04/21/17

Questioning the Trump Doctrine on Iran

By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media

Recent comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warning that Iran could follow North Korea’s path of nuclear belligerence, and the Trump administration’s certification, in turn, that Iran is complying with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), seem to send mixed messages. However, any guarantee of Iran’s compliance must grapple with the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors can only inspect declared, and not military or undeclared, nuclear development sites.

“An unchecked Iran has the potential to follow the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it,” said Tillerson at the State Department. “The United States is keen to avoid a second piece of evidence that strategic patience is a failed approach.”

In other words—as we have often argued—the path of “patience,” or waiting, toward Iran means that this totalitarian regime is virtually guaranteed to eventually develop nuclear weapons. The unsigned Iran deal actually legitimizes Iran’s nuclear aspirations by condoning its enrichment of uranium.

The Iranian regime has also been emboldened by this unsigned deal because it supposedly binds the hands of both Congress and President Donald Trump. On April 20, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad-Zarif, tweeted that “Worn-out US accusations can’t mask its admission of Iran’s compliance w/ JCPOA, obligating US to change course & fulfill its own commitments.”

On the campaign trail Donald Trump described the Iran Deal as “the worst deal ever negotiated” and threatened to rip it up. Trump’s actions certifying Iran’s compliance appear to be a marked departure from his earlier campaign promises. But in reality it amounts to a 90-day extension of sanctions relief, part of a review process that was one of few concessions to Congress having a role. Trump said at his press conference with the Italian prime minister on April 20 that Iran has “not lived up to the spirit of the agreement. They have to do that. They have to do that.” Trump said that “they are doing a tremendous disservice to an agreement that was signed. It was a terrible agreement. It shouldn’t have been signed.”

First of all, President Trump, no, it wasn’t signed. It was never signed. And here is the proof. It is a letter from then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s State Department to then-Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), who at the time was on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, and is now the CIA director.

Pompeo responded to the State Department letter by posting a press release on his congressional website stating that the “unsigned” deal was “nothing more than a press release and just about as enforceable.” He added that “For the State Department to try to defend the unsigned and non­binding Iran nuclear agreement by calling it a ‘political commitment’ is about as absurd as the terms of the deal itself.” So why is the Trump administration participating in this sham agreement?

As the Times of Israel reports, “he [Trump] is looking for another way to ratchet up pressure on Tehran.” It looks like Trump wants to take a closer look before deciding how to proceed, and this certification that Iran is in compliance was more of a strategic pause than a seal of approval that Iran is living up to its end of the deal. According to the Times of Israel, “Tillerson said the administration has undertaken a full review of the agreement to evaluate whether continued sanctions relief is in the national interest. Tillerson noted that Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism and that President Donald Trump had ordered the review with that in mind.”

What Trump should do is rip up the deal and end sanctions relief toward Iran. New, harsher sanctions should be imposed on this totalitarian dictatorship. At the end of the day, the only real solution to the Iranian problem is regime change.

Yet The Washington Post claims, “If the administration were to decide to walk away or otherwise renege on its commitments, it would open the door for Iran to cast aside its own promises and resume the unfettered development of its nuclear program.” What commitments are these? Refusing to impose more sanctions on Iran despite its sponsorship of terror and human rights abuses?

In fact, the Post reports that the Republican-led Congress is working on extending a number of sanctions, but they have delayed the legislation in order to limit the effect on Iran’s presidential election, “which is scheduled for next month.” Iran shouldn’t just be punished for pursuing nuclear weapons, it should also be punished for its state sponsorship of terror.

While former President Barack Obama also acknowledged that Iran is indeed a state sponsor of terrorism, it is one of only three nations that still remain on the State Department list. Obama said “It helps prop up the Assad regime in Syria. It supports Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It aids the Houthi rebels in Yemen. So countries in the region are right to be deeply concerned about Iran’s activities, especially its support for violent proxies inside the borders of other nations.” When Obama said it, the media used it to show that he wasn’t trying to appease Iran. That he was tough on Iran. But coming from the Trump administration such a suggestion smacks of reckless belligerence, at least to the establishment media.

Last month, the U.S. and Iran engaged in a tit for tat with sanctions: “Iran hit Raytheon Co., United Technologies Corp. and 13 other U.S. companies with sanctions on Sunday for ‘propping up the Zionist regime’ of Israel, according to Iranian state media, retaliating against U.S.-imposed penalties on entities accused of aiding Iran’s missile program.”

Lost in the reporting is the media’s refusal to admit that Obama’s highly touted nuclear deal with Iran is nothing more than an unsigned collection of political commitments which can be broken by any party at any time. In fact, the media continue their fake news reporting by calling this deal “signed” in order to preserve the integrity of what is commonly viewed by his supporters as Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement. But it’s not clear why Trump calls it “signed.” Maybe he doesn’t know.

Warnings from newspapers such as the Post that a lack of good faith on the part of Trump will lead to a nuclearized Iran ignore the obvious conclusion that Iran will eventually become a nuclear power, and that in its current form the so-called agreement is virtually unenforceable.

