Sunday, 26 March 2017

US Imposed Syria Sanctions Hit Children’s Cancer Treatment at Damascus Children’s Hospital

Six years of conflict have brought the Syrian health service, once one of the best in the Middle East, close to collapse


Global Research, March 25, 2017
Gulf News 25 March 2017

syrian children cancer
Damascus: In the cancer ward at Damascus Children’s Hospital, doctors are struggling with a critical shortage of specialist drugs to treat their young patients — and it’s not just due to the general chaos of the Syrian civil war.
Local and World Health Organisation (WHO) officials also blame Western sanctions for severely restricting pharmaceutical imports, even though medical supplies are largely exempt from measures imposed by the United States and European Union.
Six years of conflict have brought the Syrian health service, once one of the best in the Middle East, close to collapse. Fewer than half of the country’s hospitals are fully functioning and numbers of doctors have dived.
The result is tumbling life expectancy — even after accounting for the hundreds of thousands directly killed in the fighting — and soaring deaths in pregnancy and childbirth.
On top of this, cuts in health spending by the government that is fighting a hugely expensive war, a drastic fall in the Syrian currency and indirect effects of the sanctions are all deepening the misery of patients who need foreign-made drugs.
Copy of 2017-03-16T180355Z_1713427651_RC1BBD31B430_RTRMADP_3_MIDEAST-CRISIS-SYRIA-SANCTIONS
Children suffering from cancer at Damascus Children’s Hospital. Image credit: Reuters
For families with sick children, the situation is dire.
At the children’s hospital in government-held Damascus, the waiting room outside the cancer ward was crowded with relatives, many of whom had brought clothes, mattresses and blankets in case they had to spend long periods far from their homes outside the city.
One of them was Naim Der Moussa, 55, who has been living in Damascus for a year to secure regular treatment for his 10-year-old daughter Wa’ad. They left his wife and six other children behind in the eastern city of Deir Al Zor, where government forces are besieged by Daesh.
“My daughter was first diagnosed with kidney cancer and treated,” he said. “Now cancer has been found also in her lungs.”
Before the conflict, Syria produced 90 per cent of the medicines it needed but anti-cancer drugs were among those where it traditionally relied on imports.
Elizabeth Hoff, the WHO representative in Syria, said medicine imports have been hit by significant cuts in the government’s health budget since the war began in 2011 plus a 90 per cent drop in the value of the Syrian pound, which has made some pharmaceuticals prohibitively expensive.
However, a lack of cash is not the only reason why supplies of cancer drugs are falling far short of increasing demand.
“The impact of economic sanctions imposed on Syria heavily affected the procurement of some specific medicine including anti-cancer medicines,” said Hoff. The sanctions were preventing many international pharmaceutical companies from dealing with the Syrian authorities as well as hindering foreign banks in handling payments for imported drugs, she added.
The United States and EU have imposed a range of measures targeted both at the government and some of the many armed groups operating in the country.
Washington has banned the export or sale of goods and services to Syria from the United States or by US citizens.
The EU has imposed travel bans, asset freezes and an arms embargo, with sanctions also targeting financial ties with Syrian institutions, buying oil and gas from the country or investing in its energy industry.
President Bashar Al Assad has partly blamed the sanctions for turning many Syrians into refugees, often heading to Europe.
Both the US and EU regimes include exemptions for medicines and other humanitarian supplies. However, by clamping down on financial transactions and barring much business with the Syrian government, the sanctions are indirectly affecting trade in pharmaceuticals.
Many drugs companies have erred on the side of caution, avoiding any business with Syria for fear of inadvertently falling foul of the sanctions.
The US State Department said the Treasury had authorised services in support of humanitarian activities in Syria, adding that there were legal ways to bring medicine into the country.
The EU also rejected criticism of its sanctions.
“Such measures are not aimed at the civilian population,” an EU spokeswoman said. “EU sanctions do not apply to key sectors of the Syrian economy such as food and medicine.”
She acknowledged firms had increasingly pulled out of business with Syria but said this was also due to other reasons, including “security, reputation, commercial motivation, anti-money laundering measures” and the presence of militant groups.
The WHO brings essential medicines and medical supplies into Syria, procuring generic drugs from approved sources in Europe, North Africa and Asia. Branded US products cannot be imported due to the sanctions situation, Hoff said.
With funds from Kuwait, the WHO has delivered life-saving medicine to more than 16,000 cancer patients, of whom thousands are children with leukaemia.
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Syrian girl Rahma sits on a bed as she receives treatment for cancer at Damascus Children’s Hospital. Image Credit:Reuters
But this does not meet demand. Besides cancer medication, there are critical shortages of insulin, anaesthetics, specific antibiotics needed for intensive care, serums, intravenous fluids and other blood products and vaccines, Hoff said.
The overall collapse in Syrian health care has contributed to a drop in life expectancy to 60 years for men and 70 for women in 2014, from 72 and 75 respectively in 2009. Only 44 per cent of hospitals are now fully functioning and more than a quarter aren’t working at all, the WHO said.
By 2014, the number of doctors in Syria had dropped to 1.3 per 1,000 people, less than half the level in neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon.
Against this deterioration, Damascus Children’s Hospital has also come under increasing pressure. Cancer units in the provincial cities of Aleppo and Latakia were both put out of service in fighting earlier in the war.
Now about 200 children visit the Damascus hospital every week, with more than 70 per cent from outside the capital, according to its head, Maher Haddad.
The weight of demand has delayed treatment for dozens of sick children by 15-20 days, affecting their prospects, overall health and response to medication, he added.
Haddad also singled out the sanctions. Pharmex, the state-owned company that buys drugs for government-funded hospitals across Syria, was able to provide only 5-10 per cent of the cancer medication that is required, he told Reuters.
“Most of the cancer medicines are imported. Pharmex used to import the stock of medicines that public hospitals need. But it has not been able to do so largely because of the economic sanctions, I believe,” he said.
His hospital has only 36 free beds, with 17 of those allocated to children with cancer.
In the waiting room, a woman who identified herself only by her first name Nawal, said she travels from the Qalamoun area north of Damascus every fortnight with her 14-year-old daughter who requires chemotherapy treatment for leukaemia.
“We don’t have hospitals or charities in Qalamoun. Free treatment is offered only at the Children’s Hospital in Damascus,” Nawal said.
One private charity, Basma, is trying to help out by funding cancer drugs for poor families. The proportion of patients who need assistance has risen from about 30 per cent to nearly 80 per cent since the war began, executive manager Rima Salem said.
Salem finds the delays in treatment worrying.
“A child with cancer might die waiting for his turn to get treatment,” she said.
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Moral Failure at the United Nations

