Welcome to Sott.net
Thu, 20 Jun 2019
The World for People who Think


US exceptionalism: Exploiting certain Syrians, ignoring others

© Eva Bartlett
Syria and Russia have been evacuating civilians from yet another region starved by its Western-backed terrorists. But Western corporate media ignore this and instead continue spinning nightmarish war propaganda on Syria.

Predictably, copy-paste Syrian reports emanate from Western governments and corporate media feign concern for civilians in Idlib while negating to mention that the Idlib governorate is an Al-Qaeda hotbed.

Back in Syria again, over the 'Eid holidays, I spoke with residents about life in Damascus now, and highlighted the peace which exists - having been absent for many years prior when terrorists' mortars rained down on the city.

But I was also interested in highlighting another issue: the evacuation of southeastern Syria's Rukban Camp which has been under way for months; civilians have been plucked from starvation and intolerable conditions, and delivered to safety with access to food and medical care.


Russian intel chief: Venezuela the latest victim of West's 'virus-like' black ops

cia virus
Western secret services are perfecting clandestine tools which are designed to weaken countries like viruses weaken bodies, the Russian foreign intelligence chief has said. This kind of warfare is currently used in Venezuela.

The criticism came from Sergey Naryshkin, who heads Russia's foreign intelligence agency SVR. He said spies are constantly improving the tool used to dispose of governments that the West does not like.

"We are talking about creating a universal algorithm for conducting clandestine influence operations in a continuous manner and on a global scale," he said. According to the official, this clandestine work "never stops and targets not only enemies, but also friends and neutral powers in the times of peace, crisis and war."

Comment: "...but also friends and neutral powers..."

Indeed, right across NATO-stan, critical infrastructure is rigged with Stuxnet-like viruses, just in case any 'allies' start having second thoughts.

Comment: Venezuela is just one of the 'theaters' that are currently visible. What is taking place there now required decades of preparation - since Chavez's election in 1998.

They've been working on Iran - to varying degrees of intensity - since 1953. Russia got some respite in the 1990s, but otherwise it's subject to permanent hybrid warfare.

This includes what seems - at the time - innocuous activity: foreign funding of art that promotes 'ethnic sub-cultures', foreign NGOs working for 'women's health', international student exchanges for 'broadening cultural horizons', etc.

A couple of decades later, your efforts have 'loosened' the socio-cultural basis for national cohesion in your target country/region, and you're ready to 'cash in' with a Maidan-like crisis that only needs a few snipers to push things over the edge and cement regime change...

Each attack by this virus doesn't work, of course, but that doesn't mean it goes away. It just mutates and attacks another weakness in the target organism. The only antidote is a healthy society in which the public is generally aware of the existence of this virus...

Stock Up

The American Dream is Alive And Well... in China

wuhan houses china

Wuhan, in the Hubei province of central China, is home to 10 million people - many of whom live in these colourful houses away from the high-rise city centre and factories
Home ownership has been called "the quintessential American dream." Yet today less than 65% of American homes are owner-occupied, and more than 50% of the equity in those homes is owned by the banks. Compare China, where, despite facing one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world, a whopping 90% of families can afford to own their homes.

Over the last decade, American wages have stagnated and U.S. productivity has consistently been outpaced by China's. The U.S. government has responded by engaging in a trade war and imposing stiff tariffs in order to penalize China for what the White House deems unfair trade practices. China's industries are said to be propped up by the state and to have significantly lower labor costs, allowing them to dump cheap products on the U.S. market, causing prices to fall and forcing U.S. companies out of business. The message to middle America is that Chinese labor costs are low because their workers are being exploited in slave-like conditions at poverty-level wages.

But if that's true, how is it that the great majority of Chinese families own homes? According to a March 2016 article in Forbes:
... 90% of families in the country own their home, giving China one of the highest home ownership rates in the world. What's more is that 80% of these homes are owned outright, without mortgages or any other liens. On top of this, north of 20% of urban households own more than one home.
Due to their communist legacy, what Chinese buyers get for their money is not actually ownership in perpetuity but a long-term leasehold, and the quality of the construction may be poor. But the question posed here is, how can Chinese families afford the price tag for these homes, in a country where the average income is only one-seventh that in the United States?

