Syria

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While Trump Berates Portland Looters, the US Gov’t Continues to Plunder Syria with Impunity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/09/2020 - 12:32am in

The United States and Turkey have been plundering Syrian infrastructure for years. Beginning in late 2012 and continuing through 2013, some 300 industrial factories were dismantled and taken to Turkey from Aleppo, the industrial capital of Syria. “Machinery and goods were loaded on trucks and carried off to Turkey through the Cilvegozu and Ceylanpinar crossings. Unfortunately, ‘plundering’ and ‘terror’ have become permanent parts of the Syrian lexicon when explaining their saga.”

In October 2019, Turkish forces invaded Syria and now occupy a strip of land in the northeast. The area is controlled by the Turkish military and pro-Turkish militia forces misnamed the “Syrian National Army.” Turkish President Erdogan dubbed the invasion “Peace Spring” and said the goal was to create a “safe zone.” The reality was that 200,00 Syrians fled the invasion and over 100,000 have been permanently displaced from their homes, farms, workplaces, and livelihoods.

The industrial-scale looting continues. As reported recently in a story headlined “Turkish-backed factions take apart power pylons in rural Ras Al-Ain”: “Reliable sources have informed SOHR that Turkish-backed factions steal electricity power towers and pylons in ‘Peace Spring’ areas in Ras Al-Ain countryside.”

Turkey now controls the border city of Ras al-Ain and the nearby Allouk water treatment and pumping station. This is the water station supplying safe water to the city Hasaka and the entire region. Turkish forces are using water as a weapon of war, shutting down the station to pressure the population into compliance. For over two weeks in August, with daily temperatures of 100 Fahrenheit, there was no running water for nearly one million people.

With no tap water, civilians were forced to queue up for hours to receive small amounts from water trucks. Unable to buy the water, other civilians took their chances by drinking water from unsafe wells. According to Judy Jacoub, a Syrian journalist originally from Hasaka, “The residents of Hasaka and its countryside have been pushed to rely on unsafe water sources… Many residents have been suffering from the spread of fungi, germs and dirt in their hair and bodies as a result of using well water that is not suitable for drinking and personal hygiene. The people of Hasaka remain vulnerable to diseases and epidemics because of the high temperatures and spread of infectious diseases. If the situation is not controlled as soon as possible, the spread of Corona virus will undoubtedly be devastating.”  A hospital medical director says many people are getting sick from the contaminated water.

Judy Jacoub explains what has happened most recently:”After Syrian and international efforts exerted pressure on the Turkish regime, 17 wells and three pumps were started . The main reservoirs were filled and pumping was started toward the city neighborhoods.  However, despite the Turkish militia’s resumption of pumping water again, there is great fear among the citizens.”

 

Looting Syrian Oil and Plundering the Economy

The US also has occupying troops and a proxy military force in northeast Syria. The proxy army is misnamed the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) and how they got that name is revealing. They took on this name as they came under the funding and control of the US military as documented by Reuters, US Army General Ray Thomas told their leadership, “You have got to change your brand. What do you want to call yourselves besides the YPG?’ Then, as he explained, “With about a day’s notice they declared that they are the Syrian Democratic Forces. I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to put democracy in there somewhere.”

There are numerous parties and trends within the Syrian Kurdish community. The US has been funding and promoting the secessionist element, pushing them to ally with Turkish backed jihadists against the Damascus government. The violation of Syrian sovereignty is extreme and grotesque.

Prior to the war, Syria was self-sufficient in oil and had enough to export and earn some foreign revenue. The primary oil sources are in eastern Syria, where US troops and proxy forces have established bases. It is desert terrain with little population.

To finance their proxy army, the US has seized control of the major Syrian oil pumping wells. It is likely that President Trump thinks this is a brilliant bold move – financing the invasion of Syria with Syrian oil.

In November 2019 President Trump said, “We’re keeping the oil… The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil.” Recently, it was revealed that a “Little known US firm secured a deal for Syrian oil“. Delta Crescent Energy will manage and escalate the theft of Syrian oil.

What would Americans think if another country invaded the US via Mexico, set up bases in Texas, sponsored a secessionist militia, then seized Texas oil wells to finance it? That is comparable to what the US is doing in Syria.

In addition to stealing Syria’s oil, the US is trying to prevent Syria from developing alternate sources. The “Caesar sanctions” on Syria threatens to punish any individual, company, or country that invests or assists Syria to rebuild their war-damaged country and especially in the oil and gas sector.

The US establishment seems to be doing everything it can to undermine the Syrian economy and damage Syrian currency. Due to pressure on Lebanese banks, in addition to the Caesar sanctions, the Syrian pound has plummeted in value from 650 to 2,150 to the US dollar in the past 10 months alone.

Northeast Syria is the breadbasket of the country with the richest wheat and grain fields. There are reports of US pressuring farmers not to sell wheat to the Syrian government. One year ago, Nicholas Heras of the influential Center for New American Security argued Assad needs access to cereal crops in northeast Syria to prevent a bread crisis in the areas of western Syria that he controls… Wheat is a weapon of great power in this next phase of the Syrian conflict.” Now, it appears the US is following this strategy. Four months ago, in May 2020, Syrian journalist Stephen Sahiounie reported that US Apache helicopters flew low in the Shaddadi countryside south of Hasaka ad dropped incendiary weapons, causing the wheat fields to explode into flames while the hot dry winds fanned the raging fire, according to residents of the Adla village.

After delivering their fiery pay-load, the helicopters flew close to homes in an aggressive manner, which caused residents to fear for their lives. The military maneuver was delivering a clear message: don’t sell your wheat to the Syrian government.”

To better loot the oil and plunder the Syria economy, in the past weeks the US is sending more heavy equipment and military hardware through the Kurdish region of Iraq.

In the south of Syria, the US has another base and occupation zone at the strategic Al Tanf border crossing. This is at the intersection of the borders of Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. This is also the border crossing for the highway from Baghdad to Damascus. The US controls this border area to prevent Syrian reconstruction projects from Iraq or Iran. When Syrian troops have tried to get near the area, they are attacked on their own soil.

Meanwhile, international funds donated to “Syrian relief” efforts are disproportionally sent to assist the last strong-hold of al-Qaeda in Idlib on the northwest border with Turkey.  The US and its partners evidently want to sustain the armed opposition and prevent the Syrian government from reclaiming its territory.

 

International law and the UN Charter

The US and Turkey have shown how easy it is to violate international law. The occupation of Syrian land and attacks on its sovereignty is being done in broad daylight. But it is not just a legal issue. Stopping the supply of safe drinking water and burning wheat fields to create more hunger violate the most basic tenets of decency and morality.

With supreme hypocrisy, the US foreign policy establishment often complains about a decline in the “rule of law,” yet In practice, there is no greater violator than the US itself.

In his speech to the UN Security Council, Syrian Ambassador Ja’afari decried this situation thusly: “international law has become like the gentle lamb whose care is entrusted to a herd of wolves.”

Feature photo | File photo – American soldiers patrol Syrian oil fields. Baderkhan Ahmad | AP

Rick Sterling is a journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. He can be contacted at rsterling1@gmail.com

The post While Trump Berates Portland Looters, the US Gov’t Continues to Plunder Syria with Impunity appeared first on MintPress News.

To Capture and Subdue: America’s Theft of Syrian Oil Has Very Little To Do With Money

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 26/08/2020 - 2:14am in

Near the end of July, one of the most important recent developments in U.S. foreign policy was quietly disclosed during a U.S. Senate hearing. Not surprisingly, hardly anybody talked about it and most are still completely unaware that it happened.

Answering questions from Senator Lindsey Graham, Secretary of State Pompeo confirmed that the State Department had awarded an American company, Delta Crescent Energy, with a contract to begin extracting oil in northeast Syria. The area is nominally controlled by the Kurds, yet their military force, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), was formed under U.S. auspices and relies on an American military presence to secure its territory. That military presence will now be charged with protecting an American firm from the government of the country that it is operating within.

Pompeo confirmed that the plans for implanting the firm into the U.S.-held territory are “now in implementation” and that they could potentially be “very powerful.” This is quite a momentous event given its nature as a blatant example of neocolonial extraction, or, as Stephen Kinzer puts it writing for the Boston Globe, “This is a vivid throwback to earlier imperial eras, when conquerors felt free to loot the resources of any territory they could capture and subdue.”

Indeed, the history of how the U.S. came to be in a position to “capture and subdue” these resources is a sordid, yet informative tale that by itself arguably even rivals other such colonial adventures.

 

To capture and subdue

When a legitimate protest movement developed organically in Syria in early 2011, the U.S. saw an opportunity to destabilize, and potentially overthrow, the government of a country that had long pushed back against its efforts for greater control in the region.

Syria had maintained itself outside of the orbit of U.S. influence and had frustratingly prevented American corporations from penetrating its economy to access its markets and resources.

