Jul 312012
 
Media Matters
American television news outlets continue to devote sparse time to one of largest banking scandals in history. The controversy over whether major banks have been manipulating the LIBOR, a crucial interest rate that banks use to borrow money from one another, has been gathering steam for more than a month since U.S. and U.K. regulators fined British bank Barclays $450 million for its role in trying to rig the rate. 
CNN’s Erin Burnett has explained that LIBOR is “an interest rate at the core of our entire economy,” adding, “It’s really not wrong to say that if you can’t trust LIBOR, you can’t trust anything in banking.” According to The Economistthe LIBOR is used ”as a benchmark to set payments on about $800 trillion worth of financial instruments.” Baltimore City filed a lawsuit against major banks in the first of what may be a wave of such actions, alleging that the LIBOR manipulation potentially cost it millions of dollars in investment returns.
Despite the enormous implications of the scandal, ABC’s World News and NBC’s Nightly News both ignored the story in the 16 days after news of the Barclays fine broke, as we documented earlier this month. In the 16 days following the period of our original study, the LIBOR blackout has continued on ABC and NBC’s flagship evening news programs. Those programs have gone more than a month without mentioning the controversy. 
CBS Evening News devoted more than five and a half minutes to the story in the first 16 days following the Barclays fine, but has not returned to the scandal in the subsequent 16 day period despite a host of new developments.
After spending roughly six and a half minutes combined covering the scandal on their evening newscasts and opinion programming between June 27 and July 12, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News devoted less than 32 minutes to stories related to the controversy from July 13 to July 28, with more than two-thirds of that coverage coming from CNN. 
These same news outlets spent significantly more time on trivialities like shark sightings and the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes divorce than on the banking scandal. For context, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN spent 44 minutes combined on the LIBOR scandal during their evening programming from June 27 to July 28. By contrast, these same outlets devoted nearly 65 minutes to stories about sharks for only the first sixteen days of that period.
Far from being a dormant story, fallout from allegations that the LIBOR has been manipulated has been steady.

On July 14, the New York Times reported that the U.S. Justice Department had “identified potential criminal wrongdoing by big banks and individuals at the center of the scandal” and was building criminal cases “against several financial institutions and their employees.” The Times explained that the “prospect of criminal cases” was expected to “rattle the banking world.”
The scandal has also reached Capitol Hill, with both Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke being questioned about regulators’ response to allegations that banks were manipulating the LIBOR. During his appearance in front of the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke said the LIBOR is ”structurally flawed” and called the controversy “a major problem for our financial system.” 
The story has gotten major coverage in financial press and on shows like Current TV’s Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer and MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayesbut, with a few exceptions, has still received little attention on major American television news outlets their during evening newscasts and primetime programming. Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple has urged media outlets considering LIBOR coverage to “Get on it,” providing “Nine reasons to cover” the scandal.

Results

On July 16, Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer finished up his show’s barely two-minutes-long segment on the LIBOR scandal to tease an upcoming story set to air on Erin Burnett Outfront by saying, “I’m going to look forward to your report later tonight, Erin. Thanks very much. An important story that deserves significant attention.”
Though Blitzer apparently thinks the story deserves “significant attention,” his program devoted a paltry one minute and 17 seconds to LIBOR from June 27 to July 12. In the sixteen days that followed, the July 16 segment was The Situation Room‘s sole contribution. If the LIBOR-fixing controversy “deserves significant attention,” why hasn’t the network’s premier hard news show provided more coverage?
Indeed, straight news programming seems to have dropped the ball in the period following our original study. No broadcast network covered LIBOR in their evening half-hour flagship programs between July 13 and July 28.
Cable news increased its coverage during that period. Up from just under five minutes, CNN’s LIBOR reporting increased to about 22 minutes, with Erin Burnett Outfront shouldering 15-and-a-half minutes of that amount. In its July 13 and July 16 episodes, Outfront featured segments eight and seven-and-a-half-minutes long, respectively. However, the July 13 segment, though frequently mentioning LIBOR, covered many other topics related to the financial crisis during an extended panel discussion.
Both Fox News and MSNBC increased their coverage to about five minutes each during the second 16 day block. On Fox, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox Report with Shepard Smith each devoted a segment to LIBOR. On MSNBC, only The Rachel Maddow Show, with a four minute 47 second segment guest-hosted by Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein, covered the scandal in any meaningful way.
Methodology

Media Matters searched the Nexis databases for news transcripts for evening programs on broadcast (ABC, CBS, NBC) and major cable news (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) networks from July 13, 2012 through July 28, 2012 mentioning the LIBOR scandal. We included evening cable shows airing between 5:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. and each broadcast networks’ nightly news program. For programs falling within these parameters that were not included in Nexis, we searched transcripts from our video archive.
We searched using the following keywords: “LIBOR,” “Barclays,” “British bank,” “UK bank,” “Bob Diamond,” “Robert Diamond,” “Marcus Agius,” and all variations of “rate” and “fix.” We reviewed the raw video of each result to time the length of each segment, teaser, and mention. When transcripts for a particular program were not available, we reviewed the raw video.
Included in the results are the following weekday programs: ABC’s World News; CBS’ Evening News; NBC’s Nightly News; CNN’s The Situation RoomErin Burnett OutfrontAnderson Cooper 360, and Piers Morgan; Fox News’ The FiveSpecial Report with Bret BaierFox Report with Shepard SmithThe O’Reilly FactorHannity, and On the Record with Greta Van Susteren; and MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris MatthewsPolitics NationThe Ed ShowThe Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.
We did not include the first hour of CNN’s The Situation Room, which begins at 4:00 p.m. However, a separate search of that hour using the same parameters above returned no results for the time period in question.

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Jul 312012
 

Global Research
Greg Muttitt and Ali Issa


In this interview, investigative journalist Greg Muttitt talks about efforts by US occupying forces, multinational oil giants and Iraq’s newly-minted ‘leaders’ to privatise the war-torn nation’s coveted oil sector.


“No Blood for Oil” was a slogan featured on many a sign in demonstrations during the run up to the US-led invasion of Iraq, and throughout the early years of the occupation as global opposition to it grew. But as Iraq faded from the headlines in 2009, the struggle over its oil continued. In the following interview, Greg Muttitt, investigative journalist and author of the groundbreaking Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq (2012), discusses the attempts by occupying forces, multinational oil giants, and newly minted Iraqi “leaders” to privatise Iraq’s oil.




Having worked directly with Iraq’s oil unions, Mitt also describes the heroic role that Iraqi civil society played in challenging these efforts, how it all shook out and where it might be headed today, at an especially sensitive moment when the Iraqi labour movement is facing a series of fresh attacks. The audio interview was conducted on 13 July 2012, and what follows is an edited transcript.




