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Darius Shahtahmasebi

International Law Expert
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Darius Shahtahmasebi has completed a Double Degree in Law and Japanese from the University of Otago, with an interest in human rights, international law and journalism. He’s a fully qualified lawyer in two separate jurisdictions, and writes about foreign policy for Anti-Media. Contact Darius: [email protected] Support Darius’ work on Patreon: patreon.com/thetvsleaking

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Darius Shahtahmasebi, USA 02/12/2018 0

Will Washington’s Syria Chess Game Lead to War with NATO Ally Turkey?

WASHINGTON (Analysis) — It’s not clear if the United States knows what it is doing in Syria anymore. Having successfully toppled the Libyan government in 2011, former President Barack Obama subsequently spent a good three years attempting to bring about the fall of the Syrian government, under the guise of humanitarianism, that embroiled the region in chaos and civil strife. Incessant calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to formally step down, combined with the billions of dollars in arms and funding for radical Sunni jihadists who sowed the seeds of sectarianism and a bloody civil war in order to divide and conquer Syria, plagued Obama’s foreign policy for years. And let’s not forget the extensive strike plan Obama drew up in 2013, which would have almost certainly extinguished Assad’s presidency.

Unfortunately for the establishment, Obama’s strike plan didn’t have the approval of America’s warmongering partner in crime, the United Kingdom; and was strongly opposed by Russia. Most importantly, there was significant disapproval among the general public and military, and the U.S. knew it would never garner the support needed to carry out such an intervention.

Then in 2014, the U.S. military found backdoor access by riding the international outrage and horror provoked by the radical group ISIS, which had attained huge swaths of territory in both Iraq and Syria. Anyone who had been paying attention knew deep-down that the focus on ISIS was essentially just a façade to pave the way for the U.S. military to take on Assad directly — though this scenario proved much harder than expected, after Russia’s formal intervention in 2015. With Russia backing the Syrian government directly, there was little the U.S. could do but direct most of its energy towards ISIS, with some minor, albeit noticeable, exceptions.

And then came Donald Trump, the alleged Russian stooge and lackey, who was going to focus on making America great again and who had proposed instead to work with Assad and Russia. Whether or not Trump has any say in the matter is unclear, but it became quickly apparent that the war-hawks in his administration are just as schizophrenic as their predecessors.

 

Working through the plan alphabet and back around to Plan A

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, waves after speaking to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, left, Jan. 17, 2018. Tillerson signaled the U.S. military will remain in Syria for the foreseeable future. (AP/Jeff Chiu)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, waves after speaking to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, left, Jan. 17, 2018. Tillerson signaled the U.S. military will remain in Syria for the foreseeable future. (AP/Jeff Chiu)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson initially maintained that Assad had to leave, but then appeared to change his mind. Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, only added to the confusion. Barely days after this flip-flop, a chemical weapons attack in April last year immediately brought us back to another strike plan on the Syrian government; and the go-to mantra ever since appears to renew the longstanding call for Assad’s departure.

But why did the U.S. want to remove Assad so badly that it justified manufacturing an entire bombing campaign against another force? There are many competing theories, but Assad as a stalwart Iranian and Russian ally poses a major threat to the U.S. empire, as well as to adversarial states such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

In 2009, Qatar put forward a proposal to run a pipeline through Syria and Turkey and into Europe to export gas from Saudi Arabia. The Assad government instead forged an agreement with Iran and Iraq to run a pipeline into Europe — leaving out Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey completely. If these kinds of deals can be arranged under the cover of Russian air power, the United States risks losing out much of the region and its spoils to Russia and Iran.

Now that ISIS has been successfully (more or less) “defeated,” the U.S. is openly staying in Syria indefinitely to counter both Assad and Iran’s alleged expanding influence. Tillerson put it bluntly in mid-January this year:

Continued strategic threats to the U.S. other than ISIS persist. I am referring principally to Iran. Iran has dramatically strengthened its presence in Syria by deploying Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops; supporting Lebanese Hezbollah; and importing proxy forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. Through its position in Syria, Iran is in a stronger position to extend its track record of attacking U.S. interests, allies and personnel in the region.”

“Syria remains a source of severe strategic problems and a major challenge for our diplomacy,” Tillerson added. “But the United States will continue to remain engaged.”

 

The U.S.-Turkey debacle

Turkish troops take control of Bursayah hill, which separates the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin from the Turkey-controlled town of Azaz, Syria, Jan. 28, 2018. (DHA-Depo Photos via AP)

Turkish troops take control of Bursayah hill, which separates the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin from the Turkey-controlled town of Azaz, Syria, Jan. 28, 2018. (DHA-Depo Photos via AP)

As reports began to emerge of Washington’s plan to build a 30,000-strong Kurdish and Arab force on Turkey’s border in Syria, it became quite clear that Turkey itself was days away from invading Syria directly. To no one’s great surprise, the Turkish military intervened in the days that followed, most notably in the city of Afrin, before announcing it would extend its operations right up to the border with Iraq.

