All posts by Tyler Durden

US Officially Resumes Funding For The White Helmets In Syria

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Screenshots from a four-minute video documents that the US government has been lying about the White Helmets' role as mere "first responders". Above they are seen assisting al-Nusra Front (AQ in Syria) in an execution which the group later owned up to. 

In a somewhat surprising but not entirely unpredictable turn, President Trump has authorized new funding for the White Helmets which had previously been put on hold. 

A State Department press release puts the initial funding figure at $6.6 million to continue what it calls "the vital, life-saving operations of the Syrian Civil Defense, more commonly known as the White Helmets." Elsewhere on the State Department's website the group is referenced as "first responders" in Syria; however, it remains an indisputable fact that the group only operates in al-Qaeda and anti-Assad insurgent held territory.

The statement continues: "The United States Government strongly supports the White Helmets who have saved more than 100,000 lives since the conflict began including victims of Assad's chemical weapons attacks."

In early May the Trump State Department froze funding to the controversial aid group which had provided the sole evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly used chemical weapons on his own people in an April 7 attack on the city of Douma.

The prior funding freeze dealt a huge blow to the group's reputation, already long under fire after multiple videos emerged proving the White Helmets operate closely alongside know al-Qaeda terrorist groups, and have even participated in al-Qaeda execution videos typically in a support role of disposing the bodies.

As CBS News reported at the time:
Having not received US funding in recent weeks, White Helmets are questioning what this means for the future. They have received no formal declaration from the US government that the monetary assistance has come to a full halt, but the group's people on the ground in Syria report that their funds have been cut off. 
Much speculation abounded at the time over whether the freeze was a bureaucratic error in paperwork, or whether it was the result of the White House adopting a different view of the scandal-laden group.

After all in 2016 the US State Department had blocked entrance into the United States by Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets,and refused to say why. Saleh had been invited to receive in NYC an award by USAID and NGOs that the US government finances, but he was barred at the airport, apparently because the FBI had placed him onto its no-fly list as a known terrorist.

For this reason many analysts who have been critical of the group's known terror ties and penchant for "enhancing" and possibly staging videos were hopeful that Trump had changed his tune concerning the group. In the summer of 2017 Trump announced he was shutting down the CIA covert program to aid rebels in Syria after he saw a shocking video of CIA-supported fighters decapitating a young boy in Aleppo.

In an irony which will surely be lost on all mainstream pundits, the very group featured in the appalling beheading video which reportedly caused Trump to nix the CIA program, Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, has been filmed in multiple UK Channel 4 broadcasts working closely with the White Helmets

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Concerning last April's alleged Assad chemical attack, the evidence provided by the White Helmets was used by the West to justify several airstrikes on Syrian scientific and military facilities throughout April - the first one conducted on Syria's T4 airbase by Israel 48 hours after the White Helmets' report. Many Douma residents, meanwhile - including Hospital personnel - say the chemical attack never happened.

The White Helmets are a 3,000 member NGO formally known as the Syrian Civil Defense. Established in "late 2012 - early 2013" after a group of 20 Syrians were trained and organized by former British army officer James Le Mesurier. The group then received funding from Le Mesurier's Netherlands-based non-profit group, Mayday Rescue - which is in turn funded by grants from the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments.

The US has in the past provided at least $32 million to the group - around 1/3 of their total funding - through a USAID scheme orchestrated by the Obama State Department and funneled to the White Helmets using a Washington D.C. contractor participating in USAID's Syria regional program, Chemonics. 
According to their website, the White Helmets have been directly funded by Mayday Rescue, and a company called Chemonics, since 2014.

Yet there’s evidence that both of those organizations started supporting the White Helmets back in early 2013, right around the time the White Helmets claim to have formed as self-organized groups.

Mayday Rescue, as we said, is funded by the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments. And Chemonics?

They are a Washington, D.C. based contractor that was awarded $128.5 million in January 2013 to support “a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria” as part of USAID’s Syria regional program. At least $32 million has been given directly to the White Helmets as of February 2018. -TruthInMedia
So the US, Dutch, British, Danish and German governments have been funding the White Helmets, a non-governmental organization, through proxies for around five years.

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Meanwhile Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov warned early this week that US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces are planning a "serious provocation" aimed at justifying a new round of Western coalition missile attacks against Syrian government bases and facilities.

Russia says it is aware of the existence of a video which will be used to "prove" an Assad chemical attack, similar to the videos which have emerged in past events. 

Konashenkov, in a statement carried by Russian state-run TASS and subsequently featured in a One America News report, said "According to the information confirmed through three independent channels in Syria, the command of the so-called ‘Free Syrian Army’ aided by the forces of the US special ops units are preparing a serious provocation involving chemical warfare agents in the Deir ez-Zor province."

