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On Sunday, Former CIA Director John Brennan and Former National Intelligence Director (NID) James Clapper appeared on CNN’s morning talk show, State of the Union, to discuss Donald Trump’s brief meeting with Vladimir Putin in Vietnam. The two ex-Intel chiefs were sharply critical of Trump and wondered why the president did not “not acknowledge and embrace” the idea that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections. According to Brennan, Russia not only “poses a national security problem” for the US, but also “Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy, and our whole process.”

Naturally, CNN anchor, Jake Tapper, never challenged Brennan or Clapper on any of the many claims they made regarding Russia nor did he interrupt either man while they made, what appeared to be, carefully scripted remarks about Trump, Putin and the ongoing investigation.

There were no surprise announcements during the interview and neither Brennan or Clapper added anything new to the list of allegations that have been repeated ad nauseam in the media for the last year. The only time Tapper veered off course at all was when he asked Brennan whether he thought “any laws were broken by the Trump campaign? Here’s what Brennan said:

I’m just a former intelligence officer. I never had the responsibility for determining whether or not criminal actions were taken. But, since leaving office on the 20th of January, I think more and more of this iceberg is emerging above the surface of the water, some of the things that I knew about, but some of the things I didn’t know about, in terms of some of the social media efforts that Russia employed. So, I think what Bob Mueller, who, again, is another quintessential public servant, is doing is trying to get to the bottom of this. And I think we’re going to find out how large this iceberg really is.

In other words, after an arduous 12 month-long investigation involving both Houses of Congress, a Special Counsel, and a small army of high-paid Washington attorneys, the only straw Brennan has found to hold on to, is a few innocuous advertisements posted on Facebook and Twitter that had no noticeable impact on the election at all. That’s a very weak foundation upon which to build a case for foreign espionage or presidential collusion. It’s hard not to conclude that the public has been seriously misled by the leaders of this campaign.

The Intel bosses continue to believe that they can overcome the lack of evidence by repeating the same claims over and over again. The problem with this theory is that Brennan’s claims don’t match the findings of his own “Gold Standard” report, the so called Intelligence Community Assessment or ICA which was published on January 6, 2017 and which supposedly provides rock solid evidence of Russian meddling. The greatly over-hyped ICA proves nothing of the kind, in fact, the report features a sweeping disclaimer that cautions readers against drawing any rash conclusions from the analysts observations. Here’s the money-quote from the report:

Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.

So, while Brennan continues to insist that the Kremlin was involved in the elections, his own analysts suggest that any such judgments should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Nothing is certain, information is “incomplete or fragmentary”, and the entire report is based on what-amounts-to ‘educated guesswork.’ Is Brennan confused about the report’s findings or is he deliberately trying to mislead the American people about its conclusions?

Here’s Brennan again on Sunday:

I think Mr. Trump knows that the intelligence agencies, specifically CIA, NSA and FBI, the ones that really have responsibility for counterintelligence and looking at what Russia does, it’s very clear that the Russians interfered in the election. And it’s still puzzling as to why Mr. Trump does not acknowledge that and embrace it, and also push back hard against Mr. Putin. The Russian threat to our democracy and our democratic foundations is real.

There appears to be a significant discrepancy between Brennan’s unshakable belief in Russian intervention and the findings of his own “hand picked” analysts who said with emphatic clarity:

Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.

Why is it so hard for Brennan to wrap his mind around that simple, unambiguous statement?

The reason Brennan’s intelligence analysts admit that they have no proof, is because they have no proof. That might sound obvious, but we have to assume that it isn’t given that both Houses of Congress and a Special Counsel are still bogged down in an investigation that has yet to provide even a solid lead let alone any compelling evidence.

We also have to assume that most people do not understand that there is not sufficient evidence to justify the massive investigations that are currently underway. (What probable cause?) Adds placed in Facebook do not constitute hard evidence of foreign espionage or election rigging. They indicate the desperation of the people who are leading the investigation. The fact that serious people are even talking about social media just underscores the fact that the search for proof has produced nothing.

These investigations are taking place because powerful elites want to vilify an emerging geopolitical rival (Russia) and prevent Trump from normalizing relations with Moscow, not because there is any evidence of criminal wrongdoing. As the Intel analysts themselves acknowledge, there is no proof of criminal wrongdoing or any other wrongdoing for that matter. What there is, is a political agenda to discredit Trump and demonize Russia. That’s the fuel that is driving the present campaign.

Russia-gate is not about ‘meddling’, it’s about politics. And Brennan and Clapper are critical players in the current drama. They’re supposed to be the elder statesmen who selflessly defend the country from foreign threats. But are they or is this just role-playing that doesn’t square with what we already know about the two men? Here’s thumbnail sketch of Clapper written by former-CIA officer Ray McGovern that will help to clarify the point:

Clapper played a key role in the bogus Iraq-WMD intelligence when he was head of the National Geo-spatial Agency and hid the fact that there was zero evidence in satellite imagery of any weapons of mass destruction before the Iraq invasion. When no WMDs were found, Clapper told the media that he thought they were shipped off to Syria.

In 2013, Clapper perjured himself before Congress by denying NSA’s unconstitutional blanket surveillance of Americans. After evidence emerged revealing the falsity of Clapper’s testimony, he wrote a letter to Congress admitting, “My response was clearly erroneous – for which I apologize.” ….

Clapper also has demonstrated an ugly bias about Russians. On May 28, as a former DNI, Clapper explained Russian “interference” in the U.S. election to NBC’s Chuck Todd on May 28 with a tutorial on what everyone should know about “the historical practices of the Russians.” Clapper said, “the Russians, typically, are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique.” (“Mocking Trump Doesn’t Prove Russia’s Guilt”, Ray McGovern, Consortium News)

(Republished by permission of author or representative)
 
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For nearly a year, Hillary Clinton failed to admit that her campaign and the Democratic National Committee had provided funding for the notorious dossier that alleged Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election. Then, two weeks ago, the Washington Post published a blockbuster article that proved that Clinton had been misleading the public about her Campaign’s role in producing the report. Here’s a snippet from the article in the Post:

“The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.”

Following the article’s publication, Clinton went into hiding for more than a week during which time she huddled with her political advisors to settle on a strategy for dealing with the crisis. On Wednesday, she resurfaced on the Daily Show where she was treated with kid gloves; no hardball questions were asked and she was given plenty of time to recite her prepared remarks without challenge. Naturally, she downplayed her role in contributing to the year-long “hacking-collusion” investigation that has tied up both Houses of Congress, implicated the nation’s main law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and deepened divisions between Washington and Moscow. Here’s part of what Hillary said in the interview:

“When Trump got the nomination of the Republican Party, the people ‘doing it’ (gathering raw intelligence for the dossier) came to my campaign lawyer, and said, would you like us to continue it. He said ‘Yes’. He is an experienced lawyer and knows what the law is. He knows what opposition research is. It’s part of what happens in a campaign where you get information that may or may not be useful and you try make sure anything you put out in public arena is accurate. So this thing didn’t come out until after the election and its’ still being evaluated.”

