Explaining Syria

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The first week in February was memorable for the failed impeachment of President Donald Trump, the “re-elect me” State of the Union address and the marketing of a new line of underwear by Kim Kardashian. Given all of the excitement, it was easy to miss a special State Department press briefing by Ambassador James Jeffreyheld on February 5th regarding the current situation in Syria.

Jeffrey is the United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL. Jeffrey has had a distinguished career in government service, attaining senior level State Department positions under both Democratic and Republican presidents. He has served as US Ambassador to both Turkey and Iraq. He is, generally speaking, a hardliner politically, closely aligned with Israel and regarding Iran as a hostile destabilizing force in the Middle East region. He was between 2013 and 2018 Philip Solondz distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think tank that is a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He is currently a WINEP “Outside Author” and go-to “expert.”

Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, academic dean at Harvard University ‘s Kennedy School of Government, describe WINEP as “part of the core” of the Israel Lobby in the US They examined the group on pages 175-6 in their groundbreaking book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policyand concluded as follows:

“Although WINEP plays down its links to Israel and claims that it provides a ‘balanced and realistic’ perspective on Middle East issues, this is not the case. In fact, WINEP is funded and run by individuals who are deeply committed to advancing Israel’s agenda … Many of its personnel are genuine scholars or experienced former officials, but they are hardly neutral observers on most Middle East issues and there is little diversity of views within WINEP’s ranks.”

In early 2018 Jeffrey co-authored a WINEP special report on Syria which urged “…the Trump administration [to] couple a no-fly/no-drive zone and a small residual ground presence in the northeast with intensified sanctions against the Assad regime’s Iranian patron. In doing so, Washington can support local efforts to stabilize the area, encourage Gulf partners to ‘put skin in the game, drive a wedge between Moscow and Tehran, and help Israel avoid all-out war.”

Note the focus on Iran and Russia as threats and the referral to Assad and his government as a “regime.” And the US presence is to “help Israel.” So we have Ambassador James Jeffrey leading the charge on Syria, from an Israeli perspective that is no doubt compatible with the White House view, which explains why he has become Special Representative for Syria Engagement.

Jeffrey set the tone for his term of office shortly after being appointed by President Trump back in August 2018 when he argued that the Syrian terrorists were “. . . not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator.” Jeffrey, who must have somehow missed a lot of the head chopping and rape going on, subsequently traveled to the Middle East and stopped off in Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It has been suggested that Jeffrey received his marching orders during the visit.

Two months later James Jeffrey declared that he would like to see Russia maintain a “permissive approach” to allow the Israelis to attack Iranian targets inside Syria. Regarding Iran’s possible future role in Syria he observed that “Iranians are part of the problem not part of the solution.”

What Jeffrey meant was that because Israel had been “allowed” to carry out hundreds of air attacks in Syria ostensibly directed against Iran-linked targets, the practice should be permitted to continue. Israel had suspended nearly all of its airstrikes in the wake of the shoot down of a Russian aircraft in September 2018, an incident which was caused by a deliberate Israeli maneuver that brought down the plane even though the missile that struck the aircraft was fired by Syria. Fifteen Russian servicemen were killed. Israel reportedly was deliberately using the Russian plane to mask the presence of its own attacking aircraft.

Russia responded to the incident by deploying advanced S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Syria, which can cover most of the more heavily developed areas of the country. Jeffrey was unhappy with that decision, saying “We are concerned very much about the S-300 system being deployed to Syria. The issue is at the detail level. Who will control it? what role will it play?” And he defended his own patently absurd urging that Russia, Syria’s ally, permit Israel to continue its air attacks by saying “We understand the existential interest and we support Israel” because the Israeli government has an “existential interest in blocking Iran from deploying long-range power projection systems such as surface-to-surface missiles.”

Later in November 2018 James Jeffrey was at it again, declaring that US troops will not leave Syria before guaranteeing the “enduring defeated” of ISIS, but he perversely put the onus on Syria and Iran, saying that “We also think that you cannot have an enduring defeat of ISIS until you have fundamental change in the Syrian regime and fundamental change in Iran’s role in Syria, which contributed greatly to the rise of ISIS in the first place in 2013, 2014.”

As virtually no one but Jeffrey and the Israeli government actually believes that Damascus and Tehran were responsible for creating ISIS, the ambassador elaborated, blaming President Bashar al-Assad for the cycle of violence in Syria that, he claimed, allowed the development of the terrorist group in both Syria and neighboring Iraq.

He said “The Syrian regime produced ISIS. The elements of ISIS in the hundreds, probably, saw an opportunity in the total breakdown of civil society and of the upsurge of violence as the population rose up against the Assad regime, and the Assad regime, rather than try to negotiate or try to find any kind of solution, unleashed massive violence against its own population.”

Jeffrey’s formula is just another recycling of the myth that the Syrian opposition consisted of good folks who wanted to establish democracy in the country. In reality, it incorporated terrorist elements right from the beginning and groups like ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliates rapidly assumed control of the violence. That Jeffrey should be so ignorant or blinded by his own presumptions to be unaware of that is astonishing. It is also interesting to note that he makes no mention of the US invasion of Iraq, kneejerk support for Israel and the unrelenting pressure on Syria starting with the Syrian Accountability Act of 2003 and continuing with embrace of the so-called Arab Spring. Most observers believe that those actions were major contributors to the rise of ISIS.