As the foremost academic expert on Middle East affairs, Christopher Davidson, wrote in his seminal work, “Shadow Wars, The Secret Struggle for the Middle East,” discussing both Syria and Libya’s strategic importance, “the fact remained that these two regimes, sitting astride vast natural resources and in command of key ports, rivers, and borders, were still significant obstacles that had long frustrated the ambitions of Western governments and their constituent corporations to gain greater access.”

With Syria,” Davidson wrote, “having long proven antagonistic to Western interests… a golden opportunity had presented itself in 2011 to oust [this] administration once and for all under the pretext of humanitarian and even democratic causes.”

Mccain Syria

US Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman meet with Syrians at the Yayladagi camp on the Turkish-Syrian border. April 10, 2012. Umit Bektas | Reuters

The U.S., therefore, began organizing and overseeing a militarization of the uprising early on, and soon co-opted the movement along with allied states Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar. Writing at the end of 2011, Columbia University’s Joseph Massad explained how there was no longer any doubt that “the Syrian popular struggle for democracy [has] already been hijacked,” given that “the Arab League and imperial powers have taken over and assumed the leadership of their struggle.”

Soon, through the sponsoring of extremist elements, the insurgency was dominated by Salafists of the al-Qaeda variety.

According to the DIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by 2013 “there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad” and “the U.S. was arming extremists.” Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed that “although many in the American intelligence community were aware that the Syrian opposition was dominated by extremists,” still “the CIA-sponsored weapons kept coming.”

When ISIS split off from al-Qaeda and formed its own Caliphate, the U.S. continued pumping money and weapons into the insurgency, even though it was known that this aid was going into the hands of ISIS and other jihadists. U.S. allies directly supported ISIS.

U.S. officials admitted that they saw the rise of ISIS as a beneficial development that could help pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to give in to America’s demands.

Leaked audio of then-Secretary of State John Kerry revealed that “we were watching… and we know that this [ISIS] was growing… We saw that Daesh was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage — that Assad would then negotiate.” As ISIS was bearing down on the capital city of Damascus, the U.S. was pressing Assad to step down to a U.S.-approved government.

Then, however, Russia intervened with its air force to prevent an ISIS takeover of the country and shifted the balance of forces against the jihadist group. ISIS’ viability as a tool to pressure the government was spent.

 

The arsonist and the firefighter

So, a new strategy was implemented: instead of allowing Russia and Syria to take back the territories that ISIS captured throughout the war, the U.S. would use the ISIS threat as an excuse to take those territories before they were able to. Like an arsonist who comes to put out the fire, the U.S. would now charge itself with the task of stamping out the Islamist scourge and thereby legitimize its own seizure of Syrian land. The U.S. partnered with the Kurdish militias who acted as their “boots on the ground” in this endeavor and supported them with airstrikes.

The strategy of how these areas were taken was very specific. It was designed primarily to allow ISIS to escape and redirect itself back into the fight against Syria and Russia. This was done through leaving “an escape route for militants” or through deals that were made where ISIS voluntarily agreed to cede its territory. The militants were then able to escape and go wreak havoc against America’s enemies in Syria.

Interestingly, in terms of the oil fields now being handed off to an American corporation, the U.S. barely even fought ISIS to gain control over them; ISIS simply handed them over.

Syria and Russia were quickly closing in on the then-ISIS controlled oilfields, so the U.S. oversaw a deal between the Kurds and ISIS to give up control of the city. According to veteran Middle East war correspondent Elijah Magnier, “U.S.-backed forces advanced in north-eastern areas under ISIS control, with little or no military engagement: ISIS pulled out from more than 28 villages and oil and gas fields east of the Euphrates River, surrendering these to the Kurdish-U.S. forces following an understanding these reached with the terrorist group.”


A man works a primitive refinery making crude oil into diesel in a U.S-backed Kurdish village in Rmeilan, Syria, April 6, 2018. Hussein Malla | AP

Sources quoted by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that ISIS preferred seeing the fields in the hands of the U.S. and the Kurds rather than the Syrian government.

The rationale behind this occupation was best described by Syria expert Joshua Landis, who wrote that the areas of northern Syria under control of the Kurds are the U.S.’ “main instrument in gaining leverage” over the government. By “denying Damascus access to North Syria” and “controlling half of Syria’s energy resources” “the U.S. will be able to keep Syria poor and under-resources.” So, by “promoting Kurdish nationalism in Syria” the U.S. “hopes to deny Iran and Russia the fruits of their victory,” while “keeping Damascus weak and divided,” this serving “no purpose other than to stop trade” and to “beggar Assad and keep Syria divided, weak and poor.”

Or, in the words of Jim Jeffrey, the Trump administrations special representative for Syria who is charged with overseeing U.S. policy, the intent is to “make life as miserable as possible for that flopping cadaver of a regime and let the Russians and Iranians, who made this mess, get out of it.”

 

Anchoring American troops in Syria

This is the history by which an American firm was able to secure a contract to extract oil in Syria. And while the actual resources gained will not be of much value (Syria has only 0.1% of the world’s oil reserves), the presence of an American company will likely serve as a justification to maintain a U.S. military presence in the region. “It is a fiendishly clever maneuver aimed at anchoring American troops in Syria for a long time,” Stephen Kinzer explains, one that will aid the policymakers who hold “the view that the United States must remain militarily dominant in the Middle East.”

This analysis corroborates the extensive scholarship of people like Mason Gaffney, professor of economics emeritus at the University of California, who, writing in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, sums up his thesis that throughout its history “U.S. military spending has been largely devoted to protecting the overseas assets of multinational corporations that are based in the United States… The U.S. military provides its services by supporting compliant political leaders in developing countries and by punishing or deposing regimes that threaten the interests of U.S.-based corporations.”

In essence, by protecting this “global ‘sprawl’ of extractive companies” the U.S. Department of Defense “provides a giant subsidy to companies operating overseas,” one that is paid for by the taxpayer, not the corporate beneficiaries. It is hard to estimate the exact amount of money the U.S. has invested into the Syria effort, though it likely is near the trillion dollar figure. The U.S. taxpayer doesn’t get anything out of that, but companies that are awarded oil contracts do.

What is perhaps most important about this lesson however is that this is just a singular example of a common occurrence that happens all over the world. A primary function of U.S. foreign policy is to “make the world safe for American businesses,” and the upwards of a thousand military bases the U.S. has stationed across the globe are set up to help protect those corporate investments. While this history is unique to Syria, similar kinds of histories are responsible for U.S. corporation’s extractive activities in other global arenas.

So, next time you see headlines about Exxon being in some kind of legal dispute with, say, Venezuela, ask yourself how was it that those companies became involved with the resources of that part of the world? More often than not, the answer will be similar to how this U.S. company got involved in Syria.

Given all of this, it perhaps might seem to be too mild of a critique to simply say that this Syria enterprise harkens back to older imperial eras where conquerors simply took what they wished: the sophistication of colonialism has indeed improved by leaps and bounds since then.

Feature photo | A US military convoy drives the he town of Qamishli, north Syria, by a poster showing Syrain President Bashar Aassad, Oct. 26. 2019.Baderkhan Ahmad | AP

Steven Chovanec is an independent journalist based in Chicago, IL. His writings have appeared in outlets such as The Hill, teleSUR, Truthout, MintPress News, Insurge-Intelligence, and others. Follow him on Twitter @stevechovanec

The post To Capture and Subdue: America’s Theft of Syrian Oil Has Very Little To Do With Money appeared first on MintPress News.

The Politics of War: What is Israel’s Endgame in Lebanon and Syria?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/08/2020 - 5:15am in

On August 4, hours before a massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital, Beirut, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, issued an ominous warning to Lebanon.

“We hit a cell and now we hit the dispatchers. I suggest to all of them, including Hezbollah, to consider this,” Netanyahu said during an official tour of a military facility in central Israel.

Netanyahu’s warning did not bode well for Israel when, hours later, a Hiroshima-like blast devastated entire sectors of Beirut. Those who suspected Israeli involvement in the deadly explosion had one more reason to point fingers at Tel Aviv.

In politics and in war, truth is the first casualty. We may never know precisely what transpired in the moments preceding the Beirut blast. Somehow, it may not matter at all, because the narrative regarding Lebanon’s many tragedies is as splintered as the country’s political landscape.

Judging by statements and positions adopted by the country’s various parties and factions, many seem to be more concerned with exploiting the tragedy for trivial political gain than in the tragedy itself. Even if the explosion was the unfortunate outcome of an accident resulting from bureaucratic negligence, sadly, it is still inconsequential. In Lebanon, as in much of the Middle East, everything is political.

What is almost certain about the future, however, is that the political discourse will eventually lead back to Israel versus Hezbollah. The former is keen at undermining the group’s influence in Lebanon, while the latter is insistent on thwarting Israel’s plans.

