Category Archives: Russia

Why are our politicians so silent on Palmyra’s liberation from clutches of Daesh?

Palmyra_-_Monumental_Arch

Palmyra’s historic monumental arch. Bernard Gagnon

Robert Frisk, The Independent’s multiple award-winning Middle East correspondent, is angry with Western Political leaders who are silent about the liberation of Palmyra (see Why is David Cameron so silent on the recapture of Palmyra from the clutches of Isis?).

So am I. We should all be angry.

Frisk says:

“The biggest military defeat that isis has suffered in more than two years. The recapture of Palmyra, the Roman city of the Empress Zenobia. And we are silent. Yes, folks, the bad guys won, didn’t they? Otherwise, we would all be celebrating, wouldn’t we?

Less than a week after the lost souls of the ‘Islamic Caliphate’ destroyed the lives of more than 30 innocent human beings in Brussels, we should – should we not? – have been clapping our hands at the most crushing military reverse in the history of Isis. But no. As the black masters of execution fled Palmyra this weekend, Messers Obama and Cameron were as silent as the grave to which Isis have dispatched so many of their victims. He who lowered our national flag in honour of the head-chopping king of Arabia (I’m talking about Dave, of course) said not a word.”

Yes, the silence of these political leaders has been deafening. But not all leaders.

According to the Syrian Arab News the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon welcomed the restoration of Security and stability to Palmyra and the expelling terrorists of the Islamic State (ISIS) from the historic city:

“We were happy with the announcement of the Syrian army the restoration of security and stability to Palmyra… the Syrian army will protect and preserve this human heritage.”

He added ISIS terrorists don’t only kill people in a brutal way, but they also destroy the heritage of the human civilizations that date back to thousands of years.

UN Gen Sec

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

Even the former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, expressed gratitude for the liberation of the ancient city of Palmyra. “Thank you,” he wrote in Russian in response to the message of the Russian Embassy in the US on the complete liberation of Palmyra.

McFaul

The Russian President congratulated the Syrian president on Palmyra’s liberation – although maybe that doesn’t count as his country contributed to this defeat of the Daesh jihadis in Palmyra.

Why this reticence?

Perhaps that is the problem – even if such a reason is childish. The policies and strategies of the US, NATO and the EU have been shown to be an absolute failure and then their political opponent – that upstart President Putin – comes along and shows them up. He gives substance to those criticisms of the failed policy of regime change in Syria.

As Frisk writes:

“When Palmyra fell last year, we predicted the fall of Bashar al-Assad. We ignored, were silent on, the Syrian army’s big question: why, if the Americans hated Isis so much, didn’t they bomb the suicide convoys that broke through the Syrian army’s front lines? Why didn’t they attack Isis?

“If the Americans wanted to destroy Isis, why didn’t they bomb them when they saw them?” a Syrian army general asked me, after his soldiers’ defeat.  His son had been killed defending Homs. His men had been captured and head-chopped in the Roman ruins. The Syrian official in charge of the Roman ruins (of which we cared so much, remember?) was himself beheaded. Isis even put his spectacles back on top of his decapitated head, for fun. And we were silent then.”

Back in September Putin asked during his speech to the UN General Assembly – “Do you realise what you have done?” He called for unity in the fight against terrorism – unity of the sort we experienced during the struggle against Nazism during World War II. But he didn’t sit back and wait for this unity – he provided help to the Syrian regime whose collapse, which was imminent,  would have thrown the country into anarchy of the sort that only breeds more terrorism. An anarchy which was the only clear future of the “regime change” policy. So, as Frisk points out:

“[Putin’s] aircraft attacked Isis – as US planes did not – in advance of the Syrian army’s conquest. I could not help but smile when I read that the US command claimed two air strikes against Isis around Palmyra in the days leading up to its recapture by the regime. That really did tell you all you needed to know about the American “war on terror”. They wanted to destroy Isis, but not that much.

“So in the end, it was the Syrian army and its Hizballah chums from Lebanon and the Iranians and the Russians who drove the Isis murderers out of Palmyra, and who may – heavens preserve us from such a success – even storm the Isis Syrian ‘capital’ of Raqqa. I have written many times that the Syrian army will decide the future of Syria. If they grab back Raqqa – and Deir el-Zour, where the Nusrah front destroyed the church of the Armenian genocide and threw the bones of the long-dead 1915 Christian victims into the streets – I promise you we will be silent again.