Jeffrey’s unflinching embrace of the Israeli and hardline Washington assessment of the Syrian crisis comes as no surprise given his pedigree, but in the same interview where he pounded Iran and Syria he asserted oddly that “We’re not about regime change. We’re about a change in the behavior of a government and of a state.”

Some of James Jeffrey’s comments at last week’s press conference are similarly illuminating. Much of what he said concerned the mechanics of relationships with the Russians and Turks, but he also discussed some core issues relating to Washington’s perspective on the conflict. Many of his comments were very similar to what he said when he was appointed in 2018.

Jeffrey expressed concern over the thousands of al-Nusra terrorists holed up in besieged Idlib province, saying “We’re very, very worried about this. First of all, the significance of Idlib – that’s where we’ve had chemical weapons attacks in the past… And we’re seeing not just the Russians but the Iranians and Hizballah actively involved in supporting the Syrian offensive… You see the problems right now in Idlib. This is a dangerous conflict. It needs to be brought to an end. Russia needs to change its policies.”

He elaborated, “We’re not asking for regime change per se, we’re not asking for the Russians to leave, we’re asking…Syria to behave as a normal, decent country that doesn’t force half its population to flee, doesn’t use chemical weapons dozens of times against its own civilians, doesn’t drop barrel bombs, doesn’t create a refugee crisis that almost toppled governments in Europe, does not allow terrorists such as HTS and particularly Daesh/ISIS emerge and flourish in much of Syria. Those are the things that that regime has done, and the international community cannot accept that.”

Well, one has to conclude that James Jeffrey is possibly completely delusional. The core issue that the United States is in Syria illegally as a proxy for Israel and Saudi Arabia is not touched on, nor the criminal role in “protecting the oil fields” and stealing their production, which he mentions but does not explain. Nor the issue of the legitimate Syrian government seeking to recover its territory against groups that most everyone admits to be terrorists.

Virtually every bit of “evidence” that Jeffrey cites is either false or inflated, to include the claim of use of chemical weapons and the responsibility for the refugees. As for who actually created the terrorists, that honor goes to the United States, which accomplished that when it invaded Iraq and destroyed its government before following up by undermining Syria. And, by the way, someone should point out to Jeffrey that Russia and Iran are in Syria as allies of its legitimate government.

Ambassador James Jeffrey maintains that “Russia needs to change its policies.” That is not correct. It is the United States that must change its policies by getting out of Syria and Iraq for starters while also stopping the deference to feckless “allies” Israel and Saudi Arabia that has produced a debilitating cold war against both Iran and Russia. Another good first step to make the US a “normal, decent country” would be to get rid of the advice of people like James Jeffrey.

Reprinted with permission from Unz Review.

Trump Is Right: The US Does Indeed Need a Space Force

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Right now, America has only a pathetic five divisions of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. We desperately need a sixth. And what could be more fitting for our President than fulfilling this need with a brand new spanking Space Force. Thank goodness Mr. Trump has now called this new initiative into being.

The case for the Space Force is overwhelming. Consider the following.

The Martians may attack at any moment. Do we have to wait for an actual invasion of the creatures from the fourth planet to protect ourselves? No. The threat thereof is imminent. If we wait, it might be too late. Do you want your kids to have to speak Martian? Thought not.

Then there is the fact that we simply do not have enough wars on the surface of the planet. The US is engaged, currently, only in some half dozen such conflagrations. We need more! How better to promote this than with a Space Force?

Our esteemed president has finally succeeded in setting up this important new initiative of his. Previously, those nattering nabobs of negativism in the congress gave this ingenious new proposal the backs of their hands.

For example, according to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, “Traditionally, this has been a role played by the Air Force, and I’ve not yet heard a compelling case why we need a separate force. Maybe there is a case to be made, I just haven’t heard it yet.”

This is no way to run a railroad. With this sort of sentiment, we would only have a limited military, instead of our present five branches. Had this non-expansionist viewpoint held sway, we never would have landed a US taxpayer on the moon. Our manifest destiny, to rule the entire planet, whoops, I meant, entire land mass of the forty eight states, never would have been accomplished. We would not have invented electricity with that sort of mind set. So, thanks to Mr. Donald Trump: he will now make space GREAT AGAIN.

But Cornyn is not the only spoke in the wheel of ever-increasing government. Stated Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Senate Appropriations Committee chairman “My concern might be satisfied with, you know, information, but do we need to create another Air Force, Army, Navy, Space Force, and will that be another bureaucracy? Will that help us do things that we can’t do within the Air Force?”

But if this doubting Thomas, this peace-nik, this sissy, so opposes “bureaucracy,” should we reduce our bureaucratic military? Of course not. We have enemies all over the place. There’s a plot to invade us under every bed. Opposition to the Space Force amounts to surrender to our adversaries.

I could stop here, at 500 words, but, I’m on a roll.

The case for an Underground Force is equally good as the one for the Space Force. We need to put soldiers several miles deep, too. Nay, the case is even better for the Underground Force.

Let us rehearse the reasons.

For one thing, it will create numerous jobs in earth excavation.

For another, there are the Morlocks, who may well attack; they are a more realistic threat than Martians; heck, we’ve seen more of them in the movies! We would do well to ready ourselves for their incursions. How better to obviate this obvious threat than with a new Underground Force?