Clinton wasn’t asked why her campaign tried to obfuscate their role in financing the dossier or whether she felt any remorse for the way the Russia hacking allegations had ballooned into 4 major investigations on Capitol Hill. She wasn’t even asked to comment on the motives of the people who continued to fund the dossier after the DNC terminated their contract in November 2016. Wasn’t she suspicious that these new financiers might have more nefarious objectives in mind, after all, who continues a smear campaign after the election is over, unless, of course, they intend to inflict even more damage on the two main targets, Trump and Russia? Wouldn’t Hillary have figured that out?

Technically speaking, Clinton was right, it was opposition research, which in political parlance means ‘digging up dirt on one’s opponent.” And, yes, it is perfectly legal. But the Trump dossier was much more than that. It was presented as the work of intelligence professionals who were unattached to any political organization. Had the public known that the dossier was financed by the Clinton campaign, they would have known that it was a “malicious and defamatory” hit-piece aimed at improving Clinton’s chances of winning the election.

And when Hillary opines that the dossier was not released before the election, it is certainly not from lack of trying. Her colleagues made every effort to shop the piece to their friends in the media before the balloting, but all of them backed away. The report was simply too lurid and far-fetched to be believed. (In October, just weeks before the election, former M16 agent, Christopher Steele, who authored the dossier, met with reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Yahoo News.)

The Democrat leaders have not won any friends in the media by concealing their support for the dossier. According to an article at The Hill:

“The New York Times senior White House correspondent Maggie Haberman and reporter Kenneth Vogel are slamming Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), saying they lied about funding for the so-called Trump dossier….

“Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year,” Haberman tweeted to her more than 650,000 followers on Tuesday….

(NYT journalist Kenneth Vogel offered this comment on Twitter) “When I tried to report this story, Clinton campaign lawyer @marceelias pushed back vigorously, saying ‘You (or your sources) are wrong,’ ” Vogel tweeted, referring to Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias. (“New York Times reporters blast Dems over Trump dossier funding claims”, The Hill)

Clearly, Clinton did not want the American people to know the real origins of the dossier for fear that they would dismiss its findings as politically-motivated and unreliable. So they lied, and by lying, they helped to fuel the anti-Russia hysteria that’s swept across the country sabotaging any chance for rapprochement between the two nuclear-armed superpowers.

But, why? Why would Hillary persist with the “hacking-collusion” meme after she had already lost the election and had nothing to gain by smearing Trump?

That’s not a question that can be easily answered, but I suspect it has less to do with Hillary’s presidential ambitions than it does with the way her campaign found common cause with powerful members of the intelligence community who wanted to use the hacking narrative to pursue their own geopolitical strategy of isolating, punishing and demonizing Russia. “Russian meddling” became the perfect rallying cry for the CIA’s broader information operation (IO) that was designed to poison public opinion against “Russian aggression” and to reign in Trump’s plans to normalize relations with Moscow. The fact that the CIA had essentially extracted a credible narrative from sections of the notorious dossier, left Hillary with no other option except to play-along even after the votes had been counted. As a result, Clinton became the “fall guy” in a darker, deep-state propaganda campaign for which she is only partially responsible. Here’s a little background from Joe Lauria’s “must read” article “The Democratic Money Behind Russia-gate”:

“…the Steele dossier was shared with the FBI at some point in the summer of 2016 and apparently became the basis for the FBI to seek Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against members of Trump’s campaign. More alarmingly, it may have formed the basis for much of the Jan. 6 intelligence “assessment” by those “hand-picked” analysts from three U.S. intelligence agencies – the CIA, the FBI and the NSA – not all 17 agencies that Hillary Clinton continues to insist were involved….

If in fact the Steele memos were a primary basis for the Russia collusion allegations against Trump, then there may be no credible evidence at all.” (Consortium News)

So, were “the Steele memos the primary basis for the Russia collusion allegations against Trump”? This is the pivotal question that still remains largely unanswered. As Lauria notes, the FBI did in fact use the “salacious and unverified” dossier to obtain at least one FISA warrant. This is from The Hill:

“The FBI used the dossier alleging Russian ties to President Trump’s campaign associates to help convince a judge to grant a warrant to secretly monitor former campaign aide Carter Page, CNN reports.

(Republished by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: CIA, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Russia 
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Did the United States warn Russia to stay out of Syria?

Yes, they did.

Did they tell the Russians that if they joined the war against ISIS and helped Bashar al Assad the US would make them pay a heavy price?

Yes.

Did US agents and diplomats warn their Russian counterparts that Russian troops would “come home in body bags” and that the western media would launch a propaganda campaign against them?

Yes, again.

Did US officials say the western media would concoct a phony story about “Russian hacking” that would be used to persuade the American people that Russia was a dangerous enemy that had to be reined in with harsh economic sanctions, provocative military maneuvers, and threats of violence?

No, but it’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which the CIA would pursue such a strategy. After all, the Intel agencies, the media and the entire political establishment have been hammering on Russia for over two years now. Isn’t it possible that elements of these three factions decided to pool their resources in order to poison the public’s perception of Russia? Hasn’t the US government dabbled in these type of psychological operations (PSYOPS) many time before?

Of course, they have. And in prior incidents, the facts were fixed to fit the policy just as they have been in this case. For example, the Bush administration had already decided to topple Saddam long-before they cooked up their fake stories about mobile weapons labs, Niger uranium, aluminum tubes and “Curveball”. Doesn’t the same rule apply here? Haven’t the “facts” about collusion, Pokémon Go and Facebook all been concocted after-the-fact to support the original thesis, that Russia meddled in the election?

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. What we know is that high-ranking members of the US State Department and Pentagon threatened Moscow prior to Russia’s military intervention in October, 2015. US diplomats made it clear that if Russia helped the Syrian government, Washington would use the media and its other assets to retaliate. According to Russia’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Maria Zakharova:

We were asked to pass on to you the most serious warnings that Russia will be hurt by its actions.. We will make sure that Russia really knows what pain is……Keep in mind that everything you do will be manipulated by the media which will cancel out the real (positive) effects of your work. ..You are going to fight terrorists, but you will be made to look like the bad guy.

