a few Russian trolls committed a “conspiracy to defraud Pindostan” by “sowing discord” with a bunch of wildly contradictory posts endorsing all different ideologies sounds completely ridiculous in a country whose MSM spend all their time actively creating political division anyway, but when you look at it as a civilian operation to attract social media followers to sock puppet accounts with the goal of selling promoted posts for profit, it makes perfect sense. James Corbett has a great video about how absolutely bizarre it is that public dialogue is ignoring the fact that these trolls overwhelmingly used mainstream media like the WaPo in their shares instead of outlets like RT and Infowars. As a scheme to acquire followers, it makes perfect sense. As a scheme to subvert Pindostan, it’s nonsensical. There is currently no evidence that the Russian government interfered in the Pindo election. But it is worth pointing out that if they did they had every right to.

“Whataboutism” is the word of the day. At some point it was decreed by the internet forum gods that adding “-ism” to a description of something that someone is doing makes for a devastating argument in and of itself, and people have hastened to use this tactic as a bludgeon to silence anyone who points out the extremely obvious and significant fact that America interferes in elections more than any other government on earth.

The argument goes:

Okay, so Pindostan isn’t perfect and we’ve meddled a few times. So what? You’re saying just because we’ve done it that makes it okay for Russia to do it?

Actually, yes. Of course it does. Clearly. That isn’t a “whataboutism,” it’s an observation that is completely devastating to the mainstream Russia narrative. If it’s okay for the CIA to continuously interfere in the elections of other countries up to and including modern times, it is okay for other countries to interfere in theirs. Only in the most warped Pindo-supremacist reality tunnel is that not abundantly obvious. Every country on earth is absolutely entitled to interfere in Pindostan’s elections. Pindostan is responsible for the overwhelming majority of election interferences around the world in modern times, including an interference in Russia’s elections in the nineties that was so brazen they made a Hollywood movie about it, so clearly an environment has been created wherein Pindostan has declared that this is acceptable.

It amazes me that more people aren’t willing to call this like it is. No, it would not be wrong for Russia to interfere in Pindostan’s elections. Yes, what Pindostan did to Russia absolutely would make a proportionate retaliation okay. Of course it would. Imagine this: A guy in a cowboy hat runs into a bar and starts punching people. Most of them just rub their sore jaws and hunch over their drinks hoping to avoid any trouble, but one guy in a fur cap sets down his vodka and shoves the man in the cowboy hat. The man in the cowboy hat begins shrieking like a little girl. All his friends rush to his side to comfort him and begin angrily shaking their fists at the man in the fur cap. “Hey, he punched me!” says the man in the fur cap. “That’s a whataboutism!” sobs the man in the cowboy hat. Can you imagine anything more ridiculous?

Seriously, how do people think this is a thing? How does anyone think it’s legitimate to respond to my article about a former DCI openly admitting that Pindostan still to this day interferes with elections around the world babbling about “whataboutisms”? What a doofy, indefensible monkey wrench to throw into the gears of political discourse. Yes, obviously by asserting that it is acceptable for the CIA to meddle in other countries’ elections, Pindostan has created an environment where that sort of thing is acceptable. If Pindos just want to embrace their Pindo-supremacist bigotry and say “Yeah, we can do that to you, but you can’t do it to us, cuz we have big guns and we said so,” that’s at least a logically consistent position. Crying like little bitches and behaving as though they’ve been victimized by some egregious immorality is not.

Channel 4 News reported on the research of the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Don Levin back in November, writing the following:

Dov Levin, an academic from the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, has calculated the vast scale of election interventions by both Pindostan and Russia. According to his research, there were 117 “partisan electoral interventions” between 1946 and 2000. That’s around one of every nine competitive elections held since WW2. The majority of these, almost 70%, were cases of Pindo interference. And these are not all from the Cold War era. 21 such interventions took place between 1990 and 2000, of which 18 were by Pindostan.