Last week, CIA Director Pompeo told a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) audience that “We should all be mindful, given what took place in Syria, and go back and read that JCPOA when it talks about declared facilities and undeclared facilities and how much access the IAEA will have to each of those two very distinct groups.”

“So that might suggest to you what level of certainty we could ever hope to present to the commander in chief,” Pompeo continued. In other words, there is no certainty: if the intelligence community cannot guarantee knowledge of what is happening at undeclared facilities, then Trump, and America as a whole, will be left in the dark about Iran’s nuclear weapons progress. Iran could build the bomb without us finding out until it’s too late. In fact, intelligence experts that I have spoken with believe that Iran may already possess nuclear weapons. The unsigned deal is a document based on trust between the parties, yet Iran is clearly not worthy of such trust.

What we do know is that German intelligence found that Iran sought illegal nuclear technology in 2015. Similarly, Iran continues its ballistic missile tests. As Fred Fleitz—previously of the CIA, the DIA, the State Department and the House Intelligence Committee—has said, “The deal dumbed down the IAEA’s quarterly Iran reports…making it difficult for the world to know the true extent of Iran’s compliance.” The media urgently need to report that the inspections, and unsigned deal, are fatally flawed. But don’t look to a complicit, incestuous media to do anything that might undermine Obama’s legacy.


Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at roger.aronoff@aim.org. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.

04/14/17

Just Released Afghanistan MOAB Strike Video

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

KABUL, Afghanistan (April 13, 2017) – A GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb strikes ISIS-K cave and tunnel systems in the Achin district of the Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan at 7:32 p.m. local time Thursday. The strike was designed to minimize risk to Afghan and U.S. Forces conducting clearing operations in the area while maximizing the destruction of ISIS-K fighters and facilities and eliminate any perceived safe haven for ISIS-K in Afghanistan

***

So what do those caves and tunnels look like that have been used by al Qaeda, bin Ladin and Islamic State?

Meanwhile, Russia and Iran are in meetings regarding Afghanistan. Russia is bragging too about their weapons being bigger than the U.S. MOAB.

The 21,600-pound MOAB was developed in 2003 as a weapon to attack against elite Republican Guard units during the invasion of Iraq. But the bomb, which replaced the Vietnam-era 15,000-pound BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, was not used in that conflict because of the rapidity of Saddam Hussein’s army.

Soon after the Pentagon announced the new weapon, Russia began working on a counterpart. In 2007, it successfully tested the massive thermobaric weapon.

The bomber-dropped bomb is designed to explode midair by ignition of a fuel-air mixture that produces massive blast effects comparable to small tactical nuclear weapons.

“All that is alive merely evaporates,” Gen. Alexander Rukshin, deputy chief of the Russian general staff, was quoted as saying at the time.

Thermobaric devices detonate in two stages, with an initial blast dispersing explosive materials in a cloud that is then ignited by a secondary charge. The explosion generates a much bigger pressure wave than conventional explosives, followed by a vacuum effect that compounds damage and injuries caused by the blast.

Russian sources have claimed their weapon has a power equivalent to 44 tons of TNT – or four times that of the MOAB – despite being somewhat lighter than the U.S. munition at 16,650 pounds. Because of its yield and the extremely high temperatures it generates, it is slated to replace smaller battlefield nukes currently in the Russian arsenal.

When the Russian air force began bombing rebel positions in Syria in September 2015, smaller thermobaric bombs were used against Islamic State positions, but the FOAB was never deployed. More here.

04/10/17

Russia and Iran Draw Their Own Red Line – Threaten The United States With War After Syrian Missile Strikes [VIDEO]

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton | Right Wing News

It looks like Russia and Iran are drawing their own red lines today. They are threatening deadly force if America strikes Syria again after last week’s proportional response to Assad gassing his own people. President Trump ordered the firing of 60 Tomahawk missiles at an airbase in Syria, which destroyed most of the base. The act humiliated Vladimir Putin who now feels he must step up his game. Iran went silent, which worries me… Iran and Hezbollah have their sights set on Israel and the silence indicates to me a preparation for strikes, not a backing down. “We will respond to any aggression powerfully, as Russia and Iran would never allow the U.S. to dominate the world,” read a statement issued by the Syria-Iran-Russia Joint Operations Room, a combination of forces operating on behalf of Assad in Syria. The statement was first published in Iran’s state-controlled media.

We are very close to war now and it would not take much for all out skirmishes to break out. President Trump did the right thing last week… he responded to Assad appropriately. It should have been done long ago. There is no way to avoid the coming confrontation with the New Axis of Evil: Russia, Iran, China and North Korea. Right now, we have the USS Champlain, USS Meyer and USS Murphy, along with a nuclear weapon launch submarine en route to the Korean peninsula. We also have a military presence in the South China Sea. So now we are facing military threats on at least three fronts, four if you count the Straits of Hormuz.

