Monday, February 12, 2018

Today's Links

"Today, the cruelest and the most oppressive system in the world is the United States. It is more oppressive than anyone else. You know how savage ISIS is.   The United States is worse."  Ayatollah Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.
Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.”..


“The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis…It’s a scintillating stratagem.” Harold Pinter, Nobel acceptance speech

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!  –Pablo Neruda

1--Neither the initial FISA application in Oct 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC or the Clinton campaign or any party/campaign in funding Steele's efforts, even though the political origins of the dossier were know to senior DOJ and FBI officials."

Schiff went to court to prevent the American people from finding out who funded the dossier...

2--"Criminal referral" confirms Nunes memo

3--Key Judgments in the Intelligence Community Assessment (Retrospective)

Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.

We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.  Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.  We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.  We have high confidence in these judgments.

 We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.  All three agencies agree with this judgment.  CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.

DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying. ...

We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes....

Putin Ordered Campaign To Influence US Election
We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.  We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. ...

We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.  All three agencies agree with this judgment.  CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence

4-- Turkey-US ties will either be fixed or completely broken: FM Çavuşoğlu

“Ties with the U.S. are at very critical point. We will either fix these relations or they will break completely,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Istanbul on Feb 12...
On a tour to the Middle East, Tillerson will pay a visit to Ankara on Feb. 15 and 16 where he will hold talks with Çavuşoğlu and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Separately, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli will meet in Brussels on Feb. 15 on the margins of the NATO ministerial meeting.

These talks come as bilateral strains mount between the two NATO allies over a number of issues, including Washington’s continued alliance with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria. Turkey launched a military operation into Syria’s Afrin district against the YPG and senior officials have repeatedly vowed a follow-up incursion into the Manbij area, where U.S. troops are stationed alongside YPG militants.

“Our demands from the U.S. are clear and have already been conveyed. We no longer want to hear about promises, we want to hear about concrete steps. Trust needs to be rebuilt so we can start to talk about some issues. U.S. actions are the reason behind the loss of trust,” Çavuşoğlu said.

"We  will evaluate all this during Tillerson’s visit,” he added.

Turkey wants the U.S. to cease cooperation with the YPG, a group that Ankara considers a terror organization due to its links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It also wants a halt to all deliveries of weapons and military equipment, and for all weapons already delivered to the group to be taken back, while insisting on the withdrawal of YPG militants from Manbij to the east of Euphrates, as promised by U.S. administrations since 2016.

5--Washington-Ankara at loggerheads

US. President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster was in Turkey on Feb. 11 to have a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan’s Foreign and Security Policy Adviser İbrahim Kalın in Istanbul, the first stop of his tour covering Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt and Lebanon.

.The focus of McMaster’s talks with Turkish officials was the U.S. collaboration with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syria branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the east of Syria. Turkey and the U.S. consider the PKK a terrorist organization, but U.S. officials have said so far that their cooperation with the groups has been “a necessity, rather than a choice” despite Turkey offering to support its NATO ally.

The issue is likely to be discussed in a meeting between Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli and U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis during NATO meetings on Feb. 14-15 in Brussels and in a meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Tillerson’s speech in Stanford University on Jan. 17 outlining the U.S.’s Syria strategy as “keeping troops in northern Syria indefinitely to prevent the resurgence of the ISIL and counter the influence of Iran” has led to question marks about the length of the U.S. forces’ stay in Syria. Tillerson says the U.S. will not repeat the mistakes it made in Iraq by withdrawing earlier than needed. The U.S. invasion forces stayed in Iraq for more than eight years between 2003 and 2011.

The U.S. presence in Syria, together with its proxy forces on the ground, depends on a de facto agreement with Russia - with the de facto acceptance by the Syrian regime and Iran - limited to the east of the Euphrates River, including a no-fly zone. One of the most serious problems Turkey has with the U.S. in Syria is the city of Manbij, located west of the Euphrates River, from which the U.S. promised to remove the YPG once the city was taken back from ISIL. The promise hasn’t been fulfilled yet.

