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US Diplomacy Sours in Southeast Asia


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Under the cover of “security threats” and promoting “democracy,” Washington has increased the frequency and amplitude of threats and pressure aimed at China’s partners around the world and specifically in Southeast Asia.

The Southeast Asian Kingdom of Thailand, still erroneously pegged by some as an ally of the US, has long since pivoted away from its Cold War alliances and has invested deeply in building economic, political and even military ties with Beijing.

So acute is this pivot that it has prompted heated commentary in response from across the Western media, supposed “rights” groups and other enclaves of US “soft power.”

Exemplified best by articles like, “West must act firmly to stem rise of ‘China model’ in Thailand,” by Benjamin Zawacki (Amnesty International, Council on Foreign Relations) published by the lobbyist clearinghouse Nikkei Asian Review, arguments are being made for a more robust and direct intervention by the West to overrule the ambitions and agendas of nations who would rather do business with China and in a manner unfavourable to Washington.

Zawacki uses the narrative of eroding democracy to lend impetus to the West’s interference and pressuring of Thailand in “stemming the rise of a China model,” but it is only just a narrative.

China is expanding its influence through Asia not by aligning with “authoritarian” ideology, but by doing business, building infrastructure and offering alternatives to nations that once only had the US and Europe to go to for technology, alliances and investments.

Today, the US and Europe are unable to compete in any of these relevant fields with the majority of their activity in nations like Thailand aimed at unsolicited and unwelcomed political interference.

The battle over Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s growing supremacy over global markets provides us insight into just how robust and direct Western intervention has become and forewarns of still greater pressure to come.

Huawei’s 5G in Thailand

The South China Morning Post in an article titled, “Huawei says it’s ‘surprised’ by report that US is pushing more foreign allies to blacklist its network services,” would report:

Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest telecoms equipment vendor, said it was “surprised” by a Wall Street Journal report about the US government exerting increased pressure on foreign allies to ditch network services from the Chinese company on national security grounds. 

The lengths the US will go through to pressure nations into dumping Huawei remains to be seen. Many nations have been pressured and have decided to move forward with China and Huawei regardless.

Segments like NPR’s, “Thailand Moves Forward With Chinese Tech Company Huawei To Build 5G Network,” cites the above mentioned Zawacki who claims:

The extent to which this 5G technology is going to control not only telecommunications but so many other things that are absolutely fundamental to any society’s ability to function and govern itself means that, well, we better stay onside with China because if we don’t, their ability to manipulate our economy, our infrastructure, our energy sources, our databases, et cetera, becomes that much greater.

Thailand is at the center of that. Geographically, it’s right in the middle. And so while it tries to maintain positive relationships with both countries, that sort of neutrality is not something it’s going to be able to gift itself forever.

The NPR piece concludes by claiming:

Especially, he says, if [Thailand is] being forced to choose in the event of a conflict between the U.S. and China. With a Chinese company controlling all communications and interconnections between machines, the fear is that choice will have already been made.

Of course, NPR never explains why nations in Asia would side with the United States in a conflict between the US and China, a conflict the US would have to cross an entire ocean to participate in. It never explains why Western corporations controlling Thailand’s economy or infrastructure is a better proposition for Bangkok. It also doesn’t explain how China would control Thailand’s economy or infrastructure in the first place simply by providing Thailand with 5G technology.

The threat, reported uncritically by NPR, like concerns of Chinese surveillance via Huawei phones and 5G networks are threats conjured up by a West whose long-standing corporate and financial monopolies see their primacy over world markets evaporating before their eyes.

Unable to compete in global markets directly, Western corporations and the governments that represent their interests from Washington to London to Brussels have embarked on less savory political means instead.

What should be US diplomacy building ties between itself, its people and nations around the globe has become a campaign of intimidation founded on propaganda aimed at crushing rising economic competitors rather than fostering economic cooperation.

The true answer to China’s rising power is healthy economic competition from the West, offering nations around the globe balanced alternatives. It also includes the West understanding that China has a larger population, more human and natural resources, a wider industrial base and soon the most powerful economy and recognise that the West’s primacy has come to an end.

The inability for Western interests to reconcile this reality with the belief they are somehow innately entitled to global primacy will harm the interest of nations around the globe attempting to benefit from and rise with China’s growing wealth. It will also harm the West itself, turning opportunities for cooperation into fruitless conflict instead.