“Aren’t we supposed to be destroying Isis? Forget it. That’s Putin’s job. And Assad’s. Pray for peace, folks. That’s what it’s about, isn’t it? And Geneva. Where is that, exactly?”

“Regime change” is a threat to Europe

Europe is suffering the largest immigration crisis since the last World War – a crisis caused by the thoughtless application of “regime change” strategy in the Middle East.

I don’t go along with the claims that this immigration is being used by ISIS to infiltrate trained terrorist groups into Europe – after all, the groups we have seen in action have been essentially “home-grown.” But jihadists have captured territory in Iraq, Syria and now Libya –  have set up their own “caliphate” which enables the training of such “home-grown” jihadis. This also provides an ideological “homeland” for these terrorists. Daesh (ISIS) public sponsorship of terrorist actions in Europe – and elsewhere (which our media practically ignores) is clear evidence of a direct link.

Yes, the social and cultural problems of current European citizens of Middle East origin contributes to their radicalisation as well. But surely this massive immigration will only help set up a future situation of increased ghettoisation and radicalisation of the immigrants and their children.

Politicians have failed to develop policies in Europe capable of preventing the current ghettoisation and radicalisation – it’s an open question whether they will be able to develop policies suitable for the new wave of immigration.

Meanwhile, these same politicians in Europe, NATO and the US have created the current problems with their ‘failed “regime change” interventions in the Middle East. Realists have started to realise this and complain about that strategy. But, so far, they seem incapable of completely rejecting it, accepting the right of the peoples in those countries to decide their own regimes – and decide for themselves any changes they consider necessary.

As for the possibility of united action to combat terrorism, I think there have been hopeful signs with the US-Russian cooperation over the cessation of hostilities in Syria and support for the Geneva negotiations on Syria’s future. Perhaps that is a good start which can be built on. But so far such cooperation appears to be confined to the activity of the US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Given that president Obama couldn’t bring himself to welcome Palmyra’s liberation I wonder what John Kerry says in private?

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The US speaks in two tongues on terrorism

Palmyra liberation

I wonder how democratically minded people reacted to news of the defeat of the Nazis at Stalingrad during World War II. Or to the liberation of inmates from German concentration camps in Poland by Russian forces towards the end of the war.

Surely they welcomed these victories – even reacted ecstatically. I find it hard to believe otherwise.

But now I wonder. Surely the liberation of the Syrian city of Palmyra from Daesh (ISIS) occupation must be welcomed ecstatically by democratically minded people. Yet we find this pathetic hand wringing by a US State department spokesperson Mark Tonner.

He was far from enthusiastic the other day when asked if the US considered Palmyra’s liberation a positive development. Less than 24 hours before the Syrian Arab Army’s major push, Toner was asked on Wednesday if the US would like to see “the regime retake Palmyra, or do you prefer that it stays in Daesh’s hands?”

But no clear support for such a liberation. Instead, Tonner talked about “alleged violations of the cessation of hostilities” by the “regime.”  How the hell could a responsible State Department spokesperson talk that way – surely he is aware that the cessation of hostilities agreement brokered by the US and the Russian Federation specifically excluded Daesh!

He effectively refused to answer the journalist’s question instead suggesting there was little difference between Daesh and the “regime” of President Bashar Assad. After giving an evasive non-answer, Toner was pressed to clarify his remarks.

“No, I mean, look, I mean, broadly speaking, it’s not a great choice, an either/or, but – which is worse, Daesh or the regime – but we think Daesh is probably the greater evil in this case,” Toner replied.

Bloody hell! With such an evasive attitude by someone representing a country which is claiming to play a decisive role against international terrorism no wonder we have problems.

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Media misleading on Syria

Syrian Observatory

“COVERAGE OF the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press. Reporting about carnage in the ancient city of Aleppo is the latest reason why.”

That is according to a recent Op-ed by Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe. The article is The media are misleading the public on Syria.

This article is a sight for sore eyes – a “mouse” roaring against the “lion” of misinformation on the Syrian war. I am fed up with the biased reporting of the Syrian conflict and the surrounding political aspects. Information coming from people outside the country – even blatantly so as in TV news reports from Turkey. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (reporting from Coventry in the UK) is often used as sources for reports of bombings., civilian casualties, etc. yet who the hell considers that an objective source.