From The Sun:

The command centre for the two countries and allied groups released a joint statement today saying they would ‘respond to future breaches of red lines with force’.

RUSSIA and Iran have said they will respond to further American military actions following the air strike in Syria last week.

In a joint statement, the command centre for the two countries and allied groups said: “We will respond to any aggression.”

The statement read: “What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well.”

The warning comes on the same day that:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani strongly condemned the missile strikes as a “flagrant US aggression on Syria.” Iran is financing Assad and is a strong ally. They are interested in Syria’s seaports. Rouhani is calling for an impartial investigation into the chemical attack that killed at least 83 people. In other words, the UN, which is now populated by dictators, communists and radical Islamists. He warned that the American strikes in response risked escalating extremism in the region, reported Iranian state television. Let me translate… that means Iran will unleash even more terrorist strikes. Russia is in this for geographic control and energy resources.

In a phone call with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Rouhani told him: “Allegations that Syria launched the chemical attack were just a pretext to disrupt the Syrian peace process.” The evidence that Syria propagated the attack is overwhelming. The rebels do not have the funds or the technology to mass produce Sarin. They also don’t have a delivery system. I understand the plane that dropped the Sarin was a Russian plane outfitted for just such a move. But it could have been Syrian aircraft just as easily.

President Trump has had massive support for his military move across the planet. Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Australia, France, Germany and the EU as a whole have voiced their strong support for the missile strike.

But Assad is doubling down and is now bombing the same town he gassed. The Syrian state news agency SANA said Assad told Rouhani the Syrian people and army were “determined to crush terrorism in every part of Syrian territory” – a reference to the rebels who have been fighting his bloody rule for six years. He also thanked Rouhani for Iran’s support for “the Syrian nation.” In a speech on Sunday, Rouhani also criticized US-allied Gulf Arab states for endorsing the missile strike. He said: “Unfortunately, there are countries in our own region which encourage America’s acts of aggression.” He warned: “Your turn will come too.” We will see what develops this week… the war drums are deafening now.

The diplomatic row was sparked by the US bombing a Syrian airbase (pictured) in response to Assad’s chemical weapon attacks.

The strike was designed to warn Assad not to use chemical weapons on his citizens.

04/8/17

Nikki Haley Receives Text At UN: “Thank you for what you said today. It’s so good to see America lead.”

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton | Right Wing News

Nikki Haley received a surprise text at the United Nations. It allegedly said, “Thank you for what you said today. It’s so good to see America lead.” I’m not surprised she got that text. For all I know, that could have been Israel sending it, but it is indeed good to see actual leadership in America again. I know that many Trump supporters don’t agree with me. They claim we should not be the global police and should not interfere in other country’s affairs. I’ve got news for all of you… what happens globally affects America period. You may not want conflict or war, but other countries don’t give a damn about that. You may not believe in war, but it believes in us.

We have waited years for various gassing attacks in Syria to be investigated and for the United Nations to do something, anything and we are still waiting. I think that what President Trump did this week was the right thing to do and it sent not only Syria, but Russia, Iran, China and North Korea a strong message that there is a new sheriff in town and he doesn’t play with red lines and rhetoric. He’s deadly serious about stopping our enemies and have no doubt that Syria, Russia, Iran, China and North Korea are just that… American enemies. Grow up… this isn’t some theoretical reality where we can just turn our back on the world. This is real life and we have to stop these evil blackhats before they attack America. Hesitation is viewed as weakness and acquiescence.

From the Independent Review Journal:

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley boldly confronted Russia and Syria during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Wednesday, staring down the Russian ambassador in moment that went viral.

“How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” she asked the Russian ambassador in front of the world.

Later that night, Haley made an appearance at the Women in the World Summit in New York City and revealed the text message she subsequently received from another member of the U.N. Security Council.

“Thank you for what you said today. It’s so good to see America lead,” the text reportedly read.

Haley insinuated that the message was meaningful to her because leading is exactly “what we’re trying to do.”

There is nothing that will move a heart like watching dozens of children… babies… die horrifically. Assad and the Russians could care less. Given the opportunity, they would use that tactic anywhere they land if it won them power, wealth, real estate and natural resources. Nikki Haley is right here. It is long past time we act like the world leaders we are. No nation building… but when tyrants kill the innocent and rage unabated and someone needs to step in, we have a moral obligation to do so. And we have a military presence that should show strength, not the cowardice the Obama administration mandated.

“The way you lead is to make sure they know what you’re for, they know what you’re against, and they never question where you are,” Haley added. Exactly right. You actually LEAD, you don’t vacillate. President Trump’s actions this week in response to a chemical attack by Assad against his own, shows a definitive shift in America military policy. And don’t say, “Well, it could have been the rebels!” No, it wasn’t. They would have no way of dispersing those chemical agents since they don’t have planes and Assad and Russia always blame these actions on their victims. It’s right out of their playbooks.

