ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

The Thirty-Six Countries That We Have Slapped Around This Week

What diplomacy? Here are 36 countries the US has bullied this week

What diplomacy? Here are 36 countries the US has bullied this week
It’s been a busy few days for American diplomacy, with three dozen nations ending up at the receiving end of threats, ultimatums and sanctions this week alone. And it’s only Friday.

Mexico is the latest target, slapped with 5 percent tariffs on each and every export, gradually increasing to 25 percent until it stops the flow of Latin American migrants into the US, thus fulfilling one of President Donald Trump’s election promises. Most of those migrants aren’t even from Mexico.

On the other side of the world, India is reportedly about to be forced to face a choice: ditch the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems or face sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA, Washington’s go-to cooperation enforcement instrument).

COMUS threatens ‘serious implications’ for defence ties with India as it stands defiant over S-400 deal

Turkey is facing a similar ultimatum: abandon S-400s (something Ankara has repeatedly refused to do) or lose access to the F-35 fighter jet program. This threat was repeated on Thursday by Kathryn Wheelbarger, US acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. Ankara has already invested some $1.25 billion into the super-expensive American fighter, but with a lot of its parts being made in Turkey, it’s still an open question who would be the bigger loser.

The entire European Union could be facing punishment if it tries to trade with Iran using its non-dollar humanitarian mechanism to bypass the American embargo. Having worked hard on the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, which has repeatedly been confirmed to be working, EU member states are not ready to ditch trade at Trump’s whim – and US Special Representative to Iran Brian Hook on Thursday reaffirmed the threat of CAATSA sanctions.

COMUS to punish anyone using EU’s alternative payment system with Iran to skirt sanctions 

Cuba, the rediscovered scapegoat of the Trump administration’s newfound anti-socialist drive, is being called out for supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. On his Thursday visit to Canada, US Vice President Mike Pence said Ottawa must stop Havana’s “malign influence” on Caracas’ affairs – despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s meek objections that it could play a “positive role” in settling the crisis there.

That’s 32 countries bullied, threatened or sanctioned in one day (counting the 28 EU members). Years’ worth of gunboat diplomacy, packed into a busy few hours in Trump’s signature “my way or the highway” style.

Mentioning Iran (which was almost certainly behind a recent inept attack on oil tankers near the Persian Gulf), China(which dares to buy Iranian oil), Russia (which has probably restarted low-yield nuclear tests) and Venezuela (where the ouster of its elected president is the only result of long-awaited talks with the opposition that Washington will accept) – is almost an afterthought. There’s hardly a week passing without the Trump administration churning out half-a-dozen accusations and threats against one or all of those – and this week, the gears were grinding as hard as ever.

Here’s a visual aid: every nation the US has threatened this week, colored in on a map.

American influence, built up over decades, is undeniable: even its adversaries depend on the US dollar and are arguably at the mercy of its myriad military bases all over the globe. Trump and his hawkish inner circle have been more than willing to spend that credit by shouting at everyone to get in line.

In the worst-case scenario, he is dragging the world into devastating wars. In the best case, he is throwing that influence away, showing allies and rivals alike that an ugly divorce could be the only way out of this abusive relationship.

Iraq Delegates Leading the Pro-Iran Defense At Saudi Anti-Iran Confab

ALMANAR

Iraq’s president calls on neighbours, allies for Iran’s stability

Gulf and Arab leaders are in Saudi Arabia for high-level meetings over rising US-Iran tensions.  Iraq’s president Barham Salih has called upon neighbouring countries and allies to support Iran’s stability.

Iraq has also refused to sign the final joint statement issued by the Arab League following its meeting in Saudi Arabia, which is also hosting talks with the leaders of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Earlier, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud accused Iran of interfering in the internal affairs of Arab states.

Qatar‘s Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani is also attending the summits amid the country’s ongoing blockade by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Andrew Simmons reports.

Iraq Breaks with Saudi on Iran During Mecca Summit

 

Iraq has opposed the final statement of an emergency meeting in Saudi Arabia, which condemned what it called Iran’s “interference” in countries of the Middle East region.

A statement by the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council and the communiqué issued after a wider summit both underlined the rights of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to defend themselves against Tehran.

The statements mainly cited concerns about the recent sabotage attacks against several ships off the UAE.

Both Saudi and Emirati officials have blamed the mysterious “sabotage” attacks on Iran while Iran denies any involvement.

“The absence of a firm deterrent stance against Iranian behavior is what led to the escalation we see today,” King Salman told the two consecutive meetings late on Thursday night.

He also pointed to Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs as sources of concern, and expressed concern about what he described as Iran’s threats to cripple global oil supplies by closing down the Strait of Hormuz in case the US seeks to zero out the Islamic Republic’s oil exports.

Iraq, however, which maintains close ties with neighboring Iran and has strong ties with Washington as well, objected to the communiqué, which required “non-interference in other countries” as a pre-condition for cooperation with Tehran.

Iraqi President Barham Salih asked the gathering to support his country’s stability, arguing that rising tensions with Iran could cause war. He voiced hope that Iran’s security would not be targeted.

“We are watching before our eyes the escalation of a regional and international crisis which can turn into war that will engulf all. If the crisis is not managed well, then we will be faced with the danger of a regional and international confrontation which will bring tragedy to our countries,” Salih said.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is a Muslim country that is a neighbor to Iraq and Arabs. It is certain that we do not wish the security of Iran to be targeted. We share a common border that is 1,400 km long and a long history and relations, and it is also certain that the security of a fellow Islamic country is in the interest of Arab and Islamic countries. The region needs stability based on a mechanism of joint security that guarantees non-interference in internal affairs and the rejection of violence and extremism,” he added.

The Mecca communiqué also said the Riyadh regime had all the rights to defend itself against retaliatory drone strikes by Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah fighters, after a number of drones flew hundreds of kilometers into Saudi Arabia and targeted two of the kingdom’s oil pumping stations earlier this month.

The oil-rich kingdom also accused Tehran of ordering the drone strikes against its oil facilities.

Source: Press TV

Saudi Arabia Invited Qatar To its Anti-Iran Summit

  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman extended his invitation to Qatar and Doha accepted, marking the first landing of a Qatari jet in Saudi Arabia since June of 2017.
  • While the move is significant, it does not address the underlying divide between Qatar and many of its Gulf counterparts.
  • Achieving a united plan of action against Iran among Gulf states will likely prove challenging, experts say.
Premium: Mohammed bin Salman 180307
Mohammed bin Salman
Will Oliver | Pool | Bloomberg | Getty Images

DUBAI — Arab leaders have convened in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for a two-day emergency meeting aimed at addressing increasing tensions with Iran.

The Gulf states have even reached out to Qatar, the estranged neighbor that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt cut off via a land and sea blockade two years ago. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman extended his invitation to Qatar and Doha accepted, marking the first landing of a Qatari jet in Saudi Arabia since June of 2017.

“The fact that the Saudis contacted the Emir of Qatar directly suggests that the tension with Iran is taken very seriously in Riyadh,” Andrews Krieg, a lecturer at the King’s College London School of Security Studies, told CNBC.

“So the kingdom is ready to build a broader than usual consensus on how to deal with Iran.”

But does this signal a breakthrough in Qatar-GCC relations and a possible end to the blockade? Don’t hold your breath, regional experts warn.

“While the invitation to (Qatari Emir) Sheikh Tamim is a positive step in a potential thaw in the Gulf rift, it should not be overblown,” said Becca Wasser, a policy analyst and regional specialist at the Rand Corporation. “Such invitations are symbolic and important, but they do little to solve the underlying factors that led to the rift.”

Giorgio Cafiero, founder of Washington D.C.-based think tank Gulf State Analytics, poked further holes in the prospect of a warm reunion between the alienated states.

“Talk of the summits leading to a resolution of the Gulf crisis is premature,” he wrote in an article for foreign affairs website LobeLog along with Qatari academic Khalid al-Jaber. ”In fact, the Saudis continue banning Qatari jets from the kingdom’s airspace. The Qatari jet that landed in Jeddah on May 27 was permitted entry into Saudi airspace just because of the upcoming Mecca summits, not due to any overall change in Saudi policy. ”

While reports describe the Qatari monarchy as receiving the invitation warmly, Doha is sending its Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani rather than its head of state, given that official relations between the two remain frigid. The economic and political blockade was launched based on charges that Qatar supported extremism and enjoyed cozy ties with Iran, accusations the Qataris reject.

A united front against Iran?

But in terms of creating a united front against Iran, the fact that not all of the Gulf states have been directly targeted by Iran or its proxies “makes Iranian subversion a difficult rallying cry,” Wasser noted. Still, she pointed out, the attacks on oil tankers “increases the buy-in of many of the states as shipping lanes are essential to their economic health.”

Krieg at King’s College London agreed. “The irrational securitization of Iran in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are not shared among the smaller states of the Gulf,” like Qatar, Kuwait and Oman, who have often acted as mediators during regional crises, Krieg said. “So the least common denominator that they can agree on might be far off from an actionable policy towards Iran. At the most we can expect a common position that will call on Iran not to escalate,” he added.

The summit follows several weeks of escalatory developments in the Gulf region, most significantly a mysterious attack on four tankers off the UAE coast that White House officials have blamed on Iran, and drone strikes on Saudi oil infrastructureclaimed by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton was in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, meeting with Gulf allies to chart a course of action in response to what the President Donald Trump administration has cited as increased and serious threats from Tehran. Washington has already announced it will send 1,500 additional U.S. troops to the region, and last week pushed through an $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan without Congressional approval.

While the White House has repeatedly said it is not seeking war or regime change, experts fear a miscalculation could lead to more serious confrontation. Iranian officials have denied involvement in the recent attacks, calling the charges “ludicrous.”

But some analysts feel that Bolton is looking for an excuse to harden his already hawkish stance toward Iran. The former diplomat has openly called for regime change in Iran in the past.

Tehran, under pressure from heavy U.S. sanctions, has announced an end to some of its commitments to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which was meant to curtail the country’s nuclear program in exchange for financial relief. Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who controls the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps recently designated by Trump as a terrorist organization, has repeatedly vowed that his country would not cower to U.S. pressure.

France, UK and U.S. Navies Rehearse Underwater Sabotage/Defense, One Month Before UAE Sabotage, In Artemis Trident 19 Wargames

Royal Navy sailors hoist a Sea Fox C-Round Mine Disposal System above the water, preparing to drop it in the sea for a training mission aboard the Royal Navy minehunter HMS Ledbury (M30) during Artemis Trident 19.

[Could this shaped-charge torpedo interceptor be responsible for ship “sabotage” in UAE?]

The U.S. Navy expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), fleet ocean tug USNS Catawba (T-ATF 168), Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Sentry (MCM 3), U.S. Coast Guard Island-class coastal patrol boats USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) and USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332); the Royal Navy landing ship dock RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009); the French Marine Nationale minehunters FS L’Aigle (M647) and FS Sagittaire (M650); the Royal Navy minehunters HMS Shoreham (M112) and HMS Ledbury (M30); and Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15 MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters navigate the Arabian Gulf in formation during Artemis Trident 19.

France, UK and U.S. navies complete Artemis Trident 19

The U.S. Navy expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), fleet ocean tug USNS Catawba (T-ATF 168), Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Sentry (MCM 3), U.S. Coast Guard Island-class coastal patrol boats USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) and USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332); the United Kingdom Royal Navy’s RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009); the French Marine Nationale’s minehunters FS L’Aigle (M647) and FS Sagittaire (M650); the United Kingdom Royal Navy’s minehunters HMS Shoreham (M112) and HMS Ledbury (M30); and Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM-15) MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters navigate the Arabian Gulf in formation during Artemis Trident 19. Artemis Trident is a mine countermeasures exercise conducted by France’s Marine Nationale, the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy in the Arabian Gulf focused on increasing interoperability and demonstrating the nations’ shared commitment to ensuring unfettered maritime operations.

MANAMA, Bahrain–France’s Marine Nationale, the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy completed the U.S. 5th Fleet mine countermeasures exercise Artemis Trident in the Arabian Gulf.

The scenario for the defensive exercise was for coalition forces to provide safe passage to humanitarian relief vessels through a mined area.

“Mines threaten maritime traffic indiscriminately,” U.S. Navy Capt. Jeffrey Morganthaler, Commodore of Task Force 52 and lead for the exercise, said. “Training together ensures we can collectively protect unfettered operations of naval and support vessels, as well as commercial shipping movements, throughout the maritime domain.”

In the fictional scenario, 70 nautical miles of channels and routes were cleared for simulated shipping using multiple, integrated sensors. Geographically dispersed forces practiced choke point clearance and harbor breakout.

The exercise involved over 700 personnel, 10 ships, and five helicopters from the three nations. The ships included the U.S. Navy expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), fleet ocean tug USNS Catawba (T-ATF 168), Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Sentry (MCM 3), Island-class coastal patrol boats USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) and USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332); the United Kingdom Royal Navy’s RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009) and minehunters HMS Shoreham (M112) and HMS Ledbury (M30); and the French Marine Nationale’s minehunters FS L’Aigle (M647) and FS Sagittaire (M650).

Cmdr. Steve White, commander of Royal Navy mine countermeasure forces deployed to the Arabian Gulf, speaks to the crew of the Royal Navy minehunter HMS Ledbury (M30) during a command update aboard the Ledbury during Artemis Trident 19.

As part of the exercise, FS L’Aigle and HMS Ledbury simultaneously rafted with the RFA Cardigan Bay. RFA Cardigan Bay’s support increased the endurance of the mine hunters, demonstrating how a multinational force could conduct sustainment and repairs during extended mine clearance operations.

In another scenario, six of the ships practiced collective self-defense, working together to defend themselves from simulated air and surface threats.

“The exercise has been a highlight in our current deployment, and it exemplifies how we are stronger together, in an area that is so complex,” said France’s Marine Nationale Lt. Pierre, mine clearance diving officer aboard FS L’Aigle. “France deploys MCM vessels on a regular basis to the Arabian Gulf, to maintain expertise of the local environment, and I am looking forward to the next exercise.”

Command and control was fully integrated throughout the exercise. The Commander UK Mine-Counter Measure Forces and his staff led Combined Task Group 52.2 from aboard the RFA Cardigan Bay, leading RFA Cardigan Bay, HMS Ledbury, FS L’Aigle and a U.S. Navy mine hunting unit. The United States Navy led Combined Task Group 52.3, focused on expeditionary mine countermeasures with diving forces from all three nations. The French Battle Staff, embarked on USS Lewis B. Puller, served as Combined Task Group 52.4 and led Puller, USS Sentry, FS Sagittaire and HMS Shoreham.

Royal Navy Able Rate Mine Warfare Jonathan Grayson, left, Able Rate Mine Warfare Oliver Leach, and Leading Seaman Garreth Miles, maneuver the Sea Fox C-Round Mine Disposal System from the magazine of the Royal Navy minehunter HMS Ledbury (M30) onto the deck to assemble the Sea Fox C-round in preparation for a training mission during Artemis Trident 19.

“There are many similarities between all three MCM communities from the comradeship and professionalism onboard these small ships, to the quest to embrace emerging maritime autonomous technology,” Royal Navy Commander Steven White, commander of Combined Task Group 52.2, said. “MCM is a complex and dangerous business that many people do not understand, these exercises allow me along with my fellow task group commanders, and commanding officers of ships and diving units to practice and refine our skills and procedures so we are ready when called upon to do this for real.”

Task Force 52 plans and executes mine warfare operations in support of U.S. 5th Fleet operational objectives.

U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse comprises 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.

 

Khalifa Haftar, CIA Frontman In Libya, Supported By All Sides, Except For Turkey and Qatar

Khalifa Haftar: CIA Asset

Is General Khalifa Hifter The CIA’s Man In Libya?

The Libyan Bedlam: General Hifter, the CIA and the Unfinished Coup

Libya and the Outsiders: Games of Power

The US-NATO Invasion of Libya Destroyed the Country Beyond All Recognition

CIA’s Man In Libya, Gen. Haftar, Backed By Russia, Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia

Russia + Saudi Arabia + Qatar, Except When In Syria

Pentagon Plans To Turn Anti-ISIL Efforts Into N. Africa Offensive Against Someone

Arab Fratricide In Libya–Qatar and Turkey vs. UAE and Egypt

Haftar salms UN envoy to Libya as biased

Warlord Khalifa Haftar hires US lobbyist

Battle for Libya’s capital after Trump’s call with Haftar will be very long

Haftar air forces strike House of Representatives in Libya capital

Image: Libyan Strongman Khalifa Haftar salutes during a military parade in the eastern city of Benghazi

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar at a military parade in the eastern city of Benghazi.Abdullah Doma / AFP – Getty Images file

Who is Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are attacking Tripoli, Libya?

 

Libya is like “‘Game of Thrones’ where every house is ruled by Joffrey,” one expert said.

By Alexander Smith

Chinese Threaten To Withhold Rare Earth/Strategic Minerals, Sending Stock Market Into Nose-Dive

donald trump, dow jones industrial average
The Dow plummeted on Wednesday after Beijing exposed its “devastating” strategy to pressure Trump into capitulation in trade war negotiations. | Source: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

Dow Flails After ‘Devastating’ Beijing Bombshell Pummels Trump

By CCN: The Dow recoiled on Wednesday after China exposed its bombshell strategy to win the trade war by pressuring the Trump administration into capitulation.

DOW SLIPS INTO FREEFALL

All of Wall Street’s major indices lurched lower, as intensifying trade war fears thundered across the global market.

As of 10:39 am ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had plummeted 160.52 points or 0.63%, thrusting the DJIA down to 25,187.25. The S&P 500 dropped 14.04 points or 0.5% to 2,788.31, and the Nasdaq fell 38.18 points or 0.5% to 7,569.17.

dow jones industrial average chart

The Dow endured a brutal sell-off after Beijing suggested that it would weaponize its rare earths exports. | Source: Yahoo Finance

BEIJING BOMBSHELL THROWS TRUMP ON HIS HEELS

Stocks plunged after Beijing revealed the ace up its sleeve in the rapidly escalating conflict with the United States: rare earths.

An editorial in the China’s People’s Daily – the Communist Party’s official newspaper – called for Beijing to drastically reduce exports of rare earths, which are vital to key industrial sectors including defense, energy, and automobile manufacturing.

Around 80% of all US rare earths imports come from China, and they’re crucial for producing everything from nuclear batteries to smartphones.

US rare earths imports, trade war, dow jones

China single-handedly controls the fate of every US industry that relies on rare earths imports. | Source: Bloomberg

Jack Lifton, co-founder of Technology Metals Research LLC, told Bloomberg that China’s rare earths weaponization would deal the US – and Trump – a “devastating” blow.

“There is no such thing as an automobile sold in the U.S. or made in the U.S. that doesn’t have rare-earth permanent magnet motors somewhere in its assembly,” Lifton said. “It would be a tremendous hit to the consumer appliance industry and the automotive industry. That means washing machines, vacuum cleaners, cars. The list is endless.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping previously warned the country to prepare for a “new Long March” filled with “difficult situations,” implicitly threatening the US with a prolonged trade conflict that could not only outlast Trump but also several of his successors.

Almost as if penned by Xi himself, the China’s People’s Daily editorial issued an ominous threat:

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Most trade war coverage has focused on the tariffs that the US has threatened to impose on Beijing. However, as China’s apparent move to slash rare earths exports demonstrates, China has plenty of ammunition to pinch the Trump administration where it hurts.

Beijing’s rare earths weaponization immediately places Trump on the defensive, and it further risks making his “We’re not ready to make a deal” boast ring more than a bit hollow.

ANALYST: STOCK MARKET STANDS ON BRINK OF 10% CRASH

dow jones industrial average, stock market

The stock market could suffer a 10% crash once Wall Street sobers up to the alarming trade war reality. | Source: Drew Angerer / Getty Images / AFP

Analysts have been sounding the alarm on US-China tensions since negotiations suddenly went south earlier this month, but investors seem to have anesthetized themselves to the gravity of the situation.

This collective delusion can’t last forever, and the stock market could endure a 10% crash once Wall Street sobers up.

“The market is deeply underestimating how bad it can get,” Sebastien Galy, a senior macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management, told MarketWatch. There’s a “60% chance that things go quite awry on the trade side,” and a 5% to 10% pullback for stocks is “quite likely.”

DOW SPEEDS TOWARD 6TH-STRAIGHT LOSS

Wednesday’s sell-off placed the Dow firmly on course for a sixth consecutive weekly loss. On May 28, the DJIA lost 237.92 points or 0.93% to 25,347.77, despite leaping more than 100 points at the opening bell.

The S&P 500 slid 0.84% to 2,802.39, and the Nasdaq outperformed with a 0.39% decline that reduced the tech-heavy index to 7,607.35.

Click here for a real-time Dow Jones Industrial Average price chart.

EU Power Shifts From France To Italy, As Populism Stings the Neo-Liberal Order

French far right shows renewed strength in blow for Macron

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister and leader of the anti-migrant League Party, in Milan, Italy, on Monday.CreditGuglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant, populist party the League made big gains in Italy.

Results as of 2 p.m. EST on Monday, May 27. Euroskeptic parties include those with policies that seek to weaken the E.U. and devolve power away from it, both on the left and right. For the purposes of this map, we omitted Britain, which is in the midst of a tumultuous process of trying to leave the E.U.

Source: European Parliament

“There is a wind of positive energy,” said Mr. Salvini, whose anti-immigrant party won 34 percent of the vote in Italy. “It has brought in fresh air.”

Maybe. While the populists increased their share of seats in the European Parliament, they were denied the sort of Continent-wide earthquake they and their boosters had predicted — and their critics had feared — as turnout jumped in some places to the highest level in 20 years.

Some 75 percent of voters still backed parties that support Europe, blocking a major populist victory. Pro-Europe parties like the Greens picked up unexpected gains.

For Mr. Salvini’s critics — who see him as Europe’s version of the kind of populist strongman who now seems ascendant around the globe — the air he let in has a noxious whiff to it.

Recent elections in India, Australia and the Philippines have shown public support for tough leaders, and Mr. Salvini and other European populists are trying to push some of the same buttons. They oppose immigration, promote nationalism, blame globalization and promise a return to better, bygone eras.

Supporters of France’s far-right National Rally celebrated election results in Paris, on Sunday night.CreditCharles Platiau/Reuters
But as the European elections broadly revealed, that appeal has limits, at least for now, as opponents also mobilize in an age of political volatility. Polls show the public does not want to tear down the European Union, and if many people want to change the bloc, they often disagree on how to do it.

If little else was clear from the fractured returns in Europe, the elections showed that battle lines between populists and the political establishment are still forming in a crucial — and complicated — political arena.

“The old left-right divide is being replaced by a dominant rift between populists and anti-populists,” said Zaki Laïdi, a professor and political analyst at Sciences Po in Paris.

Europe has been in a state of political ferment since the 2008 financial crisis, which created divisions between north and south, rich and poor, and generated resentments that exploded in a populist backlash after the migration crisis in 2015.

New parties or those once on the fringes in many countries suddenly found new constituencies, while the political establishment crumbled in Greece, Spain, Italy, France and elsewhere.

In the weekend voting, France’s far-right, nationalist leader, Marine Le Pen, edged out President Emmanuel Macron, who presented himself as the face of pro-European modernity.

In Eastern Europe, right-wing leaders in Hungary and Poland now lead the national governments and routinely challenge the democratic and institutional norms of the European Union. The party of Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister who has eroded democratic norms, won more than half the electorate.

But in Germany and elsewhere, populist forces did not meet expectations, and the threat to a European establishment that lost votes came from strong showings by the Greens and liberals, both of whom are solidly pro-European.

Marine Le Pen, in France, came back from what seemed like her exile by edging past President Emmanuel Macron in the elections for the European Parliament.CreditCharles Platiau/Reuters
In Italy, the birthplace of fascism and later a founding member of the European bloc, Mr. Salvini punched through the ceiling of even the highest expectations he had set for the returns. That outcome has already cemented his dominance in Italy’s politics.

But it was also accompanied by the collapse of another populist force — his coalition partners in the Five Star Movement — as well as the surprising revival of the pro-Europe, center-left Democratic Party, after its near-death experience in Italy’s national elections last year.

The divisive language against the European Union as the root of all the Continent’s ills “has actually galvanized people,” said Nathalie Tocci, the director of Italy’s Institute of International Affairs and a senior adviser to Europe’s foreign policy chief. “All of a sudden Europe means something.”

Ms. Tocci argued that as a result of that turnout, and a rejuvenation of the European political space by new Green voters and liberals, “the nationalists did not do as well as many feared.”

Mr. Salvini’s victory, she said, all but guaranteed Italy’s isolation in Europe and she considered his intention to form a populist group in European Parliament with up to 140 members “completely irrelevant.”

Outside of Italy, it was not clear that there was even a cohesive, pan-national populist movement to lead.

“Already within this nationalist alliance or whatever he calls it, already within that group they disagree with one another,” she said.

“Yes, they are all anti-migration but Salvini is the one who says other European countries have to take the burden,’’ she added. ‘‘You try and convince Orban about this. Be my guest. This is the point of nationalists. They are nationalists. They don’t help each other.”

Though far-right populists in Europe fell short of the worst fears of the political establishment, Mr. Salvini nonetheless captured nearly a third of votes in his country.

He did so sailing with the prevailing political winds blowing in much of the world, as autocrats in Russia and China set the pace of geopolitical competition, and President Trump acts as a one-man stress test on America’s system of checks and balances. Strong-fisted leaders, often with anti-democratic impulses, have risen to power all around.

India’s incumbent prime minister, the polarizing, right-leaning Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, won a stunning re-election victory last week, with a populist agenda favoring India’s Hindu majority and stoking fresh fear in the country’s minority communities, especially Muslims.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who has waged an antidrug campaign that human rights activists estimate has killed 20,000 people, won more seats this month in the Senate, while opposition candidates did not win any seats in the upper house, for the first time since 1938.

“This is how a democracy dies in our age, perishing on the back of a demagogue who ushers in popular dictatorship with consent of the masses and even the elite,” said Richard Heydarian, a professor of political science and author of “The Rise of Duterte: A Populist Revolt Against Elite Democracy.”

Each country had its nuances and complexities, but from a global view, it was clear which way the political axis tilted.

“There is this rightward shift of the political balance,” said Stefano Stefanini, a retired Italian ambassador to NATO.

“Leaders are able to or try to bypass institutions and the traditional systems of checks and balances by going directly to the people,’’ he said. ‘‘And that can lead to a phase where you actually do away with democracy.”

The party of Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister who has eroded democratic norms, won more than half the electorate in the voting for the European Parliament.CreditSzilard Koszticsak/EPA, via Shutterstock

That stage had not arrived, but he worried that social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, so adored by Mr. Trump and Mr. Salvini, could speed the process.

“Contemporary democracy runs the same risk of ancient Greece democracy: turning into tyranny,” he said.

In Europe, upheavals in identity politics — migration, globalization and an economic inequality — had led to a serious questioning of the liberal market democracy, said Roberto Menotti, a senior adviser at the Aspen Institute Italia.

“Change in general create fears, and that’s probably one simple explanation of this shift” to the right, he said. “But at the same time, it seems to me, the other big trend has been volatility.”

Parties that have been at the heart of the European political life since World War II are falling apart, and the election results eroded them further. The Brexit Party, a veritable political pop-up which sprouted only weeks ago, won about 32 percent of the vote in Britain.