Ali Issa (AI): Based on the hundreds of US/UK documents you have unearthed, what were your findings about the role of oil in the Iraq War?



Greg Muttitt (GM): Unsurprisingly, the documentary record shows that oil was a central part of the strategic thinking behind the war, and consistently shaped the conduct of the occupation. My book is primarily about what happened during the occupation. The United States, Britain, and the “international community” were keen to see Iraq’s oil developed through foreign investment. It was not so much about helping out their own corporations – that was a secondary concern for them.

What they wanted was to see foreign investment in Iraq as a starting point for opening up the other nationalised industries, especially of the region, so as to get oil flowing more quickly. Iraq’s oil sector had been nationalised since the 1970s. The nationalisation took place mostly in 1972, and the final phases of it continued until 1975. Essentially, what they wanted to do was to reverse that: put multinational oil companies back in the dominant role in the Iraqi oil sector.

AI: You place the struggle over Iraq’s ‘oil law’ at the centre of Iraq’s recent history. What is the oil law, how has it evolved, and what is its present status?



GM: The oil law was drafted in 2006, after the first post-Saddam permanent government was formed. Then the Bush administration pushed it especially hard through 2007.

The law had three purposes. The first was to create a framework in which multinationals would have a primary role in developing Iraq’s oil industry, and to determine exactly the extent of that role, what rights they would have, and the extent of their powers. The second element was to clarify how that would work in an emerging federal system in Iraq.

To put it simply: With whom would they sign contracts? Was it with the central government in Baghdad, or was it with regional governments – in particular, the only one that exists so far, the Kurdistan regional government?

The third element of the law was to essentially dis-empower parliament in relation to decisions around oil. . . . Since 1967 Iraq has had a law in place, No. 97, which said if the government were to sign contracts to develop oil fields and run them, the parliament would have to sign a specific piece of legislation to approve them.

[In other words,] the parliament would have to say, “We support and agree with this contract and we give it validity in law.” That was still in force in 2003, and indeed in 2006. The government could legally sign contacts with foreign companies. But if it did so, it would have to get the OK from parliament for them to have any force.

Therefore, the most important role of the oil law of 2006/2007 was not [so much] to allow contracts to be signed by multinationals, as that was already possible. It was to allow them [i.e., the contracts] to be signed without parliament having any oversight.

Incidentally, the importance of parliamentary oversight is that oil accounts for over 95 per cent of government revenue. So it is quite reasonable for parliament to have some say in how that works.  

So this was the oil law. The United States, Britain, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other financial institutions wanted to see it passed as soon as possible once the permanent post-Saddam government was formed in May 2006. As soon as that happened, the United States and Britain started to say, “Your priority is going to be to pass the oil law.”

I have documents from that period which make this very clear. They moved very quickly to draft an oil law in August 2006, and it basically delivered those three asks of it. Getting this law passed in parliament became the major political priority of the United States.

AI: But the law did not pass. What prevented its passage?



GM: There were two barriers to it passing. Only one of them was recognised. First, there were disputes between Iraq’s politicians – primarily, between Kurdish politicians and everyone else. The dispute was over the degree of decentralisation.

Essentially, it was a squabble between politicians – who thought only about their own interests, or about their ethno-sectarian groups’ interests – about which of them would get the right to sign contracts and thereby control revenues. This dispute over decentralisation slowed down the law’s progress, and people on either side of that debate leaked it to their allies.

This led into the second factor, which was the overwhelming opposition within the Iraqi population to giving multinationals such a central role. I think this was very well known by those in the US administration and those in the Iraqi government. So the way they planned to deal with that was by not telling anyone that this oil law was going through. But it leaked in October 2006.

Once it leaked out, it started to spread into civil society. In December 2006 I attended a meeting of Iraq’s trade unions in Amman. They were discussing the law and decided that they were going to campaign against it. Their strategy, which began in early 2007, was basically just to get it known about: to tell people about it.

So they produced pamphlets, which they handed out to their members and to the general public. They also organised conferences, public meetings, demonstrations, etc. The more this was done, the more people knew about it, the more anger there was that in secret this government – that had a fairly limited mandate given the circumstances of an election under occupation – was trying to push something through that the occupation powers were demanding, and that looked like it would do considerable damage to Iraqi interests and the Iraqi economy.

Iraqis feel very strongly that oil should remain in Iraqi hands, not least because of their historical experience with foreign companies. So, during the course of 2007, this opposition spread. One after another, new groups and new constituencies got involved in it.

AI: What did the Bush administration do?



GM: At the same time that opposition to the oil law was spreading, through the first half of 2007, the Bush administration was ramping up pressure on the Iraqi parliament to get it passed. They were very frustrated and angry that it had not been passed at the end of 2006. All the time, they claimed publicly that it was the dispute with the Kurds over decentralisation that was holding things up. They then claimed that the law was about the sharing of revenues between different groups, which it was not at all.

The surge, which was announced in January 2007 and sent an extra thirty thousand troops to Iraq, was very clearly one side of a two-part strategy. You can read this in the documents published by the Bush administration at the time. It was called “The New Way Forward,” and its two parts were . . . to send thirty thousand troops, to control and pacify the country, and . . . to use that control delivered by extra military force to push Iraqi politicians to deliver what they called “benchmarks” –markers of political progress.

By far the foremost among these was passing the oil law. It was all they ever talked about. In meetings with members of the Maliki government, US administration officials kept saying, “When are you going to pass the oil law? Where’s our oil law?”

Also during this period there were very strong indications from the US military that if the oil law was not passed, the Maliki government would no longer have the support of the United States. . . . Maliki very clearly understood this as a threat to remove him from his job. So, through the course of 2007, you had pressures increasing on both sides.

On one side you had pressure from Iraqi civil society started by the trade unions, but spreading into broader civil society – religious and secular – along with the professionals who ran the oil industries since nationalisation. All of them were saying, “This oil law is bad news for Iraq; don’t pass it.” At the same time, you had the Bush administration applying more and more pressure to get it passed.

AI: What was the outcome?



GM: The popular opposition to the oil law grew so great that it started to spread into parliament. And members of the Iraqi parliament started to see a political opportunity in opposing the oil law, and a political threat in supporting it – a threat to their future political careers.

By around July 2007, the majority of the Iraqi parliament was against it. The US administration had set a deadline for passing the oil law – September 2007 – and this was when General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were going to report to congress on how the surge was going, and they were very clearly saying to the Iraqi government, “Give us the benchmarks, give us the oil law by September, otherwise you will face all of these consequences that we warned you of.”