March 24, 2017 “Information Clearing House” –  On 15 March 2017 the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) published a report on Israeli practices and policies toward the Palestinians. Using international law as its comparative criterion, the report came to a “definitive conclusion” that “Israel is guilty of Apartheid practices.” The term Apartheid was not used in the report merely in a “pejorative” way. It was used as a descriptor of fact based on the evidence and the accepted legal meaning of the term.
Such was the immediate uproar from the United States and Israel that U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in a moment of moral failure, ordered the report’s withdrawal. The head of ESCWA, the Jordanian diplomat Rima Khalaf, decided that she could not, in good conscience, do so and so tendered her resigation.
Reportage
The initial New York Times coverage of the incident paid little attention to the accuracy of the report, an approach which, if pursued, would have at least educated the Times’ readers as to the real conditions of Palestinians under Israeli domination. Instead it called the report, and those involved in producing it, into question. For instance, the NYT told us that “the report provoked outrage from Israel and the United States.” The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, was quoted as declaring that, “when someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the U.N. it is appropriate that the person resign.” At no point in the NYT story was it noted that Ms Haley’s charge that the report was false, was itself false. Other coverage by the NYT improved only slightly.
The NYT did pay attention to the fact that, among the authors of the report, was former U.N. human rights investigator Richard Falk. Falk served six years as U.N. Spacial Rapporteur for the Occupied Territories. According to the NYT, his presence had to “gall[ed] many Israeli supporters who regard him as an anti-Semite.” There is something troubling about a newspaper that claims to represent the epitome of professional journalism reporting such slurs without properly evaluating them. Richard Falk, who is Jewish, has an impeccable record of both academic achievement and public service. His reputation for honesty and dedication to the cause of human rights exemplifies the best practice of Jewish values. Thus, he has every right to say that “I have been smeared in this effort to discredit the report” – a study which “tries its best to look at the evidence and analyze the applicable law in a professional manner.”
Israel’s Behavior
An objective consideration of Israel’s behavior makes it hard to escape the brutal reality of its officially condoned practices.
On 17 March 2017, at the same time as the forced withdrawal of the ESCWA report, the U.S. State Department released a report on “grave violations against Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation.” This was part of the department’s annual “country reports on human rights practices.” Among the problems cited were Israel’s practice of unlawful detention, coerced confessions and excessive use of force, including torture and killings.
Usually these annual human rights reports are made public by the Secretary of State. This year Rex Tillerson, who presently holds the office, was nowhere in sight. And, of course, President Trump failed to issue any of his characteristic tweets in reference to the Israel’s barbaric behavior.
Earlier, on 8 February 2017, it was reported that “Israel has banned anesthesia gas from entering the Gaza Strip.” There is a current backlog of some 200 patients in Gaza requiring surgical care, and some will die due to Israel’s ban.
A week later, on 14 February 2017, it was reported that Israeli officials were blackmailing Palestinian patients seeking permission to enter Israel for necessary medical treatment. A 17-year-old Gazan boy who suffered from congenital heart disease and needed a heart valve replacement “was explicitly told that in order to [leave the Gaza Strip and] have his operation, he would have to cooperate with the security forces and spy for Israel.” He refused and subsequently died. This is not a new or unusual tactic for the Israelis.
Blackmail All Around
The moral failure at the U.N., represented by the withdrawal of the ESCWA report, is the result of Secretary General Guterres’s decision to acquiesce in a denial of reality – the reality of Israel’s practice of Apartheid.
On the other hand, it probably also stems from Guterres’s acceptance of the reality of U.S. financial leverage along with the apparent threat to bankrupt the United Nations. This is, of course, a form of blackmail. Significantly, U.S. use of its financial clout at the U.N. mimics the same practice by the Zionist lobby in the halls of Congress.
Obviously the United Nations, to say nothing of U.S. politicians, needs alternate sources of income. My wife Janet once suggested that the UN be awarded the right to exploit and profit from all undersea resources. Not a bad idea. Likewise, U.S. politicians should agree to, or be forced to rely upon, government-based campaign funding rather than be pressed into putting themselves up for sale.
However, such changes do not appear imminent. As it stands now, reality in Palestine is what the Americans and Israelis say it is because politicians and international leaders literally can’t afford to challenge their corrupted views.
Lawrence Davidson is a retired professor of history from West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic research focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He taught courses in Middle East history, the history of science and modern European intellectual history. http://www.tothepointanalyses.com
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.
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Iran under Trump