“Whether this is a sort of terminal illness or just a temporary big headache of course we don’t know,” said Mr. Menotti.

What is clear from recent European history, especially in Europe, is that things change very quickly. Only five years ago, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, of Italy’s Democratic Party, became the toast of Europe’s left by winning more than 40 percent in European elections.

The Five Star Movement, the League’s coalition partner, became the leading party in Italy in national elections last year, but have now lost half of their support and trail the Democratic Party.

Mr. Salvini, a lifelong political operative, didn’t waste any time trying to consolidate his victory into gains that could help his longevity.

On Monday afternoon, he hit the campaign trail again, arguing in Rome that the election result gave him a mandate to renegotiate European budgetary rules imposed to bring down Italy’s dangerously inflated debt, but which would hurt his plans of introducing politically popular tax cuts.

“I will use this consensus to try to change European rules that are damaging the Italian people,” he said.

Jeffrey Gettleman contributed reporting from New Delhi, Aurelien Breeden from Paris, Elisabetta Povoledo from Rome, Richard C. Paddock from Bangkok, Christopher F. Schuetze from Berlin, Niki Kitsantonis from Athens and Carlotta Gall from Istanbul.

US ARMY Asks Stupid Question On Memorial Day…Gets Uniform Response of Shared Guilt and Regrets

#WHYISERVE

By George Marlowe

Last Thursday, the US Army asked its followers in a tweet, “How has serving impacted you?” It was meant to be a routine Twitter post ahead of Memorial Day to draw responses which would glorify the United States Army and veterans who served as cannon fodder for the military. It did not go as planned and backfired spectacularly.

More than 10,000 people replied in response with an outpouring of antiwar sentiments detailing the horrors, crimes and ravages of war. Many of the comments are harrowing stories of lives completely undone, a portrait of an entire population scarred and destroyed by US militarism at home and abroad.

“Your impact is that you’re a death cult,” San declared bluntly on the US war machine in a typical response.

Credit: US Marines

Suicides, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), nightmares, depression, bipolar disorders, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addictions, eruptions of violence, sexual assault, marital breakdown, health issues from exposure to chemical weapons like Agent Orange, failures of the Veterans Administration, families and friends wrecked over multiple generations, and worse are some of the thousands of devastating stories detailed in these replies.

“Many of us are a shell of who we were before,” said one military veteran.

Shane spoke of veteran suicides and unending military deployments. “My best friend from high school,” he said, “was denied his mental health treatment and forced to return to a third tour in Iraq, despite having such deep trauma that he could barely function. He took a handful of sleeping pills and shot himself in the head two weeks before deploying.”

“I didn’t serve but my brother did,” Penny noted, recounting the tragedy that befell her family as a result. “He never went to war but still shot himself in the head. He was the sweetest most tender person I’ll ever know and the US Army ruined him.”

Veterans continue to kill themselves at alarming levels in the United States. More than 52 percent of military suicides occur among US Army veterans. A Veterans Administration study from 2016 showed that approximately 20 veterans die every day, or one every hour or so. According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), more than 5,500 veterans killed themselves in 2018.

Alice spoke of the generational traumas felt by the scars of past wars going back to World War II. “My grandfather fought in Burma with the U.S. Army in WWII,” Alice wrote. “He lived a long life and had 7 children. But as he got older the nightmares came. It broke my heart to hear him tell me with tears in his eyes that he was dreaming every night of all he had seen.”

Chanda spoke of similar traumas affecting whole families. “My uncle was US Airforce,” she said, “and he came home with PTSD that went untreated for almost 50 years and had an impact on his ability to be the family man he needed to be. Now, he’s suffering serious physical side effects from agent orange exposure. It’s affected my whole family.”

“The real take away,” Brett remarked on the Army’s tweet, “for the social media/marketing folks whose brilliant idea this was should be to stop selling and glorifying military service to underprivileged 18-year-olds while covering up the consequences and side effects.”

A U.S. Marine stands guard duty near a burning oil well in the Rumaila oil field, Iraq, April 2003, Credit: US Navy

Another commentator declared, “Soldiers are not your money-bought pawns. They are not random collateral. They are family. They are friends. Our mothers and fathers. Our sisters and brothers. Our aunts, uncles, and cousins. They are more than a serial number. Even if they don’t lose their lives, they lose themselves.”

“The US Army takes advantage of those stuck in unfortunate circumstances,” said another, “while the elite continue to profit off their ‘service’ and reap their benefits. My heart breaks for every veteran in this thread brave enough to speak their painful truths of this dystopian cult.”

The pervasiveness of antiwar sentiment is detailed in comments like the following as well: “My grandfather was drafted from Puerto Rico against his will and taken to Korea to fight a war for the USA and when he didn’t want to kill people that didn’t do anything to him he was thrown in jail.”

A person in Sacramento, California spoke of the crimes of US imperialism in Vietnam and that war’s continuing impact: “My grandparents were used as pawns serving the US army in aiding them on the Ho Chi Minh trail. They served in The Secret War, and when the US lost the Vietnam war the Hmong were left to die in genocide. To this day Hmong veterans are not recognized by the US army.

“More than half of my people were wiped out through genocide. Only about a third of what once was the Hmong population are scattered in diaspora around the world. Many in the US who deal with PTSD through alcoholism, abuse, and addiction to opium.

“And the children are left to pick up the pieces and navigate a delicate past, present, and future for the years to come while inheriting intergenerational trauma.”

“My dad was in the marines in the 2000s,” another person explained. “He served in Iraq and then got honorably discharged. He talked a lot about how proud he was for that, but I’ve spent a lot of my time the past couple months crying. How does pride come into play when he’s gone?

“He’d been struggling with PTSD for so long. He’d been struggling with addiction and alcoholism, but he wanted help so badly. He spent the entirety of 2018 wanting to get better. He went to rehab and took all the medication he was told to, but there was so much medication.

“He slipped. He made the mistake of fueling his addiction. Once. But with all the medication prescribed to him his body couldn’t handle that. So he was on a ventilator and then they disconnected him a week later after giving him 72 hours.

“Take better care of our veterans. He was only 37. My mom used to do everything with him and now she looks so lonely. The calendar that he hung is still there, in our kitchen. It still says December 2018. No one has touched it.”

US soldiers in a firefight in Baghdad in 2007, Credit: US Army

Nathan spoke of the wars coming home with devastating violence, “You all make the world a scary place playing war games killing people overseas then the poor guys come home, get police jobs and end up shooting people in our communities.” More than one thousands Americans are killed by police every year, a reflection of the brutalization and militarization of all forms of social life.

Karen spoke of the falsehoods and imperialist deceits used to prosecute these illegal wars. “My uncle is still MIA in Laos,” she said. “He was involved in a secret war, and the military lied to my family about his location. He was 20 years old, too young to vote at that time.

“The US has learned nothing,” Karen added, “and continues to manufacture war under false pretenses.”

This outpouring of rage on Twitter highlights the latent but deep going antiwar sentiment in the American population that finds no expression in the current political system or the corporate media. A quarter century of endless wars of aggression waged to offset the decline of US capitalism on the world stage has taken a heavy human toll at home as well as abroad.

A continuous string of administrations from both parties of big business, from George H.W. Bush, to Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, are the chief architects of a maelstrom of bloody imperialist violence unleashed around the world since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

While George H.W. Bush went to his grave praised by the political establishment, thousands of veterans and millions of civilians have been scarred by the first Gulf War which he oversaw. Following Clinton’s crimes in Iraq and Yugoslavia, George W. Bush’s administration began the unending “War on Terror” that killed and maimed millions in Iraq and Afghanistan and destroyed and destabilized an entire civilization and region. Nearly two decades later the US military continues to occupy both countries.

Millions hoped that Obama would end the wars of the previous Bush administration, but he extended the theater of war to more than seven countries, including Libya and Syria, and carried out deadly drone strikes in multiple countries that killed innumerable innocent civilians. Trump has continued Obama’s wars, maintaining an illegal occupation of northeastern Syria and deploying 1,500 additional soldiers to the Middle East to threaten Iran.

The endless sociocide waged by American imperialism has unleashed the largest refugee crisis globally since World War II and threatens the world with the outbreak of a third world war with nuclear armed powers, Russia and China.

War criminals like George W. Bush, Clinton, Obama and Trump have yet to be held to account for their crimes; instead, they walk free and have made enormous fortunes since leaving office. Unlike the Nazi trials of Nuremberg following World War II, there has been no reckoning with the crimes of American imperialism.

For its part, the US media, including the New York TimesWashington Post, CNN, Fox News and the rest of the mainstream media have served as open propaganda instruments for the US ruling elite, justifying the lies and false pretexts manufactured to prosecute criminal wars of aggression and to suffocate mass antiwar sentiment in the population.

These are the crimes that Julian Assange, WikiLeaks and whistleblower Chelsea Manning courageously revealed and risked their lives. For revealing the truths about the wars of American imperialism, a responsibility the media have completely abdicated, both Manning and Assange have been thrown into prison. They are victims of a massive political frame-up by the US ruling class, which now seeks to criminalize the freedom of the press with the use of the Espionage Act.

As the comments in response to the US Army Twitter post reveal, there is a powerful revulsion to war and mass antiwar sentiment in the United States. The crimes of American imperialism are above all the product of the failure of the global capitalist system, the growth of social inequality and the continued division of the world into competing nation states.

The intolerable conditions millions confront in their daily lives are driving them into opposition to capitalism and war. This opposition, however, can only be mobilized in progressive direction through the building of a mass antiwar, anti-capitalist and socialist movement of the international working class to once and for all end the scourges and horrors of war and capitalism.

 

With Trump As Acting Dictator, Facing A Chicken-Shit Congress, We the People Do Not Matter Anymore

[Too afraid of losing their checks, the American people sat on their hands, while the Congress pissed all over themselves and cowered away, and the Traitor, Donald Trump surrendered our sovereignty to an Al-Qaida/Zionist alliance, who gleefully unloaded our weapons on all of the civilians in sight. 

How could the Iranian Mullahs be held responsible for all of this?  Our problems did not begin with the UAE False Flag conspiracy in the Gulf of Oman (Gulf Tankers Attack Just Another “False Flag” Provocation?).]

With Saudi arms deal, the president uses a Trumped-up emergency to sidestep Congress

With Saudi arms deal, the president uses a Trumped-up emergency to sidestep Congress
President Trump has invoked a nonexistent emergency to sell arms to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite lack of approval from Congress. (Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

The Trump administration, apparently not happy with the carnage in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, is sidestepping the wishes of Congress and pushing through $8 billion worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (some of which are eventually destined for Jordan).

How is Trump managing that? Through another imaginary emergency.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Congress on Friday that President Trump, citing “Iranian malign activity” and threatened increased actions by Houthi combatants in Yemen, would invoke an emergency provision of the Arms Export Control Act to complete sales that Congress had not approved.

Except there doesn’t seem to be an emergency — just the president’s inability (once again) to get what he wants from Congress. So he forges ahead on a pretext and dares someone to stop him.

Except there isn’t an emergency.

It’s a page from the same playbook he used to shift Pentagon money — that Congress had approved for defense purposes — to augment wall construction and other security measures along the southwest border that Congress refused to approve.

There are two things going on here.

In the past, when lawmakers assumed the White House would be occupied by someone with the nation’s best interests in mind, Congress gave the president various authorities to move quickly when circumstances demand it. It even limited its own ability to check that power, a decision that now seems foolish. Under the National Emergencies Act, Congress can overrule a presidential declaration, but the president can veto any such decision. Which means it would take two-thirds of both houses to end a national emergency declaration.

Not quite carte blanche for the president, but awfully close. And naturally, it would take a veto-proof majority of both houses to change that law and seize power back from the president.

Beyond yet again blowing up notions of how Washington is supposed to work, and getting to put on his little emperor’s hat once more, the president’s decision to send more weapons to Saudi Arabia is bad policy because it further cements global perceptions of the U.S. as a blindly loyal supporter of Saudi Arabia, despite its atrocious killing of civilians in Yemen, its domestic political repression, and the unconscionable disappearances of dissidents abroad, including the murder and dismemberment in Istanbul of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the royal family.

European Nationalist Leaders Join Forces To Challenge EU Neo-Liberal Parliament

European far-right leaders rally together in populist bid for bloc’s parliament

Italy’s interior minister positions himself at forefront of movements campaigning under an anti-migrant, anti-Islam, anti-bureaucracy banner

From left, Geert Wilders, leader of Dutch Party for Freedom, Matteo Salvini, Jörg Meuthen, leader of Alternative For Germany party, Marine Le Pen, Leader of the French National Front, Vaselin Marehki leader of Bulgarian ‘Volya’ party, Jaak Madison of Estonian Conservative People’s Party, and Tomio Okamura leader of Czech far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy, attend a rally organized by League leader Matteo Salvini, with leaders of other European nationalist parties, ahead of the May 23-26 European Parliamentary elections, in Milan, Italy, May 18, 2019. (Luca Bruno/AP)

MILAN (AP) — Italy’s anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini led a rally of right-wing populist leaders Saturday seeking historic results in next week’s European Parliament elections in their bid to transform European politics.

Salvini, the head of Italy’s right-wing League party, has positioned himself at the forefront of a growing movement of nationalist leaders seeking to free the European Union’s 28 nations from what he called Brussels’ “illegal occupation.”

Salvini was joined by 10 other nationalist leaders, including include far-right leaders Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally party and Joerg Meuthen of the Alternative for Germany party. It was a major tour de force for the expanding movement ahead of the May 23-26 vote that will take place in all 28 EU nations.

Still, most of the tens of thousands of supporters that packed the square outside the central Duomo cathedral in Milan were there for Salvini. League flags filled the square, with a smattering of national flags from other nations.

A short distance away, some 2,000 protesters marched to protest the right-wing gathering.

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is leader of The League party, salutes as he arrives at a rally with leaders of other European nationalist parties, ahead of the May 23-26 European Parliamentary elections, in Milan, Italy, May 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

In front of the Duomo, Salvini railed against unchecked migration and decried Islam, saying it mistreated women. He said Turkey would never be a part of Europe and rejected the label of extremists for the leaders with him.

“In this piazza, there are no extremists. There are no racists. There are no fascists. If anything in Italy and in Europe, the difference is between who looks ahead, between who speaks of the future … instead of making trials of the past,” he said.

The far-right and populist leaders in Milan are making one of the strongest challenges to the European status quo in decades, united under an anti-migrant, anti-Islam, anti-bureaucracy banner.

“It is an historic moment important enough to free the continent from the illegal occupation organized by Brussels for many years,” Salvini said.

He accused European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, of “betraying Europe … by constructing a Europe of finance and uncontrolled immigration.”

Closing the rally, Salvini clutched a rosary, entrusting his victory to Europe’s patron saints as he looked up at a statue of the Virgin Mary atop the Duomo. When he did the same thing before last year’s national election, his flaunting of a religious object was roundly criticized as inappropriate in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

People attend a protest to oppose a rally organized by League leader Matteo Salvini, with leaders of other European nationalist parties, ahead of the May 23-26 European Parliamentary elections, in Milan, Italy, May 18, 2019. Antonio Calanni/AP)

Notably absent Saturday was the leader of Austria’s anti-immigrant Freedom Party, Heinz Christian Strache, who stayed in Vienna to resign as vice chancellor after two German newspapers showed video of him offering government contracts to a potential Russian benefactor.

Despite the political setback for a key member of the Europe of Nations and Freedom parliamentary group, Le Pen predicted it “will perform a historic feat, moving from the 8th place in Europe to third or maybe second” among major political groups in the European Parliament.

Speaking to reporters before the rally, Le Pen called Strache’s predicament a domestic matter, but expressed surprise “that this video that seems two years old is coming out today, a few days before the election.”

She said the movement was united “in our conception of cooperation in Europe, our shared desire to protect our citizens, our common refusal to see our country being subjected to the submergence of migration.

“The fundamental fight we are waging is a commitment against totalitarianism, globalization and Islamism, to which the European Union is responding, respectively, through accession and complacency,” she said.

People attend a rally organized by League leader Matteo Salvini, with leaders of other European nationalist parties, ahead of the May 23-26 European Parliamentary elections, in Milan, Italy, May 18, 2019. (Luca Bruno/AP)

The populist and far-right party leaders want to decentralize some EU policymaking, including for trade, agriculture and banking, while tightening immigration laws. Most share common views over immigration and want some powers to be returned to the member states’ capitals, but clash on other economic and social policies.

An analysis by the London-based Teneo consultancy forecasts that Europe’s two traditional center-right and center-left political groups will be weakened in the May vote, falling short of the 50% threshold of support for the first time. But Teneo said that result will mostly increase the influence of other centrist parties more than that of the nationalists.

John Bolton, War-Dog

Via Disobedient Media,

It’s been a bad year on the job for John Bolton.

Whether it is blowing up the Hanoi Summit with a memo, embarrassing the US abroad by backing a Venezuelan coup which fizzled out or getting American forces into a potential war with Iran based solely on non-specific Israeli intelligence the National Security Advisor has shown himself to be unable to help President Donald Trump deliver on campaign promises but adept at creating a mess. Since assuming his position in April 2018, Bolton has dragged Trump, who ran on a platform of non-intervention and a re-haul of American foreign policy strategies, into a myriad of problems that have caused him to contradict his own agenda. This is the result of extreme incompetence if not outright sabotage.

Make Donald Trump Great Again” is Macgregor’s mantra. It is much needed in an administration where the President often seems to be the only one who still champions foreign policy objectives like the border wall that originally caught the attention of his base. While Bolton lives eternally in the Cold War, Macgregor’s focus is on the problems afflicting a United States that is struggling without grace to find its place in the modern world. He rightly calls out Bolton’s insistence on an “all or nothing” approach to negotiations with North Korea that have prevented a peace deal and rages about constant attempts by Washington insiders to induce Trump to backtrack on policy announcements that him look weak and self-contradictory in the process.

The strategy pursued by Bolton and his contemporaries seeks to return the United States to the unipolar era of the 1990’s when America’s dominance was secured by a ruined Russia and a still-developing China. They have not learned from the lessons of the USSR, which collapsed because it was simply unable to keep up with the expenses of running a global empire that an economically dominant United States could once handle.

America’s shifting role in the world is very much on the mind of Macgregor. It is reflected in his skepticism of NATO, his calls for reform of the military and his criticism of America’s wars that drag on for years but no longer result in victories. His distaste for foreign wars that sap a nation’s global power and do not meaningfully help America achieve its foreign policy objectives is a refreshing change from the hawkish behavior of Bolton, who is currently drawing the United States dangerously close to a conflict with Iran. Macgregor compares Bolton to Don Gaspar de Guzmán, the advisor to Spain’s King Philip IV who crashed the debt-ridden Spanish empire by engaging it in sporadic and unhelpful foreign interventions. Philip IV is notorious for this failure while Guzmán is now long forgotten. If Trump does not release Bolton soon his legacy will likely suffer the same fate.

America cannot afford the foolish council of those who are unable or unwilling to see the crisis that the country currently sits in. Take a chance on someone who goes against the grain.

Evidence On the Five Dancing Mossad Agents Visibly Celebrating the 911 Attack

“Dancing Israelis” 9/11 Photos Released after FOIA Request, Media Silent

Photos showing Israeli intelligence (Mossad) agents detained during 9/11 have been revealed after a FOIA request. Nobody in the entire media has reported on this, not even in the Alt-Right or Alt-Lite media. We are among the first.

So according to 12bytes, on the morning of 11 September, 2001, five Israeli’s traveling in a company van were arrested in connection with the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers. According to police, traces of explosives were detected in the van. The men were detained and questioned for more than 70 days before being deported to Israel without having been charged with a crime. Witnessing the event from multiple vantage points with photographic equipment, their stated purpose was “to document the event” according to one of the men who made the statement during a T.V. interview upon returning to Israel.

Though the reports are conflicting, according to some witnesses the men were in position prior to the first plane striking the north tower which leads to the question, how did they know there was going to be an event to document?

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Pepe The Unredacted Frog@DualCitiznPepe

So here’s my own little personal debut of the FOIA that I received concerning the Dancing Israelis from 9/11.
Thank you to @Know_More_News for the video linked below, helping get exposure. These photos are heavily redacted. I have contacted @lcfor911 in hopes to get assistance

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Adam Green 🌐@Know_More_News

BREAKING: Dancing Israelis FOIA Photos REVEALED!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuQz6ej7hT4 

The Israeli’s, among approximately 60 arrested after the attacks, worked for what appears to have been a Mossad front company, Urban Moving Company, the owner of which fled to Israel shortly after the attack, thus avoiding questioning by the FBI who, on the 15th, discovered the building had been abandoned. Of the five, at least two were found to have Mossad connections. All of them had plane tickets for immediate departure and one had several thousand dollars stuffed in his sock. The Israeli nationals apparently captured 76 images that day, including several of themselves celebrating the destruction of the towers behind them. One of the men was photographed holding up a cigarette lighter against the backdrop of the burning towers. Indeed, a witness who looked out of her window and saw the men stated that they appeared to be celebrating, that “they were like happy” and that “they didn’t look shocked to me”. Following are a few of the 76 photographs released by the FBI as a result of a FOIA request by John Massaria (photographs courtesy of ANC Report). A more complete story is available at 21st Century Wire.

Interestingly, the file name of the last photograph is file://H:\Twin Towers Bombing[REDACTED]photo\photo5.jpg

So they know, even the FBI uses the term “BOMBING” as in World Trade Center was rigged with bombs, even though the official story is that there were no bombs… this case is so in your face, its a miracle the Americans aren’t revolting over this.

2 Navy Seals Dodge Premeditated Murder Charge, Receive Jail Time For “Hazing” Death of Green Beret, Logan Melgar

2 Navy SEAL Team 6 Operators, 2 Marine Raiders Charged For Murdering Army Green Beret For Exposing “Spec Forces Gone Wild In Mali”

(SEE: Green Beret Discovered SEALs’ Illicit Cash. Then He Was Killed.)

Navy SEAL gets prison time for role in Green Beret’s hazing death

A Navy SEAL pleaded guilty to his role in the 2017 strangulation death of an Army Green Beret in Mali during a hazing attempt gone horribly wrong — and will spend a year in military prison, according to a new report.

Chief Petty Officer Adam Matthews, 33, confessed Thursday that he — along with three other special operators serving in the capital city of Bamako — conspired to break into Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar’s private room with a sledgehammer, restrain him with duct tape and film him in an attempt to embarrass him, Stars and Stripes reported.

Matthews accepted a deal from prosecutors to avoid murder charges — and pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit assault and battery, unlawful entry and lying to investigators about those involved in Melgar’s death, the outlet reported.

“I’ve carried the weight of Staff Sgt. Melgar’s death every minute of every day since that night in Mali,” Matthews said, according to NBC.

“I am truly sorry,” he told the court.

As he was being sentenced, friends and family described Matthews as that “100-pound kid who wanted to be a Navy SEAL that nobody thought could be,” according to the report.

He earned a Purple Heart after suffering injuries in Afghanistan.

Melgar’s wife, Michelle Melgar, expressed that her husband had often vented about “immature” SEALs. Still, she thanked Matthews for speaking the truth.

But the Green Beret’s mom, Nitza Melgar, blasted Matthews: “You are a disgrace to your Purple Heart,” according to the report.

Petty Officer Anthony E. DeDolph
Petty Officer Anthony E. DeDolph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matthews and the other servicemen hashed out the “juvenile” plan against Melgar over late-night drinks and food, he told the judge. They’d never planned to kill Melgar, but only to “remediate” him for what they viewed as performance issues and a “slight” from the night before, Matthews added, according to Stars and Stripes.

Melgar died as a result of a chokehold by Chief Petty Officer Tony DeDolph, prosecutors said, the outlet reported.

Matthews agreed to testify in the cases against DeDolph, as well as Marine Raiders Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez and Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell Jr., the other accused service members, according to the report.

Matthews could face a military discharge for bad conduct, which would cost him his veteran’s benefits, NBC reported.

But Judge Capt. Michael Luken said an admiral will ultimately make that decision — which will depend on Matthews’ cooperation and feedback from Melgar’s family, the outlet reported.

Ukrainian Memo Accusing Biden and Son of Receiving ‘Unlawful Benefit’

Ukraine Prosecutor Says No Evidence of Wrongdoing by Bidens

A memo allegedly leaked from the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine shows that prosecutors are accusing former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden of receiving “an unlawful benefit” from former Ukrainian Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky’s Burisma Group, and oil and gas producer.

According to the document, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office also accuses Zlochevsky of offering Biden and former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a share of Burisma Group’s profits.

Michael Carpenter, the head of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, declined to comment. Zlochevsky’s lawyer Yaroslav Belyavsky and Burisma Group did not respond to a request for comment.

Kerry could not be reached for comment through the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Kerry Initiative at Yale University, where he is currently working.

Lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko published the memo on May 14. He said that the memo had been submitted by Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko’s team to U.S. President Donald Trump’s team and that he had received it from journalists working for a news site affiliated with Trump.

Lutsenko’s spokeswoman Larysa Sargan denied that the memo had been submitted from Lutsenko’s team to Trump’s team.

The leaked memo came in response to claims by Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, that Leshchenko had been convicted of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on the side of the Democratic Party, claims that Leshchenko denies.

And it also added another wrinkle to one of the strangest recent events in American and Ukrainian politics: Giuliani’s announcement that he would visit Ukraine to push for investigations into alleged Ukrainian interference and into Biden, Trump’s potential opponent in the 2020 presidential election.

Real memo?

The memo states that, in March 2014, “through the available lobbying channels, M.V. Zlochevsky offered John Kerry and Joe Biden a share in the distribution of profits of the holding company Burisma Group in exchange for lobbying activities and political support.”

The memo claims that, at the suggestion of Kerry, Devon Archer — a friend of the former Secretary of State’s stepson Christopher Heinz — became a member of Burisma’s board of directors.

“Biden established indirect control over the most economically attractive Ukrainian gas and oil producing assets, which led to the receipt of unlawful benefits in especially large amounts by the American state official,” the leaked memo reads. “In this case, he used his influence on the Ukrainian state leadership and on the law enforcement agency under his control – the NABU (the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine) – in order to make the above-mentioned bodies commit illegal actions.”

The memo also claims that Biden prevented Ukrainian law enforcement agencies from prosecuting allies of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition politicians and businesspeople. The memo did not specify who they were.

It goes on to claim that, “while personally receiving income for lobbying from the operational activities of Burisma Group through Rosemont Seneca Partners, Biden deliberately concealed their location” to avoid paying local and federal taxes.

Leshchenko cast doubt on the veracity of the claims about Biden and Kerry. He said he believed the memo to be part of what he alleged was a disinformation campaign by Lutsenko.

“Lutsenko seeks to use Ukraine as a bargaining chip in the battle between the Democrats and the Republicans in the U.S.,” Leshchenko said. “They have created a conspiracy theory that made us hostages to one person’s desire to keep his job. (Lutsenko) should not get Ukraine involved in this terrible scenario and should not take President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy hostage.”

Lutsenko has been accused of trying to curry favor with Trump by investigating Biden, Trump’s potential Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential election.

In a March interview with The Hill news site, Lutsenko claimed Biden had pressured Ukraine to sack then Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in order to halt an investigation into Burisma, where the then vice president’s son, Hunter Biden, sat on the board of directors.