Our allies are cheering the action and breathing a huge sigh of relief. Our enemies are calling it an act of aggression. It’s an act as old as time. But President Trump is no ‘lead from behind’ president as Barack Obama was. Peace through strength has once again taken center stage.

04/7/17

Cruise missile strike in Syria: Assad regime – and Russia – on notice

By: J.E. Dyer | Liberty Unyielding

USS Ross (DDG-71) launches a Tomahawk missile at Syria’s Shayrat Air Base from the Med, 7 Apr 2017. (Image: USN, PO3 Robert S. Price)

In the early morning hours of 7 April in Syria – between 8 and 10 PM Eastern on 6 April, in the U.S. – two U.S. Navy Aegis destroyers began launching Tomahawk cruise missiles at an air base in Syria just east of the city of Homs.  In total, the ships launched at least 59 cruise missiles.  All were reportedly directed at the single air base, indicating the attack was meant to take the facility out of operation.

President Donald Trump, in a recorded address (video below), explained that USS Ross (DDG-71) and USS Porter (DDG-78) were striking the air base in Syria from which the chemical weapons attack that inflicted ghastly damage on civilians in Idlib Province was launched on Tuesday.

The target, according to the latest reporting, was Shayrat Air Base, located about 15 miles southeast of Homs.  Fox News’s Jennifer Griffin indicated in the 10 PM hour that the Pentagon would be providing a track of the Syrian Su-24 Fencer – a tactical bomber – that it says conducted the chemical weapons attack on 4 April.  In other words, the U.S. military has direct evidence that the attacking aircraft was a Syrian bomber jet.  (This is not only feasible, it’s probable and routine.)

Shayrat Air Base was never one of Assad’s biggest, most developed bases.  It is overshadowed by T4 air base (often referred to as Tiyas Air Base) further east, which has been the front line of the fight against ISIS for some months now.

Overview of area where Shayrat Air Base was struck with U.S. cruise missiles 7 Apr 2017. (Google map; author annotation)

But Shayrat has seen a lot of use for combat logistics in the last 18 months.  The Russians persistently denied it, but there have been numerous reports that they made improvements to Shayrat in 2015 in order to use it as a base.  And Arabic and social media have recorded Russian helicopters making use of Shayrat as an interim base for logistics stops, including mission refueling.  (Fox reports that the U.S. military used its hotline with Russian forces to give them warning of the attack.)

Some reporting has indicated that the Iranians have delivered weapons and materiel there too, and that “Iranian squadrons” were to operate from the base once it was improved by the Russians.  (The Iranian presence in T4/Tiyas has been better documented.)

(See The Tower’s report here.)

The Russians’ use of the base means, at a minimum, that the U.S. has put Russia as well as the Assad regime on notice that there will be no tolerance for chemical weapons attacks.

Syrian facilities implicated in 4 April chemical weapons attack in Idlib Province. (Google map; author annotation)

Shayrat’s use for launching a chemical weapons attack makes sense, given its proximity to the Al-Furqlus storage facility for Assad’s chemical weapons, which is located about 11 miles north-northwest of Shayrat Air Base, just east of Homs.  Shayrat itself stored chemical weapons prior to 2011, and given its regular operational use, probably has chemical weapons prepared for deployment located next to the taxiways on occasion.  It is not thought to be a main storage site now, however.

Notably, the Israeli Air Force is long thought to have attacked another chemical weapons facility in south Homs, closer to the city center, in 2013.

And the IAF reportedly attacked a Syrian air base between Homs and Palmyra the night of 16-17 March, when the Syrian regime launched anti-air missiles at the IAF strike-fighters.  The base in question was thought to be T4, and the reason for the attack: an Iranian delivery of special weapons intended for Hezbollah.

The U.S. engagement in Syria – which ramped up last month with the deployment of Marines to Raqqa – has thus clearly entered a new phase.  Since 2014, our air activities in Syria have been limited to attacking emergent ISIS targets, almost all in northern Syria.  U.S. forces have been kept out of the fight in western Syria, where Russia and Iran have ruled the roost.

Now, however, we have struck into the heart of Assad’s center of gravity: the part of Syria where he maintains his operational strength and hosts the principal regional outpost of Iran.  The corridor from Damascus to Homs is Assad’s core.  Iran has made use of it as a line of communication with Hezbollah and Hamas for decades.

At the moment, we have no preview of any further military intentions for U.S. forces in this part of Syria.  The U.S. reportedly intends to reenergize the Geneva talks on Syria and negotiate to get Assad removed from power – something it would have been preferable to do in 2011, if we had had an administration with the vision and competence for it.  It’s not clear how feasible it will be in 2017.

The backlash from tonight’s work hasn’t been previewed yet either.  I don’t fear for regional “stability,” which isn’t likely to change much merely from the cruise missile attack.  But within a couple of weeks, the overall conditions for negotiation will have changed, because of the scramble set off by the U.S. action.  It will be interesting to see how Trump’s team takes the challenge on.