But by that stage it was a majority of the parliament that was against the oil law; they could not therefore get the oil law approved by parliament. The September deadline arrived, and there was no oil law. Today there is still no oil law.

To me that is quite a remarkable story, and it is an untold story. It is remarkable in that Iraqi civil society was able to prevent the United States from getting this absolutely vital objective, in which they had invested so much political capital, simply through talking about it.

It was partly a measure of the distance between what the United States was demanding – and absolutely desperately wanted – and what the vast majority of Iraqis really passionately felt should happen. But I think the consequence beyond that is that having invested all that political capital and having failed to get the oil law, September 2007, I think, marked the beginning of the decline of US influence in Iraq.

We saw that much more clearly through the course of 2008, in particular, the failure to get the treaty to keep US troops indefinitely – the Status of Forces Agreement had a three-year term limit. But I think it was this moment, having thrown all that political capital into getting something and then failing, which marked the shift in Iraqi politics from being absolutely dominated by the United States to having a rising Iraqi voice.

AI: Why then are multinational oil companies in Iraq now?



GM: In the latter half of 2009, the Iraqi government awarded several contracts to foreign companies – BP, Shell, Exxon and so on – even without the oil law, and without showing them to parliament. They are a hybrid form of contract, not the production-sharing agreements the companies really wanted, and, importantly, they are technically illegal, since Law 97 is still in force and they have not been approved by parliament.

AI: The challenge to the oil law succeeded, so the contracts could be declared illegal by a future Iraqi government. What are the conditions necessary for a second challenge to these contracts? 

GM: After the first contracts were signed in 2009, there was a member of the Iraqi parliament – Shatha Al-Musawi – who challenged the first of the contracts, which was with BP, in the Iraqi Supreme Court. Her challenge was unsuccessful, but not on substantive legal grounds. Rather, it was stopped on process grounds.

The Supreme Court has been quite problematic over the last few years, in that the Maliki government has had increasing influence over its decisions, and that has been seen in a number of decisions that have gone the way that Maliki wanted them to, rather than where the law as written should have pushed it.

That was seen especially after the 2010 election when Maliki was given the right to form the government rather than it being given to Allawi. That decision was the Supreme Court’s. There are strong indications that he has channels of influence.

In the case of Al-Musawi’s challenge to the BP contract, what happened was that the court ordered her to pay a deposit of three hundred million Iraqi dinars, which was about $225,000 at the time. She was ordered to pay that, and it would be returnable if she won.

She did not have that kind of money, so the case collapsed. So in order to carry out a legal challenge in Iraq, I think what would be needed would be some means of containing government influence over the Supreme Court.

A way of containing that might be a set of institutions that are backing the case financially, institutionally, and politically, such that it becomes difficult for the Maliki government to steer the court or for the court to side with the Maliki government. But that is the major block there.

On the other hand, I think that where such a challenge could come from is most likely the government itself. This is traditionally where challenges to contracts come from in oil-producing countries. A government says, “This is not in our interest, we are going to change the terms, or we are even going to cancel it.”

This has happened a lot over the past decade around the world. Now companies use legal mechanisms in the contracts to prevent governments from doing that – to get the contracts judicable in international investment tribunals, rather than in the country’s courts.

The fact is that these contracts are not validated within Iraqi law. That Iraqi law requires parliamentary approval, and parliamentary approval has not been sought or given, means that if a future Iraqi government were to change the terms of the contracts or even tear them up, and if the companies concerned went to an investment tribunal – in Europe or in the United States – the government could argue, and I believe it would have a very strong case, that these contracts are not legal, because look: here is the law No. 97 of 1967, it is still in force, it says you have to get parliamentary approval, you did not, they are void.

Now the conditions for that to happen would be a government that believed there was a problem with the contracts, and probably it means a different government from the current one. It would be politically embarrassing, to say the least, for the current government to argue that they are illegal on the basis of what this same government did not do – namely, take it to parliament. So a change in the government could drive this.

But Iraqi politics strike me as very fluid at the moment. I cannot predict what the nature of the Iraqi political system will be in a year’s time. I think it is hard to say whether Maliki will still be there; it is more likely that he will than he will not, but I would not put a great deal of money on it.

AI: In their rejection of the oil law, did you get a sense of what unions and civil society was positively hoping for? Are their concrete visions, like the nationalisation of pre-1990 Iraq, or do they differ?



GM: When you look at the history of the Iraqi oil industry, the most successful period, of which Iraqis in the oil sector are very proud, is the period immediately after nationalisation. So from 1972 to 1979, for instance, production increased from 1.5 million barrels a day to 3.5 million.

They were finding greater quantities of reserves each year than were found in the whole of the rest of the world put together. What I heard, especially from the senior managers and technicians in the oil industry, was that if you wanted to run a technically successful oil industry in Iraq – and that was what they were interested in since they were technocrats – then the way to do it is to keep it in the public sector. The only reason you would privatise it and bring in foreign companies would be for ideological reasons.

I think the only problem with keeping the oil industry in the public sector was that Iraq was behind on technology as a result of the sanctions period. But many people recognise that technology is something you can buy. You can hire a company like Schlumberger to come and install some if its new separators, or pumps, or whatever it is.

They can install them, they can train the Iraqis how to use them, and they can even operate them for a couple of years until the Iraqis have got the hang of it – quite straightforward. But that is very different from signing a 20-year contract that gives a company like BP or Exxon control over the oil field, management of it.

I think where there was some debate was exactly how far you could go in terms of letting foreign companies in. There were varying degrees of pragmatism towards that. Some said, “Well maybe it’s okay to have BP for five years. Or maybe it’s okay to have BP as long as they are in a junior role.”

The absolute objection was to the idea of putting a company like BP in control, having the primary management and decision-making role for a long period, like 20 years – especially when there was home-grown Iraqi expertise. So that’s what I was hearing.

AI: You have written that the decimation that the sanctions caused triggered a kind of slow rebuilding of the oil industry by many of the technicians that remained, and all of that then played an important role in fostering a sense of ownership of that rebuilding. So the other side of the reaction to sanctions seems to have been a maintenance – and even strengthening – of a national consciousness that then played an important role in Iraqi civil society’s response to the oil law.




GM: The way one of the oil workers in Basra put it to me was, “Look, we Iraqis have rebuilt our oil industry three times. We rebuilt it in the late 1980s after the war with Iran; we rebuilt it after the 1991 Gulf War, and we did so then under sanctions, when it was especially difficult; and we rebuilt it again after 2003. Halliburton was getting paid for doing it, but essentially doing nothing. We have rebuilt our oil industry three times, and that gives us a sense of ownership over, and belief in, our oil industry. This is something we rebuilt. It’s very different from when you pay someone to come in and rebuild it for you. And that’s not something we will willingly hand over.”