Russia has in the past pointed the finger at the White Helmets from staging such "provocations". 

"After being published in western media a staged video is set to initiate a missile strike on Syria’s state facilities by the US-led coalition and justify an offensive operation by militants against Syrian governmental forces on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River," he said, adding that Russia’s Defense Ministry warns that the use of such provocations for destabilization of the environment on the Syrian territory is unacceptable.

Perhaps today's announcement of the resumption of US funding for the White Helmets is merely the beginning of another major "event" which will justify more Western military intervention in Syria?

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Mueller Scrambles To Limit Evidence After Indicted Russians Actually Show Up In Court

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller is scrambling to limit pretrial evidence handed over to a Russian company he indicted in February over alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, according to Bloomberg.

Mueller asked a Washington federal Judge for a protective order that would prevent the delivery of copious evidence to lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting, LLC, one of three Russian firms and 13 Russian nationals. The indictment accuses the firm of producing propaganda, pretending to be U.S. activists online and posting political content on social media in order to sow discord among American voters. 

The special counsel's office argues that the risk of the evidence leaking or falling into the hands of foreign intelligence services, especially Russia, would assist the Kremlin's active "interference operations" against the United States. 

“The substance of the government’s evidence identifies uncharged individuals and entities that the government believes are continuing to engage in interference operations like those charged in the present indictment,” prosecutors wrote.
Improper disclosure would tip foreign intelligence services about how the U.S. operates, which would “allow foreign actors to learn of those techniques and adjust their conduct, thus undermining ongoing and future national security operations,” according to the filing.

The evidence includes thousands of documents involving U.S. residents not charged with crimes who prosecutors say were unwittingly recruited by Russian defendants and co-conspirators to engage in political activity in the U.S., prosecutors wrote. -Bloomberg
Mueller also accused Concord of "knowingly and intentionally" conspiring to interfere with the election by using social media to disparage Hillary Clinton and support Donald Trump.

And Concord Management decided to fight it... 

As Powerline notes, Mueller probably didn't see that coming - and the indictment itself was perhaps nothing more than a PR stunt to bolster the Russian interference narrative. 
I don’t think anyone (including Mueller) anticipated that any of the defendants would appear in court to defend against the charges. Rather, the Mueller prosecutors seem to have obtained the indictment to serve a public relations purpose, laying out the case for interference as understood by the government and lending a veneer of respectability to the Mueller Switch Project.

One of the Russian corporate defendants nevertheless hired counsel to contest the charges. In April two Washington-area attorneys — Eric Dubelier and Kate Seikaly of the Reed Smith firm — filed appearances in court on behalf of Concord Management and Consulting. Josh Gerstein covered that turn of events for Politico here. -Powerline Blog
Politico's Gerstein notes that by defending against the charges, Concord could force prosecutors to turn over discovery about how the case was assembled as well as evidence that might undermine the prosecution’s theories.”

In a mad scramble to put the brakes on the case, Mueller's team tried to delay the trial - saying that Concord never formally accepted the court summons related to the case, wrapping themselves in a "cloud of confusion" as Powerline puts it. “Until the Court has an opportunity to determine if Concord was properly served, it would be inadvisable to conduct an initial appearance and arraignment at which important rights will be communicated and a plea entertained.”

The Judge, Dabney Friedrich - a Trump appointee, didn't buy it - denying Mueller a delay in the high-profile trial.

The Russians hit back - filing a response to let the court know that “[Concord] voluntarily appeared through counsel as provided for in [the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure], and further intends to enter a plea of not guilty. [Concord] has not sought a limited appearance nor has it moved to quash the summons. As such, the briefing sought by the Special Counsel’s motion is pettifoggery.”

And the Judge agreed...
A federal judge has rejected special counsel Robert Mueller’s request to delay the first court hearing in a criminal case charging three Russian companies and 13 Russian citizens with using social media and other means to foment strife among Americans in advance of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In a brief order Saturday evening, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich offered no explanation for her decision to deny a request prosecutors made Friday to put off the scheduled Wednesday arraignment for Concord Management and Consulting, one of the three firms charged in the case. -Politico
In other words, Mueller was denied the opportunity to kick the can down the road, forcing him to produce the requested evidence or withdraw the indictment, potentially jeopardizing the PR aspect of the entire "Trump collusion" probe.

And now Mueller is pointing to Russian "interference operations" in a last-ditch effort. 