“I have had no role whatsoever in relation to any investigation of Burisma, or any of its officers,” Hunter Biden said on May 1. “I explicitly limited my role to focus on corporate governance best practices to facilitate Burisma’s desire to expand globally.”

Joe Biden denied on May 13 that Hunter Biden had asked him for a favor in Ukraine while serving on Burisma’s board.

“We never once discussed it when he was there,” Biden told the Associated Press. “There’s not a single bit of evidence that’s been shown in any reporting that’s been done that he ever talked about it with me or asked any government official for a favor.”

Zlochevsky has been investigated over alleged money laundering, the issuance of subsoil exploration licenses to his own companies and tax evasion. Zlochevsky has previously denied the accusations of wrongdoing.

As part of the case involving Zlochevsky and tycoon Serhiy Kurchenko, prosecutor Kostyantyn Kulik brought charges against several allies of President Poroshenko in March. However, Lutsenko has refused to authorize the charges for the Poroshenko allies and liquidated the units that issued them.

An alleged memo from the Prosecutor General’s Office leaked by lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko.

Leshchenko first revealed the memo’s existence on May 13 during a briefing outside the Kyiv Administrative Court of Appeals.

That day, the court was scheduled to consider his appeal against a previous ruling by a lower court. However, that session was postponed because one of the judges hearing the case had been appointed to the Supreme Court.

In December 2018, The Kyiv Administrative District Court upheld Petro Poroshenko Bloc lawmaker Boryslav Rozenblat’s lawsuit against Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk, the head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.

The court ruled that Leshchenko and Sytnyk had illegally interfered in Ukraine’s foreign policy when they revealed that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s surname and signature had been found in the so-called “black ledger” of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. The court also stated that Leshchenko’s actions had caused “interference” in American electoral processes and harmed the Ukrainian state’s interests.

The “black ledger” is alleged to show suspicious payments by the Party of Regions to a range of individuals and officials. It became a key document implicating Manafort in corruption in Ukraine, and helped to end his tenure as Trump’s campaign chair in August 2016.

Leshchenko argued that the court ruling was unlawful and part of an attempt by President Petro Poroshenko and Lutsenko to curry favor with Trump.

He also said that Rozenblat had no right to file the lawsuit because his interests had not been affected and because, according to the Supreme Court, administrative courts cannot consider lawsuits against Verkhovna Rada members. Leshchenko added that the statute of limitations for the lawsuit had expired.

Rozenblat denied the accusations of wrongdoing, in turn accusing Leshchenko of unlawful interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.

Lutsenko responded to Leshchenko’s comments on May 14 by calling him a “skunk” and saying that he would be questioned and charged with unlawfully revealing the details of the Manafort investigation. The comments raised eyebrows since prosecutors cannot charge Leshchenko without stripping him of parliamentary immunity.

Leshchenko in turn responded by urging Lutsenko to strip him of immunity and added that Lutsenko himself had revealed investigative secrets and should be investigated over that.

Giuliani’s visit

The December administrative court ruling has placed Leshchenko front and center in a narrative popular among Trump supporters that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election against Trump.

The “Ukrainian collusion” narrative has gained popularity in the U.S. conservative press and has even been endorsed to varying degrees by Trump himself and his inner circle.

That narrative took center stage in both the U.S. and Ukraine earlier this month when Giuliani told the New York Times he planned to visit Ukraine to meet with President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy and advance several investigations beneficial to Trump.

Then, on May 9, during a live interview on the Fox News, Giuliani backtracked, announcing he would cancel the trip because of “people that are enemies of the president, in some cases enemies of the United States and, in one case, an already convicted person who has been found to be involved in assisting the Democrats with the 2016 election.”

The “convicted person” was Leshchenko, he stated.

In response, Leshchenko claimed that Lutsenko had deliberately deceived Giuliani, since the administrative court ruling against him was not a “conviction.”

Beware False-Flag Trigger for Long-Sought War with Iran–Remember the USS Liberty

History’s Dire Warning: Beware False-Flag Trigger for Long-Sought War with Iran

Israel’s “false flag” attack on the U.S.S. Liberty in 1967 cost 34 American lives. Dick Cheney planned to disguise U.S. troops as Iranians to fire on American ships to start a war. With Bolton and Israel on the warpath, the risk of another similar act is higher than ever.

Leaked Document Pokes Major Holes in Official Douma, Syria Narrative

Engineering Assessment of Two Cylinders Observed at the Douma Incident Exec. Summary

Assessment by the engineering sub-team of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission investigating the alleged chemical attack in Douma in April 2018

 

1 Introduction

In our Briefing note on the Final Report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission on the Douma incident, we noted that the FFM had sought assessments in October 2018 from unidentified engineering experts on the “the trajectory and damage to the cylinders found at Locations 2 and 4”. The Final Report provided no explanation for why the FFM had not sought engineering assessments in April 2018, when the experts could have inspected the sites with cylinders in position, rather than six months later when inspection of the sites with cylinders in position was no longer possible and the assessments had to rely on images and measurements obtained by others. We raised this as an obvious anomaly.

OPCW staff members have communicated with the Working Group. We have learned that an investigation was undertaken by an engineering sub-team of the FFM, beginning with on-site inspections in April-May 2018, followed by a detailed engineering analysis including collaboration on computer modelling studies with two European universities. The report of this investigation was excluded from the published Final Report of the Fact-Finding Mission, which referred only to assessments sought from unidentified “engineering experts” commissioned in October 2018 and obtained in December 2018.

A copy of a 15-page Executive Summary of this report with the title “Engineering Assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident” has been passed to us and we have posted it here. Please download and share this document via your own server if you link to it, so as not to overload our server.

We are studying this document, and encourage others with relevant expertise to contribute. We provide some initial comments below:-

2 Commentary on the Engineering Assessment

The report is signed by Ian Henderson, who is listed as one of the first P-5 level inspection team leaders trained at OPCW in a report dated 1998. We have confirmed that as the engineering expert on the FFM, Henderson was assigned to lead the investigation of the cylinders and alleged impact sites at Locations 2 and 4. We understand that “TM” in the handwritten annotation denotes Team Members of the FFM.

In response to an enquiry on 11 May 2019, the OPCW press office stated that “the individual mentioned in the document has never been a member of the FFM”. This statement is false. The engineering sub-team could not have been carrying out studies in Douma at Locations 2 and 4 unless they had been notified by OPCW to the Syrian National Authority (the body that oversees compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention) as FFM inspectors: it is unlikely that Henderson arrived on a tourist visa.

The OPCW press office also attempted to suggest that the report of the engineering sub-team was not part of the FFM’s investigation. This statement also is false. The sub-team report refers to external collaborators and consultants: we understand that this included two European universities. This external collaboration on such a sensitive matter could not have gone ahead unless it had been authorised: otherwise Henderson would have been dismissed instantly for breach of confidentiality. We can therefore be confident that the preparation of the report had received the necessary authorisation within OPCW. What happened after the report was written is another matter.

2.1 Methodology

As we have repeatedly emphasized, evidence can be evaluated only by comparison of competing hypotheses. This is a corollary of the likelihood principle, which can be derived from simple rules of logical consistency.

We noted that a key weakness of the published Final Report was that no competing hypotheses were considered. Thus the Final Report stated that engineering experts were asked to provide assessments of the “trajectory” of each of the two cylinders found: implying that they were not asked to assess whether the holes in the roof and the positions of the cylinders could be accounted for by anything other than cylinders being dropped from the sky.

The FFM’s Engineering Assessment does not make this error: competing hypotheses are clearly set out in advance.

  • For Location 2 (cylinder on roof terrace lying over a hole), the alternative hypotheses are stated as:
    • (2-1) the cylinder containing liquid chlorine was dropped from an aircraft, pierced the roof to form the hole and the impact fractured the valve causing release of chlorine.
    • (2-2) the cylinder was placed on the terrace next to a pre-existing crater
  • For Location 4 (cylinder on bed), the alternative hypothesis are stated as:
    • (4-1) the cylinder fitted with frame and fins was dropped from an aircraft, pierced the roof to form the hole, fell through the hole and was deflected laterally to end up on the bed, while the valve remained intact
    • (4-2) the cylinder fitted with frame and fins pierced the roof as for hypothesis (1), landed on the floor below the hole and was placed on the bed
    • (4-3) the cylinder fitted with frame and fins was placed on the bed, and the hole in the roof was created (by unspecified means) either before or after the cylinder was placed on the bed

2.2 Results: Location 2

  • An impact angle of approximately 20 degrees from the vertical “was found to be required for results to bear any resemblance to observations”
  • A concrete slab could not have stopped a cylinder falling at such an angle from a height of at least 500 metres. The front of the cylinder showed no sign of interaction with the concrete slab.
  • If the cylinder had been stopped by the steel reinforcing bars (rebars), this would have left indents on the cylinder, but no such indents were observed.
  • Modelling the impact of a falling cylinder could not reproduce the bending of the rebars to an angle of more than 90 degrees to point away from the impact. This was more consistent with an explosive blast.

The results of the modelling studies were summarized with the following sentence:

All the elements listed above point to the conclusion that the alleged impact event or events leading to observed vessel deformation and concrete damage were not compatible.

A criss-cross pattern on the paintwork of the cylinder body, that had been attributed by some observers to the cylinder falling through the wire mesh, was inconsistent with the near-vertical angle of incidence that would have been required to create the crater.

Experts consulted to assess the appearance of the crater took the view that it was more consistent with a blast (from a mortar round or rocket artillery) than with an impact from the falling object. Similar craters were present in concrete slabs on top of nearby buildings.

The mangled remains of the steel frame and fins found on the terrace were not consistent with the appearance of the cylinder, which showed no signs of having been fitted with such a frame or of the frame having been stripped from the cylinder as a result of impact.

2.3 Results: Location 4

  • The analysis of Location 4, where a cylinder was found on a bed, showed that the cylinder with intact valve and fins attached could not have fitted through the hole in the roof:

it was not possible to establish a set of circumstances where the post-deformation cylinder could fit through the crater with the valve still intact (whether or not an end-cap was assumed to have been fitted at the front end of the cylinder), and the fins deformed in the manner observed.

2.4 Conclusions of the Engineering Assessment

In summary:

  • The analysis at Location 4 showed simply that the cylinder with fins and valve attached could not have fitted through the hole.
  • The analysis at Location 2, using finite element analysis and computer simulation, was more complicated. This showed that the concrete slab could not have stopped the cylinder, that if the cylinder had been stopped by the rebars there would have been indents on the cylinder, and that an impact could not have bent the rebars through more than 90 degrees to point away from the impact location.

We note that several of the anomalies reported by the Engineering Assessment have been identified independently from open source images by members of the Working Group: these include the inability to fit the cylinder through the hole at Location 4, the presence of similar craters on nearby buildings at Location 2, and the incompatibility of the criss-cross pattern on the paintwork of the cylinder with a fall through wire mesh.

The results from both locations are summarized in paragraph 32:

The dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders, and the surrounding scene of the incidents, were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder being delivered from an aircraft. In each case the alternative hypothesis produced the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.

3 Implications of the Engineering Assessment combined with other findings

The conclusion of the Engineering Assessment is unequivocal: the “alternative hypothesis” that the cylinders were manually placed in position is “the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene”.

Our last Briefing Note listed two other key findings:

  • It is no longer seriously disputed that the hospital scene was staged: there are multiple eyewitness reports supported by video evidence
  • The case fatality rate of 100%, with no attempt by the victims to escape, is unlike any recorded chlorine attack.

Taken together, these findings establish beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April 2018 was staged.

This raises the question of where and how did the 35 victims seen in the images recorded at location 2 die? The images show signs of acute inhalation injury with blood and mucus flowing from the nose and mouth of most victims. Even though faces had apparently been washed to remove most of the mucus, yellow staining of the skin remained.

A few weeks before the release of the Final Report, two journalists appeared to suggest that there had been an earlier chemical attack somewhere else in Douma, perhaps attempting to prepare a fallback position in case the Final Report were to indicate that the scenes at Location 2 and 4 had been staged. This is to say the least an implausible explanation of the staging at Locations 2 and 4 – why move the bodies of the victims to Location 2 for a staged scene, rather than show the real chemical attack scene if there was one?

As emphasized above, in a real chemical attack with chlorine or any other irritant gas, most victims would try to escape and non-fatal cases requiring prolonged hospital treatment would far outnumber fatal cases. The images of the victims seen at Location 2 show that they were evidently exposed to an irritant gas but were unable to escape. A careful examination of these images leaves little doubt that the victims were murdered as captives. The staining of the victims’ faces by mucus flowing from their noses and mouths shows in at least some cases the mucus flowed up their faces towards the eyes. This implies that they were hung upside down while exposed to the agent. Bizarrely, the eyes of most victims appear to have been masked so that the eyes were not affected by gas or mucus. In a few victims there are visible strap marks suggesting that the eyes were protected by something like swimming goggles. A possible motive for masking the eyes may have been to make it less obvious that the victims had suffered prolonged exposure to an irritant gas.

We conclude that the staging of the Douma incident entailed mass murder of at least 35 civilians to provide the bodies at Location 2. It follows from this that people dressed as White Helmets and endorsed by the leadership of that organization had a key role in this murder.

We note that the Douma incident was the first alleged chemical attack in Syria where OPCW investigators were able to carry out an unimpeded on-site inspection. Since 2014, OPCW Fact-Finding Missions investigating alleged chemical attacks in opposition-held territory have relied for evidence on witnesses and materials collected by opposition-linked NGOs of doubtful provenance, including the CBRN Task Force, the Chemical Violations Documentation Centre Syria, and the White Helmets. Even for the investigation of the Ghouta incident in 2013, the OPCW-WHO mission was able to visit the the alleged attack sites for only a few hours, and was under the close supervision of the armed opposition. For those who until now have been prepared to accept the findings of OPCW Fact-Finding Missions that did not include on-site inspections, the finding that the Douma incident was staged, based on a careful on-site inspection, should cast doubt on the findings of these earlier Missions.

4 The hijacking of OPCW

In our last Briefing Note, we concluded by asserting that “It is doubtful whether [OPCW’s] reputation as an impartial monitor of compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention can be restored without radical reform of its governance and working practices”. The new information we have removes all doubt that the organization has been hijacked at the top by France, UK and the US. We have no doubt that most OPCW staff continue to do their jobs professionally, and that some who are uneasy about the direction that the organization has taken nevertheless wish to protect its reputation. However what is at stake here is more than the reputation of the organization: the staged incident in Douma provoked a missile attack by the US, UK and France on 14 April 2018 that could have led to all-out war.

The cover-up of evidence that the Douma incident was staged is not merely misconduct. As the staging of the Douma incident entailed mass murder of civilians, those in OPCW who have suppressed the evidence of staging are, unwittingly or otherwise, colluding with mass murder. We think that in most jurisdictions the legal duty to disclose the cover-up of such a crime would override any confidentiality agreement with an employer. We would welcome legal opinions on this, given publicly, by those with relevant expertise. OPCW employees have to sign a strict confidentiality agreement, and face instant dismissal and loss of pension rights if they breach this agreement. We would welcome any initiative to set up a legal defence fund for OPCW staff members who come forward publicly as whistleblowers.

5 Acknowledgements

We thank the OPCW staff members who have communicated with us at considerable personal risk. We undertake to protect the identities of any sources who communicate with us. Emails to our protonmail addresses, if sent from another protonmail account (free to set up), are secure. We thank also the other open-source investigators and journalists who publicly questioned the official line on the Douma incident and thus created the climate for OPCW staff members to come forward.

US Reports of “Explosives” and “Sabotage” At Fujairah Unsupported By Visual Evidence

“American officials told CBS News senior national security correspondent David Martin that the initial assessment of a U.S. team sent to investigate the incidents was that Iran or Iranian-backed proxies had used explosives to blow holes in the four ships.”–CBS NEWS

[As you can clearly see in the following photos of the 2 tankers, which were allegedly “sabotaged,” at the port of Fujairah, neither of the ships show any evidence of explosive blasts.  The Al-Marzoqah, shown below, has a nose-shaped protrusion on the bow (front) of the vessel, which was clearly flattened in a manner which is unlikely to have been done by explosives without causing obvious penetrations.  One photo shows a set of scrapes, another indicator of collision.]

THE NATIONAL AE

 

The "Al-Marzoqah" tanker belongs to the privately-owned Dubai-based Red Sea Marine Services firm, which was established in Jeddah in 1987.

The “Al-Marzoqah” tanker belongs to the privately-owned Dubai-based Red Sea Marine Services firm, which was established in Jeddah in 1987.–CNN

Saudi oil tanker
DAILY NATION

[In the next photo of the “Andrea Victory,” we see a very distinct puncture, just above the waterline.  Again, there is zero evidence to indicate explosion here.]

ANDREA VICTORY

 

 

WHAT ABOUT THIS? 6 days earlier at Sharjah port…

 

“SABOTAGE” TOO?

13 people rescued from burning cargo ship in Sharjah–May 08, 2019

Are Guyana Mega-Oil Finds the Real Reason For the Aggression Against Venezuela?

Map of Guyana

Could This Emerging Oil State Become The Richest Nation In The World?

Guyana

A tiny South American country until recently known mostly as the location of one of the worst mass suicides in modern history is about to acquire a whole new reputation, and this reputation has to do with its oil wealth.

Guyana, sandwiched between Venezuela and Suriname, has in just a couple of years turned from an empty spot on the international oil map into one of the new hot spots thanks to a series of discoveries offshore, made by Exxon and Hess Corp.

This is certainly a lot of oil and it could either solve all economic problems of the tiny nation of less than a million people or, as history has sadly proved more than once, become an oil curse. It would all depend on how Guyana handles its future oil wealth.

The BBC’s Simon Maybin noted in an analysis of Guyana’s changing fortunes this week that the country, a former British colony, currently suffers high unemployment and poverty rates. It also has high levels of corruption—a practice that oil wealth has been found to exacerbate more often than not. The billions of dollars in oil revenues to be had also encourage political instability as more groups vie for power and access—preferably exclusive—to the oil dollars.

Already, sings of this political instability are emerging in Guyana, Maybin reports. The coalition in power lost a no-confidence vote last December, but instead of calling elections, which would have been standard procedure, the coalition challenged the result of the vote in court. This has led to demonstrations and a prolonged legal battle that is still not over.

Guyana’s only hope is if it can somehow manage to put a lid on political ambitions and focus on the actual benefits to be reaped when Exxon and Hess begin commercial production, such as improving the living conditions of the poorest Guyanese and reducing unemployment as well as boosting economic growth.

Related: Oil Markets Uncertain As Trade War Counters Supply Shortages

Luckily, Guyana has both good and bad examples to look to. Norway is the best good example of how a nation can use its oil money in a productive way and turn into one of the wealthiest in the world without relying excessively on oil but rather on the smart investments of money from this oil.

And then there’s Guyana’s very own neighbor Venezuela, which is a picture of how it shouldn’t be done, namely by neglecting other sectors of the economy in favor of oil, pouring oil money directly in otherwise good social programs and seeing them crumble along with the economy once oil prices drop. Corruption and the resulting authoritarianism to keep control of the oil money are also among Venezuela’s problems that predate the U.S. sanctions. Now, the country is shaken by a perfect storm that could see its oil production obliterated.

So, the world’s new hot spot could either turn into a new Norway or a new Venezuela, Nigeria, Angola, and a host of other countries for whom oil turned from a blessing into a curse. It seems only time will tell which example the country will follow.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

The Battle For Control Over Iraq’s Oil

 

DICK CHENEY’S IRAQ PLUNDER MAP

The Battle For Control Over Iraq’s Oil

Iraq oil

Iraq regards the U.S.’s refusal to extend waivers for countries importing oil from Iran as a tacit endorsement for it to pump its own oil to the maximum. This dovetails neatly into its Oil Ministry’s internal targets – conveyed last week to OilPrice.com by a source who works closely with the Ministry – of increasing crude oil production to at least 6.2 million barrels per day (bpd) by the end of 2020 and at least 9 million bpd by the end of 2023.

At around the same time, the Oil Ministry announced that it had agreed preliminary terms with ExxonMobil and PetroChina to rollout the South Integrated Project (SIP), an important infrastructure project that should result in some degree of output increase. This deal, though, is far from certain, said the Iraqi source, and – critically – does not necessarily include the contract for the full-scale Common Seawater Supply Project (CSSP).

This would involve taking and treating seawater from the Persian Gulf and then transporting it to oil production facilities in order to be used for water injection to boost pressure at southern Iraq’s ‘Big Four’ oil fields: Rumaila, Majnoon, Zubair, and West Qurna. The CSSP is regarded by traders, analysts and politicians alike as being the key to unlocking all of Iraq’s massive oil potential, the top-case production scenario according to the International Energy Agency being at least 12 million bpd.

Russia, whose corporate proxy Rosneft already controls Iraq’s oil and gas industry in the north – through a deal done in November 2017 with the government of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan (KRG) – wants to consolidate its position in the south as well. Last week, it instructed its main corporate vehicle in the region – Lukoil – to dramatically increase the pace of its development of the supergiant West Qurna 2 oil field, in which it holds a 75% stake, with the remainder held by Iraq’s state-run North Oil Company.

Related: Debunking The Oil Industry Cash Flow Myth

“There is huge political pressure from the Kremlin for Russian oil companies to maintain, and where possible expand their presence across all of Iraq, in light of recent moves by U.S. companies to re-establish the U.S. footprint across the country,” the Iraqi source told OilPrice.Com last week. “Russia regards moves being made by U.S. companies in Iraq as being similar to the way in which the British used the East India Company to consolidate its economic and political grip over India,” he said.

This increase in pressure was the result of a recent meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Special Envoy to the Middle East and Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov, and Iraq’s nominal Prime Minister, Adil Abdul Al-Mahdi. Present at that meeting as well were senior representatives of the real power in Iraq, the ultra-nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

In line with this, Lukoil recently announced that it is set to increase the output from the West Qurna 2 field to 480,000 bpd in 2020 and then to 800,000 bpd in 2025. Given that the current production from the field is around 400,000 bpd – about 9% of Iraq’s total oil production – this latter figure may look like a tall order. The truth, though, is very different.

Located 65 kilometres northwest of the southern port of Basra and with roughly 14 billion barrels of reserves in place, West Qurna 2’s initial production target was 120,000 bpd. The target for the second phase was 480,000 bpd, based largely on developing the Mishrif formation. Phase 3 will focus on the deeper Yamama formation, to add another 650,000 bpd to the mix, and from there the intention is still to reach the plateau target of 1.8 million bpd.

So far, Lukoil’s apparent progress has been mixed. It took longer than the government expected for it to hit the Phase 1 target, particularly in light of the relatively easy geology attached to the field. Specifically, according to the IEA, the operating cost (‘lifting cost’) per barrel in West Qurna 2 is US$2 per barrel. This includes all expenses incurred by the operator during day-to-day production operations but excludes taxes or royalties levied by the government as well as other compensation to the operator. The capital cost of development of West Qurna 2 is also relatively low, estimated to be US$7,000-12,000 per barrel.

Given these extremely low-cost parameters, Lukoil’s remuneration per barrel of US$1.15 looks justified. However, the rate has caused ongoing disagreements between the government in Baghdad and Lukoil, as it is the lowest for any field development by some margin. The next lowest was for Shell’s agreement to develop Majnoon at US$1.39 per barrel, from which it has now withdrawn. By direct contrast, and particularly galling for Lukoil, Exxon’s original contract for developing the adjunct West Qurna1- with exactly the same geology – was US$1.90 per barrel remuneration.

The latest flare-up came late last year. According to Oilprice.com’s source, Iraq’s Oil Ministry found out that the Russia had not only hit 650,000 bpd production over various extended periods in the prior two months, but also that it could sustain production of at least 635,000 bpd – it was just choosing not to do so because of the low per barrel remuneration rate.

Related: Oil May Hold The Secret To Ending The Trade War

“At that point, given the lack of other international oil companies wanting to take part at such a low rate, the Oil Ministry agreed to extend the timeframe of the contract to 25-30 years, effectively reducing the daily cost of capital per barrel of oil recovered and to also allow Lukoil the option of increasing its stake from the present 75% to 80%,” the Iraqi source told OilPrice.com. “In return, Lukoil agreed to invest an extra US$1.4 billion in the short-term and a further US$3.6 billion down the line, depending on variables including OPEC quotas, Iran export levels, and the continued development of export capacity in the south,” he said.

Given this, not only is 635,000 bpd achievable almost immediately but, according to the Oilprice.com source, Lukoil believes that it can reach 700,000 bpd by the end of next year, not 480,000 bpd, and 800,000 bpd by the end of 2021, not 2025. As an adjunct to this, Chinese contractors have also been told – by Iraq and Russia – to expedite their drilling work. In this context, China’s Bohai Drilling Engineering Company earlier this year agreed a deal with the Oil Ministry under which it would drill 28 new production oil wells at West Qurna 2 by the end of 2020.

The additional incentive for Lukoil to pick up the pace on West Qurna 2 is that Iraq’s Oil Ministry is unimpressed by ExxonMobil’s progress on West Qurna 1, and is considering encouraging the company to leave the field. “It depends on whether it [ExxonMobil] agrees to the final terms of the SIP and takes on the full CSSP at a reasonable price,” said the Iraqi source. West Qurna 1 has expected recoverable reserves of over 20 billion barrels, according to Japan’s Itochu, which bought Shell’s stake last year for US$406 million via its subsidiary, CIECO West Qurna Limited.

Again, in order to encourage ExxonMobil to increase its pace of development on the field after Shell left, it was offered an official commencement date for the West Qurna 1 contract of two years after the actual date but with no increase in required investment. This meant that ExxonMobil would have more time to recoup money and make more profits over time. Despite this, though, there has been no progress for some time on the field, which is still producing around 400,000 bpd, with no signs of progress on the horizon.

“Achieving plateau production of 2.825 million barrels per day for West Qurna 1 and 1.8 million barrels per day from West Qurna 2 is absolutely vital to Iraq’s long-term plans to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer, as it could do,” said Oilprice.com’s source. He then added that “if Exxon doesn’t make real progress soon then the Oil Ministry will offer the field to another firm, maybe Lukoil if it has done well on West Qurna 2,”.  “This would be a key advance in Russia’s policy of cementing its presence in the two central areas in the Shia arc of power that runs from Syria in the north, through Iraq and then Iran, and into Yemen in the south,” he concluded.

By Simon Watkins for Oilprice.com

President Trump, Fire the Secretary of Sadism, John Bolton!

THE BEST WAY TO AVERT WAR WITH IRAN? FIRE JOHN BOLTON | OPINION

Iran’s decision to retaliate against the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal was inevitable, so long as its back was pushed against the wall. Iran exercised “strategic patience” for the past year, hoping that the other parties to the deal would stand up to Trump’s bullying and defy U.S. sanctions if Iran remained fully compliant with the deal. Now it has decided on a measured response: to halt compliance with aspects of the accord that recent U.S. sanctions themselves obstruct but leave the window for diplomacy open.

The backdrop to Iran’s decision is incredibly dangerous brinkmanship from senior Trump officials, particularly National Security Advisor John Bolton. Even as Iran has kept open the option of climbing down the escalation ladder, war could become a fait accompli if Trump keeps Bolton in the White House.

