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Rumors Spread of a 2024 Presidential Run as Pompeo Paves Way for Future Wars

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/01/2021 - 5:21am in

Yesterday, at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Secretary of State and former CIA director Mike Pompeo claimed that “al-Qaida has a new home base: it is the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Offering little evidence, he warned the journalists and other figures present that, “We ignore this Iran-al-Qaida nexus at our own peril…We must confront it. Indeed, we must defeat it.” “Iran is the new Afghanistan” he added, referencing the illegal U.S. invasion and 20-year occupation that began under the Bush administration. Far from pushing back on his assertions, those present applauded Pompeo as he finished his remarks, which came amid a flurry of increasingly outlandish and aggressive policy steps he has taken in the last days of the Trump administration.

There are a number of problems with his assertions, not least that Iran is a Shia theocracy led by Ayatollah Khamenei, while al-Qaeda is a Sunni supremacist organization that regards Shi’ism as entirely heretical. Furthermore, Iran has been battling al-Qaeda and ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has openly supported what it calls “moderate rebels” in the region, despite the fact, as the Washington Post admitted, those “moderates” are difficult to distinguish from and intermingled with Jihadist forces like al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing al-Nusra. That Tehran was secretly sheltering and promoting its sworn enemy would be surprising, to say the least. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif immediately rejected the claims, stating that Pompeo was “pathetically ending his disastrous career with more warmongering lies. No one is fooled.”

Pompeo made the announcement just hours after meeting with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen. Early this morning, Israeli jets using U.S. intelligence bombed targets in eastern Syria, killing 57 people. According to American officials, Pompeo gave his blessing to the attack, claiming that the warplanes were striking warehouses filled with Iranian weapons. 

Earlier in the week, the Secretary of State also designated Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the government of Cuba as terrorists, moves that were immediately condemned by human rights groups. Refugees International wrote that, “it is difficult to imagine a more irresponsible decision,” as the announcement will stymie any moves toward peace. Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Policy Lead Scott Paul made a similar statement, predicting that Pompeo’s actions “will only compound the crisis for millions of Yemenis fighting for their survival.” 

 

On Monday, without a shred of irony, Pompeo condemned Cuba for its supposed, “malign interference in Venezuela and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.” The United States has supported multiple coup attempts in the past two years against the Venezuelan government, as well as backing a (since defeated) far-right military putsch in Bolivia. Last week, Pompeo reaffirmed the U.S.’ commitment to the leader of those Venezuelan coups, Juan Guaidó, recognizing him as the legitimate “Interim President” of the country, despite minimal domestic support. Post-Brexit, the European Union took the opposite decision, dropping their support for him after President Maduro’s United Socialist coalition won 253 of the 277 seats in the country’s National Assembly last month. Thus, both Guaidó and the Trump administration are increasingly isolated. 

Last Tuesday, Pompeo also made a point of receiving representatives of The Epoch Times, a far-right fake news outlet associated with the Chinese Falun Gong cult. During their visit to the State Department, the 57-year-old Kansan encouraged and spread wild theories of his own. “The Chinese Communist Party is here in America,” he claimed, insisting that the U.S. must also “protect itself from this Communist threat in China.”

 

While Pompeo will (presumably) be leaving office very soon, there are more than a few rumors that he already has his eyes set on a presidential run in 2024. Vanity Fair suggests that his actions, such as travelling to Georgia to support Republican candidates up for election, “look like a 2024 dry run.” Unlike many in his party, he has stayed decidedly loyal to Trump until the end, which will likely earn him credit with the president’s massive base of supporters and allow him to position himself as the continuity Trump candidate if he is barred from standing himself. 

If Pompeo does decide to throw his hat into the ring, he would likely have support from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he visited in November. Pompeo dined at an illegal West Bank settlement, and asserted that Israel has every right to the territory, a move that delighted many inside the country. 

As former head of the CIA, Pompeo is no stranger to exaggeration or spreading misinformation. “We lied, we cheated, we stole… we had entire training courses [on] it,” he infamously said at a talk at Texas Tech University in 2019. In his last days in office, he seems to have been putting his training to good use.

Feature photo | Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waits nearby before speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, Jan. 12, 2021. Andrew Harnik | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Rumors Spread of a 2024 Presidential Run as Pompeo Paves Way for Future Wars appeared first on MintPress News.

Trailer for HBO Series on Heaven’s Gate Suicide Cult

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 5:26am in

The ’90s were a decade marred by the mass deaths of cult members. There was the Order of the Solar Temple, the horrific immolation of the Branch Davidians in their conflict with the FBI and Heaven’s Gate. HBO Max started screening a documentary series about the latter on December 3rd last year. I found this trailer for it on YouTube. Although it’s just over 2 minutes long, it shows the cult’s main beliefs and the background to the tragedy.

The cult was led by a man and woman, here identified as ‘Do’ and ‘Ti’. They died wearing badges announcing that they were an ‘away team’, and believed that after they left their bodies, they would ascend to become aliens of a superior species and take their seats in a spacecraft in or following a visiting comment. Several of the men had been castrated. Their bodies were discovered covered in purple sheets.