Further, our president has not yet determined the symbol for his new Space Force. He will soon be turning on the money spigot with a survey to see which one the public favors. There will be no problem in this regard with the Underground Force. A big fat worm! And, we can even see through our crystal ball a motto for this seventh branch of the military: “Worms are us!”

And what about a Fourth Dimension Force? You nay-sayers are stuck in your limited three dimensional world. There’s a fourth dimension out there somewhere, don’t ask me where, just waiting to be militarized. We’ll need scientists, philosophers, mathematicians to study this newly discovered threat to our nation (think of all the great jobs created in these new fields!) Who knows what dangers lurk in the fourth dimension? We would all sleep far better if Mr. Trump would inaugurate not only a new Space Force, and an Underground Force, but also a Fourth Dimension Force.

Am I leaving out any other possible military expansions? Enquiring minds want to know.

I could stop here, too. So far about 750 words

In the view of the economically illiterate (are you listening, Mr. Trump?) wars are good, they create jobs. Interstellar or space wars are no exception to this general rule. Ditto for those taking place underground, or in the fourth dimension.

Actually, this is just an embodiment of what economists call the “broken window fallacy” but since Trump never passed a course in economics 101, we can safely count upon him to succumb to it. But, for those who are interested, consider the following: A hoodlum breaks a baker’s window with a rock, which creates jobs for the glazier, who purchases a bicycle, etc., spreading the wealth all around. He is a hero? No. The economy would be better off with an intact window, and the baker being able to purchase the bike, directly, obviating the need for the glazier, in this case. Or, use him for a double glazed window, and then carry on.

No matter how you slice it, we are always one window shy, if the hoodlum engages in this mischief. As for the Japanese and Germans being able to outcompete us after the Second World War (they had new factories, we had old ones), we could have built plenty of new ones had we wanted to. Ditto for the present forest fires recently engulfing our nation. Think of all the jobs necessary to rebuild. Hey, let us burn down the entire country; we will become rich!

The Death Of Free Speech: Zuckerberg Asks Governments For Instructions On ‘What Discourse Should Be Allowed’

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I have written for years on the effort of European countries to expand their crackdown on free speech globally through restrictions on social media and Internet speech. It appears that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has relented in what may prove the death knell for free speech in the West. Zuckerberg seems to relent in asking governments for regulations stipulating what speech will be permitted on Facebook and other platforms. It is the ultimate victory of France, Germany, and England in their continuing attack on free expression though hate speech laws and speech regulation.

Zuckerberg told an assembly of Western leaders Saturday at the Munich Security Conference that “There should be more guidance and regulation from the states on basically — take political advertising as an example — what discourse should be allowed?” He did add: “Or, on the balance of free expression and some things that people call harmful expression, where do you draw the line?” The problem is that his comments were received as accepting that government will now dictate the range of free speech. What is missing is the bright line rule long maintained by the free speech community.

As tragically demonstrated in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, speech regulations inevitably expand with time. The desire to silence one’s critics becomes insatiable for both governments and individuals.

Zuckerberg is facing great pressure, including from Democratic leaders in the United States, to regulate political speech and he seems to be moving away from the bright-line position against such regulation as a principle. Instead, he is accepting the fluid concept of “balanced” regulations that has always preceded expanding speech codes and criminalization:
There are a lot of decisions in these areas that are really just balances between different social values. It’s about coming up with an answer that society feels is legitimate and that they can get behind and understand that you drew the line here on the balance of free expression and safety. It’s not just that there’s one right answer. People need to feel like, ‘OK, enough people weighed in, and that’s why the answer should be this, and we can get behind that.’
Reprinted with permission from JonathanTurley.org.

Federal Charter Schools Program, a Lifeline for Owners of Capital, Under Threat

Neoliberals established the Federal Charter Schools Program in 1994, three years after the nation’s first charter school law was passed in Minnesota. Since then, billions of public dollars have been handed over to privately-owned-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools through the federal program. The money is usually used for charter school start-up costs.

Putting aside the persistently high failure rate among charter schools and the rampant corruption and waste in the segregated charter school sector, charter school advocates are now worried that President Trump’s latest budget (FY21), which is rarely approved as is by Congress, may disadvantage charter schools by potentially depriving them of public funds that belong to the public. President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education, billionaire Betsy DeVos, want to lump more than two dozen education programs, including charter school funding, into one large grant ($19.4 billion) given to the states to do with as they wish, which would mean that public money for privately-owned-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools would not be so readily available. The stand-alone $440 million Federal Charter School Program would in effect disappear and it would become harder for privately-owned-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools to seize public funds under such an arrangement. This change is said to empower states and remove some of the “federal footprint” from education. But an alternative interpretation, one that only time will reveal to be true or false, is that such a governance shift will restrict access to the charter school sector by “smaller players” and privilege the main monopolies in this deregulated sector. The “big players” in the charter school sector are more capable of covering charter school start-up costs than “smaller players.”

But no matter what the education portion of the final federal budget ends up looking like, the fact remains that charter schools have been hijacking the public purse at all levels of government for decades.

Charter schools are permitted in 44 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. These states and governments have handed over, and continue to hand over, billions in public funds and facilities to privately-owned-operated charter schools. Non-profit and for-profit charter schools also receive billions of dollars in funding from a range of billionaires and millionaires. And the mainstream media constantly goes out of its way to escalate charter school hype so as to fool the gullible.