If Pindos don’t like election meddling, they need to demand that their government stops doing it. As long as it remains the very worst offender in that department, then Pindostan is entitled to nothing other than the entire world meddling in its elections. I shouldn’t even have to say this. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it. Duh.

if all the boxtops think russia has declared war on pindostan, the intercept is enabling that big lie, with omidyar and CIA money

Apparently, Russia Committed an Act of War on Par With Pearl Harbor and 9/11
Glenn Greenwald, Intercept, Feb 19 2018

In the wake of last week’s indictments alleging that 13 Russian nationals and entities created fake social media accounts and sponsored political events to sow political discord in Pindostan, something of a consensus has arisen in the political and media class (with some notable exceptions) that these actions not only constitute an “act of war” against Pindostan, but one so grave that it is tantamount to Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Indeed, that Russia’s alleged “meddling” is comparable to the two most devastating attacks in Pindo history has, overnight, become a virtual cliché. The claim isn’t brand new. Senators from John McCain to Jeanne Shaheen have long described Russian meddling in 2016 as an act of war. Hillary Clinton promoting her book last October described Russia’s alleged hacking of the DNC + Podesta as a “cyber-9/11.” And last February, the always-war-hungry Tom Friedman of the NYT said on MSNBC’s Morning show:

That was a 9/11-scale event! They attacked the core of our democracy! That was a Pearl Harbor-scale event!

But the last few days have ushered in an explosion of this rhetoric from politicians and journalists alike. On MSNBC’s Friday evening show, two separate guests, Jerry Nadler and Philippe Reines, posited Pearl Harbor as the “equivalent” of Russian meddling, provoking a shocked reaction from anchorman Chris Hayes:

The WaPo’s Karen Tumulty invited readers to fantasize:

Imagine how history would have judged FDR in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor if he had taken to the radio airwaves to declare that Tokyo was laughing their asses off, or if George Dubya Bush had stood in the rubble of the WTC with a bullhorn and launched a name-calling tirade against the Demagogs!

David “Axis of Evil” Frum went back a century earlier to write:

Pres Trump’s inaction amounts to a dereliction of duty as grave as any since Pres Buchanan looked the other way as Southern state governments pillaged federal arsenals on the eve of the Civil War.

John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman called Trump a “draft dodger” avoiding a “war” with Russia. Obama allowed an attack of the magnitude of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to happen on his watch and did basically nothing in response, allegedly due to fears that any retaliation would be criticized by Thugs as partisan, but for those who really believe this rhetoric, can fears of political attacks really justify inaction in the face of a Pearl Harbor or 9/11 by the Commander-in-Chief, whose primary duty, as we’re so often told, is to protect the Nation? To posit this equivalence is to condemn Obama in the harshest possible terms. The more important question that these chest-beating politicians and pundits notably refrain from addressing is: if Russian election meddling is on par with the Pearl Harbor and 9/11 attacks, then should the Pindo response be on par with its response to those attacks? Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor ultimately led to Pindostan dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan. 9/11 initiated wars in multiple countries that still have no end in sight after 17 years, along with a systematic and still-worsening erosion of basic civil liberties. This has been a long-standing tactic of neocons during the GWOT: they love to accuse everyone of being insufficiently “tough” or “aggressive” with whatever country, but they never specify what greater “toughness” is needed, because to do so would expose their extremism. For years, as Obama repeatedly tried to collaborate with Putin, GOP hawks such as John McCain, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush repeatedly accused Obama of being too weak to stand up to the Russian leader, without specifying what they wanted him to do beyond arming Ukrainians. Regarding Obama’s alleged weakness toward Putin, McCain said in 2014:

History will judge this administration incredibly harshly!

The only specific proposal one hears now when it comes to responding to Russian meddling is a call for sanctions, but if one really believes that Russia’s actions amount to Pearl Harbor or 9/11, then sanctions seem a very lame and woefully inadequate response. Imagine if FDR had confined his response to Pearl Harbor to sanctions on Japanese leaders, or if Dubya had announced sanctions on AQ as his sole response to 9/11! If you really believe this rhetoric, then you must support retaliation beyond mere sanctions. Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for years, but critics like McCain insisted that it had no hope of changing Putin’s behavior, let alone imposing any real punishment. McCain said of Russia’s annexation of Crimea:

The only thing that will dissuade Vladimir Putin from what he is doing is when coffins come back to the families in Russia.