The U.S. surely knew this would happen, yet continued to antagonize both parties to the fullest extent possible. Neither the U.S. nor Turkey has the legal basis to conduct military operations in Syria, yet the two of them believe they have the right to call the shots as to the best way of handling the situation. First, Turkey urged the U.S. to leave the area of Manbij because that is where the Turks have set their sights, getting closer to the border with Iraq. A top U.S. general immediately responded by saying the U.S. had no intention of leaving Manbij at all, further aggravating the situation.

The only consistent strategy employed by the U.S. that can be ascertained (to a point) is that of maximizing the chaos in Syria. Even as we speak, Russia has begun a peace process of its own in Sochi. Why did the U.S. decide to announce its unlimited troop presence in Syria days before the peace talks were to commence; and do they genuinely believe their presence in Syria contributes to any meaningful peace for that country?

Just as disturbing is America’s unrivaled ability to commit itself to wars left, right and center without any domestic democratic accountability or approval from the international community. As The New York Times notes, this new Syria strategy is “illegal under both the Constitution and international law.” It was illegal when Barack Obama began a covert war of aggression to topple the Syrian government as far back as 2011; it was illegal right up until he began bombing Syrian territory in 2014; and everything the United States has done right through the Trump administration until today is equally illegal.

The Times’ assessment that allows for the U.S. to be in Syria solely to defeat ISIS is questionable at best; but it proves one thing: not even the warmongering mainstream media can put a positive legal spin on the plan to stay in Syria to confront Assad and Iran: because there is no legal basis to do so.

As it stands, the U.S.’ strategy in Syria is beginning to make less sense by the day. Turkey, a longstanding opponent of the Assad government, now might be working to establish a formal dialogue with Assad himself, to counter what it deems to be the principal threat: the U.S.-backed Kurds.

According to Robert Fisk, reporting from on the ground in Syria, the city of Afrin hasn’t even been bombed by Turkey yet, while Turkey has been continuously threatening a grand offensive to retake the city. That’s because it’s Russia, not the U.S., that controls the airspace over the city of Afrin, and any incursion into Afrin would most likely need Russian approval. By Fisk’s research, if Turkey’s army wanted to take Afrin, it could do so in less than half an hour. So far, there have been signs of violence around Afrin, but not in Afrin itself. Indications are that Turkey is relying on its newfound proxy force instead, in the hopes of re-establishing a sizeable anti-Assad force of its own — one that can continue to fight for Turkey’s interests without compromising its position on the Kurdish question.

There’s a reason that Turkey is arresting journalists and critics of the invasion by the hundreds even as I type. With Western media relying on state-approved Turkish correspondents without the capacity for dissent, it is unlikely that those of us on the outside are getting the full picture. Fisk is most likely the only journalist on the ground who won’t be simply echoing Erdogan’s narrative, and already he has alleged that Turkey is conducting outright civilian massacres, not “surgical” strikes on “terrorists.”

Turkey is a member of NATO. It has invaded Syria just as the U.S. has, but with what appear to be polar-opposite interests.

According to Haaretz, the real reason Turkey is involving itself in the region is not to stop an independent Kurdish state, but to stop Assad from incorporating the current Kurdish political infrastructure into his own future Syrian state. Haaretz explains:

Russia knows the survival of Assad’s regime and his control of the entire country depends to a large extent on his ability to assimilate the Kurdish districts into Syria, with the ideal scenario being one that allows the Kurds to run their federation as part of the Syrian state under Assad’s rule. The United States also sees the Kurdish federal system in Syria and the principles of the Kurdish constitution as being no less worthy of defending than the Kurdish region in Iraq.”

The media won’t admit it outright, but this too is a dealbreaker for the U.S., and hanging the Kurds out to dry and drawing Turkey into a direct confrontation might be the principal way in which the U.S. can continue to dismantle any hopes for a unified Syria in the not-too-distant future.

 

Where are we headed?

A U.S.-backed anti-government fighter mans a heavy automatic machine gun, left, next to an American soldier as they take their positions at Tanf, a border crossing between Syria and Iraq (Hammurabi’s Justice News/AP)

A U.S.-backed anti-government fighter mans a heavy automatic machine gun, left, next to an American soldier as they take their positions at Tanf, a border crossing between Syria and Iraq (Hammurabi’s Justice News/AP)

Clearly, Washington’s distaste for Assad lies in his geopolitical proximity to Iran and Russia. This should be no secret, as the U.S. has maintained its view of both countries as American arch-rivals right through the previous administrations.