The blurb for the series on its YouTube page gives a bit more information. It says

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a thorough examination of the infamous UFO cult through the eyes of its former members and loved ones. What started in 1975 with the disappearance of 20 people from a small town in Oregon ended in 1997 with the largest suicide on US soil and changed the face of modern new age religion forever. This four-part docuseries uses never-before-seen footage and first-person accounts to explore the infamous UFO cult that shocked the nation with their out-of-this-world beliefs.

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a Max Original produced by CNN and Campfire. Directed and executive produced by Clay Tweel (“Gleason”), the docuseries is also executive produced by Campfire CEO Ross Dinerstein (“The Innocent Man”) and Shannon Riggs, with Chris Bannon, Eric Spiegelman, Peter Clowney and Erik Diehn executive producing for the digital media company Stitcher (“Heaven’s Gate” podcast, “Sold in America” podcast).

Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults | Official Trailer | HBO Max – YouTube

The Fortean Times did a piece about the cult. As the TV series’ blurb says, the two cult leaders had been knocking around the UFO world for years. I can’t remember their real names, except that they had a couple of nicknames. Apart from ‘Do’ and ‘Ti’, they were also called ‘Him’ and ‘Her’. I think their message had started off claiming that they end was nigh, but that the Space Brothers were coming to help us. It’s a message shared by several UFO religions and Contactees. In the 1950s a Chicago psychic had claimed she had received similar messages telepathically from alien telling her that the world was going to end, but she was to assemble as many followers as she could. These would then be saved by the aliens, who would take them aboard their spacecraft. The psychic and her followers duly assembled on the date of the predicted arrival of the aliens, but the world didn’t end and the aliens didn’t show up. The group had, however, been joined by a group of sociologists from Chicago University, who were studying them. They were particularly interested in how the cult’s members continued to believe in its central message even after it had failed to come true. One of the sociologist’s published a book about it, entitled, When Prophecy Fails, which I think is now a classic of academic studies on UFOs and their believers. The psychic’s group differed from Heaven’s Gate in that none of them, I believe, committed suicide.

The aliens in which Heaven’s Gate believed were bald and asexual, and look very much like one of the stereotypes of UFO aliens taken from SF ‘B’ movies. The bald heads and large craniums show that the aliens are super-intelligent. It ultimately comes from a 19th century evolutionary theory, which held that as humanity evolved, the brain would expand at the expense of the body, and the sensual aspects of humanity would similarly wither. As a result, humans would become smaller, with larger heads and brains. The ultimate endpoint of this evolution are H.G. Wells’ Martians from The War of the Worlds. Astronomers at the time believed that Mars was an older world than Earth, and so Wells’ Martians are similarly far more advanced in their evolution than terrestrial humanity. They consist of large heads with tentacles. As their brains have expanded, their digestive systems have atrophied so that they feed by injecting themselves with blood.

It’s because their supposed aliens were asexual that some of the men in the group had travelled to Mexico to be castrated. It’s also been suggested that it may also have been because the group’s male leader was gay. If he was, and the group’s rejection of gender and sexuality stemmed from his failure to come to terms with his sexuality, then it’s a powerful argument for the acceptance of homosexuality. It’s far better for a gay person to be comfortable with their sexuality than to feel such shame and confusion that they mutilate themselves. This aspect of the Heaven’s Gate ideology also seems to me to be similar to the reason for some families referring their children for treatment as transgender. Opponents of the contemporary transgender movement have claimed that the majority of children referred to clinics like the Tavistock Clinic come from extremely homophobic backgrounds. They’ve argued that they’re seen as transgender by their parents, who have convinced the children of this, because it’s the only way the parents can cope with the child’s sexuality. They can’t accept that their son or daughter is gay, and prefer to believe that they have instead been born in the wrong body. Gay critics of the trans movement and their allies thus see the transitioning of such vulnerable children as a form of gay conversion therapy. That’s certainly how Iran views it. Homosexuality is illegal there, carrying the death penalty. However, gender reassignment surgery is paid for by the state. I got the impression that Iranians gays were offered the choice between death and having a sex change.

The cult’s description of themselves as an ‘Away Team’ was taken from the Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9 then on television. The ‘Away Team’ were what had been called in the Original Series the ‘landing party’ – the group that would beam down from the Enterprise to explore that episode’s planet. One of the cult’s members and victims was the brother of actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura in the Original Series and subsequent films.

Their belief that the world was about to be visited by an alien spaceship was the unfortunate consequence of a misidentification of a known star by a pair of German amateur astronomers. They had been out looking for a comet that was due to come close to Earth. They found it, but with it was an object they couldn’t find on their star maps. They therefore went on the web to inquire what it might be, and the myth developed that it was some kind of alien spacecraft many times bigger than Earth, which was following said comet. Of course, it was no such thing. It was a star that didn’t appear on the maps the pair were using because it was too dim to be visible to the naked eye. It was, however, bright enough for them to see it using binoculars. The Cult’s leaders took the appearance of this supposed alien spacecraft to be the spaceship they had long expected to take them all to a higher plane with tragic consequences. Although the world was shocked by this disaster and the cult’s apparently weird beliefs, folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand pointed out that their idea of being taken to heaven in a ship actually came from a strand of American Christianity. There have been a number of hymns written describing Christian believers going to heaven in just such a vessel.