 Global Research Articles by Greg Muttitt

 Global Research Articles by Ali Issa

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Jul 302012
 

Julie Watson


The Marine Corps has created its first law enforcement battalions – a lean, specialized force of military police officers that it hopes can quickly deploy worldwide to help investigate crimes from terrorism to drug trafficking and train fledgling security forces in allied nations.
The Corps activated three such battalions last month. Each is made up of roughly 500 military police officers and dozens of dogs. The Marine Corps has had police battalions off and on since World War II but they were primarily focused on providing security, such as accompanying fuel convoys or guarding generals on visits to dangerous areas, said Maj. Jan Durham, commander of the 1st Law Enforcement Battalion at Camp Pendleton.
The idea behind the law enforcement battalions is to consolidate the military police and capitalize on their investigative skills and police training, he said. The new additions come as every branch in the military is trying to show its flexibility and resourcefulness amid defense cuts.
Marines have been increasingly taking on the role of a street cop along with their combat duties over the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they have been in charge of training both countries’ security forces. Those skills now can be used as a permanent part of the Marine Corps, Durham said.
The war on terror has also taught troops the importance of learning how to gather intelligence, secure evidence and assist local authorities in building cases to take down criminal networks. Troops have gotten better at combing raid sites for clues to help them track insurgents.
They also have changed their approach, realizing that marching into towns to show force alienates communities. Instead, they are being taught to fan out with interpreters to strike up conversations with truck drivers, money exchangers, cellphone sellers and others. The rapport building can net valuable information that could even alert troops about potential attacks.
But no group of Marines is better at that kind of work than the Corps’ military police, who graduate from academies just like civilian cops, Durham said. He said the image of military police patrolling base to ticket Marines for speeding or drinking has limited their use in the Corps. He hopes the creation of the battalions will change that, although analysts say only the future will tell whether the move is more than just a rebranding of what already existed within the Corps.
The battalions will be capable of helping control civil disturbances, handling detainees, carrying out forensic work, and using biometrics to identify suspects. Durham said they could assist local authorities in allied countries in securing crime scenes and building cases so criminals end up behind bars and not back out on the streets because of mistakes.
“Over the past 11 years of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, some lessons learned painfully, there has been a growing appreciation and a demand for, on the part of the warfighter, the unique skills and capabilities that MPs bring to the fight,” Durham said. “We do enforce traffic laws and we do write reports and tickets, and that’s good, but we do so much more than that.”
Durham said the Marine Corps plans to show off its new battalions in Miami later this month at a conference put on by the Southern Command and that is expected to be attended by government officials from Central American countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize.
Defense analyst Loren Thompson said the battalions make sense given the nature of today’s global threats, which include powerful drug cartels and other criminal gangs that often mix with religious and political extremists, who use the profits to buy their weaponry.
“This is a smart idea because the biggest single problem the Marines have in dealing with low-intensity types of threats is that they basically are trained to kill people,” he said. “It’s good for the Marines to have skills that allow them to contain threats without creating casualties.”
Gary Solis, a former Marine Corps prosecutor and judge who teaches law of war at Georgetown University, said Marines have already been doing this kind of work for years but now that it has been made more formal by the creation of the battalions, it could raise a host of questions, especially on the use of force. The law of war allows for fighters to use deadly force as a first resort, while police officers use it as a last resort.
If Marines are sent in to do law enforcement but are attacked, will they go back to being warfighters? And if so, what are the implications? Solis asked.
“Am I a Marine or a cop? Can I be both?” he said. “Cops apply human rights law and Marines apply the law of war. Now that it’s blended, it makes it tougher for the young men and women who have to make the decision as to when deadly force is not appropriate.”
Durham said that military police understand that better than any Marine since they are trained in both.
“They are very comfortable with the escalation of force,” he said. “MPs get that. It’s fundamental to what we do.”

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Jul 292012
 
Craig Murray

This is a trailer for an extremely important documentary by Michael Andersen. The complicity of NATO and EU governments with the Karimov regime is one of the clearest glimpses of the evil motives that lurk behind the reasonable image that western politicians strive to portray. The complicity of the mainstream media in ignoring these facts is terrifying.

As NATO intensifies its logistical transit through Uzbekistan, as Britain increases training for the Uzbek military and secret services and looks to further arms sales, please bring this documentary to the attention of everyone you can, in any way that you can.

The appearance in the trailer of Pierre Morel, EU Special Representative for Central Asia, is noteworthy. He really is one of the nastiest men in Europe, with not even the slightest pretence of any concern for human rights except as a bureaucratic box to be ticked. What is the real interest of this arch European powercrat? You will hardly be surprised to hear it is Central Asia’s oil and gas.

One of the most important diplomatic developments in the last year – not mentioned anywhere in the lamestream media – has been the westward shift of the Government of Azerbaijan. Under hereditary President Aliev, son of Putin’s ex boss and mentor in the KGB, they had seemed the closest of Russia’s allies. But I noted a few months ago that remarkably on Syria they were voting with the U.S. and against Russia at the UN Security Council. Now they have agreed that an EU hydrocarbon pipeline can pass through their waters in the Caspian – thus negating Putin’s blocking move when he effectively annexed part of Georgia.

Germany now sees the eventual transit of Turkmenistan’s and Uzbekistan’s gas through Ukraine and Poland and into the Nordstream project, while bypassing Russia, as a tantalisingly close prospect. The furious courting of Central Asian dictators is therefore viewed as an unbounded success, and mangled corpses and tortured women an irrelevancy – along with the probable extinction of the sturgeon and other inconveniences. No wonder Morel looks self-satisfied.

I do hope the Central Asians who suffer grinding poverty and terrible repression will one day understand all this, and once they have their freedom will not forgive.

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Jul 282012
 
Rebels fighting against the Syrian government forces in the northwestern city of Aleppo have burned the bodies of their comrades to hide their nationalities, Press TVreports.

The report comes as clashes between army forces and armed gangs rage on in several regions in Syria.

Signs of torture can be seen on bodies found in areas held by the armed rebels, Syrian sources say.

The Syrian army on Saturday launched a military operation to clear Aleppo, the country’s biggest city, from the foreign-backed rebels.

Press TV’s correspondent in Syria said the army is inflicting heavy losses on the rebels in Aleppo.

The Red Crescent has suspended some of its operations in Aleppo because of heavy fighting.

Syrian government said its troops have freed two Italian nationals who had been kidnapped by armed groups in a suburb of Damascus.