Insulating themselves from Washington’s growing desperation will occupy a greater amount of time of governments around the globe cooperating with China, now and well into the foreseeable future. It will continue to be a problem, and produce ample headlines until either the US comes to terms with this new global reality, or exhausts itself in the process.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

translate | Wed, 22 May 2019 20:40:06 +0000

Greek Debt, Nazi Reparations, and a Fair Shake


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With the Greek parliamentary elections only a few days away, incumbent politicians are clamoring for a foothold on victory once again. In a high profile vote recently, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the sitting parliament rekindled the old World War 2 reparations fires against a Germany Greeks blame for painful austerity measures imposed in return for bailout loans during its financial crisis. For the Greek people, the “German” issue could be the breakpoint whether or not the ruling Syriza party hangs on to power.

Germany’s Staggering Responsibility

By way of background on the Nazi reparations owed Greece, Hitler’s forces ravaged the southern European country savagely from the time of occupation in 1941 until the final garrisons surrendered in May and June of 1945, long after Berlin fell. Under the Nazi swastika, Greece’s Jewish population was almost eradicated, 80% of the country’s industry was destroyed, 25% of the natural resources were plundered, and over 11% of the population died because of Hitler’s occupation. The full list of atrocities, the reprisals, and whole villages wiped out, and the genocide practiced by the Nazi forces cannot be listed here. The level of barbarism is in reality, impossible to convey, even if you speak with one of the remaining eyewitnesses (as I have). In order that the Greek claim is understood properly, it’s necessary to grasp the German intentions during the occupation.

Forget for a moment that Greek politicians are bounding a political/economic football to get reelected. The debt the Germans truly owe is what the world should focus on here. Make no mistake, Hitler’s Axis war machine was not just holding territory for fascism’s further expansion. The Germans were intent on exterminating Hellenism altogether. The Jewish “solution” was not the only holocaust being perpetrated in WW 2. We’re talking about the so-called “Master Race,” after all. This document from the Hellenic Department of Reconstruction I found in the Stanford University archives discusses the Nazi plan to eliminate Hellenism once and for all.

Looking at the pure economic losses without the human or potential costs estimated, in today’s dollars the damage to Greece’s infrastructure alone was in the tens of billions. Take the roads the Germans destroyed as the pulled out of Greece in retreat. According to the Hellenic Department of Reconstruction report, the cost to repair the damaged roads alone back then exceeded 51 million dollars. That sum today is in excess of 711 million in 2018 dollars. This sum does not include the cost to replace the destruction of almost every bridge and tunnel in the Greek road network or damage to other infrastructure in the network. The damage to railway tunnels, bridges, and the literal theft of Greek rolling stock by the Germans and Bulgarians. All of Greece’s major ports were reduced to ashes. Over 70% of Greece ships were either sunk, pirated by the Axis, or lost to other causes because of the German occupation. In 1945 dollars the estimated cost to replace was a bit over $512 million, which is roughly 7.14 billion in 2018 dollars. The Germans and their allies destroyed over $7.5 billion in buildings (2018 prices), 60-80% of all cars, buses, and trucks in the country, and decimated Greece’s forests to the tune of over $1 billion (adjusted for 2018 inflation), and stole over $8 billion (2018) of the Greek people’s livestock while tens of thousands of people starved across the country. I cannot get into Greek hydraulic, telephone, or other public works here, but suffice it to say every facet of Greek existence suffered unimaginably because of the Axis occupation. As for the human cost, there is no monetary equivalent to whole villages being exterminated, for children watching their parents machine-gunned or tortured, or for human slavery on a scale the Romans could not have imagined. The massacre at Kalavryta saw over 1,400 men women and children slaughtered like pigs by German Army’s 117th Jäger Division. Another example was the executions of civilians in the village of Alikianos near Chania in reprisal against Cretans trying to fight off German paratroopers. In this instance, Reichsmarschall Goering himself ordered Generaloberst Kurt Student, commander of the XI Air Corps to carry out reprisals. In all, 197 adult males were rounded up and shot, some in front of their families, simply for defending their island. It’s a horrible footnote, but neither General Student or the other commander involved served any significant prison time for their war crimes.

And this was but one of hundreds of atrocities carried out by the various Wehrmacht, Italian, and Bulgarian units occupying Greece. And to add insult to grievous injury, Hitler even forced the Greeks to pay for their own misery. In 1942, the Greek Central Bank was forced to give a zero-interest loan 476 million Reichsmark loan to the Nazi regime to pay for being occupied. That sum today would be around $1.7 billion (2015). Greece suffered over 400,000 casualties in the war, and the Nazi regime looted untolled billions in raw materials, food, priceless antiquities, gold bullion, and other riches from the sacked country. As a result of the so-called Great Famine, tens of thousands starved to death while Hitler’s Reichminister, the notorious Hermann Göring commented about concerns the Greeks would die as a result of food shortages and the British blockade:

“…This continual concern for the aliens must come to an end once and for all… I could not care less when you say that people under your administration are dying of hunger. Let them perish so long as no German starves.”