The trailer for the series also says that the cult’s members were intelligent and came from good families. I don’t doubt this. I’ve heard that members of new religious movements are often of above average intelligence. Perhaps it’s because such people are more intellectually curious and less satisfied with conventional religion. However, it also seems, at least according to the Fortean Times article, that many of the cult’s members also had problems functioning independently. They apparently were always contacting somebody to help them solve ordinary, every day problems like how to peel an apple correctly. I wonder if they suffered from a psychological or neurological condition like autism, which left them unable to cope with ordinary life and so vulnerable to being dominated by a charismatic personality with a message that appeared to solve all their problems.

The series looks like a fascinating insight into one of the decade’s apocalyptic, extreme religions with its roots in the UFO milieu. However, the series will be over by now, and if it was on HBO Max, it’s doubtful that very many people will have seen it. But perhaps it’ll be repeated sometime on one of the more popular TV channels. And I hope that events and the landscape of religious and paranormal belief have changed in the meantime, so that there will never be another tragedy like it.

As US Sanctions a Starving Yemen, Iran Asks Interpol to Arrest Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 5:50am in

Outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced yesterday that the United States will be designating Yemen’s Houthi rebels a terrorist organization and increasing sanctions on the already beleaguered nation. 

“The Department of State will notify Congress of my intent to designate Ansarallah – sometimes referred to as the Houthis – as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” read an official statement. 

Pompeo acknowledged that “these designations will have an impact on the humanitarian situation” but implied it was a price worth paying in “advancing efforts to achieve a peaceful, sovereign, and united Yemen that is both free from Iranian interference and at peace with its neighbors.” In other words, he was signaling U.S. intent to quash the Houthi rebellion and win the Yemeni Civil War on behalf of Saudi-backed president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. 

The State Department’s decision was immediately condemned by humanitarian organizations. “The Trump administration’s decision to designate the Houthi movement in Yemen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization is both reckless and destructive,” wrote Refugees International. “Coming just days before Trump leaves office, the designation will complicate diplomatic efforts to end the war in Yemen and will disrupt relief efforts for the world’s worst humanitarian crisis…it is difficult to imagine a more irresponsible decision,” they added.

 

The United States has played an oversized role in the conflict, supplying weapons to the Saudi-led coalition. In 2017, the Trump administration announced that it had signed a deal to sell $350 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia alone. In addition to the weaponry, the U.S. has trained much of the Saudi armed forces, providing essential military infrastructure and logistical support, and even refueling Saudi bombers in the air and supplying targeting guidance on the ground.

The Saudi coalition (which includes other Middle Eastern monarchies such as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates) has targeted civilian buildings for years, with Oxfam calculating that 200 raids — equivalent to one every ten days for the duration of the war — have been carried out against medical and water infrastructure. 

Pompeo continued: “We have expressed our readiness to work with relevant officials at the United Nations, with international and non-governmental organizations, and other international donors to address these implications,” he wrote. Yet, in reality, the U.S. government spent the whole of last year pressuring international bodies like the United Nations to reduce their aid to Yemen in order to conduct a campaign to starve the Houthis into submission. As a result, international aid to the country fell to just 25 cents per person, per day, only about half of what it was in 2019. 

 

This is nowhere near enough. The country topped the list of the International Rescue Committee’s most pressing humanitarian crises of 2021. Around 80% of the population is in need of assistance, with 20.5 million people inside Yemen lacking access to clean water and sanitation. 

Among other reasons, Pompeo’s justification for the sanctions (although he had already been considering the idea for months) was the December 30 terrorist attack at Aden International Airport which left at least 27 people dead and dozens more injured. President Hadi and his new government had been returning from Saudi Arabia, where they had been sworn in, only to return to an airport resembling a war zone. Houthi spokespersons denied responsibility for the incident. They also condemned the State Department’s latest move. “The policy of the Trump administration and its behavior is terrorist,” movement leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said. “We reserve the right to respond to any designation issued by the Trump administration or any administration.”

 

While the Trump administration attempts to punish Yemen, Iran is also trying to appeal to international law to extradite American leaders. Last week, it put out a request to Interpol to arrest Trump and 47 other government officials for their role in the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani in January last year. Unlike the attack in Aden, there is no doubt about the identities of Soleimani’s killers, the Trump administration seemingly proud of its work in “taking out the world’s number one bad guy” as CNBC described him. Interpol immediately denied Iran’s request. 

Another controversial target of Washington’s ire is International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. In retaliation to the Gambian lawyer looking into U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, the Trump administration has levied sanctions against her. “The ICC is corrupt, politicized and incompetent. Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda abused her authority, engaged in corrupt acts for her personal benefit, and wasted millions with malicious prosecution of American personnel,” Pompeo tweeted on Saturday. 

While this response might seem an overreaction, the United States has an active law nicknamed “the Netherlands Invasion Act” which states that if the ICC ever tries to press charges against American officials, the U.S. will invade the Netherlands in retaliation. The legislation was passed by the Bush administration soon after the invasion of Afghanistan to protect himself and his associates from any international legal consequences. 

 

Back to the present, Pompeo concluded by stating that, “Progress in addressing Yemen’s instability can only be made when those responsible for obstructing peace are held accountable for their actions.” Presumably, he was not referring to his own efforts in prolonging and intensifying the conflict. 