Aleppo – liberation?

Kinzer writes about recent reporting of the fighting in and around Allepo – which was once Syria’s largest city:

“For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression.  . . . Militants, true to form, are wreaking havoc as they are pushed out of the city by Russian and Syrian Army forces. “Turkish-Saudi backed ‘moderate rebels’ showered the residential neighborhoods of Aleppo with unguided rockets and gas jars,” one Aleppo resident wrote on social media.”

“This does not fit with Washington’s narrative. As a result, much of the American press is reporting the opposite of what is actually happening. Many news reports suggest that Aleppo has been a “liberated zone” for three years but is now being pulled back into misery.

“Americans are being told that the virtuous course in Syria is to fight the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian partners. We are supposed to hope that a righteous coalition of Americans, Turks, Saudis, Kurds, and the “moderate opposition” will win.

“This is convoluted nonsense, but Americans cannot be blamed for believing it. We have almost no real information about the combatants, their goals, or their tactics. Much blame for this lies with our media.”

And this “convoluted nonsense” is largely the story delivered by our own media. One has to search very hard to find alternative information – to get a real idea of what is happening in Syria.

Flags in Aleppo

Syrian armed forces placing the Syrian flag on Aleppo thermal power plant after capturing it from Daesh. This completed the eviction of Jihadists from Aleppo. Photo Credit:  Chris Tchaikovsky

Kinzer complains:

“Much important news about the world now comes from reporters based in Washington. In that environment, access and credibility depend on acceptance of official paradigms.”

And that is what is passed on to us by the “approved” or “official” news media.

Genuine reporting lost “in the cacophony”

Yet:

“Astonishingly brave correspondents in the war zone, including Americans, seek to counteract Washington-based reporting. At great risk to their own safety, these reporters are pushing to find the truth about the Syrian war. Their reporting often illuminates the darkness of groupthink. Yet for many consumers of news, their voices are lost in the cacophony. Reporting from the ground is often overwhelmed by the Washington consensus.”

He goes on to complain that our media portrays al-Nusra as “made up of ‘rebels’ or ‘moderates'” whereas “it is the “local al-Qaeda franchise.”  Saudi Arabia and Turkey are portrayed as aiding freedom fighters when they actually sponsor Daesh, finance and supply and other jihadist groups. However:

“Everything Russia and Iran do in Syria is described as negative and destabilizing, simply because it is they who are doing it — and because that is the official line in Washington.”

We should expect far more from journalists:

“Politicians may be forgiven for distorting their past actions. Governments may also be excused for promoting whatever narrative they believe best suits them. Journalism, however, is supposed to remain apart from the power elite and its inbred mendacity. In this crisis it has failed miserably.”

And this media inspired ignorance is dangerous, for us, for regional peace and for the Syrian people:

” In Syria, it is: “Fight Assad, Russia, and Iran! Join with our Turkish, Saudi, and Kurdish friends to support peace!” This is appallingly distant from reality. It is also likely to prolong the war and condemn more Syrians to suffering and death.”

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Is the media lying to you about Syria?

I came across this on Facebook today and was impressed with the message – a view on the Syrian conflict which we just do not get from our mainstream media.

It is very refreshing – I believe there are just so many lies being promoted about the Syrian war. They are dangerous lies because that conflict has evolved from what was another US-promoted “regime change” (as in Iraq and Libya) to what has become an international conflict involving major world powers – including the USA and the Russian Federation.

The current Turkish shelling of Syria in an attempt to reverse the liberation  of border territory from the terrorist Daesh by the Syrian Army and the Kurds, together with speculative plans of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners to invade Syrian could even spark a world war.

Two points:

1: This is an audio – not a video – so you can listen to it in the background.

2: Please do not be put off by the source organisation. Sure the video comes from a channel which works with David Icke but we should not wear blinkers – listen to her story and judge it for yourself. A sensible person must get their information from a range of sources – and assess that information critically and intelligently.

Source: Interview: “I’m Back From Syria. The Media Is Lying To You!” The Richie Allen Show (RADIO) | In Gaza

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What a pleasant surprise!

Mendeleev

I don’t normally notice the special images on Google’s search page but was pleasantly surprised this morning to see this one.

It’s great to see some people are celebrating  Dmitri Mendeleev’s 182nd birthday. He was born February 8, 1834 , in the village of Verkhnie Aremzyani, near Tobolsk in Siberia.