Importantly, Iranian officials have stressed their countermeasures with respect to the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are reversible and that Iran will not precipitate a conflict. Iranian President Rouhani was careful to state that Iran’s decision did not amount to a withdrawal from the deal, but was permitted by the agreement, in particular its clause that Iran will treat the reintroduction or reimposition of sanctions “as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.”

Rouhani proclaimed: “Today we don’t want to exit the JCPOA. All our people and the world should know that today is not the day of the JCPOA’s end.”

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi has said in regards to Iran’s JCPOA decision that Tehran’s approach was centered on “diplomacy” and giving the other side “opportunities” to “make up for shortcomings.” Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi has similarly also stated: “The window for diplomacy is not closed. We believe that Iran will negotiate with the remaining parties in the nuclear deal and we will have to see the results of these negotiations.”

However, while Iran views its JCPOA decision as a way to build leverage for a deal, Bolton appears to be ceaselessly cooking up ways to trigger a U.S.-Iran conflict. Long an advocate of U.S. military strikes against Iran, Bolton has spearheaded the imposition of unprecedented unilateral sanctions, all but seeking to eliminate Iranian oil exports, and provocatively bragging about the deployment of a carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf.

Iran’s retaliatory actions on the JCPOA now presage a flashpoint between the U.S. and Iran. Herein lies the risk for Tehran. By entering a tit-for-tat with the Trump administration, Bolton will ensure that escalation becomes self-propelling and impossible to reverse. While Trump appears to not want a war, Bolton could see him sleepwalk into one.

There are signs that Trump is increasingly frustrated with Bolton. CNN reports that the president has “told friends that if Bolton had his way he’d already be at war in multiple places.” At a rally earlier this week in Florida, Trump also stated that he hopes for a “fair deal” with Iran, adding: “We aren’t looking to hurt anybody. We just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons. That’s all we want.” The later statement is directly at odds with the reality of Trump’s Iran policy, which by all accounts Bolton is driving.

Bolton, an Iraq War architect, is in fact emulating the George W. Bush playbook that led to that disastrous conflict. His Iran strategy has been marked by inaccurately tying Iran to al-Qaeda, baselessly stating that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and politicizing intelligence assessments on Iran. Bolton’s recent threat of “unrelenting force” against Iran was also based on vague intelligence regarding an alleged Iranian plot, raising the prospects of a Gulf of Tonkin-like false flag that can set of a catastrophic, region-wide conflict.

Egged on by Bolton, President Trump is recklessly and needlessly restarting the Iranian nuclear crisis. If Trump is sincere about seeking a deal with Tehran, he has been misled on the efficacy of his approach by Bolton, which is only rapidly negating prospects for diplomatic compromise. Iranian officials have made clear their readiness for de-escalation and preference to remain in the JCPOA. The major question now is whether Trump himself wants another major Middle Eastern war.

A U.S. war against Iran is hard to imagine. Even a botched-up limited military strike has the potential to sink Trump’s presidency, as happened with Jimmy Carter after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw in Iran. On the other hand, a campaign to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, which are spread across the country, would require a massive military operation and would trigger an all-out war with Iran. Trump alone will have to face the music for this conflict going into 2020, not John Bolton. But so long as Bolton remains in the White House, the risk of such a war will keep growing.

Sina Toossi is a research associate at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC.) He tweets @SinaToossi.

The War on Terror is in peril

“The attacks in Sri Lanka underline the many cracks in the concept of a global War on Terror.” Security personnel inspect the interior of St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on April 22, a day after a bomb blast in the church. AFP

MORE-IN

The world needs to be united on the issue of terrorism and resolve contradictions in the fight

The brutal attacks on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, for which the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, have reignited discussion on the global ‘War on Terror’. Scholars and officials across the world are studying the links of the bombers to the IS’s former ‘Caliphate’ in Syria, where at least two of the bombers are believed to have travelled, and several leaders have now called for a greater focus on the global dimensions of the counter-terrorism effort. The attacks in Sri Lanka, however, also underline the many cracks in the concept of a global ‘War on Terror’, and raise questions on what it has achieved in the time since the term was coined by former U.S. President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

A floundering war

First, the original mission that the War on Terror was named for is floundering. Not only has the coalition of about 60 countries that sent troops and offered logistical support for ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ failed to end terrorism in Afghanistan, it appears it is preparing to hand the country back to the oppressive Taliban regime that it defeated in December 2001. This, despite the fact there is no guarantee that the terror groups living in safe havens in Pakistan will not also have the run of Afghanistan once the coalition pulls out.

ALSO READ
A policeman frisks a devotee as he arrives at a mosque to attend prayer in Colombo after the bomb blasts on April 21.

A new fault line in post-war Sri Lanka

The war in Afghanistan was only one of the many coalitions the U.S. led in the name of the War on Terror: 46 nations joined the ‘coalition of the willing’ to defeat Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003, and 19 were a part of the coalition that ousted Muammar Qaddafi from power in Libya in 2011. The U.S. and allied countries were sidetracked by the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011, which led them to bolster anti-Bashar al-Assad groups in Syria. This eventually paved the way for the IS to establish a ‘Caliphate’ in territories in Syria and Iraq. The next coalition was formed to fight the terror of the IS. The number of global terror attacks (maintained in a Global Terrorism Database by the University of Maryland of events from 1970 to 2018) per year went up from 1,000 in 2004 to 17,000 in 2014. It is clear that the countries in question — Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Iraq — are far from free of the spectre of terrorism. Despite the defeat of the ‘Caliphate’ territorially, the IS or its franchises are appearing in new parts of the world. Sri Lanka is the latest on that list.

Second, rather than helping fight pan-Islamist terror groups, the War on Terror appears to help the IS and al-Qaeda more, giving them a footprint far bigger than their actual abilities. This helps them recruit and radicalise Muslim youth from around the globe, and allows them to own terrorists around the world as their own, as IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did in a rare video posted shortly after the Easter Sunday attacks.

Not a ‘fight for Islam’

Third, the narrative they build of a “fight for Islam” is equally false. According to the Global Terrorism Database, of the 81 terror attacks in which more than 100 were killed (high casualty) since 2001, more than 70 were carried out in Islamic or Muslim-majority countries. In a specific search of high casualty terror attacks on religious institutions since 2001, 18 of the top 20 were by Islamist groups on mosques. The War on Terror thus appears to be a concept peddled mostly by pan-Islamist groups and propagated most often by extremists of other religions as a motive for terror attacks, such as the 2011 Utoya island attack in Norway or the New Zealand attacks this year. Governments in countries affected by terrorism must not subscribe to this narrative blindly.

ALSO READ
Security personnel stand guard near St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo on April 24, 2019, three days after a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.

Easter Sunday bombings: Why Sri Lanka?

In Sri Lanka, for example, the reason the members of the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ) were successful in their diabolical plot had as much to do with the fact that intelligence inputs given by India were ignored as it did with the fact that since the defeat of the LTTE, Sri Lankan authorities had let their guard down and ignored growing internal fault lines. As a result, despite complaints about the speeches that suspected mastermind Mohamed Zahran Hashim made as a preacher of a mosque in Sri Lanka’s Eastern province, he went unchallenged. Police and intelligence agencies also failed to keep a stern eye on other NTJ bombers who were IS returnees, despite the fact that only about 32 Sri Lankans in all are believed to have travelled to IS territory.

Approaches to fighting terror

Fourth, it is necessary for countries fighting terrorism to learn more closely from their differences, rather than try to generalise from experience. Comparing European states like the U.K., France and Belgium, where hundreds of immigrant Muslims have enlisted for the IS, to South Asian states like India, where Muslim populations are indigenous and only a few dozen are believed to have left for Syria, is akin to comparing apples and oranges. Indian officials have also claimed a higher success in deradicalising IS returnees, because they have enlisted whole families, neighbourhoods and local Maulvis in their efforts. In Bangladesh too, after the 2016 attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery, government advertisements asked mothers to check on their children’s activities. This acknowledgement that radicalised terrorists are a part of a community is in stark contrast to the current debate in many European countries that are refusing to take IS returnees and their families back. Similarly, several Central Asian states propagate a much more hard-line approach on counter-radicalisation, by banning beards and hijabs, while China’s re-education internment camps in Xinjiang have raised questions about human rights. The success or failure of each of these approaches must be studied before deciding their applicability elsewhere.

Fifth, the world community must address contradictions in the War on Terror. For 20 years, the world has failed to agree on a common definition of terrorism at the United Nations. This has held up the passage of the Indian-sponsored proposal for a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. Despite the fact that Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar has been targeting Indians incessantly for years, they must ask why China allowed his UN Security Council designation as a global terrorist only after mentions of his attacks in India were removed. They must ask why the U.S. is focused on billing Iran the “world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism”, while states like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan that have funded and sheltered Islamist terror groups are still treated as “frontline allies” on terror. And why, despite all their resources and expertise, the alliance of the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand that share global intelligence was unable to see the impending threat in Sri Lanka. Unless the world is truly united on the issue and resolves such contradictions, the global War on Terror will only be as strong as its weakest link.

suhasini.h@thehindu.co.in

Pakistan Reels Under Series of Proxy Attacks In Past Week, Balochistan Primary Target BLA/TTP

5 policemen martyred in explosion targeting Elite Force vehicle near Lahore’s Data Darbar–May 8

Tribal leader among 3 killed in Chaman blast–May 8

5 people killed in Gwadar PC hotel attack; army concludes clearance operation–May 12

4 policemen martyred in blast in Quetta’s Satellite Town–May 13, 2019

A vehicle was damaged in a blast in a market in Quetta's Satellite Town. — DawnNewsTV screengrab
A vehicle was damaged in a blast in a market in Quetta’s Satellite Town. — DawnNewsTV screengrab

QUETTA: Rescue workers gather at the scene of the bomb blast in Satellite Town here on Monday.—INP
QUETTA: Rescue workers gather at the scene of the bomb blast in Satellite Town here on Monday.—INP

QUETTA: At least four police personnel were martyred and 12 others, including some policemen, wounded in a blast near a mosque in the Satellite Town area of the provincial capital on Monday night.

The blast took place shortly after a police van arrived at the site to provide security to the people offering taraveeh prayers at the mosque, officials said.

This was the second major terrorist attack in Balochistan within the last three days, as previously a luxury hotel in Gwadar came under attack.

“The police vehicle carrying personnel for mosque security was targeted in the blast in which our four personnel of Rapid Response Group (RRG) lost their lives, while the condition of another was stated to be serious,” said Quetta DIG Razzaq Cheema while speaking to Dawn.

Four policemen martyred in Quetta bomb blast; Taliban claim responsibility

The officer said an improvised explosive device planted in a motorcycle went off close to the police van. Sources said unidentified people parked the explosive-laden motorbike near the mosque in Satellite Town area and detonated it by remote control when the police van arrived there.

As a result, one police constable died on the spot while 15 others, including seven police personnel, were wounded.

Police, Frontier Corps personnel and rescue workers rushed to the site and shifted the body and the wounded victims to the Civil Hospital Quetta.

“Three police officials among the injured died soon after being brought here at the hospital,” officials at the healthcare facility said. They added other wounded were admitted to the hospital. “The condition of another policeman is serious, as he sustained multiple wounds,” said a senior official.

Many vehicles parked in the area were damaged and windowpanes of nearby buildings were shattered due to the impact of the powerful blast though the mosque remained safe in the attack.

Four RRG men who lost their lives in the blast were identified as Mohammad Ishaq, Ghulam Nabi, Mushtaq Shah and Zulfiqar Ali.

Security forces cordoned off the area and launched a search operation to trace the elements involved in the blast.

The Balochistan chief minister strongly condemned the blasts and said they could not demoralise the government and security forces. He vowed that the government and security forces would continue action against terrorists and their facilitators.

He directed law enforcement agencies to take all-out measures against terrorists and bring them to justice. He expressed sympathies with families of the martyred police personnel and said their sacrifices would always be remembered.

The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the motorcycle bomb blast targeting the police vehicle.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2019

Eviction of Venezuelan Embassy Activists ‘Will Violate International Law’

US police raid Venezuelan embassy to evict pro-Maduro activists defending it from ‘illegal seizure’

With the threat of eviction, solidarity activists in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington DC released a statement saying that eviction and arrests would be unlawful.

By Embassy Protection Collective
Solidarity activists have mobilized to stop the Venezuelan embassy from being taken over by Guaido’s representatives. (Popular Resistance)

To: US State Department
Venezuelan Foreign Ministry
From: Embassy Protection Collective
Re: Exiting the Venezuelan Embassy
Date: May 13, 2019

This is the 34th day of our living in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. We are prepared to stay another 34 days, or however long is needed to resolve the embassy dispute in a peaceful way consistent with international law.

This memo is being sent to the US and Venezuela as well as members of our Collective and allies. We are encouraging people to publish this memo as a transparent process is needed to prevent the US from making a unilateral decision that could impact the security of embassies around the world and lead to military conflict.

There are two ways to resolve the issues around the Venezuelan embassy in DC, which we will explain.

Before doing so, we reiterate that our collective is one of independent people and organizations not affiliated with any government. While we are all US citizens, we are not agents of the United States. While we are here with permission of the Venezuelan government, we are not their agents or representatives.

We are here in the embassy lawfully. We are breaking no laws. We did not unlawfully enter and we are not trespassing.

1. Exiting with a Protecting Power Agreement

The exit from the embassy that best resolves issues to the benefit of the United States and Venezuela is a mutual Protecting Power Agreement. The United States wants a Protecting Power for its embassy in Caracas. Venezuela wants a Protecting Power for its embassy in DC. Such agreements are not uncommon when diplomatic relations are severed.

A Protecting Power Agreement would avoid a military conflict that could lead to war. A war in Venezuela would be catastrophic for Venezuela, the United States, and for the region. It would lead to lives lost and mass migration from the chaos and conflict of war. It would cost the United States trillions of dollars and become a quagmire involving allied countries around the world.

We are serving as interim protectors in the hope that the two nations can negotiate this resolution. If this occurs we will take the banners off the building, pack our materials, and leave voluntarily. The electricity could be turned on and we will drive out.

We suggest a video walk-through with embassy officials to show that the Embassy Protection Collective did not damage the building. The only damage to the building has been inflicted by coup supporters in the course of their unprosecuted break-ins.

2. The United States violates the Vienna Convention, makes an illegal eviction and unlawful arrests

This approach will violate international law and is fraught with risks. The United States would have to cut the chains in the front door put up by embassy staff and violate the embassy. We have put up barriers there and at other entrances to protect us from constant break-ins and threats from the trespassers whom the police are permitting outside the embassy. The police’s failure to protect the embassy and the US citizens inside has forced us to take these actions.

The Embassy Protectors will not barricade ourselves, or hide in the embassy in the event of an unlawful entry by police. We will gather together and peacefully assert our rights to remain in the building and uphold international law.

Any order to vacate based on a request by coup conspirators that lack governing authority will not be a lawful order. The coup has failed multiple times in Venezuela. The elected government is recognized by the Venezuelan courts under Venezuelan law and by the United Nations under international law. An order by the US-appointed coup plotters would not be legal.

Such an entry would put embassies around the world and in the United States at risk. We are concerned about US embassies and personnel around the world if the Vienna Convention is violated at this embassy. It would set a dangerous precedent that would likely be used against US embassies.

If an illegal eviction and unlawful arrests are made, we will hold all decision-makers in the chain of command and all officers who enforce unlawful orders accountable.

If there is a notice that we are trespassing and need to vacate the premises, please provide it to our attorney Mara Verhayden-Hilliard, copied on this memo.

We have taken care of this embassy and request a video tour of the building before any arrests.

We hope a wise and calm solution to this issue can be achieved so escalation of this conflict can avoided.

There is no need for the United States and Venezuela to be enemies. Resolving this embassy dispute diplomatically should lead to negotiations over other issues between the nations.

The Embassy Protection Collective
May 13, 2019

Fujairah explosions, from denial to security scandal

Fujairah explosions, from denial to security scandal

TEHRAN, May 13 (MNA) – While Abu Dhabi initially denied the Fujairah explosions on Sunday, the country had to reveal the truth only in a matter of hours and acknowledge the security gap behind the incident.

The news on several heavy explosions in the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates was first revealed by Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV on Sunday.

Although the real reason behind the incident has not been revealed yet, the early reports, citing eyewitnesses, further suggested that American and French warplanes have been seen flying over the port at the time of the incident.

The blasts were heard between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. local time (00:00 — 03:00 GMT), the broadcaster reported, adding that from seven to 10 oil tankers were in flames.

Despite Al-Mayadeen’s news that was picked up and reported by other media in a few minutes, the UAE government hastily denied the reports, insisting that the port was functioning as usual; however, it had to admit to the security catastrophe sooner or later.

From denial to scandal

The UAE, later on Sunday, confirmed that four commercial vessels were hit by sabotage near the emirate of Fujairah. The Persian Gulf state gave no details on the nature of the sabotage or who was behind it.

Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two Saudi oil tankers were among vessels targeted by the attack.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that while the attack did not lead to any casualties or an oil spill, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.

UAE called on the international community and international organizations concerned with maritime navigation to assume their political and legal responsibilities to prevent such acts by any parties attempting to undermine maritime traffic safety and security, adding that such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger

Hiding security crisis in UAE

The fact is that United Arab Emirates officials have been trying to cover up the existence of a major security void in the port of Fujairah since the very first moment of the incident and hide a major security crisis in this important harbor to misguide the general public.

In fact, all media manipulation and mobilization of propaganda to prevent the spread of massive explosions in the port of Fujairah by Abu Dhabi authorities was carried out for this purpose: Emiratis intended to hide the incident on this scale by exploiting their media and advertising facilities.

Another point to be considered is that the news of major explosions was a few hours after the media incident, and this is another big scandal for Abu Dhabi, as many political experts and observers believe that the country may have seen similar incidents in the past, and has hidden them from the public by its dominance on the media.

Rage over revelation of security gap

But another issue is that UAE officials are quite anxious about the emergence of a major “security gap” in their country.

Despite many efforts and mobilization of all the media and propaganda tools, Abu Dhabi did not succeed in preventing the publication of the news.

The reason that this issue has been so important for Emiratis is that the country has been killing the innocent and defenseless people of Yemen along with the Saudi insurgent regime, and it has previously been targeted by Yemen’s ballistic missiles and popular Yemeni committees.

Therefore, Abu Dhabi officials are deeply concerned that large-scale explosions at the port of Fujairah have exposed the security gaps in the port to the public, and there is a possibility that Yemeni groups, in response to the numerous Emirati aggressions, will target Fujairah in the future, as they have previously targeted Abu Dhabi.

Emirates worry about similar attacks

There is also a major concern with Emirati officials that similar attacks may occur in the future on the country’s economic or even military infrastructures. This has also become a concern to the Saudi authorities as Emirati’s main allies.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are well aware that waging massive attacks on their military and economic infrastructure can greatly affect foreign investments in these countries.

Therefore, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, while always trying to make their countries a focal point of peace and stability in the region, are now facing a lot of military and economic concerns, and the blasts of the UAE’s Fujairah port have increased and intensified such worries.

By: Ramin Hossein Abadian

Gulf Tankers Attack Just Another “False Flag” Provocation?

[As you can see from the first photo below, there is no obvious scorching or point of blast.  Apparently, whatever hit the side of the double-hulled ship did not explode.  Considering the location of the attack, it is probably a false flag incident, staged to implicate Iran. (Compare to second photo below of Japanese tanker M. Star,  Jul 29, 2010 attack.)]

“Reports, citing eyewitnesses, further suggested that American and French warplanes have been seen flying over the port at the time of the incident.”–Sputnik

This photo provided by the United Arab Emirates' National Media Council shows the Norwegian-flagged oil tanker MT Andrea Victory off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, Monday, May 13, 2019. Two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel were damaged in what Gulf officials described Monday as a "sabotage" attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. While details of the incident remain unclear, it raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies at a time of increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. (United Arab Emirates National Media Council via AP)

This photo provided by the United Arab Emirates’ National Media Council shows the Norwegian-flagged oil tanker MT Andrea Victory off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, Monday, May 13, 2019. Two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel were damaged in what Gulf officials described Monday as a “sabotage” attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. While details of the incident remain unclear, it raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies at a time of increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers. (United Arab Emirates National Media Council via AP)

“Hull of a Norwegian-registered product tanker was damaged by an unknown object off the coast of the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah on Sunday…”–Maritime Executive

The damaged M. Star arrives in Fujairah to be examined.WAM
[Previous false flag oil tanker attack near Fujairah, UAE, Jul 29, 2010.]

By JON GAMBRELL

Associated Press

FUJAIRAH, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel were damaged in what Gulf officials described Monday as a “sabotage” attack off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. While details of the incident remain unclear, it raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies at a time of increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

The U.S. issued a new warning to sailors as the UAE’s regional allies condemned Sunday’s alleged attack that the UAE says targeted four ships off the coast of its port city of Fujairah.
It came just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired “false reports” [?] of explosions at the port [Despite Emirati original denials, the media has now confirmed that 4 of the 5 ships reported by PressTV were attacked.].

[The following list of allegedly damaged oil tankers are all currently anchored at Fujairah–ed.] 

Crude oil tanker AMJAD, IMO 9779800, dwt 300000, built 2017, flag Saudi Arabia.
Crude oil tanker AL MARZOQAH, IMO 9165762, dwt 105084, built 1999, flag Saudi Arabia.
Product tanker MIRAJ, IMO 9394741, dwt 7414, built 2007, flag Dominica.
Product tanker A MICHEL, IMO 9177674, dwt 6711, built 2007, flag UAE..
Product tanker FNSA 10, IMO 9432074, dwt 6453, built 2007, flag UAE.

While Gulf officials declined to say who they suspect may be responsible, the U.S. has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged, still-unspecified threats from Tehran.

The scale of the alleged sabotage also remains unclear. A statement from Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the kingdom’s two oil tankers, including one due to later carry crude to the U.S., sustained “significant damage.” However, a report from Sky News Arabia, a satellite channel owned by an Abu Dhabi ruling family member,

showed the allegedly targeted Saudi tanker Al Marzoqah afloat without any apparent damage.

The MT Andrea Victory, another of the allegedly targeted ships, sustained a hole in its hull just above its waterline from “an unknown object,” its owner Thome Ship Management said in a statement. Images Monday of the Andrea Victory, which the company said was “not in any danger of sinking,” showed damage similar to what the firm described.

AMJADEmirati officials identified the third ship as the Saudi-flagged oil tanker Amjad. Ship-tracking data showed the vessel still anchored off Fujairah, apparently not in immediate distress.

A.MICHELThe fourth ship was the A. Michel, a bunkering tanker flagged in Sharjah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press that American naval investigators were assisting the Emiratis with their probe of the incident. The official was not authorized to discuss details of the assistance publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Persian Gulf and wider region from its base in Bahrain, declined to comment on the incident. The Navy runs a small supply operation out of the nearby Emirati naval base in Fujairah.

Authorities in Fujairah, also a UAE emirate, also declined to speak to the AP. Emirati officials stopped AP journalists from traveling by boat to see the ships.

However, the incident raises questions about maritime security in the UAE, home to Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, the largest man-made deep-water harbor in the world that is also the U.S. Navy’s busiest port of call outside of America. From the coast, AP journalists saw an Emirati coast guard vessel patrolling near the area of one of the Saudi ships in Fujairah, some 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of Dubai on the Gulf of Oman.

Fujairah also is about 140 kilometers (85 miles) south of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil at sea is traded. The alleged sabotage caused jitters in global oil markets, as benchmark Brent crude rose in trading to over $71.50 a barrel Monday, a change of 1.3%.

Al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister, said the attacks on the two Saudi tankers happened at 6 a.m. Sunday. He said “the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill,” though he acknowledge it affected “the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world.”

It is “the joint responsibility of the international community to protect the safety of maritime navigation and the security of oil tankers, to mitigate against the adverse consequences of such incidents on energy markets, and the danger they pose to the global economy,” he said, according to the statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The U.S. Energy Department later said it was “monitoring the oil markets, and is confident they remain well-supplied.”

Shortly after the Saudi announcement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry called for further clarification about what exactly happened with the vessels. The ministry’ spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying there should be more information about the incident.
Mousavi also warned against any “conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers” and “adventurism by foreigners” to undermine the maritime region’s stability and security. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are staunch opponents of Iran’s government.

Tensions have risen since President Donald Trump withdrew America from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and restored U.S. sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

European Union officials met Monday in Brussels to thrash out ways to keep the Iran nuclear deal afloat. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had traveled there for talks.

“We’re not going to miscalculate. Our aim is not war,” Pompeo told CNBC in an interview. “Our aim is a change in the behavior of the Iranian leadership.”

Underling the regional risk, the general-secretary of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council described the incident as a “serious escalation.”

“Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger,” Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said. Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen’s internationally recognized government similarly condemned the alleged sabotage, as did the Arab League.

The U.S. Maritime Administration, a division of the U.S. Transportation Department, warned Thursday that “Iran and/or its regional proxies” could target commercial sea traffic.

The agency issued a new warning Sunday to sailors about the alleged sabotage and urged shippers to exercise caution in the area for the next week.

It remains unclear if the previous warning from the U.S. Maritime Administration is the same perceived threat that prompted the White House on May 4 to order the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and the B-52 bombers to the region. In a statement then, national security adviser John Bolton had warned Iran that “that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
___
Associated Press writers Aya Batrawy in Dubai, Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, Malak Harb in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed.

2 Saudi Tankers Suffer Heavy Damage In UAE “Sabotage” Incident, Which Dubai Calls “Fake News”

Lebanese Media Reports Series of Explosions In UAE Port of Fujairah

What happened in Fujairah? Were there explosions and fire?

Contradictory and confusing news on a very major accident in Fujairah, UAE, Gulf of Oman, started to circulate since afternoon May 12, claiming that there were several explosions in Fujairah port area, and that as a result, at least seven tankers were set on fire. UAE officials condemned these rumors as “fake news”, insisting that nothing happened, and that the port is working without any accidents of any kind, let alone series of explosions and fires.
Later though, UAE admits there were accidents, describing them as “acts of sabotage”. In the evening UAE media Emirates News Agency published official press-release:

ABU DHABI, 12th May, 2019 (WAM) — Four commercial ships were subjected to sabotage operations today, 12th May, near UAE territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of Fujairah, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, MOFAIC, has announced.

The Ministry said that the concerned authorities have taken all necessary measures, and are investigating the incident in cooperation with local and international bodies.

It said that there had been no injuries or fatalities on board the vessels and that there had been no spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel.  http://wam.ae/en/details/1395302762084

Iranian PRESS TV claimed it identified tankers hit by explosions:
Despite the UAE government’s denial, witnesses have emphasized that the blasts have taken place and some media sources have even went further, identifying a number of oil tankers hit by the explosions by their hull numbers as follows:

[The following list of allegedly damaged oil tankers are all currently anchored at Fujairah–ed.] 

Crude oil tanker AMJAD, IMO 9779800, dwt 300000, built 2017, flag Saudi Arabia.
Crude oil tanker AL MARZOQAH, IMO 9165762, dwt 105084, built 1999, flag Saudi Arabia.
Product tanker MIRAJ, IMO 9394741, dwt 7414, built 2007, flag Dominica.
Product tanker A MICHEL, IMO 9177674, dwt 6711, built 2007, flag UAE..
Product tanker FNSA 10, IMO 9432074, dwt 6453, built 2007, flag UAE.
https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/12/595783/UAE-fujairah-sabotage-vessel

Among allegedly struck tankers are one VLCC, one Aframax and three small tankers, most probably bunkering tankers.