As The Washington Post noted just days ago, the U.S. has finally admitted its true intention in Syria:

After months of incoherence, the Trump administration has taken a step toward a clear policy on Syria and its civil war. In a speech last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson bluntly recognized a truth that both President Trump and President Barack Obama attempted to dodge: that ‘it is crucial to our national defense to maintain a military and diplomatic presence in Syria, to help bring an end to that conflict, and assist the Syrian people . . . to achieve a new political future.’

To do that, the United States will continue to deploy several thousand personnel in the country and help allied Syrian forces maintain control over enclaves in the southwest, near Israel and Jordan, and the northeast, on the border with Iraq and Turkey.” [emphasis added]

Yet as long as Russia maintains a military presence in Syria, with the capability of establishing a no-fly zone of its own in much of the country, there is little the U.S. can do regarding Assad without taking on Russia directly. In the meantime, however, it clearly can do its utmost to put a dent in Iran’s expanding influence. By allowing its proxy forces to take over the strategic areas of al-Tanf and parts of Deir ez-Zor, the United States will put a major hole in Iran’s ability to link itself to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon as directly as it otherwise could. This bridge of Iran-allied nations, known as the Shia Crescent, is Saudi Arabia’s worst nightmare.

In that context, however, the current stand-off will remain a stalemate for some time, as Iranian-backed troops will continue to render America’s military bases all but useless — as they have more or less taken control of the areas that surround the bases, cutting the U.S. military off from using the bases effectively.

Whether or not the U.S. is prepared to launch a direct strike on these forces and go further than merely cutting them off is unclear, but it seems unlikely at this stage. Given that the U.S. knows Israel is itching to bomb Syria and Lebanon to confront Iran’s growing military presence, it seems more likely that the U.S. will instead rely on Israel to kickstart such a war. At the same time, Washington can continue to rely on its proxy forces to take on the so-called Iranian threat, without fighting Iran directly.

Either way, America’s schizophrenic approach to the conflict and its desire to prolong the war as long as possible does nothing to ease the suffering of ordinary Syrians. It should be clear that the U.S. has no desire to bring peace to Syria, as it continues to violate international law and aggravate other major players in the region, all of whom have conflicting and contradictory visions for the future of Syria.

America’s current Syria strategy opens up the door for a war with Turkey and a potential war with Iran and Syria. All the while the U.S. loses its status as the so-called global leader, with Russia emerging unscathed from the conflict as the region’s major power broker.

The corporate media would do well to follow the footsteps of The New York Times and call this strategy what it is: illegal — not to mention chaotic and maniacal. There is no happy ending to this story; but the least Washington could do is allow Syria to resolve its problems on its own, without further igniting a regional bloodbath.

Top Photo | Turkey-backed Syrian rebels and Turkish troops secure the Bursayah hill, which separates the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin from the Turkey-controlled town of Azaz, Syria, Jan. 28, 2018. (AP Photo)

MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.
Darius Shahtahmasebi, USA 01/19/2018 0

Trump Continues Obama-Era Saber Rattling With Russia By Arming Ukraine

KIEV, UKRAINE (Analysis) — Despite the mainstream media’s insistence that U.S. President Donald Trump is some sort of compromised Russian lackey, the fact is that at the end of last year, his administration approved the largest U.S. commercial sale of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine since 2014. This is a move that clearly infuriates and angers Russia, souring relations between the two countries even more so than they already had been under the Obama administration (and in various stages throughout Trump’s first year in office).

According to The Washington Post, administration officials confirmed that in December the State Department had approved a commercial license authorizing the export of Model M107A1 Sniper Systems, ammunition, and other associated parts and accessories to Ukraine — a package valued at $41.5 million.

At first, it was reported there had not yet been approval to export the heavier weaponry the Ukrainian government had been asking for, such as anti-tank missiles. However, by the end of December, reports began surfacing that the Trump administration was in fact going to provide 35 FGM-148 Javelin launchers and 210 anti-tank missiles. The Javelin is allegedly one of the most advanced anti-tank systems on the market. The total package is now valued at $47 million, and it wouldn’t be surprising if this figure continues to rise in the weeks to come.

Even under the 2014 Ukraine Freedom Support Act, the Obama administration never authorized large commercial or government arms sales, thereby making the recent announcement the first time that the U.S. will provide “lethal” weapons to the Ukraine military.

One senior congressional official said that he predicted this would be just the beginning, stating that the U.S. had “crossed the Rubicon; this is lethal weapons and I predict more will be coming,” according to the Post. Foreign Policy’s Michael Carpenter suggested that NATO countries should follow suit and also provide Ukraine with the arms it needs to counter the so-called threat of Russia. Considering that in September 2017 Russia proposed that UN peacekeepers be deployed to Ukraine, it should be clear that the U.S. is more bent on escalating this conflict than on resolving it.

Russia has already responded in kind, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stating that the U.S. has become an accomplice in the war and that these developments make it impossible for Russia to remain “indifferent,” thereby forcing Russia to consider retaliation measures in response.