Mendeleev is considered the “father” of the Periodic Table. I remember as a school student being fascinated by the periodic table and the early versions of it as the researchers of the time attempted to make sense of chemistry. That fascination remained with me as my study of chemistry became more advanced Today, the table is firmly based in quantum physics and can be derived directly from quantum considerations. Yet, in  those early days, no-one had that theoretical insight and derived the table from the chemical and physical properties of the then-known elements. The fact this enabled them to predict the existence of other elements, and the fact this lead to successful searches for them, has always inspired me.

So, Dmitri Mendeleev is one of the giants whose shoulders today’s scientists stand on. Only natural then that this commemorative ruble marking the 150th anniversary of his birth is a prized souvenir I picked in up Moscow 30 years ago.

Mendeleev-ruble

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Censorship by demonisation

I believe the demonisation of Vladimir Putin, the president of the Russian Federation, creates an obstacle to political understanding. This was obvious in the political rhetoric surrounding the shooting down of the Malaysian Flight MH17 over the Donbass region in Ukraine. But is it also obvious in the continuing rhetoric around the Ukrainian and Syrian civil wars.

This  demonisation can end up being a form of censorship as it prevents anything like an objective discussion of political issues. It can even prevent people using available news sources because they are tainted in their minds if they don’t go along with the demonisation.

In a sense, it is like the conditioning of Pavlov’s dogs. For many people the words “Putin” and “Russia” create an immediate knee-jerk reaction which prevents discussion of the issues at hand.

This video showing an attempted discussion, on Aljazeera US,  of the possibilities of the US and Russian Federation working together to counter Daesh (ISIS) in Syria and bring about a political settlement of the civil war is a rather extreme example of problems resulting from demonisation. So extreme that Aljazzera no longer hosts the video of the programme – this one was recorded off the TV screen by a separate person who has made it available.

Frankly, I cannot understand how Aljazeera US allowed their programme frontperson to behave so badly.

Thanks to: Stephen Cohen Schools Al Jazeera Buffoon on Russia

 

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The danger of insisting on your own facts

This video is very relevant today – as it was 6 years ago when it was made.

The speaker is Michael Spector, author of the book Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives.

Learned a few new terms from this video – “Big Placebo” and “High Tech Colonialism”

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Flight MH17 in Ukraine – what do intelligence services know?

MH 17 intelligence report

Despite claims of proof made by politicians like David Cameron, Barack Obama and Tony Abbott after the downing of flight MH17 in Ukraine in 2014 no intelligence agencies in their countries ever provided any evidence. I find that surprising as these intelligence agencies were obviously monitoring the area and should have been able to give evidence to back up the claims. In fact, rumours suggested the intelligence evidence didn’t back up the claims.

I am forced to conclude the claims owe more to politics, in particular, the geopolitical struggle, than they do to facts.

Perhaps it is in their (and their political masters) nature that intelligence agencies may not be forthcoming on this issue. But I recently came across a largely unpublicised  report which I think does give some idea of what the intelligence community did know at the time. The  Review Report arising from the crash of flight MH17 was prepared by the Dutch Review Committee on the Intelligence Services specifically to answer questions from the Dutch government on what the intelligence community knew, and what they could have done to avert the disaster.

The review covers the role and knowledge of the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) and the General Intelligence and Security Service of the Netherlands (AIVD).

No, it doesn’t give the intricate details. But it does summarise their knowledge at the time – a knowledge which was informed by material from allied intelligence agencies (The Netherlands is part of NATO) and which they would have passed on to those agencies. As such, I think it provides a valuable insight into what was known – an insight enabling us to judge the claims being made by the politicians at the time. Perhaps an insight helping us to decide for ourselves which party was likely responsible for the downing of the plane, and hence the killing of 283 passengers and 15 crew.

Possible culprits

The report says:

“there were three relevant actors with military capacities in the period prior to the crash:
• Russian armed forces
• Ukrainian armed forces and
• Pro-Russian separatists.”

I have made this point repeatedly in the discussion we have had on the issue here – also saying I did not commit to any conviction that either of these parties had yet been shown to be the real culprit.