What happened exactly, how bad were explosions and fire, if there were any, and what definition “act of sabotage” means, how much true is indeed, the whole story, is so far anyone’s guess.
At least three of abovementioned tankers, including VLCC and Aframax, are on the AIS, live, no interruptions. There are no auxiliary, or rescue, or fire, boats near them.

Apparently, if there were “acts of sabotage” on or near at least three tankers listed above, first of all VLCC and Aframax, it didn’t happen in port, but on outer anchorage, so news on port being on fire, immersed in dense smoke, can be considered as fake news.

 

Lebanese Media Reports Series of Explosions In UAE Port of Fujairah

Port of Fujairah (CLOSED)–GOOGLE MAP

Several heavy explosions occurred early on Sunday in the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, a number of media reports say. The reports, citing eyewitnesses, further suggested that American and French warplanes have been seen flying over the port at the time of the incident.

According to the Emirati Foreign Ministry, four merchant vessels had been targeted by “acts of sabotage” in Gulf waters off its coast.

“Four commercial, civilian trading vessels of various nationalities this morning suffered acts of sabotage off the UAE’s eastern coast,” the statement reads.

The government of Fujairah denied on Sunday media reports about several heavy explosions taking place at the emirate’s port, insisting that the port is functioning as usual.

“The press service of the Fujairah government denied media reports about powerful explosions in the emirate’s port earlier this day and confirmed that ship traffic is as usual,” the state-run WAM news agency reports.

Earlier in the day, the Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen broadcaster said, citing local media that several heavy explosions occurred in the port of Fujairah.

The blasts were heard between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. local time (00:00 — 03:00 GMT), the broadcaster reported, adding that from seven to 10 oil tankers were in flames. The broadcaster continued by saying that the real cause of the incident has still been unknown.

Other reports, citing eyewitnesses, suggested that American and French warplanes have been seen flying over the port at the time of the incident.

Currently, there’s no information on possible casualties, while the authorities haven’t commented on the incident yet.

​Port of Fujairah is the only multi-purpose port on the Eastern seaside of the country and is connected to all other emirates within 300 km. The port stands some 70 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz, thus becoming increasingly important amid Iran’s threat to close the strait.

In July 2012, the UAE began utilising the Habshan-Fujairah oil pipeline from the Habshan fields in Abu Dhabi to the Fujairah, effectively bypassing the Strait of Hormuz.

Currently, the UAE is building the world’s largest crude oil storage facility in Fujairah, capable of storing up to 14 million barrels of oil.

US Pursuing Path To Military Confrontation w/Venezuela, ONLY

Venezuela’s Guaidó asks for relations with US military

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Erik Prince – the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump – has been pushing a plan to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, four sources with knowledge of the effort told Reuters.

Over the last several months, the sources said, Prince has sought investment and political support for such an operation from influential Trump supporters and wealthy Venezuelan exiles. In private meetings in the United States and Europe, Prince sketched out a plan to field up to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire on behalf of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, according to two sources with direct knowledge of Prince’s pitch.

One source said Prince has conducted meetings about the issue as recently as mid-April.

White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis declined to comment when asked whether Prince had proposed his plan to the government and whether it would be considered. A person familiar with the administration’s thinking said the White House would not support such a plan.

Venezuela opposition officials have not discussed security operations with Prince, said Guaido spokesman Edward Rodriguez, who did not answer additional questions from Reuters. The Maduro government did not respond to a request for comment.

Some U.S. and Venezuelan security experts, told of the plan by Reuters, called it politically far-fetched and potentially dangerous because it could set off a civil war. A Venezuelan exile close to the opposition agreed but said private contractors might prove useful, in the event Maduro’s government collapses, by providing security for a new administration in the aftermath.

A spokesman for Prince, Marc Cohen, said this month that Prince “has no plans to operate or implement an operation in Venezuela” and declined to answer further questions.

Lital Leshem – the director of investor relations at Prince’s private equity firm, Frontier Resource Group – earlier confirmed Prince’s interest in Venezuela security operations.

“He does have a solution for Venezuela, just as he has a solution for many other places,” she said, declining to elaborate on his proposal.

The two sources with direct knowledge of Prince’s pitch said it calls for starting with intelligence operations and later deploying 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire from Colombia and other Latin American nations to conduct combat and stabilization operations.

For Prince, the unlikely gambit represents the latest effort in a long campaign to privatize warfare. The wealthy son of an auto-parts tycoon has fielded private security contractors in conflict zones from Central Asia to Africa to the Middle East.

One of Prince’s key arguments, one source said, is that Venezuela needs what Prince calls a “dynamic event” to break the stalemate that has existed since January, when Guaido – the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly – declared Maduro’s 2018 re-election illegitimate and invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency.

Maduro has denounced Guaido, who has been backed by most western nations, as a U.S. puppet who is seeking to foment a coup. Key government institutions – including the military – have not shifted their loyalty to Guaido despite increasing international pressure from sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.

Guaido has stressed that he wants a peaceful resolution, and Latin American governments recognizing his authority have urged against outside military action. Senior U.S. officials, without ruling out armed intervention, have also emphasized economic and diplomatic measures to pressure Maduro.

CLOSE TIES TO TRUMP

Prince was a pioneer in private military contracting during the Iraq war, when the U.S. government hired Blackwater primarily to provide security for State Department operations there.

In 2007, Blackwater employees shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square in Baghdad, sparking international outrage. One of the Blackwater employees involved was convicted of murder in December and three others have been convicted of manslaughter.

Prince renamed the Blackwater security company and sold it in 2010, but he recently opened a company called Blackwater USA, which sells ammunition, silencers and knives. Over the past two years, he has led an unsuccessful campaign to convince the Trump administration to replace U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan with security contractors.

Since 2014, Prince has run the Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group, which has close ties to the state-owned Chinese investment company CITIC and helps Chinese firms operating in Africa with security, aviation and logistics services.

Prince donated $100,000 to a political action committee that supported Trump’s election. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is the administration’s education secretary.

Prince’s role in Trump’s campaign was highlighted in the report by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, released this month, on alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The report outlined how Prince financed an effort to authenticate purported Hillary Clinton emails and how in 2016 he met in the Seychelles islands, off east Africa, with a wealthy Russian financial official on behalf of Trump’s presidential transition team.

Prince spokesman Cohen declined to comment on the Mueller report.

TARGETING FROZEN ASSETS

The two sources with direct knowledge of Prince’s Venezuela plan said he is seeking $40 million from private investors. He also aims to get funding from the billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets that have been seized by governments around the world imposing sanctions on the OPEC nation, a major oil exporter.

It’s unclear, however, how the Venezuelan opposition could legally access those assets. Prince told people in pitch meetings, the sources said, that he believes that Guaido has the authority to form his own military force because he has been recognized internationally as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

Prince envisions a force made up of “Peruvians, Ecuadoreans, Colombians, Spanish speakers,” one of the sources said, adding that Prince argued that such soldiers would be more politically palatable than American contractors.

Pakistan “Caves” Under US Pressure, Foregoing Desperately-Needed “Peace Pipeline” From Iran

US sanctions could force Pakistan to ditch ‘Peace pipeline’ project with Iran

US sanctions could force Pakistan to ditch ‘Peace pipeline’ project with Iran

Pakistan has notified Iran that mounting US economic pressure makes it “impossible” to proceed with the massive Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline (IP) project, also known as the ‘Peace pipeline’.

“We cannot risk US sanctions by going ahead with the [IP] project as America has clearly said that anybody who will work with Iran will also be sanctioned,” Mobin Saulat, the managing director of Inter State Gas Systems, which works under the auspices of the Pakistani government, told Arab News.

Islamabad recently informed Tehran in writing about the hurdle to implementing the pipeline project, according to the official. He noted that if the restrictions against Iran are lifted, Pakistan will be eager to go ahead with it. The same position was earlier voiced by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The project, which has been under discussion since 1994, was initially meant to deliver natural gas from Iran’s giant South Pars field to Pakistan and India. New Delhi quit it in 2009, citing the costs and security concerns.

The US vocally opposed the $7 billion project long ago, even before the 2015 nuclear deal, from which Washington has already withdrawn. It said that the construction of the pipeline could violate sanctions imposed on Iran over alleged nuclear activities, despite Iran denying the claims and arguing that natural gas cannot be used for making atomic bombs.

Iran has already slammed Pakistan for failing to adhere to the bilateral deal and delays in laying down the pipeline. In February, the Islamic Republic threatened to take its project partner to the international court of arbitration over the lack of progress on construction. Islamabad has at least two months to respond to Iran on the matter, according to Inter State Gas Systems.

“We have time till August this year to legally respond to Iran’s legal notice and settle the issue through negotiations,”Saulat said.

The news comes just days after the Trump administration imposed new sanctions targeting anyone who fails to wind down transactions related to Iran’s metal sector. This is in addition to the tough restrictions on energy exports, which the US seeks to cut to zero.

ALSO ON RT.COMThorny dilemma: Will Trump manage to rein in oil prices & keep on pressuring Iran & Venezuela?

 

On Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for unity as the country faces “unprecedented” pressure from its “enemies.” He compared the current situation with the conditions during the 1980s war with Iraq, saying that it is not clear if they are “better or worse,” but back then Iran had no problems with its banks, oil sales, or imports and exports, except for arms purchases.

Israel-Based Pharma Conglomerate At Center of US Lawsuit For Price-Gouging

  • U.S. states filed a lawsuit accusing Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc of orchestrating a scheme with 19 other drug companies to inflate drug prices, sometimes by more than 1,000%.
  • The lawsuit also names 15 individuals as defendants who it said carried out the schemes on a day-to-day basis.
  • A representative of Teva USA, a unit of Israeli company Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, said it will fight the lawsuit.
GP: Teva Pharmaceuticals bottles 160831
Bottles of medication made by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.
George Frey | Bloomberg | Getty Images

U.S. states filed a lawsuit accusing Teva Pharmaceuticals USA of orchestrating a sweeping scheme with 19 other drug companies to inflate drug prices — sometimes by more than 1,000% — and stifle competition for generic drugs, state prosecutors said on Saturday.

Soaring drug prices from both branded and generic manufacturers have sparked outrage and investigations in the United States. The criticism has come from across the political spectrum, from President Donald Trump, a Republican, to progressive Democrats including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president.

The 20 drug companies engaged in illegal conspiracies to divide up the market for drugs to avoid competing and, in some cases, conspired to either prevent prices from dropping or to raise them, according to the complaint by 44 U.S. states, filed on Friday in the U.S. District Court in Connecticut.

A representative of Teva USA, a unit of Israeli company Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, said it will fight the lawsuit.

“The allegations in this new complaint, and in the litigation more generally, are just that — allegations,” it said in a statement. “Teva continues to review the issue internally and has not engaged in any conduct that would lead to civil or criminal liability.”

The 500-page lawsuit accuses the generic drug industry, which mainly sells medicines that are off patent and should be less expensive, of a long history of discreet agreements to ensure that companies that are supposedly competitors each get a “fair share.”

The situation worsened in 2012, the complaint said.

“Apparently unsatisfied with the status quo of ‘fair share’ and the mere avoidance of price erosion, Teva and its co-conspirators embarked on one of the most egregious and damaging price-fixing conspiracies in the history of the United States,” the complaint said.

With Teva at the center of the conspiracy, the drug companies colluded to significantly raise prices on 86 medicines between July 2013 and January 2015, the complaint said.

Representatives of Sandoz, another company named in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The drugs included everything from tablets and capsules to creams and ointments to treat conditions including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer, epilepsy and more, they said. In some instances, the coordinated price increases were more than 1,000 percent, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also names 15 individuals as defendants who it said carried out the schemes on a day-to-day basis.

“The level of corporate greed alleged in this multistate lawsuit is heartless and unconscionable,” Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said in a statement.

According to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, more than half of the corporate defendants are based in New Jersey, and five of the individual defendants live in the state.

The lawsuit seeks damages, civil penalties and actions by the court to restore competition to the generic drug market.

Generic drugs can save drug buyers and taxpayers tens of billions of dollars a year because they are a lower-priced alternative to brand-name drugs.

“Generic drugs were one of the few ‘bargains’ in the United States healthcare system,” the lawsuit said.

However, it added, “Prices for hundreds of generic drugs have risen — while some have skyrocketed, without explanation, sparking outrage from politicians, payers and consumers across the country whose costs have doubled, tripled, or even increased 1,000% or more.”

As a result of the drug companies’ conspiracies, it said, consumers and states paid “substantially inflated and anticompetitive prices for numerous generic pharmaceutical drugs” while the drug companies profited.

The lawsuit filed on Friday is parallel to an action brought in December 2016 by the attorneys general of 45 states and the District of Columbia. That case was later expanded to include more than a dozen drugmakers.

US/Indian Proxies, BLA (Baloch Liberation Army) Claim Attack Upon Pearl Continental Gwadar

[SEE: The Stunning Investigative Story on the Birth of Balochistan Liberation Army–Mar 1, 2005]

[Pak Taliban and Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) Wage War Against Chinese Development Did Pakistan Or China Car-bomb the Leader of BLA, Baloch Liberation Army In Kandahar? ]

The Gwadar Terrorist Attack Exposed The International Media’s Double Standards

Most of the international media is referring to Saturday’s attack on the Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar as being committed by either “gunmen” or “militants” instead of the actual terrorists that the perpetrators are after the BBC reported that they chose their target in order to kill Chinese and other foreign investors, therefore exposing a common double standard whereby “politically convenient” terrorist attacks are simply reframed as “shootings” or “militancy” while “politically inconvenient” acts of resistance are smeared as “terrorism”.

Several terrorists tried storming into the Pearl Continental hotel in CPEC’s terminal port of Gwadar Saturday afternoon, but a large-scale tragedy was thankfully averted after the security services managed to evacuate most of the guests. The BBC reported that the “Balochistan Liberation Army” (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack and quoted the terrorist organization as “saying it had targeted Chinese and other foreign investors”. This incident is a blatant act of terrorism just like the much more devastating ones that were carried out against several hotels and churches in Sri Lanka last month, but the international media is resorting to its tried-and-tested double standards after most of them described the perpetrators as “gunmen” or “militants” instead of the actual terrorists that they are.

This is because the terrorist attacks are “politically convenient” for the US and India, with these two allies collectively commanding impressive influence across the world’s media space, because it targeted Chinese civilians and infrastructure as part of the ongoing Hybrid War on CPEC. The evident purpose was to deter further investments and visits by foreign businessmen to this strategically significant port in the global pivot state of Pakistan, as well as to trigger an overreaction by the security services against local Baloch which could then be basis upon upon which a Xinjiang-like fake news campaign alleging “concentration camps” and “cultural cleansing” can be carried out prior to the possible imposition of sanctions for “humanitarian reasons”. Of course, this would also be executed in parallel with the Hybrid War on Hybrid War in Pakistan pretending that the country has no terrorist threats whatsoever and that all forms of opposition to the state — including taking up arms and targeting civilians — are “legitimate”, especially if they’re being led by minority Pashtuns or Baloch.

On the opposite side of the coin, “politically inconvenient” acts of resistance such as what the Kashmiris and Palestinians are doing against their Indian and “Israeli” occupiers (who not coincidentally have recently become military-strategic partners and are both allied with the US) are smeared as “terrorism” even if they only target soldiers and paramilitary units. Another double standard is that international media is usually pleading for the world’s leading economies to invest in underdeveloped “Global South” regions, yet these same information outlets are now lending “legitimacy” to the BLA’s terrorist crusade against China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) investments in Pakistani Balochistan because it serves the US’ grand strategic purposes. Having said that, even the most casual information consumer must sense that they’re being manipulated after the world condemned last month’s terrorist attacks on Sri Lankan hotels but is now silent about the latest one Pakistan’s PC Gwadar.

French Protesters Cause Saudi Ship To Leave France w/Out Weapons Purchased

Amid protests, Saudi ship leaves France without arms cargo

Saudi vessel that was due to load arms sets sail without them amid protests over use of French-made weapons in Yemen.

A French patrol boat sails next to the Bahri-Yanbu, a Saudi Arabian cargo ship waiting to enter the port of Le Havre [Benoit Tessier/Reuters]
A French patrol boat sails next to the Bahri-Yanbu, a Saudi Arabian cargo ship waiting to enter the port of Le Havre [Benoit Tessier/Reuters]

A Saudi vessel that was due to load weapons at a northern French port has set sail without them and headed towards Spain on Friday, a day after a rights group tried to block the cargo on humanitarian grounds.

The Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) sought to block the loading of weapons onto the ship through a legal filing on Thursday, arguing the cargo contravened an international arms treaty.

A French judge threw out their complaint but the Bahri-Yanbu moved off the coast of Le Havre shortly after.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the change of plan.

“The boat has left and without its cargo,” Laurence Greig, a lawyer representing ACAT told Reuters news agency.

“It is extremely embarrassing for the executive because we thought that we could stop this only with a legal recourse. But while we got a very terse decision against us, pressure from individuals and NGOs led to a positive result.”

The legal move by ACAT came weeks after an online investigative site published leaked French military intelligence that showed weapons sold to the kingdom, including tanks and laser-guided missile systems, were being used against civilians in Yemen’s war.

READ MORE

Germany extends Saudi arms sale ban for another six months

Saudi Arabia leads the pro-government military coalition in the four-year civil war that has devastated Yemen, killed tens of thousands and left much of the population on the brink of famine.

France is one of Saudi Arabia’s main arms’ suppliers, delivering some $1.5bn of weapons to Riyadh in 2017.

On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron defended the arms sales, describing Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as allies in the fight against “terrorism” and saying Paris had received guarantees they would not be used against civilians.

‘Not enough’

However, Aymeric Elluin, advocacy officer at Amnesty International France, dismissed Macron’s assurances.

“It’s not enough to say ‘I have guarantees’, we need to be shown them. And at the same time, we would like to be told clearly how Saudi Arabia is fighting against terror in Yemen,” Elluin told Al Jazeera.

At least 100 demonstrators protested near La Havre on Thursday in a bid to prevent the Saudi ship from docking at the port.

“If we French citizens do not act, if we don’t try to stop arms sales, we will end up as accessories to this business. We do not want this. We don’t want to be in this situation,” said Jean-Paul Lecoq, member of France’s National Assembly.

Government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

READ MORE

Cars, guns and TV interviews: The militiaman on the UAE payroll

Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, citing tracking websites, said the Bahri-Yanbu, which had been anchored 30km from the French port since Wednesday evening, set sail just before 10:00 GMT on Friday.

“But the question now: Has the shipment been cancelled or is French government going simply send it via another route?”

Brennan said France is one of many European countries facing pressure from activists not to arm Saudi Arabia.

In countries like Britain and France, arms deliveries to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi – regarded as close allies – are seen as critically important for keeping military influence and also preserving potentially thousands of jobs.

“There are three Scandinavian countries who have suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia specifically because of the Saudi-led coalition’s prosecution of the war in Yemen and the rising number of civilian casualties,” Brennan said.

“Germany has also extended a moratorium that it has imposed on selling any weapons to Saudi Arabia.

“Other countries have taken a far more lenient view. Britain and Spain are continuing to supply weapons to Saudi Arabia,” he added.

JOHN BOLTON, PYROMANIAC

JOHN BOLTON, PYROMANIAC

Imagine for a minute that your town needs to hire a new fire chief, and after an extensive search, they decide to hire a pyromaniac.

But it’s not just that this new fire chief likes fires, he loves them, and he happens to be really, really good at starting them. And it’s not like people didn’t know this before he got the job. He had spent years talking and writing about how much he loves fires. He talked about it on TV, he wrote books about it, and he was paid to give speeches talking about his love for starting fires — all because he had these odd theories about how burning down buildings is the best way to save the people inside.

But it wasn’t just talk. He also had a long history of starting fires. He started big fires, small fires, ones that erupt right away and ones that have smoldered so long that they’re still just starting to burn now that he’s the fire chief. Everybody knows this. They’ve watched him start the fires, and thought ‘ya know, that guy really likes fires.’ And now he’s the guy in charge of putting out fires in your town.

I think we can all agree that hiring an arsonist as the town fire prevention chief would be batshit nuts. But it turns out that’s exactly what Donald Trump has done with our nation’s foreign policy when he hired pyromaniac turned fire chief, John Bolton as his National Security Advisor.

THE MAN WHO ONCE WROTE “TO STOP IRAN’S BOMB, BOMB IRAN,” JUST AS THE US AND WORLD POWERS WERE INKING A DEAL TO REIN IN IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM, IS DOING EVERYTHING HE CAN TO PUT HIS WORDS INTO PRACTICE.

You may remember John Bolton as the mustached buffoon who occasionally appeared on right-wing news, explaining why we should be bombing this or that country to bring them peace. After Trump worked his way through his first two National Security Advisors, he got over his dislike of Bolton’s mustache and put him in one of the few positions of real power in the Executive Branch that, for some reason, does not require Senate confirmation, something Bolton has proven utterly incapable of securing.

Now firmly ensconced atop America’s national security state, Bolton has set about his favorite activity, starting fires — all at once, all over the world.

The man who once wrote “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran,” just as the US and world powers were inking a deal to rein in Iran’s nuclear program, is doing everything he can to put his words into practice. Having helped pull the US out of the successful Iran nuclear agreement, Bolton has reportedly, single-handedly pushed the Pentagon to draw up war plans for Iran. Someone no one elected, that the Senate didn’t confirm, is instructing the United States military to draw up plans to start a war so bad one general famously quipped “if you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.”

Short of getting his direct attack on Iran, he’s willing to settle for a proxy war. Bolton has worked behind the scenes to undermine his boss’ stated intention to withdraw from Syria to fulfill his prophecy that “we’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders.” He’s been part of the administration chorus erroneously saying that the situation in Yemen is all Iran’s fault, seeking justification to continued unauthorized US military involvement there. He seems willing to settle for a war with Iran anywhere he can start one.

But one important point about Bolton is that like any good pyromaniac, he’s not satisfied trying to start just one fire. It should come as no surprise that Bolton’s latest attempted inferno is Venezuela. The Washington Post brings us all into the room of Bolton’s latest National Security Council meeting in which his aides routinely and hostilely interrupted the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because they wanted to solely focus on “military options,” a euphemistic term for ways to make war.

That’s the thing about pyromaniacs and their cronies, they don’t like it when you don’t let them start fires.

His track record is clear. John Bolton never met a challenge he didn’t want to turn into a crisis. He never met a crisis he didn’t want to make into a war. And he never met a war that he thinks should be ended. If there was a hall of fame for pyromaniacs, John Bolton should be ranked first.

Of course, Bolton isn’t the President, he only works for him. So where is his boss in all this? Trump is playing the back nine with his favorite autocrat of the day while the world turns into an inferno. Perhaps Trump is simply hoping to arrange a retirement home beyond the reach of those pesky federal prosecutors awaiting his post-Presidency. Maybe he’s thinking about whether he’d like to open Trump Tower Riyadh or Moscow first. Either way, the guy who said “great nations do not fight endless wars” is sitting idly by while his National Security Advisor attempts to start and continue the United States’ endless wars.

The simple truth is that John Bolton is hoping that we’ll all forget that somehow we let a pyromaniac become fire chief. We can’t let that happen. We need to keep the spotlight firmly on the guy lighting fires around the world. Sooner or later those fires are going to get bigger, and when that happens, Bolton’s game plan has always been to pretend he had nothing to do with it.

We know what’s going to happen and what he’s going to do. The only question left is what we’ll do in response.

U.S. master plan to destroy Bolivarian Venezuela

A sinister plan is underway, its objective: to destroy Bolivarian Venezuela. The details of this project appear meticulously specified in a secret document dated February 23, 2018, that bears the signature of Admiral Kurt Walter Tidd, current commander-in-chief of the U.S. Southern Command.

The first phase was launched before the last Venezuelan elections, but did not succeed in overthrowing President Nicolás Maduro, thus Plan B was implemented, which projected recruiting several countries to demand a “multilateral force” to intervene militarily, along with a media campaign by the imperialist propaganda apparatus and more violent actions in “defense of democracy.”

The document calls for encouraging popular dissatisfaction by increasing the process of destabilization and shortages, to ensure the irreversible discrediting of the current “dictator,” reminding us of the plan described by Assistant Secretary of State Lester Mallory, on April 6, 1960, aimed at putting an end to the Cuban Revolution, calling for weakening the country’s economic life, causing the Cuban people hunger and despair, which would lead to revolutionary government’s demise.

This perverse subversion project includes harassing and ridiculing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, “to pose him as symbol of awkwardness and incompetence. “ The plan is designed to be implemented quickly and effectively to undermine the alleged “dictatorship” in Venezuela.

MASTERSTROKE PART I

– Increase internal instability to a critical level, by “intensifying the undercapitalization of the country, the leaking out of foreign currency and the deterioration of its monetary base, bringing about the application of new inflationary measures.”

– The document suggests exacerbating divisions between members of the government, emphasizing the difference between the population’s living conditions and those of their leaders, and making sure that these are exaggerated.

– “Fully obstruct imports, and at the same time discouraging potential foreign investors in order to make the situation more critical for the population .”

– Appeal “to domestic allies as well as other people inserted from abroad in the national scenario in order to generate protests, riots and insecurity, plunders, thefts, assaults and highjacking of vessels as well as other means of transportation with the intention of deserting the country in crisis through all borderlands and other possible ways, jeopardizing in such a way the National Security of neighboring frontier nations.”

– The plan emphasizes the importance of “causing victims” and “holding the Venezuelan government responsible.”

– Promote internationally the idea that the country is facing a humanitarian crisis.

– Spread lies about extensive government corruption.

– Link the government to drug trafficking to discredit the Maduro administration before the world and among Venezuelan supporters.

– Promote “fatigue inside the members of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), inciting annoyance and inconformity among themselves, for them to break noisily from the government.”

– Design a plan to incite “the profuse desertion of the most qualified professional from the country, to leave it with no professionals at all, which will aggravate even more the internal situation, and along these lines, putting the blame on the government.”

PART II

– Encourage dissatisfaction with the Maduro regime.

– Highlight “the incompetence of mechanisms of integration created by the regimes of Cuba and Venezuela, specially (sic) the ALBA and PETROCARIBE, in order to tackle the situation of the country and their inability to find solutions to the problems that citizens are facing.”

– One section of the document is entitled: “Using the army officers as an alternative of definite solution.”

– Continue preparing “conditions inside the Armed Forces to carry out a coup d’etat before ending 2018, if the crisis does not make the dictatorship collapse, or the dictator does not decide to move aside.”

– Continue “setting fire to the common frontier with Colombia, multiplying the traffic of fuel and other goods. The movement of paramilitaries, armed raids, and drug trafficking. Provoking armed incidents with the Venezuelan frontier security forces.”

– Recruit “paramilitaries, mainly in the campsites of refugees in Cúcuta, la Guajira, and the north of Santander, areas largely populated by Colombian citizens who emigrated to Venezuela and have returned.”

PART III

– Prepare “involvement of allied forces in support of Venezuelan Army officers, or to control the internal crisis.”

– Establish “a speedy timeline that prevents the Dictator … winning control of the internal scenario.”

– Obtain support and cooperation from “friendly countries (Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Guyana)”

– Organize “provisioning, relief of troops, medical and logistical support from Panama.”