But what is Israel’s plan anyway? After decades of trying to destroy the Lebanese group, the Israeli government is keenly aware that eradicating Hezbollah militarily is no longer feasible, certainly not in the foreseeable future. The Lebanese group has proven its prowess on the battlefield when it played a major role in ending the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in May 2000.

Subsequent Israeli attempts at reasserting its dominance on Lebanon’s southern border have, thus far, proven futile. The failed war of 2006 and the more recent conflagration of September 2019 are also two cases in point.

Hezbollah is uninterested in inviting another Israeli war on Lebanon, either. The country is on the verge of economic collapse, if it has not already collapsed.

While Lebanon has always been in the throes of political division and factionalism, the divisiveness of the current political mood in the country is more destructive than it has ever been. Losing hope in all political actors, the Lebanese people have taken to the street demanding basic rights and services, an end to the endemic corruption and a whole new social and political contract – unsuccessfully.

While stalemates in politics are somewhat ordinary occurrences, political deadlocks can be calamitous in a country on the brink of starvation. The Hiroshima-like cloud of explosives that shocked the world was a perfect metaphor for Lebanon’s seemingly endless woes.

Former Israeli Knesset member, Moshe Feiglin, was among many jubilant Israelis who celebrated the near-demise of the Arab city. Feiglin described the horrendous explosion as a ‘day of joy’, giving a ‘huge thank you to God. “If it was us,” meaning Israel being involved in the deadly explosion, “then we should be proud of it, and with that we will create a balance of terror.”

Regardless of whether Feiglin is speaking from a position of knowledge or not, his reference to ‘balance of terror’ remains the basic premise in all of Israel’s dealings with Lebanon, and Hezbollah, in particular.

The convoluted war in Syria has expanded Israel’s war of attrition, but has also given Israel the opportunity to target Hezbollah’s interests without registering yet another aggression on Lebanese territories. It is much easier to target war-torn Syria and escape unscathed rather than to target Lebanon and pay a price.

For years, Israel has bombed many targets in Syria. Initially, it was unforthcoming about its role. Only in the last year or so, it has begun to openly brag about its military conquests, but for a reason.   The embattled Netanyahu is desperate to gain political credits, as he is dogged by multiple corruption charges, which have tarnished his image. By bombing Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, the Israeli leader hopes to garner the approval of the military elite, a critical constituency in Israeli politics.

Netanyahu’s comments before the Beirut explosion were in reference to a series of incidents that began on July 21, when Israel bombed an area adjacent to the Damascus International Airport, killing, among others, a senior Hezbollah member, Ali Kamel Mohsen.

This incident placed Israel’s northern borders on alert. The state of emergency was coupled with massive political and media hype, which helped Netanyahu by distracting ordinary Israelis from his ongoing corruption trial.

But Israel’s strategic interests in the Syria conflict go beyond Netanyahu’s need for a cheap victory. The outcome of the Syria war has the potential of yielding a nightmare scenario for Israel.

For decades, Israel has argued that an ‘axis of terror’ – Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – had to be dismantled, for it represented Israel’s greatest security threat. That was long before pro-Iran forces and militias began operating overtly in Syria, as a result of the ongoing war.

While Israel argues that its recurring bombardment of Syria is aimed largely at Hezbollah targets – the group’s military cache and Iranian missiles on their way to Lebanon via Syrian territories – Israel’s war in Syria is largely political. As per Israeli logic, the more bombs Israel drops over Syria, the more relevant a player it will become when the conflicting parties engage in future negotiations to sort out the fate of that country.

However, by doing so, Israel also risks igniting a costly military conflict with Lebanon, one that neither Tel Aviv nor Hezbollah can afford at the moment.

Israeli policymakers and military planners must be busy trying to analyze the situation in Lebanon, to understand the best way to exploit Lebanon’s tragedy in order to advance Israel’s strategic interests.

The future of Lebanon is, once more, in the hands of war generals.

Feature photo | Israeli soldiers drive military vehicles during an exercise in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, Aug. 4, 2020. Ariel Schalit | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post The Politics of War: What is Israel’s Endgame in Lebanon and Syria? appeared first on MintPress News.

Cole Morton Names the MPs and Lords Describing Desperate Channel Migrants as ‘Invaders’

The Tory campaign to divert us all from the horrific mess they’ve made of Britain and their mass killing of its people continues. Once again, it’s all about illegal immigrants. Mike and Zelo have put up several excellent articles this hate campaign, with Zelo Street pointing out that the number of these asylum seekers coming to this country is trivial: 4,000 compared to 40,000 applications for asylum last year, and 677,000 people immigrating to the UK in 2019. Nevertheless, the Tories are describing it as an invasion. Zelo Street today has posted an excellent Tweet from the author Cole Moreton, who has named these disgraceful bigots. Moreton writes

Here are the names of 23 MPs and Lords who claim the desperate men, women and children risking their lives to cross the Channel in tiny rubber boats in search of peace are “invading”. Anyone here on the coast who has met them knows how obscenely ludicrous that is.

They are

Sir John Hayes CBE MP, South Holland and the Deepings

Sir David Amess MP, Southend West

Lee Anderson MP, Ashfield

Gareth Bacon MP, Orpington

Scott Benton MP, Blackpool South,

Rob Blackman MP, Harrow East

Philip Davies MP, Shipley

Nikc Fletcher MP, Don Valley,

Sally-Ann Hart MP, Hastings and Rye,

Tom Hunt MP, Ipswich,

David Jones MP, Clwyd West,

Daniel Kawczynski MP, Shrewsbury and Atcham

Pauline Latham, OBE MP, Mid-Derbyshire

Jonathan Lord MP, Woking,

Sir Edward Leigh MP, Gainsborough

Karl McCartney JP MP, Lincoln,

Stephen Metcalfe MP, South Basildon and East Thurrock,

Craig McKinley MP, South Thanet,

Lia Nici MP, Great Grimsby,

Andrew Rosindell MP, Romford

Alexander Stafford MP, Rother Valley,

Henry Smith MP, Crawley,

Martin Vickers MP, Cleethorpes

Lord Horam

Lord Lilley,

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/08/migrant-row-wheres-mark-francois.html

And Mike’s also named a few names in a piece in his blog.

Mike notes that Priti ‘Vacant’ Patel was told back in November that her policy was forcing migrants to use more dangerous routes into the UK. She ignored the report because it recommended establishing more legal routes into the UK, as well as doing something about the reasons they were leaving their home countries in the first place. Patel’s innate ruthless caused her to reject all this. She just wants to stop them, and so is determined to make this route unviable. Mike notes that she uses the word ‘shameful’ in her Tweet about this, to divert attention from the fact that the real disgrace here is her.

Mike then goes to cite a Beeb report on one of the boats, where they were forced to use a plastic container to bail it out. When asked where they came from, the migrants replied ‘Syria’. In 2018 the UK voted to bomb Syria following reports that its government had bombed its own people. But the materials used to manufacture the bomb were supplied by Britain. Mike writes

Now, I don’t know the personal situations of the people on that boat, but it seems entirely likely that the UK is the reason they have been fleeing their own country.

If you approve of this behaviour by your country’s leaders then you are a jingoistic, sabre-rattling racist.

Fortunately, the evidence I’ve seen suggests that few people do. Most of us appear to have reacted with disgust – both at the government and at the BBC. 

He then provides a few tweets by people disgusted with this contemptible hate-mongering.

One of them is by Richard Murphy, who points out

We can apparently put the RAF over the Channel today to needlessly spot dinghies but have only allocated £5 million for emergency relief for Beirut. In terms of humitarian crisis management haven’t we got almost everything wrong?

Kerry-Ann Mendoza:

I’d like to say “I can’t believe England is calling for the extra-judicial murder of displaced people in dinghies” but I can believe it. There are great & compassionate communities in England. But others seem bent on regressing it into a spiteful, cold, grim little island.

Zarah Sultana MP:

People fleeing war, famine and persecution shouldn’t be confronted by gunships and hostility, but instead offered safe, legal routes to asylum. Our common humanity demands nothing less.

Carole Hawkins contrasted the attitude with Lebanon, which has accepted 1.5 million refugees

Lebanon with all its problems has accepted 1.5 MILLION REFUGEES & Spaffer/Patel going loopy over a few hundred so much so that Spaffer wants to change or make new laws. This is Trump politics – executive directives which Spaffer is also doing. Totally non democratic.

Mike points out that this demonisation may not stop if you vote for Labour, because of the right-wingers who voted to bomb Syria. According to Ben, they were

Stella Creasy

Liz Kendel

Yvette Cooper

Neil Coyle

Hilary Benn

Margaret Hodge

Margaret Beckett

Maria Eagle

Angela Eagle

Lucy Powell

Harriet Harmen

Bridget Phillipson

Alison McGovern

He concludes ‘This lot chose to destroy these migrants homes’. Yes, yes, they did. Not because they were outraged at a government killing its own people, but because they’re bog-standard Blairite neocons. The Likud-Republican alliance has a list of seven countries, whose governments they want overthrown because they’re a threat to Israel and an obstacle to American imperial interests. One of these is Syria, because the ruling class and government are a Shi’a sect and allied with Iran.