It can’t do worse than Obama’s.  My sense at the moment is that Trump – if he wants to – can quickly assume the “catbird seat” that Putin has been angling to occupy in settling the future of Syria.  Most of the various players – Turkey, the Arabs (the Saudis, Jordan, Egypt), Iraq – would be enthusiastic about having a strong America to act as a great-power broker.  Russia can live with it, if Trump accepts that Russia has legitimate interests in Syria.  I think Trump would do that.

The wild card will be Iran.  But I’d expect Iran to try to lie low for now in Syria, and avoid losing too much rather than try to keep it all by keeping Assad in power, through some confrontational means.  Iran has fingers in a lot of pies now, and usually takes the long view.  Unless Trump starts striking targets in Lebanon, Iran is probably prepared to let even Assad go, if that’s what it takes to keep the U.S. out of deeper political and military involvement in Syria.

The ball is very much in Trump’s court now.  For my money, he needs, at the moment, to keep a rally going.  The conditions aren’t right yet for a decisive point against anyone – other than perhaps Assad.

USS Porter goes through her paces in this video from DOD.  Stick with it for the best smoke plumes.

04/6/17

US Strikes Syria With 60 Tomahawk Missiles [VIDEO]

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton | Right Wing News

I started to hear rumors of this late today and it has now happened. My sources say that the US launched 60 Tomahawk missiles at Syria just a short time ago. This is in response to a chemical weapons attack this week that killed 83 people… including 25 children and at least 350 injured. President Trump had said earlier today that something needed to be done. At the same time Rex Tillerson warned the Russians that we would be moving against Assad and to choose who they side with carefully. No time was wasted and now we wait to see if we actually took out Assad and what the repercussions militarily will be.

I understand that two different airfields were taken out, so I doubt that Assad was ‘removed’ from his position of power, but we’ll see. The missiles took out large portions of the military infrastructure there in Syria. Destroyers in the Mediterranean launched the missiles into Syria. This happened fast and I predicted it earlier today. However, I didn’t see it happening this fast. I am now getting other reports from CNN and a friendly source that it was 60 missiles. Our warships have been training for two days for this, so this was decided right after the attack. I have also heard that Iran sent two transports to remove personnel from Syria. Russia was pulling people out as well.

From Fox News:

The United States launched dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield early Friday in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians.

The Tomahawk missile strikes destroyed portions of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military infrastructure. Fox has learned there was one primary target an airbase in Shayrat, located outside Homs, a US official tells Fox News

The military plans called for 43 Tomahawks to be fired from the USS Porter and USS Ross. The two Destroyers in the Med can carry 70 Tomahawks altogether.

US defense officials tell Fox the two warships have been training for the past two days to execute this mission.

“Our forward deployed ships give us the capability to quickly respond to threats… these strikes in Syria are a perfect example – this is why we’re there,” said a Navy official.

“Our forward deployed ships give us the capability to quickly respond to threats,” said a Naval official. “These strikes in Syria are a perfect example – this is why we’re there.” From President Trump earlier today: “I think what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes and shouldn’t have happened and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” Trump told reporters traveling on Air Force One to Florida, where he was holding a two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The strike came as Trump was hosting Xi in meetings focused in part on another pressing US security dilemma: North Korea’s nuclear program. Trump’s actions in Syria could signal to China that the new president isn’t afraid of unilateral military steps, even if key nations like China are standing in the way. This acts also as an obvious warning to both China and North Korea… we are no longer playing games.

This may be what I have predicted which is full scale war. It will all depend on how the new Axis of Evil: Russia, China and Iran react to the strike. Things are about to get hot militarily. Buckle up America.

04/6/17

Rex Tillerson Warns Assad That America Is Coming For Him… Puts Russia And Iran On Notice [VIDEO]

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton | I Have The Truth

The Trump administration has undergone a major shift in policy towards Syria and Assad in the last 24 hours. After a horrific chemical attack on Syrians by Assad, Rex Tillerson is now saying that the US is organizing a coalition to remove Assad from power there. This goes directly against the Russians and Iranians who have provided cover for Assad from the beginning. I have sources informing me that the US military watched a Syrian fixed wing aircraft drop the bombs that hit a hospital with a nerve agent and this was after the first chemical weapon bomb was dropped. The aircraft used was likely a Russian aircraft that was on loan to Assad. The evidence that the White House and State Department has seen on this attack is damning and monstrous.

“It is very important that the Russian government consider carefully their continued support for the Assad regime,” Tillerson said. Yes, it is… and if we step into this, Americans need to realize this is not just a fight against Assad and ISIS. The minute we commit military might in this fight, we take on the Russians, Iranians and Chinese. In other words, this could be a world war and there will be no turning back. Our military leaders have been predicting this for some time. And don’t forget, we have the North Korean problem to deal with and soon. This is the new Axis of Evil I have written on for years now. The time to dance is upon us.

