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Tue, 21 Feb 2017
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Continuity of Agenda: Destroying Syria since 1983

Syria's current conflict, beginning in 2011, was the culmination of decades of effort by the United States to subvert and overthrow the government in Damascus. From training leaders of opposition fronts years before "spontaneous" protests erupted across Syria, to covertly building a multinational mercenary force to both trigger and leverage violence thereafter, the United States engineered, executed, and perpetuated virtually every aspect of Syria's destructive conflict.

Enlisting or coercing aid from regional allies, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Jordan, and Israel, Syria found itself surrounded at its borders and buried within them by chaos.

Folder

Report: Trump associate said to have facilitated back-channel Ukraine peace plan

© AFP
Lawyer Michael Cohen
An exclusive report in The New York Times says a lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump has helped a pro-Russia opposition Ukrainian lawmaker submit to Trump's administration a proposed alternative peace plan for the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on February 20 that the report was "absurd" and that Moscow had no knowledge of the purported peace plan.

According to the February 19 Times report, Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen submitted the plan to former national security adviser Michael Flynn about one week before Flynn resigned over allegations that he misinformed the administration about the nature of his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States. Cohen -- who has no foreign-policy experience -- is himself under investigation by the FBI for possible connections with Russian intelligence. He denies the allegations.
The plan was created by Ukrainian opposition lawmaker Andriy Artemenko, who claims to have documents proving corruption by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. It called for Russia to withdraw its forces from eastern Ukraine and for Ukraine to hold a referendum on leasing the region of Crimea to Russia for a period of 50 or 100 years. Moscow seized and illegally Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014.
According to The New York Times report, Artemenko's plan outlines "a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia."

Comment: According to the NYT, Cohen said Mr. Sater had given him the written proposal in a sealed envelope and he left the proposal in Mr. Flynn's office. While Cohen reportedly acted on his own initiative (or more likely was used as the delivery mechanism), both Cohen and Sater said they had not spoken to Mr. Trump about the proposal and that neither had experience in foreign policy. Paul Manafort denies any knowledge of the plan or any role in it.

Was it a confluence of altruism and diplomatic freelancing by amateurs and associates behind the scenes? ...an attempt to smudge relations with Russia and ding the Trump administration with incompetence? ...a direct manipulation by specific factions for specific effects?


Sheriff

Turkey fires 227 more judges, prosecutors in continued crackdown on 5th column

© AFP
Turkish riot police detain demonstrators during a protest outside a university campus in Ankara on February 10, 2017, against the dismissal of academics from universities following a post-coup emergency decree.
Turkey dismissed 227 more judges and prosecutors on Monday as part of investigations into last July's failed coup, the state-run Anadolu agency said, meaning close to 4,000 members of the judiciary have now been purged. Turkish authorities have detained, sacked or dismissed more than 100,000 people from the police, military, public service, judiciary, and elsewhere since the abortive coup over suspected ties to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the putsch.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied the charge and condemned the coup. With the latest dismissals, the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) has now dismissed more than 3,886 members of the judiciary since the July 15 putsch, Anadolu said.

Rights groups and some Western allies fear President Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to stifle dissent. The government argues the purges are justified by the extent of the threat to the state on July 15, when rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets, killing at least 240 people.

Handcuffs

Turkey: 44 of 47 suspects go on trial in Erdogan assassination attempt

© REUTERS/ Kenan Gurbuz
The accused, of an attempt to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the July 15 failed coup, are escorted by Turkish gendarmes as they arrive for the first hearing of the trial in Mugla, Turkey.
A trial of a group of 44 participants, charged with attempting to assassinate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the July 15 failed military coup, has started in the Turkish city of Mugla, local media reported Monday. During the attempted coup, rebels attacked a hotel in the country's southwestern resort of Marmaris where Erdogan stayed. Erdogan managed to leave the place minutes before the arrival of the attackers.

According to the Anadolu news agency, a total of 47 supporters of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, living in exile in the United States, are charged in this case. Three, including Gulen, are on the wanted list in Turkey.

The first hearing is ongoing in the conference hall of the Chamber of Commerce of Mugla, the case is being reviewed by a judicial panel for grave offences.

The prosecutor has demanded to sentence each of the accused for at least six consecutive life sentences each under the Turkish penal code for attempting to kill the President, attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, crimes against the legislative body and the government, leading an armed terrorist organization, and intentional killing of an official.

Comment: See also:


Calendar

The difference a month makes: Trump's first thirty days in the media hole

© Brian Snyder / Reuters
It's been thirty days since Donald Trump took office and what a 30 days it's been. The Trump administration — whether operating in sheer chaos or running like a "finely tuned machine" — is certainly one of a kind. Let's look at some of the highlights (or lowlights, depending on how you see it) of Trump's first month down the media hole.

Week 1: American carnage

Trump began his presidency with an inauguration speech that read like a damning portrayal of a dying nation rather than one of the usual screeds on American Exceptionalism we've come to expect from the men who have occupied the White House before him.

Trump bemoaned the poverty of inner cities, the rusted-out factories "scattered like tombstones" across the land, a failing education system, infrastructure falling into disrepair and decay, and the "crime and gangs and drugs" that have robbed the country of its "unrealized potential". The "American carnage" stops now, he said. To some, Trump sounded like an un-American Debbie Downer — but for the millions of Americans affected by poverty, crime, drugs and job losses, his speech was a refreshing dose of reality.

The US, Trump said, would seek friendship with all the nations of the world, but with the understanding that it is the right of all countries to "put their own interests first". His words, at least on day one, reassured foreign leaders that he had little interest in becoming entangled in new military conflicts.

