Saturday, June 17, 2017

Today's Links

1--Human Rights Watch report: US using white phosphorous in Raqqa and Mosul


If Assad or Putin used these weapons it would be headline news. When the US uses them, hardly a whimper

“Horrific civilian harm from previous use of white phosphorus has generated public outrage and this latest use of white phosphorus underscores the urgent need for states to strengthen international law relating to incendiary weapons,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch
A Raqqa resident living in Beirut told the New York Times that an internet cafe in Raqqa was recently hit by white phosphorus, killing around 20 people...

In early 2017, US Marine artillery deployed to Syria in support of the operation to retake Raqqa, an operation in which Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are also participating. The Washington Post published photographs of the deployed Marine unit equipped with white phosphorus projectiles, as well as similar pictures showing white phosphorus projectiles with US Army units outside Mosul. The SDF announced the offensive to take Raqqa from ISIS on June 6. The reason for this use of white phosphorus cannot be determined from the videos, which shows white phosphorus being used just after sunset...

In both Mosul and Raqqa, the US-led forces are using US-made M825-series 155mm artillery projectiles containing 116 felt wedges impregnated with white phosphorus, which ignites and continues to burn when exposed to the air. This is the only type of 155mm white phosphorus projectile in US stocks that can be air-burst. Neither ISIS nor Syrian government forces are known to possess or have used these US-made munitions...

On contact, white phosphorus can also burn people, thermally and chemically, down to the bone as it is highly soluble in fat, and therefore in human flesh. White phosphorus fragments can exacerbate wounds even after treatment and can enter the bloodstream and cause multiple organ failure. Already dressed wounds can reignite when dressings are removed and they are re-exposed to oxygen. Even relatively minor burns are often fatal.
Attacks using air-delivered incendiary weapons in civilian areas are prohibited under Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). While the protocol contains weaker restrictions for ground-launched incendiary weapons, all types of incendiary weapons produce horrific injuries. Protocol III applies only to weapons that are “primarily designed” to set fires or cause burns, and thus some countries believe it excludes certain multipurpose munitions with incendiary effects, notably those containing white phosphorus


2--Syria: Expert analysis shows US-led coalition use of white phosphorus may amount to war crime


The US-led coalition’s use of white phosphorus munitions on the outskirts of al-Raqqa, Syria is unlawful and may amount to a war crime, Amnesty International can confirm after verifying five videos of the incident.
The videos, published online on 8 and 9 June, showed the coalition’s artillery strike using the munitions over the civilian neighborhoods of Jezra and el-Sebahiya. International humanitarian law prohibits the use of white phosphorus near civilians.

“The use of white phosphorus munitions by the US-led coalition gravely endangers the lives of thousands of civilians trapped in and around al-Raqqa city, and may amount to a war crime under these circumstances. It can cause horrific injuries by burning through flesh and bone and can pose a threat even weeks after being deployed by reigniting and burning at extremely high temperatures,” said Samah Hadid, Middle East Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International.

3--US uses Banned Weapons --US-led coalition’s white phosphorus use in Mosul ‘not within int’l legal framework’ – rights groups


4--Russian Warplanes Foil Daesh Attack in Deir ez-Zor, Eliminate 180 Terrorists


Syrian government forces control over a half of Deir ez-Zor, which has been besieged by Daesh militants over three years. The Syrian forces continue an offensive aimed at lifting the siege and creating supply lines for the city’s residents. Presently, the only means of delivering supplies to the city is by air.


5--Rolling back ISIS in Iraq


the Iraqi Armed Forces have liberated the Iraqi-Syrian-Jordanian borders, marking the first time since 2014 that their forces have established control over this area.


6--US releases documents of Iran’s 1953 Coup


On the preface of this volume published by the Department of State it is said that ‘This Foreign Relations retrospective volume focuses on the use of covert operations by the Truman and Eisenhower administrations as an adjunct to their respective policies toward Iran, culminating in the overthrow of the Mosadeq government in August 1953.’


This volume contains a lot of documents about the correspondences between the US embassy in Tehran, the US Department of State and the CIA.

In one of the published documents on August 19, 1953, there is a five-million-dollar request of CIA agent from the US to help Zahedi’s government which reveals that the US besides its advising role in launching the coup had the direct role of funding the coup makers against Mosadeq government.