Greeks Say “No” to Deniability

I could go on for 200 pages describing and cataloging the German debt to the Greek people, but this will not make the Germans pay up. In fact, it’s a certainty they never intend to. A measly 115 million mark payment back in 1960 (224 million in 2017 dollars) from West Germany was supposed to clear the slate. Furthermore, a 1990 treaty orchestrated by the reunified Germany with the four “great powers” of WW 2 is what Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ministers excuse themselves with today. On the legality (or lack thereof) of the so-called the Two Plus Four Agreement, the Germans absolve themselves of all financial responsibility for Greek reparations. And yes, the 2 + 4 refers to East and West Germany making a treaty with the USA, France, the UK, and the then Soviet Union. For me, this should have been some more “plusses” in the international agreement.

A snapshot of Athens in 1941 will reveal for you the epic and ghastly barbarism of the Nazis in Greece. By some estimates, as many as 1,000 people per day were dying of starvation beneath western civilization’s most prized antiquities. Under the Acropolis, the citizens of one of human kind’s greatest cities were emaciated by hunger and cruelty. There are no accurate figures for how many Greeks died of hunger during the Axis occupation. Some experts put the death toll at above 300,000 across Greece. But the “great powers” and the “new” Germany deny the past as if the Nazi holocaust never happened. Israel got $14 billion, and Jewish individuals received on the order of $70 billion in German reparations as of the 2000s. Back at the end war, the allies snatched Nazi stocks in Allied nation companies worth in excess of 300 billion in 2017 dollars. Greece got nothing at the time because of the insane Marshall Plan which lined western banker pockets and made Greece and other nations humble debtor nations later on. Then there’s the idea today’s Greek debt situation is really an economic war to finish off the Hellenic Republic, once and for all.

The leadership of Greece, the western banking elites, the IMF and World Bank, they are complicit in the sacking of the Hellenic people’s country this time. The Iris Times frames the situation in Greece today well with:

“On the other, the long-term effects of the austerity programs over the past eight years are so deep-rooted that poverty as a way of life (“queueing for a living”) is the real prospect for a huge percentage of the population.”

The Egregious Balance Sheet

Where Greece’s debt is concerned, the biggest lenders were Germany and its bankers. They are the ones who have championed austerity measures most loudly. These Frankfurt and Luxembourg sharks tried to make the world believe starving the average Greek to death would improve Greece’s comparative advantage in the global marketplace. But here on Crete, as elsewhere, all anybody sees are middle-class Germans headed to the much cheaper all-inclusive beach resorts. At least one German minister put it so delicately, “sell off your islands to pay your debt.” While others suggest Greece is a German colony and that everything including the Acropolis should go up for sale. Ironically, these early debt relief suggestions are exactly what’s happening today.

The Germans, in particular, are making strident moves to take full advantage of Greece’s misfortune. I’ve called the strategy a new version of Unternehmen Merkur, or in English “Operation Mercury,” when Hitler launched the biggest airborne invasion in history against Crete. Seumas Milne, at The Guardian, called the new blitzkrieg a “crucifixion” of the Greeks and an end to the EU. Today, Milne’s words resonate more loudly, since “Greece has been turned into an economic “protectorate”, a place where all key decisions are taken by foreign governments and unelected EU bureaucrats.” This apt labeling Milne, who’s now the UK Labour Party’s Executive Director of Strategy and Communications, labels unified Germany for what it truly is, a more pale shade of self-interested power still exacting a human toll. At least, this is my view. As a final note, in 1952 Germany’s post-war debt was chopped by 60%, and the debt the country owed from World War I was reduced by more than half as well. So, chopping down or even totally forgiving Greece’s debt would not be an unprecedented move. In 1945 German reparations were initially valued at $320 billion, which is over 4 trillion dollars today. The world gave the Nazis a break, so why can’t Greece get one?

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

translate | Wed, 22 May 2019 11:00:57 +0000

DPRK Has its Own Version of Iskander Missiles


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No sooner had we reported on the weapons test that took place in North Korea on 4 May, than the DPRK fired more short-range missiles (of unknown make) on 9 May 2019. One of them flew 420 kilometers, while the other 270 kilometers. Both of the missiles reached their peak altitude of 50 km and then fell into the Sea of Japan / the East Sea. The next day, North Korea’s media outlets reported that the missile launches were part of staged military drills.

As the previous time, Kim Jong-un attended the exercise.

