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Wed, 22 Feb 2017
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Puppet Masters


Planning another front? US sends $50 million worth of weapons to Lebanon as aid against terrorism

© Mohamed Azakir / Reuters
The US has delivered a new shipment of weapons and military equipment to Lebanon in an attempt to bolster the Middle Eastern nation in countering extremists and militant groups from neighboring war-torn Syria.

The shipment provided to the Lebanese army by the US includes 50 armored vehicles, 40 artillery pieces, and 50 grenade launchers. This new $50 million package brings US military aid to Lebanon to $220 million this year, Reuters reports, citing the US ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard.

The US handed three military helicopters over to the Lebanese army in March, while the UK promised to provide training for Lebanon's Land Border Regiments. The UK is to spend $30 million to train Lebanese troops in special "urban counterterrorism" techniques over three years.

Comment: More on how Lebanon is becoming the focus for a possible new front in the Syrian conflict:

Star of David

Israel warns UN is being 'exploited' by Hamas following arrest of employee in Gaza

© REUTERS/ Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon addressed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warning him that Hamas is "exploiting" the organization, following an arrest of an UN employee in Gaza on terrorism related charges, local media reported Tuesday.

According to Israel's internal security service, Shin Bet, Wahid Abd Allah Borsh, 38, an engineer in the UN Development Program (UNDP) was arrested July 16 on charges of assisting the terrorist organization. During the interrogations, he told that in 2014, he was approached by Hamas requesting him to organize his work in UNDP in the way to benefit Hamas the most.

"This is not an isolated incident, but a worrying trend of systematic exploitation of UN bodies by Hamas terrorists," Danon said, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

Earlier in the day, Borsh was formally charged with assisting Hamas.

Comment: It seems Israel is really reaching on this case to somehow discredit the UN.


Saudi coalition airstrikes in Yemeni capital hit potato chip factory and kill at least 9 civilians, but claim they only hit military targets

© Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
Employees show the damages at a snack food factory after a Saudi-led air strike hit it in Sanaa, Yemen, August 9, 2016.
At least nine people have been killed in a Saudi-led coalition airstrike on the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. The assault is reported to be the first in recent months, and adds to the growing civilian death toll during the prolonged operation against Houthi forces.

Civilian deaths occurred in an airstrike on a potato chip factory in the Nahda district of Sanaa, Reuters reported, citing local medics who said at least nine people were killed, including women. Al Jazeera puts the death toll at 14.

The attack also led to the suspension of all flights bound for Sanaa International Airport for 72 hours.

The bombing came after Saudi-led coalition spokesman General Ahmed Asiri announced that the airstrikes against Shiite Houthi militia had resumed and led to the closure of Sanaa airport, saying fighter jets had hit military targets "around" the city, according to AFP.

Comment: See also:

Stock Up

Bulgaria's change of heart may revive South Stream pipeline project

© Sergey Guneev / Sputnik
Bulgaria has apparently changed its mind again on the energy project to deliver Russian natural gas to Southern Europe. According to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, Moscow and Sofia could restart the South Stream negotiations.

The Prime Minister said the two countries will create working groups to restore energy cooperation. Among other projects on the table is the Belene nuclear power plant, suspended in 2009.

Brussels opposed the South Stream pipeline, claiming the project violated the European Union's Third Energy Package. The ruling stipulates that the same company, in this case Russia's Gazprom, is forbidden to both provide and transport gas. The pipeline was intended to transport gas from Russia under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, then to Serbia and Western Europe.
In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow is still interested in the project, but Gazprom could not proceed due to EU roadblocks.

"How could we spend €9 billion just to have all this metal sink into the sea, without having secured the right to enter Bulgarian territory? But of course, as soon as we realized what was happening, we shut down any further work. We did not abandon the project, we were stopped from implementing it," said Putin.

Comment: Bulgaria looks to be another "EU" country that sees which way the wind is blowing. But having burned Russia in the past, Bulgaria will need to provide firm guarantees before Russia considers anything.

Treasure Chest

More blood and conquest: US approves $1.15 billion sale for tanks, heavy gear to Saudi Arabia

© AP Photo/ The U.S. Army
The US Department of State has approved a $1.15 billion sale to Saudi Arabia for 153 Abrams main battle tanks and an array of other combat equipment, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a news release on Tuesday.

General Dynamics Land Systems, located in the US state of Michigan, will perform the work, according to the release.