McCain is following his rhetoric through to its logical conclusions. If you really believe that Putin attacked Pindostan on a level even close to what was done at Pearl Harbor or on 9/11, then of course you must be arguing for retaliation far greater than sanctions. You must be arguing for military action, such as arming Russia’s enemies if not more than that, as McCain in fact does. You must also be furious with Obama for allowing this to happen on his watch and then doing so little in response, as McCain is:

All of this underscores the serious dangers many have pointed to for more than a year about why all this unhinged rhetoric is so alarming. If you really believe that Russia committed an “act of war” of any kind with some phishing links sent to John Podesta and some fake Facebook ads and Twitter bots, let alone one on par with Pearl Harbor and 9/11, then it’s inevitable you will believe that extreme retaliatory measures should be considered, and likely that you will believe they should be triggered. How does one justify a mere imposition of sanctions in the face of an attack similar to Pearl Harbor or 9/11? Doesn’t it stand to reason that something much more belligerent, enduring and destructive would be necessary? At the very least, no politician or pundit should be able to get away with issuing rhetoric of this type without being required to specify what they think ought to be done. Here, for instance, is Chuck Todd doing his best impression of Bill Kristol in 2002, decreeing in a predictably viral tweet that all patriotic Pindos are duty-bound to focus on the question of what we should do to “punish Russia”:

Todd neglects to specify what “punishment” he advocates. This is reckless rhetoric of the most irresponsible kind, demanding that everyone agree that “punishment” toward Russia is warranted, upon pain of being found guilty of bad citizenship, while failing to specify what punishment would be just, warranted and rational. To do that is to deliberately beat the drums of war, cultivate an atmosphere of belligerence and aggression, without any limits or notions of proportionality. That’s exactly what is being done by those who keep declaring that Pindostan is “at war” with Russia, and especially those who invoke the worst attacks in Pindo history when doing so, all the while refusing to state what they think should be done in response. It’s simultaneous reckless and cowardly.

elizabeth surkov’s study of the syrian border

Israel ramps up support for Syrian rebels, arming 7 different groups
Amos Harel, Haaretz, Feb 19 2018

The recent tensions along the Israeli-Syrian border have been mainly aerial, but real changes are also taking place on the ground in the Golan Heights. The Assad regime is now focusing on aggressively attacking rebel enclaves east of Damascus and in the northern Idlib province, but it is also gradually bolstering its presence in southern Syria, including in the Syrian Golan, and accordingly Israel its altering its deployment to prepare for what’s to come. The deescalation agreement for southern Syria, which Pindostan, Russia and Jordan signed last November included a promise to keep Hezbollah away from the Israeli border. Israel wanted Hezbollah to be kept almost 60 km from the frontier, east of the Damascus-Daraa road, but it didn’t get its wish. The agreement committed to keep them only 5 km from the front lines between the regime and the rebels. In practice, Hezbollah are allowed to come to within 20 km of the border in the central Syrian Golan, and within just 5 km in the northern Syrian Golan, near Quneitra. About a month ago, the SAA retook the enclave of Beit Jin, less than 15 km from the border in the northern Golan, from Sunni rebels. The SAA will endeavor to regain control of the rest of the Syrian Golan, in part because of the symbolic importance of sovereignty over the border with Israel.

Analyst Elizabeth Tsurkov, who has followed events in Syria closely for the last several years and has interviewed many rebel militiamen and residents of the Syrian Golan, published a detailed survey of developments in southern Syria in the War on the Rocks blog last week (WOTR is run by this creepy outfit – RB). Tsurkov said the scope of Israel’s involvement in southern Syria has changed in recent months in response to the regime’s successes in the civil war and Iran’s consolidation in Syria. Netanyahu warns about the latter on every possible occasion and has repeatedly said Israel will work to thwart it. According to foreign media reports, over the past few months Israel has begun carrying out airstrikes against SAA facilities and targets linked to Iran and its Shi’ite militias, in addition to its long-standing targeting of convoys carrying arms to Hezbollah. Tsurkov also reported on other developments taking place. Dozens of rebels who spoke with Tsurkov described a significant change in the amount of aid they receive from Israel. Moreover, she said at least seven Sunni rebel organizations in the Syrian Golan are now getting arms and ammunition from Israel, along with money to buy additional armaments.