Feature photo | A woman holds her malnourished boy at a feeding center at Al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post As US Sanctions a Starving Yemen, Iran Asks Interpol to Arrest Trump appeared first on MintPress News.

The Legacy of General Qassem Soleimani: A Woman’s Perspective

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/01/2021 - 4:57am in

In a recent interview with RT, Zeinab Soleimani, the daughter of late Iranian General, Qasem Soleiman said that “After killing my father, America thought that everything would be stopped because they killed General Soleimani, the power of the Middle East. But they are so wrong… They are so wrong in thinking this will be the end of General Soleimani, this is the beginning.”

After General Soleimani’s assassination, it was exceptional that a foreign media outlet would take into consideration the perspective of Soleimani’s female family members and supporters. Women are generally underrepresented in peace and conflict literature worldwide. However, the intentional ignorance of women’s voices in West Asia, both by Western observers and their male counterparts within the region, is even worse.

The arduous task of defining Soleimani’s character, mission, and strategies has taken up the interest of his foes and supporters alike. Americans call him “an agent of chaos,” or a man of the “shadows.” However, it was inevitable that they’d appreciate him as a “unique” figure, one who has no counterpart abroad in terms of his experience, capability, and absolute trust in his leader. As Michael Knights from The Washington Institute denotes, they don’t “have anyone like him in the U.S.”

Simultaneously, his vast stretch of influence and “unparalleled” military and intelligence power in the region was not an easy pill to swallow by those in the same anti-American camp. The Russians’ concern regarding the consequences of U.S. actions which “aggravate the situation in the region” or his “killing” to be “completely devoid of any legal basis” were instances of a maximum negative reaction by an ally who still refuses to call Iran a strategic partner, despite their rewarding collaboration.

The exceptional position of General Soleimani for Iranians, though, resides in a distinct realm of thought, contesting the normal military essentials or power constructs. This implies a “strong objectivity” that is taken here from the unheard voice of women whose husbands were serving in the Quds Force or were “martyred” as volunteers in the transnational battles of Syria and Iraq.

 

The “dividing line between vice and virtue”

The wives of Múdafeīn Haram, known colloquially as the Holy Shrine Defenders, a term recently coined to recognize the resistance fronts fighting in Syria and Iraq, identify Qasem Soleimani as the “definite dividing line between vice and virtue,” says Zahra, whose husband was serving with the Quds Force and was martyred in Syria in 2014.

“General Soleimani was a real strategist. Nevertheless, what makes us honored to serve him was not his indisputable military capability alone.” Having lost her spouse in 2015 in Iraq, Mina puts it thusly: “I sincerely aspire to sacrifice myself and my children, like their father, on Soleimani’s path of defending human dignity. He could not tolerate American-backed terrorists butchering innocent women and children in deadly conditions, forcing indignity upon them.”

Qassem Soleimani poster

A woman holds a poster of Soleimani, right, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, during a commemoration of their murder in Najaf, Jan. 2021. Anmar Khalil | AP

They’re recalling of the sweet memories of their relationships encouraged me to ask them about the legitimacy and necessity of their husbands to leave for combat on the frontlines of distant battlefields. One widower named Maryam swiftly replied that her husband was a volunteer when he fought in Syria, driven by his personal vision, and frequently confirming that by not deterring the terrorists abroad, it wouldn’t be long before Iran would have to fight them within its own borders. She argued that her husband, who lost his life in Syria as an experienced veteran and expert of geopolitics just one day before his birthday, was “determined to sacrifice for the elimination of ISIS, which was created by Americans, according to their own confessions, and backed by Israel in order to globalize Islamophobia, intimidation, and terror.”

“A big shock,” “an overwhelming sense of being crushed,” “startled, my back broken”: these are some of the interviewees’ remarks on getting the news of Soleimani’s assassination. Soon, though, they changed their tone, restoring their strength and confidence, referring to the “severe revenge” that Ayatollah Khamenei promised, which “awaits the criminals who have stained their hands with [General Soleimani’s] and the other martyrs’ blood.”

 

A legacy set in stone

The legacy of Soleimani within Iran is set in stone, and the Quds Force has prevailed in the region with an array of allies and volunteers from Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria. However, as Zahra suggests, Trump’s rash policies order and the Americans’ reckless act of war and terror will not remain unanswered. She recalls the American press assessing Soleimani’s assassination to be similar to a Class A crime, such as the killing of the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or the Director of the CIA. In her eyes, though, “even its assumption is rejected since for all people of rationality and freedom (or Ahrar, meaning those free from the constraints of wealth and power), be they Muslim or non-Muslim, ‘Qasem Soleimani’s shoe is worth more than Trump’s head,” she said, quoting the Secretary-General of Hezbollah.

Christian Hezbollah supporter

A Christian Hezbollah supporter holds a photo of Soleimani and others during a ceremony to mark his assassination in Beirut, Feb. 2020. Hassan Ammar | AP

“A new consciousness,” “a new discourse” has been created among our youth, Maryam To concluded, a suggestion which received the consensus of her other colleagues, “that no American soldier or facility in the region would be left safe and secure.” To “end U.S. presence in the region,” as Ayatollah Khamenei said, has become the subject of our children’s theses at universities, the subject of their art, and the objective of their activism. “This is not the end. This is the beginning” the interviewees stress.