– Make “good use” of electronic surveillance and intelligence signals; of hospitals and equipment deployed in Darién (Panamanian jungle), Plan Colombia’s drone equipment , as well as the “landing fields” at the former Howard and Albroock military bases in Panama; as well as those of Río Hato; and the United Nations Humanitarian Regional Center, designed for catastrophe situations and humanitarian emergencies, which has “an aerial landing field and its own warehouses.”- Proposed is “moving on the basification of combat airplanes and choppers, armored conveyances, intelligence positions, and special military and logistics units, police, military district attorneys, and prisons.”

– Develop “the military operation under international flag, patronized by the Conference of American Armies, under the protection of the OAS, and the supervision, in the legal and media context of General Secretary Luis Almagro.”

– Declare the “necessity of the continental command be strengthened to act, using the instrument of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, in order to avoid the democratic rupture.”

– “Binding (sic) Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Panama to the contribution of greater number of troops, to make use of their geographic proximity and experience in forest regions.”

– Strengthen the “international” nature of the operation “with presence of combat units from the United States and the other named countries, under the command of a Joint General Staff led by the USA.”

– Promote “international participation in this effort, as part of a multilateral operation with contributions from States, Non-profit Organizations, and international bodies. Supplying the adequate logistic, intelligence, surveillance, and control support,” anticipating as key geographical points “Aruba, Puerto Carreño, Inirida, Maicao, Barranquilla, Sincelejo in Colombia, and Roraima, Manaos and Boavista in Brazil.”

MEDIA PLAN

– Increase within the country, via local and international media, the dissemination of messages designed and based on testimony and publications originating in the country, making use of all possible capacity, including social media.

– “Justifying and assuring through violent means the international backup to the deposal of the dictatorship, displaying an extensive dissemination, inside the country and to the entire world, through all open means and the capacities of the psychological war of the U.S. Army.”

– Back up and “strengthen” the image of the OAS, as a multilateral institution to resolve regional problems.

– Promote “the request of a dispatch of a UNO military force for the imposition of peace, once Nicolas Maduro’s corrupt dictatorship is defeated. “

SOURCE: U.S. Southern Command “Plan to overthrow the Venezuelan dictatorship: Masterstroke,” revealed by Argentine intellectual Stella Calloni

Did Taliban Attack Counterpart International For Its CIA Connections, Or For Meddling In Family Affairs?

 

Taliban Claim Bomb Assault On US NGO “Counterpart International” Because It Is Funded By USAID

“Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban insurgency, claimed responsibility for the attack against the non-profit, which, he said, was “created by USAID and is involved in various destructive activities” in Afghanistan.

The Taliban mouthpiece claimed that Counterpart carried out “a dangerous program called Angel to promote relations between men and women.”

USAID IS CIA

Taliban assaults ‘anti-Islamic’ NGO in Kabul, citing its promotion of ‘western culture’

The Taliban shared these photos from the attack on Counterpart International in Kabul.

The NGO’s work is intended to bolster civil society organizations within Afghanistan, and its alumni “serve on regional high peace councils and have also gone on to coordinate local peacebuilding efforts.”–Long War Journal

“In May 2009, Counterpart was granted a Leader with Associates (LWA) Cooperative Agreement with USAID, who expressed confidence in Counterpart to implement the “Global Civil Society Strengthening” (GCSS) program that builds the capacity of civil society organizations around the world.“–Wiki

[“Global Civil Society Strengthening” (GCSS) program is an outgrowth of the US Conflict Management Institute, which itself evolved into the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP).–ed. ]

[What is “Global Civil Society”?]

“‘Global civil society’ refers to the vast assemblage of groups operating across borders and beyond the reach of governments. Whether such organizations constitute a new, increasingly autonomous realm or are merely artifacts of Western liberal society is widely debated.”–Global Civil Society?

“The sheer heterogeneity of groups, activities, and networks that make up global civil society — nonprofits, businesses, social movements, tourists, academics, artists, cultural performers, ethnic and linguistic groups, and so forth — threatens to make the term a description of everything and nothing.”

 

  • Total Duration13 yrs 7 mos

    TitleDirector, Global Civil Society Strengthening LWA
    Nov 2005 – Present

    Director of New Program Initiatives
    Nov 2005 – May 2009

    Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist
    Company Name Management Systems International
    May 2004 – Sep 2004

    Senior Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist, Iraq
    Research Triangle Regional Partnership
    Aug 2003 – May 2004

    Internews Network
    6 yrs 9 mos

    • TitleRegional Director for West NIS & S Caucasus [Western Newly Independent states – Western NIS]
      Mar 2000 – May 2003

      Director for Ukraine and Belarus
      Sep 1997 – Mar 2000

      Director for Ukraine
      Sep 1996 – Sep 1997

 

DATES: October 2010 – September 2013
PARTNERS: Counterpart International, Inc.
The Initiative to Promote Afghan Civil Society (I-PACS) encourages the development of a politically active civil society in Afghanistan.  The program began in January 2005 and its second phase, I-PACS II, started in October 2010.  Through the program, USAID has strengthened the role and viability of civil society by providing technical assistance, capacity-building, and grants to civil society organizations nationwide.  While the goal of the original I-PACS program help Afghan citizens to participate in the political process effectively, I-PACS II will work specifically to improve civil society accountability, develop legal and regulatory frameworks, and increase citizen mobilization and policy engagement, with particular emphasis on gender.”

Counterpart International is working to improve Afghanistan’s civil society sector to better serve the population’s development needs.

“This innovative initiative is at the forefront of empowering Afghan organizations and the communities they serve to more effectively participate in the political process, solve local problems and demand good governance from their leaders,” says Sibel Berzeg, Counterpart’s Vice President for Civil Society.

Berzeg, who helped to develop and launch the effort in 2005, says the program accomplishes two goals simultaneously: It strengthens local non-governmental organizations and helps Afghans address their most pressing issues.

“Along with domestic and international partners, we are helping Afghan civil society organizations and civic groups to prioritize locally-generated solutions to large and small scale policy and development needs,” Berzeg says. “The program emphasizes the participation and leadership of Afghan women in the socio-economic sphere of the country, and generates the support of Afghan men for that participation.”

Called the Initiative to Promote Afghan Civil Society (I-PACS), the program improves the ability of these civic entities to operate, to effectively serve their constituents and to be sustainable.

The overarching goal of I-PACS is to increase the role and viability of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Afghanistan. To reach the goal, I-PACS’s core objectives are to:

  • Ensure informed policy and equitable resource allocation decisions concerning civil society and CSO development in Afghanistan;
  • Assist in the development and enforcement of a comprehensive legal framework to strengthen the CSO sector;
  • Build the capacity of CSOs to design, implement, manage, monitor and evaluate their activities effectively, and achieve organizational objectives with transparency and accountability; and
  • Provide funding to CSOs to implement development and advocacy projects.
  • Program initiatives focusing on gender and public outreach are integrated into all I-PACS activities.

I-PACS is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through Counterpart’s Global Civil Society Strengthening Leader with Associates (GCSS LWA).

To implement the program, Counterpart has engaged two of our GCSS LWA partners: the International Center for Not for Profit Law is focusing on strengthening the legislative framework for NGOs, and Development & Training Services is ensuring effective gender integration and mainstreaming in all I-PACS activities.

I-PACS is now in its second phase, having been renewed for three more years in 2010.

Fed. Judge (Jewish) Rules DC-Based Radio Station Carrying Sputnik To Register As Russian Agent

Judge rules DC-based radio station register as Russian agent

A radio station in D.C. now must register as a Russian foreign agent after a federal judge issued her ruling Tuesday in favor of the Department of Justice.

From her West Palm Beach courtroom, U.S. District Court Judge Robin Rosenburg granted the Department of Justice’s motion on pleadings, finding that RM Broadcasting is a foreign principal and must register with the U.S. government.

The station airs Sputnik International broadcast from Moscow.

The ruling enforces the Foreign Agents Registration Act, originally adopted by Congress in 1938 to combat Nazi propaganda.

In her opinion, Rosenburg writes that while RM’s owner, an American named Arnold Ferolito, contended the station simply buys and resells airtime to the creators of Sputnik International, it’s required to do much more, including its own programming.

Though Ferolito acknowledged selling airtime to Rossiya Segodnya, the Russian Federation government-owned news agency, and contends “this commercial transaction in no way created an agency relationship,” the judge sided with the Justice Department’s argument based on FARA.

“FARA is a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities,” according to the definition on the DOJ’s website.

In June 2018, the government informed RM Broadcasting it should register as a radio station with foreign allegiances under new registration rules, which likely refers to the passage of the John McCain Defense Authorization Act in 2018.

Ferolito filed suit against the department for its demands.

The judge’s ruling bolsters the Justice Department’s efforts requiring several media outlets, including Russia Today, register as foreign agents.

Denver Voters Pass Nation’s First “Magic Mushroom” Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative

Denver first in U.S. to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms

Psilocybin possession would remain illegal but would become police’s “lowest law-enforcement priority”

Magic mushrooms are seen at the ...
Peter Dejong, The Associated Press

Psychedelic mushrooms are seen at the Procare farm in Hazerswoude, central Netherlands, in this 2007 file photo.

Denver is poised to become the first city in the nation to effectively decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms.

After closing an early vote deficit Tuesday night and early Wednesday, final unofficial results posted late in the afternoon showed a reversal of fortune — with Initiative 301 set to pass narrowly with 50.6 percent of the vote. The total stands at 89,320 votes in favor and 87,341 against, a margin of 1,979.

The Denver Elections Division will continue accepting military and overseas ballots, but typically those numbers are small. Results will be certified May 16.

“It’s been one hell of a 21-and-a-half hours,” Initiative 301 campaign manager Kevin Matthews said. “If these results hold, this is an example of the absurd comedy of the great metaphor. Against all odds, we prevailed. This is what happens when a small team of dedicated and passionate people unite under a single idea to create change.”

Denver’s vote has attracted national attention. While efforts are afoot to get psilocybin-related measures on the ballot in Oregon and California in 2020, Denver hosted the first-ever U.S. popular vote on the matter, according to organizers. An earlier effort in California last year failed to qualify for the ballot.

Though Initiative 301 attracted no organized opposition, critics of Colorado’s legalization of marijuana lamented the prospect of Denver blazing yet another trail they see as misguided and potentially harmful.

The measure essentially tells police to look the other way on adult psilocybin use.

“We’ll see what the final numbers are, but we’re a little stunned to see a 7,000-vote flip overnight on that,” said Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, who initially questioned on Twitter whether vote-tampering was involved. “We’ll continue to fight the growing drug culture. Denver’s becoming the illicit drug capital of the world. The larger issue here is not good for our city.”

He added: “Marijuana has brought more problems than it’s solved to our city and our state, and if we continue to go down this track, we’re going to continue to see Colorado get in worse and worse shape.”Supporters extolled emerging research showing potential health benefits with psychedelic mushrooms. The measure likely was put over the top by younger voters, who tend to cast their ballots closer to or on Election Day, even though all registered voters receive their ballots in the mail about three weeks earlier.

Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted psilocybin “breakthrough therapy” designation for its potential to help with treatment-resistant depression, a status that speeds up the development and review process for a medicine containing the substance.

What Initiative 301 tells police to do

As written, I-301 directs police via ordinance to treat enforcement of laws against possession of psilocybin mushrooms as their lowest priority.

It’s similar to decriminalization measures approved by Denver voters for marijuana years before Colorado’s Amendment 64 won statewide approval.

“Our victory here is a clear signal to the rest of the country that we’re ready for a broader conversation around psilocybin and its potential benefits,” said Matthews, a 33-year-old stay-at-home dad.

Psychedelic mushrooms still would remain illegal to buy, sell or possess, with the latter crime a felony that carries a potential punishment of up to a year in prison and a fine. But Initiative 301 backers hope to lower the risk users face of getting caught with mushrooms.

Past marijuana efforts are instructive, though. Denver voters signed off on decriminalization measures in 2005 and 2007, but that didn’t stop police from enforcing the law — though drug law-liberalization advocates say the public discussion prompted by the ballot initiatives helped pave the way for statewide legalization in 2012.

“I’ll say this: We’re looking forward to creating a positive relationship with city officials,” Matthews said. “We have the resources ready to make sure the Justice Department, the (district attorney’s) office and the Denver Police Department have the education they need to implement this in a way that’s fair.”

Initiative 301 requires the city to create a panel to monitor the effects and implementation of the ordinance.

Some national media outlets as well as the Centennial Institute wrongly called I-301 a bust late Tuesday, based on the early results.

But the gap tightened throughout the night. By 1 a.m. Wednesday, when Denver Elections put out its last release before pausing counting for the night, the measure still was losing by 3.4 percentage points.

It overcame that margin in the next — and final — round of results shortly after 4 p.m.

America’s Pro/Anti-Terrorist Foreign Policy Turning On Its Head Under Trump–allies yesterday, enemies today

Members of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces complete a military exercise in Basra, Iraq, on January 31, 2019.ESSAM AL-SUDANI / REUTERS
All the Americans could do was shake their heads as a Shiite militia flag waved above their base.

The troops from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division were still getting used to living alongside an old enemy. It was the fall of 2016, the start of a U.S.-backed offensive to retake the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. Some Americans who’d come to aid the effort had also fought in the Iraq War, when the U.S. military suffered hundreds of deaths in battles with Shiite militia groups. Five years after that war ended, they found themselves at an airfield south of Mosul, where the Airborne was stationed in one section, and a militia outpost sat in another. Concrete blast walls separated the two sides. But someone had climbed a radio tower overlooking the U.S. barracks and tied a militia flag to its peak.

An American soldier pointed out the flag one morning with a wry look that suggested he appreciated the troll.

The global fight against ISIS created strange alliances—and the de facto one between the U.S. military and Iraq’s Shiite militias, some of whom are backed by Iran, was among the most striking.

While the two sides had a shared interest in defeating the Sunni extremist group, the alliance was never going to be enduring, and there was always the risk that if tensions between America and Iran ever ignited, the militias could be a flash point.

Those tensions have now spiked.

On Sunday, National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that U.S. warships had been dispatched to the Arabian Peninsula in response to unspecified threats from Iran. Later, U.S. officials reportedly cited the risk to American forces and allies from Iran-backed militia or proxy forces. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled a planned visit to Berlin in order to visit Baghdad, where he said he discussed “the increased threat stream” with Iraqi leaders and stressed the need to protect U.S. forces there. At the same time, Iran announced that it will stop complying with some parts of the 2015 nuclear deal, continuing the pattern of escalation set in motion by the Trump administration’s decision to walk away from the agreement. (The White House on Wednesday introduced a new set of sanctions against Iran’s metals sector.)

Though U.S. officials have so far been vague about the nature of the threat, Phillip Smyth, an expert on Shiite militia groups, told me he takes the risk they pose to U.S. forces seriously. The militia groups that act as Iranian proxies in Iraq, he said, would be an effective tool for further escalation—and for reviving an old narrative that casts U.S. troops as an occupying force in the country.

“Now that [ISIS] is more dislodged and not anywhere near its 2015 state, the narrative of ‘opposing a resisting force’ makes more sense from the Iranians’ ideological and political perspectives,” said Smyth, who is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Some Iran-backed militias have made open threats against U.S. forces in recent years, Smyth said. Because of the Trump administration’s aggressive sanctions against Iran, he added, “the threats take on a new and possibly more dangerous trend.”

United under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces and an official part of the Iraqi security forces, a constellation of Shiite militia groups emerged in 2014 in response to the Iraqi military’s capitulation to ISIS, recruiting thousands of new fighters. Some militia groups are seen as Iranian proxies and have been trained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, while others oppose Iranian influence and bill themselves as Iraqi nationalists. Kata’ib Hezbollah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, Smyth noted, are among those in the former category that U.S. officials may be watching closely.

In a 2017 speech, Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, claimed that the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia are enemies of Iraq. Documents recently declassified by the Pentagon state that during a stint as a U.S. prisoner during the Iraq War, Khazali admitted to authorizing attacks that killed American soldiers. In January, Khazali predicted that the Iraqi parliament would eventually vote to expel U.S. troops from the country — and said that if they didn’t leave, they could be driven out “by force.”

The Shiite militias played a key role in the fight against ISIS, such as when they helped recapture the city of Tikrit in 2015, and suffered heavy losses. But they also claimed credit for victories largely won by government troops, and were accused of massacres, torture, and other abuses against Sunni civilians at a rate that far outpaced similar accusations against other forces. During the Mosul offensive, civilians regularly listed the militias among their foremost concerns in Sunni-majority areas freed from ISIS.

During the anti-ISIS campaign, U.S. military planners were wary of inadvertently providing air cover for the militias when they advanced in concert with the Iraqi army, worried about aiding forces that worked so closely with Iran. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps advisers were often on the front lines with the militia groups they supported, and Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC’s elite Quds Force, was occasionally photographed on the battlefield. (This wasn’t the first time the U.S. military found itself in an unlikely alliance in Iraq: During the Iraq War, it teamed up with some hard-line Sunni groups as part of its campaign to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’s predecessor.)

Even before the warship move, the Trump administration had designated the IRGC a terrorist group, prompting the Iranians to respond by declaring U.S. forces in the region a terrorist group too. Yet 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, in close proximity to Iran-backed forces.

After Bolton’s announcement, I spoke with U.S. military officers who served in the country during the fight against ISIS, and they made two points. The first is that the risk the militias pose to U.S. troops in Iraq has been there since the anti-ISIS campaign began in 2014—and so, in a sense, the threats U.S. officials are discussing are nothing new. The second is that while they considered the threats to be manageable, they were real causes for concern.

“The Shiite militias definitely kept some of us up at night,” one officer, who has since retired from the military, told me, recalling the feeling of living and working around the groups even as some continued with “very clear anti-U.S. rhetoric.”

“They were a wild card that we always had to keep an eye on.”

Another recently retired officer noted an instance in which he suspected that U.S. troops already had been targeted by militias: A roadside bomb killed a U.S. service member in October 2017, an incident for which the U.S. military has not assigned blame. Last year, the State Department evacuated the U.S. consulate in the Iraqi city of Basra, citing attacks by Iran-backed militias. “That’s always been there,” he said. “When I hear [U.S. claims of new threats], I’m like, ‘Really, there’s a new threat from Iran-backed militia?’ I remember back in 2004 when we were fighting Iran-backed militias in Iraq. It’s an existing threat that’s been there for years, but it’s up to Iran to dial it up or dial it down depending on the political end state they want to achieve.”

This officer, who also served during the Iraq War, said returning to the country for the anti-ISIS fight and finding himself posted beside Shiite militias was alarming at first—“but as we got to live together, not as much.”

With the ISIS war winding down, though, the two sides no longer have a common enemy. “That dynamic of a co-enemy has changed, and the power of the Shia militia groups has changed as well,” he told me, as militia-allied candidates made surprising gains in last year’s Iraqi elections.

Colonel Scott Rawlinson, a U.S. military spokesman, declined to comment on whether Shiite militias pose a risk to U.S. troops in Iraq, but he stressed that the threat from ISIS remains. The group “has lost its territorial caliphate but has transitioned into a disaggregated network of sleeper cells with the goal of resurging through intimidation and attacks on civilians, community leaders, and security forces,” he said.

The fact that U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria remain heavily engaged in the fight against ISIS underscores the risks of a U.S. strategy in the region that seeks to pivot to a new enemy, in Iran, even as the battle with the old one remains a work in progress.

And as the past few days have shown, both the United States and Iran have levers with which they can escalate tensions.

“Just like the U.S. maintains and refreshes planning for a variety of contingencies, so does Iran. This dynamic—of increasing U.S. pressure and Iranian countermoves amidst mistrust and imperfect information—increases the risk of miscalculation,” Eric Brewer, a former senior official on the Trump administration’s National Security Council who is now a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told me.

“We are entering a somewhat more dangerous and escalatory period. Those of us watching this have been warning that the administration’s maximum-pressure campaign was—at some point—going to generate an Iranian response.”

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

MIKE GIGLIO is a staff writer at The Atlantic, covering national security and U.S. intelligence.

Taliban Claim Bomb Assault On US NGO “Counterpart International” Because It Is Funded By USAID

The Wahhabi Invasion Of Sri Lanka

The Wahhabi Invasion Of Sri Lanka

By Stephen Schwartz and Irfan Al-Alawi –

To many non-Muslims, the existence of an Islamic community on the island of Sri Lanka may be surprising. Sri Lanka has been known for the past three decades as the scene of an atrocious civil war. Its Buddhist Sinhala majority, with 69.1 percent of the national population of 21.5 million, was challenged by Tamils – 7.1 percent, and mainly Hindu in religion, whom the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or “Tamil Tigers” aspired to represent. The “Tamil Tigers” were defeated militarily in 2009.

But Sri Lanka also counts 7.6 percent of its people as Muslims, and among them, as elsewhere throughout South Asia, the spiritual tradition of Sufism is vigorously present. After 1973, and the Arab oil embargo that enriched Saudi Arabia greatly, the ultra-fundamentalist Wahhabi sect, which is the official religious interpretation in the Saudi kingdom, began to penetrate Sri Lanka’s adherents to Islam. The Wahhabis in Sri Lanka act through a movement called Thawheed, or Monotheism. They opened numerous medresas. They despise Sufis.

According to M.C.A. Hameed, president of the All Ceylon Thareekathul Mufliheen, a Sufi order whose name means “path of the fearless victorious,” Sri Lankan Muslims then began to find employment in Saudi Arabia, and many young Sri Lankan Muslims were awarded scholarships by Saudi universities. But “those who completed their studies returned to Sri Lanka and… propagat[ed] the ideology” of Wahhabism, Hameed says. Further, “to pursue their goal the Wahhabis resorted to violence and intimidation culminating in death and destruction. Our religious society… was not spared and had to face untold hardship.”

The All Ceylon Thareekathul Mufliheen was founded in the late 1980s by Sheihul Mufliheen M.S.M. Abdullah, known as “Rah,” in the southeastern Sri Lanka village of Maruthamunai. It was registered as a cultural society with the civil authorities in 1989. The headquarters of Thareekathul Mufliheen is now located in the small eastern coast village of Kattankudy, which has 42 mosques. The order maintains branches around the island, and claims 15,000 members.

This principle underlies the doctrines of Thareekathul Mufliheen, but its founder denied exerting any compulsion anywhere to embrace his views, given that each human being is free to choose a path of faith. In 1980, Abdullah (Rah) published a book in Tamil titled Imanin Unmaiyai Nee Arivaya, or Do You Know the Truth of Iman? – iman referring to Islamic belief. The country’s official Council of Islamic Scholars, the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulama, purportedly without reading the book or holding a hearing to examine it, published a fatwa or religious opinion on September 10, 1989, declaring Abdullah (Rah) and his followers as murtadd or apostates, who renounced Islam, in the judgment of the clerics.

Abdullah (Rah) filed a defamation suit against the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulama in 1990 in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital. Many hearings later, in 1996, the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulama revoked the fatwa and settled the complaint. In a similar act of discrimination, members of Thareekathul Mufliheen were denied registration of marriages and burial of the dead in conformity with Islamic practice, but through legal action these rights were restored, at least on paper. A book by Abdullah (Rah) translated into English, The Court of Reason, was published in 2010.

Thareekathul Mufliheen opened a Meditation Centre at Kattankudy in 1996. On May 29 of that year, at 1 A.M. in the morning, Wahhabi arson struck the building. Abdullah (Rah) and the members of the order were targets of shooting and grenade attacks, and other physical aggression, as well as threats. Worse was to come. On October 31, 2004, at 12:30 p.m., 500 Wahhabis organized under the title “Jihad” again set the Meditation Centre ablaze, destroying its library, along with homes and businesses owned by Sufis. Financial loss to the injured parties was considerable, and one Sufi was shot and killed while another was wounded by gunfire. Thareekathul Mufliheen’s president Hameed accuses police of assisting the assailants. Eight alleged perpetrators were arrested, but were released on bail with no further consequences. A complaint was entered at Police Headquarters in Colombo in 2004, and a subsequent protest was filed with the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (HRC) in 2005.

The HRC found in favor of the Sufis, stating that their constitutional right to adhere to the belief of their will and choice had been violated, and submitting recommendations for redress to the Inspector General of Police. But Thareekathul Mufliheen asserts, “Sadly, the Police were inactive in implementing these recommendations in an equitable manner.” Still, the Meditation Centre and headquarters were rebuilt and a birthday celebration for the founder of the order was held on July 25, 2006, with 15,000 people provided free food.

The Jihadis, armed with lethal weapons, rioted after the death of Abdullah (Rah), bringing life in Kattankudy to a halt by a general work stoppage (hartal). Schools, government and private offices, banks and businesses shut down and some banks and shops were looted and burned. The official clerics of All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulama, Jamiathul Ulama Kattankudy, the Muslim Federation of Mosques, other Islamic organizations, and the Kattankudy Urban Council initiated a judicial argument on December 11, 2006. They denounced the interment of Abdullah (Rah) as defying Muslim norms and traditions and charged that Thareekathul Mufliheen had failed to seek permission from the authorities for the burial. The petition by the official clerics and Wahhabis was dismissed in 2007. But the Sri Lanka HRC declared in 2007 that it could not “interfere in the disputes between various sects of a religion” and recommended the conflict be referred to the Council of Ulemas – All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulama, or to the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

In a separate controversy, the Urban Council in Kattankudy had ordered the dismantling of the minaret at the Meditation Centre, as an “unauthorized structure,” in a decision announced on December 13, 2006. Police prevented commencement of the demolition, but Wahhabi fanatics interfered with the officers. Three rioters were shot and killed. A police post and police vehicle were assaulted. On December 15, 2006, nevertheless, members of the Urban Council joined a Wahhabi mob that invaded the Meditation Centre and knocked down the minaret, removing the body of Abdullah (Rah), either burning or reburying it in a location yet unknown. The houses of 117 Sufis were leveled by fire. Many were threatened and fled the district. Two were injured, and one lost an arm.

Evidence of persecution of Thareekathul Mufliheen was submitted to Asma Jahangir, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, during a visit she made to Sri Lanka. In her 2008 Report to the UN, the Special Rapporteur expressed “regrets that she has not received a reply from the Government [of Sri Lanka]” regarding the 2006 incidents. She affirmed that “the Government of Sri Lanka has to fulfill its positive obligation to protect the right to freedom of religion or belief of all its citizens… in most of the cases that have been brought to her attention… these obligations have not been satisfactorily fulfilled by the Government.”

The 2007 International Religious Freedom Report issued by the U.S. Department of State noted the Wahhabi interference with Thareekathul Mufliheen. Since then, however, abuses against the Sufis of Kattankudy have continued, with the Wahhabi Thawheed faction in the forefront of violence. Official ulema and the village authorities attempted unsuccessfully to prevent celebration of a Sufi festival in 2008. That year, a Sri Lanka Supreme Court order, providing that 200 members of Thareekathul Mufliheen be allowed to return to their homes in Kattankudy and practice their beliefs in freedom, was obstructed by armed Jihad members.

In February 2009 a 150-year old shrine was destroyed by Thawheed in the city of Ukuwela, in the central hill country of Sri Lanka. Conflict in July 2009 between Thawheed and the Qadiri Sufi order, in the southwestern town of Beruwala, led to two deaths, more than 40 people injured, and 132 arrests. The Qadiri devotees complained that the Wahhabi mosque in their town, named Masjidur Rahman (Mosque of the Merciful) had accused the Qadiris of the Bukhari Thakkiya mosque of being qafirun (“disbelievers” or “concealers of the truth”) continuously in the eight years since the Wahhabi mosque was inaugurated.

