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U.S. payment to Iran over decades-old debt turns into farcical political theater

© U.S. Department of State / YouTube

Comment: There is a lot of hubbub being made over the story of the U.S. payments to Iran that were agreed during the nuclear talks at the beginning of the year. The U.S. had long owed money to Iran over weapons that were bought but never delivered from the 1979 revolution. The US broke ties, and the money remained owed. Once the talks began Iran insisted the repayment be made as a part of the deal and even agreed to a significantly lower settlement of the amount they were due.

Money was payed to Iran, but rags like the Free Beacon insist on turning this non-issue into some sort of fantastical ransom, or some other equally farcical explanation.


The Obama administration is withholding from Congress details about how $1.3 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds was delivered to Iran, according to conversations with lawmakers, who told the Washington Free Beacon that the administration is now stonewalling an official inquiry into the matter.

The Departments of State, Treasury, and Justice have all rebuffed a congressional probe into the circumstances surrounding the $1.3 billion payment to Iran, which is part of an additional $400 million cash payout that occurred just prior to the release of several U.S. hostages and led to accusations that the administration had paid Iran a ransom.


Comment: The ridiculousness of this ransom claim is so absurd that the New York Times had to do damage control:

From their article, The Fake $400 Million Iran 'Ransom' Story:
The first thing to know about the latest controversy over the Iran nuclear deal is that the Obama administration did not pay $400 million in "ransom" to secure the release of three American detainees. Yet that's the story critics are peddling in another attempt to discredit an agreement that has done something remarkable — halted a program that had put Iran within striking distance of producing a nuclear weapon.

The truth is that the administration withheld the payment to ensure Iran didn't renege on its promise to free three detainees — a Washington Post journalist, a Marine veteran and a Christian pastor. That's pragmatic diplomacy not capitulation.

The controversy erupted whenThe Wall Street Journal reported that the United States delivered $400 million in cash to Iranian officials after Tehran released the American detainees. It has provided an irresistible opportunity for Iran-bashing and Obama-bashing.

Comment: There's not much to excuse the general obfuscation from the State Department, however in this instance Mark Toner simply replied that he did not have the level of details being sought. Iran was paid money due to them. There's nothing 'confounding' about it. End of story. The remaining trash from this article can be found here.


Eye 1

Secret cameras have recorded Baltimore's every move from above since January

© Philip Montgomery for Bloomberg Businessweek
Aerial view of Baltimore from Persistent Surveillance’s Cessna.
Since January, police have been testing an aerial surveillance system adapted from the surge in Iraq. And they neglected to tell the public.

The sky over the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on June 23 was the color of a dull nickel, and a broad deck of lowering clouds threatened rain. A couple dozen people with signs—"Justice 4 Freddie Gray" and "The whole damn system is guilty as hell"—lingered by the corner of the courthouse, watching the network TV crews rehearse their standups. Sheriff's officers in bulletproof vests clustered around the building's doors, gripping clubs with both hands.

Inside, a judge was delivering the verdict in the case of Caesar Goodson, the only Baltimore police officer facing a murder charge for the death of Freddie Gray. In April 2015, Gray's neck was broken in the back of a police van, and prosecutors had argued that Goodson purposefully drove the vehicle recklessly, careening through the city, to toss Gray around.

The verdict trickled out of the courthouse in text messages: not guilty, all counts. Ralph Pritchett Sr., who's spent each of his 52 years in Baltimore, stood on the sidewalk among the protesters. He chewed on a toothpick and shook his head slowly. In a city with more than 700 street-level police cameras, he wondered, shouldn't the authorities have had video of Gray's ride?

"This whole city is under a siege of cameras," said Pritchett, a house painter who helps run a youth center in a low-income, high-crime neighborhood called Johnston Square. "In fact, they observed Freddie Gray himself the morning of his arrest on those cameras, before they picked him up. They could have watched that van, too, but no—they missed that one. I thought the cameras were supposed to protect us. But I'm thinking they're there to just contradict anything that might be used against the City of Baltimore. Do they use them for justice? Evidently not."


Chess

Russia warns the US that protecting terrorists will create a new monster

© Natalia Seliverstova / Sputnik
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Smolenskaya-Sennaya Square in Moscow.
Russia has charged that U.S. reluctance to do more to combat Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate remains an obstacle to reaching agreement to cooperate in Syria. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned on August 23 that the U.S. failure to move against the Al-Nusra Front, recently renamed Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, risks creating a "new terrorist monster in Syria."