All revolutions are constantly in evolution – on a never-ending quest for legitimacy and self-improvement. The revolution that gave birth to the Islamic Republic of Iran is no different.
Iran under Trump
Some experts argue that the Islamic revolutionary order had been solidified by the Iran-Iraq war [1980-1988], which was fueled by western states and Arab monarchies. The conflict that served to reaffirm the revolution’s anti-imperialist zeal also charted the course for Tehran’s national security agenda.
In the years that followed, the isolated, Shiite-majority state emerged as a regional powerhouse, mastering the process of mobilizing and fighting alongside external ‘non-state actors’, to keep Washington’s dogs of war away from its borders.
The last two decades, defined by the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the war effort against the Damascus government, only reaffirmed Tehran’s chosen path, hardening its resolve.
In many respects, the arrival of Donald Trump is simply a continuation of this process, reassuring the Iranian public and political establishment that their decades-long approach towards Washington’s regional agenda has always been spot-on.
And while Trump’s election polarized the western world, it served to strengthen the unity of the Iranian nation and bridge any existing gaps between the country’s reformist and conservative camps.
“Thank you, Mr. Trump”
During the 38th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution on February 7, the Supreme Leader, His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei, mockingly addressed the Trump administration’s hostile stance towards Tehran.
“Thank you, Mr. Trump, for showing the true face of America,” Sayyed Khamenei said.
Iranian president Sheikh Hassan Rouhani also addressed the crowds gathered to laud the Revolution.