Apart from being a typical American fantasy to stop Iranians, a 3,000-year-old native culture of the region, from posing threat to another culture in the region, the Israelis, by feeding the PKK, which is impossible to back without changing its name, Tillerson’s approach was strongly questioned in the U.S. Congress on Feb. 6 during a session of the House Foreign Relations Committee by a seasoned diplomat.

6--Pence doublespeak on north Korea; More hectoring disguised as diplomacy

Washington is no longer opposed to the idea of talks with Pyongyang without preconditions, but still favors ramping up sanctions pressure against North Korea until it agrees to relinquish its nuclear arsenal, Mike Pence said. ...
The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” Pence said as cited by the newspaper. “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”

So the US still wants to hurt North Korea as much as possible without starting an actual shooting war, but now it looks like it is willing to eventually hear Pyongyang’s plea for mercy. Which is admittedly a step in the right direction compared to obstructing any talks....

There is a lot of mistrust between the US and North Korea, including over the failed diplomatic agreements of the past. For instance, the 1994 Agreed Framework was to see North Korea freeze its nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid and help in developing civilian nuclear industry. Pyongyang did dismantle its 5 MWe pilot nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, but somehow the US Congress went against the deal, obstructing the lifting of sanctions and funding the construction of light-water nuclear reactors North Korea was promised. The deal finally collapsed when George W. Bush labeled Pyongyang part of the “Axis of Evil.”

7-- Same old, same old on Korean peninsula

The US insists that North Korea has to commit to the denuclearization and be willing to talk about denuclearization before any direct talk can happen. I think the US knows that the sanctions on North Korea will take time to have the full impact on North Korea. The US is not in a hurry to talk with North Korea right now. So I think that makes it less likely that we will see a direct improvement of North Korea-US relations in the near-term future.

8--Russiagate or Intel-gate?, Stephen Cohen

9--Russians reported killed in US strikes in Syria

10-- 10 elite Syrian Army troops killed by US airstrikes in Deir Ezzor

11--Why Does Israel Support an Independent Iraqi Kurdistan?

12--Israeli attack on Syria heightens danger of wider Mideast war

13--US to expand military deployments as war danger builds in Asia

14--White House aides forced out over domestic abuse allegations

The credibility of the allegations was entirely secondary, however, to their usefulness as weapons in the political warfare in Washington between Trump and his opponents in the military-intelligence apparatus, the Democratic Party and the corporate-controlled media.

The New York Times and the Washington Post, which have spearheaded the media campaign over concocted and fraudulent claims of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, seized on the charges raised, particularly against Porter, for a new salvo against the Trump White House. The Post, in particular, devoted two editorials, three columns by its deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus, columns by other op-ed writers and pages of “news” coverage on the subject over a four-day period.

The Times and Post have driven the coverage of cable television, which has devoted hour upon hour to the allegations against Porter, including the accounts of his two ex-wives and a former girlfriend. This has been further fueled by leaks from White House aides with scores to settle, mainly directed at White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Porter’s immediate supervisor and his principal defender....

The White House sought to push back against the media firestorm Sunday, sending a series of top aides to network television interview programs, each proclaiming Trump’s faith in Kelly and denying any plans to replace him. Mulvaney, asked about press reports that he was being tapped as Kelly’s successor, flatly denied that any such discussions were taking place.

Aside from destabilizing the Trump White House and continuing the pressure against any retreat from the aggressive anti-Russia policy of the Obama administration, the media furor over Porter and Kelly has another major function: to suppress any public discussion of events of infinitely greater significance than the personal conduct of a mid-level Trump aide, however repulsive that may have been...

The Sunday television interview programs barely mentioned these developments. Instead, they obsessed over the allegations of domestic violence by Porter, together with discussion on when Kelly, White House counsel Don McGahn and other officials learned of the allegations and how promptly they responded, and reactions to Trump’s comments in which he commiserated with Porter over having his career ended without having a chance to refute the charges made by his ex-wives.