7--Putin's Syrian Surge--Operation Grand Dawn; Syrian Army's main thrust of the war aimed at liberating Iraqi border Abu Kamal, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa, all on the shores of the Euphrates....


Apart from lip service and a ceremonial strike on Syrian weaponry west of al-Tanf, the Americans have shown no signal that they are willing to walk the extra mile to wrestle the border from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus.


They have also shown no reaction to the launch of Operation Grand Dawn, which is being billed as the largest in the 7-year conflict, against ISIS. Government troops have retaken more than 1,300 sq.km of area in the Syrian Desert, between the ancient city of Palmyra and the eastern Kalamoon district. They have also reclaimed the Palmyra-Damascus Highway and are heading for al-Tanf, hoping to secure the triangle of the Syrian-Jordanian-Iraqi borders. The Trump White House has done nothing to stop them.


In Damascus, the feeling is that the Americans will not lift a finger to help their proxies, being satisfied with securing their share of the Syrian patchwork, which covers everything east of the Euphrates River and includes pockets of Kurdish self-rule areas, now held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the only militia on the Syrian battlefield still receiving heavy US arms and military assistance....


This was largely in response to an early May military drill by the US and Jordanian militaries called “Eager Lion.” Although annually practised since 2010, the troop build-up raised eyebrows in Iran, where generals saw it as a prelude to a massive operation by the Jordanian Army, aimed at carving a safe zone out of southern Syria and taking the remainder of the Syrian- Iraqi border.


More than half of it is in the hands of US-backed Kurdish forces while the strategic frontier city of Abu Kamal is occupied by the Islamic State (ISIS). Iranians worried that, if the Americans manage to take what was left through their proxies, this would sever the Damascus-Baghdad Highway, which is the only route for Hezbollah arms and money transported by land from Iran to Lebanon, first through Iraq and then via Syria.


In response the Syrian Army announced Operation Grand Dawn, officially aimed at liberating the eastern desert from ISIS. It is a multifaceted operation involving Syrian government troops, the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) and Hezbollah — with Russian air cover, of course.


It aims to retake three strategic cities in the clutches of ISIS: Abu Kamal, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa, all on the shores of the Euphrates....


Relieved from fighting in those four territories, the Syrian Army has regrouped and marched with full weight towards the Iraqi border, seemingly assured by the Turks, via Russia, that they won’t get attacked on other fronts while doing so.

It was Erdogan’s way of telling the Americans: “If the Kurdish project does not end, I can and will create havoc for the Americans elsewhere in the Syrian battlefield, even if it means letting the regime secure a victory on the border.”


8--Robert Mueller is not trustworthy  


FBI special agent – and a 2002 Time Person of the Year – Colleen Rowley writes:

Mueller’s FBI was also severely criticized by Department of Justice Inspector Generals finding the FBI overstepped the lhttp://www.washingtonsblog.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=68066&action=edita... improperly serving hundreds of thousands of “national security letters” to obtain private (and irrelevant) metadata on citizens, and for infiltrating nonviolent anti-war groups under the guise of investigating “terrorism.”

Torture

FBI special agent Colleen Rowley points out:
Mueller was even okay with the CIA conducting torture programs after his own agents warned against participation. Agents were simply instructed not to document such torture, and any “war crimes files” were made to disappear. Not only did “collect it all” surveillance and torture programs continue, but Mueller’s (and then Comey’s) FBI later worked to prosecute NSA and CIA whistleblowers who revealed these illegalities.
Conclusion

Rather than being “above the fray”, Mueller is an authoritarian and water-carrier for the status quo and the powers-that-be.

As Coleen Rowley puts it:

It seems clear that based on his history and close “partnership” with Comey, called “one of the closest working relationships the top ranks of the Justice Department have ever seen,” Mueller was chosen as Special Counsel not because he has integrity but because he will do what the powerful want him to do.

Mueller didn’t speak the truth about a war he knew to be unjustified. He didn’t speak out against torture. He didn’t speak out against unconstitutional surveillance. And he didn’t tell the truth about 9/11. He is just “their man.” 