“We are not after tensions in the region and the world,” he said. “We are united in the face of bullying and any threat.”
Interestingly, the nationwide rallies, which came at a time of sharp anti-Iranian rhetoric in Washington, further highlighted Tehran’s ability to exercise restraint and its constant readiness for dialogue.
According to the New York Times, the national holiday was marked “with far less of the usual vitriol for the United States.”
“Most notably, there were no missiles on display, as had been customary in previous years,” NYT’s Thomas Erdbrink writes.
“[Tehran] does not want any confrontation with the US. Don’t be surprised, we have no interest with tensions,” said the Iranian political analyst Farshad Ghorbanpour.
Of course, all of this should hardly come as a surprise, given that the Islamic Republic has absolutely nothing to gain by ratcheting up tensions across the region.
Trump’s approach 
It is very difficult to understand President Trump’s reasoning behind his decision to slap fresh sanctions on Iran. It is equally difficult to analyze the key components of the Trump administration’s foreign policy agenda, especially with respect to the enduring climate of instability in the Middle East.
Despite the fact that Trump’s campaign rhetoric often promised to undo the Iranian nuclear agreement, no concrete steps have been taken in this regard. Suggestions that the American president could simply tear up the multilateral accord reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries should be taken with a grain of salt, given that such a move lacks any semblance of serious international support.
Instead, the Trump administration appears to believe that a new round of negotiations with Tehran over its growing role in the region, which includes its alliances with Damascus and Hezbollah, is still possible. Trump’s reset with the Arab monarchies and ‘Israel’ is designed to send a message that his administration is unwilling to accept the new realities on the ground, particularly in Syria, where a long-term Iranian presence is looking increasingly likely.
Recent ‘Israeli’ airstrikes, which struck targets deep in Syrian territory, as well as the deployment of hundreds of additional American soldiers to Syria, suggest that Trump wants to be heard, and that the current state of affairs in the Middle East is not acceptable for the US president.
But the sheer notion that Tehran would be willing to negotiate over its regional alliances – one of the defining features of its national security policy since the early years of the Islamic Revolution – has been dismissed as a nonstarter in Iran.
To what degree this lack of common ground, combined with the increasingly desperate Tel Aviv and Riyadh may contribute to further regional instability, is still an open question.
A senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment and professor at Georgetown University, Karim Sadjadpour, offers a pessimistic outlook of the future.
“In Donald Trump’s first term, there is a serious possibility of a military conflict, whether intentional or inadvertent, between the United States or ‘Israel’ and Iran,” Sadjadpour, who also reports on Iran, writes for The Atlantic.
And a combination of mistrust, aggressive action and isolated incidents could set the course towards a direct military confrontation, which, needless to say, is clearly not in any regional or international player’s interest at the moment.
Al-Ahed News
25-03-2017 | 07:44

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Erdogan’s War of Words Inciting Terror in Europe

Erdogan’s War of Words Inciting Terror in Europe

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 26.03.2017 | OPINION

Erdogan’s War of Words Inciting Terror in Europe

Only hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a bloodcurdling warning about terror attacks against European citizens, four people lay dead on the streets of London. That death toll may rise further because several of those injured in the Only hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a bloodcurdling warning about terror attacks against European citizens, four people lay dead on the streets of London. That death toll may rise further because several of those injured in the attack this week in the British capital are in critical condition, fighting for their lives.
Erdogan was speaking Wednesday in what was yet another diatribe in his ongoing war of words with the European Union. The Turkish leader has been enraged by European governments refusing ministers from Ankara holding political rallies in Germany, Netherlands and Austria among other countries. As a result of the injunctions, he has accused the EU of displaying Islamophobia and hostility towards Turkey.
In his latest barrage earlier this week, Erdogan warned that there would be dire repercussions for EU citizens owing to the perceived stance of their governments.
«If you continue to behave like this, tomorrow in no part of the world, no European, no Westerner will be able to take steps on the street safely and peacefully», Erdogan said.