There have also been reports of clashes in the northern province of Idlib while calm has returned to the capital Damascus after government forces flushed out the rebels there.

Government forces also defused several bombs planted near a mosque in the Hajar al-Aswad district of the capital.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011, with demonstrations being held both against and in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The Syrian government says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factor behind the unrest and deadly violence while the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings.

Damascus also says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country.

DB/MA/AZ/IS

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Jul 282012
 

Daily Bell
Anthony Wile


No To Transparency:  Harry Reid vows to kill
bill to audit the Federal Reserve

On Wednesday, Ron Paul‘s bill to audit the Federal Reserve was overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The vote was 327 to 98. You would think that a bill with such overwhelming support would easily become law. But it won’t, because Barack Obama and the Democrats plan to kill it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already said that the Senate will not even consider the bill. But of course if Barack Obama called Harry Reid and told him that he wants this bill to get through the Senate so that he could sign it then Harry Reid would be singing a much different tune. Sadly, we all know that is not going to happen. Barack Obama’s good buddy Ben Bernanke called the Audit the Fed bill a “nightmare scenario” last week, and Obama is certainly not going to do anything to upset Bernanke – especially this close to the election. – Daily Caller


An audit of the Federal Reserve would be nice but really it wouldn’t change anything. In fact, it would likely prove a kind of sideshow from reality, which is that monopoly central banking should simply be abolished.
And that probably won’t happen until people get so sick and tired of being driven into bankruptcy and despair that they begin to kick the doors down and arrest the criminals cowering inside.

And they ARE real criminals. The system is responsible for debasing currency the world over and driving billions into poverty and even suicide. In the West it has blighted the hopes and dreams of millions who scratched and saved and then found their portfolios devalued by half or whole on a single day.

But it is worse in Third World countries. The money never even trickles down in these countries. Billions of people live on literally a couple of dollars a day.

This despite the United Nations and other international institutions that are supposedly dedicated to eradicating poverty. In fact, these institutions create the poverty they supposedly wish to remove. They do so via institutionalized violence costing trillions. War is the health of the state but it sickens everyone else.
It’s not as if people don’t already know the depths of the depravity that is the modern money system.

There’s really no justification for the Fed, a monopoly central bank that issues fiat money as it chooses.
The exposure is irrelevant to the evident reality. The reality is that a small group of white, middle aged men can never figure out how much money an economy needs at what price.

The reason to audit the Fed is to find out what “they” are up to. But we already know that. A limited audit examined transactions during 2008 when the world’s financial system froze up. It found the Fed had loaned out more than 16 trillion dollars, almost interest free, to the “too big to fail” banks.

This is not exactly astonishing. The same men who have built this dysfunctional system handed out trillions to various cronies when the system was in danger of collapsing.

So here is what a Fed audit would discover: More of the same. It would likely also discover that a shadowy group of dynastic families control the workings of the Fed, as they do of other central banks, and use money-from-nothing to further implement world government.

Of course, even if an audit-the-Fed bill passed by some miracle it still wouldn’t be effectively implemented. The best we’ve got is the “fox guarding the hen house,” and that effectively precludes any real investigation into central banking, specifically or generally.

We can see this at work even with the audit-the-Fed bill the House just passed. Eight co-sponsors of the legislation actually voted against the bill and most of them, when contacted, refused to explain why.
This is to be expected. Money Power is a vast and intimidating force. If you want to get ahead in this world, one way to do it is to advance the agenda of Money Power, which seeks world government.

Money Power flourishes because it is resistant to the kinds of investigations offered by Ron Paul’s audit. Money Power works busily many layers deep.

Money Power in aggregate is not fazed by an audit. An audit that blows up the current system would probably usher in a state-run gold standard or some new form of money, perhaps SDRs, also controlled by the power elite. Out of chaos, order …

We don’t know what societies would look like absent monopoly central bank money stimulation. The past 100 years have hyped the world’s banking and industrial systems into overdrive. It’s considered normal but there is nothing normal about China’s empty cities or the razing of Detroit.

Long ago, the Rothschild family helped found the system under which we now labor but they’ve been aided and abetted by hundreds and thousands and then millions of others. The men at the top understand full well what is going on. Congress, both House and Senate, are complicit in what’s taking place, which is no less than the slow-motion rape of the American people.

A Federal Reserve facility that can issue US$ 15 trillion in a weekend to preferred clients is not an entity that should stand another minute. And the political institutions that tolerate this sort of facility should be removed as well.

Congress is a bastion of bought-and-paid for front men. Those in Congress have created a US$ 3 trillion Leviathan that bestrides the world with tax collectors, murderous Intel agents, endless warfare and the poisoning of millions, including US vets, with depleted uranium.

Now this same Congress has brought down the curtain of fascism on the American people via “Homeland Security” with its groping, ID checks and poisonous radiation machinery.

This is the group that is supposed to audit the engine of this dysfunctional, murderous funding?
Even if it did, it wouldn’t make any difference.

The cleansing must go far deeper. It starts with … you.

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Jul 282012
 
Michel Chossudovsky

As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan.”  General Wesley Clark
         
While confrontation between Russia and the West  was, until recently, confined to the polite ambit of international diplomacy, within the confines of the UN Nations Security Council, an uncertain and perilous situation is now unfolding in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Allied forces including intelligence and special forces have reinforced their presence on the ground in Syria following the UN stalemate. Meanwhile, coinciding with the UN Security Council deadlock, Moscow has dispatched to the Mediterraean a flotilla of ten Russian warships and escort vessels led by the Admiral Chabanenko anti-submarine destroyer. Russia’s flotilla is currently stationed off the Southern Syrian coastline.
Back in August of last year, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin warned that “NATO is planning a military campaign against Syria to help overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad with a long-reaching goal of preparing a beachhead for an attack on Iran,…”  In relation to the current naval deployment, Russia’s navy chief, Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov, confirmed, however, that while the [Russian] flotilla was carrying marines, the warships would “not be engaged in Syria Tasks”. “The ships will perform “planned military manoeuvres”, said the [Russian Defense] ministry” 
The US-NATO alliance has retorted to Russia’s naval initiative, with a much larger naval deployment, a formidable Western armada, consisting of British, French and American warships, slated to be deployed later this Summer in the Eastern Mediterranean, leading to a potential “Cold War style confrontation” between Russian and Western naval forces.
Meanwhile, US-NATO military planners have announced that various “military options” and “intervention scenarios” are being contemplated in the wake of the Russian-Chinese veto in the UN Security Council.
The planned naval deployment is coordinated with allied ground operations in support of the US-NATO sponsored “Free Syrian Army. In this regard, US-NATO has speeded up the recruitment of foreign fighters trained in Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
    ( Russian warships enter the Med, bound for Syria – timesofmalta.com, July 24, 2012)
Russian warship in the Syrian port of Tartus
France and Britain will be participating later this Summer in war games codenamed Exercise Cougar 12 [2012]. The games will be conducted in the Eastern Mediterranean as part of a Franco-British  “Response Force Task Group” involving  Britain’s HMS Bulwark and France’s Charles De Gaulle carrier battle group. The focus of these naval exercises will be on amphibious operations involving the (planned simulated) landing ashore of troops on “enemy territory”. 