These threats were delivered to us many times in 2015 as part of the discussions with the Russia’s Representative of Foreign Affairs and his international counterparts. (During Kerry-Lavrov meetings)

We’re talking about the world’s elite who told us these things.

When we told them exactly what targets we planned to strike, they launched a disinformation media campaign against us. Officials from the White House and State Department directly threatened to hurt us. They promised that we’d “come home in body bags” not only diplomatic representatives but also the Secretary of Defense…..The US showed us that the strongest military has unlimited rights to create evil in the world.”

(See the whole interview on YouTube.

Zakharova’s admission is interesting for many reasons. First, it confirms that the US did not want to see the jihadist extremists defeated by Russia. These mainly-Sunni militias served as Washington’s proxy-army conducting an ambitious regime change operation which coincided with US strategic ambitions.

Second, Zakharova confirms that the western media is not an independent news gathering organization, but a propaganda organ for the foreign policy establishment who dictates what they can and can’t say. When Zakharova says, “everything you do will be manipulated by the media”, she is tacitly acknowledging that the MSM works in concert with the US government shaping a message that best achieves US imperial objectives. In this case, the obvious goal is the removal of Bashar al Assad and the partitioning of the state consistent with US plans to redraw the map of the Middle East. Russian intervention derailed that plan which is why Russia is despised.

Third, Zakharova’s comments suggest a motive for the Russia hacking campaign. Russia has become an insurmountable obstacle to Washington’s plans for global hegemony. It has blocked US progress in Ukraine and rolled backed US proxy-forces in Syria. Additionally, Russia has united the countries in Central Asia (EEU) and threatens to economically integrate Europe and Asia into the world’s biggest free trade zone spanning from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Here’s a quote from Putin that explains what’s going on:

“Russia is an inalienable and organic part of Greater Europe and European civilization. Our citizens think of themselves as Europeans…That’s why Russia proposes moving towards the creation of a common economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, a community referred to by Russian experts as ‘the Union of Europe’ which will strengthen Russia’s potential in its economic pivot toward the ‘new Asia.’”

Putin’s dream of Greater Europe is the death knell for the unipolar world order. It means the economic center of the world will shift to Central Asia where abundant resources and cheap labor of the east will be linked to the technological advances and the Capital the of the west eliminating the need to trade in dollars or recycle profits into US debt. The US economy will slip into irreversible decline, and the global hegemon will steadily lose its grip on power. That’s why it is imperative for the US prevail in Ukraine– a critical landbridge connecting the two continents– and to topple Assad in Syria in order to control vital resources and pipeline corridors. Washington must be in a position where it can continue to force its trading partners to denominate their resources in dollars and recycle the proceeds into US Treasuries if it is to maintain its global primacy. The main problem is that Russia is blocking Uncle Sam’s path to success which is roiling the political establishment in Washington.

The US wants to retaliate for the defeat of its proxy army in Syria but it’s not prepared for a military clash. Not yet, at least. And, keep in mind, Washington’s Sunni proxies were not a division of the Pentagon; they were entirely a CIA confection: CIA recruited, CIA-armed, CIA-funded and CIA-trained. The defeat is not a loss for the US Military, but a blot on the record of CIA Director John Brennan, the architect and main proponent of the failed project to remove Assad. Brennan’s whole scheme has gone down in flames.

Why is that important?

Because it suggests that Brennan had a strong motive to strike back at Moscow. He had “a dog in the fight”, and his dog lost. And since he couldn’t win on the battlefield, his only choice was to launch an asymmetrical attack via the media. Isn’t this where the Russia hacking idea originated?

If it did, then there should be footprints that lead back to Brennan himself, the primary source of the psyops. Check out this excerpt from The Washington Times:

What caused the Barack Obama administration to begin investigating the Donald Trump campaign last summer has come into clearer focus following a string of congressional hearings on Russian interference in the presidential election.

(Republished by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, Russia, Syria 
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The Senate Intelligence Committee has made it clear that it is not conducting an open and independent investigation of alleged Russian hacking, but making a determined effort to support a theory that was presented in the January 6, 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment. Committee Chairman Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) admitted as much in a press conference last Wednesday when he said:

We feel very confident that the ICA’s accuracy is going to be supported by our committee.

Burr’s statement is an example of “confirmation bias” which is the tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms one’s own preexisting beliefs. In this case, Burr and his co-chair, Senator Mark Warner have already accepted the findings of a hastily slapped-together Intelligence report that was the work of “hand-picked” analysts who were likely chosen to produce conclusions that jibed with a particular political agenda. In other words, the intelligence was fixed to fit the policy. Burr of course has tried to conceal his prejudice by pointing to the number of witnesses the Committee has interviewed and the volume of work that’s been produced. This is from an article at The Nation:

Since January 23,… the committee and its staff have conducted more than 100 interviews, comprising 250 hours of testimony and resulting in 4,000 pages of transcripts, and reviewed more than 100,000 documents relevant to Russiagate. The staff, said Warner, has collectively spent a total of 57 hours per day, seven days a week, since the committee opened its inquiry, going through documents and transcripts, interviewing witnesses, and analyzing both classified and unclassified material.

It all sounds very impressive, but if the goal is merely to lend credibility to unverified assumptions, then what’s the point?

Let’s take a look at a few excerpts from the report and see whether Burr and Warner are justified in “feeling confident” in the ICA’s accuracy.

From the Intelligence Community Assessment:

We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.

This is the basic claim of Russia meddling that has yet to be proved. As you can see, the charge is mixed with liberal doses of mind-reading mumbo-jumbo that reveal the authors’ lack of objectivity. There’s a considerable amount of speculation about Putin’s motives and preferences which are based on pure conjecture. It’s a bit shocking that professional analysts– who are charged with providing our leaders with rock-solid intelligence related to matters of national security– would indulge in this type of opinionated blather and psycho-babble. It’s also shocking that Burr and Warner think this gibberish should be taken seriously.

Here’s more from the ICA:

Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.

More mind-reading, more groundless speculation, more guessing what Putin thinks or doesn’t think. The ICA reads more like the text from a morning talk show than an Intelligence report. And what is it about this report that Burr finds so persuasive? It’s beyond me. The report’s greatest strength seems to be that no one has ever read it. If they had, they’d realize that it’s nonsense. Also, it would have been better if the ICA’s authors had avoided the amateur psychoanalysis and stuck to the point, Russia hacking. Dabbling in the former seriously impacts the report’s credibility.