From the Washington Examiner:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that steps are “underway” to organize an “international community effort” to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, a major policy shift triggered by the latest chemical weapons attack in the country’s ongoing civil war.

“With the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there would be no rule for him to govern the Syrian people,” Tillerson told reporters. “The process by which Assad would leave is something that I think requires and international community effort, both to first defeat ISIS within Syria, to stabilize the Syrian country to avoid further civil war, and then to work collectively with our partners around the world through a political process that would lead to Assad leaving.”

Tillerson added that “those steps are underway” already.

It’s a marked shift from last week, when Tillerson told reporters in Turkey that Assad’s future would be up to the Syrian people — an apparent departure from former President Barack Obama’s stated position that he had to leave power. And it adds a new layer of complexity to Tillerson’s upcoming trip to Moscow, as Russia has provided Assad with major military and diplomatic support.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government is now indicating that Assad might not enjoy “unconditional support” from them, as they disclaimed responsibility for the Syrian gas attack. “It is not correct to say that Moscow can convince Mr. Assad to do whatever is wanted in Moscow,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “This is totally wrong.” So, there is a slim chance that the Russians may back down. I doubt the Iranians will, but we will see. A show of force from the US under the Trump administration may be enough to contain this. I have my doubts.

“There is no doubt in our minds and the information we have supports that the Syria, the Syrian regime under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad, are responsible for this attack,” Tillerson said. As I pointed out earlier, they have intel we have not seen and I understand there is no doubt on this at all now. The US blames Assad for a chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, a rebel-controlled town in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. The attack left 72 people dead and possibly hundreds more wounded. Originally, it was claimed that the rebels had hidden chemical weapons in a warehouse and that when blown up, they spread. But that is being disproven as I write this. The rebels also have no way of dispersing a chemical weapon even if they had one.

Tillerson was asked whether the US is considering military strikes against the Syrian government: “We are considering an appropriate response for this chemical weapons attack, which violates all previous U.N. resolutions, violates international norms and long-held agreements between parties including the Syrian regime, the Russian government and all other members of the Security Council,” he said. According to a CNN report today, members of Congress told the network that President Donald Trump has told them the US has considered a military response to the gas attack as one of its options. CBS reported that military options could include cruise missile strikes from Navy ships targeting command and control operations, suspected chemical weapons facilities and military forces.

“…we think its time that the Russians really need to think carefully about their continued support of the Assad regime,” Tillerson said Wednesday. “Those who defend and support him, including Russia and Iran, should have no illusions about Assad or his intentions. Anyone who uses chemical weapons to attack his own people shows a fundamental disregard for human decency and must be held accountable,” Tillerson added. We are quickly running out of options and the war drums are ever louder now. Assad should know that America is preparing to come for him and soon.

04/6/17

Nikki Haley Faces Off With Russia… “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” [VIDEO]

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton | Right Wing News

Nikki Haley surprised the heck out of me when she called Russia on the carpet at the United Nations over a monstrous chemical weapons attack allegedly carried out by Assad in Syria. “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” Haley asked, her eyes locked on the Russian ambassador. And that is the rub of the matter. Of course, Russia claims it was the rebels fault… that they stockpiled the weapons and when Assad blew up their warehouse, they were dispersed. You can’t trust anything the Russians say and I believe that is a monstrous lie.

We are very, very close to war now on multiple fronts. I actually think that we either need to have a trained Black Ops team take out that troll in North Korea, or we need to preemptively strike the Hermit Kingdom. We are now out of options. As for Syria, if we decide to go to war there, realize that we will not just be at war with Assad. We will be at war with Russia, China and Iran as well. Hello World War III. I have warned about this for years and we have finally arrived at the Eve of Destruction.

From Western Journalism:

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stared down her Russian counterpart in a fiery speech at the U.N. Security Council Wednesday, criticizing Russia for its continuing defense of the Syrian government following a suspected chemical weapons attack.

Haley held up photos of child victims as she recited eyewitness accounts of the attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s Idlib province on Tuesday.

“Men, women, the elderly and children gasping for their very last breath,” she told the Security Council. “And as first-responders, doctors and nurses rushed to help the victims, a second round of bombs rained down. They died in the same slow, horrendous manner as the civilians they were trying to save.”

How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” Haley asked, her eyes locked on the Russian ambassador.

Russia’s defense ministry argued that fault for the chemical weapon attack lies with Syrian rebels who oppose President Bashar al-Assad’s government. They said that a rebel-held warehouse producing and storing chemical weapons was destroyed during the bombardment by the Syrian Air Force, causing the release of the chemical agents that took the lives of over 100.

Nikki Haley is a pit bull. She’s tenacious and she stood toe to toe with her Russian counterpart over this and didn’t back down. She didn’t even flinch. I’m impressed. Even President Trump, who had been against doing anything in Syria, has had a change of heart. After you see what was done to children there, first you are shocked… then tears come to your eyes… then you get righteously angry. The games with Russia are about to end.