The region of Kusong in the North Pyongan province, where the drills were staged, is fairly well-known. In February 2017, this place was used to launch the medium-range ballistic missile Pukkuksong-2.  And in May and July 2017, Hwasong-12 and Hwasong-14 missiles were fired in this region.

Experts believe that North Koreans tested short-range missiles (of ground-to-ground type), which are DPRK’s equivalents of Russia’s Iskander missiles. On 4 May, they were launched over a shorter distance (than the norm), and on 9 May, the North tested the missiles over their actual range to assess their stability.

Since performance characteristics of DPRK’s missiles have been compared to those of Russia’s Iskanders, South Korean experts believe that the former have a maximum range of 500 km. In other words, they can reach all parts of the ROK, for example, the range of the missile launched on 4 May of 270 km means that it can hit Seoul, while that of 420 km shows that the rocket can strike the sizable military headquarters, the Gyeryongdae complex in the province of Chungcheongnam-do in the south of the country. In addition, the altitude of 50 km, which the rocket flew at, is higher than that of South Korea’s surface-to-air missile systems, Patriot, of 40 km. In other words, it will be difficult for them to intercept and destroy the previously mentioned weapons. THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) systems are designed to target ballistic missiles, but Iskander rockets follow non-ballistic flight paths. They reach maximum altitude very quickly, and then follow a flattened trajectory until they strike the target. In other words, at present, the ROK does not have the means of ensuring such weapons will always be intercepted and destroyed.

Aside from the missiles, mobile rocket launchers also generated interest. On 4 May, launchers on wheels were deployed, while on 9 May, equivalents mounted on caterpillar tracks were used. The latter are perfectly suitable for operations in difficult conditions, for instance, in mountainous terrain.  This decisively puts those South Korean (and not only) strategists in their place, who banked on current ABM (anti-ballistic missile) systems to be able to successfully intercept missiles launched by their opponents.

Perhaps, the burgeoning frenzy on the topic of whether these “Kimskanders” could be classified as ballistic rockets stems from these latest developments. According to the UN Security Council Resolution 1874, North Korea is prohibited from firing any types of ballistic missiles and violations of this ban could have a negative impact on the ongoing dialogue with the North. If official statements saying that the DPRK conducted missile tests (even if the rockets used were short-range) are made, they may serve as a motive for an escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

In the opinion of ROK military personnel, photographs published by North Korean media outlets indicate that modernized versions of Russian rockets were launched, but other experts believe that there is not enough information to draw such definitive conclusions. The South Korean intelligence service concedes that the missiles may be a new type of weaponry, but they have not finished their analysis of data as yet.

In his comments about the missile launch on 9 May, Donald Trump highlighted that Washington is closely following the situation in the DPRK, and confirmed that short-range rockets were tested. The U.S. President once again reminded his audience that North Korea offers numerous economic opportunities that its leader does not wish to see wasted. The U.S. leader expressed similar views about the previous military drills, which had been conducted on 4 May.

During his appearance in a special program, called Ask the President, broadcast on 9 May by the television network KBS, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in stated that the DPRK might have used the missile launches to express its displeasure about the outcome of the North Korea–United States Hanoi Summit.   With its actions, Pyongyang may have been attempting to apply pressure on Washington in order to push it towards restarting the dialogue. If the North Korean side continues to use similar tactics, it will become impossible to resolve outstanding issues by means of dialogue and consultations. Moon Jae-in added that if Pyongyang had any reservations, it needed to discuss them at the negotiating table.  Seemingly, his stance turned out to be even more radical than Donald Trump’s.

In response to a question about missile type, South Korea’s President said that in the opinion of military experts, Pyongyang had launched short-range rockets. However, if information were to come to light that they had been armed, these launches would be deemed a clear violation of the UN Security Council Resolution. This was a strange statement for the country’s President to make, as he ought to remember relevant definitions.

In the meantime, South Korea’s intelligence services have noted that the recent missile launches were part of military drills (of a defensive nature), and that the decision to stage them may have been prompted by joint military exercises, conducted by South Korea and the USA, and by an announcement about a plan to equip ROK’s army with the latest weaponry.

DPRK representatives indirectly agree with the agency’s assessment, as they reminded the public that South Korea conducted joint military drills, called 19-1 Dong Maeng, with the United States and a separate exercise for ROK’s armed forces in March and April of this year. However, for unknown reasons, no one is talking about these provocative military actions.

The British news agency Reuters quoted sources at the Pentagon in its reports, which said the U.S. Department of Defense was unable to rule out that the DPRK had launched ballistic missiles on 9 May. However, the department’s official website has no information of this nature.