However, I now think  the intelligence community probably rules out the “Pro-Russian separatists.” The report says that neither of these parties had the intention to destroy a civil aircraft and only the Russian and Ukrainian armed forces had the weapons required. It concluded:

“Prior to the crash of flight MH17, the AIVD and the MIVD possessed the following information regarding the security situation in Eastern Ukraine that was relevant for assessing a threat to civil aircraft flying over the area:
• The Russian and the Ukrainian armed forces did have the capacity and potential to hit a civil aircraft at cruising altitude. However, they did not have the intention. There were no indications that they were engaged in activities (such as preparations) targeting civil aviation.
• There were no indications that the Separatists had the capacity to hit civil air traffic at cruising altitude. Moreover, there were no indications that they would target civil air traffic or that they were engaged in activities with this objective in mind.”

What capabilities did the “pro-Russian separatists” have?

The report concluded:

“Even though there was information pointing to the fact that the Separatists had been supplied with heavy weapons by the Russian Federation, there were no indications that these were powerful anti-aircraft systems.”

Politicians may debate that. After all, the Ukrainian Armed forces were shelling and bombing the separatist cities and villages and the separatist armed forces were certainly shooting Ukrainian planes out of the sky. But it was the very fact that separatists had been successfully shooting down those planes (particularly an An-26 military cargo plane on July 14 (3 days before flight MH17 was hit) that led intelligence forces to look closely at their capabilities. Here’s how the report describes this:

“On 14 July 2014, an An-26 military cargo aeroplane (referred to hereafter as: the Antonov), belonging to the Ukrainian airforce, was shot down. The Ukrainian authorities reported the event the same day in a briefing with Ukraine’s presidential administration in Kiev. The MIVD also received a concise report of the briefing from the Dutch Defence attaché. The report revealed that the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Klimkin, declared that the situation in the east had reached a new and dangerous phase because the Russian Federation was now openly providing the Separatists with military support. As an example of the escalation, Klimkin cited the Antonov’s being shot down in the area of Lugansk. Klimkin reported that the Antonov was flying at an altitude of 6,200 metres and could only have been hit with Russian equipment, because the Separatists did not possess this kind of anti-aircraft systems.
According to a media report on 14 July 2014 (which the MIVD possessed), the Ukrainian authorities stated that the aeroplane was flying at 6,500 metres and was not shot down by a portable anti-aircraft system but by a more powerful system. This was probably carried out from Russian territory. In the media, the Separatists claimed that they had shot down the aeroplane and taken some of the crew prisoner.”

So, spokesman for the Kiev regime were claiming (although probably didn’t really believe) that the Russian armed forces had directly entered the fray. Perhaps they were implying the Russians were effectively setting up a “no-fly zone” for Ukrainian military planes. At any rate, the possibility of direct involvement of Russian armed forces would explain the presence of Ukrainian anti-aircraft weapons in the area despite the separatists not using aeroplanes.

The intelligence community appears to reject claims of direct Russian involvement:

“If the Antonov had indeed been shot down by, or even from, the Russian Federation, this would have been a game changer. Direct Russian participation in the conflict would have become a fact.

That is why the MIVD immediately launched an investigation into the incident. In the morning of 17 July 2014, the MIVD communicated the results of this investigation in its daily intelligence summary (‘dagintsum’), which had a number of users, including the NCTV and the AIVD.”

This intelligence assessment was communicated on the very day Flight MH17 was shot down.

“The MIVD assessed it to be unlikely that the Antonov had been shot down by a powerful anti-aircraft system (separate from the question whether this had been carried out from Russian territory). From pictures of the wreckage and eyewitness accounts it was clear that the aeroplane’s right-hand engine had been hit and that 5 to 6 parachutes had subsequently appeared. The Antonov had allegedly crashed only then. On this basis, the MIVD concluded that the appearance of the damage was not consistent with a hit by a powerful anti-aircraft system. The aeroplane would in that case probably have been destroyed in the air.

The crew would probably not have survived if this had been the case. According to the MIVD, the wreckage and the eyewitnesses supported the fact that the aircraft was shot out of the air by a MANPADS from Ukrainian territory. This would only have been possible if the Antonov were flying substantially lower than 6,200 or 6,500 metres. Another possibility was that a short-range, vehicleborne anti-aircraft system”

And apparently the Ukrainian authorities, at least in their public statements, also did not believe that separatist armed forces had the capability of shooting down a civil airliner. I need to give the qualification because Ukrainian authorities are well known for providing inaccurate information for political purposes. It is likely they well knew the Antonov was not flying at the height they claim but wished to implicate the Russian federation.