9--Gallup Finds Stunning Decline in Americans’ Respect for U.S. Government


“Gallup’s latest update shows that 28% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the federal government, while 55% have an unfavorable opinion. That’s the lowest rating for any business or industry sector we tested.” Here are the details on that net minus 27% (55% minus 28%) favorability-rating by Americans for “The federal government”:...


the reason why Americans dislike “The federal government” isn’t that it’s ‘too big’ or ‘spends too much money’ or any of the other excuses that the (widely despised) Republican Party claims, but is instead that, “Americans think that Congress is corrupt and not focused on the interests of the people. They want their representatives to compromise rather than rigidly stick to principles.” 


10--Trump comments deepen conflict with Department of Justice


Trump’s thinly veiled attack on Rosenstein could be a precursor either to Trump demanding that Rosenstein fire Mueller—which he would likely refuse—or Trump’s firing Rosenstein himself. Or Rosenstein might seek to forestall such a confrontation by recusing himself from further involvement in the Mueller-led probe, on the grounds that his own actions in firing Comey were now a subject of the investigation.

Any of these alternatives would have the same outcome: decision-making authority over Mueller and the Russia investigation would pass into the hands of the third-ranking official in the Department of Justice, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, a former Bush administration official who later served as chief counsel for the US Chamber of Commerce.


There were several unconfirmed press reports Friday, citing unnamed sources in the Justice Department, that Rosenstein was preparing to recuse himself. ABC News reported that Rosenstein had already notified Brand that she would take over if he did so.

Right-wing media backers of Trump have been preparing the ground for Trump to fire Rosenstein, Mueller or both. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich this week called Mueller “now clearly the tip of the deep state spear aimed at destroying or at a minimum undermining and crippling the Trump presidency...


President Trump cannot invoke executive privilege in relation to the Mueller investigation because it is being conducted by the Justice Department, an arm of the executive branch itself. As determined by the Supreme Court during the Watergate crisis of 1973-74, executive privilege can only be cited in relation to congressional investigations, since it stems from the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. Trump’s only recourse is to dismiss Mueller outright.


11--Palace coup or class struggle: The political crisis in Washington and the strategy of the working class


The working class confronts in Trump and his administration a vicious enemy, dedicated to the destruction of its democratic rights and a further lowering of its living standards. It is a government that is pursuing an international agenda based on “America First” chauvinism. The working class must oppose this government and seek its removal. But this task must not be entrusted to Trump’s factional opponents in the ruling class. The working class cannot remain a bystander in the fight between Trump and the Democrats. Rather, it must develop its struggle against Trump under its own banner and with its own program. This requires that it has a clear understanding of the class dynamics of the unfolding political crisis....


The maniacal focus on Russia is not an accident. Trump’s foreign policy priorities are focused, as is well known, on confronting China. His alleged advocacy of a “deal” with Russia is incompatible with the strategic plan backed by dominant sections of the military, intelligence and foreign policy establishment. The destruction of Russia’s ability to frustrate American military operations is seen as central to control of the Eurasian landmass, without which an American victory in the long-term conflict with China is considered impossible.


If Trump were removed from office by his opponents in the “deep state” and the Democratic Party, it would not represent a victory for democracy, let alone an improvement in the conditions of the working class. Under the Obama administration, the ruling class oversaw the greatest transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top in US history, as well as an expansion of war abroad and a continued growth in the power of the military-intelligence apparatus. Hillary Clinton, the favored candidate of Wall Street, was pledged to deepen all of these policies while escalating the war in Syria and the confrontation with Russia. The Democrats are not calling for hearings on the assault on health care, the attack on immigrant workers, the elevation of far-right nationalist forces within the administration, or war plans against North Korea, Iran and China.

If the Democrats were to achieve their aims, with the removal of Trump through some form of political coup, it would place Vice President Mike Pence in the White House, a man more polished than Trump but no less reactionary...

The latest eruption of political warfare in Washington is rooted in intractable social, economic and geopolitical crises that are eroding the foundations of the global dominance and national stability of American capitalism. Twenty-five years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the efforts of American imperialism to sustain its dominance through military action have led to a series of debacles. Nearly a decade after the global economic crash of 2008, in which the recklessness of Wall Street played the major role, the American financial system remains highly unstable, sustained by an endless expansion of debt. The diseased character of the American economic system has created an oligarchic social system, the chief characteristics of which are parasitism and a staggering level of social inequality.