The U.S. is the world’s largest arms dealer. The U.S. arms so many countries so much of the time that most of us barely blink. And yet, even taking at face value America’s stated goals of spreading democracy and promoting human rights, the facts on the ground appear to run contrary to those ideals and the U.S. is well aware of these contradictions.

In reality, the United States intervened covertly in Ukraine in 2014 because Russia and Europe were growing far too close to each other for America’s comfort, with Russia supplying at least 30 percent of Europe’s gas supply. This was an issue particularly in relation to Germany’s growing fondness for Russian gas, as Germany is set to become the EU’s major player.

This is a deal-breaker for Washington, which would rather support known neo-Nazis and anti-Semites in order to install a right-wing government capable of opposing Russia as close to the Russian border as one can get.

 

U.S. installed a puppet government in Ukraine

Right Wing Extremists Condemned in Charlottesville, Funded and Armed in Ukraine and Syria

John McCain, center, speaks as Connecticut senator Chris Murphy, second left, and Opposition leader Oleh Tyahnybok, right, stand around him during a rally in Kiev, Ukraine, Dec. 15, 2013. (AP/Dmitry Lovetsky)

On February 7, 2014, the BBC published a transcript of a bugged phone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. In this phone call, the U.S. officials were openly discussing who should form Ukraine’s government even before the president, Viktor Yanukovych, had been successfully ousted from power. In other words, the U.S. was actively doing to Russia’s neighbour what the corporate media and various elements of the intelligence communities have accused Russia of doing to the U.S. during the 2016 elections. As The Nation explained:

“In the intercepted phone call between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, the two were, as Russian expert Stephen Cohen put it to Democracy Now, ‘plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of Ukraine.’” [emphasis added]

“Good. I don’t think Klitsch [opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko] should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s a good idea,”  Nuland said in the call, as transcribed by the BBC.

Pyatt responded:

“Yeah. I guess… in terms of him not going into the government, just let him stay out and do his political homework and stuff. I’m just thinking in terms of sort of the process moving ahead we want to keep the moderate democrats together. The problem is going to be Tyahnybok [Oleh Tyahnybok, an opposition leader] and his guys and I’m sure that’s part of what [President Viktor] Yanukovych is calculating on all this.”

Nuland added:

“I think Yats [opposition leader Arseniy Yatseniuk] is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the… what he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know. I just think Klitsch going in… he’s going to be at that level working for Yatseniuk, it’s just not going to work.”

Oleh Tyahnybok, who had met with Senator John McCain one year prior, is the leader of the right-wing nationalist party Svoboda. When Svoboda was founded in 1995, the party had a swastika-like logo. As Business Insider explains, Tyahnybok is also a known anti-Semite:

“Tyahnybok himself was expelled from the Our Ukraine parliamentary faction in 2004 after giving a speech demanding that Ukrainians fight against a ‘Muscovite-Jewish mafia’ (he later clarified this by saying that he actually had Jewish friends and was only against to ‘a group of Jewish oligarchs who control Ukraine and against Jewish-Bolsheviks [in the past]’). In 2005 he wrote open letters demanding Ukraine do more to halt ‘criminal activities’ of ‘organized Jewry,’ and, even now, Svoboda openly calls for Ukrainian citizens to have their ethnicity printed onto their passports.”

When the protests broke out in Ukraine in 2014, the entire movement was hijacked by these racist elements.

“You’d never know from most of the reporting that far-right nationalists and fascists have been at the heart of the protests and attacks on government buildings,” reported Seumas Milne of The Guardian. Just days ago, thousands marched in Kiev to celebrate the anniversary of far-right nationalist Stepan Bandera’s birthday.

It is revealing that, when the U.S. decided to make a choice between a president they viewed as a Russian ally and the various ultra-right nationalist elements of Ukraine, Washington decided to help oust the former for the benefit of the latter.

 

The State Department promoting neo-nazism in Ukraine

Picture of Azov Battalion eastern in Ukraine.

A photo of the Azov Battalion – a regiment of the National Guard of Ukraine. (Photo: Twitter)

Eventually, it was reported that a man named Petro Poroshenko would be taking up the reins after Yanukovych’s abdication. According to a cable obtained by WikiLeaks, Poroshenko previously worked as a mole for the U.S. State Department. The State Department even referred to Poroshenko as “our Ukrainian insider.”

For those who truly believe the U.S. protects and promotes democracy while challenging tyranny and dictatorships across the globe, the truth about Washington’s support for puppet regimes that fail to garner the support of their own people is even worse than any anti-imperialist commentator could ever have imagined. In March last year, Foreign Affairs reported that Poroshenko had an approval rating as low as 17 percent. In September last year, the Japan Times reported that his approval rating had dropped to a single digit. Some reports say it was as low as 2 percent. October last year saw his approval rating grow to its highest in recent times, reaching a stratospheric 14 percent.