Death was not quick or easy for these people. It was a slow, agonizing monstrous way to die. Only a brutal tyrant could condone such a thing. Russia used the warehouse excuse to block a strongish Security Council response to the attack, a move that earned the country near-universal condemnation. “Time and time again Russia uses the same false narrative to deflect attention from their allies in Damascus,” Haley said during her speech. “The United States sees yesterday’s attack as a disgrace at the highest level and assurance that humanity means nothing to the Syrian government.” And that has been the brash truth all along.

Nikki Haley closed her speech with: “When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action,” she said. “For the sake of the victims, I hope the rest of the Council is finally willing to do the same.” In other words, just as President Trump says that if China will not stop North Korea, we will… if the UN will not act on Syria, America will. See where this is going?

The “unacceptable” chemical weapons attack “crosses many lines, beyond a red line, many, many lines,” Trump said during a joint press conference on Wednesday with King Abdullah of Jordan. “I will tell you that it has already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.” The drums of war are deafening now. America, are you ready?

03/3/17

The Secret Wealth Of The World’s Richest Oil Billionaires

A policy of nationalizing chunks of an economy inevitably creates oligarchs who skim profits off the country’s natural resources.

As such, you won’t be surprised to learn that the largest energy companies in the world are owned and operated by governments, and they include: Saudi Aramco, Russian Gazprom, China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), National Iranian Oil Co., Petroleos de Venezuela, Brazil’s Petrobras and Malaysia’s Petronas. How they’re run varies wildly—as does where their wealth goes.

While we’ve all been inundated with the massive amount of press on the scandals engulfing Brazil’s Petrobras, there are a few that stand out for creating and maintaining some of the world’s most interesting and colorful political leaders, who have grown their wealth through holdings in state-run oil and gas in some cases, and through more direct means in other cases.

Four state-run oil wealth stories stand out in today’s world: Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Angola and Brunei.

Vladimir Putin, Russia

Estimates of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wealth only comes in ranges because most of his wealth is hidden through offshore companies or under clandestine financial devices.

The lower end of the range sits at US$40 billion – a 2007 figure based on research by mid-level Kremlin advisor Stanislav Belkovsky, which he later said had grown to US$70 billion. At this level, Putin already stands among Forbes’ Top 10 rankings of the world’s richest billionaires, though the magazine commented in 2015 that it could not verify enough of his assets to put him on the list.

Earlier this week, the International Business Times said Putin’s fortune could be as much as $200 billion.

The majority of Putin’s wealth comes from his stakes in the oil sector. He is said to own 37 percent of Surgutneftegaz, 4.5 percent of Gazprom.

“At least $40 billion,” Belkovsy told the Guardian in 2007. “Maximum we cannot know. I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about.”

Putin’s trophies of wealth are far from subtle. His $1 billion palace on the Black Sea features “a magnificent columned façade reminiscent of the country palaces Russian tsars built in the 18th century,” according to the BBC, which also procured evidence that a secret slush fund had been created by a group of oligarchs to build the estate for Putin, personally.

It’s definitely not a lifestyle one can afford on a declared annual salary of around US$140,000.

In a 2012 dossier, Former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov (later murdered) claimed that the Russian president owns a total of 20 palaces, four yachts and 58 aircraft.

“In a country where 20 million people can barely make ends meet, the luxurious life of the president is a brazen and cynical challenge to society from a high-handed potentate,” he said, according to the Telegraph.

But according to Putin himself, his wealth is not measured in money. In Steven Lee Myers’ book The New Tsar, Putin is quoted as saying: “I am the wealthiest man not just in Europe but in the whole world: I collect emotions.”

“I am wealthy in that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with the leadership of a great nation such as Russia. I believe that is my greatest wealth.”

Azerbaijan

In 2003, Ilham Aliyev became the newly elected president of Azerbaijan. Thirteen years later, his name appeared in the Panama Papers – a massive leak of financial documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which revealed the shady financial dealings of some of the world’s most powerful political figures.

Months before the October 2003 presidential elections in Azerbaijan, Fazil Mammadov, Azerbaijan’s tax minister, began paperwork to form AtaHolding – a company that has become one of the nation’s largest conglomerates. It holds interests in telecommunications, construction, mining, and oil and gas for a total value of $490 million, according to the last filings in 2014.

A second entity – this time a foundation – called UF Universe holds more assets, but Panamanian laws regarding the confidentiality of foundations are strict, which makes uncovering dollar amounts difficult.

Aliyev’s two daughters and wife also have links to offshore companies managed by Mossack Fonsenca. Incidentally, Aliyev just named his wife Vice-President of Azerbaijan.

How much is the First Oil Family worth these days? No one really knows, but enough to make it onto this list.

Kazakhstan

Kazakh President-for-life Nursultan Nazarbayev was also named in the Panama Papers as a tax haven owner. He had two companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, which he used to operate a bank account with an unknown amount of funds, and a luxury yacht.