Charter schools have no legitimate claim to public money because they are not public schools. Unlike public schools, non-profit and for-profit charter schools regularly exclude many students, are run by unelected officials, operate on a different calendar, oppose teacher unions, spend a ton on advertising and marketing, and operate in order to make a profit.

What is needed today is not only an end to the Federal Charter School Program but an end to the ability of all charter schools to lay claim to a single public penny. Not a single public dime should find its way into the hands of charter school owners-operators. If privately-owned-operated charter schools wish to exist, then, like private schools, they can raise their own funds. Public money belongs to public schools. Further, if charter schools really are superior to public schools, then let the “free market” that charter school advocates fetishize decide where the chips land.

In the meantime, government should focus on taking up its social responsibility to fully-fund a world-class system of public education available to all Americans in every zip code and neighborhood. Government should not be involved in enriching charter school “entrepreneurs.”

Canada out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS

“Qui se ressemble, s’assemble.” The English saying is “birds of a feather flock together.” Translated from Spanish: “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.” The folk wisdom that who we hang out with tells a lot about us is reflected in numerous proverbs.

Whatever the language, who Ottawa chooses to hang out with tells us a lot about who Canada is in the Americas. The coalitions/institutions Ottawa is part of in the Americas speak of siding with the rich and powerful, of being part of the US Empire, of imperialism.

Recently Haiti joined the Lima Group of governments seeking to overthrow the Venezuelan government. Instigated by Canada and Peru in mid 2017, the Lima Group has successfully corralled regional support for the US-led campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro. The coalition has gathered on a dozen occasions — including a third summit to be held in Canada on Thursday — to develop common positions and strategize on regime change.

President Jovenel Moïse’s decision to join the Lima Group highlights the influence of another Canadian-sponsored imperial group of friends. Unlike the Trudeau government’s anti-Venezuela positions, Moïse’s steps towards the Lima Group have been controversial in Haiti. When his government first voted against Venezuela at the Organization of American States (OAS) 13 months ago it stoked the fire of popular discontent that nearly toppled him. Until recently Haiti benefited from the discounted Venezuelan Petrocaribe oil program, which Moïse and his acolytes pilfered, spurring massive protests over the past 18 months. More generally, Haitians overwhelmingly view themselves as anti-imperialist and are proud their ancestors aided South American independence leaders Simon Bolivar and Miranda to defeat Spanish rule.

As popular discontent has grown, Moïse has become increasingly dependent on outside backing. The only reason Moïse is president is because of the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”, which comprises the ambassadors of the US, Canada, France, Brazil and Spain, as well as representatives of the EU and OAS. Core Group representatives meet regularly among themselves and with Haitian officials and periodically release collective statements on Haitian affairs.

Last month Radio Canada’s investigative programme Enquête pointed out that the Core Group was spawned at the “Ottawa initiative on Haiti”. Held at the Meech Lake Government Resort on January 31 and February 1, 2003, no Haitian officials were invited to the private gathering where US, French, OAS and Canadian officials discussed overthrowing Haiti’s elected government, putting the country under UN trusteeship and recreating the Haitian military.

Since the subsequent February 2004 coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide the Core Group has heavily influenced Haitian affairs. But, taking office two and a half years after the coup, René Préval succeeded in carving out some room to govern independently of the Core Group overseers — joining Venezuela’s Petrocaribe, for instance — but the January 2010 earthquake devastated the Haitian government. Taking advantage of its weakness, the Core Group pushed for elections to be held months after the earthquake and when their preferred candidate was in third place they dispatched an OAS “Expert Verification Mission” that determined (without offering proof) extreme right-wing candidate Michel Martelly deserved to be in the second round runoff. In effect, the Core Group employed the OAS to reassert their primacy over Haitian affairs.

Headquartered in the US capital, the OAS has long been a tool of Washington’s and capitalism’s dominance of the region. A few months ago OAS electoral observers played an important role in the overthrow of Evo Morales, prompting Bolivia’s first ever indigenous president to label the organization “in the service of the North American empire.”

The OAS receives between 44% and 57% of its budget from Washington. Responsible for as much as 12% of the organization’s budget, Canada is the second largest contributor to the 33-nation group.

Unfortunately, interventionist/imperialist alliances reinforce each other. A representative of the OAS is part of the Core Group while the Core Group has driven Haiti into joining the Lima Group. At the same time the Lima Group’s success in stoking regional opposition to Maduro has enabled the OAS to take ever more hostile positions towards Venezuela’s government. Like a teenager getting involved with the “wrong people” this circle of “friends” has been a very bad influence. It has encouraged bullying, bribery and other anti-social imperialist behaviour.

The Lima Group and Core Group are wholly illegitimate alliances. While the Organization of American States is slightly more complicated, progressives shouldn’t hesitate to proclaim, “Canada out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS.”

Protests are being organized for Thursday and Friday in a number of Canadian cities against the Lima Group.

The Koch-Soros Foreign Policy Project: ‘Restraint’ Or Deception?

The big news last year was that billionaire oligarchs Charles Koch and George Soros were "burying the hatchet" and teaming up to fund a new US foreign policy based on restraint rather than "endless wars." From that cooperation came the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, as well as additional funding for other organizations working on "restraint." Is this a game-changer or is it an attempt to re-brand old ideas and discredited individuals and institutions? Watch today's Liberty Report:

IRGC Aerospace Forces Commander’s Debriefing about Iran’s Strike against Al-Assad US Airbase

The assassination of the martyr Hajj Qassem Soleimani was one of the greatest strategic mistakes in the history of the United States. These strikes were only the beginning of considerable transformations and developments in the region and around the world.