In other words, the Trump administration is actively propping up a failed administration in Europe, which does not have the support of 15 percent of its people. Even the far-right militias in Ukraine seem to have more support than the current government. Meanwhile, the U.S. has done nothing but its utmost to tear apart the respective democratically elected governments in Syria and Iran, both of which have far greater approval ratings than do Poroshenko and his administration.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Washington’s recent decision to arm Ukraine will only make the conflict more deadly and suggested that Russia could be forced to respond. “[The U.S. is] not a mediator. It’s an accomplice in fueling the war,” Ryabkov said in a statement. Clearly, Russia has a vested interest in not seeing another NATO ally on its borders, capable of pointing American missiles in its face on a daily basis.

As The National Interest learned at the end of last year from recently declassified material, the U.S. did indeed break a promise at the end of the Cold War that NATO would expand “not one inch eastward.” George Washington University National Security Archives researchers Svetlana Savranskaya and Tom Blanton wrote in the National Security Archives:

“The [recently declassified] documents show that multiple national leaders were considering and rejecting Central and Eastern European membership in NATO as of early 1990 and through 1991. That discussions of NATO in the context of German unification negotiations in 1990 were not at all narrowly limited to the status of East German territory, and that subsequent Soviet and Russian complaints about being misled about NATO expansion, were founded in written contemporaneous memcons and telcons at the highest levels.”

The documents appear to confirm Russia’s assertion that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev accepted the proposal for German reunification (which Gorbachev could have vetoed) only in reliance upon these assurances from its American counterparts that NATO would not expand into Eastern Europe. This history is reminiscent of how Russia was further duped out of using its veto power on a U.N. Security Council Resolution in Libya in 2011, after having received assurances that the coalition would not pursue regime change.

“I believe that your thoughts about the role of NATO in the current situation are the result of misunderstanding,” then-British Prime Minister John Major told Gorbachev, according to British Ambassador Rodric Braithwaite’s diary entry of March 5, 1991:

“We are not talking about strengthening of NATO. We are talking about the coordination of efforts that is already happening in Europe between NATO and the West European Union, which, as it is envisioned, would allow all members of the European Community to contribute to enhance [our] security.”

The documents also show that Russia had received these assurances from a number of other high-level officials. These officials included then-Secretary of State James Baker; President George H.W. Bush; West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher; West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl; former CIA Director Robert Gates; French leader Francois Mitterrand; Margaret Thatcher; British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd; and NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner.

U.S. Army soldiers representing units participating in the the Anaconda-16 military exercise, attend the opening ceremony, in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, June 6, 2016. Poland and some NATO members launched their biggest ever exercise, involving some 31,000 troops in a show of force to neighboring Russia.

U.S. Army soldiers representing units participating in the the Anaconda-16 military exercise, attend the opening ceremony, in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, June 6, 2016. Poland and some NATO members launched their biggest ever exercise, involving some 31,000 troops in a show of force to neighboring Russia.

Since that time, NATO has clearly expanded into Europe to the detriment of Russia. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has grown to include the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, Albania and Croatia, and Montenegro.

These developments are crucial because, when one is honest about America’s infamous history since World War II, it is clear that NATO exists as an entity only to counter and contain Russian influence. Its sole purpose is to oppose Russia at every corner and this is no secret even in the corporate media.

According to the Telegraph, NATO was formed in “Washington on 4th April, 1949 after the end of the Second World War, largely to block Soviet expansion into Europe.” This can be seen clearly in the complete rejection of the Soviets’ attempt to join NATO itself after Joseph Stalin’s death.

In a 2016 interview with The New Yorker,  Douglas Lute, a former three-star general and then-U.S. Ambassador to NATO also patently admitted that:

“…NATO was founded on the premise of preventing an attack by the Soviet Union in Central Europe, where the U.S. would have to come to the aid of Europe … For the first forty years, nato focussed on its greatest risk—the threat that the Soviet Union posed to Western European security.”

At the time the unrest broke out in 2014, then-NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s comment that the proposed IMF-EU package presented to Ukraine would have been “a major boost for Euro-Atlantic security” suggested that NATO had set its sights on bringing Ukraine into the military alliance. In July of this year, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with Poroshenko in Kiev to further discuss this prospect, already pledging support to Ukraine on some level.

Now Ukraine’s bid to join NATO seems almost irrelevant, as the U.S. is formally involving itself deeper in the Ukrainian conflict and providing arms to a regime that has flirted with an approval rating lower than 10 percent, all the while provoking Russia to take further measures in response.

What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, the Russia-obsessed corporate media continues to peddle the narrative that Donald Trump has turned the United States into a client-state of Russia, even while he directly provokes the former Soviet Union by providing lethal assistance to a country on its border. Not only is Trump maintaining an Obama-era policy, he is aggravating and converting Obama’s Ukraine policy into a much more dangerous one — ultimately aimed at provoking an aggressive response from Russia in the weeks or months to come.