Tragically, within hours of announcing these very words, a British-born man plowed his speeding car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing several of them and seriously wounding dozens more. The assailant then got out of his crashed vehicle and ran into the grounds of the British parliament where he stabbed a police officer to death, before being fatally shot by another officer.
The attacker was named as 52-year-old Khalid Masood, a British citizen. It is not clear yet what his precise motives were, but the deadly attack was subsequently claimed by the Islamic State terror group.
Turkey’s Erdogan was reportedly one of many world leaders who quickly phoned British premier Theresa May to offer his condolences. Later on Wednesday night, Erdogan released a statement on social media, saying: «We stand in solidarity with the UK, our friend and ally, against terrorism, the greatest threat to global peace and security».
There is a sense here that the Turkish leader was reeling from his own earlier warnings of would-be terror consequences for European citizens, and how his tirades against the EU might be implicated in inciting violence.
Certainly, the EU, in short-order, seemed to find Erdogan’s forecasting of acts of terrorism against European citizens and how «they would not be safe on streets around the world» to be lamentable.
Turkey’s envoy in Brussels was promptly summoned to «explain» the president’s doom-laden words. The day after the London killings, the EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic reportedly said: «We have asked the Turkish permanent delegate to the EU to come… as we would like to receive an explanation with regard to the comments by President Erdogan concerning the safety of Europeans on the streets of the world».
At best, Erdogan’s chilling warnings against European citizens are grossly insensitive. Apart from the carnage in London, on the very day that he issued his grim forecast of violence, the date was also the first anniversary of the terror attacks in Brussels when more than 30 people were killed by suicide bombers in the Belgian capital on March 22 last year.
Over the past year, there have been several other terror attacks on the streets of European cities, including the carnage in Nice when a would-be jihadist drove an articulated lorry into a pedestrians last July, killing over 80.
There was also an horrific attack in Berlin when an assailant drove a lorry into a crowded Christmas market.
In all these incidents, there appears to be an Islamist connection. The perpetrators may be acting in some sort of «lone wolf» capacity, without the organizational support of the al Qaeda terror network. But that’s beside the point. The attacks appear to be motivated by some level of Islamist grievance. Perhaps acts of revenge against European governments and citizens who are perceived as being complicit in illegal wars on, or persecution of, Muslim majority countries in the Middle East.
This is where Turkish President Erdogan bears more responsibility than merely just «bad timing» or being «insensitive» remarks.
In recent weeks, Erdogan and senior government ministers in Ankara have been engaging in a reckless war of words with the EU, which can be viewed as bordering on incitement.
Erdogan has repeatedly accused Germany and The Netherlands of acting like «Nazis and fascists». He has condemned the whole of the EU as being «racist» and «anti-Islam».
Just last week, Erdogan claimed that Dutch UN peacekeeping troops were responsible for the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, when up to 8,000 Muslim men were killed by Serb forces. Erdogan said the Dutch had the blood of Muslims «on their hands».
Ankara’s fit of rage stems from European governments blocking political rallies being held in their cities by Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party. Those rallies are aimed at mobilizing Turkish expatriates to vote in Turkey’s referendum next month, which is being held to endorse increasing constitutional powers for Erdogan’s presidency.
Erdogan’s grip on power has already become increasingly autocratic since the attempted coup against his rule failed last July.
In order to push Turkish voters to back his sought-after constitutional changes, Erdogan is evidently whipping up patriotic fervor and in particular Islamist fervor by indulging in a war of words with the EU.
Denouncing European states as «anti-Islamic» and «racist» may gain Erdogan votes. But such incitement has consequences. This war of words is not an abstract phenomenon. It risks inflicting real human casualties, as Europe has all-too often witnessed over the past year.
If EU governments had any spine, they would hold Erdogan legally to account over his potentially seditious behavior.
But the supine EU is too busy trying to keep the Turkish sultan sweet so that he doesn’t open the refugee floodgates from the wars that European governments have been stoking across the Middle East and North Africa.