In any case, two missile launches within 5 days of each other indicate the following:

  • The DPRK has successfully demonstrated that, despite the moratorium on ICBM (Intercontinental ballistic missile) launches, its military industrial complex continues to develop. This is also indicative of the extent to which it has been able to handle pressure from imposed sanctions.
  • From the perspective of “changing the rules of the game”, the DPRK now has a new trump card, which has forced its opponents to re-evaluate a number of plans adopted to fight it. Of course, it is possible to develop countermeasures, but this will require more effort and time, but, in the meantime, key locations in the ROK remain vulnerable to attack during the conflict between North and South Korea.
  • However, it is impossible not to concede that just as the joint military drills between the ROK and the USA, these launches do indeed increase tensions in the region but not to a great extent.
  • Officially, the military tests did not signal the breakdown of dialogue, but we still need to wait and see whether attempts will be made to label the missiles “ballistic weapons”, in order to then accuse North Korea of violating the moratorium.

 Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, Leading Research Fellow at the Centre for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

 

translate | Wed, 22 May 2019 05:59:25 +0000

Are the US and Russia Really Headed Towards a Re-set of Relations?


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Some recent developments in US—Russia relations indicate that the end of Mueller inquiry and its undisputed conclusion that there was no Russian interference in the US presidential election whatsoever has led to a potential re-set in their bi-latera relations, moving from previous three years of intense geo-political tussle in the Middle East and an end of an important nuclear treaty to a constructive dialogue and cooperation on a range of issues concerning their bi-lateral ties. Trump’s 90-minute long call to Russia’s Vladimir Putin revealed the new approach to Russia that Donald Trump always wanted to pursue – a fact he unambiguously kept reiterating during his election campaign in 2015-16. Apart from this deeply significant call which was initiated by the White House and not Kremlin – there has been an equally significant visit by Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, to Russia where he met his Russian counter-part and Vladimir Putin as well.

Although not enough details of his two meetings have been really revealed, it is obvious that a number of issues were discussed, leading many a people around the world to speculations about a strategic breakthrough between the two super-powers—something that would have wide-ranging implications on a truly global level. But the questions is: will such a breakthrough happen? While a US initiated dialogue with a view to positively engaging with Russia is good omen, there are a number of grey areas that defy a fundamental re-set of bi-lateral relations.

To begin with, Russia, along with China, aims to build a new and multipolar world-order where no single power, namely the US can dominate the system. There is as such a clear Russia-China convergence, which is nothing short of a strategic alliance that exists to challenge the US unilateralism.

Under the Trump administration, the penchant for unilateralism has not died out, even though it has not worked that well for the US as it would have wanted it to. Its current and most obvious manifestation is the way the US has pulled itself out of the nuclear deal with Iran even when the US’ closet ally, the EU, has opposed it and when the IAEA has, on a number of occasions, confirmed Iran’s compliance with the deal.

Most importantly, Russia and China too have opposed US unilateralism on the Iranian case. This crisis, therefore, not only explains global dynamics whereby the US stands on one side of the spectrum and Russia on the other. As such, just when Pompeo was due to visit Moscow, a visit by the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Li, to Moscow took place, and the message sent to the US through this visit was loud and clear: Russia and China stand for a new world order.

The Russian foreign minister said, “In general, Russia-China cooperation is one of the key factors in maintaining the international security and stability, establishing a multipolar world order. . . . Our states cooperate closely in various multilateral organizations, including the UN, G20, SCO, BRICS and RIC…..we are working on aligning the integration potential of the EAEU and the Belt and Road Initiative, with potentially establishing [a] larger Eurasian partnership.”

This strategic partnership obviously extends to all the issues concerning the world today, including Syria, Yemen, Iran, North Kore, Afghanistan and Venezuela. For instance, with regards to North Korea, Lavrov said that the US and North Korea “proceeded in conformity with the road map that we had drafted together with China.” It obviously indicates that the Russia-China duo would not back out of its promise to ensure North Korean security against an increasing US pressure.

While no details about discussion on Iran in Pompeo–Lavrov meeting have been revealed, there is no doubt that Russia strongly opposes any destabilisation in Iran—something that would not only spread havoc in the Middle East but would also become the reason for a highly possible spread of Jihadi groups from the Caspian to the Caucasus. Whereas, within the US administration, there are enough number of people who wish to ‘punish’ Iran; hence, the underlying tension in the US-Russia ties.

This takes to another tension in the US-Russia relations i.e., although the Mueller inquiry could not prove any collusion between Trump and the Kremlin, Russophobia still remains a toxic subject in the US and normalisation with Russia remains a highly sensitive political question.