And he starts his piece with this brilliant meme:

Wise words from Tony Benn. And its exactly right. Food banks originally appeared under New Labour, when Blair and Brown passed legislation forbidding illegal immigrants from claiming benefits. Then the Tories decided that it would be a wizard system to inflict on the native, British population – by which I mean all Brits, who have been here for generations, Black and Asian as well as Brown – as they cut away the welfare state. The result is mass starvation.

Counterpunch and the late critic of the American empire, William Blum, have published several articles pointing out that what the west does to the rest of the world supporting Fascist dictators ultimately comes back home. Those same governments then set about militarising the police force and stripping back people’s civil rights, all in the name of protecting us from terrorism, of course.

After Patel has finished rounding up desperate men, women and children fleeing real war and violence in their countries of origin, she will try to turn to the guns on us. And scumbags like Hillary ‘Bomber’ Benn, Margaret ‘F***ing Anti-Semite’ Hodge, Angela ‘Gentler, Caring Politics’ Eagle and the rest will help her.

What did Orwell say the future was? ‘A jackboot stamping on a human face. Forever’. It’s in 1984. And Patel, the 23 Tory MPs and their New Labour collaborators are all ready to polish it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadowy US Firm Run by Former Diplomat Cinches Syria Oil Deal with Kurds

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 7:25am in

In November of last year, the Pentagon’s assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs assured reporters during a press briefing that “the revenue from [Syrian oil fields] is not going to the U.S. [It] is going to the SDF”, adding that the purpose of the mission was “to defeat ISIS” and that “securing of the oil fields [was] a subordinate task to that mission”, which was “to deny ISIS the revenues from that oil infrastructure.”

At that time, however, a recently incorporated company in the Delaware jurisdiction named Delta Crescent Energy LLC had already been communicating with members of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the northeastern region of Syria for several months about developing and exporting crude oil from the Kurdish-occupied territory.

Already in April 2019, the new oil concern had received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to carry on with the work; the same Treasury department that in 2018 had levied sanctions against the Syrian government’s “Petroleum Procurement Network,” targeting companies in Lebanon and the UAE which deliver fuel and natural gas to Syria.

The Syrian foreign ministry issued a statement on Sunday declaring the deal to be illegal and designed to steal Syrian crude. “This agreement is null and void and has no legal basis,” read the statement from Damascus, which condemned “in the strongest terms the agreement signed between al-Qasd militia (SDF) and an American oil company.”

The loose band of Kurdish rebels now known as the SDF was formed after U.S. airstrikes allowed them to take the Syrian city of Kobani in 2015. Subsequent military assistance and training by U.S. forces helped consolidate the 60,000-man army, which has been pivotal in American destabilization efforts in Syria.

 

Shell company

Delta Crescent Energy LLC was formed in February 2019 in the tax haven jurisdiction of Delaware and lists its address as 1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington, DE; a “tiny brick building,” which is also home to more than 300,000 business entities. Among its neighbors at the cramped address are companies like Apple, eBay, and Walmart, just to name a few.

The company’s officers include George W. Bush’s ambassador to Denmark, James P. Cain – a sports franchise owner who once called for the execution of Chelsea Manning for leaking diplomatic cables to Wikileaks; former Delta Force commander and TigerSwan CEO, James Reese and John P. Dorrier Jr. founder of UK-based, Houston, TX-located, GulfSands Petroleum, which has carried out business in Syria before.

Reese, whose private mercenary company TigerSwan infiltrated and surveilled Dakota Access Pipeline protestors at Standing Rock in 2016, told Fox News in 2018 that “the whole eastern part of Syria” belonged to the U.S. “That’s ours,” he continued, “We can’t give that up.”

The secretive oil deal was a topic of conversation during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on July 30. When Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo if he was supportive of the agreement, he testified that “We are,” adding that it had taken “longer” than anticipated, but it “was now in implementation, and it can be very powerful.”

 

Oil market viability

Graham praised the blatantly illegal arrangement, saying that it would “improve the viability of the northern oil fields to make them more productive.” Syrian oil fields were producing approximately 380,000 barrels a day until U.S.-backed rebels took over the oil-rich northeastern region of the country after “ousting” ISIS forces – themselves spawned from the EU, the U.S., and the UK  – reducing production to less than 60,000 barrels a day.

The negotiations were brokered by U.S. government officials from the State Department. James Jeffrey, United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement and his deputy, Joel Rayburn were charged with cementing the contract, which the Trump administration still cynically claims was done on behalf of the “Syrian people” and that the U.S. “government does not own, control, or manage the oil resources in Syria. The populations in areas liberated from ISIS make their own decisions on local governance.”

The Pentagon’s spokesperson, Jessica McNulty added that the DoD “does not have an affiliation with any private companies in regard to the oil fields in northeast Syria” and in the same breath expressed how the American military was there to literally protect the interests of the oil company by “securing [the] critical petroleum infrastructure in northeast Syria to deny ISIS access to critical resources and revenue.” McNulty, however, did not mention that the Delaware-based company has plans to sell the oil to “various customers in the region,” including Assad, himself.

Feature photo | U.S. military forces patrol Syrian oil fields, Oct. 28, 2019. Baderkhan Ahmad | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post Shadowy US Firm Run by Former Diplomat Cinches Syria Oil Deal with Kurds appeared first on MintPress News.

Delay the Election? Presidents Often Do Things They Can’t Do

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/08/2020 - 6:56am in

Trump Won't Steal the Election, but Your Governor Might | The NationThe stock response to President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the general election might be delayed because voting during a pandemic would involve a record number of mail-in ballots, a format he argues is unreliable and susceptible to fraud, is that he doesn’t have that power.

NBC News is typical: “The president has no power to delay an election.” [Emphasis is mine.]

What the president understands, and most mainstream commentators fail to accept, is that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission. That goes double when the powers in question are limited by a document that lies in tatters, repeatedly ignored.

            Liberal politicians and news outlets point out that the Constitution assigns the scheduling of elections exclusively to Congress. Republicans tepidly (and troublingly) stopped short of denying Trump’s power to push back the big day, while insisting that the election ought to take place on time. “Never in the history of this country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time. We will find a way to do that again this November 3rd,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

In an era of rampant cynicism it is sweetly naïve and the amusingly charming to see Americans put so much faith into the constitutional checks and balances they learn about in high school civics class. “‘Trump can’t delay the election,’ experts say,” reads a headline in The Washington Post.

            Since when has a 221-year-old piece of paper stopped presidents from doing anything?

I think first of war powers. Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that the right “to declare war” resides exclusively with Congress. Such key founders as George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton—men whose right to define original intent can hardly be questioned—believed that presidents could not dispatch troops without legislative approval except in cases of immediate self-defense. Congress signed off on sending soldiers and sailors to the Quasi-War with France in 1798, naval conflicts with the Barbary States of Tripoli and Algiers, and clashes with Native American tribes in the West.

Congress has since abdicated its war-making powers to the executive branch. Congress hasn’t issued a formal declaration since World War II. Yet we have fought countless wars. Presidents have launched military attacks against Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, Serbia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of these wars of aggression were legalistically constructed as “police actions” or “peacekeeping missions” under the aegis of the UN. The fact remains, this is not what the drafters of the Constitution intended. And it has never been amended. Presidents do what they want; lawyers twist logic to justify their illegal slaughters.

President Abraham Lincoln earns democracy points for holding the 1864 election during the Civil War. Yet he suspended habeas corpus and ignored a ruling by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court saying that he didn’t have the power to do so. George W. Bush’s Military Commissions Act of 2006 also suspended habeas, for anyone the U.S. government arbitrarily defined as an “enemy combatant.” Until the Supreme Court ruled against him two years later, Congress was complicit with the MCA. Even after the court ruling, the internment facility at Guantánamo Bay remains open; 40 men remain there, not one of whom has ever been charged or tried under basic constitutional standards.

FDR almost certainly didn’t have the constitutional right to send 127,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps during World War II. Yet he did.

From domestic surveillance by the NSA that violates the agency’s founding charter to asset forfeiture programs that allow the police to seize money and property from people who have never been charged, much less convicted of a crime, Americans live in a society oppressed by a political class that takes no notice of constitutional limits it deems inconvenient.

Does the president have the legal right to delay an election? No.

Does he have the power? Yes, unless We The People refuse to accept it.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

International Solidarity with the Social Revolution in Rojava

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/07/2020 - 1:13pm in

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International statement on defending the social revolution in Rojava.