The vengeance of the blood of the martyr Soleimani and our other dear martyrs lies in the triggering of a phase which had to be implemented (sooner or later). As the Supreme Leader Sayed Khamenei said, May God preserve him, ‘The revenge for the blood of the martyrs will drive the US forces out of the region.’ Our missile strikes against one of the most important American bases in the framework of our ‘Operation Martyr Soleimani’ were the start of a major operation that will continue throughout the whole region.

This operation was somewhat different from our previous operations targeting ISIS, which were unilateral operations in which we targeted the various terrorist groups without facing any response from the enemy. But in this strike against the United States, our perspective was different, and we were almost certain to be attacked. This is why all of our units were on high alert, ready to face the enemy, and at least ready for a limited war; and we had also prepared for a large-scale war. So all our units in the various divisions were ready to move on to the next operations in the event of an American response, namely to bomb all the American bases in Iraq and in the countries of the region.

For this operation against the al-Assad base, the choice of the target was very important for us, and in the early morning (following the day of the martyrdom), we were able to identify the bases which were involved in the terrorist operation which caused the martyrdom of the Commander of the al -Quds Forces of the IRGC.

These were the bases of al-Taji (located near Baghdad), Ayn Al-Assad (180 km from Baghdad), the martyr Mowaffaq base in Jordan, and the Ali Al-Salem base in Kuwait. All these bases participated in this joint terrorist operation which was carried out with the help of units located there.

The first option for us in this revenge was the al-Taji base, but a few hours before the operation, we changed the target and chose Ayn al-Assad.

The reason is that the Taji base was close to Baghdad and the Kadhimiya mausoleum, and that it is a common base for both Iraqi and American forces. In addition, we feared that missile attacks and explosions would disturb civilians. So we chose Ayn al-Assad, the largest American military base in Iraq and even in the entire region.

The targets we chose were aimed at hitting the American war machine, the American Command Control Center, American planes, American helicopters and a group of facilities that they used as ammunition depots or for support and maintenance, which was considered the first strike of the operation.

But we were ready to continue the operation, depending on the reaction of the enemy. Without reaction from the US, our attack would have been limited to Iraq and the targeted US bases in Iraq. But in the event of an American response, these operations would have been extended to include American bases in other countries in the region.

The al-Assad base, which has been targeted by Revolutionary Guard missiles, is the largest US base in Iraq, and the most distant from Iran.

We used missiles with a range of 500 km for Operation Martyr Soleimani; during the attack, we used Fateh-313 missiles and long-range missiles such as the Intifada missile with a range of 700 km.

The affected facilities and equipment, such as helicopters and the helicopter maintenance unit, were completely destroyed. The operation was not intended to kill soldiers, and that is why we did not target the barracks and did not seek to deliver a fatal blow. We targeted American military vehicles and destroyed the Command Control Center, its assets and key facilities.

Their Command Center has been destroyed and there are certainly many casualties.

Our main objective was to instill insecurity and terror in their hearts, but if they persist (to occupy our region), other places will be targeted.

It was one of the most strategic American bases in Iraq, six kilometers wide by eight kilometers in length, and the current President visited it recently because it was well-equipped and safe.

Despite their so-called missile shield systems, all of our missiles were fired (and hit their target), and no antimissile missiles were fired at our missiles.

Yes, it is interesting to note that the Americans did not fire a single shot on our missiles which hit all of their targets with precision.

Although they had a large number of planes and defensive equipment around the base of Ain al-Assad, they could not confront us.

The President said that everything is fine and that there are no losses, while the United States did not allow journalists to film the base and assess the damage. The Pentagon said it was assessing the losses.

It was a slap from Iran in the face of the United States, in a preliminary response to their crime. Resistance movements in the region must take additional punitive measures.

The balance of losses is unknown. We are very pessimistic towards the enemy, and if they make the slightest mistake, our response will certainly not be as modest as this strike; on the contrary, our response will certainly be decisive.

It was a major operation, disarming one of its largest military bases, and there obviously were some fatalities. The operation is modest compared to the (value of the) blood of the martyr Soleimani and the other martyrs, and the price of this martyrdom will be the expulsion of the United States from the region. But militarily, it was a very large and very complex operation.

The Americans were not ready to respond to the attack, as their statements reveal. They strove to overcome this crisis without losing face. Beforehand, they had threatened us and said they would destroy 52 major Iranian targets in the event of an Iranian retaliatory strike to the killing of martyr Soleimani, but they dared not do anything.

Since the Second World War, there has been no open attack by a State against the Americans or their interests. No formal military action has been taken against the United States since the Second World War. We have clearly demonstrated that those days are over, and that the decision to strike directly at the United States had been taken unanimously within the country and forces of the Resistance Axis. Thank God the operation was carried out with great care and success. Supreme Revolution Leader Sayed Khamenei also said that if they bombed any target, we would hit ten targets in retaliation. And this round ended like this (because the United States chickened out).

The Islamic Republic of Iran, the United States and the region are entering a new phase. We must be convinced that the future will see major upheavals that no one can ignore. In my opinion, the very will to carry out this operation was more important than the operation itself.