Gold Coins

A month in the life of the world's richest man - Putin (at least according to his critics)

putin gold
Between one hundred billion and one hundred and sixty billion dollars. That's a lot of moolah. Taking the lower number, that's a line of thousand dollar bills half way to the Moon. Personal yacht? Buy the latest Princess cruise ship, staff it, have it all to yourself forever and still have 99 billion or so to fool around with. A brand new Italian super car every day for ten years wouldn't make much of a dent. You like to cruise? Reserve the Owner's suite on every Princess cruise ship and have a private plane standing by 24/7 just in case. Hotels? Buy a couple in your favourite part of the world; permanently rent the Emperor's Suite in a couple of dozen others. Put yourself into orbit on your private orbiter. Private planes? how about a double-decker Airbus? Only a billion for two. Private Caribbean island? Lots to choose from. Hire a bunch of healthy organ donors and a mobile hospital to follow you around. Anything. Build a new Great Pyramid, it's chump change out of $100 billion. Endow a university chair to study your life and works. Fill Easter Island with giant statues of yourself. It would be impossible to spend that much in a human lifetime.

This, we are told, is the extent of Putin's wealth.
In the book, "Russia's Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy," Aslund estimates that through the practice of "crony capitalism," Putin has amassed a net worth between $100 billion and $160 billion, which would make him richer than the officially wealthiest man in the world, Amazon owner Jeff Bezos.
(Love that "net" - sounds so precise.) Pfeh! says Browder: a measly one hundred - try two hundred billion! Nah! A trivial seventy billion says somebody else. Why not eleventy-seven squintillion? Net.


Cyber terrorism: NYT claims US planted 'cyber kill switch' in Russian power grid - Trump says 'fake news'

hydroelectric power station russia
© Reuters / Ilya Naymushin
The control room of a hydroelectric power station in Krasnoyarsk, Russia
The best defense is a good offense: the US seems to have taken this maxim to its logical conclusion, and has "aggressively" hacked Russia's power grid, according to a new report. God forbid the shoe were on the other foot.

An in-depth report in the New York Times on Saturday lays out an alleged ongoing US operation to penetrate and implant malware in Russia's power grid, partly as "a warning" to Moscow, and partly to stake out the high ground should competition between the two powers one day spill over into outright cyber warfare.

Due to the clandestine nature of the subject, the article is light on specifics. All we know is that the authority to carry out offensive cyber operation is enshrined in the National Defense Authorization Act since last summer, and that President Donald Trump delegated approval for such attacks to Cyber Command - set up by the Obama administration in 2008 to counter alleged similar efforts by Moscow - around the same time.

In the absence of details, the Times treated its readers to a carousel of security officials talking up their "aggressive" posture, including one faceless intelligence spook who bragged "We are doing things at a scale we never contemplated a few years ago." A chorus of these same officials also justified the cyberwar efforts, including one who dropped the wonderfully Washingtonian term "defend forward" to describe the incursions.

Comment: And no doubt he used that phrase without a trace of irony.

Comment: Trump took to Twitter after NYT published their story:

But Trump's denial rings hollow. After all, this is the kind of stuff the U.S. pulls, even on its allies:
How the NSA is preparing for cyberwar

A previously-unpublished citation from the 2013 Black Budget reveals the US aspiration to map and infiltrate critical infrastructure worldwide, "involving oil and gas pipelines and transportation systems ...the electrical power grid of targets". An extract from a 2009 NSA presentation shows the agency is monitoring botnets.

Source document:

Related articles:
Exclusive: Edward Snowden on Cyber Warfare, by James Bamford and Tim De Chant, 8 January 2015, PBS Nova
Neues Snowden-Interview: Krieg im Internet, 13 January 2015, NDR.de (in German)
Cyberkrieg: Wie gefährdet ist Deutschland?, 12 January 2015, NDR.de (in German)
Battlefield Internet: Weaponizing Cyberspace, 10 January 2014, NDR.de
As shown in Oliver Stone's film on Snowden, the NSA apparently has such malware kill switches installed in the grids for Japan and Germany, among others. You know, just in case they step out of line.

Star of David

Another false-flag: Two more oil tankers attacked in Gulf of Oman, possibly with torpedoes - UPDATES

oil tanker fire
© AP Photo / ISNA
The tensions in the Middle East are back up to boiling point after a second incident involving tankers along the world's most important oil choke-point. So, here's a round-up of all the relevant news that broke this day.

What Happened?

Two oil tankers were hit in an apparent attack in the Strait of Hormuz, about 70 nautical miles from the UAE port of Fujairah and about 14 nautical miles off Iran's coast.