What about the Buk missiles?

Although not completely ruling out an air-to-air missile the Final report of the Dutch safety board determined that MH17 was most probably hit by a missile from a Buk  system (see MH17: Final technical report).  But this review concluded that separatists just did not have such a weapon:

“The AIVD was aware that the Separatists, in addition to a broad range of artillery (eg machine guns), light anti-aircraft artillery (e.g. rocket launchers), anti-tank weapons and tanks, also possessed MANPADS and possibly short-range vehicle-borne anti-aircraft systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range, the aforementioned weapons do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.

“On 16 July [the day before MH17 crashed], the AIVD received a report from a reliable source that stated that there was no information that indicated that the Separatists possessed a medium-range SAM system. This comment was made in view of the circumstances related to the Ukrainian armed forces’ Antonov being shot down on 14 July 2014 in Eastern Ukraine.”

“The AIVD did not have any information that indicated that the Separatists possessed an operational, powerful anti-aircraft system such as a Buk system, also called an SA-11, prior to the crash of flight MH17.”

But what about a Buk system the separatists had captured from the Ukrainian armed forces?:

“On 29 June 2014, the Separatists captured a Ukrainian armed forces military base in Donetsk. At this base, there were Buk missile systems. These are powerful anti-aircraft systems. This development was reported extensively in the media prior to the crash. The MIVD also received intelligence information on the subject, on 30 June and 3 July 2014 as well as on other dates. During the course of July, several reliable sources indicated that the systems that were at the military base were not operational. Therefore, they could not be used by the Separatists.”

I had always considered the separatists could have been the culprit because of the availability of a captured Buk system but the intelligence community seems to have confidently ruled out that possibility.

What about a Russian Buk system?

Some motivated sources have promoted on social media a story that flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian Buk system specifically brought into eastern Ukraine for the job and removed directly after the crash. Of course, investigators must look into such stories but there does not appear to be any intelligence evidence to back them up.The review describes the relevant tasks of the Dutch intelligence bodies as investigation focused of the Russian Federation and the possible risk of an incursion into Eastern Ukraine (MIVD) and investigation of the politico-strategic aspect of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and on the Russian Federation’s political influence on Ukraine.

The review describes the relevant tasks of the Dutch intelligence bodies as investigation focused of the Russian Federation and the possible risk of an incursion into Eastern Ukraine (MIVD) and investigation of the politico-strategic aspect of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and on the Russian Federation’s political influence on Ukraine (AIVD).

Given the size of the Buk systems and the associated vehicles, it is hardly likely intelligence forces could have missed the movement of such a system in and out of eastern Ukraine, crossing the international border in two directions.

My conclusions

This may be the only direct public information about intelligence assessments of the situation in eastern Ukraine at the time of the MH17 crash the public will ever see. It is not detailed but is meant as a reliable summary for governments. And given the degree of cooperation and exchange of information among western intelligence agencies, I think it is probably an indication of the conclusions from all these agencies, not just the Dutch.

Intelligence agencies in the Russian Federation may have different or alternative information. Some, but probably not all, of this has already been released by the Russian government.

In the past, I had considered that it was highly probable Flight MH17 was accidentally shot down by separatist forces using a captured MH17 system and operators who had defected from the Ukrainian armed forces. But I now think that scenario is very unlikely. I had also thought that it was equally probable that the culprits were a unit of the Ukrainian armed forces making a mistake during a training exercise with a Buk system. I thought a scenario involving armed forces of the Russian Federation was far less likely.

Currently, I think the most likely scenario is that MH17 was mistakenly shot down by a unit of the Ukrainian armed forces – maybe in a training exercise or in an act of defense. While there is no evidence of direct involvement by air forces of the Russian Federation it is very likely that story was believed by forces on the ground, if not the politicians in Kiev promoting the story. Fear of a Russian aerial attack would also have been promoted by a series of losses of Ukrainian aircraft in the days before the MH17 crash – especially as the authorities in Kiev were claiming these could only have been shot down by Russian forces.

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John Pilger on Paris, ISIS and Media Propaganda

You might not agree with everything John Pilger says – but he is always up front and clear in what he does say.

Some very relevant comments from Pilger in this recent Going Underground Special interview.

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Can world leaders learn from the Paris terror attacks?