Five minutes after the operation, we launched a major electronic war, hacking American drones flying over the area. We chased them and cut the video and communications links, and it was a big blow for them because they were a great many.

We fired four missiles at other American bases in Iraq, but we were ready to launch several hundred missiles within an hour or two. We thought this conflict could last two to three days to a week (if it did not spread to an all-out war) if the two sides exercised restraint, and that is why we also prepared our special missiles.

We did not seek to kill anyone in the operation, but dozens were killed and others were injured, some of whom were evacuated from Iraq by planes. If we had wanted to kill American soldiers, we would have designed the operation differently. We could have killed at least 500 soldiers in the first salvo, and if they had fired back, we would have changed our strategy and no longer felt any obligation to spare the lives of American forces, and in the second and third salvo, more than 5,000 people would have been killed in two hours.

When asked why the Americans did not launch a war against Iran, the Commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Forces replied:

They conduct their politics through propaganda, intimidation and media operations. They will definitely win against disarming countries, but they cannot win against a country like Iran. Because the Islamic Republic of Iran is a big & strong country.

If the Americans are to achieve any goals of theirs in Iran, given Iran’s vast territory, they will need to strike thousands of points, including military bases, and oil and economic facilities. Iran for its part has only to focus on specific areas to target, namely a handful of American bases that can be likened to prisons in the sense that the American forces are gathered there (and cannot flee anywhere). The largest of them was Ayn al-Assad, with an area of ​​50 square kilometers, so their military and human positions (in our sights) are very clear, and we can destroy them with a limited number of missiles and offensive capabilities.

The Americans had created security for themselves by intimidating others, but that security has disappeared. Today, the security and the spirit (of impunity and conquest) of the US army have disappeared.

The American people waste their lives and spend all their money so that American officials devote part of it to electoral campaigns and another to support the Zionist entity, which means that the Zionists live from the pockets of the American people. But they should know that these expenses have so far been unprofitable. It is in their interest to leave the region at the lowest possible cost. They must leave voluntarily from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arab countries. What I know about the Resistance and the forces that are forming and regrouping in the region is that if the Americans don’t leave the region by themselves, they will suffer major losses (that will force them out).

The United States has defined the Arab Gulf States as vital points for them. I invite the countries of the region to follow the example of the decision of the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi people to order the United States to withdraw from their country. Similarly, the Kuwaitis, the Qataris, Oman, the Afghans and the United Arab Emirates must decide to expel the United States; because if they don’t, the Resistance movements will take the decision and the Americans will have to leave the region (by force).

Trump’s Budget: More Warfare, Slightly Less Welfare

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Listening to the howls from Democrats and the applause from Republicans, one would think President Trump’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget is a radical assault on the welfare state. The truth is the budget contains some minor spending cuts, most of which are not even real cuts. Instead they are reductions in the “projected rate of growth.” This is equivalent of saying you are sticking to your diet because you ate five chocolate chip cookies when you wanted to eat ten.

President Trump’s plan reduces the Education Department’s budget by nearly eight percent, leaving the department with “only” 66.6 billion dollars. Cuts to other departments are similarly small, while reductions in entitlement spending consist mostly of reforms that will not affect most of those dependent on these programs.

President Trump deserves credit for proposing an 11.6 billion dollars cut in funding for the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Foreign aid does little to help impoverished people overseas. Instead, it benefits foreign government officials willing to do the US government’s bidding. The State Department and USAID are extensively involved in US intervention abroad, including efforts to overthrow governments.

President Trump’s budget proposes a number of increases in spending. For example, his budget spends around 900 million additional dollars on vocational education. It also includes additional spending on items including infrastructure and childcare.

Few in DC have expressed concern over the fact that President Trump’s 4.8 trillion dollars budget proposal is the largest budget in American history. There is also little outcry from supposedly antiwar progressive Democrats over Trump’s proposal to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on militarism. This is not surprising, as many progressives are happy to support increased warfare spending as long as conservatives go along with increased welfare spending. Similarly, many conservatives are happy to support increased welfare spending as long as it means that progressives will vote for increased warfare spending. So, Congress is unlikely to approve any of President Trump’s spending cuts, but Congress will gleefully agree to all of his spending increases.

Even if Congress agrees to all of President Trump’s cuts, federal deficits will still be over one trillion dollars for the next several years. However, President Trump claims the budget will balance in 15 years. In order to show a balanced budget by 2035, the administration assumes three percent economic growth for most of the next decade. This level of growth is unlikely to come to pass. Instead, the current boom will likely end soon, and the economy will experience another major recession. Signs that we are on the verge of a downturn include rising homelessness and the Federal Reserve’s bailout of the repurchasing market.

The current economic boom is built on debt, and the debt-based economy is facilitated by the Federal Reserve’s easy money policies. The massive amount of debt held by consumers, businesses, and especially government is the main reason the Fed feels compelled to maintain historically low interest rates. If rates were to increase to market levels, government interest payments would be unstable. This would cause the government debt bubble to burst, leading to a major crisis. However, continuing on the current path of low interest rates will inevitably lead to a dollar crisis and a collapse of the welfare-warfare Keynesian system.

Continuing to waste billions on wars abroad and failed programs at home while pretending that we can avoid a crisis via phony cuts and Fed-fueled growth will only make the inevitable collapse more painful. The only way to avoid economic disaster is to cut spending and audit, then end, the Federal Reserve.

