Anya Parampil highlights the Democratic Republic of Congo after Congolese Dr. Denis Mukwege was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week. She explains how the country’s brutal history of colonization by Belgium created the deadliest conflict since World War II, with up to 6.9 million people dying since 1998 in a battle for the Congo’s natural resources and minerals. Kambale Musavuli, National Spokesperson for Friends of the Congo, joins In Question to describe how he thinks the Congolese people can finally win control of their own destiny.
Militants in Syria’s Idlib have transported several canisters containing chlorine to the village of Bsanqul, apparently preparing to stage a false flag chemical attack, the Russian Defense Ministry has said.
The chlorine-filled canisters were delivered by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants of Tahrir al Sham, formerly known as Al-Nusra Front, a spokesman of the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, Lieutenant General Vladimir Savchenko, said in a statement Saturday. He added that the latest developments showed that the militants are preparing for a false flag attack that would be used to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its people.
The US and its allies have so far dismissed the Russian warnings, but said that the government in Damascus might instead be preparing chemical attacks against civilians. Moscow has suggested that the attack might be prepared with the support of Washington, which wants to justify further air strikes against Syria. Those planned strikes are said to be much larger in scale than those launched against the Syrian military by the US, the UK and France in April.
It comes as Washington has been building up its military presence in the region. In late August, the missile destroyer USS Ross was deployed to the Mediterranean, carrying 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles, while the USS The Sullivans was deployed to the Persian Gulf and a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber was moved to an air base in Qatar.
Most recently, the USS Bulkeley (DDG-84), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, entered the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar. Last week, the attack submarine USS Newport News (SSN-750) arrived in the Mediterranean as well.
With the arrival of the Bulkeley, the US forces in the region reportedly have up to 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles available to strike targets in Syria if ordered to do so, Russian media reports.
US prosecutors who wrongly accused Russian ‘foreign agent’ and gun activist Maria Butina of trading sex for influence peddled their own cheap James Bond fan fiction. No matter how incorrect, the media lapped it up.
Butina’s request to be released until the time of her trial was declined by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Monday. Chutkan ruled that the Russian activist is to remain in jail until she’s tried on the charges of acting as an unregistered agent for a foreign government. Butina has pleaded not guilty.
The judge has also slapped both the prosecution and the defense with a media gag order, after berating the defense attorney for giving interviews on his client’s innocence and slamming the prosecution for opening the case with a “salacious” and “notorious” claim that proved to be completely false. Days after Butina was arrested in July, Assistant US Attorney Erik M. Kenerson claimed she was offering an individual “sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.”
In a filing on Friday, prosecutors in the US attorney’s office in Washington, including Kenerson, backtracked on the July allegation, and stressed that it “was based both on a series of text messages between the defendant and another individual.” They admitted that the “government’s understanding of this particular text conversation was mistaken.”
Butina case was aimed 'at getting headlines'
Accusing Butina of trading sex for work was never about building a solid case against her, however. Instead, it was about portraying her as a Russian femme fatale; a pawn of Putin seducing her way through American political circles to sow division and discord in American politics.
“I think it was done to get headlines,” human rights lawyer Dan Kovalik told RT. “I think it was done to injure her reputation… All along, the US officials and even the press have tried to present her as some kind of spy, when in fact there is not even an allegation in that regard.”
Using the term “spy” to describe Butina, even to the untrained eye, is a bit of a reach. Before falling victim to Washington’s anti-Russian crusade, Butina moved to the US on a student visa in 2016. She graduated from American University in Washington DC with a master’s degree in international relations earlier this year. Butina is also the founder of Right to Bear Arms, a pro-gun organization that lobbies to change Russia’s strict gun laws. Right to Bear Arms has developed ties with the National RIfle Association (NRA) in the US. In her time in America, Butina met and socialized with several conservative political figures.
The sex allegations, Kovalik argues, were tacked on to bolster the US government’s already weak case against Butina. The 29-year-old gun activist was arrested for failing to register as a foreign lobbyist under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), an offense that doesn’t immediately scream “spy.”
"Clearly, this is a political case,” Kovalik said. “It is unclear to me what this young woman has done wrong, except maybe not registered under the FARA act. I believe no one has been arrested ever for violating that act which is rarely invoked.”
'Used as a political pawn by US'
The smear worked, and the salacious headlines did the rounds in US media. “A simple Google search using the phrase ‘Maria Butina and sex’ yields over 300,000 hits,” her defense lawyer Robert Driscoll said in an interview, after the government backtracked on the allegation.
With their imaginations left to run riot, American journalists pumped out cold-war style spy fiction with impunity. “Sex and schmoozing are common Russian spy tactics. Publicity makes Maria Butina different,” read a headline from USA Today on August 29.