File:HMS Bulwark midships.jpg
Britain’s HMS Bulwark
Fichier:Charles De Gaulle (R91) underway 2009.jpg
Charles De Gaulle carrier
Smokescreen: The Proposed Evacuation of Western National Using a Naval Fleet of WMDs
Barely mentioned by the mainstream media, the warships involved in the Cougar 12 naval exercise will also participate in the planned evacuation of  “British nationals from the Middle East, should the ongoing conflict in Syria further spill across borders into neighboring Lebanon and Jordan.”:
    The British would likely send the HMS Illustrious, a helicopter carrier, along with the HMS Bulwark, an amphibious ship, as well as an advanced destroyer to provide defenses for the task force. On board will be several hundred Royal Marine commandos, as well as a complement of AH-64 attack helicopters (the same ones used in Libya last year). A fleet of French ships, including the Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier, carrying a complement of Rafale fighter aircraft, are expected to join them.
    Those forces are expected stay offshore and could escort specially chartered civilian ships meant to pick up foreign nationals fleeing Syria and surrounding countries.  (ibtimes.com, 24 July 2012).
Sources in the British Ministry of Defense, while confirming the British Navy’s “humanitarian mandate” in the planned evacuation program, have categorically denied “any intention of a combat role for British forces [against Syria]“. The evacuation plan using the most advanced military hardware including the HMS Bulwark, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier is an obvious smokescreen. The not so hidden agenda is threat and intimidation of an entire country: .
    “The Charles De Gaulle alone is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with an entire squadron of jets more advanced than anything the Syrians have — is sparking speculation that those forces could become involved in a NATO operation against Syrian forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad…
    The HMS Illustrious, which is currently sitting on the Thames in central London, will likely only be sent to the region after the end of the Olympics.” (Ibid)
This impressive deployment of Franco-British  naval power could also include the deployment of USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier:
    [On July 16], the Pentagon also confirmed that it would be redeploying the USS John C. Stennis, a nuclear-powered supercarrier capable of carrying 90 aircraft, to the Middle East… The Stennis would be arriving in the region with an advanced missile-launching cruiser, …. The carrier USS Eisenhower is already expected to be in the Middle East by that time (two carriers currently in the region are to be relieved and sent back to the U.S.).
    Amid unpredictable situations in both Syria and Iran, that would have left U.S. forces stretched and overly burdened if a firm military response were needed in either circumstance. (Ibid, emphasis added)
The USS Stennis, at left, and the HMS Illustrious, at right, together in the Persian Gulf in April 1998. The two ships may be sailing together again sooner than expected. Photo: Wikipedia Commons
USS Stennis aircraft carrier
The USS Stennis strike group is to be sent back to the Middle East “by an unspecified date in the late summer” to be deployed to the Central Command area of responsibility
    “The Defense Department said that the early deployment had come from a request made by Marine Corps General James N. Mattis, the commander for Central Command (the U.S. military authority area that covers the Middle East), partly out of concern that there would be a short period where only one carrier would be located in the region.” (Ibid)
Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, “asked to move up the strike group’s deployment based on “a range of factors,” and  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta approved it”… (Ibid)
A Pentagon spokesman stated that the deployment shift pertaining to the USS Stennis pertained to “a wide range of U.S. security interests in the region. We’re always mindful of the challenges posed by Iran. Let me be very clear: This is not a decision that is based solely on the challenges posed by Iran, … ” This is not about any one particular country or one particular threat.” intimating that Syria was also part of planned deployment. (Strike group headed to Central Command early – Stripes Central – Stripes, July 16, 2012, emphasis added) 
Outright Coercion and Intimidation
This massive deployment of naval power is an act of outright coercion with a view to terrorizing the Syrian people. The threat of military intervention purports to destabilize Syria as a nation state as well confront and weaken Russia’s role in brokering the Syrian crisis.  
The UN diplomatic game is at an impasse. The UN Security Council is defunct. The transition is towards Twenty-first Century “Warship Diplomacy”.  
While an all out allied military operation directed against Syria is not “officially” contemplated, military planners are currently involved in preparing various “intervention scenarios”: 
    ‘Western political leaders may have no appetite for deeper intervention. But as history has shown, we do not always choose which wars to fight – sometimes wars choose us. ‘Military planners have a responsibility to prepare for intervention options in Syria for their political masters in case this conflict chooses them. ‘Preparation will be proceeding today in several Western capitals and on the ground in Syria and in Turkey. ‘Up to the point of Assad’s collapse, we are most likely to see a continuation or intensification of the under-the-radar options of financial support, arming and advising the rebels, clandestine operations and perhaps cyber warfare from the West. ‘After any collapse, however, the military options will be seen in a different light.’ (Daily Mail, July 24, 2012) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2178526/Britain-dragged-Syria-conflict-prevent-bloodshed-spreading-neighbouring-countries-says-Army-commander.html#ixzz21bFBygAw (emphasis added)
Concluding Remarks
The World is at dangerous crossroads. The shape of this planned naval deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean with US-NATO warships contiguous to those of Russia is unprecedented.
History tells us that wars are often triggered unexpectedly as a result of “political mistakes” and human error. The latter are all the more likely within the realm of a divisive and corrupt political system in the US and Western Europe. .
US-NATO military planning is overseen by a centralised military hierarchy. Command and Control operations are in theory “coordinated” but in practice they are often marked by human error. Intelligence operatives often function independently and outside the realm of political accountability.
Military planners are acutely aware of the dangers of escalation. Syria has significant air defense capabilities as well as ground forces. Syria has been building up its air defense system with the delivery of Russian Pantsir S1 air-defense missiles.
Any form of US-NATO direct military intervention against Syria would destabilize the entire region, potentially leading to escalation over a vast geographical area, extending from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with Tajikistan and China.
Military planning involves intricate scenarios and war games by both sides including military options pertaining to advanced weapons systems. A Third World War scenario is explicitly contemplated by US-NATO-Israeli military planners.
Escalation is an integral part of the military agenda. War preparations to attack Syria and Iran have been in “an advanced state of readiness” for several years.
We are dealing with complex political and strategic decision-making involving the interplay of powerful economic interest groups, the actions of covert intelligence operatives.
The role of war propaganda is paramount not only in moulding public opinion into accepting a war agenda, but also in establishing a consensus within the upper echelons of the decision-making process. A selective form of war propaganda intended for “Top Officials” in government agencies, intelligence, the Military, law enforcement, etc. is intended to create an unbending consensus in favor of war and the Police State.
For the war project to go ahead, it is essential that both politicians and military planners are rightfully committed to leading the war in the name of justice and democracy. For this to occur they must firmly believe in their own propaganda, namely that war is an instrument of peace and democracy.
They have no concern for the devastating impacts of advanced weapons systems, routinely categorized as “collateral damage”, let alone the meaning and significance of pre-emptive warfare, using nuclear weapons.
Wars are invariably decided upon by civilian leaders and interest groups rather than by the military. War serves dominant economic interests which operate from behind the scenes, behind closed doors in corporate boardrooms, in the Washington think tanks, etc.
War propaganda, namely media lies, constitutes the most powerful instrument of warfare.
Without media disinformation, the US-NATO led war agenda would collapse like a deck of cards. The legitimacy of  the war criminals in high office is broken.
It is therefore essential to disarm not only the mainstream media but also a segment of the self proclaimed “progressive” alternative media, which has provided legitimacy to NATO’s “Responsibility to protect” (R2P)  mandate, largely with a view to dismantling the antiwar movement.  
The road to Tehran goes through Damascus. A US-NATO sponsored war on Iran would involve, as a first step, the destabilization of Syria as a nation state. Military planning pertaining to Syria is an integral part of the war on Iran agenda. 
A war on Syria could evolve towards a US-NATO military campaign directed against Iran, in which Turkey and Israel would be directly involved. It is crucial to spread the word and break the channels of media disinformation.
A critical and unbiased understanding of what is happening in Syria is of crucial importance in reversing the tide of military escalation towards a broader regional war.
Spread the word. Our objective is ultimately to dismantle the US-NATO-Israeli military arsenal and restore World Peace.   