The election of Trump was not an accident. Trump is the personification of the oligarchy that rules America. His administration, composed of billionaires and former generals, is sharply escalating a bipartisan program of social counterrevolution and reckless militarism internationally. But within the ruling class there exist bitter divisions over how American capitalism should respond to its national and international problems. These divisions have assumed, under Trump, an extraordinary intensity.


12--Corporate mass murder in London


the death toll from Grenfell is expected to exceed the combined total resulting from every terrorist attack in the UK since the beginning of the so-called war on terror in 2001.
Whenever a terrorist attack has taken place in Britain over the last decade, the full force of the state has been brought to bear. Police have carried out raids on every person who is linked, even in the most innocuous way, to the individual terrorist. They have been immediately arrested and hauled off to be detained and grilled for days on end. In response to the Grenfell fire, not a single person in any responsible position has yet been arrested, let alone charged.
Instead we are promised a toothless inquiry!

13--Putin preaches Greater Europe


Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl considered that Russia and Europe should be together, and Moscow is ready for such a unity, so Europe should aspire to that, Putin said Saturday.
"If we want to keep our civilization in this turbulent and rapidly changing world with growing centers of power — not only military power, but also economic and cultural — then, of course, Europe and Russia should be together," Putin said, citing Kohl's ideas.

14--Eurasian Integration


A tectonic geopolitical shift happened in Astana, Kazakhstan, only a few days ago, and yet barely a ripple registered in Atlanticist circles.

At the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), founded in 2001, both India and Pakistan were admitted as full members, alongside Russia, China and four Central Asian “stans” (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan).
So now the SCO not only qualifies as the largest political organization – by area and population – in the world; it also unites four nuclear powers. The G-7 is irrelevant, as the latest summit in Taormina made it clear. The real action now, apart from the G-20, also lays in this alternative G-8...

Now the SCO is actively warning about the security “deterioration” in Afghanistan and calling for all members to support the “peace and reconciliation” process. That’s code for the SCO from now on directly engaged in finding an “all-Asian” Afghan solution – with both India and Pakistan on board – that should transcend the failed Pentagon “remedy”; more troops.  ...

Make no mistake; there will be SCO action in Afghanistan. And that will include bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. China has taken over the rotating presidency of the SCO and will be keen to show practical results in the next summit in June 2018.
Step on the gas, pay in yuan...

The SCO has also steadily evolved in terms of economic cooperation. Last year Gu Xueming, head of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation at the Ministry of Commerce, proposed a SCO economic think tank alliance, also tasked to study the set up of SCO free trade zones.


This spells out further economic integration – already ongoing for scores of small-and medium-sized businesses. The trend is inevitable, in parallel to the interpenetration of the New Silk Roads, a.k.a. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EEU). 
So no wonder at their bilateral meeting in Astana, Xi and President Putin once again exhorted the merging of BRI and EEU. And we’re not talking only about the BRI, EEU and SCO trio; that also concerns the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB), the Chinese Silk Road Fund — a full array of politico-economic mechanisms....

Crucially, both China and Russia are also on the same page in terms of fast-tracking Iran’s admission as a full SCO member.
Now compare it with US Secretary of State “T.Rex” Tillerson calling for regime change in Iran.
As Eurasia integration inexorably moves in leaps and bounds, the contrast with the proverbially swampy Atlanticist arrogance could not be more glaring....

Beijing already understood the ultra high stakes ramifications via its relationship with Qatar – a key natural gas provider sooner or later to accept payment for energy in yuan.
Qatar’s quiet pivot towards Iran – the key reason that drove the cornered House of Saud absolutely bonkers – revolves around the common exploitation of the largest gas field in the world, North Dome/South Pars, which they share in the Persian Gulf.
It took a while for Doha to realize that after the “4+1” established facts on the ground a gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey via Saudi Arabia and Syria for the European market will never happen. Ankara also knows it. But there might eventually be an Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – even with a possible extension to Turkey — with gas jointly provided by North Dome/South Pars...

Make no mistake; the – inexorable – future spells out trading energy not in petrodollars but in yuan, which is convertible to gold. ..

Like Terminator, the US deep state will be back. An expanded wet dream remains to create the conditions for the destabilization of a vast stretch from the Levant to South Asia — with possible future terror waves expanding north to Russia and east to China. The target: the interpenetration of BRI, EEU and the SCO.

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