Of note, Facebook VP of advertising, Rob Goldman, tossed a major hand grenade in the "pro-Trump" Russian meddling narrative in February when he fired off a series of tweets the day of the Russian indictments. Most notably, Goldman pointed out that the majority of advertising purchased by Russians on Facebook occurred after the election, were hardly pro-Trump, and they was designed to "sow discord and divide Americans", something which Americans have been quite adept at doing on their own ever since the Fed decided to unleash a record class, wealth, income divide by keeping capital markets artificially afloat at any cost.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Trump ‘War Games’ Announcement Shocks South Korea, US Military Forces

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In what was perhaps the most surprising announcement to emerge from today's Trump-Kim summit, president Trump agreed to suspend military exercises with South Korea in return for a commitment to denuclearisation from North Korea.

As we reported earlier, Trump said the war games were expensive and “very provocative”, and yet stopping them has been called a "major concession", something the US has previously rejected as non-negotiable on the grounds that the exercises are a key element of its military alliance with Seoul, and maintaining a deterrent against North Korea. In return, Trump said Kim had agreed in a joint statement to reassert “his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

In other words, Trump made it appear that he is negotiating from a position of weakness to achieve a diplomatic goal which would have remained unachievable had Trump not taken the initiative. In doing so, however, he infuriated the neocons in his immediate circle. Immediately after the announcement, the WaPo's Josh Rogin noted that "Everything Trump is saying and doing goes directly against everything Bolton has ever said or believed about North Korea."

On the surface, anything that neocon warmonger Bolton hates can only be good.

But it wasn't just Trump's closest advisors that were shocked: both the South Korean government and US forces in the region appear to have been taken by surprise by Trump’s declared suspension of joint military exercises.

According to Reuters, US forces in Korea said they had not received updated guidance on military exercises.

“In coordination with our ROK [Republic of Korea] partners, we will continue with our current military posture until we receive updated guidance,” a spokesperson told Reuters.

Trump’s announcement also came as a surprise to the South Korean government. “At this point, we need to know President Trump’s exact meaning or intentions,” according to a statement released by the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in. “However we think that it is crucial to pursue various solutions for better dialogue.”

The South Korean military appeared similarly taken aback, with NBC News quoting a statement as saying: “Regarding President Trump’s comment regarding ending of the combined military drills … we need to find out the exact meaning or intention behind his comments at this point.”

Military officials from both countries, including the US defence secretary, James Mattis, had vigorously opposed curtailing joint military exercises, on the grounds that doing so would undermine the alliance and its deterrent against North Korea.

Kelly Magsamen, a senior Pentagon official dealing with Asian and Pacific security in the Obama administration, blasted the surprise suspension of military exercises and their disparagement as expensive and provocative “continues Trump’s disturbing pattern of undermining our democratic alliances while praising our adversaries”.

Then again, with North Korea having repeatedly said that any denuclearization could only take place if the US stops naval drills in the region, Trump's surprise decision just may be the missing link that gets North Korea to finally do what generations of western leaders have failed to achieve.

Trump said the summit on Tuesday would be followed next week by more negotiations between US and North Korean officials to work out the details of the agreement.

In an amusing twist, before his press conference, reporters were shown a video that Trump said he had played to Kim and his aides towards the end of their talks. It was made by Destiny Productions and was presented in Korean and English in the style of an action movie trailer.

It sought to illustrate alternative futures for North Korea: one a bright, colourful world of scientific progress and happiness, the other a monochrome world full of weaponry accompanied by ominous music. Only one person could choose between these two destinies, the film’s narrator said.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

German Officials Admit ‘Still No Evidence’ From UK That Russia Poisoned Skripals

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It seems notably fortuitous that the world is now distracted with the ongoing actions surrounding President Trump - whether in Quebec tweet-slamming PM Trudeau, or in Singapore ahead of his historic summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

We say "fortuitous" since it offers UK PM Theresa May some breathing room as her dramatic, quickly determined, and globally propagandized claims that Russia was the culprit for the poisoning of the Russian ex-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter; remain entirely unsubstantiated by any proof.

However, just as May was hoping the world had forgot dozens of nations expelled hundreds of Russian diplomats on nothing more than her word and the constant Russophobic narrative pumped thru the eyeballs and earholes of the rest of the world; the Germans just threw a rather loud wrench in the slient-running PR campaign that has taken the Skripal-murdering Putin off the frontpage.

German media reports that the German government has zero evidence from the British authorities that could back London’s claims that Moscow was behind the poisoning of the Skripals

More than three months since the start of the probe into the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, RT reports that the UK is still conspicuously tight-lipped when it comes to any real evidence that could prove its accusations against Russia.

This week, the German government informed a parliamentary oversight committee during a closed hearing that it still has not received any evidence suggesting that Russia might well be behind the incident that took place in early March, German TV station RBB reports.
'It is [still] only known that the poison used in the attack was a nerve agent called Novichok, which was once produced in the Soviet Union,' Michael Goetschenberg, a correspondent of German ARD and an expert on security services, told RBB, commenting on the results of the hearing, which he is familiar with.
Apart from this information, which was released by the British authorities soon after the incident, no new data on Russia’s alleged implication in this case was provided to Germany so far, he added.