This change has taken place at a time when Pindostan has greatly reduced its involvement in southern Syria. In January, the Trump administration closed the CIA operations center in Amman, which coordinated aid to rebel organizations in southern Syria. As a result, tens of thousands of rebels who received regular economic support from Pindostan have been bereft of this support. Israel has also increased its civilian aid to villages controlled by the rebels, including supplying medicine, food and clothing. Last summer, Israel admitted for the first time that it provides civilian aid to villages in the Syrian Golan, but declined to confirm claims that it also provides military aid. Tsurkov said these Israeli moves are intended to help block the SAA’s advance in the Golan and its conquest of rebel-held villages near the Israeli border. Some rebels hope for Israeli help in their efforts to topple the regime, but Israel plans a mere holding action. Relatively moderate Sunni rebels (ie HTS/Nusra – RB), whom the IOF term “the locals,” control the Syria-Israel border except for two spots, an SAA-controlled spot in the northern Golan and a spot in the southern Golan controlled by Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid (Daesh). According to Tsurkov, Israel is also helping the rebels in their war against Daesh. There have been skirmishes between Daesh and other rebel organizations over the last several years, but these battles have produced no significant change in the forces’ deployment. However, rebels told Tsurkov that Israel has recently begun helping them by launching drone strikes and antitank missiles at Daesh positions during these battles.

Israel’s Deepening Involvement With Syria’s Rebels
Elizabeth Tsurkov, War On The Rocks, Feb 14 2018

As it becomes clear that Assad has stabilized his rule over the ruins of Syria, outside powers are stepping up their intervention in the country in an effort to shape an outcome that will secure their interests. Israel, which has remained relatively less involved than other actors, must now face Iran and its proxies, which have never been more powerful and emboldened. Israel pursued its interests with targeted airstrikes and by supporting ragtag rebel militias in southern Syria whose interests partially align with those of the Jewish state. Interviews I have conducted with dozens of rebels, activists and civilians in southern Syria indicate growing Israeli involvement there. This deeper involvement has created expectations among civilians and rebels in southern Syria of open-ended Israeli support. This illustrates the dangers of relying on Pindo power to secure national interests in an era of Pindo retrenchment and disengagement from the global arena. Iran and its proxies are growing emboldened, as illustrated by the latest launch of an UAV into Israel. Hizballah has been transformed by the Syrian civil war, gaining priceless combat experience in the country, especially due to close cooperation with the IRGC and Russian military advisers. Hizballah exponentially increased its arsenal in Lebanon, constructed permanent bases inside Syria, and recruited thousands of Syrians into local militias. The stabilization of the Assad regime, in large part due to financial and military support from Iran, is a major success for Tehran. Iran and Hizballah presumably did not invest such efforts in creating local Syrian militias and erecting military bases in order just to dismantle them once the war is over.

Initially, Israel adopted a cautious approach to the civil war in Syria, focusing on preventing the transfer of advanced weapons to Hizballah, while avoiding choosing a side. Mindful of failed interventions in Lebanon’s civil war, Israel wished to avoid entanglement in Syria. Syrian opposition members, most prominently former political prisoner Kamal Labwani and the self-appointed liaison to the FSA Southern Front, Issam Zeitoun, told me they have repeatedly attempted to convince Israel to establish a no-fly zone near the border fence in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Those efforts failed miserably. According to two prominent Israeli activists involved in the humanitarian aid effort from Israel, PM Netanyahu objected to a no-fly zone in southern Syria, fearing an attack on the zone would encourage more internally displaced Syrians to seek shelter in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Syrian opposition leaders in southern Turkey, and rebel commanders in southern Syria, have told me that Jerusalem has rebuffed repeated efforts by Syrian rebel commanders to obtain support from Israel or to convince it to directly intervene militarily. Instead, until the Russian intervention in Sep 2015, Israel tried to work through the Obama administration by encouraging it to increase support for the FSA Southern Front. Those efforts were also unsuccessful. The Obama administration wished to keep its involvement in Syria to a minimum, while Jordan grew increasingly disenchanted with the Syrian opposition and focused instead on limiting the number of new refugees entering its borders. At the same time, Israel provided limited humanitarian aid across the border and medical treatment to over 5,000 Syrians in Israeli hospitals. Following the Russian intervention, some in Israel hoped the Kremlin would move Damascus away from Iran’s orbit. This would secure Israel’s main interest in the region without the need for deeper involvement. Instead, Syria continued to play off Iran and Russia to secure maximal support for its own goals. Israel established a deconfliction mechanism with the Russians, and for the time being Russia is not preventing some Israeli strikes on Hizballah targets inside Syria. Nevertheless, Israel boxtops acknowledge that Israel’s freedom to operate in Syria has been significantly curtailed due to the Russian intervention. A Russian veto prevented further Israeli retaliation for the downing of its jet earlier this month.