And then there is also the question of US sanctions on Russia. Significantly enough, these sanctions curb the scope for any meaningful expansion of ties more than any other aspect. For instance, almost all the post-2016 sanctions emanate out of laws passed by the US. Congress and not from the president’s executive orders, thanks to the post-2016 election phobia spread through fears and doubts about Russian interference in the US elections. Russia also understands that any dialogue, howsoever constructive, with the US wouldn’t simply lead to a removal of these sanctions. This is just beyond president Trump’s immediate political capacity, if not political will.

Can, therefore, Russia expect a ground-breaking breakthrough with the US while sanctions effectively remain implemented? It would simply be naïve of us to expect Russia hoping against hope that the US would lift all sanctions to meaningfully engage with Russia.

There are, therefore, a great many and big enough hurdles in the way of a fundamental re-set in the US-Russia relations that defy this re-set, notwithstanding the importance of bi-lateral engagement and dialogue, which, in any case, is a much better option than confrontation and no-dialogue.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

translate | Tue, 21 May 2019 20:00:47 +0000

Britain and its Failed Attempt to Propagandize Hysteria


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Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the sitting British politicians can be short-sighted enough to support Theresa May’s failing policies, while the UK media remain scared to openly discuss the ongoing Brexit disaster as well as the fact that under the current political leaders the country took a wrong turn and rapidly approaching an imminent calamity. In this situation the massive British propaganda machine made the decision to carry on distracting the public opinion from the most pressing challenges of today by spreading anti-Russian hysteria. No matter how absurd this may sound, but today an average British citizen is required to believe that the “Russians are coming,” even though nobody has been able to provide logical explanation of the notion that Moscow for some strange reason could be interested in invading the UK. However, under this dubious pretext the Tories are pushing things like increased military spendings down people’s throats, while making every attempt to escape criticism for cuts in social benefits that are still being provided to British citizens, most of which are in a state of distress these days.

One doesn’t have to go far to find evidence supporting the above mentioned statement. For instance, Lebanon’s Al-Mayadin has recently shed light on the tactics of hybrid warfare that the UK keeps waging against Russia. In fact, London has been spending millions of pounds to stir anti-Russian sentiments across the world under the guise of supporting the so-called Integrity Initiative. This fact was revealed by the hackers of the Anonymous movement that stole documents revealing the rationale behind this latest money drain.

To be specific, it was revealed that the so-called Integrity Initiative project was founded in the UK in 2015 with the goal of interfering in the internal affairs of various European countries. The masterminds behind this project wanted to undermine any attempts that EU states could take at seeking rapprochement with such countries as Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela. The documents leaked by Anonymous hackers indicate that Britain’s foreign office would launch British subversive activities in Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Norway, Serbia and Montenegro. For instance, it turned out that the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung operating in Germany was among the beneficiaries of the Integrity Initiative, which in turn is accused of sponsoring the fascist coup d’etat in Ukraine.

It curious enough that the Integrity Initiative was founded by a man called Christopher Nigel Donnelly who occupies the position of the co-director at the Institute for Statecraft. Back in the 90s this figure was employed at the position of Special Adviser for Central and Eastern European Affairs to the Secretary General of NATO and he carries on receiving paychecks from the British government every month. Donnelly’s affiliates are known for conducting seminar on the Orthodox church as a weapon of war and the practical implementation of the ideas that those people advance in their sermons is the recent provocation in Ukraine that resulted in a split within the Orthodox church.

However, splitting religious communities is hardly the only tool London would use in its subversive activities. In fact it would use the tactics of alleged leaks to stir anti-Russian sentiments across the EU. It would present its propaganda messages in a form of a document that was allegedly leaked by some government body. Due to the fact that those alleged leaks are being publicized by media sources with London taking no official position on those, when a representative of the government body that was described as the source of the leakage would come forth to rebuke those lies, nobody would believe him or her anyway.

It’s curious that the now broke Britain would pay generous benefits to any state willing to support the anti-Russian hysteria it has been stirring for decades. This notion is confirmed by the British media sources that are telling us that Ukraine received 700 million pounds for its determination to “resist Russia”. In turn, Warsaw’s willingness to support Britain’s anti-Russian sentiments resulted in Poland receiving over 5 million pounds each year!

One can only imagine the benefits that the former British Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson received for stating in an interview with the Telegraph that Russia was about to kill thousands upon thousands of British civilians in the course of the imminent military aggression that would aim at the destruction of UK’s infrastructure and power supply lines.

One can remember how the British media would go on for month about the alleged “use of misinformation” by foreign players, namely Russia, in its alleged attempts to interfere with the democratic processes of the United Kingdom. However, last October London would reveal that it had no evidence to support such claims.