Feature photo | A person hold a photo of slain Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani during a ceremony marking the anniversary of his assassination in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 16, 2020. Hassan Ammar | AP

Zohreh Kharazmi is an assistant professor in the American Studies Department at the University of Tehran.

The post The Legacy of General Qassem Soleimani: A Woman’s Perspective appeared first on MintPress News.

America Keeps Claiming Governments It Hates Are Paying Bounties On US Troops In Afghanistan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 31/12/2020 - 2:15pm in

We’re now getting mass media reports that yet another country the US government doesn’t like has been trying to kill American troops in Afghanistan, with the accusation this time being leveled at China. This brings the total number of governments against which this exact accusation has been made to three: China, Iran, and Russia.

“The U.S. has evidence that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] attempted to finance attacks on American servicemen by Afghan non-state actors by offering financial incentives or ‘bounties’,” reads a new “scoop” from Axios, quoting anonymous officials who refused to name their sources.

“The Trump administration is declassifying as-yet uncorroborated intelligence, recently briefed to President Trump, that indicates China offered to pay non-state actors in Afghanistan to attack American soldiers, two senior administration officials tell Axios,” the evidence-free report claims.

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The Axios report is already being circulated into public consciousness by mass media outlets like CNN. It is co-authored by Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, whose career lately has been focused on churning out extremely aggressive narrative management about China for a liberal audience, including a ridiculous hit piece on The Grayzone and its coverage of Xinjiang which failed to list a single piece of false or inaccurate reporting by that outlet. This eagerness to help manipulate public perception of America’s number one geopolitical rival has seen Allen-Ebrahimian rewarded with plenty of attention from “sources” who provide her with endless career-amplifying “scoops”.

A few months ago, it was Iran we were being told is trying to use proxies to kill US troops in Afghanistan.

“US intelligence agencies assessed that Iran offered bounties to Taliban fighters for targeting American and coalition troops in Afghanistan, identifying payments linked to at least six attacks carried out by the militant group just last year alone, including a suicide bombing at a US air base in December,” CNN reported in August without any evidence.

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Before that it was Russia this same accusation was being leveled at, with mainstream news media shamelessly regurgitating claims by anonymous intelligence operatives and then citing each other to falsely claim they’d “confirmed” one another’s reporting back in June. The story was sent so insanely viral by mass media narrative managers eager to pressure Trump on Russia during an election year that when the top US military commander in Afghanistan said in September that no solid evidence had turned up for this claim it was completely ignored, and to this day the liberal commentariat still babble about “Russian bounties” as though they’re an actual thing that happened.

Three imperialism-targeted nations, same exact accusation. Pretty soon they’ll be telling us that bounties are being paid on US troops in Afghanistan by China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Hezbollah, WikiLeaks, Jimmy Dore, and the entire staff of World Socialist Website.

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The “Bountygate” narrative was one of the most brazen psyops we’ve seen rammed straight from the US intelligence community into public consciousness with no lube in recent years, and it was so successful that they’re just spraying it all over the place to see if they can replicate its effects on other targeted governments.

It is not a coincidence that the information landscape is so confusing and bizarre right now. Our psyches are being hammered with more and more aggression by mass-scale psyops designed to manufacture support for increasing aggressions against the governments which have resisted absorption into the US-centralized empire, because as China rises and the US declines we’re moving toward a multipolar world.

A movement toward a multipolar world should not be a frightening prospect — it’s been the norm throughout the entirety of human civilization minus the last three decades — but after the fall of the Soviet Union the drivers of the US power alliance decided that US global hegemony must be preserved at all cost. Drastic measures will be undertaken to try and retain hegemony, and propaganda campaigns is being rolled out with increasing urgency to grease the wheels for those measures.

Meanwhile we’ve got nuclear-armed nations brandishing armageddon weapons at each other with increasing urgency and unpredictability because a few imperialists decided the entire planet should be governed from Washington DC. This, to put it gently, is an unsustainable situation.

_____________________

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The Saturn/Jupiter Conjunction and the Star of Bethlehem

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/12/2020 - 10:01pm in

One of the interesting pieces of astronomical news this past month was that of a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Conjunctions are when two planets appear next to each other in the sky. This conjunction was particularly interesting, not just because it’s a comparatively rare astronomical event, but also because a similar conjunction 2000 years ago may have been behind the appearance of the Star of Bethlehem. In the Bible, the wise men who came to honour Christ at His birth were led to Him by a star. One of the theories that people have devised to explain this is that it may have been another conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn, which occurred around 3 BC, which many scholars believe is the real date of Christ’s birth. The wise men, magi, were probably mobeds, Zoroastrian priests. Zoroastrianism is the ancient religion of Iran. It’s a dualist faith, holding that the universe was created by two gods, the good god Ahura Mazda or Ormuzd, and Ahriman, the evil god. However, they believe that at the End Time a saviour shall appear, the Saoshyant, who will overcome Ahriman and the forces of evil, Ormuzd will triumph, the Earth will be transformed and new age of eternal peace, justice and goodness will begin. The Zoroastrian priests were also astrologers, and in Babylonian astrology the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn represented the birth of a king. Hence it’s possible that the Persian priests, observing the celestial event, may well have gone westwards seeking the new king it heralded.