Trump’s Budget: More Warfare, Slightly Less Welfare

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Listening to the howls from Democrats and the applause from Republicans, one would think President Trump’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget is a radical assault on the welfare state. The truth is the budget contains some minor spending cuts, most of which are not even real cuts. Instead they are reductions in the “projected rate of growth.” This is equivalent of saying you are sticking to your diet because you ate five chocolate chip cookies when you wanted to eat ten.

President Trump’s plan reduces the Education Department’s budget by nearly eight percent, leaving the department with “only” 66.6 billion dollars. Cuts to other departments are similarly small, while reductions in entitlement spending consist mostly of reforms that will not affect most of those dependent on these programs.

President Trump deserves credit for proposing an 11.6 billion dollars cut in funding for the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Foreign aid does little to help impoverished people overseas. Instead, it benefits foreign government officials willing to do the US government’s bidding. The State Department and USAID are extensively involved in US intervention abroad, including efforts to overthrow governments.

President Trump’s budget proposes a number of increases in spending. For example, his budget spends around 900 million additional dollars on vocational education. It also includes additional spending on items including infrastructure and childcare.

Few in DC have expressed concern over the fact that President Trump’s 4.8 trillion dollars budget proposal is the largest budget in American history. There is also little outcry from supposedly antiwar progressive Democrats over Trump’s proposal to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on militarism. This is not surprising, as many progressives are happy to support increased warfare spending as long as conservatives go along with increased welfare spending. Similarly, many conservatives are happy to support increased welfare spending as long as it means that progressives will vote for increased warfare spending. So, Congress is unlikely to approve any of President Trump’s spending cuts, but Congress will gleefully agree to all of his spending increases.

Even if Congress agrees to all of President Trump’s cuts, federal deficits will still be over one trillion dollars for the next several years. However, President Trump claims the budget will balance in 15 years. In order to show a balanced budget by 2035, the administration assumes three percent economic growth for most of the next decade. This level of growth is unlikely to come to pass. Instead, the current boom will likely end soon, and the economy will experience another major recession. Signs that we are on the verge of a downturn include rising homelessness and the Federal Reserve’s bailout of the repurchasing market.

The current economic boom is built on debt, and the debt-based economy is facilitated by the Federal Reserve’s easy money policies. The massive amount of debt held by consumers, businesses, and especially government is the main reason the Fed feels compelled to maintain historically low interest rates. If rates were to increase to market levels, government interest payments would be unstable. This would cause the government debt bubble to burst, leading to a major crisis. However, continuing on the current path of low interest rates will inevitably lead to a dollar crisis and a collapse of the welfare-warfare Keynesian system.

Continuing to waste billions on wars abroad and failed programs at home while pretending that we can avoid a crisis via phony cuts and Fed-fueled growth will only make the inevitable collapse more painful. The only way to avoid economic disaster is to cut spending and audit, then end, the Federal Reserve.

Mistrial Is Another Blow To US Coup In Venezuela

Last week we, along with Adrienne Pine and David Paul, were unsuccessfully prosecuted by the Trump administration for our protection of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC from April 10 to May 16, 2019.  The jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision and so we remain innocent of the charge of interfering with the protective functions of the US Department of State. The judge declared a mistrial. It was a partial victory and we greatly appreciate the jurors who were able to see through the cloud of misinformation in the courtroom and vote to acquit us.

The day our trial started, Juan Guaido returned to Venezuela where he was harassed and physically assaulted by protesters. He is unable to muster support at home even from the opposition. Guaido’s presidential charade is fading but the United States has not given up on its regime change campaign in Venezuela. New sanctions are being imposed and there have been recent attacks of sabotage within the country that resemble ones backed by the US in other countries to cause disruption and discord. As Citizens of Empire, we must continue to oppose US intervention in other countries.

Note: The Trump prosecutors will announce on February 28 whether they will prosecute us again. The Embassy Protection Defense Committee, our lawyers and the four of us are preparing for a second prosecution. Please check DefendEmbassyProtectors.org for updates and what you can do to help prepare our defense.

Embassy protectors [left to right: David Paul, Margaret Flowers, Adrienne Pine, Kevin Zeese] outside of court on February 13, 2020, by Martha Allen.

Confusion In The Courtroom Where Lies Were Told And The Truth Could Not Be Heard

After the trial, half the jury stayed behind to answer questions from the lawyers and the judge. What stood out in their answers was confusion. The information they heard in court was incomplete, which made it difficult to understand what happened. A major source of confusion was that the testimony in the trial was limited to three days from May 13 when a trespass notice was delivered to May 16 when the arrests occurred. The jurors were not allowed to be told about the full 37 days we were in the embassy when at times more than 70 people stayed there. They asked — why were you there for those three days? Why did you go there in May when the new president, Juan Guaido, came to power in January? The prosecutor’s successful manipulation of Judge Howell to limit the testimony to those three days created juror confusion as the story did not make sense.

Of course, Juan Guaido never came to power. He has not been president for even a nanosecond. When this so-called ‘president’ returned to Venezuela, after a US-sponsored tour of Europe, the customs officer took his passport and explained he had violated the law by leaving the country. No real president could have a customs officer take his passport.