To their credit, however, Burr and Warner have questioned all of the analysts who contributed to the report. Check out this excerpt from The Nation:

“We have interviewed everybody who had a hand or a voice in the creation of the ICA,” said Burr. “We’ve spent nine times the amount of time that the IC [intelligence community] spent putting the ICA together.… We have reviewed all the supporting evidence that went into it and, in addition to that, the things that went on the cutting-room floor that they may not have found appropriate for the ICA, but we may have found relevant to our investigation.” Burr added that the committee’s review included “highly classified intelligence reporting,” and they’ve interviewed every official in the Obama administration who had anything to do with putting it together. (“Democrats and Republicans in Congress Agree: Russia Did It”, The Nation)

That’s great, but where’ the beef? How can the committee conduct “100 interviews, comprising 250 hours of testimony and resulting in 4,000 pages of transcripts” without producing a shred of evidence that Russia meddled in the elections? How is that possible? The Committee’s job is to prove its case not to merely pour over the minutia related to the investigation. No one really cares how many people testified or how much paperwork was involved. What people want is proof that Russia interfered with the elections or that members of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow. That’s the whole point of this exercise. And, on the collusion matter, at least we have something new to report. In a rare moment of candor, Burr blurted out this gem:

“There are concerns that we continue to pursue. Collusion? The committee continues to look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion. Now, I’m not going to even discuss any initial findings because we haven’t any.”

Think about that. After “100 interviews, 250 hours of testimony, and 4000 transcript pages” there’s not the slightest hint of collusion. It’s mindboggling. Why isn’t this front page news? Why haven’t the New York Times or Washington Post run this in their headlines, after all, they’ve hyped every other part of this story?

Could it be that Burr’s admission doesn’t mesh with the media’s “Russia did it” narrative so they decided to scrub the story altogether?

But it’s not just collusion we’re talking about here, there’s also the broader issue of Russia meddling. And what was striking about the press conference is that –after all the interviews, all the testimony, and all the stacks of transcripts– the Committee has come up with nothing; no eyewitness testimony supporting the original claims, no smoking gun, no proof of domestic espionage, no evidence of Russian complicity, nothing. One big goose egg.

So here’s a question for critical minded readers:

If the Senate Intelligence Committee has not found any proof that Russia hacked the 2016 elections, then why do senators’ Burr and Warner still believe the ICA is reliable? It doesn’t really make sense, does it? Don’t they require evidence to draw their conclusions? And doesn’t the burden of truth fall on the prosecution (or the investigators in this case)? Isn’t a man innocent until proven guilty or doesn’t that rule apply to Russia?

(Republished by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, Donald Trump, Russia 
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For more than six years, Syrians have made great sacrifices to defend their country in the face of a terrorist war of unprecedented brutality…. The Syrian people have stood their ground, against all odds, because they knew that this was a war that sought to eliminate their country, and with it, their own existence. They are an example to follow by any people who might face, now or in the future, similar attempts to break their will and deny them their freedom and sovereignty.

— Walid Al-Moualem, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister, Statement at the UN General Assembly

Washington has delayed its project to throw up an iron curtain along the eastern banks of the Euphrates River in order to deploy its Kurdish shock troops deep into Deir Ezzor province. The Syrian Defense Forces or SDF have been blitzing southward for nearly a week to head off the steady advance of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and their elite Tiger Forces. The SAA’s stunning triumph in Deir Ezzor has knocked Washington for a loop triggering all manner of erratic behavior including rocket and mortar attacks on SAA troop positions, a US-coordinated stealth attack in Idlib province, and numerous other provocations meant to divert attention from the main strategic objective, the lucrative Euphrates Valley oil fields.

At present, the SDF is in the best position to liberate the oil fields from ISIS’s control. One must ask, however, why the SDF has suddenly diverted its attention from the siege of Raqqa and hastily send its troops south to the oil fields if their intention was not to claim ownership of those fields and to prevent the regime’s forces from retaking them? That, in fact, is the only logical explanation for their behavior.

Clearly, the SDF is not acting on its own behalf, but merely following Washington’s orders putting itself at great risk (of direct aerial bombardment by the Russian Airforce) simply to placate Washington’s insatiable lust for oil. Here’s more from South Front:

“Tensions are rapidly growing between the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Syrian government forces in the province of Deir Ezzor, north of the provincial capital.

Last week, the SDF used the intense fighting between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and ISIS and seized Isba and Tabiyeh oil and gas fields located north of Khusham village on the east bank of the Euphrates.” (South Front)

The actions of the SDF confirm that the US-backed militia can no longer be seen as a Syrian ally assisting in the fight against ISIS. The SDF is yet another hostile, insurgent group that is implementing Washington’s imperial agenda. The only question is whether the Syrian Army and their allies will deal with the group as harshly as they have with ISIS. But, of course, the SAA has no choice in the matter since the SDF is trying to seize vital resources that are crucial to the Syria’s survival. In short, US-backed proxies and Russian-backed coalition members are going to clash militarily because Washington has eliminated any other option. Here’s more from South Front:

“On Monday, the (mainly Kurdish) SDF media wing directly accused the Russian Aerospace Forces of bombing its positions near the Conico gas factroy….The SDF Command released a statement accusing Russia of supporting ISIS against the SDF:

“The Russian and regime forces launched an attack on our fighters in Conico Factory… with cannons and warplanes. The bombardment resulted in martyring and wounding a number of the fighters. It is worth noting that we are advancing in coordination with the Global Coalition Forces…

We strongly condemn the Russian aggressive attacks and their allies that serve terrorism, and we assure that we would not stand idly by, and we would use our right in the lawful defense.” (South Front)

The so called “Global Coalition Forces” is a Washington invention that was never invited to fight in Syria and which violates Syria’s sovereignty. Also, the claim that the SDF will ‘lawfully defend’ itself against the forces of the sovereign government is not worthy of a comment. The SDF has no legal right to conduct military operations on Syrian territory.

Also, by its own admission, the SDF is trying to seize the Conico Gas Factory. And, on Monday, they continued their surge southward capturing Ibsah and Taibah oil fields and pushing further towards Jafra fields.

Does Washington think that Assad and Putin are too blind to see what’s going on?

Of course, not. Washington is focused on oil, and its proxies are doing its handiwork. It’s as plain as the nose on your face. But, there’s one glitch: If Washington wants Syria’s oil, it’s going to have to fight for it.