One of the vessels was the Aframax-class Kokuka Courageous tanker, registered in Panama and operated by the Singapore-based Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement.

The other was the Front Altair, a Marshall Islands-flagged crude oil tanker owned by Norway's Frontline.

Comment: Israel has motive, obviously. And means. Germany has gifted that regime 6 nuclear-powered subs free of charge in the last decade...

As the saying goes, nothing in politics happens by accident. One tanker union said that oil shipments to the West could be jeopardized if the Strait of Hormuz becomes unsafe:
"We need to remember that some 30% of the world's (seaborne) crude oil passes through the Straits. If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk."
In response to the latest provocation in one of the most strategically important regions in the entire world, Iran has called for an international effort to protect important waterways in the region.

It is highly unlikely that Iran is behind these attacks. Sabotage is not their MO, but it certainly is the MO of certain 'Western' intel agencies.

A false-flag to demonize Iran is right in the CIA/Mossad's wheelhouse.

A great deal of interested parties have noted how a Gulf of Tonkin-style attack could take place in the Strait of Hormuz to escalate tensions and get the Western population to accept a war against Iran. Could this be part of that plan?

UPDATE 13/06/2019 19:18: Warmonger Pompeo sticks to the neocon playbook and blames Iran
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Washington believes Iran is behind the attack on two Japanese tankers in Gulf of Oman. He believes Tehran wants to end "successful maximum pressure campaign" of Washington's sanctions.

"This is only the latest in the series of attacks instigated by the Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American allies and interests. They should be understood in the context of four years of unprovoked aggression against freedom-loving nations," Pompeo said.

Pompeo didn't provide any proof for his claims, but reminded reporters that back in April Iran threatened to interrupt the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.

He listed a series of incidents in the Middle East, including the attack on tanker ships at port in the United Arab Emirates, that US has blamed on Iran. There has been no proof offered by the US that Tehran is behind the attacks, and Iran denies any involvement.

Pompeo, however, claimed that Tehran was "lashing out" at Washington's "successful maximum pressure campaign" which has consisted of several layers of sanctions.

US ambassador to the UN Jonathan Cohen has been instructed to bring up "Iran's attacks" in the UN Security Council session on Thursday afternoon.
UPDATE 14/06/2019: The finger pointing has begun as the various countries involved put out their versions of the incident.

Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo, owner of the Kokuka Courageous, disputes US claims that the vessel was damaged by a naval mine. He said the ship's crew spotted "flying objects" before the attack in the Gulf of Oman. He believes the flying objects seen by the sailors could have been bullets. He denied any possibility of mines or torpedoes because the damage was above the ship's waterline.

In the meantime the US released a video purporting to show a limpet mine being removed from the stricken ship. However many comments below the tweet dispute the US' characterization of the video, pointing out discrepancies in the Navy's interpretation

Iran's foreign minister tweeted that the attack "suspiciously" came at the same time as the Japanese prime minister was sitting down for "extensive and friendly" discussions with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said, " At this moment, we haven't been asked to send Japan's Self Defense Forces. So, we don't have a plan to send the units to the region near the Strait of Hormuz to respond to this incident."

NHK's position in itself reveals that Japan-US relations are strained, as Japanese authorities would neither encourage NHK nor allow workers of the vessel to make public reportage and claims which contradict those of Pompeo and the American administration.
Indeed, many fingers are being pointed at the US as the perpetrator of the attacks, in its drive to begin a war with Iran:

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said the video released by the US is "not enough" to prove Iranian involvement in a series of oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman. Even staunch US ally Great Britain equivocated on the US pronouncement of Iran's guilt for the attack.
Ass-covering diplomatic doublespeak was in evidence when the UK's foreign secretary was asked whether he shared the US view that Iran was behind an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

On the BBC's Today programme on Friday morning Jeremy Hunt was asked: "You backed the US assessment that Iran is behind this attack. Do you have independent evidence of that?"

Hunt replied: "We are going to make our own independent assessment, we have our processes to do that."

You'll notice the distinct absence of the word 'yes' in his reply. Cynical observers may suggest that the UK doesn't fully back America's claims on this one, but is in no place to say so explicitly and publicly.

Why would Britain be so quick to get behind allegations from Washington that could potentially trigger a new Middle East war? Well, Hunt explained that as well.

He said: "We have no reason not to believe the American assessment. And our instinct is to believe it because they are our closest ally."

So, the British government's stance on this one is to believe Washington not because there is any definitive proof, but because they are "our closest ally". That's the kind of loyalty money can buy.