Top Photo: Ukrainian servicemen ride atop an APC with a Ukrainian flag, near Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Fighting has waned substantially in eastern Ukraine in recent days as a cease-fire deal forged last month increasingly takes effect, but both sides have complained of sporadic violations. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.
Darius Shahtahmasebi, USA 01/08/2018 0

Washington’s Pre-War Demonization Formula Is Targeting Iran, Again

ASHINGTON (Analysis) — The United States has had Iran in its crosshairs for decades and current media coverage indicates that US-Iranian relations are only getting worse. In 1953, the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, and replaced him with a brutal U.S.- and U.K.-backed dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. As is typically the case with covert CIA operations, the U.S. had other concerns when it made the decision to lead a coup against Iran’s democratically elected government and opted for a dictatorship instead. As explained by The Guardian:

“Britain, and in particular Sir Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, regarded Mosaddeq as a serious threat to its strategic and economic interests after the Iranian leader nationalised the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, latterly known as BP. But the U.K. needed U.S. support. The Eisenhower administration in Washington was easily persuaded.”

The Shah’s subsequent reign and stranglehold over Iran sowed the seeds of anti-Western discontent. The Iranian people overthrew the Shah in the historic 1979 revolution, and have almost completely rejected Western influence ever since. Shortly afterward, the U.S. backed Saddam Hussein in Iraq to take out Iran in a nonsensically brutal conflict that lasted close to a decade, nearly killing off an entire generation. Further, the U.S. knew Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons against the Iranian people and enabled him to do so — all the while secretly selling arms to the Iranians in order to maximize the death toll.

As political analyst Noam Chomsky famously stated:

 “Not a day has passed in which the U.S. has not been torturing Iranians. That’s 60 years, right now.”

But what was Iran’s grave crime, for which the U.S. saw fit to punish Iran for the last half a century at least? According to Chomsky:

“Why the assault against Iran? We’re back to the Mafia principle. In 1979, Iranians carried out an illegitimate act: They overthrew a tyrant that the United States had imposed and supported, and moved on an independent path, not following U.S. orders…So, Iran has to be punished for that.”

U.S. President Harry Truman, left, and Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, right, stand together on Oct. 23, 1951. The coup d'état that led to the democratically elected Mossadegh's ouster two years later was orchestrated by the U.S. CIA, declassified documents confirm. (Photo/Abbie Rowe via Wikimedia Commons)

U.S. President Harry Truman, left, and Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh Oct. 23, 1951.. two years before a CIA orchestrated coup led to the ouster of the democratically elected Mossadegh. (Photo: Abbie Rowe/Wikimedia)

Iran’s greatest crime was wanting to reject American and British companies from intruding on its own soil and resources, and take a nationalist course not unlike many of the countries under the thumb of the American empire that wanted to head in an independent direction. This, one would have to admit, would be the essence of democracy — a country deciding the way forward for its people without extrinsic interference. We would do well to bear this in mind the next time the U.S. alleges it wants to export democracy to the Middle East, having actively and pointedly killed it in 1953.

Furthermore, given that the U.S. supports a number of despotic regimes — including its support for Saddam Hussein prior to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (which was given a controversial green light by the U.S. to begin with) — the U.S. is left to its own creative devices to manufacture allegations against Iran to justify its transformation into a pariah state on the world stage. Sanctions, saber-rattling, and crying wolf over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program have been the go-to mantra for years.

 

As stated by Professor Michel Chossudovsky, the propaganda against Iran and its alleged nuclear program can be easily unpacked when one considers the reality of the situation:

“What is unfolding (in Iran) is the outright legitimization of war in the name of an illusive notion of global security. America’s mini-nukes, with an explosive capacity of up to six times a Hiroshima bomb, are upheld as a ‘humanitarian’ bomb, whereas Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons are branded as an indisputable threat to global security,”

Chomsky explains this paradigm from the Iranians’ point of view, stating:

Israel, India and Pakistan all developed nuclear weapons with U.S. assistance. India and Israel continue to maintain — have a substantial U.S. support for their nuclear weapons programs and other programs, such as the occupation of part of Syria in violation of Security Council orders.

And Iran is constantly threatened. The United States and Israel, two major nuclear powers—I mean, one a superpower, the other a regional superpower—are constantly threatening Iran with attack, threatening Iran with attack every day. Again, that’s a violation of the U.N. Charter, which bans the threat or use of force, but the U.S. is self-immunized from international law, and its clients inherit that right.