The revelations were particularly loaded with hypocrisy because of Nazarbayev’s push to encourage his country’s wealthy to repatriate funds from abroad in order to make them taxable.

“We’ve raised many rich people: billionaires, millionaires,” he said, when oil prices tanked in 2014 and the government began using sovereign wealth funds to fund operations. “They are showing off; (their) pictures in Forbes… They look good, with makeup, well-groomed, well-dressed. But it is Kazakhstan that enabled you to earn all this money… Bring the money here. We’ll forgive you.”

Angola

Things here may be about to change, because President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has said he plans to step down after decades in power, and won’t be running in August’s presidential elections, but still plans to control the ruling party. Here, wealth is all about Sonangol, which has been marred in controversy since the president last year named his daughter as the head of the state-run oil company.

Angola has massive oil wealth, yet the bulk of the country’s 22 million people live in poverty, and critics say he’s mismanaged the country’s oil wealth and created an elite that largely consists of his massively rich family. But this scheme is being hit hard by the fall in oil prices that began in mid-2014, and the people are no longer complacent in their poverty.

The president’s daughter, worth an estimated US$3.4 billion before she took over the state-run oil company, has been described by Forbes as Africa’s richest woman.

Brunei

And here’s one that’s probably not even on your radar, but it will be—sooner rather than later.

Vast reserves of oil and natural gas have made Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei one of the richest leaders in the world. The Sultan is believed to be worth US$40 billion at the low end, and while ‘his’ holdings officially belong to Brunei, in reality they belong to the royal family.

Brunei is the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia, and pumps out, on average, 180,000 barrels per day. The royal family has controlled everything to do with oil and gas since the 1970s, and the line here between royal family assets and national assets is exceedingly blurry.

Vulnerable or Not?

The thing about these political oil leaders is that they’re not really vulnerable—yet. It would take an event such as that which brought down Gaddafi (said to secretly be worth US$200 billion) in Libya to change this.

In Brunei, things may be about to change, and the Sultan may find his wealth considerably downsized. Oil production is down 40 percent since 2006, and what’s left has lost a great deal of value due to low oil prices. Nearly 96 percent of Brunei’s exports are oil, gas and related products—that tops even Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE. Brunei could run out of oil in just over 20 years, but then again, the Sultan is said to have massive real estate holdings to tide him over.

Angola’s president is stepping down and the oil price crisis has hit him hard, but he’ll still control the ruling party and a new president will defer to him (and his daughter).

In Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev is president for life. In Azerbaijan, the family elite is as strong as ever and will continue to be so through any means necessary. In Russia, sanctions simply haven’t worked because they are designed to target those around Putin, and Putin appears to have designed it so they are always vulnerable to him first and foremost.

As Russian businessman and former Putin friend Sergei Pugachev notes to the Guardian, and as reported by U.S. News and World Report: “Everything that belongs to the territory of the Russian Federation Putin considers to be his. Everything – Gazprom, Rosneft, private companies. Any attempt to calculate it won’t succeed. … He’s the richest person in the world until he leaves power.”

Link to original article: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/The-Secret-Wealth-Of-The-Worlds-Richest-Oil-Billionaires.html

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

02/1/17

Weekly Featured Profile – Taryn Fivek

KeyWiki.org

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Taryn Fivek is a New York City based activist and member of the pro-North Korea, Russia and Iran Workers World Party.

She was educated at the University of Central Florida and the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

In recent years, she has worked as a press agent for the United Nations partner agency International Organization for Migration on Syrian refugee resettlement into Canada.

She has worked in Iraq, Jordan, the “occupied Palestinian territories,” the United Kingdom, Qatar and Germany.

Her work for the United Nations‘s – Iraq Mission, included field photography and interviews with beneficiaries, press notes, flash reports, infographics, video production, copy and scripts, media contacts, photography seminar for displaced youth, photo books, exhibitions, communications strategy development, recruiting and managing staff

Prior to that, Taryn Fivek was Assistant Internal Organizer to the New York Hotel Trades Council, AFL-CIO, an Events and Content Strategy Assistant for The Economist and a Programme Development Officer for the Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy.

In recent months, Fivek has been a leader of the anti-Trump protest movement, J20;

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J20 organizers are calling for people to gather at what they are renaming “Anti-Columbus Plaza” in front of D.C.’s Union Station at 6 a.m. on Jan. 20. A march on the White House will begin at 10 a.m.
The cops and agencies of the state are trying to stop people from saying “No to Trump!” Racist cops love Trump, who called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and who wants to crush the Black Lives Matter movement.
Ludicrous limits are being set to attempt to stop demonstrators. Among the items the cops are trying to prohibit at checkpoints are backpacks, balloons and even signs larger than 8 by 6 by 4 inches — about the size of half a sheet of typing paper!

“Many restrictions are vague, all-encompassing, contradictory and open to police interpretation,” said New York J20 organizer Taryn Fivek. “All are intended to restrict people’s freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”

(Taryn Fivek|more…)