That’s one theory. There are others, but this story provided a bit of suitably seasonal material for the media. I don’t know which king’s birth has been announced by this latest conjunction. It certainly isn’t Joe Biden’s, and definitely not Trump, though I don’t doubt that the Orange Generalissimo would have claimed it was had it appeared four years earlier at the start of his term. But Trump is definitely on his way, assuming they can prise him our of the White House. Unfortunately, I see nothing in the stars or anywhere else that suggests we’re going to get a better set of politicians or government in this coming year. Rather the opposite. But still, we live in hope!

2020 Ends as It Began: With the Looming Threat of a US War With Iran

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/12/2020 - 4:30am in

Amid increasing hostility towards Tehran, the United States is building up its military presence on Iran’s borders. In the past three weeks alone, the U.S. has flown in a squadron of fighter jets and extra B-52 bombers while deploying the U.S.S. Nimitz aircraft carrier (with its strike group) and a large submarine to the Persian Gulf. This comes on top of the 2,500 troops it sent to Saudi Arabia earlier in the year, the first build-up of forces in the country in 17 years. The nuclear powered Nimitz is home to nine squadrons of fighting aircraft and has also long been rumored to carry nuclear weapons.

The military insists that all the new measures are purely “in the name of deterrence.” However, the few journalists who have paid attention to the news appear skeptical. “That’s provocation!” wrote Rania Khalek. “You’re sending this shit thousands of miles away from your border to try to provoke Iran and then playing the victim.”

The move comes in the midst of worsening hostilities between the United States and Iran. Last week, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad (a massive citadel in the center of the city, almost as large as the Vatican) was hit by a rocket strike that the Trump administration blames on Iranian-sponsored groups. On Wednesday, Trump gave “some friendly health advice” to Iran, tweeting that “If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.”

The U.S. also recently upped its already extensive sanctions on the Islamic Republic, with Trump’s Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, claiming that “Thanks to the success of our sanctions, Iran is looking to come back to the negotiating table to get relief,” even as he imposed new ones.

The sanctions have indeed caused serious hardship on Iran, sending the prices of consumer goods soaring and the value of its currency, the rial, in the opposite direction. Like in Venezuela, oil production has slowed, as Tehran can find few buyers for its principal national export. The price of food has also become a serious issue for many. “The sanctions deliberately target ordinary Iranians, women, and children,” Seyed Mohammad Marandi, Professor of English Literature at the University of Tehran told MintPress earlier this year. “They are designed to kill hospital patients and to create poverty. They have had partial success.”

Iran was one of the earliest hit countries by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the U.S. government used it as an opportunity to try to overthrow the government, hindering its attempts to import medical equipment and personal protective equipment, a move condemned by human rights groups. Hawkish media and senior politicians alike appeared to be relishing the prospect of an insurrection in Tehran. “With aging rulers and a weak health system, could the coronavirus lead to a regime change in Iran?” asked former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich. Eventually, the World Health Organization stepped in directly, donating large quantities of supplies — one reason why the Trump administration decided to leave the organization.

2020 started with the U.S. assassination of Iranian statesman Qassem Soleimani as he was in Iraq attending a peace conference at the invitation of Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Also present were representatives from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies with antagonistic relationships with Tehran. The move sparked uproar in Iraq, especially after Abdul-Mahdi revealed he had sought and received Trump’s blessing to invite Soleimani. The result was an enormous march of up to 2.5 million Iraqis parading through Baghdad insisting that the U.S. leave the country for good. Instead, the U.S. announced it was building three new military bases, all of them on the Iranian border.

Throughout 2020, the Trump administration has worked hard to build a united front against Iran amongst its client regimes in the region, with experts suggesting to MintPress that the Abraham Accords (the Israel-UAE-Bahrain agreement) were far more about war with Tehran than peace, as they were sold to the public. 2020 also ended with another high profile assassination; that of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a crime Iran suggested Israel or the United States must have committed.

The incoming Biden administration has signaled its intent to return to the nuclear deal that Trump and his team abandoned, with the 2020 Democratic National Platform categorically stating that,

Democrats will call off the Trump Administration’s race to war with Iran and prioritize nuclear diplomacy, de-escalation, and regional dialogue. Democrats believe the United States should not impose regime change on other countries and reject that as the goal of U.S. policy toward Iran.”

However, with the U.S. showing its ability to rapidly change political direction and break its own treaties, it is not clear whether Iran will see any American agreement as credible in the long term. Nevertheless, with the threat of a hot conflict increasing, any de-escalatory actions cannot come soon enough.

Feature photo | Guided-missile submarine USS Georgia, front, with the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal, transit the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, Dec. 21, 2020. Indra Beaufort | U.S. Navy via AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post 2020 Ends as It Began: With the Looming Threat of a US War With Iran appeared first on MintPress News.

Trump Enacts Sweeping New Sanctions on China, Iran, Venezuela. Biden Promises More To Come

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/12/2020 - 6:13am in

On its way out the door, the Trump administration is ramping up another round of aggressive, punishing sanctions against a host of countries. On Friday, the State Department announced new sanctions against Iran, the People’s Republic of China, and Venezuela. And today, it tightened the grip of the decades-long blockade on Cuba and increased sanctions on Nicaragua.