German intelligence has also found no Russian trace in this case so far, Goetschenberg said.
'The BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence… has also contacted its own sources and tried to verify the information [about Russia’s potential involvement] in some way,' he told RBB, adding that it eventually failed to find any evidence pointing to Moscow as well.
Russia has categorically denied any involvement, and has complained that the victims were not allowed visits by Russian lawyers and diplomats, and the results of the investigation were kept secret. The Russian envoy to the UK has on several occasions alleged that London was even trying to “destroy” evidence in the probe.

Just days ago, Scotland Yard said it was still following multiple leads in the investigation, adding that it still “cannot discuss the results at this stage.” The probe has already cost £7.5 million ($10 million) to British taxpayers, according to the region’s police and crime commissioner.

Meanwhile, both Sergei and Yulia Skripal have been released from the hospital, seemingly no worse for the attampted assassination using the world's most deadly nerve agent.

Are we still supposed to believe that Vladimir Putin - the man who western media and politicians blame for meddling with US elections to get Trump elected, manipulating French elections (unsuccessfully), murdering reporters (that actually came back to life), causing Brexit, killing millions in Syria (and anywhere else that US hegemony is bring back democracy), enabling an entire nation's athletes to take steroids, and probably causing LeBron and the Cavs to get swept - managed to mess up the delivery of a deadly military grade nerve agent to kill an old man and a young woman?

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

‘Real’ Assassin Arrested In Staged Kiev Hit Linked To Ukrainian Intelligence As Official Story Unravels

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The Ukrainian government's staged assassination of anti-Putin journalist Arkady Babachenko has taken an even stranger turn, as evidence has emerged that his would-be "Russia-ordered" assassin and the man who supposedly hired him, both say they worked for Ukrainian counterintelligence, casting serious doubt on the official story.

To review, Ukrainian authorities announced last Tuesday that Babachenko had been assassinated after returning home from the store. On Wednesday, Babachenko appeared at a press conference with Ukrainian authorities who said that the faked assassination was an elaborate sting to bust an actual hit planned by Russia. 

Only now we find that the hitman, Oleksiy Tsimbalyuk, is an outspoken critic of Russia who says he worked for Ukrainian counterintelligence - a claim Ukraine initially denied but later admitted to be true. Meanwhile the guy who supposedly hired Tsimbalyuk, Boris L. German, 50, also says he worked for Ukrainian counter-intelligence, a claim Ukraine denies as it immediately destroys the carefully scripted, if rapidly imploding, Ukrainian narrative meant to scapegoat Russia for what has been a "fake news" story of epic proportions, emerging from the one nation that not only was the biggest foreign donor to the Clinton foundation, but has made fake news propaganda into an art form.

The New York Times reports that Tsimbalyuk - a former Russia-hating priest was featured in a 10-minute documentary in January 2017 in which "he called killing members of the Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine "an act of mercy," further calling into question why Russia would hire him for the supposed assassination in the first place.

Facebook pictures also reveal Tsimbalyuk wearing a Ukrainian ultranationalist uniform from "Right Sector," a group deemed to be neo-Nazis.

As even the Russophobic NY Times puts it: 
Given such strong and publicly avowed enmity toward Russia, it is odd to say the least that Mr. Tsimbalyuk would be selected to carry out the contract killing of a prominent Kremlin critic.
German claims he took orders from Moscow businessman Vyacheslav Pivovarnik - who he says works for one of Putin's personal foundations. 
Ukrainian officials also claim that German has a list of another 30 targets which Moscow wants to wipe out - something he claims he has since passed onto Kyiv.

Prosecutors claimed German had been given a down payment of $15,000, half what he was promised for carrying out the hit.

German said: 'I got a call from a longtime acquaintance who lives in Moscow, and in the process of communicating with him it turned out that he works for a Putin foundation precisely to orchestrate destabilization in Ukraine.' -Daily Mail
"Six months ago, my old acquaintance contacted me, an ex-citizen of Ukraine, now living in Moscow," German told a Ukrainian court, adding "He works in a personal foundation of Putin's - and is in charge of organizing riots in Ukraine and planned acts of terror at the next presidential elections. He is called Vyacheslav Pivovarnik. This is not a fairy tale, there's nothing mystical here, everything has been proved."

German's lawyer Eugene Solodko wrote on Facebook that his client was an executive director of Ukrainian-German firm Schmeisser - the only non-state owned arms producer in the country. 