The USA Today writer scratches his head as to why Butina operated so publicly; giving interviews and speeches, publishing articles explaining her political views, and even posing for photos in magazines. After speaking to four anonymous ‘intelligence officials,’ he can only conclude that Butina’s transparency is “evidence the Russians have grown bolder in their spy efforts.”
Throughout much of the mainstream media, journalists parroted the prosecutors’ claims. Butina’s activism, the New York Times wrote in July “appears to be another arm of the Russian government’s attempts to influence or gain information about the American political process.” Butina, Time Magazine wrote at the same time, “lived a double life by using sex and a love of guns to infiltrate American political organizations...in order to advance Moscow’s agenda.”
What ‘Moscow’s agenda’ is here is unclear. Butina’s however, is clear as day. “She was meeting with people to talk about gun rights that she wants loosen in her own country back home in Russia,” Kovalik told RT. After all, if you want to talk gun rights in the USA, who better to talk to than the NRA, the world’s best-known gun rights organization, with more than six million members and a yearly revenue of almost $500 million.
Why then did she find herself the unwilling star of a third-rate spy novel, serialized and dramatized in US newspapers?
“I think this was a political gambit to deal with bigger geopolitical issues to try to ruin the outcome of the summit between Trump and Putin,” Kovalik said. “She is being used as a political pawn by the US.”
'Charges will be dropped, but reputation and life will be destroyed'
As long as the case against Butina is ongoing, the US government has human proof that the specter of ‘Russian meddling’ in US politics is alive and well.Unfortunately for Butina, that means she sits in jail until her case is eventually resolved.
The Russian Embassy in Washington DC has accused American authorities of subjecting her to ‘borderline torture’ conditions, including unnecessary strip searches after every visit, sleep deprivation, and denying the 28-year-old medical treatment for a swelling on her leg. “There are attempts to break her will,” the embassy said.
According to Kovalik, Butina’s outlook is grim. “I am going to bet that this case will drag on and this poor woman will rot in jail, apparently subjected to all sorts of indignities, including a body cavity search she is after every meeting,” the veteran human rights lawyer said. “And ultimately the charges will be dropped for the lack of evidence. But in the meantime her reputation and life will be destroyed. That is how I see this case going, to be perfectly frank.”
While the sex allegations against Butina have been dropped, prosecutors have still clung to the claims that she is, in fact, a spy. They say that her having received multiple visits from Russian officials while in jail is somehow proof of her importance to the Russian government, as is the fact that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov complained about her detention to his US counterpart Mike Pompeo.
However, a visit from a Russian bureaucrat doesn’t sell newspapers like a juicy, sex-filled headline does. Therefore, this information was relegated to the final paragraphs of the retraction articles on Friday - an ignominious end to a damp squib of a modern spy thriller.
Reprinted with permission from RT.
The planned chemical weapon provocation in the Syrian province of Idlib is aimed at maintaining the presence of terrorists in the area, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
The Russian FM, who met his Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir in Moscow on Wednesday, compared the terrorist presence in the province with an “abscess” that should be swiftly removed.
“Idlib is now the last remaining hotbed of the terrorists, who try to speculate on the area’s status of de-escalation zone; try using the population as a human shield and try repressing the armed groups that are ready for talks with the government,” he said.
The Minister also noted that the overall goal in Washington with regard to war-ravaged Syria, was not really helping the country, but to push for regime change.
US chose ‘neocolonial course’ in Syria to gain control over its resources – Russian envoy to UN
“It’s not the first time the US – no matter the administration – has prioritized the task of changing dissident regimes above the common goals of eradicating terrorism and extremism. It happened in Iraq and Libya. Now they’re trying to do the same in Syria. To phrase it more correctly – they tried to do it in Syria, but failed,” Lavrov said.
The chemical attack issue and “the threats that are put forward against the Syrian government, are used with the sole purpose of preventing the expulsion of the terrorists from the de-escalation zone in Idlib,” Lavrov said.
In this case, the Trump administration is simply following the policies of Barack Obama, under whom “the Americans tried to use all means possible to shelter Jabhat al-Nusra, with hope of using it in the fight against, what they call, the regime,” he added.
Earlier, Moscow warned that a provocation, involving chemical weapons, was being prepared in Idlib by the US, with the aim of blaming the Syrian authorities and justifying further air strikes.
On Tuesday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said that sources on the ground informed them that the chemicals to be used in the fake attack have been already delivered to terrorists in the area with the assistance of the infamous White Helmets group.
Washington cautioned that it would respond to a chemical weapons attack by Syrian authorities with retaliatory strikes, which would be a lot larger in scale than those conducted against the country by the US, the UK and France in April.
Those strikes were carried out based on an unconfirmed reports of a chemical attack, which also came from the White Helmets. The Western-backed group has been caught red-handed working with militants and producing fake evidence to smear the Syrian government and its allies.