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Jul 272012
 
InfoWars Via 12160
Kurt Nimmo

Obama and his globalist handlers – who ultimately want every gun confiscated – understand that the American people by and large support the Second Amendment. This is why the president patronized hunters and shooters with an oily sleight of hand.
“I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals,” Obama said. “That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.”
In fact, according to the founders, guns – including AK47s in the modern context – belong in the hands of the citizens and their state militias, as plainly and eloquently spelled out in the Second Amendment. Thomas Jefferson and the founders did not craft the Second Amendment to protect the right of hunters and target shooters. It was included – right after the First Amendment guareenting political speech – to ensure the right of citizens to violently oppose a tyrannical federal governmentif need be.
AK47s and other “assault” weapons are the sort of tools that will be used if push comes to shove and the people must violently oppose the government.
Obama supporters and other lovers of the state recoil at the prospect of armed resistance to a tyrannical centralized federal government and refuse to accept that this is what the Second Amendment is all about. “The rights of conscience, of bearing arms, of changing the government, are declared to be inherent in the people,” wrote Fisher Ames, a member of the Massachusetts convention that ratified the Constitution in 1788. This concept is antithetical to the modern liberal who believes government to be a force of good.
“The Second Amendment was to protect the ability of the people to violently overthrow the government,” writes Richard Schrade, an attorney from Georgia and member of the Libertarian National Committee. “Let’s remember that this country was formed in a violent revolution. Let’s remember that at Lexington and Concord citizen fired on and killed government soldiers sent by the central government to confiscate their weapons and arms…. When viewed in this light, it is apparent that a limitation on automatic weapons would be an infringement on the purposes of the Second Amendment.”
If Obama supporters, Democrats, “progressives” and others demanding the government take our firearms in a misplaced effort to stop maniacs from killing people were honest, they would work to repeal the Second Amendment instead of chipping away at it piecemeal. “If we are going to have gun control then let’s not dicker around the fringes. Let those who would limit the law-abiding citizen’s access to arms first repeal the Second Amendment. That would be the intellectually honest way to address the issue,” writes Schrade.
Such a debate is only possible today because formerly free men no longer have a grasp of history and have been brainwashed by decades of government mandated public education and propaganda. Early on in America, both the Federalists and the anti-Federalists agreed that arms and liberty are inextricably linked. George Mason and others knew reflexively that the most effective way to enslave a people is to disarm them. Mason, in particular, argued that divine providence had given every individual the right of self-defense – including the right to defend against a tyrannical government. Today, we have forgotten all of this.
Obama can easily get away with making an outrageous speech about hunting and target shooting and almost completely ignore criticism and not be called to task. We are told that he is a constitutional scholar. How could a constitutional scholar be completely ignorant of the Second Amendment’s true purpose and the admonitions of the founders? What constitutional scholar would be ignorant of Jefferson’s famous assertion, made in a letter to William Smith in 1787, that the “tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants”?
Obama is not a constitutional scholar. It is a phony title like just about everything else about the man. He is a teleprompter reader for a shadow global elite determined to debar access to weapons and take away those already in our possession. Not because of maniacs in theaters or classrooms, but in order to render us helpless against the violence of the state.

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Jul 272012
 

PressTV
Webster G. Tarpley

NATO created a multi-layered strategy to subvert and destroy the Syrian state using covert action below the threshold of bombing and invasion, although including out special forces and espionage.”
Last week, the NATO powers launched their long-awaited summer offensive against Syria. This was a multi-pronged effort designed not just to overthrow the government of President Assad, but also to totally disintegrate the existing structures of the Syrian state, dissolving the entire country into chaos, confusion, secession, attempted coups d’état, and a likely massacre of Assad backers, Alawites, Christians, Kurds, and other minority groups.

This assault peaked between July 18 and July 21. Almost a week later, all indications suggest that Assad, the Baath party, and the Syrian state have proven to be much stronger than the NATO planners had imagined, and that the imperialist attack has been defeated for the time being.

The easiest way for NATO to destroy independent Syria would be to obtain a UN Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone, a bombing campaign, and incursions by special forces, many of them sent by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the other reactionary Gulf monarchies. But this path has been blocked by the courageous resistance of Russia and China. Another method would be to form a coalition of the willing outside of the United Nations and proceed to the attack, as was done in the cases of Serbia and Iraq. But, with Russian President Vladimir Putin reasserting Russia’s support for Syria, this method poses the risk of Russian and Chinese retaliation in ways which the Anglo-Americans might find extremely painful. Therefore, NATO created a multi-layered strategy to subvert and destroy the Syrian state using covert action below the threshold of bombing and invasion, although including out special forces and espionage.