Russia's accusations came one day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said U.S.- Russian talks on finding avenues to cooperate in Syria are nearing an end. Al-Sham has been one of the most effective rebel groups fighting the Russia-backed Syrian regime, and it has ties to other rebel groups supported by the United States.

"Washington agrees that Al-Nusra Front...is a terrorist organization. But it has not been the target of strikes" carried out by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Syria, the Russian ministry said. "It has been nearly a year in which the Americans have refused to share with us their data on the location of Al-Nusra militants," it said. "Instead of taking practical steps, the Americans have made any intensification in their fight [against Al-Nusra] conditional on promises of [regime] change," it said.

Based on reporting by AFP, Interfax, and TASS

Comment: Just so it's clear, al-Sham a.k.a. al-Nusra a.k.a. al-Qaeda is being viewed by the West as a valuable asset worth fighting for!


Blackbox

Claims U.S. 'unable to restrain' alleged Shia Iraqi militia forces committing kidnap, torture, beheadings

© Ahmed Saad / Reuters
In a nightmare quagmire, Iraq's Shia militias are alleged to be responsible for kidnapping more than 700 Sunni men and boys since Fallujah was liberated from Islamic State, according to a report. Evidence suggests others were detained, tortured and abused by the militias.

The Shia militias are alleged to have killed at least 66 Sunni males, and abused at least 1,500 others fleeing Fallujah, as well as the disappearance of more than 700 others, according to Reuters after interviewing 20 survivors, reviewing an investigation by Iraqi authorities, a Human Rights Watch report, and video testimony.

"They said men were shot, beaten with rubber hoses and in several cases beheaded," reported Reuters.

The Shia militia fought alongside the US-trained Iraqi forces during a military operation to retake Fallujah from the Islamic State, which began on May 22 this year. Fallujah is a city some 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Comment: The 'sectarian' nature of the violence in Iraq is way overblown. See: The Syrian and Iraqi wars: Washington's myth of Sunni/Shia sectarianism
The Western narrative of the nature of the ongoing conflict in Iraq similarly matches up only poorly with facts on the ground, especially as it concerns the role of sectarian identity and persecutions on every side. ... With a few exceptions, P.M.F. units have not engaged in widespread abuse of Sunni populations during this war against ISIL. ... There are also hundreds of Sunnis in majority-Shia units and a few thousand Sunnis who fight alongside these units but are not yet officially registered and do not receive salaries. Further, these units do not engage in any more violations than the forces the American-led coalition supports. Some, such as Saraya Salam (formerly known as the Mahdi Army), are in fact the least sectarian and most disciplined of the various military and paramilitary units fighting in Iraq today.
...
The biggest danger in Baghdad is ISIL. If Shia vigilantes in the security forces wanted to target all these unarmed and vulnerable Sunnis, they could — but they do not. The Anbar provincial council is based in Baghdad's Mansur district and protected by Shia-majority security forces.

The P.M.F. are a majority-Shia force fighting to liberate majority-Sunni areas from ISIL on behalf of Sunnis. Surely, abuses have taken place. Houses and mosques have been destroyed and there have been extrajudicial killings. But these violations pale by comparison to events of the Iraqi civil war during the American occupation. Iraq may have actually transcended the Sunni-Shia paradigm in a way that will seem counterintuitive to Washington-based analysts. Today, the threat is inter-Sunni violence, inter-Shia violence, inter-Kurdish violence, and Arab-Kurdish violence.
...
Moreover, the persecution of Sunnis in Iraq that exists, while inexcusable, is not indiscriminate. Based on my interviews and research, men who fled from ISIL-held areas early on and sought shelter in government areas, including in majority-Shia areas, are not suspected of ties to the jihadist group and are left to live their lives. However, those who remained behind or fled more recently are sometimes persecuted under the often unfair assumption that they sympathized with terrorists. From the point of view of security services, these are men who have chosen to stay in Falluja for the last two years, unlike the many Fallujans who fled ISIL early on and sought safety in Baghdad. Security services have a right to worry that some ISIL fighters had infiltrated the ranks of the fleeing civilians. In a significant improvement over what Iraqis call the period of "sectarianism" that ended in 2008, the violations today involve far less killing but instead the destruction of homes and villages in revenge for a perception that residents supported ISIL. The P.M.F. are imperfect, as is every security force in the Middle East. Given the role of Falluja as a safe haven for those beheading Shia and supporting insurgents, it is surprising how restrained the P.M.F. have been. Outside observers can debate about whether the Iraqi government should have prioritized the liberation of Falluja, but Baghdad does not have that luxury. Falluja is 50 kilometers away from the capital and not far from the key shrine city of Karbala. It also straddles the highway to Amman that is a key trade route.
In sum, yes, human rights violations do occur. In context, they pale in comparison to the types of lawlessness we saw on the part of U.S. occupying forces, and they pale in comparison to Daesh. Lastly, the "Shia/Sunni" conflict is a myth.