Comment: Trump is making it clear that the media lives in his world; he doesn't live in theirs. See also:


Headphones

Lavrov: US intel taps Russian ambassador's communications routinely

© Yin Bogu / www.globallookpress.com
Russian Embassy to the United States in Washington D.C.
US intelligence services have made it clear to the media that they regularly tap the communications of the Russian ambassador to the US, says Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

"In connection with the scandal that was built up around Trump's adviser, General Flynn, US intelligence services told journalists absolutely officially, though anonymously - that our ambassador's [Sergey Kislyak] communications are routinely tapped," Lavrov told journalists.

The tapping includes "his reports to Moscow about his activities in Washington," the minister added.

Lavrov also called to pay attention to the activities of those who attempt "to survey any processes all over the globe, including via means that are known to be not quite legitimate."

Comment: This is no great surprise, in fact expected, given the networking sophistication available. It is more likely meant to be a basic statement of 'what is' when accusations against Russian intel operations again start to fly.


Hardhat

Shake-up at State level: Tillerson dismisses staffers in droves

© The Event Chronicle
Let Go
Aides to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson purged approximately two dozen State Department staffers on Thursday, in a shakeup that has many officials on edge, fearing that a major restructuring is imminent.

While Tillerson was away on his first overseas trip as Secretary of State attending the G20 in Bonn, Germany, his aides alerted much of the staff working for the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and the Counselor offices that their services were no longer needed.

Career officials are now extremely worried about their jobs, particularly given how abruptly the firings happened; before assignments had been finished by staffers or any replacements had been hired. "Inside the State Department, some officials fear that this is a politically-minded purge that cuts out much-needed expertise from the policy-making, rather than simply reorganizing the bureaucracy," CBS News reported.

The staffers who were let go act as a conduit between the Secretary and county bureaus. "It is irresponsible to let qualified, nonpartisan, experienced people go before you have any idea of their replacement. You can't do foreign policy by sitting in the White House, just out of your back pocket," Tom Countryman, Former Assistant Secretary for Non-Proliferation, who was let go earlier this month, told CBS.

Many of the people who lost their jobs will reportedly be reassigned to other positions within the department.

Comment: Shakeups in personnel from an incoming administration are nothing new. However, it would be interesting to know who exactly he fired at State, and what their briefs were...


Question

N. Korea denies report man killed in Malaysia airport was Kim Jong-un's half brother

© Kyodo / via Reuters
File photo of Kim Jong Nam
North Korea's envoy to Malaysia has denied that the man killed at Kuala Lumpur airport last week was the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying the Malaysian police's murder investigation cannot be trusted.

Monday's comment, which came hours after the CCTV footage of the purported attack emerged, was the first official statement issued by Pyongyang's representative on the murder of a man identified by Malaysian authorities as Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un's estranged elder half-brother.


Comment: South Korean government officials stated earlier that fingerprint checks proved the man who died in Malaysia was Kim Jong-nam. Now it isn't?

More curious is why the assassination team chose a crowded airport with security cameras everywhere to conduct a 'hit'. Something in raising the fear factor or publicly pitting N-S Koreas against each other? A message? A warning?


"It has been seven days since the incident, but there is no clear evidence on the cause of death and at the moment we cannot trust the investigation by the Malaysian police," the envoy said, as cited by Reuters. "The embassy has already identified his identity named Kim Chol, a DPRK citizen, as mentioned in his passports," the statement added.

The video shows a woman approaching a man from behind and wiping his face with a cloth.


Comment: If the victim was not the half-brother of Kim Jong-un, why was this person killed in such a public place, drawing worldwide attention? Mistaken identity?

More from RT:
The low-quality initial CCTV footage allegedly showing the moment of the deadly attack on the [presumed] half-brother of North Korea's supreme leader has emerged online as tensions between Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur escalate over his killing.

[The video] purportedly shows the attack on Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13. A woman wearing a white shirt and blue skirt is seen approaching the man from behind - believed to be Kim Jong-nam - and grabbing his face while spraying him with some substance, presumably a fast-acting poison. Presumably, it's the same "LOL-shirt wearing" Indonesian woman, who has already been identified as Siti Aishah and whose been detained by security forces.
See also: Always, always keep in mind, whenever North Korea pops up in the news, that it's ultimately about serving US interests. Without NK 'acting all weird and dangerous', there's no 'legitimate' justification for 400 US military facilities ringing China (via S. Korea, Japan, the Philippines, etc).


Star of David

NYT runs Israeli's op-ed recommending hideous proposal that Palestinians 'emigrate voluntarily'

In the last few days The New York Times has run several opinion pieces from the Israeli or American Zionist point of view. We've seen none from Palestinians. Last Wednesday was a low point. Right alongside Tom Friedman urging Donald Trump to "save the Jews" from division over Israel, the Times ran a piece called, "A Settler's View of Israel's Future," by Yishai Fleshler, international spokesperson for the illegal settler community in Hebron.

The article included a bible lecture about why the two-state solution was dead: "Judea and Samaria belong to the Jewish people. Our right to this land is derived from our history, religion, international decisions and defensive wars."

Attention

White House reportedly investigating Deputy Chief of Staff and #NeverTrumper Kate Walsh as source of leaks

GotNews reported Sunday that one of the primary sources of the series of leaks that were designed to undermine the Trump Administration and his presidency have been coming from none other than #NeverTrumper Kate Walsh. She is being investigated as one of the primary persons of interest that have been distributing highly confidential information to sources such as The (Failing) New York Times, and others.

When TGP reached out to GotNews founder, Charles Johnson, for comment on the story he said that it was "100% reliable, I'm unwilling to reveal the primary White House sources, but Walsh was behind the leaks."

Comment: Trump tweets that investigation into leaks within intelligence community could be launched