Updated battlemap showing U.S.-backed troops nose-to-nose with Russian-backed Coalition forces. Credit: Southfront
Updated battlemap showing U.S.-backed troops nose-to-nose with Russian-backed Coalition forces. Credit: Southfront

On Sunday, The Russian Ministry of Defense released aerial images showing that US Army special forces are either collaborating or have reached some kind of accommodation with ISIS units in the Deir Ezzor area. It’s an interesting story, but it is hard to draw any clear conclusions based on the photos. What is undeniable, however, is that the US-backed forces seem much more focused on oil than they are on ISIS. Not surprisingly, ISIS has taken full advantage of the situation by launching a lethal decapitation attack on the Russian high-command. This is from Moon of Alabama:

“Last night a Russian three-star general and two colonels were killed in a mortar attack while they visited a Syrian army headquarter in Deir Ezzor:

Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov, of the Russian armed forces, has been killed after coming under shelling from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants near Deir ez-Zor, the Russian Defense Ministry has announced. In its statement, the ministry said that Asapov was at a command outpost manned by Syrian troops, assisting commanders in the liberation of the city of Deir ez-Zor.

Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov is the highest-ranking Russian officer to be killed in the Syrian campaign. He was a commander of the 5th Army in Russia’s Eastern Military District.”

For three years ISIS had besieged Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor city and its airport. It had not once managed to successfully attack the Syrian headquarter or to kill high ranking officers. Now, as U.S. proxy forces “advised” by U.S. special forces, have taken position north of Deir Ezzor, “ISIS” suddenly has the intelligence data and precision mortar capabilities to kill a bunch of visiting Russian officers?

That is not plausible. No one in Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran or Moscow will believe that…” (“Syria – U.S. CentCom Declares War On Russia”, Moon of Alabama)

Moscow has already drawn its own conclusions about Washington’s role in the General’s death. There will be retaliation, that much is certain. More important, the mask of US involvement has been stripped away leaving the two adversaries standing face to face. Lines of communication remain open, but they’re useless when both parties are determined to capture the same scrap of land. Disputes like this, are typically settled on the battlefield which is where this one is headed.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Republished by permission of author or representative)
 
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The impending collapse of ISIS has touched off a race for territory in the oil-rich eastern part of Syria pitting US-backed forces against the Russian-led coalition of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. This is the nightmare scenario that everyone wanted to avoid. Washington and Moscow’s armies are now converging on the same area at the same time greatly increasing the probability of a conflagration between the two nuclear-armed superpowers. The only way a clash can be avoided is if one party backs down, which seems increasingly unlikely.

The situation can be easily explained. The vast swath of territory captured by ISIS is steadily shrinking due to the dogged perseverance of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) which has liberated most of the countryside west of the Euphrates River including the former ISIS stronghold at Deir Ezzor, a critical garrison at the center of the fighting. ISIS is also getting pressure from the north where the US-backed SDF is pounding their capital at Raqqa while deploying troops and tanks southward to the oil fields in Deir Ezzor province.

Washington has made it clear that it wants its proxy-army to control the area east of the Euphrates establishing a soft partition between east and west. The US also wants to control Deir Ezzor’s vast oil resources in order to provide a reliable revenue stream for the emergent Kurdish statelet.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad has said many times that he will never agree to the partitioning of the country. But the decision will not be made by Assad alone. His coalition partners in Moscow, Beirut and Tehran will also help shape the final settlement. As far as Putin is concerned, it seems extremely unlikely that he’d risk a protracted and bloody war with the United States simply to recapture every square inch of Syrian territory. The Russian president will probably allow the US to keep its bases in the northeast provided that critical areas are conceded to the regime. But where will the line be drawn, that’s the question?

Military Situation in Eastern Syria.  Credit: Al-Masdar News.
Military Situation in Eastern Syria. Credit: Al-Masdar News.

The US wants to control the area east of the Euphrates including the lucrative oil fields. This is why they deployed troops from the SDF southward even though they’re still needed in Raqqa. Earlier in the week, it looked like the Syrian Army had a leg up on the SDF as troops and armored vehicles crossed the Euphrates headed east to the oil fields. But reports that appeared late Thursday indicate that the SDF has beaten them to the punch. This is from South Front:

“On Thursday, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) …captured Tabiyeh and al-Isba oil fields in the northwestern Deir Ezzor countryside, according to pro-Kurdish sources. … If these reports are confirmed, the SDF will be in control over a half of Syria’s oil reserve. Moreover, that will mean that the SDF at least partly blocked the SAA way on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river.” (“Syrian Democratic Forces Capture Key Oil Fields In Deir Ezzor”, South Front)

This is a major setback for the Russian coalition. It means that the SAA backed by the Russian Airforce will have to fight a group which, up to this point, has been an ally in the war against ISIS. Now it’s clear that the mainly-Kurdish SDF is no ally, it’s an enemy that wants to steal Syria’s resources and carve a state out of its eastern flank.

The news about the SDF’s arrival at the oil fields came just hours after the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov issued a terse warning to the US and SDF that Russia would retaliate if SAA positions were attacked again by SDF mortar or rocket fire.

Quote: “Russia unequivocally told the commanders of US forces in Al Udeid Airbase (Qatar) that it will not tolerate any shelling from the areas where the SDF are stationed (…) Fire from positions in regions [controlled by the SDF] will be suppressed by all means necessary.”

In retrospect, it looks like the SDF had already decided to make a clean break with the government leaving no doubt of where they stood. Washington is using the SDF to seize the oil fields and to claim to the entire east side of the Euphrates for its own. There’s no doubt that these combat units of the SDF are accompanied by US Special Forces who are providing critical communications, logistic and tactical support. This operation has Washington’s fingerprints all over it.

On Friday morning, loyalist forces led by the 5th Assault Corps ISIS Hunters, established full control over Khusham village on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River near Deir Ezzor city. The strategically-located village blocks a key road linking the area held by the SDF to the Omar oil fields.

Get the picture? US-backed forces and Russian coalition members are now operating cheek-to-jowl in the same theatre trying to seize the same oil-rich scrap of land. This has all the makings of a major head-on collision.

Putin is a cautious and reasonable man, but he’s not going to hand over Syria’s oil fields without a fight. Besides, Assad needs the oil receipts to finance the rebuilding of his decimated country. Equally important, he needs the territory east of Deir Ezzor to for an overland route connecting Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad to Tehran, the so-called Arab Superhighway. Putin’s job is to glue as much of the country together as needed to create a viable state. So while he may allow the SDF and US military to occupy parts of the northeast, he’s not going to surrender crucial resources or strategically-located territory.

So what does it all mean? Does it mean that Russia will support Assad’s attempts to liberate the oil fields even if it could trigger a broader war with the United States?

Yes, that’s exactly what it means.

Putin doesn’t want a slugfest with Uncle Sam, but he’s not going to abandon an ally either. So there’s going to be a confrontation because neither party is willing to give up what they feel they need to achieve success.

So there you have it. As the standoff begins to take shape in east Syria, the two rival superpowers are preparing themselves for the worst. Clearly, we have reached the most dangerous moment in the six year-long war.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
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“I’m up against an array of very powerful forces, including the intelligence services and major newspapers … all of whom confirmed a major lie that was being used for political purposes and a lie that was repeated and repeated in order to undercut our new president.”

— Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, R-California

Does Dana Rohrabacher really think he’s tough enough to take on the combined power of the US Intelligence Community, the Washington political establishment and the mainstream media?

Good luck with that.

The California Congressman stepped into the limelight last week when he called White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to request a meeting with President Donald Trump. Rohrabacher, it seems, has some important information to pass along to the president, mainly that he has come across some hard evidence that the Russia hacking story is, to put it mildly, a crock.

Rohrabacher recently met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who assured the Congressman that Russia did not hack Democratic emails and give them to WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. Of course Assange has made the same claim many times before, the difference now is that he’s willing to provide solid evidence to back up his claim (according to the Wall Street Journal) “a computer drive or other data-storage device that Mr. Rohrabacher said would exonerate Russia.”

Naturally, the Intelligence honchos are not going to sit quietly and twiddle their thumbs while Rohrabacher blows holes in their fake narrative about Russia espionage and presidential collusion. Oh, no. They’re going to act preemptively and do whatever it takes to discredit Rohrabacher, even if it means making him out to be a Putin puppet or a Kremlin stooge. They’re going to attack Rohrabacher and his so called “proof” which they’ll try to tear apart with some ponderous, unsourced counter-narrative that appears on the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. These people are experts at twisting the truth into unrecognizable, pretzel-like shapes that convince their readership that up is down and black is white.

But Rohrabacher’s no fool. He knows it’s going to be an uphill slog. He even said so:

“I’m up against an array of very powerful forces, including the intelligence services and major newspapers … all of whom confirmed a major lie that was being used for political purposes and a lie that was repeated and repeated in order to undercut our new president….You’ve got people who are obviously just trying to cover their ass for mistakes they have made. They will probably do their best to keep Trump from knowing about this and knowing about his options to expose this.”

And he was right, too. Rohrabacher made his case to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly last week saying that he wanted to speak to the President and that he had evidence that proved Russia was not the source of WikiLeaks emails. Here’s what happened according to the Wall Street Journal:

“Mr. Kelly told the congressman that the proposal “was best directed to the intelligence community,” the official said. Mr. Kelly didn’t make the president aware of Mr. Rohrabacher’s message, and Mr. Trump doesn’t know the details of the proposed deal, the official said.” (Wall Street Journal)

Three things are wrong with this excerpt.

First, the contents of the Kelly-Rohrabacher conversation were immediately leaked to the media which suggests that either the White House is bugged or the Intel agencies have people working for them from inside. Which is it?

Second, “Kelly didn’t make the president aware of Mr. Rohrabacher’s message.”

Why? And what does that say about Kelly? His behavior suggests either willful negligence or divided loyalties. Which is it?

Third, “Kelly told the congressman that the proposal “was best directed to the intelligence community.”

Right. So Kelly wants Rohrabacher to take his proof to the people who concocted this wacky Russian farce to begin with. That’s a great idea. I’m sure the upstanding people at the CIA will be forever grateful to Rohrabacher for his patriotic contribution. What a joke. The congressman will be lucky if he can ever show his face in public again after these cannibals get through with him. Does he really know who he’s messing with? Like Chuckie Schumer said, “These people have a million ways to get to you.” And they will, too.

Naturally, the media is doing its level-best to bury the Rohrabacher story. The media’s strategy, so far, has been to divert attention from the central issue (proof that Russia did NOT hack the election) to the trivial prospect of a “deal” between Trump and Assange. Assange wants guarantees that the US will not prosecute him if he provides evidence that Russia did not hack the election. While this “deal” may be meaningful for Assange, it pales in comparison to the possible revelation that the “Russia hacking” narrative is a fraud perpetrated on the American people by elements of the permanent government who are employing a massive propaganda campaign to advance their political agenda. That, of course, is much more important. Not surprisingly, virtually 100 percent of the mainstream coverage has focused on the “deal” aspect of the story. Here are a few of the more than hundred headlines appearing at Google News:

“GOP Congressman Sought Trump Deal on WikiLeaks, Russia” Wall Street Journal

“Report: Congressman Chats With WH About Potential Assange Pardon” Daily Caller

“A GOP congressman reportedly offered Trump a deal on absolving WikiLeaks’ Assange” CNBC

“Republican lawmaker ‘sought a deal with Trump to pardon WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’” International Business Times

GOP rep proposed Assange pardon deal: report” The Hill

“Congressman tries to broker White House pardon for Julian Assange”, New York Daily News

“Lawmaker tried negotiating deal with Trump to help WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange”, Business Insider

Do you see the common thread here? The media is trying to divert attention from the real story until they get their bearings and figure out a way to dispose of Rohrabacher. As soon as they settle on an approach, they’ll be off to the races.

Rohrabacher should be applauded for trying to reveal the truth, but he’s probably bitten off more than he can chew.

I hope not.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
Wall Street Journal’s Solution to North Korea
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The editors at the Wall Street Journal have settled on a plan for ending the crisis in North Korea. Starve them to death.

I’m not kidding. In an article titled “Options for Removing Kim Jong In” the WSJ’s editorial board suggests that the US use “all of its tools to topple the North Korean regime” including, of course, vital food imports which keep women and children from facing an agonizing death by starvation. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“The North is especially vulnerable to pressure this year because a severe drought from April to June reduced the early grain harvest by 30%. If the main harvest is also affected, Pyongyang may need to import more food while sanctions restrict its ability to earn foreign currency….

While the regime survived a severe famine in the 1990s, today the political consequences of a failed harvest would be severe. …. The army was once the most desirable career path; now soldiers are underpaid and underfed. North Koreans will not simply accept starvation as they did two decades ago.

Withholding food aid to bring down a government would normally be unethical, but North Korea is an exceptional case. Past aid proved to be a mistake as it perpetuated one of the most evil regimes in history. The U.N. says some 40% of the population is undernourished, even as the Kims continue to spend huge sums on weapons. Ending the North Korean state as quickly as possible is the most humane course.”

(“Options for Removing Kim Jong In”, Wall Street Journal)

“Humane”? The WSJ editors think that depriving people of enough food to stay alive is humane?

And look how cheery they sound about the fact that “40% of the population is (already) undernourished”, as if they’re already halfway towards their goal. Hurrah for the US embargo, still inflicting misery on innocent people some 6 decades after the war!

It’s sick!

Who are these people who grow up in our midst, attend our schools and universities, live in the same neighborhoods , and go to the same churches? Where do these monsters come from?