Russia has denied German's claim, with a Putin spokesman saying "No such foundation exists in Russia. Any allegations about Russia's possible complicity in this staging is just mudslinging. They do not correspond to reality."

Meanwhile, senior Ukraine officials have been on the defensive since Wednesday, when the head of security services announced they had staged the death of Babchenko so they could track his would-be killers to Russian intelligence, a story the International Federation of Journalists slammed as idiotic, nonsensical and completely undermining Ukraine's credibility.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Leaked Doc Reveals White House Planning ‘Regime Change’ In Iran

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It appears Rudy Giuliani wasn't lying.

Just a few days after the former NYC mayor and latest member of President Trump's unexpectedly let it slip that "we got a president who is tough, who does not listen to the people who are naysayers, and a president who is committed to regime change [in Iran]", the Washington Free Beacon has obtained a three-page white paper being circulated among National Security Council officials with drafted plans to spark regime change in Iran, following the US exit from the Obama-era nuclear deal and the re-imposition of tough sanctions aimed at toppling the Iranian regime.

The plan, authored by the Security Studies Group, or SSG, a national security think-tank that has close ties to senior White House national security officials, including - who else - National Security Adviser John Bolton, seeks to reshape longstanding American foreign policy toward Iran by emphasizing an explicit policy of regime change, something the Obama administration opposed when popular protests gripped Iran in 2009, writes the Free Beacon, which obtained a leaked copy of the circulating plans.
The regime change plan seeks to fundamentally shift U.S. policy towards Iran and has found a receptive audience in the Trump administration, which has been moving in this direction since Bolton—a longtime and vocal supporter of regime change—entered the White House.

It deemphasizes U.S military intervention, instead focusing on a series of moves to embolden an Iranian population that has increasingly grown angry at the ruling regime for its heavy investments in military adventurism across the region. -Free Beacon
"The ordinary people of Iran are suffering under economic stagnation, while the regime ships its wealth abroad to fight its expansionist wars and to pad the bank accounts of the Mullahs and the IRGC command," SSG writes in the paper. "This has provoked noteworthy protests across the country in recent months" it further claims as an argument to push a "regime change" policy.

For now - at least - overthrowing the Iran government, with its extensive and close ties to the Kremlin, is not official US policy; SSG president Jim Hanson told the Free Beacon that the Trump administration does not want to engage in direct military intervention in Iran -and is instead focusing on other methods of ridding Iran of its "hardline ruling regime." 

"The Trump administration has no desire to roll tanks in an effort to directly topple the Iranian regime," Hanson said. "But they would be much happier dealing with a post-Mullah government. That is the most likely path to a nuclear weapons-free and less dangerous.

That will likely change, however.
One source close to the White House who has previewed the plan told the Free Beacon that the nuclear deal, also known as the JCPOA, solidified the Iranian regime's grip on power and intentionally prevented the United States from fomenting regime change
"The JCPOA purposefully destroyed the carefully created global consensus against the Islamic Republic," said the source, who would only speak to the Free Beacon on background about the sensitive issue. "Prior to that, everyone understood the dangers of playing footsie with the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism. It's now Trump, Bolton, and [Mike] Pompeo's job to put this consensus back in place."

The source tells the Beacon that Bolton is "acutely aware of the danger the Iranian regime poses to the region." 

"John is someone who understands the danger of Iran viscerally, and knows that you're never going to fundamentally change its behavior—and the threats against Israel and the Saudis especially—until that revolutionary regime is gone," the source said, adding that "nothing's off the table right now if Israel is attacked."

That said, Bolton is confident that an Iranian regime change will occur in the next six months:

A second source tells The Beacon that the Trump administration recognizes that the "chief impediment to the region is Iran's tyrannical regime." 

"The problem is not the Iran nuclear deal it's the Iranian regime," said the source. "Team Bolton has spent years creating Plans B, C, and D for dealing with that problem. President Trump hired him knowing all of that. The administration will now start aggressively moving to deal with the root cause of chaos and violence in the region in a clear-eyed way."
Regional sources who have spoken to SSG "tell us that Iranian social media is more outraged about internal oppression, such as the recent restrictions on Telegram, than about supporting or opposing the nuclear program. Iranian regime oppression of its ethnic and religious minorities has created the conditions for an effective campaign designed to splinter the Iranian state into component parts," the group states. -Free Beacon
"More than one third of Iran's population is minority groups, many of whom already seek independence," the paper explains. "U.S. support for these independence movements, both overt and covert, could force the regime to focus attention on them and limit its ability to conduct other malign activities."
Without a regime change, the United States will continue face threats from Iranian forces stationed throughout the region, including in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.
"The probability the current Iranian theocracy will stop its nuclear program willingly or even under significant pressure is low," the plan states. "Absent a change in government within Iran, America will face a choice between accepting a nuclear-armed Iran or acting to destroy as much of this capability as possible."