Also the term "we have no reason not to believe" is in no way the same as saying 'we definitely do believe,' it's that diplomatic speak again which means 'we can't be sure either way, but we're going to back America until we're forced not to.'
Peter Ford, the former UK ambassador to Syria and a big critic of western foreign policy, envisions a desperate Iran lashing out under the pressure of US sanctions, but the blowback has caught Pompeo and Bolton off guard:
"I think... that Iran has been behind all these attacks. Just a couple of weeks ago, US spokespeople were beating their chests and boasting about the policy of maximum pressure [on Iran] and how they were going to apply more pressure. They dispatched a mighty fleet, and now after these attacks, they are retreating, it seems to me," Ford told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

On June 7, the US announced that it would be imposing sanctions on Iran's Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (PGPIC). The move comes after the US ordered the deployment of an additional 1,500 troops, a task force of B-52 bombers and one of its aircraft carrier strike groups to the region last month. Iran responded by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz.

"The people who will be feeling their collars at the moment is [National Security Adviser] John Bolton and Pompeo, who only seven days ago were boasting about the policy of maximum pressure. If Iran did it [committed the attacks], they just administered a master class of what you get when you boast about maximum pressure," Ford said.

According to Ford, the theory that the attacks were carried out by the US to deter Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from improving diplomatic relations with Iran can be ruled out.

"A sophisticated, coordinated operation like this would have taken weeks to prepare. But the Abe visit was only set up days ago. There simply wouldn't have been time to mount an operation if it was designed to somehow exploit Abe's visit," Ford noted.

"Iran's message is simple: if you choke off our exports with your sanctions, then we will make sure that nobody else is able to export from the Gulf," he said.
Iran has threatened repeatedly that if necessary, it will close the Strait of Hormuz. As the Norwegian Shipowners' Association pointed out, this would "negatively affect world trade", to put things mildly. Oil prices could double. Japan's economy minister, at least, is not concerned about the current situation in the Gulf affecting his own countries supply.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is undeterred:
"It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today," Pompeo said during a Thursday press briefing.

"Iran is lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted," Pompeo added. "No economic sanctions entitle the Islamic Republic to attack innocent civilians, disrupt global oil markets and engage in nuclear blackmail."
The Iranian mission to the UN had this to say:
"Neither fabrications and disinformation campaigns nor shamelessly blaming others can change the realities. The US and its regional allies must stop warmongering and put an end to mischievous plots as well as false flag operations in the region. Warning, once again, about all of the US coercion, intimidation, and malign behavior, Iran expresses concern over suspicious incidents for the oil tankers that occurred today", the statement issued on Thursday read.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry says "Nobody wants to see war in the Gulf", and urged restraint.

As for the tankers themselves, Iranian officials say the fires are out. Press TV released footage of 23 of the 44 sailers they rescued from the Front Altair:

UPDATE 15/06/2019: Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia is calling for a "swift response" after the incident - swift indeed, given that no one knows for sure yet who is responsible:
A "swift and decisive response to the threat to energy supply" is needed to ensure "the stability of markets and the confidence of consumers," Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih was quoted in a tweet from his office. He also claimed "the recent terrorist acts" in Middle Eastern waters "must be directed against the global energy supply chain."
At least it should be clear by now that if it wanted to, Iran COULD disrupt the global energy supply train. They've threatened to do so repeatedly in response to the overbearing anti-Iranian policy of the Trump administration. Is that something the Americans and their allies are willing to risk, all in the service of Israeli policy?

In contrast, Japan for one isn't buying it (along with EU reps like Maas, quoted in the previous update). "The [Japanese] government does not share the US view of Iran's involvement in attacking tankers near the Strait of Hormuz and, as it turned out, appealed to the American side for additional evidence. The opinion is that the US statements are not sufficiently convincing", according to the Kyodo news agency. Yutaka Katada, president of the Japanese company operating the Kokuka Courageous tanker, doesn't think the US-released video shows what they're saying it shows:
"I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship. A mine doesn't damage a ship above sea level. We aren't sure exactly what hit, but it was something flying towards the ship", Katada was cited as saying by the Japanese media.
Bernie Sanders is warning against the attacks being used as a pretext for a 'disastrous' war with Iran:

Bad Guys

Convenient 'tanker attacks' as US seeks war with Iran

oil tanker
...it would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it.
- Brookings Institution, "Which Path to Persia?" 2009
For the second time since the United States unilaterally withdrew from the so-called Iran Nuclear Deal, Western reports of "suspected attacks" on oil tankers near the Stait of Hormuz have attempted to implicate Iran.