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Yemeni protesters mark 2nd anniversary of Saudi war

Regional, World War Possible As israel Continues To Provoke Full Scale Confrontation With Syria

The war in Syria is heating up yet again with signs that the conflict may soon be about to take greater international dimensions. This is all due to greater Israeli participation and aggression in Syria against the Syrian military and on the behalf of terrorist organizations fighting against the Syrian government. The questions that remain, however, are whether or not the Israelis are willing to tempt the resolve of the anti-terrorist coalition of Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia and how steadfast that resolve of those powers might actually be.
In the past week, we have seen an escalation in the Syrian conflict the likes of which we have not seen in decades in terms of Israeli-Syrian tensions as well as the potential for a clash of nuclear world powers in the Middle East as a combat theatre
After a mobilization of U.S. troops near Manbij – designed to prevent the Syrian military from retaking the city and as a means to stop combat between Turkish and Kurdish forces – Israel launched an air attack on Syrian targets near Palmyra, the Zionist settler state’s furthest penetration into Syria yet. Israel claimed it was bombing an Iranian-Hezbollah weapons convoy while the Syrian government claimed Israel had targeted Syrian military positions who were in the process of combating ISIS. Regardless, Israel clearly violated international law and the concept of national sovereignty.
This time, however, Israel was not able to bomb and bail as they have done eleven times in the past as Syrian air defense systems were mobilized and an Israeli jet shot down as a result. This shoot down was apparently launched after the Syrian military informed the Russian military of its intention to shoot the Israeli planes down. It is assumed that the Russians did not object to the use of force.
Indeed, Russian Marines were only a few kilometers away from where the Syrian military was attacked. After the attack, the Russian government summoned the Israeli Ambassador, Gary Koren, to demand an explanation for the operation. This, in and of itself, is an unprecedented event.
Very soon after the shoot down, both Syria and Israel engaged in a war of words and threats regarding any future incidents. For instance, Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, stated that, “The next time the Syrians use their air defence systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation.”
Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari also responded to the incident with statements of his own.
“Putin sent a clear message,” he said. “The fact is that the Israeli ambassador [to Russia] was summoned for a conversation only a day after he submitted his credentials [to the Russian Foreign Ministry last Thursday], and was told categorically that this game is over.”
Jaafari pointed out that the attack has changed the rules of the game and that Syria will not sit idly by while Israel attacks its forces.
But, on Sunday, a new incident arose with the Israelis launching an airstrike in Quneitra, located in the Golan Heights. Syrian news media reported the incident first, saying that a militia commander had been killed in the strike. Lebanese television station, al-Mayadeen identified the man killed as Yasser Assayed, member of the National Defense Militia. He was a commander of the Golan Brigade, a Druze militia fighting alongside the Syrian military against terrorists. The assassination was allegedly conducted by virtue of an unmanned Israeli drone.
On March 19-20, Israel launched more airstrikes on the Lebanese-Syria border, supposedly targeting a Hezbollah weapons supply convoy.
On Monday, March 20, an Israeli drone was shot down over the Golan area allegedly by Syrian aerial defense systems. Hezbollah paraded pictures of the downed drone on its social media pages as proof of the shoot down, forcing Israel to admit that the UAV had indeed been brought down.
And the Israelis have yet to stop their aggression. In fact, despite having been warned by the Syrian government and having apparently angered Russia over the initial airstrikes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doubling down on the perceived Israeli right to bomb anyone anywhere anytime without consequences.
“If there is feasibility from an intelligence and military standpoint – we attack and so it will continue,” said Netanyahu during his visit to China. He added that he informed President Putin of Israel’s intentions.
On Wednesday, March 22, Israel launched more airstrikes deeper inside Syrian territory, targeting Syrian army posts near the capitol, Damascus. This marks the fourth Israeli airstrike operation in Syria within one week.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Russia is relying on Israel to abide by the agreements that were established during Netanyahu’s official state visit to Russia earlier in March where the two men held extensive talks regarding the Syrian crisis.
“We will judge not by their statements, but by their actions, to what extent our Israeli partners are sticking to these agreements,” said Lavrov.
Syrian President Assad told Russian MPs visiting Syrian that he is counting on Russia to do something about any further Israeli attacks on Syria and to assist Syria in avoiding a real full-scale war with Israel.
Israel has been regularly bombing Syria over the last decade with increasing attacks taking place since the Western-backed destabilization beginning in 2011. 2017, however, have seen the biggest concentration of attacks thus far.
But while the conflict between Syria and Israel heats up, the ever-present suicidal American readiness to fight and die to the last American to preserve Israel also comes into play. In the past, the United States, due to geopolitical interests at vastly higher levels than that of the Oval Office, the immense sums of money use to purchase members of congress, and the extraordinary religious brainwashing of many American Christians, the United States is always poised to leap into World War Three to protect the “little Jewish Ulster” and biggest destabilizing factor in the Middle East today.
Assad’s comments and Israel’s behavior reveals that a full-scale war is bubbling just below the surface, perhaps only hours away. Comments coming from a number of Israeli officials only a week ago has made it clear that Israel would naturally draw Hezbollah into such a war as well, perhaps involving Iran if for no other reason than the fact that Iran is the principal patron of the militia group. The question would then become whether or not Russia will simply allow Israel to undo all of the anti-terrorist work it has undertaken since it became involved militarily in Syria. The United States is another wild card, having instigated the entire crisis and having been an unwavering goon for Israel since the settler state’s beginnings. At this point, we would be witnessing the steep drop off to not only regional war but also potentially a world war of unimaginable proportions.
Hopefully, for the sake of the world, Russia will be able to talk Netanyahu from leading the world into conflagration but, given the Israeli penchant for being unreasonable, we at least hope that the United States will not sacrifice itself to become further embroiled in the Syrian conflict on Israel’s behalf.
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The Christian Genocide in Syria: An Interview with Yasmine