That said, President Trump made clear earlier in the week that US officials must make efforts to differentiate between the people of Iran and its ruling regime.

"Any public discussion of these options, and any messaging about the Iranian regime in general, should make a bright line distinction between the theocratic regime along with its organs of oppression and the general populace," according to the plan. "We must constantly reinforce our support for removing the iron sandal from the necks of the people to allow them the freedom they deserve."

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Trump Cuts Off Funding For Syria’s ‘White Helmets’

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The Trump State Department has frozen funding to the controversial Syrian aid group known as the White Hemlets, a non-governmental organization (NGO) which provided the sole evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly used chemical weapons on his own people in an April 7 attack on the city of Douma, according to CBS News.
Having not received U.S. funding in recent weeks, White Helmets are questioning what this means for the future. They have received no formal declaration from the U.S. government that the monetary assistance has come to a full halt, but the group's people on the ground in Syria report that their funds have been cut off. -CBS News
The evidence provided by the White Helmets of the alleged chemical attack was used by the West to justify several airstrikes on Syrian scientific and military facilities throughout April - the first one conducted on Syria's T4 airbase by Israel 48 hours after the White Helmets' report. Many Douma residents, meanwhile - including Hospital personnel, say the chemical attack never happened.

The White Helmets are a 3,000 member NGO formally known as the Syrian Civil Defense. Established in "late 2012 - early 2013" after a group of 20 Syrians were trained and organized by former British army officer James Le Mesurier. The group then received funding from Le Mesurier's Netherlands-based non-profit group, Mayday Rescue - which is in turn funded by grants from the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments. 

The US has provided at least $32 million to the group - around 1/3 of their total funding - through a USAID scheme orchestrated by the Obama State Department and funneled to the White Helmets using a Washington D.C. contractor participating in USAID's Syria regional program, Chemonics.
According to their website, the White Helmets have been directly funded by Mayday Rescue, and a company called Chemonics, since 2014.

Yet there’s evidence that both of those organizations started supporting the White Helmets back in early 2013, right around the time the White Helmets claim to have formed as self-organized groups.

Mayday Rescue, as we said, is funded by the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments. And Chemonics?

They are a Washington, D.C. based contractor that was awarded $128.5 million in January 2013 to support “a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria” as part of USAID’s Syria regional program. At least $32 million has been given directly to the White Helmets as of February 2018. -TruthInMedia
So the US, Dutch, British, Danish and German governments have been funding the White Helmets, a non-governmental organization, through proxies for around five years.

Shut It Down

Perhaps fueled by troubling reports that the White Helmets have been accused of staging incidents, the Trump administration has now frozen funding to the group, and has placed support under "active review." 
Now they are not getting any US funding as the State Department says the support is "under active review." The US had accounted for about a third of the group's overall funding.

An internal State Department document said that its Near East Bureau needed confirmation from the administration to green light funding for the White Helmets in Syria by April 15th or the department would initiate "shut-down procedures on a rolling basis." -CBS News
"This is a very worrisome development," an official with the White Helmets told CBS. "Ultimately, this will negatively impact the humanitarian workers ability to save lives."

Or not, depending on how one feels about the White Helmets... 

Questions over authenticity

Last week, Russian officials brought fifteen people to The Hague from the city of Douma, Syria said to have been present during the alleged April 7 chemical attack, including 11-year-old Hassan Diab who was seen in a widely-distributed White Helmets video receiving "emergency treatment" in a local hospital after the alleged incident. 

“We were at the basement and we heard people shouting that we needed to go to a hospital. We went through a tunnel. At the hospital they started pouring cold water on me,” said Diab, who was featured in the video which Russia's ambassador to the Netherlands says was staged.

The boy and his family have spoken to various media outlets, who say there was no attack. 

Others present during the filming of Diab's hospital "cleanup" by the White Helmets include hospital administrator Ahmad Kashoi, who runs the emergency ward.
'There were people unknown to us who were filming the emergency care, they were filming the chaos taking place inside, and were filming people being doused with water. The instruments they used to douse them with water were originally used to clean the floors actually,' Ahmad Kashoi, an administrator of the emergency ward, recalled. 'That happened for about an hour, we provided help to them and sent them home. No one has died. No one suffered from chemical exposure.' -RT
Also speaking at The Hague was Halil al-Jaish, an emergency worker who treated people at the Douma hospital the day of the attack - who said that while some patients did come in for respiratory problems, they were attributed to heavy dust, present in the air after recent airstrikes, but that nobody showed signs of chemical warfare poisoning.