Putin Obama G20

This photo of Presidents Obama and Putin in serious and intense discussion  at the current G20 meeting symbolises what could be a positive change in international politics. Perhaps the Friday 13th acts of terror in Paris precipitated this particular meeting – or perhaps it is a culmination of geopolitical changes since the 2014 G20 conference in Brisbane.

Or perhaps I am just being  far too optimistic. After all, the problems facing the world today are pretty intractable.

“What have you done?”

It seems to me that a key moment was September UN General Assembly meeting where President Putin warned about the consequences of geopolitical trends. His  question to world leaders – “Do you realise what you’ve done?” – proved tragically prophetic (see the full text of his speech at Putin’s UN address: “Do you realise what you’ve done?”). France is just the most recent country to suffer extreme acts of terrorism and we should not ignore the other recent acts most probably carried out by Islamic State in Turkey, Lebanon and the Sinai Peninsula.

However, Putin’s question was primarily directed at political leaders in France and Turkey, as well as Europe, NATO, the USA, UK and the Middle East. These leaders have pursued policies of regime change which have, at best, downplayed the problems of terrorism, or at worst actually used terrorist groups like Islamic State and its affiliates to carry out regime change.

Now, perhaps, they are starting to realise the consequences of those policies and are becoming  a little more willing to support the concept of an international alliance to counter terrorism.

But only a “little more willing,” and that is not enough.

What right have outsiders to impose “regime change?”

French president Francois Hollande said during the emergency meeting of the French parliament:

“In Syria, we’re looking for the political solution to the problem, which is not Bashar Assad. Our enemy in Syria is ISIL,”

Good – France now supports a political solution to the Syrian civil war – but surely that is a solution which must be put into effect by the Syrian people. What right does the leader of a foreign country have to demand that any particular Syrian politicians must or must not be part of that process?

Western and Middle Western political leaders need to realise that an imposed “regime change’ of the sort that took place in Iraq and Libya will only promote more terrorism – in fact, is the source of the current terrorism. Regime change should be in the hands of the Syrian people – not external countries.

But there is a glimmer of hope. Maybe recent changes were precipitated by the intervention of Russian forces in Syria to prevent an armed overthrow of the government. But the Syrian peace talks in Vienna seem to be making some progress. There is now more talk of a political settlement, a ceasefire negotiated between the Syrian government and selected opposition forces and a timetable for parliamentary and presidential elections. The Syrian leadership is open to this process and hopefully the more genuine opposition  forces can be encouraged to take part.

And, isn’t that a better way to change a political regime?

External political leaders should stop their talk of “Assad must go” – it is arrogant and disrespectful to the Syrian people. What the hell are these western and Middle Eastern leaders going to do if a political settlement leads to democratic and constitutional changes and Assad is re-elected? Are they going to refuse to accept the will of the Syrian people?

Who is backing Islamic State?

Meanwhile, reports from the G20 meeting show that president Putin has provided leaders with evidence of the support helping to maintain ISIS and similar terrorist groups. He told reporters:

“”I provided examples related to our data on the financing of Islamic State units by natural persons in various countries. The financing comes from 40 countries, as we established, including some G20 members.”

He also presented satellite images and aerial photos showing the true scale of the Islamic State oil trade:

“I’ve demonstrated the pictures from space to our colleagues, which clearly show the true size of the illegal trade of oil and petroleum products market. Car convoys stretching for dozens of kilometers, going beyond the horizon when seen from a height of four-five thousand meters.”

Now, it seems to me that NATO and the US have demonstrated great skills in targeting sanctions at individual business and political leaders in the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Crimea. Surely it is not beyond them to destroy the financial and economic support current shoring up Islamic State. They must know who these business leaders are – and they must surely know who is trading the oil Islamic State transports into Turkey.

Surely, all they need is the political will.

Coordinating the anti-terror struggle

Wouldn’t armed attacks on Islamic State be far more effective if they were coordinated. If participants shared intelligence and identified agreed targets? Again, that is surely realistic – if an anti-Nazi coalition was possible during the last world war surely an anti-terror coalition would be a lot easier now. The current US excuses for refusing cooperation seem petty and inappropriate given the seriousness of the situation.

But that requires abandoning a failed policy of “regime change.” That requires a fundamental change in international power – or at least the recognition that a single superpower should no longer be allowed to dictate the political and social arrangements of other countries.

Still, I look at that photo above and it does give me hope.

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