The US may have plans to use a fake chemical attack in Syria to hit government forces with airstrikes, the Russian Defense Ministry has said. Washington is already building up strike capability in the Middle East, it said.
The warning comes a day after the Russian military said it had information about a looming provocation in Syria’s Idlib governorate, which would involve a staged chemical weapons attack. The US earlier warned it would respond to a chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces with retaliatory strikes, which would be stronger than those conducted by the US, the UK and France in April.
In a statement published on Monday, the Russian MoD said it noted the deployment to the Mediterranean last weekend of the missile destroyer USS Ross carrying 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles on board. It came after a similar move of the USS The Sullivans to the Persian Gulf and the rebasing of a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber to an air base in Qatar. The Russian ministry said the “preparations are the latest evidence of the US intention to use the” expected provocation.
The statement reiterated that the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham militant group, previously known as Al-Nusra Front, was preparing a staged chlorine attack in a city in Idlib. It alleged that a group of jihadists, trained in the handling of chemical weapons by the British private military contractor Olive Group, has already arrived in Jisr al-Shughur. The group will “stage decontamination of victims of a staged chemical weapons attack posing as members of the notorious White Helmets group,” the ministry claimed.
“The implementation of this provocation, which is being conducted with the assistance of the British intelligence services, is meant to serve as the latest pretext for the US, Britain and France to deliver a missile strike against state and economic facilities in Syria,” said General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry.
On August 22, US National Security Advisor John Bolton stated that “if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”
In April, a reported chlorine attack in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta neighborhood served as justification for the US, UK, and France to attack what they claimed to be sites involved in a clandestine Syrian chemical weapons program. The missile attacks came just as a team of international inspectors was set to arrive at the scene to collect evidence of the supposed attack.
Later, residents of the area told journalists that the footage of the treatment of the alleged victims of the attack was filmed by the White Helmets group after they orchestrated a panic at a local hospital. The patients there were not poisoned by chlorine, local medics said. The footage was presented by the mainstream media as proof that an attack took place.
“Foreign specialists” have arrived in Syria and may stage a chemical attack using chlorine in “the next two days,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. This will be filmed for international media to frame Damascus forces.
Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the operation is planned to unfold in the village of Kafr Zita in Syria’s northwestern Hama Province in “the next two days.”
Konashenkov said that “English-speaking specialists” are already in place to use “poisonous agents.” While a group of residents from the north has been transported to Kafr Zita and is currently being prepared “to take part in the staging of the attack” and be filmed suffering from supposed “‘chemical munitions’ and ‘barrel bombs’ launched by the Syrian government forces.”
The groups of residents will be used to assist “fake rescuers from the White Helmets.” They will be filmed apparently suffering from the effects of chemical weapons and then be shown in “the Middle Eastern and English-language media.”
The defense ministry earlier warned that the US, UK, and France are preparing to use the planned attack as a pretext for airstrikes against Syria. The USS The Sullivans, an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago.
On August 22, US National Security Adviser John Bolton stated that “if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov earlier warned that the US is not finished looking for pretexts for regime change in Damascus.
In April, the US, UK, and France unleashed a bombing campaign on Syria in response to an alleged gas attack in Douma, which the West blamed on Bashar Assad’s government. The operation started hours before a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was due to reach the city.
The US and its allies are preparing new airstrikes on Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that militants are poised to stage a chemical weapons attack in order to frame Damascus and provide a pretext for the strikes.
The attack would be used as a pretext for US, UK and French airstrikes on Syrian targets, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov said. USS ‘The Sullivans,’ an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago, he added.
The destroyer has 56 cruise missiles on board, according to data from the Russian Defence Ministry. A US Rockwell B-1 Lancer, a supersonic bomber equipped with 24 cruise missiles, has also been deployed at the Qatari Al Udeid Airbase.
The provocations are being prepared by militants from Al-Nusra Front (now known as Tahrir al-Sham) in Idlib province, northwestern Syria,
In order to stage the attack, some eight canisters of chlorine were delivered in to village near Jisr al-Shughur city for the terrorists’ use, he added. A separate group of militants, prepped by private British security company Olive, have also arrived in the area. The group will be disguised as volunteers from the White Helmets group and will simulate a rescue operation involving locals purportedly injured in the attack, according to the military official.
According to the Defense Ministry spokesman, recent statements by US National Security Advisor John Bolton – in which he threatened to bomb Syria – could be interpreted as an implicit confirmation of such airstrikes. On August 22, Bolton stated that “… if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov warned Washington against new reckless moves in Syria, RIA Novosti reported. “We hear ultimatums from Washington, including those made in public,” the top official said, apparently referring to Bolton’s recent remarks.
According to Ryabkov, the US is aiming to destabilize Syria and create new pretexts for regime change in Damascus. “Again, we are witnessing serious escalation of the situation [in Syria],” he added.