The White Helmets have previously come under fire for allegations of fabricating evidence and staging bodies. Several of their members have been pictured with, or bear an uncanny resemblance to fighters from the various anti-Assad terrorist groups operating in the region.

Photographic and video evidence gathered over social media and elsewhere depicting White Helmets who appear to be affiliated with terrorist groups can be found here.

And Donald Trump just yanked 1/3 of their funding...

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Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

‘No Attacks, No Victims’: Syria Chemical Attack Video Participants Speak At OPCW Briefing

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Russian officials brought fifteen people to The Hague from the city of Douma, Syria, said to have been present during the alleged April 7 chemical attack - including  11-year-old Hassan Diab, who was seen in a widely-distributed video taken by the controversian NGO organization known as the "White Helmets," who filmed themselves giving Diab "emergency treatment" after the alleged incident. 

“We were at the basement and we heard people shouting that we needed to go to a hospital. We went through a tunnel. At the hospital they started pouring cold water on me,” said Diab, who was featured in the video which Russia's ambassador to the Netherlands says was staged.

The boy and his family have spoken to various media outlets, who say there was no attack.

Others present during the filming of Diab's hospital "cleanup" by the White Helmets include hospital administrator Ahmad Kashoi, who runs the emergency ward. 
There were people unknown to us who were filming the emergency care, they were filming the chaos taking place inside, and were filming people being doused with water. The instruments they used to douse them with water were originally used to clean the floors actually,” Ahmad Kashoi, an administrator of the emergency ward, recalled. “That happened for about an hour, we provided help to them and sent them home. No one has died. No one suffered from chemical exposure. -RT
Also speaking at The Hague was Halil al-Jaish, an emergency worker who treated people at the Douma hospital the day of the attack - who said that while some patients did come in for respiratory problems, they were attributed to heavy dust, present in the air after recent airstrikes, but that nobody showed signs of chemical warfare poisoning.
The hospital received people who suffered from smoke and dust asphyxiation on the day of the alleged attack, Muwaffak Nasrim, a paramedic who was working in emergency care, said. The panic seen in footage provided by the White Helmets was caused mainly by people shouting about the alleged use of chemical weapons, Nasrim, who witnessed the chaotic scenes, added. No patients, however, displayed symptoms of chemical weapons exposure, he said. -RT
Emergency paramedic Ahmad Saur who is with the Syrian Red Crescent, said that his hospital ward did not receive any patients exposed to chemical weapons the day of the alleged incident, and that all the patients either needed general medical care or help with injuries.

That said, none of these people's testimony will make it into the "official record" as it currently stands. Russia's permanent representative to the OPCW, Aleksandr Shulgin, said that the OPCW has already interviewed six alleged Douma witnesses brought to The Hague , and they won't interview any more. 
'The others were ready too, but the experts are sticking to their own guidelines. They’ve picked six people, talked to them, and said they were "completely satisfied" with their account and did not have any further questions'  -Aleksandr Shulgin
Shulgin also said that "certain Western countries" accusing Russia and Syria of trying to "hide" witnesses to the attack is not true. 

Meanwhile, the West - unhappy with this unexpected diversion to its narrative - has called the Russian press conference a "stunt" - with Britain and France both denouncing it as an "obscene masquerade."

“This obscene masquerade does not come as a surprise from the Syrian government, which has massacred and gassed its own people for the last seven years,” said France’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Philippe Lalliot.

"The OPCW is not a theatre," Britain's envoy to the agency, Peter Wilson, said in a statement. "Russia's decision to misuse it is yet another Russian attempt to undermine the OPCW's work, and in particular the work of its fact-finding mission investigating chemical weapons use in Syria."

In other words, the West is happy to bomb a sovereign nation based on nothing more than non-public "evidence" suspected to have been staged and provided by the White Helmets, but when actual residents of Douma show up to tell their side of it, they are condemned as an "obscene masquerade" and denied an opportunity to submit their testimony on the record. Sounds about right for the military industrial complex which if nothing else scored a few extra billion in procurement contracts thanks to the latest farcical attack on Syria.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

OPCW Investigators Reportedly Found ‘No Evidence’ Of Chemical Weapons At Syrian Facilities Bombed By US

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While it will likely take the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons weeks or even months to issue their final report on the alleged gas attack in Douma (an attack for which journalists and other independent parties have failed to find any evidence), the organization's investigators have apparently spoken with Russian military officials after visiting the site of the Barzeh research center in Damascus - one of the three facilities targeted by the strikes.

At the time we noted Paul Craig Roberts' 'awkward question' to Washington's warmongers:
If this were true, would not a lethal cloud have been released that would have taken the lives of far more people than claimed in the alleged Syrian chemical attack on Douma?