Info

A truce between the Colombian government and FARC has been reached in Havana


The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the country's authorities have signed the agreement yesterday.
Cuban mediation

Cuba has acted as a mediator in the negotiations, and the document was signed in Havana. The Cuban leadership had initiated negotiations in November 2012, and helped negotiate the finality.

Problems with legalization

Meanwhile, according to opinion polls in Colombia, more than half of the respondents were opposed to this truce. On what political program and strategy to offer the former rebels, will effect their perception in Colombian society.

The political process

According to the agreement, amnesty will be implemented for the rebels and they will be able to participate in the political process. In mid-2018 the next presidential election will be held, so the part of left-radical forces may slightly change the current balance in the country. The Democratic Center party has the best chance, but the Liberal Party and the Radicals also intend to nominate their candidates.

External and internal factors

Previously, FARC was accused of collaborating with drug cartels, from whom they allegedly received money and weapons. The rebels rejected the accusations. Now the authorities will need to focus on the fight against cocaine producers, which in large quantities is manufactured in Colombia.

The United States is an old partner of the Colombian authorities and tries to make maximum use of its influence in the region, including destabilization in neighboring Venezuela. An adjustment of foreign policy could restore the lost sovereignty of Colombia, however, Washington is unlikely to allow the choice of such an opportunity in this country of important geopolitical significance.

Snakes in Suits

Why is the United States aiding and abetting Saudi war crimes in Yemen?

© Reuters / Khaled Abdullah
 People look at the rubble of an electronics warehouse store after a Saudi-led air strike destroyed it in Yemen‘s capital Sana on February 14, 2016.
On August 9, the State Department approved the latest major US weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, mainly to replace tanks that the kingdom has lost in its war in Yemen against Houthi rebels and allies of the former president. The $1.15 billion deal highlights the Obama administration's deepening involvement in the Saudi-led war, which has escalated after four months of peace talks broke down on August 6. Since then, warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition have bombed a Yemeni school, a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, and a potato-chip factory, killing more than 40 civilians, including at least 10 children.

The deal for the Saudi army to buy 153 Abrams tanks, hundreds of machine guns, 20 heavy-tank recovery vehicles, ammunition, and assorted other weapons is the latest in a series of arms sales by the United States—and, to a lesser extent, Britain and France—to the kingdom since it launched its war against Yemen in March 2015. In addition to providing intelligence assistance, Washington has rushed billions in smart bombs and other war matériel to help the Saudi air force continue its bombing campaign. Indeed, some of the Saudi weapons systems are so complex and dependent on US spare parts that they would be grounded without American assistance.

Black Magic

33 of the most intriguing cases on the Clinton Death List

The Clinton's dead pool list is growing. Three people who had direct connections to Bill and Hillary Clinton died of unusual circumstances over the last few weeks adding to an already long, suspicious list of accidents and supposed suicides.

Since the Democratic National Committee emails were released by Wikileaks a few weeks ago, three people associated with the DNC have all been found dead under questionable circumstances.

According to WND, when DNC staffer Seth Rich was gunned down near his affluent neighborhood in Washington, D.C., on July 10, theories exploded in the news media about Rich's possible involvement in the WikiLeaks dump of nearly 20,000 Democratic National Committee emails - some of the messages suggesting that the Democratic Party favored nominee Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders from the start.