In April, the US, UK and France unleashed a bombing campaign on Syria. The airstrikes were carried out in response to an alleged gas attack in Douma on April 7, which the West blamed on Bashar Assad’s government. The operation started hours before a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was due to reach the city.
Back then, Syrian defenses were scrambled to repel some 103 cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles launched at civilian and military targets by the Western trio. It managed to intercept at least 71 of them, the Russian Defense Ministry said at the time.
• First published by RT
Although some members of the Western-supported White Helmets may be in the business of saving lives, the group is also a “propaganda organization,” author Sy Hersh (Reporter: A Memoir) has told RT’s Going Underground.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist also spoke about reporting in the United States and how it changed under the Obama administration, as well as the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, UK.
Syria will not allow Western investors to step into the rebuilding of war-damaged country as they only come to “take” from foreign economies, Syria’s Bashar Assad told Russian media, adding he will seek friendly aid instead.
The US and its Western allies have been actively engaged in the seven-year long war in Syria, including the illegal stationing of troops in the country and backing anti-government militants such as Free Syrian Army (FSA) and “moderate” Islamist groups. The war has dealt billions in damage to the country, but President Assad is determined to rebuild without a single penny from the “dishonest” West.
“They [the West] won’t be part of reconstruction in Syria, because very simply we won’t allow them to be part of it… we don’t need the West. The West is not honest at all, they don’t give, they only take,” the Syrian leader told Russian NTV channel on Sunday.
The country was historically built without external help, the Syrian president stressed, adding that any loans would be allowed only from “friends.” On the other hand, European investors, who have been privately contacting the Syrian authorities on the matter, will be banned from Syrian markets. Assad says that Europe has eyes for Syria just to save its own “dire” economies.
“They need this market, they are in a very dire situation economically since 2008, most of the European countries. They need many markets, Syria is one of them, and we are not going to allow them to be part of this market, very simply,” he said.
During the interview, Assad lashed out at Western powers, which he believes are controlled by Washington and only have “the substitute of statesmen” and “fake politics.” He said this approach needed “fake stories,” including the alleged use of chemical weapons, which Assad was repeatedly accused of despite Damascus destroying the stockpile in 2013.
The Syrian leader also said that negotiating with US President Donald Trump would be fruitless as Washington always comes up short on its promises and things only get worse when it’s involved.
“The problem with the American presidents is that they are hostages to their lobbies, to the mainstream media, to the huge corporations, financial, oil, armaments, etc.,” Assad said. He described President Trump as a “very stark example” of the American approach in politics – always saying “what you want to hear,” but doing the opposite, things get “worse and worse.”
“So, talking and discussing with the Americans now for no reason, without achieving anything, is just a waste of time,” the Syrian leader said, adding that Damascus is ready for productive dialogue, but it is unlikely to have it with Washington “in the foreseeable future.”
A newly built cholera care center, run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the town of Abs, has been hit by Saudi-led coalition planes in yet another airstrike on the medical charity’s facilities in war-ravaged Yemen.
The attack has rendered the center “non-functional,” MSF said in a statement, with photos from the scene showing that the building’s roof and some of the walls were completely destroyed in the airstrike. Luckily, the bombing in the Hajjah governorate did not result in deaths or injuries, because the “facility had not yet received any cholera patients and was empty,” the statement read.
Doctors Without Borders stressed that the cholera treatment center (CTC) was hit despite “markings on the roof of the compound clearly identifying the CTC as a healthcare facility.” According to MSF, the coordinates of the facility had also been declared to the Saudi-led coalition by the organization.
“Whether intentional or a result of negligence, it is totally unacceptable,” Joao Martins, the head of the Doctors Without Borders mission in Yemen, said. “MSF has temporarily frozen its activities in Abs until the safety of its staff and patients is guaranteed.”
“CTC had been built to save lives,” Martins pointed out, as the country is bracing itself for another outbreak of cholera. The fight with the disease is “far from over,” the World Health Organization warned last week, adding that over a million people are currently at risk.
During the three years of violence since the Saudi-led military intervention in the country, Yemen has suffered the worst cholera epidemic in modern history, with over a million people affected, nearly half of them children, and more than 2,200 deaths, according to the UN.
In August last year, a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit an MSF hospital, also located in Abs; that attack, in which 19 people were killed and 24 injured, became the deadliest among several such incidents during the conflict.
Saudi Arabia and its allies launched their first airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen in March 2015, in an attempt to help reinstate ousted President Mansour Hadi to power. Since then more than 5,500 civilians have been killed and over 9,000 injured as of the end of 2017, according to the UN.
The majority of civilian casualties were the result of airstrikes, with the Saudi-led coalition being blamed by international human rights groups for indiscriminate bombings in Yemen. The US and UK have also faced harsh criticism for selling weapons to the coalition, which are then used against civilians.
Reprinted with permission from RT.