According to the Sri Lanka newspaper The Sunday Times of August 16, 2009, Muslim Home Guards recruited by the Sri Lankan government to fight the Tamil rebels had deserted with their weapons and joined Thawheed to fulfill its demand for “Jihad” against traditional Muslims. The newspaper described a significant influx of Wahhabi preachers and activists from south India and Saudi Arabia. Riyad S. Al-Khenene, counsellor of the Royal Saudi Embassy in Sri Lanka, denied that official Saudi support was granted to the Wahhabi interlopers, while admitting that “certain wealthy persons… are helping various religious groups in Sri Lanka to put up mosques. But this has nothing to do with the Government of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Khenene insisted.

In response to the campaign against it, Thareekathul Mufliheen has appealed to the Sri Lanka authorities for an impartial inquiry into Wahhabi activities in the country; to disarm the Wahhabis; to provide for reconstruction of the headquarters of Thareekathul Mufliheen in Kattankudy; to enforce the revocation of the fatwa issued by the All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulama against Abdullah (Rah) and his disciples, as ordered by the Colombo District Court, and to compensate the displaced Sufis, facilitating restoration of their lost heritage, ruined homes, and businesses. The Sufis of Kattankudy seek “peaceful resettlement with honor.”

Thareekathul Mufliheen defines itself as “a peace loving and non-violent Religious Society… The members have displayed their patience and tolerance even in times of grave injustice and calamity… The words of wisdom of our spiritual leader are to detest arms and adopt peaceful means to find a solution in a crisis situation.”

The Wahhabi, Deobandi, and Mawdudist jihad trends have revealed their ambition to control South Asian Islam through violence in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. In all these countries traditionalists resist them. The Sufis of Sri Lanka, although obscure to the rest of the world, deserve no less support than anti-radical Muslims elsewhere in the region and around the globe.

*This article in first appeared in Washington, DC based Center for Islamic Pluralism – July 18, 2012

Trump’s Next War For Israel Prompted By Mossad Plots

Scoop: Israel passed White House intelligence on possible Iran plot

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with national security adviser John Bolton. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images

Israel passed information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack U.S. interests in the Gulf to the U.S. before national security adviser John Bolton threatened Iran with “unrelenting force” last night, senior Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: Bolton’s unusual and aggressive statement included news that the U.S. would move an aircraft carrier to the region. The officials said intelligence gathered by Israel, primarily by the Mossad intelligence agency, is understood to be part of the reason for Bolton’s announcement.

Behind the scenes: Information about possible Iranian plots against the U.S. or its allies in the Gulf were raised two weeks ago in talks held at the White House between an Israeli delegation headed by national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat and a U.S. team led by Bolton, the Israeli officials told me.

  • The intelligence about a possible Iranian plot is not very specific at this stage, but the officials said it was clear the threat was against a U.S. target in the Gulf or U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

The bottom line: An Israeli official told me Mossad drew several scenarios for what the Iranians might be planning:

“It is still unclear to us what the Iranians are trying to do and how they are planning to do it, but it is clear to us that the Iranian temperature is on the rise as a result of the growing U.S. pressure campaign against them, and they are considering retaliating against U.S. interests in the Gulf.”

— Israeli official

Sri Lanka Easter Attacks–Saudi State-Sponsored Extremism Strikes Again

Emergence Of Wahhabism – In Light Of Darwinism

Anatomy Of An Islamist Infamy – I

Sri Lanka Church Blasts

Sri Lanka Easter Attacks: Saudi State-Sponsored Extremism Strikes Again

Can Sri Lanka and the world continue to take the Saudi threat lightly? How long will the Democrats and Republicans continue to support President’s Trump’s carte blanche to Saudi Arabia?

US Opium Epidemic Is Driven By US Drug Control Policy

 Poppies in the municipality of Acatepec – the biggest opium producer in Guerrero’s La Montaña region. Photograph: César Rodríguez/The Guardian

The market price for opium has plummeted as addicts in the US have swapped heroin for fentanyl, and could force Mexico’s impoverished farmers to abandon the narcotics trade

by  in Zilacayota, Guerrero

“I knew it was illegal, but I took the risk – and thanks to la goma I raised my family,” said García as he regarded the red, pink and purple flowers. “But now it’s over: my children are grown, the goma era is finished.”

But drug use in the US has shifted: addicts have increasingly swapped heroin for fentanyl – an ultra-potent synthetic opioid often manufactured in China. As a result, the market price for opium in Mexico’s top poppy-growing state, Guerrero, has plummeted from $1,300 a kilo to $200.

The fentanyl crisis has been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the US. But it also seems likely to bring about what half a century of the militarized war on drugs has been unable to achieve: forcing impoverished farmers in rural Mexico to abandon the narcotics trade.

The opium decline is wreaking social and economic havoc in countless rural communities where peasant farmers like García now face tough choices: persuade Mexican authorities to help introduce alternative cash crops, accept environmentally destructive mining projects – or migrate north.

Zilacayota is a picturesque village of indigenous Tlapaneco people living in adobe houses with no phone signal, doctor or paved roads. It lies in the municipality of Acatepec – the biggest opium producer in Guerrero’s La Montaña region.

‘We thought the good times would last forever, never imagined that the price would fall.’
 ‘We thought the good times would last forever, never imagined that the price would fall.’ Photograph: César Rodríguez/The Guardian

The trade gained widespread popularity in the 1990s, after disease outbreaks and free trade agreements like Nafta made traditional crops such as coffee and maize unprofitable.

In some parts of Guerrero, vast poppy plantations are controlled by organised crime groups whose turf wars have turned rural communities into battle zones. It was in northern Guerrero that 43 trainee teachers were forcibly disappeared by corrupt police in September 2014; independent investigators believe they unwittingly commandeered a bus loaded with heroin.

But in La Montaña, opium production has thrived thanks to an abundance of campesinos with small plots. Opium buyers known as burreros visited isolated communities and transported the morphine-rich sap to labs controlled by criminal gangs to be processed into heroin.

La goma is the only crop that paid – nothing else sold at the market,” said Julia Sánchez, a widow with 10 children, who harvested 100 grammes or so of opium twice a year until forced to sell the family land to pay for her husband’s funeral.

The global drug trade is worth an estimated $320bn annually, according to the UN, but profits are mostly shared by traffickers and retailers in consumer countries.

After more than 30 years at the bottom rung of the drug trade, 97% of the population in Acatepec still live in poverty, with a staggering 69% in extreme poverty, according to the latest official figures, compared with the national average of 44% poverty and 8% extreme poverty.

The poppy boom in La Montaña resulted from the lack of alternatives, said Abel Barrera Hernández, founder of local human rights organisation Tlachinollan. “Here, people don’t see la goma as a criminal problem. For them it’s always been an issue of survival.”

Nevertheless, the trade did bring disposable income to the region: boozy village fiestas became legendary, children were clothed and well-fed, and out-of-town vendors made the arduous uphill journey to sell everything from school supplies and junk food to guns and stolen cars.

Now, the fiestas have downsized, children come to school hungry, and the vendors have stopped coming – as have the burreros.

After her husband’s death, Sánchez earned $4 (80 pesos) a day farming her neighbours’ poppy crops, while her daughters cleaned their houses. This year, no one is hiring and the family is living off shop credit and occasional remittances from her sons who migrated to nearby towns.

“I don’t know what la goma is used for – they say drugs but I don’t know what that means. All I know is the only thing we know how to farm doesn’t sell any more. We’re desperate.”

Many here believe the opium price crash is linked to the downfall of Joaquín“El Chapo” Guzmán; a minority have heard it is linked to a new Chinese drug.

So far, the Mexican government has failed to address the crisis, and some claim things have got worse since President Andrés Manuel López Obradortook power in December 2018.

A man harvests poppy plants to produce opium paste.
 A man harvests poppy plants to produce opium paste. Photograph: César Rodríguez/The Guardian

In January, military helicopters sprayed parts of the valley with a white liquid chemical that destroyed not just poppies, but also courgettes, chickpeas and bean crops. It was the first aerial fumigation in Zilacayota in over a decade. (The army claims to have destroyed 221,000 hectares of poppies across Guerrero in the past 30 years, including almost 6,000 hectares in Acatepec.)

Environmental factors linked to soil erosion and climate change are also starting to affect the viability of poppy farming in Guerrero.

David Navarro, 26, an ambitious father of two who produced 4kg of opium last year, is now contemplating migrating to the US. “This work isn’t secure. Even if the price goes back up for a while, climate change will end the poppy business here – the weather is changing, it’s getting drier,” he said.

Amid the chaos and crackdowns at the US border, the going rate charged by local coyotes stands at $8,000 to $10,000. Navarro has some opium stashed away, hoping the price will rise a little, but it wouldn’t cover the migration passage.

Instead, he will probably join thousands of mostly indigenous campesinos travelling to northern Mexico as seasonal agricultural workers.

The US fentanyl crisis could mark the end of an era for Mexico – but what comes next depends on what fills the opium vacuum. Violence could increase as criminal gangs compensate for falling drug profits by ramping up extortion, vehicle thefts and kidnappings.

“This [price drop] could be a great opportunity to help communities regenerate traditional agriculture. But it could also open the door for mining companies” said Barrera Hernández.

Growing numbers of farmers seem resigned to the end of the opium era, but others are finding it hard to let go.

Miguel Romero, 30, started farming poppies as a school boy. He has harvested as much as 14kg in recent years, living relatively well as a result – but saved nothing. “We thought the good times would last forever, never imagined that the price would fall.”

In recent months Romero found construction work in a nearby town, and has experimented with fish and chicken farming, but his heart is not in it. “La goma is what I know, I don’t want to do anything else. I still have hope the price will go back up.”

  • Some names have been changed to protect identities

US SOUTHCOM Chief Refutes Pompeo Claims About US Readiness For Aggression Against Venezuela

U.S. Military Chief Pushes Back on Pompeo’s Assertion of Venezuela Intervention

The U.S. military is preparing traditional plans for the unrest in Venezuela, but they do not include direct intervention in the political process, the U.S. Southern Command chief says.

By Paul D. Shinkman, Senior National Security Writer

U.S. Military Pushes Back on Pompeo Venezuela Claims

US Admiral of the Southern Command Craig Faller speaks during a press conference on the military cooperation with Ecuador, in Quito on April 25, 2019. (Photo by RODRIGO BUENDIA / AFP) (Photo credit should read RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images)

“Our leadership’s been clear,” U.S. Southern Command chief Navy Adm. Craig Faller told the House Armed Services Committee, May 1, 2019. “It has to be, should be, a democratic transition.” (RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

THE U.S. MILITARY’S TOP officer for operations in South America pushed back Wednesday against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s suggestions earlier in the day that the White House is considering military options to expedite the overthrow of the embattled Maduro regime in Venezuela.

“Our leadership’s been clear,” U.S. Southern Command chief Navy Adm. Craig Faller told the House Armed Services Committee. “It has to be, should be, a democratic transition.”

The military is preparing for non-combat options, he said, amid the widespread civil unrest in the oil-rich Latin American nation as opposition leader Juan Guaido continues his calls for public support for his claims on the presidency.

The admiral’s comments came hours after Pompeo for the first time raised the possibility of military intervention in Venezuela to back Guaido, whom the Trump administration supports.

“The president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent – military action is possible, if that’s what’s required – that’s what the United States will do,” Pompeo told FOX Business.

A spokeswoman for Faller later told U.S. News that his position ultimately aligns with Pompeo’s.

“Our leadership has been very clear that all options are on the table, although a peaceful transition to democracy in Venezuela is preferred,” Army Col. Amanda Azubuike said in an emailed statement. “At the same time, Adm. Faller has said on numerous occasions we remain ready ‘on the balls of our feet’ should we get the call.”

Faller told the committee that the military has been focused on working with regional partners, sharing intelligence and information to better understand “the complexity of the problem” on the ground in Venezuela, including the “horrific starvation,” which Faller said affects 90 percent of the population.

U.S. forces have also made preparations to evacuate non-combatants and to protect Americans still in Venezuela, Faller said.

Faller offered additional details to other countries’ involvement in Venezuela. Russia has provided what he called “lifelines” in the form of financial loans, technical support and rhetoric to back the Maduro regime. He described Cuban resources in Venezuela as “ever present.” National security adviser John Bolton said on Tuesday the U.S. estimates as many as 25,000 Cuban security forces are operating in Venezuela to bolster the regime.

Paul D. Shinkman, Senior National Security Writer

Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report

Dept. of State Lies Wants World To Forget US/INDIA/AFGHAN Sponsorship of TTP Terrorists

Proving Pakistan Right…Afghanistan Is Harboring Hostile TTP Terrorists

Top US Gen. Admits That 70% of “ISIS” In Afghanistan Actually TTP, Pakistani Taliban

Pentagon/CIA Repackages Afghan Govt. Terrorist Force As “The Renouncers”–(updated)

NYT Highlights Taliban Split and Afghan Govt Sponsorship of Mullah Rasoul Faction–(updated)

No support to terror proxies, separatism in Pakistan: US

Wells says any terrorist attacking Pakistan is US enemy Welcomes Pak efforts for bringing Afghans together for peace talks, It is critical that the nations of this region respect each other and work to achieve peace and economic growth”

ISLAMABAD – US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells on Tuesday said the United States respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan and would never support terrorist proxies or separatism against it.

She was responding to a question regarding India using Afghan soil to create insurgency in Pakistan, at a media interaction held here at the US Embassy.

Ambassador Wells, who arrived here Monday on a two-day visit, during her stay met key government officials including finance adviser, foreign secretary, interior secretary and the army chief to discuss bilateral agenda and regional security including joint efforts to advance Afghan peace process.

When sought comments on reports of Indian funding to Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, Ambassador Wells said the US did not support any separatist or irredentist movement.

“It is critical that the nations of this region respect each other and work to achieve peace and economic growth,” she said.

Under the Financial Action Task Force plan, she expressed hope that Pakistan would make efforts to meet the specific requirements including identification of high-risk threats in society and denying them the ability to fund-raise and organise.

She said the US had been actively working with Pakistan to combat terrorism, whether it was Al-Qaeda or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. “Any terrorist attacking Pakistan is an enemy of ours. We share very strong counter-terrorism objective in defeating extremist forces,” she stressed.

On implementation of National Action Plan (NAP), she said the steps briefed by the Pakistan government to the diplomatic community were positive regarding the detention of leaders of proscribed groups and seizure of assets. “We certainly believe what peace brings economic growth and stability, which conforms with the Prime Minister’s agenda of Naya Pakistan aspiring development,” she said.

She welcomed PM Imran Khan’s statements underscoring his government’s commitment to moving away from non-state actors through forging the NAP and said “Pakistan’s future course requires that the state itself controls all means of force.”

On UNSC’s deadlock on proscribing Maulana Masood Azhar following China’s veto, she said the US believed that designation of terrorist should be technical in nature and added that “We encourage the parties to move forward and reaffirm the centrality of UN’s role in designating terrorists.”

On US’ concerns on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Ambassador Wells said the US welcomed the development, however believed that the infrastructure and investment needed to meet international standard, with transparency and sustainability.

She said the apprehensions were not Pakistan-specific as the US had also expressed voice with regard to other countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Ambassador Wells, who accompanied US Special Representative on Afghanistan Peace Zalmay Khalilzad during his meetings with officials in Islamabad, said Pakistan would benefit more than any other country if peace comes to this region.

She welcomed the support of government of Pakistan for bringing Afghans together for peace dialogue, adding that the Prime Minister’s recent strong statement in support of reduction of violence in Afghanistan was encouraging.

To a question on India’s lukewarm response to Pakistan’s peace efforts, Wells said regional disputes hindered the ability of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) to play an effective role in region’s prosperity and growth.

The US welcomes Prime Minister Imran Khan’s open desire for better relations with India, she added.

On Kashmir issue, she said, “We support efforts by Pakistan and India, but it is up to them to pace up discussions.”

Ambassador Wells rejected the impression of receding Pak-US trade ties and said, “Our trade relationship is extremely healthy as we remain Pakistan’s largest export market with bilateral trade reached at highest level with US6.6 billion US and Pakistani exports increased by four percent.”

She termed freedom of expression as vital part of democracy, quoting example of her country where press and activists could express opinion freely as a check on abuse of power and a mirror that can be held up to government practices.

Monitoring Desk adds: US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has concluded two days of official discussions in Pakistan on how to advance the Afghan peace process. “Ambassador Khalilzad requested and received support for the need to accelerate intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations as well as a reduction in violence, concrete steps necessary for a comprehensive settlement,” the US embassy noted Tuesday in a post-visit statement.

From the Den of the Easter Massacre Mastermind

[The Sri Lankan media has been doing an excellent job of investigative reporting on this repulsive hit job against the Sri Lankan people and their govt.  They have reported on the growing mountain of circumstantial information before the anticipated cover-up really has time to undercut the truth.  We know for certain that Islamists were caught red-handed with a lot of bombs and explosives and that they were all very thorough in taking their own lives, even sacrifing their own families, in order to carry-out mass-murder, which seems, on the face of it, to be conscious acts of hopelessness, which had to be obviously counter-productive to their Islamist cause, and above all, a pointless waste of true-believers. 

The action’s organizers were to sacrifice their own lives for no apparent cause, since the targets were Christian, NOT Buddhist, their traditional island adversaries and the majority of Sri Lanka’s population.  As political acts, these calculated attacks could only serve to increase animosity towards Sri Lankan Muslims, in effect, the Islamists “scapegoating” themselves in actions which would gain sympathy for the island’s Christians.  The particular targets of this govt. round-up of suspects, are associated with the obscure Islamist anti-Buddhist terrorist outfit called, National Thawheed Jamath, according to executive order “No.1 2019”, issued by President Maithripala Sirisena.]

From the Den of the

Mastermind

By Hafeel Farisz in KattankudyPix by Chris Weiner

The entire family, 2 brothers, a sister and the parents of Zahran Hashim the suspected mastermind of the Easter Sunday massacre have been missing since April 18, 2019, his sister Mohomed Hashim Madaniya aged 25 told the Daily Mirror exclusively.

“ I went and gave food to my parents and my sisters family on April 18, and haven’t heard from them since” she told us, at her house in Kattankudy located around the mosque of National Thawheed Jamath in Kattankudy.

Providing exclusive access and details of a chilling tail of radicalization of which the sister insists she had been against, and members of the mosque completely dissociating themself with, the Daily Mirror was told that Hashim was a gifted orator and a loving family man until his “sudden disappearance”

The family included five children with Zahran Hashim being the oldest (33) he is married to Mohomed Haadiya (23) a resident of Kekenuwella, Kurunegala and is the father of two children aged a boy aged eight and a girl aged four.

His brother Mohomed Zeyin Hashim (30) is married to Abdul Gafoor Afrin (23) and has two children a boy aged 5 and a girl aged 3. The third was Mohomed Rilwan Hashim (28) Nafha (20) and is the father of two children aged 5 years and the other a six month old boy.

The remaining sister Mohomed Yaseera Hashim (20) was married to Mohomed Rishad (22) and is the mother of a boy aged one year, all of whom have left without a trace.

“I don’t know where they are. From the 18th onwards I have had no contact with them” she told us.

Accordingly all the family members including the parents of Zahran, Hayath Mohomed Hashim (55) and Abdul Cader Sameema ( 50) have left no trace of their whereabouts since April 18th.

“ It was early 2017 when he started preaching things that we thought were out of line. They were things like the world was made for Muslims and was against other religions” she said.

“ My husband didn’t like what he was saying so we stopped our connections with him. That didn’t mean we were angry, its just that we stopped following him” the mother of three said.

On March 10, 2017 following an armed fight between moderate Sufi groups and those following the new mosque and denomination propagated by Zahran, he had reportedly “ gone missing”.

“ we didn’t hear from him after. He together with his brother Rilwan completely lost contact with all of us” Moulavi Thawufeek (33) the Head of the National Thawheed Jamath told Daily Mirror.

The National Thawheed Jamath was a denomination originated by Zahran in or around 2011.

Katankudy a small area of land with one of the highest density of population comprises 63 mosques. 8 of the mosques follow the Fundamentalist strand openly and the other barring 3 mosques follow “different degrees of wahabist ideology” H. M Ameer from the Badriya Mosque told the Daily Mirror. “The Jammiyathul Ulama are also supporters of the Wahabi ideology” he and Jaseem told the Daily Mirror.

The incident culminating in violence on March 10, 2017 was a result of rift between the Badriya Mosque followers of the Sufi Ideology and the religious strand that Hashim propogated.

“There was a meeting to be held at the Aliya Junction at which Zahran was to speak when the violence broke out” both parties said, after which differing accounts were narrated as to what took place.

Nine persons from Zahran’s, National Thawheed Jamath were arrested by the Police and Two from the Badriya Mosque. The arrests included Zahran’s brother Zeyin. The suspects had been remanded for over 7 months according to one of the suspects Mohomed Rifaz (32).

Speaking to the Daily Mirror at the two storied mosque of which one storey is yet to be completed, Rifaz said Zahran “went missing” after the Police came after him.

“We didn’t know of his whereabouts till he started posting videos on Facebook around June 2017” the Daily Mirror were told by the members of the NTJ. “We completely disassociated ourselves from him after we saw his videos” they told us after which they showed the Daily Mirror a letter which had been issued by the Mosque expelling Zahran from the mosque.

The fact that the Mosque was a small non sophisticated one with no approval nor accounting books issuing a letter of “expulsion” could not be lost.

“That is a complete lie. We have information that he visited the mosque around six weeks ago,” Ameer from the Badriya mosque insisted. “We had informed authorities of him starting in 2012. We in fact gave dockets to 11 authorities including the Secretary of Defence, the Inspector General and the Attorney General detailing the extremism carried out by Zahran and his ideology,” Ameer told the Daily Mirror. “They all fell on deaf ears,” Mohomed Jaseem a trustee said.

Ameer and Jaseem both showed the Daily Mirror the docket which they provided to the authorities on March 27, 2017. The docket details the hatred espoused by Zahran, and contradicts the version of the NTJ that the radicalisation took place after he fled from the police.

The complaint includes preachings by Zahran to the effect that Islam should be the only religion in the island,and that Muslims should not pledge allegiance to the country.

” We gave this to the authorities in black and white. We told them that these guys were preaching some crazy radicalised fundamentalism and that there is a threat to our lives. We did this from as far back as 2012″  Jaseem told the Daily Mirror.

According to those at the National Thawheed Jamath mosque, Zahran had single handedly originated a new denomination and built a mosque through donations given by those attending “Jumma prayers” an account rubbished by Ameer.

“They opened a new mosque because they got funds from foreign entities. They couldn’t be with the other fundamentalists because the money wasn’t coming in,” Jaseem told us.

The members of the NTJ however,  insist that up until his fleeing from the Police following the clashes on March 10, 2017 Zahran was a peaceful preacher.

 

“We did a lot of charity work and we followed Islam how it should be,” they told us adding that it was following his postings in June 2017 that they realized Zahran had deviated from their path. However, according to the sister Madaniya his radical preaching commenced before.

“He had just stared to preach things against the Government, against courts, and against other religions. He may have had 2 to 3 sermons like that when the clash took place in March,” she told us, refuting the “underground radicalization” claim of the NTJ members.

Zahran had preached from time to time during the Five years commencing 2012 to 2017 at various “junctions”. By all accounts he was a preacher who could hold a crowd. “Around 2000 to 3000 people participated at his public sermons although they didn’t go to his mosque,” we were told.

“I met Zeyin and his Family last around February,” Madaniya told the Daily Mirror. She claims to have had no contact with Rilwan who had also fled together with his brother Zahran following the clashes of March 10, 2017.

Intelligence sources claim that Zahran may not have been one of the bombers as they scramble to make distinct identification of them. Zahran and his family accordingly may still be at large.

“I fear for my safety. We live under a lot of tension,” Madaniya said. “Its unbearable to know what has happened. I don’t want to have anything to do with him and hope he is dead,” she told the Daily Mirror.

When asked as to what she believes is the reason her immediate family have been untraceable she said she assumed the worst.

“ They must have joined him. They never spoke to me about him because they knew my husband didn’t like him. I am the only one who has to take on all of this blame and suffering now. I don’t want to have anything to do with any of them,” she said after being asked of the alternative of the family being alive.

Moulavi Thawufeek insisted that the actions have “got nothing to do with religion”. “ These are despicable acts and have got nothing to do with religon” he said after quoting the Quranic verse stating that the “killing of a single man meant the killing of humanity”.

Thawufeek who succeeded Zahran had known the suspected mastermind since 2002. “I knew him from the time he was reading at the Al- Falah Madrasa. He couldn’t complete his studies and had to leave in 2007”.

Thawufeek together with the rest present in the mosque insisted that they had not watched the vidoes of Hashim following the realization of his radicalization.

“Yes he was an ISIS sympathizer and we were told of it by people. But we didn’t watch his videos” they said.

According to Moulavi Thawfueek, Intelligence Agencies were fully aware of Zahran and his preaching.

” During the past two years they used to visit the mosque at least once a week if not more. They were here a few weeks ago too” he said, sentiments concurred by the rest of the gathering.

When asked as to if he had followers of his doctrine amongst them, he said that they could not be certain.

“What you have in your heart only you would know. Even if people were supporters of ISIS they wouldn’t come out openly and tell us,” he said.

Carrying her 10 month old son, Madaniya said she fears for her safety, sentiments echoed by the members of the NTJ too.

” Im the only one from the family and its alot of heartbreak and suffering” she said.

Moulavi Thawufeek also insisted that they remained fearful.

” The forces walk in and out every other day and we might not be able to practice our religion. We are fearful that this mosque we built with so much hardship will be brought down. We are also living under a lot of tension and we want our side of the story told” he said.

Ameer and Jaseem of the Badriya mosque were also fearful of theirs.

“ We were the only people who stood up against this fundamentalist and we fear for our lives. They will come after us” they said.

How Wahhabism was fostered until it’s too late

How Wahhabism was fostered until it’s too late

Sri Lankan Muslims are the greatest strength in the country’s fight against Islamic extremism. However, their radicalization is also the greatest long term threat

On Friday, the imam of a Sufi mosque in Saindamarudu was alerted by the locals about a suspicious crowd in a house in the neighbourhood housing scheme called, Bolivia village. That is an exclusively Muslim housing scheme of 400 houses built after the Indian Ocean tsunami. The owner of one of the houses there had given his residence on rent to a man who claims to be a telecom engineer from Kattankudy; since new tenants moved in, he has observed a stream of unusual visitors to his house.

A delegation from the local mosque, the Grama Sevaka and the owner visited the house to inquire and were confronted by the angry tenants.

The locals then alerted a passer -by traffic cop. A police team was dispatched from Kalmunai Police , and was fired upon as they approached the house.

Police Special Task Force and army were called in for help. As the troops encircled the house and evacuated residents in the nearby houses, around three gunmen kept firing. Later in the night, three explosions believed to be suicide blasts ripped through the house. Following day, troops found the remains of three men, believed to be gunmen, laying at the entrance of the house. Inside, charred bodies of 12 others, including six children, three women and three men were found. The men were believed to have blown themselves up killing the rest of the family members.