We believe that the best way of showing solidarity and support for the Rojavan revolution is the strengthening and deepening of social struggles in our regions and the consolidation of our anarchist political organizations.

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As Syria Struggles Under COVID-19 Lockdown, America’s Scorched Earth Policy Ensures Food Insecurity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 1:47am in

In a world dominated by American exceptionalism and neo-colonialism, hunger has become a weapon of war. “The use of starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare is prohibited” under international humanitarian law yet the U.S. regularly reduces entire nations to dangerous levels of food insecurity in order to subjugate them.

Food, next to life itself, has become our greatest common denominator. Its availability, quality, price, its reflection of the culture it feeds and its moral and religious significance make it quite literally history’s staff of life.’ Today, in the never-ending worldwide struggle to determine who will control its production, quality and accessibility, food is no longer viewed first and foremost as a sustainer of life. Rather, to those who seek to command our food supply it has become instead a major source of corporate cash flow, economic leverage, a form of currency, a tool of international politics, an instrument of power, a weapon!” – A.V. Krebs, “The Corporate Reapers: The Book of Agribusiness

The U.S. Coalition’s hybrid war strategy on Syria under the cover of COVID-19 is so vast and interconnected that a single article could never give it the breadth it deserves. In this article, I will demonstrate that the U.S. and its allies are deliberately seeking to plunge Syria into a state of blockade, food insecurity, and aggravated poverty. Infuriated by a failed military campaign to remove the Syrian leadership and government, the U.S. Coalition is now turning the economic screws on a nation that has endured a 10-year brutal war of attrition waged by extremist mercenaries power-multiplied by the U.S. supremacist alliance.

 

Criminal Caesar Law

On June 17, 2020, the Caesar Act went into effect. According to Morgan Ortagus, U.S. State Department Spokesperson, the law is a sustained campaign of sanctions targeting the Syrian government.

Today, we begin a sustained campaign of sanctions against the Assad regime under the Caesar Act. The individuals and entities targeted today have played a key role in obstructing a peaceful, political solution to the conflict.”

The law targets 39 officials or entities associated with the Syrian government. First Lady, Asma Al Assad is identified as a “war profiteer” and her financial dealings will be restricted alongside other members of her family, even those not living in Syria. Journalist Eva Bartlett, who has spent time in Syria and has consistently challenged dominant, U.S. narratives, recently wrote movingly, for MintPress News about the initiatives set up by the First Lady to heal her war-battered country contrary to the Caesar Law interpretation of her role.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, political and media advisor to President Bashar Al Assad, has spoken extensively on the Caesar Act and the economic war on Syria. Dr. Shaaban says that the Caesar Act is a concerted attack against Syria’s allies and that pressure will be brought to bear upon those who have steadfastly supported Syria in its campaign to rid itself of the terrorist occupation financed and equipped by the “regime change” alliance led by the U.S. Dr. Shaaban’s full statement can be heard here:

Rime Allaf, a Syrian analyst deeply embedded in the Western institutions that continue to drive the political campaign to criminalize the Syrian government, confirmed Dr. Shaaban’s opinion of such multi-spectrum-war strategies. “Any company, any government, any entity around the world is going to be sanctioned if they deal with the Syrian regime elite who the State Department believes are responsible for committing these atrocities,” she wrote.

The U.S. has already threatened the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with coercive measures should it dare “violate the Caesar Law.” The UAE recently began working to normalize relations with the Syrian government as the military victory against terrorist factions the UAE once supported becomes a reality.

Caesar

Banksy-style graffiti on a wall on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria. Photo | local source

The Caesar Act is intended to derail Syria’s post-war reconstruction efforts. Several Emirati companies have visited Damascus in recent months and have indicated an interest in collaborating with the Syrian government to rebuild specific areas of the country. Immediately prior to the launch of the Caesar Act, the Syrian parliament approved “oil exploration contracts signed with Mercury LLC and Velada LLC,” both Russian companies with a focus on Damascus and Northeast Syria, which is currently occupied by U.S. Coalition forces and allied militants, predominantly the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Effectively, the Caesar Act and all preceding economic sanctions are designed to prevent the necessary restoration and maintenance of essential infrastructure and basic services that provide stability, food, water, electricity, fuel, income, and medical care to the Syrian people.

The U.S.-led occupation of Syria’s oil fields is meant to prevent access to that oil for the Syrian people and to provide revenue for the U.S. Coalition’s proxy forces. The reality is that the U.S. and its allies are intent upon blockading, besieging and suffocating the Syrian people in a final bid to turn the nation against its government.

Where military measures have failed, economic pressure will now be increased with devastating consequences for a population that has already endured the horrifying effects of war and sectarian violence for 10 long years.

Researcher Rick Sterling’s carried out a thorough investigation into the fraud that was the Caesar Report and wrote a follow-up article detailing the U.S. legislative power grab through the Caesar Act that may be turned against any individual or entity perceived to be violating U.S. full-spectrum dominance with regards to Syria. An important point is made in Sterling’s article:

The exception to punishing sanctions are 1) Idlib province in the North West, controlled by Al Qaeda extremists and Turkish invading forces and 2) north east Syria controlled by U.S. troops and the proxy separatists known as the “Syrian Democratic Forces”. The U.S. has designated $50 million to support “humanitarian aid” to these areas. Other U.S. allies will pump in hundreds of millions more in aid and “investments”. U.S. dollars and Turkish lira are being pumped into these areas in another tactic to undermine the Syrian currency and sovereignty.”

 

Resource theft and the war on wheat

Just before the Caesar Act went into effect, the Syrian permanent representative to the UN, Dr. Bashar Al Jaafari, launched a stinging attack on the U.S.’ coercive measures that remorselessly target the Syrian people. Jaafari referred to the burning of trucks containing aid from the UN World Food Programme, set on fire by sectarian factions in Lebanon before they could reach Syria.

He describes the “symptoms of political schizophrenia” demonstrated by the West.

When the United States daily steals 200.000 barrels of oil from the Syrian oil fields, 400.000 tons of cotton, 5.000.000 sheep and sets fire to thousands of hectares of wheat fields, and deliberately weakens the value of the Syrian pound, and when it imposes coercive economic measures aiming to choke the Syrian people and occupying parts of the Syrian lands, and when the U.S. representative expresses her concern over the deteriorating situation of the Syrian citizen’s living conditions the logical question will be : are not these acts the symptoms of political schizophrenia? Does that not indicate an acute disease?”

Section 401 of the Caesar Act outlines the conditions for the lifting of sanctions against Syria. The final demand is “accountability for “perpetrators of war crimes in Syria and justice for victims of war crimes.” I have deliberately omitted the reference to the Syrian government. Why? The U.S. Coalition-aligned complex of media and UN agencies focus primarily upon the criminalization of the Syrian “regime” with scant regard for the war crimes being committed by the U.S. and the various terrorist or extremist groups indirectly and directly under their command. Yet there is surely a case for holding the U.S. Government accountable for war crimes and to demand justice for the victims of this protracted psychological war against the Syrian people, those who are rarely if ever mentioned in western media reports.

 

America’s scorched earth policy in Syria

The essence of food security for any country, but particularly during a grueling and destructive 10-year war, is in locally produced and controlled food sources. A very important element of the war against Syria has been the occupation, destruction, and theft of resources.

In May 2020, the U.S. forces in northeast Syria dropped thermal balloons from Apache helicopters over agricultural lands south of Hasaka which ignited serious crop fires that burned extensive areas of wheat and barley. Local sources reported that American helicopters also buzzed farmhouses and villages, terrorizing local populations.

On May 24, sources in the Hasaka countryside reported that Turkish militias had torched wheat and barley fields in the Tal Tamr and Abo Raseen areas. An estimated 2,000 hectares were devastated by these fires. While ostensibly Turkey’s agenda in Syria is separate from that of the U.S., Turkey is still a NATO member state and therefore it cannot be ruled out that the U.S. and Turkey were collaborating to deprive Syrians of their livelihoods, infrastructure, and food sources while enabling mercenary militias to benefit from the black market trade of resources, with Turkey as one of the main trading routes and receiving hubs.

According to estimates, 130,000 hectares of wheat and 180,000 hectares of barley have been destroyed by these fires to date.

A map produced by researcher and former Syrian Arab Army soldier, Ibrahim Mohammad, based in Aleppo, pinpoints areas that are being affected by the crop infernos. During a recent trip to the southeast, specifically to the villages east of Sweida city that were savagely attacked by U.S.-protected ISIS terrorists on the July 25, 2018 – I was told of fires mysteriously ignited to the West of Sweida destroying food crops there. The reemergence of extremist militia forces to the West of Daraa and in the south, including Nusra Front and ISIS, may point to the culprits responsible for the fires.