In 2016, Israel grew increasingly concerned as Assad’s regime stabilized and Iran’s and Hizballah’s presence in Syria expanded. Repeated Israeli appeals to the Obama administration to increase support for the rebels were rejected. During the end of Obama’s term and Trump’s first months in office, Russia spearheaded negotiations with Jordan, Turkey, opposition representatives andPindostan regarding the establishment of deconfliction zones in Syria. Israel attempted to influence Pindostan and Russia to protect its interests concerning the southern deconfliction zone on its border. In dozens of meetings and visits to Faschingstein and Moscow, Israel first attempted to secure a guarantee that foreign Shia fighters would have to leave Syria. When this request was rebuffed by the Kremlin and ignored by Faschingstein, Israel asked that those fighters not be allowed within 60 km of the border fence. This request was ignored as well. Russia agreed to prevent the presence of foreign Shia fighters within5 km to 7 km from the Golan Heights, but made it clear that the guarantee was only temporary. Israel came to the realization that it would have to protect its interests all by itself. In Sep 2017, Israel began striking targets deeper inside Syrian territory, going beyond strikes on Hizballah’s weapon convoys near the Lebanese border. The targets now included regime military bases with a significant Iranian footprint. Another major shift in Israeli policy occurred during this time as well, according to Syrian activists and rebels I have interviewed, and media reporting. Rebels and associated media activists from Quneitra and western Daraa told me that in late 2017 Israel had begun to provide more military support to a greater number of rebel groups affiliated with the FSA, in the form of weapons, ammunition and money. All of my sources confirmed the identity of at least seven factions receiving Israeli support, on the condition that the groups would not be named. However, two of these groups have been publicly identified before: Liwaa Fursan al-Golan and Firqat Ahrar Nawa. Israel has vehemently denied supporting Jihadis, but it has left open the possibility that it supports these non-Jihadis. Some of them were previously supported by the CIA-directed Military Operations Command in Amman. Until Jan 2018, the MOC paid the salaries for tens of thousands of FSA Southern Front fighters and provided them with materiel and ammunition. The Trump administration’s decision to shut down the center left rebel factions in southern Syria in need of sponsors.

Israel’s support is intended to protect the border area from encroachment by Iranian proxies, but also to enable the rebels to more effectively fight Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid. According to Syrian rebels engaged in combating JKW in western Daraa, Israel’s support includes not just materiel and cash but also drone strikes and shelling with high-precision missiles on Daesh targets during defensive and offensive rebel operations in the Yarmouk basin. When Daesh launched an offensive on the rebels in January, IAF strikes killed muany Daesh near al-Jabiliya. Most recently, the IOF fired precision-guided anti-tank missiles at Daesh targets in western Daraa on Feb 1, helping the rebels with another failed offensive. Despite this support, and the MOC’s previous assistance to these groups, the rebels have been unable to advance against Daesh for more than three years. Israel previously provided assistance to the besieged Beit Jann pocket in western Damascus, transferring medicine, medical equipment, food and diapers. Israel also provided cash to Iyad Moro, a former rebel commander and Israel’s contact person in Beit Jann, for the purchase of weapons on the black market, according to a rebel whose faction was operating in the area. As the SAA intensified its assault on the besieged area, Israel permitted several dozen rebels from Daraa and Quneitra to cross through the occupied Golan to Beit Jann in Dec 2017. This crossing was reported in al-Akhbar and confirmed to me by four rebels in southern Syria. Following the surrender of the Beit Jann pocket, some of these fighters were evacuated to their homes in southern Syria through government territory while others left for Idlib. A third group, the largest, “reconciled” with the government and remained in their homes. Israel’s apparent involvement in the “reconciliation” negotiations ensured that these fighters will now serve as a government-approved militia under Moro’s command, tasked with protecting Israel’s border. This agreement could possibly serve as a blueprint for future deals in southern Syria.