"The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for M1A2S Saudi Abrams main battle tanks and M88Al/A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift Evacuation System (HERCULES), Armored Recovery Vehicles (ARV), equipment, training and support," the release stated. "[T]he estimated cost is $1.15 billion."

Bad Guys

Killary's Praetorian Guard: CIA and Pentagon break tradition, publicly endorse their preferred war criminal for president

Former director of the Central Intelligence Agency Michael J Morell is the latest in a phalanx of senior US military-intelligence figures who are shedding any pretense of political neutrality and giving their full-throated endorsement to Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

In a New York Times opinion piece, Morell starkly backed Clinton as the most «highly qualified to be commander-in-chief... keeping our nation safe».

The ex-CIA chief's op-ed piece also served as a blunt hatchet job on Republican presidential rival Donald J Trump. Morell said the New York billionaire-turned politician is «not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security».

The hoary, old scare-theme of «national security» is being rehabilitated as the criterion for electing Clinton. It also has the disturbing connotation of an increasingly militarized totalitarian regime that the United States is becoming.

Black Magic

White House finally releases "playbook" for killing and (occasionally) capturing terror suspects

© Getty Images
Predator drones
The Obama administration has released its internal guidelines for how it decides to kill or capture alleged terrorists around the globe, three years after they came into effect. They provide a look at the drone war bureaucracy behind hundreds of strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere, a system President Obama will hand off to his successor.

The guidelines show the process is concentrated at the White House, specifically in the National Security Council. They also describe the process for approving so-called signature strikes, where the target of the strike is not a known "high value terrorist," but rather some other "terrorist target," which could be a group of people exhibiting suspect behavior, or a vehicle, building or other infrastructure.

Amid all these procedural details, however, the presidential policy guidance, or "playbook," as it has been called, does not provide new insight into when, where, and under what authorities someone can be killed, or what kind of intelligence is necessary to make that decision.

Much of the document, which is dated May 22, 2013, echoes public statements by administration officials over the past several years and previously-released material. The general standards for killing terrorist targets away from active battlefields were made public that May, when the president gave a speech and issued an abbreviated version of the guidance, promising that the United States would only undertake lethal action against a terrorist if they posed a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons, and if capture was not feasible.

It took a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to get the full 18-page version of the guidance declassified, with some redactions.

Snakes in Suits

State sponsored terrorism: Has CIA's plot to 'covertly' kill Russians in Syria come to pass?

Former acting director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Michael Morell during a televised interview with American talk show host Charlie Rose, openly conspired to commit a raft of war crimes in Syria, suggesting that the US should take measures to "covertly" kill Russians and Iranians through armed proxies on the ground.

He also suggested targeting Syria's senior leadership through a series of terrorist attacks in and around Damascus, according to CBS News.


Crises over? Putin says his talks with Erdogan were constructive and important

© Alexei Nikolskiy/Russian Presidential press service/TASS
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday his talks with his visiting Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were constructive.

He said the meeting was of major significance for further relations between Russia and Turkey. "We had a substantial and, I would like to stress, constructive conversation on the entire spectrum of bilateral ties, and on the international agenda," Putin told a news conference after the talks.

Bad Guys

Think-tanks and bombs: Evil corporations use nonprofits to dodge lobbying rules, receive lucrative favors

© Eric Thayer / Reuters
It's all supposed to be for the public good, but new reporting based on internal documents and emails reveals deal-making between "think tank" research institutes and giant corporations is driven by more mundane interests.

Think tanks are non-profit policy research establishments with tax-exempt status, as they are assumed to be doing work to advance the public good, not cater to private interests. Traditional lobbying of the federal government is likewise regulated to promote transparency. When the rules become too onerous, or the public image of a corporation is stained by its overt solicitations for policy change, think tanks become a useful corporate device, the New York Times has found, in a Sunday report jointly researched with the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR).

In one instance, drone manufacturer and military contractor General Atomics sought the services of the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). With the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in a slump in 2013, fewer drones were being sold to the US military. The California-based maker of Predator drones needed to find customers abroad, but weapons trade restrictions at the time prohibited their export.

Comment: It gets worse than that. The Kagans' Institute for the Study of War directed U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan while their major donors were arms manufacturers. (For details, see our interview with filmmaker Robbie Martin: The Truth Perspective: A Very Heavy Agenda: The rise, fall and resurrection of the neocons.) If there's a rule, you can be sure the war whores will find a way to break it.