Vanessa fires map

Map showing all the crop-fires raging intermittently across Syria. Credit | Ibrahim Mohammad

Another important and related element of this multi-spectrum war against Syria is the potential British intelligence role in training and equipping these armed groups that are now resurfacing and carrying out regular assassinations of government employees or targeting Syrian Arab Army vehicles with IEDs, kidnapping and running familiar subversive operations against the Syrian government and loyalists. A clandestine intelligence war is being ignited south of Damascus which forms part of the US Coalition hybrid war strategy designed to destabilise Syria without the need for all-out war. It is these same armed groups that are suspected, by local sources, to be responsible for the crop fires in the south of the country.

A pattern emerging is of a deliberate scorched earth policy being waged by the U.S. Coalition and its assets on the ground across the country. At the same time, Turkey is reported to be forcing Syrian farmers to sell their wheat to Turkey in exchange for Turkish currency and U.S.-backed Kurdish contras have restricted the sale of wheat to Damascus and are stockpiling reserves in areas they control, which account for an estimated 70 percent of total Syrian wheat production.

Anger among local farmers over the restrictions and hijacking of their livelihoods has grown. On June 30, civilians were filmed blocking trucks that were transporting stolen wheat into Turkey.

On June 14, 2020, Turkish-backed militant groups set fire to large areas planted with wheat and barley on the outskirts of Ras Al Ain and in the suburbs of Abou Rasseine in the north and northwest of Hasaka. The villages of Macharfa and Om Kheir, under occupation by Turkey-backed militants, had their crops devastated by these fires. Civilian homes were burned to the ground by the rampaging fires.

An elderly Assyrian man, Issac Esho Nissan, was one of the victims of the flames that raged in the Hasaka agricultural region. His hands and face were badly burned by the fire but he still valiantly fought the blaze in an attempt to prevent the ravaging of more crops by occupying forces. As elsewhere in Syria throughout this 10-year war, Syrian civilians have been forced to protect their meager resources against overwhelming and disproportionate force. According to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) at least two civilians have perished in the fires. The economic devastation and psychological pressure brought to bear upon an already war-ravaged population are hard to quantify and even harder to imagine.

The SDF is not the benevolent force in the region that they are often portrayed to be in the western media, which, along with the U.S. Coalition has attempted to mold them into a “democratic” alternative autonomy to Damascus. They have played an important role in furthering the U.S. Coalition’s plan to balkanize Syria and they are pivotal to U.S. and Israeli plans to occupy the Syrian territory east of the Euphrates, the nation’s bread and oil basket.

On June 27, SDF groups took over the building of the regional Syrian Grain Corporation administration center and occupied it by force. They now also occupy the General Electricity Company in Hasaka and employees have been forcibly removed from the premises. The SDF has effectively flip-flopped between Damascus and the U.S., now reaffirming allegiance to the renewed U.S. occupation of the territory managed by the SDF.

To date, the SDF is still occupying buildings in Hasaka. According to local sources, they have increased their military presence in the complex in order to prevent the return of government employees and the restoration of services to civilians. The SDF is also preventing the delivery of flour to the Al-Baath bakery in Qamishli City which is the main provider of bread to civilians in the area.

On July 2, Israeli forces patrolling the Golan Heights in southern Syria set fire to crops in Sehita, Quneitra (previously occupied by U.S.-backed militants and the White Helmets). Israeli soldiers then fired live ammunition on farmers and civilians who went to battle the flames.

Turkey, the U.S., and Israel form a monstrous triad of marauding forces who have entered Syrian territory in violation of international law and are in the process of asset-stripping on an industrial scale without a single ounce of outrage from the international community, who claim to defend the rights of Syrian citizens. How are these rights defended when their entire infrastructure is being reduced to bare bones by the military vulturism of the “humanitarian” hypocrites? Syria has multiple American knees on its neck, but still, we see no worldwide protests against the slow suffocation that Syrians are being forced to bear.

 

The mythical US troop withdrawal

While Trump had announced the prospect of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syrian territory in October 2019, the U.S. has, contrary to that announcement, steadily increased its military footprint in the north and northeast under cover of COVID-19. Convoys of military vehicles and equipment have been steadily pouring into the oil-rich region since borders were closed globally to allegedly prevent the spread of the virus. U.S. troop movement is apparently not restricted by social distancing and quarantine regulations.

On July 1, 2020, U.S. forces established a new military and airbase in Al Yarubiya, Hasaka. Reports from the area by SANA indicated that U.S. troops and the SDF are collaborating to secure wheat supplies, reinforcing the base with concrete blocks, and posting SDF guards to protect the perimeters of the camp and the wheat silos.

While reoccupying previously evacuated illegal military bases and imposing new ones upon Syrian territory, the U.S. and the SDF continue their theft of Syrian oil. Simultaneously the US Coalition media and UN “humanitarian” agencies are actively peddling the global Covid-19 “pandemic” narrative in Syria and supporting the push for a crippling lockdown in this already besieged nation.The U.S. “exceptional” and predatory neocolonial campaign continues unhindered by concerns about the spread of the virus to troops on the ground intent on looting a country of all it needs to survive.

On July 1, a convoy of U.S.-commissioned oil-tankers with a U.S. military escort drove through Syria and into Iraq via the “illegal” Semalka crossing in Al Malikiyah city in northeast Hasaka. These convoys are draining Syria of its life-blood. It is summer now and electricity outages caused by a lack of fuel to run generators are not as long or as disruptive, but come the winter, when rural areas could be reduced to one hour of electricity per day, this resource plundering will have a devastating effect upon the Syrian people.

The Trump administration is blatant about the exploitation of Syrian oil to provide revenue for their separatist poster boys in the SDF. In a recent statement, Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, head of US Central Command (CENTCOM) said:

Additionally, we’re there to assist the SDF in the maintenance of the oil facilities for their use to help them generate income, which could be used for a variety of things, some of which would be to continue operations against ISIS,” (emphasis added)

The SDF is conducting similar looting campaigns in the northeast under the supervision of the U.S. Coalition. Entire railway tracks, running between Deir Ezzor and Hasaka are being dismantled and the looted iron is being traded across the border by what are effectively criminal racketeers. Nothing is left intact, railway stations that have weathered decades of history are stripped bare and all the metal is reportedly transferred to Turkey where it is melted down and transformed into new railway tracks to be sold outside of Syria.

There have also been reports of the U.S. installing Patriot air defense systems in northeast Syria. While this has not been categorically confirmed, sources inside Syria believe that it is a provocative move by the U.S. neoconservative lobby and the Pentagon, the prospect of which is very possible, especially when the considerable amount of territory actually being reoccupied by the U.S. military is factored in.

 

Deliberate and inhumane environmental warfare

Another byproduct of U.S. occupation is the pollution and contamination of water sources and agricultural lands. The SDF, who benefit most from the illegal oil revenue, appears to have neglected the maintenance of the dilapidated pipelines. Crude oil and waste products, many of which are carcinogenic, are seeping into rivers and streams. Inevitably when these rivers overflow onto agricultural land bordering their banks, the toxic waste is transferred to the crops.

Recent reports highlight the increase in cancer cases in these areas. The primitive refineries are breeding disease, birth defects, meningitis, skin conditions, and severe respiratory sickness. The birth defects include hypothyroidism at birth, thalassemia, hemophilia. All these horrifying effects on the Syrian population are concentrated in the areas around the oil-wells under control of the U.S. Coalition and their various proxies.

Trees are dying, many of the green spaces are reportedly shrinking due to the air and soil pollution that is ignored by the occupying forces intent only upon the short-term revenue, not the long term preservation of the environment. Needless to say, this environmental disaster will not make it onto the agenda at any of the international meetings to discuss the “humanitarian” crisis in Syria. Creating waves over the mismanagement of occupied resources by a U.S.-sponsored occupier is apparently not an option. The chronic contamination of the vast network of rivers and streams that cover much of the northeast will ensure the toxicity of crops and livestock for decades to come. Plunder without conscience, the shameful hallmark of U.S. neocolonialism.

It must also be noted that the U.S. has admitted to the use of depleted uranium in northeast Syria which is likely also contributing to the toxic waste which is already having a devastating effect upon the Syrian population. This use of WMDs in an illegal interventionist war against the people of Syria is, of course, never mentioned by the U.S.-appointed arbiters of war crimes in Syria whose focus is on the alleged “chemical attacks” that have been hugely discredited by experts from within the OPCW who have exposed the organization to be corrupt and compromised – in particular with regards to the incident in Douma, eastern Damascus in April 2018.

The legacy of depleted uranium radioactive waste and its subsequent, horrifying mutilation of the human form is not something the U.S. is a stranger to. The level of contamination in Iraq after the U.S. allied aggression at various times in their history is still frighteningly high, and the transferral of irradiated scrap metal, often by dealers who are children, is ensuring the spread of the toxic waste. Recovery from U.S. invasion, occupation, and devastation of all resources either by obliteration, theft, or pollution are slow and painful, leaving entire generations suffering from the debilitating consequences while the U.S. walks free, a war criminal at large.