Guaido was not welcomed when he walked through the airport and out into the streets. He was surrounded by protesters calling him a traitor and an assassin and chasing him away from the airport.  They were angry in part because during his trip Guaido called for more sanctions, which have shortened the lives of over 40,000 Venezuelans, and in the past, he even called for a US military attack on his country. It is obvious he is hated by the people of Venezuela as even the opposition did not support his re-appointment as president of the National Assembly. Not only is he not the president, but he also is not even the leader of the political opposition to President Maduro.

In the courtroom, due to an anomaly of US law, the jury was told that Juan Guaido was the president. While many have criticized Judge Beryl Howell for that ruling, in reality, she was reflecting US law, which says the president determines whom the US recognizes as the leader of a foreign government. This is a political question that the courts cannot overturn. Judge Howell sought to keep politics out of the courtroom, but it was not possible. Taking judicial notice that Guaido is ‘president’ when in the real world he is not made this a political case based on falsehoods.

The judge explained that “elections have consequences” as they grant this and other powers to the president. Judge Howell’s comment was ironic for Venezuelans because they also have elections as they did in May of 2018 where President Maduro won 67 percent in a five-candidate field. That election had more than 300 international election observers who concluded it met all the requirements for democratic elections under international law. Kevin Zeese was in Venezuela for it and reported it was a well-run election far superior to many US elections – especially the Iowa Caucus!

In part because of the limits placed on what we could say in court, none of the embassy protectors testified. The judge’s pre-trial ruling meant we could not tell the whole truth and made it difficult to testify without being held in contempt of court, a situation that Alan Macleod described as “Kafkaesque.” Our lawyers, Michael Satin, John Zwerling, Bill Welch, and Heather Shaner, built our defense on their excellent cross-examination of the three government witnesses.  After the government presented its case, the defense rested without calling any witnesses.

While we hope the prosecutors will not prosecute us again because we are innocent of the charges against us, we are preparing for a second prosecution. It was a victory to have a hung jury in such a manipulated environment but we are not yet free. We hope the Trump administration sees that prosecuting us again will be viewed by the world as further proof of US injustice. Another prosecution raises the stakes for the US as an acquittal or second failed prosecution will be further evidence of the failed coup. As we have always hoped, our goal is for the US and Venezuela to develop positive relations that are based on mutual respect for sovereignty and international law.

Two placards placed outside the Venezuelan embassy by the Embassy Protectors Collective (From Popular Resistance)

Venezuela Continues to Resist US Regime Change

The US charade claiming Guaido is the president and the judge refusing to challenge that fiction has dangerous and deadly consequences. The United States violated international laws when it invaded the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC and handed it over to the leaders of a failed coup. The US signaled to other countries that centuries of practices that uphold the inviolability of embassies no longer matter. It also signaled that elections don’t matter. The US believes it can decide who is the leader of another country and hand over the assets of that country to whomever it chooses.

The Venezuelan National Assembly is currently investigating Juan Guaido, particularly his backing by the United States and the theft of Venezuela’s assets. Guaido has already been restricted from traveling out of Venezuela for taking money from foreign countries, a restriction he has defied multiple times. Guaido also violated the Venezuelan Constitution by claiming to be the president, a power that only exists when the elected president and vice president are unable to serve. In the case where the president of the national assembly is required to step in as president, there must be an election for a new president within thirty days.

Guaido is being accused of receiving financial support from Alejandro Betancourt, who is being prosecuted in the United States for laundering billions of dollars. Betancourt is the cousin of Leopoldo Lopez, the head of the right-wing Popular Will Party. Lopez was convicted of inciting violence and escaped last year to seek asylum in the Spanish Embassy. It was recently discovered that Rudy Giuliani met with Guaido’s father and others in Spain and then met with the US Department of Justice to request leniency for Betancourt.

Guaido is also implicated in a case being brought by Venezuela against the United States for “the theft of [Venezuela’s] foreign assets and bank deposits… The looting equals up to US$116 billion.”​​​​​​​ Venezuela recently filed a case in the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The day may come when the United States is held accountable and is no longer allowed to act with impunity.

A major goal of the action to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC was to raise awareness that the US was escalating its lawless actions. Interference in the elections of another country, threats of military invasion and the imposition of coercive economic measures (aka sanctions) are violations of the United Nations Charter. Failing to protect embassies violates the Vienna Convention. The Embassy Protection Collective, composed of hundreds of activists for peace and justice, did prevent the embassy in Washington, DC from being given to the coup-supporters. It is empty today.

The action in the embassy was also an act of solidarity with the people of Venezuela struggling for self-determination and a new society that puts people’s needs and protection of the planet above corporate profits. We have so much to learn from Venezuela about democracy, ending poverty and creating a world for everyone.

As Citizens of Empire, our work is not over. We must continue to oppose sanctions and US intervention in other countries. The San Francisco Labor Council recently passed a resolution opposing sanctions. You can do the same in your community. Urge your local groups, city or county council or other institutions to do the same. And listed below are a few more ways to get involved in the struggle for peace.

Register Now For The United National Antiwar Conference, “Rise Against Militarism, Racism And The Climate Crisis” In New York City From February 21 To 23.

Take Action: Join The International Days Of Action Against Sanctions And Economic War, March 13 – 15, 2020

Upcoming: The World Peace Council And The Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases,  International Conference, “Confronting Imperialism’s War Machine — The Global Struggle For Peace, Social Justice, National Sovereignty And The Environment,” On March 28-29, 2020, In Larnaca, Cyprus. Register Here.