In the case of Iran, the measures were aimed at its oil industry and went so far as to sanction Vietnamese companies helping with the international supply of Iranian hydrocarbons. “Today, thanks to the success of our sanctions, Iran is looking to come back to the negotiating table to get relief,” Trump’s Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, asserted, adding (falsely) that the Iranian nuclear program remains focused on weaponry, not civilian usage.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also announced that 59 Chinese entities that were “undermining our national security and foreign policy interests” have been targeted. In the case of Venezuela, the action came as retaliation after it held an election the United States deemed to be fraudulent.

The Trump administration has ramped up the use of sanctions, issuing around 3,800 new ones, compared to 2,350 in President Obama’s second term. Sanctions are an act of war, and, when applied unilaterally, are often seen as illegal. The UN has formally denounced many of the U.S. sanctions, noting that they “disproportionately affect the poor and most vulnerable classes,” and not the leaders of foreign governments as is sometimes argued.

The effect on Iran has been to essentially tank its economy and cause untold hardship on its people. Oil production has sputtered. The Iranian rial has lost the majority of its worth. Food and consumer goods have become scarce and far more expensive, and international travel is now much harder. Throughout 2020, the U.S. has hindered the import of humanitarian aid and personal protective equipment, adding to the COVID-19 epidemic inside the country. The National Iranian American Council (no lovers of the current administration in Tehran) described U.S. actions as “heartless and sadistic.” Seyed Mohammad Marandi, Professor of English Literature at the University of Tehran agreed, telling MintPress in October that, “The sanctions deliberately target ordinary Iranians, women, and children…They are designed to kill hospital patients and to create poverty. They have had partial success.”

The effect on Venezuela has been if anything, more acute. An estimated 100,000 people have been killed by American sanctions (a fact barely reported in the West), as vital medical equipment and lifesaving drugs have been blocked from entering the country. Alfred de Zayas, an (American) UN Special Rapporteur visited Venezuela, comparing life there to living under a Medieval siege, and declaring the United States as guilty of “crimes against humanity.”

There appears little hope for a major change in tactics with the incoming administration. A Biden-linked Washington think-tank recently released a report calling for more “innovative” use of what it called “coercive economic statecraft,” (i.e. sanctions). The Center for a New American Security was founded by Michelle Flournoy, Biden’s original pick for Defense Secretary, and is full of Obama-era officials like Victoria Nuland. “The use of economic power, backed up by all of the available legal tools, plays to America’s strengths as the dominant global economic power and promises a continued stream of benefits,” they argue, concluding that, “Although there are inevitably going to be costs, and possibly increasing ones, associated with the use of coercive economic tools, the benefits are also going to increase over time.”

News agency Reuters also recently released a report based on conversations with people close to the 78-year-old former vice-president, noting that sanctions will “remain a central instrument of U.S. power” under his administration, suggesting that he will likely ramp up sanctions against Russia. Far from dropping the practice, Biden’s major challenge, according to those cited, will be “to sort out which sanctions to keep, which to undo and which to expand.” It appears it will continue to be full steam ahead for America’s sanctions regime in 2021.

Feature photo | A cervical cancer patient sits on her bed at the Luis Razetti hospital in Caracas, Venezuela, Sept 2, 2020. Ariana Cubillos | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Trump Enacts Sweeping New Sanctions on China, Iran, Venezuela. Biden Promises More To Come appeared first on MintPress News.

Corporate Media Shills For Assassination Of Iranian Scientist

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/12/2020 - 6:29am in

The Trump administration committed another act of war against Iran, and like every U.S. war in the modern era, it began with a lie: that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. It’s a total falsehood we’ve heard get repeated again and again throughout mainstream media and from pundits who personally profit from U.S. aggression.

Jack Keane, who once proclaimed, “Iran with nuclear weapons and missiles that deliver them is absolutely a bonafide existential threat to Israel,” has a cozy relationship with the MEK, an Iranian exile cult that has assassinated Iranian scientists itself and who the U.S. government had listed as a terrorist group until recently. It’s no secret that the MEK pays U.S. officials to advocate on its behalf. Keane is the chairman of the Institute for the Study of War – a think tank funded by arms manufacturers like Raytheon and General Dynamics, which paid Keane more than $200,000 dollars in 2018 alone.

Then there’s the uber-hawkish human walrus John Bolton. Bolton was on the payroll of the MEK too, but CNN didn’t bother to mention that, nor that Bolton famously told a fawning audience at an MEK rally, “that’s why before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran. Thank you very much!”

 

Media shills

It’s not just right-wing fanatics paid by the MEK that are lying about Iranian weapons capabilities. It’s also respectable liberal media outlets.

Sonam Sheth, a political correspondent at Business Insider covering national security issues told MSNBC that, “it’s very unlikely that his [Mohsen Fakhrizadeh] assassination is going to impede Iran’s efforts to continue its producing nuclear weapons.”

ABC News also presented the allegation of an Iranian nuclear weapons program as an undisputed fact, describing Fakhrizadeh simply as, “The scientist believed to be the mastermind behind Iran’s covert nuclear weapons program.” “Believed to be” – what an interesting term. It was used over and over in coverage of the assassination of Fakhrizadeh. Who exactly is doing the believing here?