Posted on March 23, 2017
[ Ed. note – There is a genocide of Christians taking place in Syria. The above is a photo I first posted back in 2014. It shows destruction at the Greek Catholic Church of Our Lady in the Syrian city of Yabroud, and is one of a series of photos I published at the time. The pictures were taken shortly after the city was liberated by the Syrian Arab Army and Hezbollah forces.
British reporter Robert Fisk was on hand when the city was liberated and wrote: “The Greek Catholic Church of Our Lady is a place of shame, of burnt copies of the New Testament, paintings slashed with knives – many were lying in strips of gold and red fabric beside the altar’s broken cross – and mosaics chiselled from the walls.”
Fisk also mentioned that the terrorists had “gouged out the eyes of the mosaic saints.”
You can go here to access the original post. In it I wrote the following:
What is on display in these photos is not merely abomination and sacrilege; it is loathing and hatred of the spirit of Christ; it is detestation for everything Jesus taught, malice and abhorrence at the mere mention of his name; contempt for his memory. Where does this kind of hatred of Christ come from? What accounts for it?
It’s not an easy question to answer. But clearly the hatred is there. In the same post I noted that the terrorists in Syria were being backed by “the West, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.”
Today, three years later, the terrorist proxy armies in Syria are operating under different names in some cases, but the same ideology, the same hatred of Christ, is still in evidence. And the mainstream media, as before, don’t seem terribly interested in what’s going on. Apparently the tweets of Donald Trump are considered more newsworthy than the murder of Christians in Syria. And when occasionally a news organization does report on the issue, as in the case of this AFP report filed in November of last year, the media spin given seems deliberately designed to convey the false impression that it is the “regime forces” who are intent on destroying churches, not the innocent, Western-democracy-loving “rebels.”
Of course, as the photo below would suggest, it is not, I repeat, not Syrian President Bashar Assad who is waging genocide against Christians. Assad has been president since the year 2000, and prior to the outbreak of the conflict six years ago, Syrian Christians lived in peace and prosperity, free to practice their faith. The hatred of Christ I spoke of is far more likely to be harbored by those who  are backing the terrorists, rather than those actually and genuinely fighting them.  The latter, of course, would be Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
All of which, in a roundabout way, leads me to the following. Recently a Syrian-American writer by the name of Sarah Abed posted an interview she conducted with an Aramean Syriac Orthodox woman named “Yasmine.” The name is an alias. The city of Damascus is nicknamed the “City of Jasmine” (or Yasmine in Arabic). Abed writes:
Yasmine contacted me on Facebook recently after reading my articles and posts. We discussed the situation there and her frustration with the lies being reported. I asked if she would want to tell her story, she eagerly agreed. Shortly after our talk her Facebook account was blocked and she hasn’t been able to come back on Facebook since then. Also, oddly enough only my messages are visible from our conversation. A few days ago her friend reached out to me and asked for my email and she sent me “Memoir of a Syrian girl” detailing her experience living in Damascus before and during the war. I will be putting that in a separate article. I asked her as a Christian in Syria if she would be willing to answer some questions and she agreed.
Yasmine is an engineer who also holds an MBA degree. She was born in Al Qamishly, in the northeast of Syria, but grew up in Damascus, where she resides at this time. Below is an excerpt from her interview with Abed. The letters “KSA” in the interview refer to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. ]
***
Q: When the West’s terrorist proxies slaughter and commit genocide against the indigenous Christian population, as they did, for example, in Kessab, Syria, are they attempting to “erase history”?
A: Not only history, When Wahhabists started in KSA they destroyed everything that has relation to history, even the grave of the prophet is destroyed, they do not care for it, in Afghanistan they destroyed statues that were thousands years old, they are a destruction machine of everything that has to do with civilization.
Q: When Western terrorists occupy towns like Maloula, Syria, and destroy Christian religious icons is this an attempt to erase history?
A: They want to destroy the history and Christianity, Christians were always targeted by those radicals, it is their ideology to not accept any one who is different.
Q: When the Western terrorists target Muslim and/or Christian communities, are they, or their Imperial masters, attempting to destroy the country by creating sectarian warfare?
A: Of course, the sectarian warfare serves the agenda, it was the plan for ME to be in perpetual state of chaos, which in the days of Bush jr was called the creative chaos or constructive chaos, this chaos serves Israel.
Q: Are the imperialists attempting to create warring ethnic and/or religious enclaves?
A: Of course, it is their targeted, the religion is the opium of nations, it is the method to lead the whole destruction game
Q: Are the Empire’s divide and conquer strategies in Syria working, or does most of the Syrian population remain unified?
A: There must have been some who sympathise with Wahhabists, and these will never seize to exist unless the world fights the source of them, the sources of Wahhabist ideology are in Egypt and KSA, and unless they are totally fought, they will always have followers around the world. Another thing to be honest, A regime like Bashar Assad was able to protect us from those minority, also in the days of Hafez Assad we were protected, If you like to name him a dictator go ahead, but please do not tell me the west is protecting us. Hafez Assad was protecting us, Bashar Assad is protecting us…

Damascus–the city of Jasmine

I had a chance to visit Damascus in 2014. It is indeed a beautiful city…

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Pentagon Paid PR Firm Over $500 Million to Create Fake Terrorist Videos

Joe Martino — Collective Evolution
staged isis beheading

“We need to make this style of video and we’ve got to use Al-Qaeda’s footage . . . We need it to be 10 minutes long, and it needs to be in this file format, and we need to encode it in this manner.”