I’m reminded of what Harold Pinter said in his Nobel acceptance speech:

“What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead?”

It’s sure as hell is dead at the WSJ, that’s for sure. Dead as a doornail.

And what is starvation supposed to achieve anyway? What’s the ultimate objective?

Why regime change, of course, isn’t that what it’s always about, installing a more compliant stooge to follow Washington’s diktats?

Of course it is. But how’s it supposed to work, after all, depriving people of food isn’t like giving them guns and training them to topple the regime, is it?

No, it’s not, in fact, there’s not even the remotest chance that the plan will work at all. None. But it will help to punish the Korean people for the behavior of their government. It will do that. And it will generate more suffering, unhappiness and misery. That much is certain.

Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot and North Korea had the power cut vital food supplies to people in the United States. Sure, it’s far fetched, but just think about it for a minute. How would you react? Would you gather your neighbors and friends together to concoct a plan to overthrow the government?

The idea is ridiculous, isn’t it? The editors at the WSJ know that. These are educated, intelligent men who understand how the world works and who know the impact of particular policies. They know that starvation isn’t going to lead to revolution. That’s just not going to happen.

Then why support a policy that won’t work?

Good question, but that’s where we have to veer into a very gray area of analysis, that is, trying to understand why some people are so morally malignant that they seem to enjoy inflicting pain on others. Why is that? Why are there so many cruel people in positions of power and authority?

It’s a mystery.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
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A new report by a retired IT executive at IBM, debunks the claim that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign by hacking Democratic computers and circulating damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The report, which is titled “The Non-Existent Foundation for Russian Hacking Charge“, provides a rigorous examination of the wobbly allegations upon which the hacking theory is based, as well as a point by point rejection of the primary claims which, in the final analysis, fail to pass the smell test. While the report is worth reading in full, our intention is to zero-in on the parts of the text that disprove the claims that Russia meddled in US elections or hacked the servers at the DNC.

Let’s start with the fact that there are at least two credible witnesses who claim to know who took the DNC emails and transferred them to WikiLeaks. We’re talking about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and WikiLeaks ally, Craig Murray. No one is in a better position to know who actually took the emails than Assange, and yet, Assange has repeatedly said that Russia was not the source. Check out this clip from the report:

Assange …. has been adamant all along that the Russian government was not a source; it was a non-state player. …

ASSANGE: Our source is not a state party

HANNITY (Conservative talk show host): Can you say to the American people unequivocally that you did not get this information about the DNC, John Podesta’s emails — can you tell the American people 1,000 percent you did not get it from Russia…

ASSANGE: Yes.

HANNITY: … or anybody associated with Russia?

ASSANGE: We — we can say and we have said repeatedly… over the last two months, that our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party…

(“The Non-Existent Foundation for Russian Hacking Charge”, Skip Folden)

Can you think of a more credible witness than Julian Assange? The man has devoted his entire adult life to exposing the truth about government despite the risks his actions pose to his own personal safety. In fact, he is currently holed up at the Ecuador embassy in London for defending the public’s right to know what their government is up to. Does anyone seriously think that a man like that would deliberately lie just to protect Russia’s reputation?

No, of course not, and the new report backs him up on this matter. It states: “No where in the Intelligence Community’s Assessment (ICA) was there any evidence of any connection between Russia and WikiLeaks.” The reason Assange keeps saying that Russia wasn’t involved is because Russia wasn’t involved. There’s nothing more to it than that.

As for the other eyewitness, Craig Murray, he has also flatly denied that Russia provided WikiLeaks with the DNC emails. Check out this except from an article at The Daily Mail:

(Murray) “flew to Washington, D.C. for emails….He claims he had a clandestine hand-off … near American University with one of the email sources. Murray said the leakers’ motivation was ‘disgust at the corruption of the Clinton Foundation and the ’tilting of the primary election playing field against Bernie Sanders’…

Murray says: ‘The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks’. ‘Regardless of whether the Russians hacked into the DNC, the documents Wikileaks published did not come from that,’ Murray insists.” ….

Murray said he was speaking out due to claims from intelligence officials that Wikileaks was given the documents by Russian hackers as part of an effort to help Donald Trump win the U.S. presidential election.

‘I don’t understand why the CIA would say the information came from Russian hackers when they must know that isn’t true,’ he said. ‘Regardless of whether the Russians hacked into the DNC, the documents Wikileaks published did not come from that.”

(EXCLUSIVE: Ex-British ambassador who is now a WikiLeaks operative claims Russia did NOT provide Clinton emails“, Daily Mail)

Is Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and human rights activist, a credible witness?

There’s one way to find out, isn’t there? The FBI should interview Murray so they can establish whether he’s telling the truth or not. And, naturally, one would assume that the FBI has already done that since the Russia hacking story has been splashed across the headlines for more than a year now.

But that’s not the case at all. The FBI has never questioned Assange or Murray, in fact, the FBI has never even tried to get in touch with either of them. Never. Not even a lousy phone call. It’s like they don’t exist.

Why? Why hasn’t the FBI contacted or questioned the only two witnesses in the case?

Could it be because Assange and Murray’s knowledge of the facts doesn’t coincide with the skewed political narrative the Intel agencies and their co-collaborators at the DNC what to propagate? Isn’t that what’s really going on? Isn’t Russia-gate really just a stick for beating Russia and Trump? How else would one explain this stubborn unwillingness of the FBI to investigate what one senator called “The crime of the century”?

Here’s something else from the report that’s worth mulling over:

“It is no secret that NSA has the technology to trace a web event, e.g., a cyber attack, back to its source. There has been no public claim, nor is it implied in either Grizzly Steppe or the ICA that the NSA has trace routing to Russia on any of these purported Russian hacks.” (“The Non-Existent Foundation for Russian Hacking Charge”, Skip Folden)

This is a crucial point, so let’s rephrase that in simple English. What the author is saying is that: If Russia hacked the DNC computers, the NSA would know about it. It’s that simple.

But no one at the NSA has ever verified the claims or produced one scintilla of evidence that connects Russia to the emails. In fact, the NSA has never even suggested that such evidence exists. Nor has anyone in the media asked Director Michael Rogers point blank whether the NSA has hard evidence that Russia hacked the DNC servers?

Why? Why this conspiracy of silence on a matter that is so fundamental to the case that the NSA and the other Intel agencies are trying to make?

The only logical explanation is that there’s no proof that Russia was actually involved. Why else would the NSA withhold evidence on a matter this serious? It makes no sense.

According to the media, Intelligence agents familiar with the matter have “high confidence’ that Russia was involved.

Okay, but where’s the proof? You can’t expect to build a case against a foreign government and a sitting president with just “high confidence”. You need facts, evidence, proof. Where’s the beef?