The signal to activate the assembled capabilities was given by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 8, when she warned Damascus that little time remained to avoid a “catastrophic assault” capable of destroying the Syrian state. This is exactly what was attempted last week.

First, NATO attempted to isolate Syria by interrupting communications with its traditional ally, Iran. According to the Wall Street Journal of July 23, the United States in particular has exerted pressure on the government of Iraq to deny overflight permission for flights between Syria and Iran through Iraqi airspace. An official US diplomatic demarche delivered in Baghdad demanded that such flights be banned. At the same time, pressure was exerted on the government of Egypt to violate the international status of the Suez Canal by preventing the transit of Iranian ships allegedly headed for Syrian ports. But these efforts have yielded only mixed results, according to this account.

The main diplomatic thrust of the destabilization effort was yet another UN Security Council resolution opening the door to Chapter Seven economic sanctions and military attack on Syria. This transparent bid for a general war in the Middle East was duly vetoed by Russia and China, while Pakistan and South Africa abstained despite US pressure. United States Ambassador to the UN Susan E. Rice became hysterical, raving that the Russian Federation was “pitiful,” “dangerous,” and “deplorable” after she lost the vote. Hillary Clinton had previously branded Russia as “despicable” and “intolerable.” One imagines these charming ladies chewing the carpet as Hitler reportedly did during the run-up to the Munich conference of September 1938.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov correctly described the US diplomatic posture as “justifying terrorism.” According to Lavrov, the US stance amounted to, “We will continue to support terrorist attacks until the Security Council does what we want.” It would now be in order for Russia and China to propose a Security Council resolution condemning the United States and its allies for giving material support to terrorism.

The most dramatic single episode of the assault was an apparent explosion on Wednesday, July 18 in one of the main Syrian government buildings which killed Defense Minister Rajha (the top Christian in the government), crisis management director Turkmani, and Assef Shawkat, a military intelligence expert and brother-in-law of President Assad. Interior Minister Shaar was reported wounded, and national security director Ikhtiyar succumbed later to injuries. Western media were quick to gloat, attributing the explosion to a suicide bomber recruited from inside one of the key ministries, but this may reflect an attempt to launch a variation of Operation Splinter Factor among top officials. Other hypotheses include a rocket fired from a US drone. Thierry Meyssan has reported that the explosion was detonated from inside the US Embassy, which is nearby.

The goal of this attack was clearly the decapitation of the Syrian military and security forces, and of the Syrian state overall. But thanks to the fact that President Assad was not involved, Syria was able to maintain continuity of government and a functioning command structure, which quickly recovered from this staggering blow. Within hours, replacements for the slain officials had been nominated and announced to the public, and a reshuffling of top jobs continued for several days. If NATO had prepared a coup d’état to fill the void, there is no indication that it ever got off the ground.

So far, the NATO attack on Syria has depended mainly on Salvadoran-style death squads composed mainly of foreign fighters, including al-Qaeda and similar groups, some of which had originated as part of the US counterinsurgency effort in Iraq in 2005, during the tenure in Baghdad of US Ambassador John Negroponte. One of Negroponte’s disciples, Ambassador Robert Ford, was present in Damascus during the pre-2011 preparation of the current assault.

But, given the inability of the numerically weak death squads to capture and hold even a single town or village, to say nothing of a region of the country, it was decided to recruit and deploy an entirely new echelon of foreign fighters from all over North Africa and the Middle East. These were necessarily mercenaries, fanatics, convicts, and adventurers whose military training and weaponry would be inferior even to those of fighters deployed by NATO so far.

Their task was to implement a strategy of swarming. In military terms, swarming is the attempt to overwhelm an opponent by a rapid series of attacks from loosely coordinated autonomous groups. Quantity trumps quality. Many thousands of additional fighters were shipped in by NATO; Meyssan puts their numbers between 40,000 and 60,000, but this may be excessive. They crossed Syrian borders with Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraqi Kurdistan. The fighters themselves came from Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, and other countries. As they entered Syria from foreign territory, the fighters seized temporary control of several border crossings, a fact much-hyped by the Western press.

The premise of this irregular assault had been the wishful notion that resistance by the Syrian army would collapse. But the Fourth Armored division, the Republican Guard, and other key units held fast. This left the foreign fighters as sitting ducks in vulnerable positions they could not hope to defend. As of this writing, the foreign fighters have been largely mopped up in Damascus, and another large concentration in Aleppo appears to be surrounded and destined for annihilation. NATO’s pool of cannon fodder has thus been sharply depleted.

To spread the idea that Syrian resistance had collapsed and that further resistance against NATO was futile, Ben Rhodes of the Obama White House, the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Saudi Prince Bandar, and other officials had also prepared a campaign of psychological media warfare and video fakery. Syrian state television, al Adounia, and other pro-Syrian broadcasters were to be denied access to Nilesat and Arabsat, and their signals replaced by fake programming generated by the CIA, including with movie sets and Potemkin villages in the Gulf monarchies. But this plan had been revealed many weeks in advance, notably by Meyssan. Accordingly, loyal Syrian broadcasters prepared their audience with public service announcements about what was coming, and how to receive genuine programming.

Programming on Nilesat and Arabsat was in fact repeatedly interrupted, while the widely hated al Jazeera of Qatar and Saudi al Arabiya reported that Assad had fled. But few were fooled by the crude NATO substitutes, so shock and awe fell flat. A NATO plan to organize a panic run on the Syrian currency, contributing a further dimension of economic and logistical chaos, also fell short.

As it became clear that the anti-government forces trapped in Damascus were being decimated, King Abdullah of Jordan began harping on the danger that Syrian chemical weapons might be used or get out of control – an established meme of NATO propaganda. NATO was clearly still looking for a pretext to attack, but the eleven Russian warships assigned to Tartus and the eastern Mediterranean left that approach fraught with peril.

A danger is also emerging for the reactionary feudal monarchs who are NATO’s main allies in the Middle East. Partly as a result of NATO’s incessant pro-democracy rhetoric, the ferment of social protest is now widespread in Saudi Arabia, surely one of the countries most vulnerable to a mass upsurge. On July 22, an explosion occurred at the headquarters of the Saudi intelligence service in Riyadh, killing the deputy director. The target may also have been Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who had just been named intelligence boss, and who is deeply implicated in the Syrian events. Was this somebody’s payback? More importantly, might this attack become the trigger for a mass movement in Saudi Arabia powerful enough to threaten the feudal-reactionary dynasty and the power of the infamous Sudairi clan?

WGT/GHN

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