The New York Times described the operation as being carried out by “U.S. and Israeli intelligence,” which the so-called paper of record said, “are known for their upstanding behavior and honesty.”

 

A broken record

Remember when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swore that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons? “There is no question, whatsoever, that Saddam is seeking and is working, and is advancing towards the development of nuclear weapons. No question whatsoever,” he said in 2002 testimony to Congress.

Whatever happened to those anyway?

George Bush, too, proclaimed that “Those weapons of mass destruction gotta be somewhere.” At the very same hearing pushing for U.S. war on Iraq, he said “Iran was developing nuclear weapons too.”

Of course, all of these outlets conveniently ignore the statement from then-top intelligence official Dan Coats that “we do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.” Because that would undermine the drive to war.

But don’t worry. Biden isn’t like Trump. He’s one of the adults in the room. And he’s surrounded by seasoned diplomats who have made it clear they’ll return to the Iran deal that stupid Trump tore up, right? Wrong.

Biden’s secretary of state Tony Blinken said this, “If Iran returns to compliance with the nuclear agreement, we would do the same. But then we would use that as a platform to try to, working with our allies and partners, to try to strengthen and lengthen it.”

And then there’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan, who said Biden would return to the JCPOA (Iran deal)  if Iran “returns to compliance… and is prepared to advance good-faith negotiations on these follow-on agreements.”

So Biden’s Iran policy is basically just Trump lite. But that’s not terribly surprising when you examine his top foreign policy advisor’s record. Jake Sullivan is a favorite of the Foundation of Defense For Democracies, the neoconservative think tank funded by top Trump donor and ultra-zionist Sheldon Adelson which an Israeli official described as acting on its behalf. The FDD crafted Trump’s maximum pressure strategy to achieve regime change in Iran.

So even if Biden doesn’t go to war with Iran, he’s not projecting any desire for real diplomacy or de-escalation of hostilities. He hasn’t even said he’ll lift the crippling sanctions the Trump administration leveled. And what happens when the next administration decides it wants full-on war with Iran?

Just because Trump is out, don’t think for a second that the U.S. is going to fundamentally change. The U.S. is gearing up for war a catastrophic war on Iran, even if Biden doesn’t authorize he’s not going to prevent his successor from doing it.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera for MintPress News

Dan Cohen is a journalist and filmmaker. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. Dan is a correspondent at RT America and tweets at @DanCohen3000.

The post Corporate Media Shills For Assassination Of Iranian Scientist appeared first on MintPress News.

A Trlingual Dictionary of an Ancient Arabic Language

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/12/2020 - 11:35pm in

A.F.L. Beeston, M.A. Ghul, W.W. Muller, J. Ryckmans, Sabaic Dictionary (English-French-Arabic)/ Dictionnaire Sabeen (anglais-francaise-arabe) (Beyrouth: Lbrairie du Liban; Louvain-la-Neuve: Editions Peeters; University of Sanaa, Yemen, 1982).

Sabaic is the ancient Arabic language of Sheba, whose present, Arabic name is, I believe, Marib. It’s located in what is now Yemen, and its Queen famously visited King Solomon. Fabulously wealthy, it flourished in the 10th century BC on the profits of the spice and perfume trades, and conquered Abyssinia, now Ethiopia. The Ethiopian languages Amharic, Tigray and Tigrina are Semitic languages descended from the South Arabic language spoken by these ancient settlers.

The book’s the product of a Colloquium on Yemeni Civilisation, which requested the four authors to compile this dictionary. It appears to be of the terms found on inscriptions in the Yemen, and possibly one or two other places. It is just a dictionary, and doesn’t include any texts or inscriptions although it does give the alphabet in which they were written. I picked it up really as a curiosity in one of the secondhand bookstalls in Bristol through my interest in archaeology and the Ancient Near East. The book’s really of use only to archaeologists, linguists and historians working in Yemen, and it’s another language that I haven’t learned. Nevertheless it’s a reminder of just how ancient and advanced civilisation has been in the Middle East. I don’t know if there are any books specifically on the archaeology of Yemen, but I found a book a few years ago on the archaeology of Arabia, which I think contained a chapter or two on Yemen.

And these nations’ antiquities are seriously threatened by the region’s wars. When I was doing the doctorate at Bristol Uni, one of the speakers at an archaeological seminar said that much of the archaeological heritage of Syria had been trashed by the fighting. We’ve seen ISIS destroy precious mosques, churches and other shrines, as well as an ancient sculptures from the ancient Mesopotamian civilisations like Babylon and Akkad. It therefore wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Yemen’s archaeological heritage, including that of an Sheba, isn’t also seriously endangered and damaged by the current war between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia. And I am afraid that Iran’s similarly ancient and precious archaeological heritage won’t also suffer catastrophic losses if Trump and the Neocons have their way and launch an invasion of that country.

We need to stop these wars, because the cost in human lives and to the nations’ cultural heritage has been immense. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, millions forced to flee and priceless objects and monuments destroyed. And so our knowledge of the past is diminished.

But books like this help preserve and stimulate an interest in the preservation and exploration of these ancient treasures, if only among those few scholars able to read the ancient languages.

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