We already mentioned how the FBI never bothered to question the only eyewitnesses in the case. That’s odd enough, but what’s even stranger is the fact that the FBI never seized the DNC’s servers so they could conduct a forensic examination of them. What’s that all about? Here’s an excerpt from the report:

“The FBI, having asked multiple times at different levels, was refused access to the DNC server(s). It is not apparent that any law enforcement agency had access.

The apparent single source of information on the purported DNC intrusion(s) was from Crowdstrike.

3. Crowdstrike is a cyber security firm hired by the Democratic Party.

4. Not the FBI, CIA, nor NSA organizations analyzed the information from Crowdstrike. Only picked analysts of these agencies were chosen to see this data and write the ICA….”

( “The Non-Existent Foundation for Russian Hacking Charge)

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
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Donald Trump isn’t going to start a war with North Korea. That’s just not going to happen.

Not only does the United States not have the ground forces for such a massive operation but, more important, a war with the North would serve no strategic purpose at all. The US already has the arrangement it wants on the Peninsula. The South remains under US military occupation, the economic and banking systems have been successfully integrated into the US-dominated western system, and the strategically-located landmass in northeast Asia provides an essential platform for critical weapons systems that will be used to encircle and control fast-emerging rivals, China and Russia.

So what would a war accomplish?

Nothing. As far as Washington is concerned, the status quo is just dandy.

And, yes, I realize that many people think Trump is calling the shots and that he is an impulsive amateur who might do something erratic that would trigger a nuclear conflagration with the North. That could happen, but I think the possibility is extremely remote. As you might have noticed, Trump has effectively handed over foreign policy to his generals, and those generals are closely aligned to powerful members of the foreign policy establishment who are using Trump’s reputation as a loose cannon to great effect. For example, by ratchetting up the rhetoric, (“fire and fury”, “locked and loaded”, etc) Trump has managed to stifle some of the public opposition to the deployment of the THAAD missile system which features “powerful AN/TPY-2 radar, that can be used to spy on Chinese territory, and the interceptors are designed to protect US bases and troops in the event of nuclear war with China or Russia.”

THAAD is clearly not aimed at North Korea which is small potatoes as far as Washington is concerned. It’s an essential part of the military buildup the US is stealthily carrying out to implement its “pivot to Asia” strategy.

Trump’s belligerence has also prompted a response from the North which has accelerated it ballistic missile and nuclear weapons testing. The North’s reaction has stirred up traditional antagonisms which has helped to undermine the conciliatory efforts of liberal President Moon Jae-in. At the same time, the North’s behavior has strengthened far-right groups that –among other things– want to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in the South. By playing to the right wing and exacerbating hostilities between North and South, Trump has helped to fend off efforts to reunify the country while creating a justification for continued US military occupation. In other words.

The crisis has clearly tightened Washington’s grip on the peninsula while advancing the interests of America’s elite powerbrokers. I seriously doubt that Trump conjured up this plan by himself. This is the work of his deep state handlers who have figured out how to use his mercurial personality to their advantage.

A Word About North Korea’s Nukes

Leaders in North Korea don’t want to blow their money on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles when their people are on the brink of starvation. But what choice do they have? The primary responsibility of every government is to provide security for their people. That’s hard to do when the nation is still technically at war with a country that has toppled or tried to topple 50 sovereign governments in the last 70 years. The Korean War did not end with a treaty, it ended with an armistice which means the war is ongoing and could flare up at any time. And Washington won’t sign a treaty with the North because it despises their form of government, and is just waiting for the opportunity to force them from power. Trump is no different from most of his predecessors in this regard. He hates the leadership in Pyongyang and makes no bones about it.

Bottom line: The US refuses to provide the North with any written guarantees that it won’t resume hostilities, kill its people and blow their cities to smithereens. So, naturally, the North has taken steps to defend itself. And, yes, Kim Jong-in fully realizes that if he ever used his nukes in an act of aggression, the United States would –as Colin Powell breezily opined– “turn the North into a charcoal briquette.” But Kim is not going to use his nukes because he has no territorial ambitions nor does he have any driving desire to be subsumed into a fiery ball of ash. His nukes are merely bargaining chits for future negotiations with Washington. The only problem is that Trump doesn’t want to bargain because US geopolitical interests are better served by transforming a few pathetic missile tests into an Armageddon-type drama. No one knows how to exploit a crisis better than Washington.

Does Trump know anything about the history of the current crisis? Does he know that North Korea agreed to end its nuclear weapons program in 1994 if the US met its modest demands? Does he know that the US agreed to those terms but then failed to hold up its end of the bargain? Does he know that the North honored its commitments under the agreement but eventually got tired of being double-crossed by the US so they resumed their plutonium enrichment program? Does he know that that’s why the North has nuclear weapons today, because the United States broke its word and scotched the agreement?

That’s not conjecture. That’s history.

Here’s a clip from an article in the Independent that provides a brief outline of the so called Framework Agreement:

“Under the terms of the 1994 framework, North Korea agreed to freeze and ultimately dismantle its nuclear programme in exchange for “the full normalisation of political and economic relations with the United States”. This meant four things:

By 2003, a US-led consortium would build two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea to compensate for the loss of nuclear power.

Until then, the US would supply the north with 500,000 tons per year of heavy fuel.

The US would lift sanctions, remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, and – perhaps most importantly – normalise the political relationship, which is still subject to the terms of the 1953 Korean War armistice.

Finally, both sides would provide “formal assurances” against the threat or use of nuclear weapons.” (“Why America’s 1994 deal with North Korea failed – and what Trump can learn from it”, The Independent)

It was a totally straightforward agreement that met the requirements of both parties. The North got a few economic perks along with the security assurances they desperately wanted and, in return, the US got to monitor any and all nuclear sites, thus, preventing the development of weapons of mass destruction. Everyone got exactly what they wanted, right? There was only one glitch: The US started foot-dragging from Day 1. The lightwater reactors never got beyond the foundation stage and the heavy fuel deliveries got more and more infrequent. In contrast, the North Koreans stuck religiously to the letter of the agreement. They did everything that was expected of them and more. In fact, according to the same article, four years after the agreement went into effect:

“both the US and the international atomic energy agency were satisfied that there had been ‘no fundamental violation of any aspect of the framework agreement’ by North Korea. But on its own pledges, Washington failed to follow through.” (Independent)

There you have it: The North kept its word, but the US didn’t. It’s that simple.

This is an important point given the fact that the media typically mischaracterizes what actually took place and who should be held responsible. The onus does not fall on Pyongyang, it falls on Washington. Here’s more from the same article:

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
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