Alarm Clock

What the world doesn't need: A brain-damaged U.S. president with her finger on the nuclear trigger

Hillary Rodham Clinton seems to surround herself with more scandals than you can shake a stick at, as we said when I was growing up in Texas. We had the Mena, Arkansas scandals when her husband, Bubba, otherwise known as William Jefferson Clinton, was Attorney General and then Governor. Ambrose Evans Pritchard, the British Telegraph investigative journalist did a masterful documentation of that in his The Secret Life of Bill Clinton, when Bill was President facing impeachment in the 1990's. Then there are the Clinton Foundation scandals documented in the 2015 Peter Schweitzer book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, detailing how Hillary abused her office as Secretary of State to steer huge Saudi and other "donations" to the Clinton Foundation on whose board she sat as soon as leaving office as Secretary of State.

There are of course the national security e-mail server scandals which a corrupted Attorney General and a corrupt FBI director swept under the rug. This latest scandal puts all others in the background. It's her refusal to release all medical records detailing her medications and true state of health following a brain concussion in 2012. The Democratic candidate is likely medically suffering from irreversible dementia.

On August 8, a New Jersey radio host and blogger released what he claimed were leaked copies of Hillary Clinton's 2014 medical records from her doctor, Lisa Bardack M.D. of the Mt. Kisco Medical Group in upstate New York. According to the documents, Dr. Bardack wrote that Clinton had "early-onset Subcortical Vascular Dementia" following a serious brain concussion she suffered from a fall when she was Secretary of State, on December 7, 2012. After that fall, she spent six months in constant hospital care according to Bill Clinton, who told ABC News in 2014 that her injury "required six months of very serious work to get over." On February 1, 2013 Secretary of State and future Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, abruptly resigned as Secretary of State with no link to her health mentioned.

ABCNews in May, 2014 cited the following quote from her doctors, one of whom was Dr. Lisa Bardack: "In the course of a routine follow-up MRI on Sunday, the scan revealed...a clot in the vein that is situated in the space between the brain and the skull behind the right ear. It did not result in a stroke, or neurological damage. To help dissolve this clot, her medical team began treating the Secretary with blood thinners..." - Dr. Lisa Bardack, Mt. Kisco Medical Group, and Dr. Gigi El-Bayoumi, George Washington University.

Comment: While Clinton's health issues are cause for serious concern, the scandals, evidence of criminal behavior and her insistence on war and more war, make her unfit for public office in any case.


Dig

US budget deficit expands to $590 billion, public debt reaches 77% of GDP

© Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Slower revenue growth and large spending will expand the US budget deficit to $590 billion in the fiscal year ending September 30, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The deficit is expected to be $152 billion more than last year and $56 billion larger than CBO's forecast in March and will equal 3.2 percent of the country's economic output.

Such a budget deficit is more than the GDP of Sweden, Poland or Iran. In July, the US posted a $113 billion budget gap, bigger than the economies of Ukraine or Slovakia.

The largest deficit America has seen is $1.4 trillion in 2009, which dropped to $485 billion in 2014. US public debt will continue to grow and is projected at 77 percent of the country's GDP by year-end.

Vader

Washington 'Galvanized' Kurds in Hasakah to turn on Syrian Army

© Rodi Said/Reuters
A Kurdish fighter from the People's Protection Units (YPG) carries his weapon as he stands past a tank in the Ghwairan neighborhood of Hasaka, Syria, August 22, 2016.
The US has pitted the Syrian Kurds against Damascus-led forces in the northeastern city of Hasakah in a bid not to lose regional influence should Turkey, Russia and Iran create an alliance to resolve the Syrian conflict, analyst and journalist Hüsnü Mahalli told Sputnik, adding that recent clashes are part of the West's "geopolitical games."

"Up until now Russia and Iran have helped to maintain cordial relations between the Syrian Kurds from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Damascus. The PYD made a mistake when it opted to cooperate with the US," he said.

Kurdish militias, assisted by the US, have been trying to push radical groups, including Daesh and al-Nusra Front from northern Syria and secure the porous border with Turkey. At the same time, the Kurds have established a de-facto autonomy in the areas under their control.

Mahalli emphasized that any efforts on the part of the PYD and the People's Protection Units (YPG) to create an independent state will be a mistake that could not be undone.

"The Americans have repeatedly said that they have a Plan B for Syria. Perhaps, this is what they meant. I'm afraid that the US has decided to drag the Kurds into a large-scale bloodbath," he added.

Comment: U.S. policy in Syria is veering further and further into fantasy. The current line in "thinktankland" is to carve out a state for the Kurds, that would provide a U.S.-controlled buffer between Russia and the West. The problem is that this insane idea involves chunks of the sovereign countries of Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. They are hardly likely to go along with the plan.
© Unknown