In raising the lack of “due process” for Porter, Trump is exploiting the fundamentally reactionary character of the #MeToo campaign, which has destroyed the careers of numerous artists and entertainers on the basis of unsupported and in some cases anonymous accusations.

A major aspect of the sexual harassment witch hunt is that it lumps together genuine crimes like rape and domestic violence with a much broader range of actions that should never become the subject of a criminal complaint or public humiliation, including unwanted comments or gestures of affection, or even, in a particularly noxious case, the charge that an individual was a “serial dater.”

A goal of the New York Times and the Democratic Party operatives who instigated the #MeToo campaign was to direct it ultimately against Trump, already the target of lawsuits by more than a dozen women charging various kinds of sexual harassment.

War, inequality, attacks on social programs, the witch hunt against immigrants and the assault on democratic rights—these are not the subjects of the Democratic Party’s opposition to Trump. On these issues, the Democrats are facilitating, either openly or by default, the reactionary policies of the administration. They are focused entirely on their reactionary anti-Russia campaign and the related antidemocratic drive to censor the Internet in the name of fighting “fake news” and “Russian meddling,” combined with the #MeToo hysteria.

15--Censorship, witch hunts and dirty money at the New York Times

state dept official moves Steele story
McMaster Erdogan 

The North Korean leader asked the Moon government to “discontinue all the nuclear drills they have staged with outside forces” and “refrain from bringing in nuclear armaments and aggressive forces of the United States.” That formulation, distinguishing between joint military drills and nuclear drills, suggested that Kim was signaling Pyongyang’s interest in negotiating an agreement along the lines that Moon’s advisers had raised publicly six months earlier....

The North-South talks that have begun will revolve around coming up with a formula for a deal on modifying the joint military exercises in return for a freeze on North Korean strategic weapons testing. The talks could take longer than the Olympics, which might require further postponement of the U.S.-ROK exercises that normally begin in March. When South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Hwa announced on Jan. 25 that a U.S. first strike on North Korean missile and/or nuclear targets is “unacceptable” to the ROK government, she declined to say whether the South would resume the drills after the Olympics.

That statement hints at a reality that neither the Trump administration nor corporate news media have publicly acknowledged: The United States’ South Korean ally regards beginning negotiations with North Korea as a high priority—higher than resuming the military exercises that have riled North Korea for decades and especially since 2015.

Russiagate Timeline 

-(1) an inside leak to WikiLeaks before Julian Assange announced on June 12, 2016, that he had DNC documents and planned to publish them (which he did on July 22)

June: Fusion GPS hires former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and his London-based firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia. Steele discloses this in court filings earlier this year as part of a lawsuit he faces over the dossier. Steele said he worked for Fusion GPS from June through November.

June 20: Steele writes first memo of the dossier. It alleges that Trump used prostitutes during a visit to Moscow in 2013 and that the Kremlin was blackmailing him with the evidence. The memo also alleges that the Trump campaign was engaged in a well-orchestrated collusion campaign with Russian operatives.

July 5: Steele provides his research to an FBI contact, The New York Times has reported. The documents made their way to FBI counterintelligence chief Peter Strzock two weeks later.

July: Chatter began appearing on social media referring to damning information about Trump’s ties to Russia. Republican strategist Rick Wilson told The New York Times back in January, after the dossier was published, that he was first asked about the document by a reporter in July.

July 26: A Wall Street Journal reporter contacts Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser, about allegations made about him in the dossier. Page disclosed that detail last month in a lawsuit he filed against the parent company of Yahoo! News, which republished claims from the dossier last September.

Late July: The FBI opens a counterintelligence investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.

Aug. 25: Then-CIA Director John Brennan briefs then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid about possible links between Trump associates and Russian operatives. According to The New York Times, officials in the meeting said that Brennan “indicated that unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election.”

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