These were the specific instructions given to employees of a PR firm responsible for creating fake terrorist videos as part of a top secret propaganda mission paid for by the Pentagon — a mission that cost over half a billion dollars.
This story has come to light thanks to a former employee of the firm, Martin Wells, who came forward to talk about his time working on the project.
While we are now all-too familiar with the word terrorist, it only became popular about 15 years ago, after planes were flown into the World Trade Centre towers in New York. This event was monumental in not only reshaping U.S. security tactics but also policy that impacted the American people greatly.
It also spurred major division and debate, with many people disagreeing over what really happened. Within moments of the crashes, the media was already claiming that Osama Bin Laden had ordered the attacks and the word terrorist was used thousands of times over the next 24 hours. But as the days and weeks passed, it started to become clear that something wasn’t quite right with the official story and facts simply weren’t lining up.
The war on terror has raged on since that day, and although many have challenged the official story, terrorism is still an extremely real and dangerous threat in the minds of many. But how much of it is actually real? Could the U.S. and its organizations be behind some of it? Could they be funding terrorism for ulterior motives?
These questions are becoming more persistent as times goes on, and were a major focus of the International Conference on the New World Order, organized and sponsored by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation. Below is a statement from that conference given by prominent author and Canadian economist Dr. Michel Chossudovsky, who is the University of Ottawa’s Emeritus Professor of Economics, which further emphasizes this viewpoint:
The global war on terrorism is a US undertaking, which is fake, it’s based on fake premises. It tells us that somehow America and the Western world are going after a fictitious enemy, the Islamic state, when in fact the Islamic state is fully supported and financed by the Western military alliance and America’s allies in the Persian Gulf. . . . They say Muslims are terrorists, but it just so happens that terrorists are Made in America. They’re not the product of Muslim society, and that should be abundantly clear to everyone on this floor. . . . The global war on terrorism is a fabrication, a big lie and a crime against humanity. (source) (source)

What Happened?

PR firm Bell Pottinger, well-known for having many controversial clients, worked with the U.S. military to create propaganda in a secretive operation. The firm reported to the CIA, the National Security Council, and the Pentagon during the project.
Their mandate was to portray Al-Qaeda in a negative light and track suspected sympathizers.
Both the White House and General David Petraeus, the former general who shared classified information with his mistress, signed off on the content produced by the agency.
The Bell Pottinger operation began not long after the U.S. invaded Iraq following 9/11. It was at this point that promoting the “democratic elections” became the focus of the mission. Not long after, the priority shifted to shooting and editing video content for psychological and information operations.
Martin Wells, who found himself working in Iraq after being hired as a video editor by Bell Pottinger, told The Bureau of Investigative Journalism that within 48 hours of being hired, he landed in Baghdad to edit content for secret “psychological operations” at Camp Victory.
The firm created television ads showing Al-Qaeda in a negative light as well as creating content to look as though it had come from “Arabic TV.” Crews were sent out to film bombings with low quality video. The firm would then edit it to make it look like news footage.

Propaganda is Illegal in the United States

According to Wells, the videos were picked up in Iran, Syria, and the U.S. Since the U.S. is prohibited by law from using propaganda on its population, they had to hire an outside firm to create it for them.
“If one, 48 hours or a week later shows up in another part of the world, then that’s the more interesting one,” Wells explained. “And that’s what they’re looking for more, because that gives you a trail.”
The Pentagon did confirm that the PR firm worked for them under the Information Operations Task Force (IOTF), and say they were creating content that was “truthful.” The firm also worked under the Joint Psychological Operations Task Force (JPOTF). When asked for a response, the Pentagon said it could not comment on JPOTF operations.

Why the Need for PR?

Given these events, one must begin to ask why there was a need for propaganda and PR in the first place. What is the motivation? Does it seem unsettling that government and military operations have to go to such lengths to get the public on their side? Or to convince people from other nations of things they want them to think? What gives them to right to shape and manipulate public opinion, unknown and unseen?
This reminds me of a great quote from Edward Bernays, otherwise known as the father of public relations. The quote is taken from his book  Propagandawhich was written in 1928:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.
It was reported in 2009 that the Pentagon had hired controversial PR firm The Rendon Group to monitor the reporting of journalists embedded with the U.S. military. The goal was to assess whether they were giving “positive” coverage to its missions. This is a clear effort to control the media and what it portrays to the public.
In 2005, an article by Democracy Now revealed that the PR company the Lincoln Group had been hired to produce articles printed in Iraqi newspapers which had been secretly written by the U.S. military. Surprisingly (or not), a Pentagon investigation cleared the group of any wrongdoing.
These actions bring forth a number of issues for people to reflect on and discuss. Why the need for such manipulation? Why is the U.S. trying to police the world? What is the overlying agenda here?
I believe if the people knew what their governments were doing and if they were informed regularly about their shady actions, they might have a different perspective about what’s going on and what story they are being sold on.
The reality of this story brings into question how real the threat of terror truly is and why the U.S. is trying so hard to convince the world that this threat is imminent.
Original source

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!