So Iran is under constant threat. It’s surrounded by hostile nuclear states. It — and maybe [it] is developing a deterrent capacity. We don’t know. [The] New York Times knows, but intelligence doesn’t. That’s the pretext.” [emphasis added]

As Chomsky notes, Iran’s defense spending is relatively low compared to the rest of the region (barely $15 billion USD). According to the U.S. Defense Department’s annual review of Iran:

“Iran’s military doctrine is defensive. It is designed to deter an attack, survive an initial strike, retaliate against an aggressor, and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities while avoiding any concessions that challenge its core interests.”

Mideast Iran Armed Forces

Members of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard march during an annual military parade marking the anniversary of outset of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war in Tehran, Iran.

This type of assessment hardly resonates with the allegations against Iran. If Iran is capable of fanning the fuels of a sectarian conflict from Syria to Yemen, developing a rampant nuclear weapons program, and constantly threatening Iran’s rivals in the region, it has been able to do so on a very limited budget and with very limited resources. Not to mention that Iran would also have had to outmaneuver the U.S.-enforced crippling sanctions that have lasted decades against Iran, all the while simultaneously taking over the entire region.

In other words, Iran’s capabilities and its military spending just don’t harmonize with America’s numerous allegations against the Islamic Republic.

 

Pursuing Iran through indirect means

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton upon her arrival to their meeting in Jerusalem November 20, 2012. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner) (JERUSALEM)

We have often witnessed a one-sided media coverage of the Iranian government, which has constantly demonized Iran as an aggressive player in the region, hell-bent on destroying America’s stalwart ally, Israel. However — given that the U.S. failed to convincingly substantiate similar accusations against Iraq but invaded the country anyway in 2003, plunging the region into a humanitarian catastrophe — Washington’s credibility on the world stage has been questioned and its ability to develop international support for a strike on Iran has demonstrably failed from George W. Bush right through the Obama administration.

The U.S. cannot realistically launch a direct strike on Iran without a decent pretext, given that Iran has some significant allies in Russia and China. Instead, it has launched a number of covert strategies with the aim of containing Iranian influence and weakening Iran’s direct allies.

According to an email published by WikiLeaks from the archives of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. sought to intervene in Syria as a means of containing Iranian influence. The email states:

“The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. … For Israeli leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader launching an unprovoked Iranian nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of both countries. What Israeli military leaders really worry about — but cannot talk about — is losing their nuclear monopoly.

An Iranian nuclear weapons capability would not only end that nuclear monopoly but could also prompt other adversaries, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to go nuclear as well. The result would be a precarious nuclear balance in which Israel could not respond to provocations with conventional military strikes on Syria and Lebanon, as it can today.”

 

US war in Syria was about destabilizing Iran and it failed

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a joint news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 28, 2017. Russia and Iran agreed to boost their energy cooperation and continue joint efforts to help Syrian settlement. (Sergei Karpukhin/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a joint news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 28, 2017. (Sergei Karpukhin/AP)

Iran and Syria are stalwart allies. The two countries have a mutual defense agreement and Iran has been honouring its side of the agreement throughout the course of the Syrian war.

Whether Washington is openly keen to admit it or not, the U.S. has lost the war in Syria. There is very little the United States can do inside Syria unless it is prepared to directly take on Syria and Russia’s air defenses and to wipe out Russian military personnel on the ground, paving the way for what can only be described as World War III.

Washington’s failure in its support for opposition groups to topple the Syrian government has even been confirmed by the UN: “For the opposition, the message is very clear: if they were planning to win the war, facts are proving that is not the case. So now it’s time to win the peace,” UN Special Envoy for Syria and UN peace talks mediator Staffan de Mistura told reporters, as quoted by Reuters in September this year.

Right now, the U.S. and its client state, Israel, essentially have two main options. Israel can continue to strike Iranian-linked groups and facilities close to its border with Syria – and face the Russian military in the process. Or, as, Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katza recently told Saudi Arabian media, Israel could additionally strike Iran’s so-called military presence in Lebanon.

 

The U.S. demonization of Iran

Nikki Haley, United States' Ambassador United Nations, shows pictures of Syrian victims of chemical attacks as she addresses a meeting of the Security Council on Syria at U.N. headquarters, April 5, 2017. (AP/Bebeto Matthews)

Nikki Haley, United States’ Ambassador United Nations, shows pictures of Syrian victims of chemical attacks as she addresses a meeting of the Security Council on Syria at U.N. headquarters, April 5, 2017. (AP/Bebeto Matthews)

In the meantime, the U.S. needs to do its utmost to garner international support for a war with Iran. The alleged nuclear threat held by Iran has almost completely been taken off the table, in light of the fact that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) formed in 2015 has largely worked to quell any international fears about Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons. The Trump administration is singlehandedly attempting to derail the deal, against the better judgment of even Trump’s most anti-Iranian advisors.