The London Guardian in an article titled, "Two oil tankers struck in suspected attacks in Gulf of Oman," would claim:
Two oil tankers have been hit in suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman and the crews evacuated, a month after a similar incident in which four tankers in the region were struck.
The article also claimed:
Gulf tensions have been close to boiling point for weeks as the US puts "maximum economic pressure" on Tehran in an attempt to force it to reopen talks about the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US pulled out of last year.

Iran has repeatedly said it has no knowledge of the incidents and did not instruct any surrogate forces to attack Gulf shipping, or Saudi oil installations.
The Guardian would admit that "investigations" into the previous alleged attacks in May carried out by the UAE found "sophisticated mines" were used, but fell short of implicating Iran as a culprit.

The article would note US National Security Advisor John Bolton would - without evidence - claim that Iran "was almost certainly involved."


Jon Stewart lashes out at near-empty congress hearing on healthcare for 9/11 first responders: "You should be ashamed of yourselves" - UPDATE

jon stewart congress
Former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart's demeanor on Capitol Hill Tuesday was vastly different from the one his fans were accustomed to seeing on Comedy Central. He was there to call for the reauthorization of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which was established nine years ago to provide health care benefits to first responders and others in the community with illnesses related to the 2001 terror attacks. Now, it's running short of money.

In his emotional testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Stewart at times broke down in tears, shouting at the lawmakers and calling them "shameful."

"I can't help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is ... a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one ... shameful," said Stewart at the outset of his remarks. A little over half of the 14-member subcommittee members were present, mostly Democrats.

Comment: Is anyone surprised that politicians are essentially ignoring 9/11 first responders? Unless they can use it as virtue-signaling, there's no expedient reason for them to actually come to the aid of the people who were there, willing to risk their lives, to help while their country was under attack. The fecklessness of the political class is stunning.

See also: UPDATE June 12: Apparently Jon Stewart shook committee members out of their complacency. ZeroHedge reports that the House Judiciary Committee has unanimously passed a bill to permanently reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler dismissed calls to require a full committee vote after many lawmakers were once again absent, allowing the voting to proceed.


In The Western Media Narrative, Terrorist-Run Prisons And Underground Bunkers Become "Hospitals"

makeshift hospitals in Syria
© Vanessa Beeley
After liberation of East Aleppo from Nusra Front-led occupation, Russian medical teams established makeshift hospitals in Jibreen to treat civilians, the majority of whom had received no medical care during the five-year occupation.
In recently liberated Qalaat Al Madiq - 500 meters from As Suqaylabiyah, a predominantly Christian town near Syria's embattled Idlib province - the White Helmets, a controversial rescue group financed primarily by the U.K. Foreign Office, was found to have an established presence in a network of tunnels. The tunnels zigzagged under a former wheat factory that had since been converted into a headquarters of Nusra Front/HTS - Al Qaeda in Syria.

This has been a pattern repeated in many of the areas liberated from extremist groups in Syria: a White Helmets presence alongside the Nusra Front, or whichever extremist group happens to dominate specific districts of the occupied territories. Invariably, the majority of the White Helmet operatives departed upon the seemingly endless stream of green buses that carried the various cadres of armed groups from liberated regions of Syria into Idlib.


Journalists silent on Assange's plight are complicit in his torture and imprisonment

© Getty Images / Dan Kitwood
When Julian Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and arrested by police doing the bidding of the US government, most Western journalists sneered, sniggered, and lined up to publicly wash their hands of him.

Op-eds and think pieces declaring that Assange was "not a journalist" came in thick and fast. Smug hacks belittled his appearance on Twitter. They eagerly shared salacious rumors about his personal habits. Many bought the line that it was his alleged "misbehavior" which prompted Quito to suddenly expel him after seven years - and they defended the Trump administration when it levelled a charge of conspiracy to hack a government computer, arguing that it really wasn't such a big deal. He wasn't in their club, so there was little need to defend him.

This nonchalant response to the arrest of perhaps the most consequential journalist and whistleblower of our time was exactly the one British and US authorities relied upon - and they were not disappointed. The indifference of the media on both sides of the Atlantic to Assange's plight was like a flashing green light for authorities to step things up, which of course they did, announcing 17 new charges in May.