A woman and a child was recovered from wreckage and were later identified as the wife and the child of the mastermind of the suicide bomber Mohammed Zahran.

The father and brother of Zahran, Mohammed Rilwan who was mentioned in the previous intelligence memo were also identified among the dead. Prior to the raid on their hideout, the three men had recorded a video in which they claimed the credit for the previous attacks and urged the Muslims to give up earthly responsibilities to wage Jihad.  Without the local help, the raid would not have been possible. In most part of the world, especially in the West, battle against Islamic extremism is fought with limited success exactly due to the lack of community cooperation. Instead, Muslims youth, mainly of immigrant origin give the middle finger to the police.

The greatest strength in Sri Lanka’s fight against Islamic extremism is the local Muslim community. Their cooperation is crucial anywhere, and especially in the East, where Muslim majority enclaves have already insulated from the rest of the country to a great deal.

Just like in Saindamarudu, the community is cooperating with the law enforcement authorities to help nab suspects. (One of the female suspects in police wanted list Fathima Lathifa, and the wife of one of the alleged vandals of Mawanella Budhdha statues was handed over to police by her parents)

However, the greatest long term threat to Sri Lanka is also the radicalization of the same Muslim community. If the current level of radicalization persists that would erode the future prospects of cooperation. Similarly, mishandling the situation, leading to mass victimization of Muslims due to security measures may also result in a fall out of the Muslim community with the Sri Lankan state.

Sri Lanka’s challenge would be to strike a balance.

To begin with that the country should come to grips with the full scale of radicalization, both in terms of violent extremism and non-violent extremism.

Last week, President Maithripala Sirisena belatedly banned National Thawheed Jammaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem (JMI) in Sri Lanka as per powers vested in him.

National Thawheed Jammaath is a breakaway group of Sri Lanka Thawheed Jaamaath (SLTJ). It was launched by Mohammed Zahran in 2012 after he broke away with a local mosque of the Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamaath. The first mosque of National Thawheed Jammaath was set up in a ramshackle hut in Kattankudy. Over the coming years, it grew in followers, resources and controversy it courted.

The first mosque of Thawheed Jammaath in Beruwela was set up in 2002. It immediately triggered a major push back from local moderate Muslims

Zahran was reportedly removed from the leadership of NTJ in March this year after a clash with local Sufi followers. The clash sent Zahran and his brothers to underground. However, another brother of Zahran was appointed as the new leader of NTJ, which cast doubt over the sincerity of the decision to remove the hate preacher.

Zahran and his followers then joined with a group from Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem (JMI). Local Thawheed Jammaath factions now claim innocence over the Easter Sunday Attacks and pin the blame on JMI.

However this explanation is too simplistic.

Thawheed Jammaath as a whole is propagating an austere form of Wahhabism based on literal interpretation of Quran and Hadith. It is this ideology of a recreation of medieval Islamic caliphate and a perceived clashed between Islam and the West that provides ideological inspiration for al Qaeda and Islamic State-led global Jihad. The only difference between other Thawheed Jaamaath factions and NTJ and JMI are their rationalization of use of violence- more specifically , the use of violence within Sri Lanka against Sri Lankan targets-to achieve their religious ends.

The purported fallout of NTJ from the rest is due to this fundamental difference. Baring that all groups advocates an austere and militant form of Islam with reintroduction of Sharia and suffocating Arabized social and cultural norms. They all have more in common with Al Qaeda’s ideological vision than moderate local Sufi Islam.

Their supposedly non-violent extremism is a stepping stone for violent extremism of global Salafi Jihad. Their followers travel back and forth between the two narratives.

That radicalization happened due to the politically influenced indifference towards encroaching Wahhabism and sheer lack of political will to act against the looming threat. The spread of Thawheed Jammaath to Sri Lanka happened in 2002 on the back of Al Qaeda-led Salafi Jihad after 9/11 attacks.

The first mosque of Thawheed Jammaath in Beruwela was set up in 2002. It immediately triggered a major push back from local moderate Muslims. Periodic sectarian clashes continued for the first decade. However, despite initial resistance, Thawheed Jammaath persisted, supported by large donations from Gulf states. More and more Muslims were lured into new Wahhabi brand of Islam. Financial and political calculations also led local Muslim political leadership to extend political patronage to creeping Wahhabism at the expense of moderate Sufi Islam. They may not have known the full scale of monstrosity that they were courting, however, their conduct effectively empowered Thawheed factions at the expense of moderate Islam.
There are more than 200 Thawheed mosques in the country, of which only a few are registered as places of worship. Thawheed Jammaath followers have encroached positions of Ministry of Islamic Affairs and institutions that cater specifically to Muslims.

Radicalization of Muslims is real and far reaching than one would assume. It cannot be combated merely by banning NTJ and JMI. Thawheed factions that are left out are not much different in terms of ideology they propagate. They may not espouse violence as of now, but, make no mistake, Islamic extremism is evolving and expansive ideology. They also provide sufficient radicalizing impetus. Suicide bombing is just a step away.

The problem is Sri Lanka cannot ban all Thawheed factions. A good number of Sri Lankan Muslims, in some estimates around 20 per cent of the Muslim population in Beruwela, are followers of Thawheed Jaamaath. Some of them may already be cooperating with Police to nab the followers of their splinter group.

On the other hand, banning would drive them underground. Sri Lanka should launch an open dialogue with these communities, at the same time keeping a tab on their preaching and violent impulses of their more zealous followers.

More importantly, the government should also launch a concerted programme to strengthen the moderate Sri Lankan Islam, empower their preachers, provide assistance to their Madrasas and encourage them to police their own communities for bad apple and to lead a counter radicalization narrative.

Follow @RangaJayasuriya on Twitter   

Pompeo/Rubio Make Complete Asses of Themselves, Visibly Driving Venezuelan Uprising

‘You’re from Florida, not Caracas’: Marco Rubio’s Twitter fest supporting Guaido gets a bashing

Sarah Jackman@VviewSsonicMair

And to your constituents…what say you? Are you Senator of Florida or coup leader in Venezuela?

[Fire up the plane! Pompeo tells Maduro to flee Venezuela via CNN]

[Russia calls Pompeo’s bluff, deny Maduro was preparing to leave for Moscow]

Opposition protesters clashed with security forces while government supporters swiftly mobilized to defend the presidential palace.

 

The military coup attempt led by Juan Guaido and Leopoldo Lopez was unsuccessful. (@leopoldolopez)

The military coup attempt led by Juan Guaido and Leopoldo Lopez was unsuccessful. (@leopoldolopez)  4guaidolopezmorning_0.jpg
By Ricardo Vaz
The thwarted uprising started in the early morning hours when renegade military and intelligence officers reportedly released Lopez from house arrest. Lopez then joined Guaido and a handful of soldiers on the Altamira overpass in east Caracas, outside the Francisco de Miranda airbase, known as La Carlota.

Lopez and Guaido released videos on social media, calling on the armed forces to back their efforts and urging supporters to take to the streets, in what they termed as the “final phase” of the so-called “Operation Freedom.” Large crowds of anti-government protesters, as well as opposition lawmakers, made their way to the Altamira overpass.

The scene then saw armed confrontations between the soldiers that backed Juan Guaido and those inside La Carlota airbase. According to witnesses in La Carlota, the Venezuelan armed forces fired tear gas towards the Altamira overpass, where civilian protesters began to gather, whereas Guaido’s soldiers returned live fire. Riot police also appeared on the scene to try and disperse the crowds. There are reports of protesters wounded and arrested that are unconfirmed at the time of writing.

At the same time, many of the originally deployed soldiers withdrew from the scene, later revealing that they had been “deceived” by their superiors. Simultaneously, Chavista leaders took to state and social media to denounce what they termed a coup in progress, and large crowds gathered to defend Miraflores Presidential Palace.

Guaido later attempted to lead a march, including some armed soldiers, into western Caracas but was stopped by Venezuelan National Guard forces in Chacaito, some 10 kilometers away from Miraflores.

Leopoldo Lopez was later reported to have joined his family in the Chilean Embassy. However, the Chilean ambassador subsequently explained on Twitter that Lopez and his family had instead moved to the Spanish Embassy, in what he termed a “personal choice.” Lopez was serving a 13 year sentence for his role in the deadly 2014 anti-government protests, which was later commuted to house arrest.

Brazilian authorities also confirmed at the time that 25 soldiers who had taken part in the failed insurrection had taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Caracas.

Opposition protesters burned a public bus in Altamira, east Caracas. (Katrina Kozarek)Opposition protesters burned a public bus in Altamira, east Caracas. (Katrina Kozarek)

For his part, Guaido was absent for several hours before releasing a video on social media in the evening, calling on his supporters to take to the streets on Wednesday to continue the “final phase” of “Operation Freedom.”

The opposition leader went on claim President Maduro “does not have the support of the armed forces,” and vowed that his efforts to oust the Venezuelan government continue “as strong as ever.”

The day saw several localised outbreaks of violence in Caracas and several other cities, with protesters setting up burning barricades and authorities responding with rubber bullets and tear gas. Violent protests were particularly focused in traditional opposition strongholds of eastern Caracas, including outside La Carlota airbase. At the time of writing there are still reports of blocked roads and detonations.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro addressed the country in a televised speech on Tuesday evening, accusing those responsible for the military uprising of trying to provoke a “massacre” and lauding the armed forces for their restraint in avoiding direct confrontations.

“Who benefits from these [confrontations]? Who finances them? Undoubtedly the leadership of the terrorist ultra-right party Popular Will,” Maduro declared, referring to the party of Lopez and Guaido.

He added that today’s actions would not go “unpunished,” explaining that eight military officers and policemen were wounded in the armed confrontations, before going on to blast US leaders for their role in endorsing the coup attempt. Maduro also showed his appreciation for the tens of thousands who mobilized to defend the presidential palace beginning in the early hours of Tuesday.

The Venezuelan president, who was accompanied by high-ranking political and military leaders, ended his speech by calling for a “massive mobilization” on May 1st to celebrate workers’ day and “defend peace.”

Crowds gathered outside Miraflores Palace on Tuesday morning. (@OrlenysOV)
Crowds gathered outside Miraflores Palace on Tuesday morning. (@OrlenysOV)

US officials also weighed in during the day, with National Security Advisor John Bolton warning Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno that this was their “last chance” to support Guaido. President Donald Trump likewise tweeted that the US “stands with the People of Venezuela and their Freedom!”

The coup attempt was also condemned by world leaders, with Bolivian President Evo Morales “vigorously condemning” the putschand Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel rejecting “an attempt to fill the country with violence.”

The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini issued a statement in the afternoon, rejecting “any form of violence” and urging “restraint,” in contrast with European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who tweeted his support for the unfolding coup. For his part, UN Secretary General also called for “maximum restraint” and for “immediate steps” to be taken to restore calm.

Edited by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.

Islamic State training camp busted in Sri Lanka–January 27, 2019  

Islamic State training camp busted in Sri Lanka

Shwe Kalaung

Authorities in Sri Lanka have confirmed that the massive explosives seizure at a remote compound in Wanathawilluwa was actually a training camp for the Islamic State (IS) that attempted to detonate multiple high explosive bombs targeting historic Buddhist monuments in the ancient city of Anuradhapura. This is the first actual terror threat from the Islamic State in Sri Lanka, as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) hunts for over fifty more named suspects across the island connected to this IS chapter. Already an imam, or mawlawi, from the remote IS training camp has been arrested; he has confessed in an interrogation that the weapons and high explosives belong to an Islamic State chapter in Sri Lanka.

By 2017, scores of known Sri Lankan ISIS fighters had returned from Syria, and there was a subsequent spike in jihadist activity throughout Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan ISIS fighter was reported killed during airstrikes in Syria; he was eulogized as a holy martyr of Islam on social media by Sri Lankan Muslims across the country who have sympathies with ISIS, including a bizarre online article in OnLanka on July 19, 2015, that alluded to more Sri Lankan ISIS fighters. Also, an affluent postgraduate student from Sri Lanka  named Mohamed Nizamdeen, who was living in Australia, was charged with ISIS-affiliated terror-related offences while plotting to assassinate Australian politicians. This case was widely publicized because Nizamdeen is the nephew of MP Faiszer Musthapha, a cabinet minister in the Sri Lankan government and the grandson of the late former Chairman of the Bank of Ceylon. His terror-related charges were later dropped, in a surprising move by the Australian authorities. More evidence for the Islamic State activities in Sri Lanka comes from a propaganda video that was discovered online, which showed an unknown doctor from India discussing ISIS medical facilities and further claiming that Sri Lankan doctors are working for ISIS in Raqqa, Syria.

As a side note, the doctors of the Islamic State are not the friendly family medical practitioners of ISIS propaganda. Rather, these ISIS doctors can be seen as performing horrific unethical medical procedures, including forced abortions and euthanasia, and testing new procedures and organ harvesting on Yazidis, Christians and other ISIS captives in makeshift facilities or dungeons, with no regard to the sanctity of human life of non-Muslims. They were akin to evil doctors in Nazi Germany. Further, in all likelihood, these monstrous ISIS doctors could have been helping to fund Islamic State operations through illegal organ trafficking in the Middle East, as Sri Lanka was once a global center for organ transplants. No medical doctor with any professional or personal ethics would travel abroad with the sole intention of joining an evil terror organization, let alone having the perverse ambitions of providing medical assistance to merciless Islamic State fighters and their regime of pure evil.

The foiled IS plot to simultaneously obliterate a multitude of sacred Buddhist monuments in the ancient city of Anuradhapura with C4 high explosives has confirmed fears that Sri Lanka is now a target of the Golden Horseshoe Caliphate of South and Southeast Asia. The Golden Horseshoe Caliphate spans from the western side of Indonesia to include Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, all connected by land and water through the Andaman Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. Additional countries on the eastern side, including Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, have not yet been infiltrated by Islamic jihadis at the same levels. The vast majority of Muslims in the Golden Horseshoe Caliphate are Sunnis, having learned about and accepted Islam through trade and conquest, while the other predominant religions are Hinduism and Theravada Buddhism, both of which are the more widespread ancient religions of the region, and whose core teachings reflect peace and tolerance by any interpretation. There are much smaller populations of Christians and localized ethnic religions in the region, too.

Recent attacks against Buddhists, such as the killing of two monks at a temple in Thailand, or the smashing of statues from a Hindu temple in India, show a heightened level of daily regional jihadist activity. In Rakhine State, Myanmar, Islamic terror led to a complete insurgency in late August 2017 from the ISIS-linked terror organization Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) that was formed in 2012. This insurgency was masterminded by a prominent Saudi imam, Ata Ullah. So the war on terror in Asia has literally become like an all-out war in the countries of the Golden Horseshoe Caliphate. Even the government of Bangladesh is faced with a rise of jihad activity from powerful jihadist factions inside the country.

The wider scope of the recently thwarted terror attack in Sri Lanka by IS was to cause greater conflict between the Muslim and Sinhalese community and to provoke a public backlash, in the same tactical manner as the failed 2017 insurgency in Myanmar. Similar to the large-scale attack in Myanmar, the IS training camp in Sri Lanka has been connected directly to narcoterrorism from Islamic gangs in Bangladesh, supported by jihadists in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). These terror networks are using the money generated from Islamic gangs for purchasing expensive weapons, properties, training and even bribes.

In Rakhine State, Myanmar, the funds for ARSA have come from the production of yaba pills, methamphetamines, manufactured there and sold to Islamic gangs inside Bangladesh. ARSA has also received support from Saudi Arabia. However, in the case of ARSA, the training camps are located inside Bangladesh close to the border of Rakhine State, Myanmar. But heroin is the main drug in Sri Lanka, exported from the Taliban narcostate in Afghanistan by Islamic gangs in Pakistan linked to the notorious narcoterrorist Dawood Ibrahim, a known resident of Karachi, whose D-Company syndicate also has deep ties throughout India. Bangladeshi nationals have been caught trafficking in Sri Lanka, with the recent historic heroin seizure in early 2019, where the main suspect was discovered to be operating inside Bangladesh, frequently travelling back and forth between the two countries. In effect, Bangladesh is a key country through which the international distribution of drugs is organized by Islamic gangs to fund terror activities for the Golden Horseshoe Caliphate, further corroborating the theory that Bangladesh will be the political, religious and geographic epicenter of this emerging Caliphate on the Western front, while jihadists in Malaysia and Indonesia are exerting more influence in southern Myanmar, Thailand and countries east of the Malay Peninsula.

Another chilling aspect of the Golden Horseshoe Caliphate is the 786 movement, which is a doomsday prophecy, signaling the complete global Islamic takeover in simple calculation: 7+8+6=21. The endgame here is total Islamic conquest of the world by the end of the 21st century, hence the sum of 21. This sounds like something from a conspiracy junkie, but many people from these areas will recognize 786 as a sign of the end of times, or Armageddon, with the rise of the global caliphate. Indeed, reports emerge of 786 in Sri Lanka from around the mid-1980s and in Myanmar from the 1990s; the number was commonly displayed in shop windows and on Muslim food items, including products imported from the Middle East and other parts of Asia, as a symbol for supporting the jihadist cause. The 786 movement has gone underground in Myanmar after a great public backlash, namely the 969 counter-movement: citizens started to become upset at the blatant jihadist signs threatening their impending enslavement, similar to watching the moving hands on the Doomsday Clock. Evidence of the 786 movement can still be found in graffiti on walls in Yangon and Rakhine State, and in subliminal messages from ARSA jihadist recruitment videos. The intent of the sinister 786 movement is very clear and it is very real.

The latest developments in Sri Lanka have implicated the drug kingpin Makandure Madush, an international drug and weapons trafficker, to the funding of this Islamic State training camp, with the expensive C4 high explosives & weapons seizure. He is the godfather of organized crime in Sri Lanka, controlling the illegal drug trade inside the country. Many members of his network are experienced ex-LTTE soldiers, showing that he is utilizing an existing framework in the underworld with a well-trained criminal army. This raises the possibility that the LTTE armed conflict was backed by ruthless Islamic gangs, or even the Taliban, through drug trafficking. Islamic gangs brutally kill all rivals until a kingpin emerges as the undisputed leader; the kingpin generally has some high-level connection to the Taliban in Afghanistan for the heroin trade, almost like joining the Taliban family of warlords; one can only speculate on the initiation rites.

In Sri Lanka, gang-related feuds over the last few years have shown Makandure Madush as the underworld leader of organized crime. He even went so far as to launch a major deadly attack on a prison bus that was transporting them to court in February 2017, killing a rival gang leader, known as Samayan, and five associates. Madush is thought to have fled Sri Lanka after this prison bus shooting. The feud between Ranale Samayan’s gang and Madush goes back to 2016, when Madush’s brother was murdered by Samayan. As the bloody gang wars continued in Sri Lanka, it was reported that there were eight killings in the first few months of 2018, with Madush at the center of these murders.

On June 22, 2018, during a jewel heist in the southern city of Matara, gang members murdered a first respondent to the situation with a high-tech mini-Uzi manufactured exclusively in Israel, while two other policemen and a civilian were injured. Security camera footage from the heist can be found online. Sadly, the police officer died from his deadly injuries sustained by the rapid spray of munitions, being unprepared to face such powerful weapons in the line of duty. More arrests related to the heist followed after a tense police chase, and a key accomplice of the gang was killed by police.

The police investigation traced the jewel heist back to Makandure Madush through examination of the weapons used and interrogations. He was known to have been living in Dubai after escaping arrest in the country for the deadly prison bus attack sometime around the early part of 2017. During the investigation of this jewel heist, information was discovered about the conspiracy to assassinate President Sirisena with other key political figures, orchestrated by Madush from Dubai, like the jewel heist and gang feuds.

According to Digatha News on March 26, 2018, just before the jewel heist in June and the subsequent police crackdown:

Sri Lanka’s intelligence units have confirmed that persons wanted for serious crimes such as former diplomat Udayanga Weeratunga and underworld leader Madush, who have been issued Interpol red notices and wanted by police for years in connection to serious crimes, are freely living in Dubai.

And,

The information received by the intelligence units have revealed that most of them have fled to India, Singapore and Malaysia first and later reached Dubai.  It is reported that they are already involved in various crimes including drug trafficking, mafia gangs, international espionage and arms sales and operating from the Emirati capital.  According to the information received, the absconding criminals earn millions from their illegal activities and deposit the money in Dubai banks.

So it is well known that Madush still actively masterminds the illegal drug trade, arms deals and extortion rackets in Sri Lanka from Dubai. Even this earlier intelligence source shows Madush as the likely candidate for supplying the new Islamic State chapter in Sri Lanka with high explosives and high-tech weapons. Also, narcoterrorist Dawood Ibrahim was known to have lived and conducted business from Dubai before moving to Karachi, Pakistan, making Dubai one of the networking hotspots for international Islamic crime syndicates.

An important part of Madush’s network was taken down in a raid shortly after the jewel heist, on June 25, 2018, when a high level accomplice, known as Thilak, was killed by police in a shootout. A Chinese T-56 assault rifle, similar to the Russian AK-47, was recovered from the scene. Another raid in early July 2018 saw four more henchmen arrested, including a leader working for Madush, known as JosaMore weapons and some heroin were seized. Grenades are another item routinely seized from Madush’s gang members. Madush is wanted by Interpol for controlling the drug trade in Sri Lanka, and for murders and extortion as well, but the Sri Lankan government seems powerless to demand extradition from the United Arab Emirates, despite their new strategies in 2018. Madush and his underworld army are implicated in involvement with this new Islamic State chapter in Sri Lanka through the proceeds of drug trafficking, the powerful high-tech weapons, and high explosives. Additional information about these networks and their connections will become more apparent as the investigation continues to make progress, with more arrests, confessions and confiscated digital equipment.

As these elaborate international crime syndicates are exposed, a detailed understanding of the networks begins to emerge, which can be traced back to the same places, such as the GCC countries of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who are masterminding terror in the region of the Golden Horseshoe Caliphate, funded by the drug trade with powerful Islamic gangs linked to Taliban warlords. Since the overall short-term political objective is to create conflict and instability in these regions, as in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, the possibility exists of a deeper political objective that the terror activities are meant to disrupt China’s String of Pearls strategy for regional expansion and development. For instance, both Rakhine State in Myanmar and Sri Lanka are involved with this project, so the geopolitical significance cannot be ignored, as they overlap with the competing Chinese intentions here.

For Buddhists and Hindus living in Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Singapore; they believe that they have been the victim of Islamic jihad for a long time. The hard evidence here cannot be disputed, considering landmark events such as the 1971 genocide against Hindus in Bangladesh, the historical genocides against non-Muslims in Rakhine State, or the constant attacks against Buddhists, Hindus and non-Muslims everywhere in the region. The Buddhists and Hindus living in Rakhine, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia are continually subjected to some of the worst human rights violations from jihadists and radical Islamic governments, with no support from the UN, which is dominated by the GCC countries in the OIC, who consider religious minorities to be second class citizens. There can be no doubt of the rise of Islamic jihad activiy in the Golden Horseshoe Caliphate, as evidenced by the constant barrage of terror-related attacks and human rights abuses in these countries against Buddhists and Hindus.

Whatever shadowy entities in the GCC countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who are facilitating jihad in the Golden Horseshoe Caliphate need to be held accountable by their governments, unless the government inaction of GCC countries is a deliberate complicity to the agenda of the Islamic State and their affiliated crime syndicates. So the conflict is expected to worsen in the affected areas of Asia until these matters are properly addressed on the international stage, especially the war on drugs and the increasing presence of the Islamic State. A good strategy would be to evaluate the foreign aid given to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia to help stop the growing problems of human trafficking, Islamic gangs, jihad terror, and human rights abuses, until these countries take full responsibility for their part in international terrorism. Perhaps even Western trade penalties on places such as the UAE would help, until the long list of criminals and terrorists living there have been brought to justice, which gives more emphasis on the need for ethical oil supplies to leverage such trade restrictions with oil rich countries.

The war on drugs in Asia can be viewed as synonymous to the war on terror. In Rakhine State, a special task force called Operation Mayu was formed in February 2017, to eliminate the funding of ARSA that resulted in some major yaba seizures. For Sri Lanka, some recent progress was made during a state visit to the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2019, when President Sirisena met with President Duterte to discuss direct collaboration in the war on drugs, praising Duterte’s drug war as “an example to the world.” President Duterte is held in great esteem for his successful war on drugs in Asia, despite the failure of Western governments and activists to stop this drug war based on protecting the human rights of Islamic terrorists and drug traffickers. When Islamic crime syndicates, masterminded from the Middle East, are conspiring with international jihadists, such as the Taliban and the Islamic State, to overthrow entire governments and destabilize countries for regional control through the Golden Horseshoe Caliphate, then the war on drugs becomes a critical issue of international security. With each passing day, the hands of the Doomsday Clock edge closer to the 786 endgame on the South-Southeast Asian front, with the emerging Golden Horseshoe Caliphate of the Islamic State.

Sri Lankan Govt. Political “Tussle” Made Easter Bombings Possible…Or Is the Truth Much More Sinister?

‘Tussle for power between Prez Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe proves costly for Lanka’

Press Trust of India, Colombo Last Updated at April 23, 2019

The political tussle between Sri Lankan and caused a catastrophic security lapse, allowing a little-known radical Islamic group to carry out the country’s worst terror attack on Easter Sunday, Lankan media and ministers have said.

Sri Lankan media and some ministers have criticised the rift between and Wickremesinghe after it emerged that authorities had prior intelligence from and the US about the possible attacks by the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) group.

After the attacks shook the island nation, said Wickremesinghe and the Cabinet were not informed about the intelligence tipoff and the terror threat.

has been wracked by political divisions since an unprecedented constitutional crisis last year, when sacked Wickremesinghe, with former strongman 

Wickremesinghe was reinstated in December after the intervention of the Supreme Court, but the government remains deeply divided and Sirisena kept the prime minister Wickremesinghe from the security briefings.

“The and the (led by Wickremesinghe) are notorious for playing political ping-pong on matters of national importance,” The Island newspaper said in an editorial on Tuesday.

“If there had been anyone with an iota of intelligence, within the ranks of the current government, he or she would have swiftly acted on a warning of impending terror attacks, issued by the state intelligence outfits, more than 10 days prior to the carnage,” the paper commented.

It also noted that President Sirisena, who is the and the Commander-in-Chief, was out of the country on a private visit, at the time of the terror attacks.

“By its indifference and failure to avert an informed attack, this Government becomes the first of its kind in the world which perpetrated a culpable homicide with its reckless approach towards the affairs of the State,” Ceylon Today said in its editorial.

The Government cannot, in any way get away from the blame of causing holocaust on due to its “incompetency and heedlessness”, it said.

“It is high time that this Government takes the security of the public serious and take relevant actions,” the paper said.

A Sri Lankan said he learned that prior warnings came from and from the US.

“Something terrible was to happen,” told about the content of those intelligence warnings.

De Silva said the Prime Minister was “kept in the dark” about the terror warnings.

Government Senaratne, who is also a health minister, said Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was removed from the in December, and therefore did not receive confidential security briefings.

Even after the attack, members of the refused to attend a meeting called by the Prime Minister, Senaratne claimed.

“I think this is the only country in the world where the security council does not like to come when summoned by the Prime Minister of the country,” he said.

De Silva, an ally of the Prime Minister, argued the Sunday’s terrible loss of life did not amount to a failure of intelligence, but a failure to mount an appropriate response to that intelligence.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)