 

Hydro hegemony and water theft

In addition to the aforementioned “maximum pressure” measures, water is also being weaponized in order to collectively punish the Syrian people for withstanding 10 years of war without abandoning their support for their government, army and their allies.

Euphrates

Map showing the Euphrates river that dissects much of the region with its source in Turkey

Recently, local Syrian media and activists have been reporting the “shocking” reduction in water levels of the Euphrates river, the largest in Syria. From the city of Jarablus to the Tishreen Dam, Syrians are witnessing a substantial decrease in the water levels which threaten drought conditions if it continues. This is due to Turkey, a NATO member state, closing two dams that release water into Syria, located in Turkish territory, including the giant Elisu Dam.

As part of an agreement signed in 1987, Turkey committed to pumping a minimum of 500 cubic meters per second, yet that rate has now fallen to 150 cubic meters per second, agonizingly reduced for the people of the region and the whole of Syria. In Damascus, we are already feeling the effects as electricity outages have increased because of greater downtimes in running the hydroelectric power stations.

Over the years Turkey has periodically violated this agreement but water hegemony is now a savage instrument of war for the neo-Ottoman would-be emperor Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Drinking water is restricted in the north and northeast and agricultural production is at risk from drought-like conditions.

The administration of Tishreen Dam, the second-largest hydroelectric station in Syria, has warned of devastating consequences for the economy of the local communities if Turkey continues to reduce water levels. Food insecurity and drought threaten to decimate the population. The Euphrates and Tishreen hydroelectric stations have had to reduce their shifts from 18 to 10 hours starting in mid-June. As already mentioned, this will have a knock-on effect upon the remainder of Syrian territory. Amateur video filmed by a member of the local community shows the result of Turkey cutting the water supply to an area in northeastern Syria,

Dr. Al Jaafari has highlighted the Turkish war-crimes at the UN but without any outrage from the “international community” that a NATO member state is effectively cutting off the water supply to more than one million Syrian civilians. Al Jaafari did not hesitate to point out this hypocrisy during his address:

We are saddened that those who are self-appointed defenders of the right of Syrians to restore their daily security and stability – whether from Western States, OCHA or United Nations specialized agencies, have not said a word to condemn these inhumane practices.”

Certainly, it is evident that whether it is Turkey, Israel, or the U.S., water, food, and essential infrastructure, including health and humanitarian sectors, are now being targeted in an effort to further pressurize the blockaded, besieged Syrian people. Criminal operations among the various contra factions are exacerbating the situation on the ground and intensifying economic misery and deprivation.

 

ISIS airlifts and thermal balloons on Syrian land

I will cover the hypocrisy of UN agencies and western “aid” organizations in another part of this series but in connection with the resource hegemony discussed in this Part One, it is worth pointing out the double-speak deployed by such agencies when it comes to covering the “humanitarian” situation in Syria.

There has been a huge outcry over the apparent inaccessibility for foreign “aid” into northeast Syria due to Russia and China’s veto of a UN resolution to keep “aid” flowing into the U.S.-Turkish-SDF occupied region via the Al Yarubiah crossing that links northern Iraq to northeastern Syria.

It is no secret that aid that enters this region may be hijacked by Turkish or American-backed “boots on the ground,” but there is another element to this issue that should raise eyebrows. While the claim is that “aid” is not reaching these U.S.-controlled areas, the U.S. is allegedly transporting ISIS fighters from Syria across the border into Iraq. So the movement of troops during a “global pandemic” crisis is not restricted to the U.S. Army but also to the terrorist group which has been the pretext for the “war against terror” on Syrian soil.

While the U.S. can move client terrorist fighters around on Syrian territory and is quite happy to transport them into Iraq, the U.S. does not apply itself to providing genuine humanitarian aid to the Syrian people effectively under their control. The hue and cry at the UN and among aligned human rights groups like Amnesty International are based upon the usual deliberate obfuscation of reality on the ground.

How many of you actually thought about COVID-19 while reading about the U.S. military and economic strategy that has been ramped up against Syria while we are all focused on a virus that has brought the world to a standstill? For the U.S. alliance, business as usual, supporting terrorism, destroying the planet and bringing misery, poverty, and starvation to yet another nation in the name of “democracy” because the government does not comply with U.S.-dominated foreign policy.

 

The Syrian government’s defense of agricultural lands

The genuine resource crisis in the northeast is being used to further criminalize the Syrian government by the UN and aligned media in the West.

A recent article in the Financial Times sheds copious crocodile tears over the starvation of Syrian children without one mention of U.S. Coalition sanctions, resource theft, the fraudulent Caesar Act and the 10-year war waged by the U.S. alliance to remove the Syrian government in violation of any applicable version of international law. This lying-by-omission has been a regular tactic used by the war-mongering establishment media outlets when it comes to Syria. Nor does the article mention the measures being taken by the beleaguered Syrian government to combat the agricultural crisis.

The Syrian government has increased the purchase price of wheat from 225 Syrian pounds (SYP) to 400 SYP per kilogram in order to support the agricultural sector. The funding plan to combat the effects of the U.S. scorched earth policy with regards to wheat and barley crops amounts to 800 billion SYP per annum in “extraordinary” response to the looming crisis generated by hostile external forces.

Anyone who is being misled by western media into believing the Syrian state would relish the starvation or wholesale deprivation of its citizens should read this enlightening essay by a former research intern at the British Embassy, Damascus, Louis Allday. Allday describes the Syrian government, comprising a complex of national institutions, civil society organizations and charitable institutions, as responding proactively and rapidly to the drought that ravaged the country from 2006 until the start of the U.S. allied aggression in 2011.

How that drought may well have been orchestrated by Turkey in order to tenderize the population prior to the fabrication of the “Arab Spring” charade in Syria, is a subject for another article at a later date.

 

Turning a blind eye to the causes of Syrian misery

At the end of June, “donor nations” from within the U.S. Coalition that has plunged Syria into the abyss of war and economic anguish for the last 10 years, pledged a total of $ 7.7 billion to tackle the “deepening” humanitarian crisis in Syria. COVID-19 was cited as one of the factors compounding the misery of 17 million Syrians – to date, Syria has had 372 confirmed cases, 14 deaths and 126 recoveries from the virus. The majority of cases have been found in Damascus or the surrounding countryside, many among those returning from abroad.

I have outlined the flaunting of global “lockdown” policies by the U.S. military and their affiliates on the ground in Syria so this pseudo protectionism towards the Syrian people over COVID-19 is exposed as the fraud it really is.

“EU Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarcic announced the total at the end of a day-long online pledging conference organized by the EU and United Nations” – he said:

We have today expressed solidarity with the Syrian people, not only with words, but with concrete pledges of support that will make a difference for millions of people.”

I will be investigating the destination of the financial and material “aid” that enters areas of Syria not under the control of the internationally recognized Syrian government, at a later date. However for these nations to be genuinely in solidarity with the Syrian people they should be campaigning for America and allies to lift their knee from the neck of these people and to end sanctions, to banish the Caesar Law which is illegal and immoral and to end the support for terrorist and separatist factions inside the country.

Professor Michel Raimbaud, a former French diplomat, argues that the Western silent complicity with economic terrorism must come to an end. Raimbaud said:

Imposing sanctions on countries is more barbaric than military confrontation which is nearing an end – it is an illegal and immoral war. It is a stain on humanity. These sanctions must be lifted immediately and unconditionally.”

What we are seeing in Syria is the unfolding of the US/UK-led neo-colonialist blueprint that was previously used against Iraq. In 1991 the U.S. alliance deliberately bombed Iraq’s water purification and electricity infrastructure before imposing sanctions that prevented their restoration. Sanctions that are more accurately described as a military blockade, just as we are seeing now in Syria. In both 1991 and 2003, US allied bombing campaigns targeted animal feed stores, poultry farms, fertilizer warehouses, water pumping stations, irrigation systems, fuel depots and agricultural installations. These destructive tactics designed to undermine the survival mechanisms of the nation under attack are being replayed in Syria with similar cataclysmic consequences.


One of the areas of natural beauty in Lattakia that came under terrorist attack. Photo | Vanessa Beeley

Late 2019, I had a meeting with the administration of the Ministry of Agriculture in Lattakia on the Syrian coast. During the meeting, I was informed that the US Coalition-sponsored occupying forces have decimated 30% of the Syrian livestock sectors, 60-70,000 beehives have been stolen and merchanted in Turkey. Villages they invaded were looted, agricultural equipment was either destroyed or sold in Turkey. Over 30% of Syrian forestry has been cut down and the wood sold to Turkey. Between 2012-2015, terrorist groups occupied protected zones in an area about 47km away from Lattakia – this led to extensive damage to land that had nurtured 260 rare plant species including 65 species of medicinal plants.