Enter Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the UN. Haley’s grandiose performance in front of the UN on December 15 should send shivers down the spines of those of us who remember Colin Powell’s equally disturbing performance in the months leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

According to Haley, the U.S. has “concrete evidence” of Iran’s weapons proliferation, citing missiles that she alleges are Iranian-made and subsequently transferred to Yemen to be used against Saudi Arabia.

Just a few days later, Haley came out with another attack on Iran, this time in reference to a UN report on Iran’s compliance with Resolution 2231. “This is the Secretary-General’s fourth report on the Iranian regime’s lack of full compliance with Resolution 2231,” Haley said, referring to the UN resolution that codified the nuclear deal. “And it is the most damning report yet. This report makes the case that Iran is illegally transferring weapons.”

Never mind that Saudi Arabia is the only country using its missiles to great effect to commit countless war crimes against the people of Yemen. The fact remains that evidence regarding Iranian involvement in the Yemen conflict is still not established, even to this day. As explained by Common Dream’s Reza Marashi:

Haley cited a UN report in her claim regarding Iranian missile transfers to the Houthis. Of course, the UN has reached no such conclusion. Instead, a panel of experts concluded that fired missile fragments show components from an Iranian company, but they have ‘no evidence as to the identity of the broker or supplier.’

Asked about Haley’s claim that Iran is the culprit, Sweden’s ambassador to the UN said, ‘The info I have is less clear.’ Analysts from the U.S. Department of Defense speaking to reporters at Haley’s speech openly acknowledged that they do not know the missiles’ origin.

Perhaps most surreal is the very same UN report cited by Haley also says the missile included a component that was manufactured by an American company. Did she disingenuously omit that inconvenient bit from her remarks, or fail to read the entire UN report? The world may never know.”

In January of this year, a panel of UN experts stated that:

“The panel has not seen sufficient evidence to confirm any direct large-scale supply of arms from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, although there are indicators that anti-tank guided weapons being supplied to the Houthi or Saleh forces are of Iranian manufacture.” [emphasis added]

What those UN experts did find, however, was mounting evidence of Saudi Arabian war crimes in Yemen. To paint Iran as the aggressor in Yemen, while Saudi Arabia continues to openly decimate Yemen’s civilian population, is astounding to say the least. In our recent history, there is only one recorded instance of Iran firing a missile into any other country — that being Syria, in response to an ISIS-inspired attack that occurred on Iranian soil. Iran’s strike on Syria was done in accordance with its various defense agreements with the Syrian government; meaning it is unlikely that Iran violated anyone’s sovereignty in carrying out such a strike (unlike the U.S., which has no such justification to bomb Syrian territory).

 

Demonization in tandem with the mainstream media

Houthis protest against Saudi-led airstrikes, during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, April 1, 2015.

In 2015, in one of my more curious moments, I analyzed a number of Guardian articles that claimed, without question, that the Houthi rebels leading an insurrection in Yemen were “Iran-backed.” Most of the time, the claim that the Houthi rebels were Iranian-backed was presented without any evidence, though The Guardian occasionally provided a hyperlink for the source.

By further researching into these hyperlinked articles, I found The Guardian was failing to provide evidence that Iran was backing rebels in Yemen – at all. It was merely hyperlinking to other articles that made the same claim, without any direct evidence. In one of the examples, the hyperlinked article was another Guardian article that detailed that a “source” had revealed that fighters trained in one of the Gulf States (which was not specified; certainly it did not specify Iran) — who numbered no more than 10 altogether — had arrived in Yemen. If there was proof of Iranian involvement, why was it so hard to hyperlink a source?

This continues to be the case up until today. Now that we know that the mainstream media has been attempting to demonize Iran as the sole aggressor in Yemen — and had close to zero evidence in support of this attempt since the war in Yemen began — we shouldn’t expect too much by way of evidence in the years to come. In fact, the available evidence shows that there is only one entity illegally invading Yemen, as we speak, and attempting to partition the country on its own conditions — that being the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Yet the media has barely paid any attention to this unlawful development, all the while raving incessantly about Iran’s non-existent acts of war in the wider Middle East.

Even if it can be established that Iran is directly transferring weapons to Yemen (weapons that somehow get through Saudi Arabia’s ruthlessly cruel blockade, which refuses to allow even the most basic food and medical supplies to Yemen’s starving population), it still doesn’t make sense to demonize Iran and give a free pass to Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen back into the Stone Age; or to the United States for knowingly supporting al-Qaeda in Syria.

One should note that Haley’s anti-Iran rhetoric comes at a time when it has been revealed that ISIS was openly taking advantage of U.S. weapons transfers in Syria.

Who is arming whom, exactly?

Top Photo:  U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley speak in front recovered segments of an Iranian rocket during a press briefing at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Washington. Haley says “undeniable” evidence proves Iran is violating international law by funneling missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen. Haley unveiled recently declassified evidence including segments of missiles launched at Saudi Arabia from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. CLIFF OWEN/AP PHOTO

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