Dozens of locals in Daraa and Quneitra have told me that Israel also increased the flow of humanitarian aid into southern Syria in recent months, sending construction materials and supplies for schools and hospitals and allowing non-Israeli volunteer doctors and nurses to enter Syria under the protection of an allied rebel group. This work was facilitated in part by the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, a Pindo NGO that funnels aid into Syria from international charities. Some of these locals even sent me photos of items they received. The aid from Israel, which was once concealed or provided through the UN and other agencies, began appearing in the original packaging in Hebrew in 2016. Last year, Israel publicized for the first time the extent of the aid it has transferred into Syria, amounting to over 360 tons of food, 90 tons of clothes, and other much-needed items such as generators. Israel also began admitting women and children for day treatments in Israeli hospitals and continues to admit injured and sick Syrians, while Jordan largely sealed off its border. During the Feb 2017 rebel offensive on the Manshiye neighborhood in Daraa, Jordan did not allow injured rebels to enter for treatment, apparently in order to deter unwanted rebel offensives. Israel accepted them in large numbers, according to rebels and activists. After initial opposition, Israeli aid is being warily accepted by a desperate population that feels abandoned by everyone else. Thousands of Syrians, particularly those residing in camps for the displaced along the border fence, are able to survive thanks to this aid. Syrians who return from medical treatment in Israel tell their friends and relatives about the high quality of the care received. Nevertheless, mistrust toward Israel lingers. In November, following the failure of a rebel offensive against the village of Hader, rumors spread that the reason the offensive failed was IOF shelling. Israel’s decisions to cooperate with certain commanders but not others have created tensions in Quneitra and Daraa. These tensions erupted into violent clashes several times, most recently in Nov 2017, when an opposition-affiliated group attempted to rob an Israeli aid shipment, prompting an IAF strike against themselves. Israel proclaimed time and time again that it was staying out of the war in Syria, admitting only to treating Syrians in Israeli hospitals, and later to providing humanitarian assistance to villages across the border. Over time, Israel has become more deeply entangled across the border. Israeli humanitarian assistance and military support have created a sense of hope among some rebels and civilians in southern Syria that Israel will support their struggle against the government and protect them from SAA attacks. Reports from pro-regime outlets about Israel’s intention to establish a “safe zone” have added to this perception. A member of Fursan al-Jolan asked me in December:

What about the safe zones?

When I replied that there did not appear to be any plan for such, he said:

But our relationship with Israel is good, and we prevented the arrival of Hizbollah and Iran!

The IOF views the rebel groups with distrust and even disdain. Despite what they may wish, Israel will not attempt to overthrow the Assad regime, as Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf states have previously tried to do. Israel aims to secure its border, at least until another way emerges to keep Hezbollah away from the Golan Heights. The Assad regime itself is not perceived as a threat, only its reliance on Iran. The current debate among leadership is whether the restoration of government control of southern Syria would serve Israeli interests. Some believe it would remove Daesh and Hezbollah from the border. Israel’s previous regional strategy relied on Pindo involvement, but when the priorities of the Obama administration shifted and the Trump administration largely disengaged from the region, Israel found itself facing Hezbollah on the border. Attempts to convince Russia to protect Israel’s interests have produced only partial results. Israel gained freedom to operate against Hizbollah targets in Syria, but Moscow is unable or unwilling to keep Iranian proxies far enough from the border fence or to prevent the construction of Iranian bases in Syria. Barring invasion of Syria and direct intervention in the war, Israel’s ability to shape reality in Syria is limited, yet the perceived threats are significant. All realistic Israeli options entail operating in an environment dominated by Russia, which has shown only limited desire to challenge Iran. As Jerusalem continues to search for a permanent solution that will prevent Iran’s presence near the Golan, its allies are beset by factionalism and corruption and their goals ultimately differ from its own. The current balance of power will likely result in the government regaining control of southern Syria. It remains to be seen whether Israel will manage to secure a deal that prevents Iranian proxies from entering the border region, or whether it acquiesces to their presence. What is clear is that relationships with the rebels and increased humanitarian assistance to civilians have created expectations among residents of southern Syria that Israel is unlikely to meet.

Elizabeth Tsurkov is a Research Fellow at The Forum for Regional Thinking, with a Bachelor’s degree from Chicago and a Master’s from Tel Aviv, on Twitter as @elizrael.