Around 650,000 hectares of Syrian land are planted with an estimated 90 million Olive trees. In Afrin (north-west of Aleppo) there are 18 million trees under control of the Al Qaeda-led militants. Aleppo has traditionally been the leading producer, followed by Idlib, Tartous, Homs, Lattakia and Hama. The average annual production is 150,000 tonnes of oil and 350,000 tonnes of olives. There are 800 distilleries across Syria with most of them clustered in the above mentioned provinces. Currently, about half the productive areas are under the control of Turkish proxy forces, dominated by Nusra Front (Al Qaeda in Syria). Turkish traders have made huge profits buying Olive oil at low prices, blending with Turkish oil and exporting to Europe at elevated prices.

US Coalition economic sanctions do not affect Syrian resources stolen by coalition members. Syrians who, themselves, might attempt to revive trade with Europe would be immediately punished and restricted by these unilateral economic shackles.

American barbarism and genocidal supremacism must be called to account. The rogue-state standards that the U.S. is setting for the world will threaten all Humanity now and in the future. Syrian lives matter because without this beleaguered nation setting us the example for resilience, resourcefulness and resistance against neo-colonialist hegemony, perpetual war will be the status quo for the foreseeable future.

Special thanks for help with research for this article and the double checking of information goes to Ibrahim Mohammad, Syrian activist and researcher, former Syrian Arab Army soldier.  

Feature photo | Workers disinfect the streets to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Qamishli, Syria, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Baderkhan Ahmad | AP

Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist and photographer who has worked extensively in the Middle East – on the ground in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Palestine, while also covering the conflict in Yemen since 2015. In 2017 Vanessa was a finalist for the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism which was won by the much-acclaimed Robert Parry that year. In 2018 Vanessa was named one of the 238 most respected journalists in the UK by the British National Council for the Training of Journalists. In 2019, Vanessa was among recipients of the Serena Shim Award for uncompromised integrity in journalism. Vanessa contributes regularly to MintPress News, Russia Today, UK Column, The Last American Vagabond, Sputnik radio, 21st Century Wire and many other independent media outlets. Please support her work at her https://www.patreon.com/vanessabeeley Patreon Page.

The post As Syria Struggles Under COVID-19 Lockdown, America’s Scorched Earth Policy Ensures Food Insecurity appeared first on MintPress News.

We Should Not Sell Arms to Saudia Arabia, Let Alone Apologise to Them

On Friday, Mike published a very enlightening article showing just how concerned the Tories are about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia: they aren’t. They actually apologized to them about it. It seems that after BoJob announced sanctions against particular Saudi individuals for their crimes against humanity, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace phoned up the Saudi prince serving as their defence minister and apologized. This wasn’t publicized over here, but it was loudly trumpeted in the Saudi state press, and only reported in Blighty by the Independent.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/07/10/defence-secretary-phoned-saudi-arabia-to-apologise-for-human-rights-sanctions-claim/

What! Outrageous!

We’ve got absolutely no business selling arms to Saudi Arabia in the first place. A few years ago a Nigerian academic appeared on Radio 4 recommending a change of allies in the Middle East. Instead of supporting Israel and Saudi Arabia, we should support and ally ourselves instead with Turkey and Iran. It’s a radical plan that has absolutely no hope of success, but it would be better than those two highly draconian and intolerant regimes. Turkey, until the accession of President Ergoyan, aspired to be a modern, western-looking, secular state. That was the programme of the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Attaturk. Turkey has also has its problems with human rights abuses, such as its ethnic cleansing of the Kurds and official denial of the Armenian massacres. Iran is also a theocracy, but despite the Shah’s regime, which turned it into an absolute monarchy, and then the Islamic Revolution of the Ayatollah Khomeini, it does have a democratic component. They have a parliament – the majlis – whose members are elected, as is its president, although progress to a genuine, western-style democracy is blocked through an elected Supreme Leader, another ayatollah, and the Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guards. But even with these anti-democratic institutions, both countries are more tolerant and democratic than Saudi Arabia.

Iran officially recognizes in its constitution the country’s religious minorities – the Zoroastrians, descendants of the original monotheist faith of the Persian Empire, Armenian Christians and Jews. Four seats are reserved for them in the majlis. And despite American and Israeli propaganda to the contrary, Iranian Jews are tolerated and treated quite well. Possibly this is because some of the country’s great patriots of the 20th century, who were determined to resist its annexation by the imperial powers, were Jews.

This is in stark contrast to Saudi Arabia, which is an absolute, theocratic monarchy. The only tolerated religion is Wahhabi Islam. All other faiths, even they are varieties of Islam, are strictly proscribed. The Shi’a minority live in villages without electricity or running water. Their religious books may be seized and destroyed. And as the west has made grief-stricken overtures of sorrow and contrition for its racial intolerance and slavery, the Saudis have made no such gestures on their part. A few years ago one of the country’s leading clerics – I think it was the Grand Mufti, rather than the Sherif of Mecca, declared that the Shi’a were ‘heretics’ and ‘worthy of death’. It’s a declaration of genocide, an exact counterpart of the slogan ‘Baptism or extermination’ of the German crusading orders in their campaigns against the pagan Slavs in eastern Europe. Saudi Arabia only outlawed slavery in 1964, but it still occurs today in the appalling exploitation of migrant labourers under the countries’ sponsorship system. Domestic servants are also kept in conditions no different from real slavery, including those taken to Britain and Europe by their masters.

And it explains precisely why the Saudis are indiscriminately bombing and killing civilians, women and children, and mosques, hospitals and schools in Yemen.

We went to war in 1939 against a regime that was determined to the same to the Jews, as well as the Gypsies, Poles and the other Slavonic peoples of eastern Europe. If you want to hear some real horror stories, talk to Poles, Ukrainian and Russians about what happened when the Nazis and the SS moved in and occupied their countries, as well as the horrors Jews, Gypsies and the disabled went through.

Why should we be arming a similar regime?

And the Saudis are spreading this intolerance. Many Muslim countries were traditionally much more tolerant and pluralistic. One of Mike’s photos he brought back from his time in Bosnia showed a church and a mosque that were right next to each other. It’s a very clear demonstration that in that part of the country, Christians and Muslims had been friends and definitely not at each others throats. But I’ve read comments again and over again in books and articles from more moderate Muslims from different nations lamenting the increasing fanaticism in their countries. And they state that those responsible for it went to study in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Bosnian Islam, thanks to these influences, has become more rigid and austere. In the Balkans Islam was spread by the Sufi mystical orders that served that Turkish troops as chaplains. These forms of Islamic piety also absorbed elements from Christianity. But these are being purged as Wahhabism is exported to Bosnia. A few years ago the government was sending in bulldozers to destroy the traditional Muslim gravestones in its cemeteries.

And we shouldn’t sell the arms for simply self-preservation.

The Saudis have also exported their religious intolerance by funding and arming terrorist groups. Forget the stuff about Iran being responsible for most of the world’s terrorist groups. Muslim terrorism only ever counted for a fraction of global terrorism. Most of the terrorist groups around the world are either nationalists or Marxists. But it seems to me very strongly that the Saudis surpassed Iran long ago as the suppliers of Muslim terror. They matched the Americans in funding and supplying the Islamist guerrillas against the Russians in Afghanistan. The suppressed passages in the official report about 9/11 made it clear that atrocity was funded and led by the Saudis. It was impossible to follow the trail all the way, but the evidence pointed all the way to the top. And the reports on al-Qaeda’s campaigns in Iraq and Syria published in the volume Unmasking Terror: A Global Review of Terrorist Activities, edited by Christopher Heffelfinger and published by the Jamestown Foundation in 2005 state very clearly that al-Qaeda in those nations was being funded and supplied by the current head of Saudi intelligence. The Saudis were favourably disposed to Daesh, and only turned against them when ISIS declared the jihad against them.

If we sell them armaments, there is a very real chance that they will make their way to terrorists who will use them against our brave boys and girls and our allies.

The argument for selling what David Cameron called ‘this wonderful kit’ to Saudi Arabia and other nations is that this supposedly opens these countries up to other British products. It doesn’t. They don’t purchase more ordinary, peaceful British goods. They just concentrate on weapons. Weapons that they don’t actually need. We sold them, or one of the other Arab states, a whole batch of jet fighters a few years ago, despite the fact that the Saudis had no need for them, nowhere to put them, and no maintenance infrastructure.

But it all makes the arms companies richer. And they, no doubt, are also donating very handsomely to Tory party coffers.

So Much Spin: How May Plates Can Trump Keep in the Air?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/06/2020 - 11:28pm in

If you feel overwhelmed, there is good reason. We are currently in the midst of a number of storylines, any one of which would define any other administration. And the news comes so fast you can barely figure out who the players are before there’s another twist: There’s Russia and the bounties on soldiers, “white power” retweets, and Mike Pence actually wearing a mask. Continue reading

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