Would not the US missile attack be identical to a chemical weapons attack and thus place the US and its vassals in the same category as Washington is attempting to place Assad and Putin?
And now, according to Sputnik, the investigators, who spoke with Russian General Staff Col. Gen. Sergey Rudskoy, revealed that they had found no evidence of chemical weapons in the remains of research facilities that were supposedly integral to the Syrian Army's chemical weapons program. Of course, this shouldn't come as a surprise: After all, if the US, France and the UK really did bomb a building filled with chemical weapons, there would've been thousands - possibly tens of thousands - of bodies to show for it.
'Immediately after the attacks, many people who worked at these destroyed facilities and just bystanders without any protective equipment visited them. None of them got poisoned with toxic agents,' Rudskoy said.
Rudskoy said there was similarly scant evidence of chemical weapons exposure at the Han Shinshar facility, located in the province of Homs. Russia registered only seven missiles had struck the facility, while the Pentagon claimed that it had successfully fired 22 missiles. Russia has previously claimed that only 71 of 103 missiles launched by the coalition made it past Syria's antiquated air defenses. 
'According to the statements of the Pentagon’s representatives, 22 missiles hit the above-ground facilities. We registered no more than seven hits, which is shown in the space image,' he told a briefing.
Furthermore, the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria said its representatives had questioned local doctors and investigated the site of the attacks. The doctors confirmed that they hadn't recently treated any patients with signs of exposure to chemical agents, and investigators searching the area found nothing suspicious. Moscow had said the April 7 gas attack that purportedly took place in Douma, part of the Eastern Ghouta region that was recently reclaimed following a military victory over the last rebel forces in the area, was in fact staged by the White Helmets, an NGO that supports US interests in Syria under the guise of altruism. While the US has refused to share the supposedly "slam dunk" evidence that the Syrian government was behind the attack, US and French authorities have cited videos posted to YouTube by the White Helmets as sufficient proof of an attack.

But as Ron Paul argued in a recent column, even if the Syrian army did carry out the gas attack in Douma, evidence of this still wouldn't justify the US, UK and France bombing targets inside a foreign country.

The Syrian civil war has been a bloody one. Hundreds of thousands of combatants (and tens of thousands of civilians) have been blown up by airstrikes, ripped to pieces by shrapnel or mutilated and murdered in some other grotesque fashion. The problem is, the US intervention wasn't motivated by humanitarian instincts - rather, Washington's outrage is very selective and politically motivated.

We are not the policemen of the world, Paul added. Bad leaders do terrible things all the time - and this is true even in the US. The US has neither the moral authority - or the money - to carry out overseas bombings. Especially now that it has become clear the Trump administration didn't have sound evidence of an attack, the hasty decision to resort to force was a foolish one.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Independent Swiss Lab Says ‘BZ Toxin’ Used In Skripal Poisoning; US/UK-Produced, Not Russian

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Somebody has some explaining to do... or did the Syrian airstrikes just "distract" the citizenry from the reality surrounding the Skripal poisoning.

Remember how we were told my the politicians (not the scientists) that a deadly Novichok nerve agent - produced by Russia - was used in the attempted assassination of the Skripals? Remember the 50 questions (here and here) we had surrounding the 'facts' as Theresa May had laid them out? Ever wonder why, given how utterly deadly we were told this chemical was, the Skripals wondered around for a few hours after being 'infected' and then days later, survived with no chronic damage?

Well those doubts may well have just been answered as according to the independent Swiss state Spiez lab, the substance used on Sergei Skripal was an agent called BZ, which was never produced in Russia, but was in service in the US, UK, and other NATO states.

RT reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, citing the results of the examination conducted by a Swiss chemical lab that worked with the samples that London handed over to the Organisation for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons (OPCW), that Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with an incapacitating toxin known as 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate or BZ.

The Swiss center sent the results to the OPCW.

However, the UN chemical watchdog limited itself only to confirming the formula of the substance used to poison the Skripals in its final report without mentioning anything about the other facts presented in the Swiss document, the Russian foreign minister added.

He went on to say that Moscow would ask the OPCW about its decision to not include any other information provided by the Swiss in its report.

On a side note, the Swiss lab is also an internationally recognized center of excellence in the field of the nuclear, biological, and chemical protection and is one of the five centers permanently authorized by the OPCW.

The Russian foreign minister said that London refused to answer dozens of “very specific” questions asked by Moscow about the Salisbury case, as well as to provide any substantial evidence that could shed light on the incident.

Instead, the UK accused Russia of failing to answer its own questions, he said, adding that, in fact, London did not ask any questions but wanted Moscow to admit that it was responsible for the delivery of the chemical agent to the UK.

But hey, who cares about any of that? Diplomats have been sent home, Putin has been annointed hitler, and besides, what about those missiles in Syria?

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.