Yet, this fact didn’t make British propagandists from the BBC and the Times any wiser as they proceeded with spreading fake reports about Russia’s alleged involvement in the staging of the ongoing protests in France. However, France’s Journal du Dimanche would reveal that upon studying those claims and conducting an investigation French intelligence agencies found no trace of Russia’s involvement in the yellow vests movement. This resulted in the BBC confessing to the fact that its provocative accusations against Russia had nothing to do with reality whatsoever. Moreover, British journalists revealed that they were demanded to implicate Russia in the staging of such protests by their superiors.

However, the BBC is not the only offender here, as Reuters would run a provocative article about Venezuela circumventing US sanctions by spending the money received from oil trade through Russia in mid-April. Mere days later under the pressure of irrefutable evidence Reuters was forced to take down this article and acknowledge its false pretext, while recognizing the fact Moscow did nothing to undermine the existing sanctions regime.

It goes without saying that for someone to put his name under fake reports this person must have his or her principles and integrity shattered in one way or another. This notion can be exemplified by the confession made by the Financial Times journalist Joel Lewin, who revealed that he was engaged in shop lifting during his employment in this media source, adding that he would often get high on crack while performing his duties.

According to Bloomberg there’s a visible fatigue from “Anglo-Saxon lecturing” to be observed all across the globe, which is a sign that the English-speaking world is losing intellectual legitimacy. So British propagandists would be better off getting their facts straight while they still have some readers to fool.

Grete Mautner is an independent researcher and journalist from Germany, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.” 

translate | Tue, 21 May 2019 15:44:01 +0000

OPCW, Douma and the Post Truth World


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The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) came into effect on 29 April 1997. 193 Member States of the United Nations have ratified it. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is the United Nations body charged with the task of monitoring compliance with the CWC. It is based in The Hague. Among its powers are the powers to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons, and (since June 2018) the power to assign blame.

The investigations are carried out by a Fact Finding Mission, which compromises a team of experts from the relevant scientific disciplines. Additional technical assistance is frequently sought from bodies external to the OPCW, typically university departments.

The use of chemical weapons, apart from being banned under the CWC, can constitute war crimes and/or crimes under the civil jurisdiction of the country where they are used. As with any forensic examination of a crime scene, the integrity of the investigation process and any conclusions reached must accord with the highest standards of professional practice.

The work of the OPCW has had a high profile in the past two years because of three well-publicized incidents. The first of these was the alleged use of sarin gas in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykun on 4th of April 2017.

Less than one week after the alleged attack, the United States government released his own intelligence report in which they expressed their “confidence” that the Syrian ‘regime’ had used sarin against its own people. On this unsourced and uninvestigated, much less forensically examined incident, the United States launched a barrage of cruise missiles against Syrian targets. That this response was itself a gross violation of international law was barely considered by the mainstream media at the time, so content were (and are) they in demonizing the Syrian government and in particular its President Bashar al Assad.

The OPCW report of the incident was no better than the US intelligence estimate. Without having visited the site, and without meeting minimum forensic standards such as determining a proper chain of custody, the OPCW in its October 2017 report nonetheless attributed the release of sarin gas to the Syrian government.

The second incident to receive wide publicity, expressions of outrage from western governments and large-scale expulsion of Russian diplomats, was the alleged nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, United Kingdom, in March 2018.

The UK government, again before any scientific investigation and a proper conclusion could be reached, announced in parliament the first of its many versions or what they alleged had happened. The manifold absurdities of the U.K. Governments explanation as to what happened to the Skripals is outside the scope of this article. They are usefully summarised by British researcher Rob Slane.

In the Salisbury case, the OPCW investigators arrived at the scene nearly three weeks after the incident and then produced a report that is a masterpiece of obfuscation. Without actually rebutting the UK government’s version, they also failed to confirm it. They would only refer to the “toxic chemical compound which displays the properties of a nerve agent” as being found in the biomedical and environmental samples provided to them by the UK government.

One clue as to the reason for this caution is that the samples analysed by the OPCW were said to be of “high purity”, something that is literally impossible if examined weeks after the event. As with Khan Shaykun, evidence and logic did not feature in the responses of either the western governments who expelled Russian diplomats, or the western mainstream media that blamed the Russians. Then as now, the official government version is the least likely scenario of several possible versions.

Had the OPCW properly investigated the incident, and perhaps more importantly released the full details of its investigation, including the real cause of the Skripal’s illness, the Russian blame game would not have travelled the distance that it has.

Only a month after the Salisbury events, and perhaps coincidentally, there was another alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government on civilians in the city of Douma.

Douma was an area held by the Al Qaeda linked terrorist group, Jaysh-al-Islam. The Syrian army was on the verge of recapturing the city. Jaysh-al-Islam had a powerful motive to try and enlist the support of the US led “Coalition” that has been illegally occupying Syrian territory since 2015. Australia is a member of that coalition, and the only justification given for that participation (by then Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in November 2015) is simply nonsense from the viewpoint of international law.

At the time of the alleged attack, the western media were full of images of dead persons including children, the claimed activities of the so-called humanitarian White Helmets personnel, and pictures of two cylindrical objects purportedly used to spread the chemical agents that caused the death of the pictured victims.

The OPCW team began its on-site investigations in April-May 2018. It obtained expert assistance from two European universities as well as its own internal experts. The final report was issued on 1st of March 2019, long after western media and politicians had not only taken the view that the Syrian government was responsible, but that it ought to be punished. Part of that response was a missile attack by United States, United Kingdom and French forces long before the OPCW team had commenced, let alone concluded, their investigation. As with the Khan Shaykun missile attack a year earlier, this latest attack was also a breach of international law.

What the OPCW report failed to disclose were the conclusions of an internal report by its own experts of their assessment as to what had actually happened. That suppressed report has now been leaked. Its findings are devastating, not only to the credibility of the OPCW, already damaged by the Khan Shaykun and Salisbury reports, but also to the credibility of the western mainstream media and western politicians.

Both of these groups had sought to blame the Syrian government and its principal backers, Russia Iran and Hezbollah, in the most extreme terms, and utterly without regard to the most basic principles of international law, forensic methodology, and the need to establish an evidential foundation before taking precipitate action which in this case could have had catastrophic consequences.

The suppressed report was signed by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW staffer since 1998. Dr Henderson’s team applied the laws of physics and engineering to the results of their empirical observations. A detailed analysis of the Henderson report can be found in Paul McKeigue et al Briefing Note on the Final Report of the OPCW Fact-finding Mission on the Alleged Chemical Attack in Douma in April 2018.

The OPCW team led by Dr Henderson inspected the locations where the aforementioned cylinders were found (and widely photographed) as well as the alleged associated damage to the buildings. They concluded that the dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders and the surrounding scenes were inconsistent with those cylinders having been dropped from an aircraft. That they were manually placed where they were photographed “is the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene”.

McKeigue et al referred to the findings set out in their earlier Briefing Note and concluded “these findings, taken together, establish beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April 2018 was staged”.

Those conclusions raised a number of obvious questions. The first is, how did the victims, so graphically displayed, actually die? The forensic evidence clearly shows that these victims were undoubtedly hung upside down, their eyes blindfolded, and then murdered with exposure to a toxic chemical. Their bodies were then transported to the location where they were photographed, to form the pictorial backdrop to the allegations of a chemical attack by Syrian government forces.

The terrorists were the only ones with the means, motive and opportunity to murder these victims and then arrange the scenes for their propaganda purposes. It is an irresistible inference that in these staged scenes they were aided and abetted by the White Helmets. Far from being a neutral humanitarian group, the White Helmets, trained by the British, are not part of the solution; they are part of the problem.

The second question Dr Henderson’s report raises is in two parts: why did the OPCW suppress this report and not include its findings in the OPCW final report released in March 2019; and why have the western media, including Australia, completely failed to report both the fact of the suppression of the crucial evidence in Dr Henderson’s report, and the substance of the fact-finding missions conclusions?

It is a measure of the disgraceful state that the western mainstream media have fallen into, that they refuse to report, much less analyse, vital information that could easily have led to a major war between the United States and its allies (including Australia) and Russia.

At the time that the United States, United Kingdom and France were announcing their intention to attack Syria in retaliation for the Douma incident, the Russian military warned that if the missiles targeted their serviceman they would not only destroy the missiles but the carriers from which they were fired. There is no doubting their capacity to do so (Martyanov Losing Military Supremacy 2018). A full-scale war could easily have eventuated.

The final point is that any future OPCW reports must inevitably be treated with a degree of skepticism. The international community, and undoubtedly the overwhelming majority of the member states that signed the CWC are concerned that such an important body has been compromised in this way. It is not too difficult to infer that political pressure had been applied to all three of the investigations noted here.

It is too much to expect that are mainstream media and the politicians will issue a mea culpa after this latest exposure of their duplicity and sacrifice of principle and probity in pursuit of US geopolitical aims. Perhaps in the future however, they will be less quick to condemn and take actions that could so very easily lead to another war based on lies and imperial hubris.

James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

translate | Tue, 21 May 2019 10:45:25 +0000

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