Saturday, 23 April 2016

It’s the Talmud, Stupid! Poor, Deluded John Kasich

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Obama Reiterates Support to Gulf Allies

Obam-Gulf LeadersUS President Barack Obama has reaffirmed support for Washington’s Arab allies, saying Washington will use every element of its power to ensure the security of its interests and partners in the Persian Gulf region.
In a statement after the annual [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh on Thursday.
Obama said he reiterated Washington’s policy “to use all elements of our power to secure our core interests in the [Persian] Gulf region and to deter and confront external aggression against our allies and our partners.”
Obama added that all the six monarchies attending the summit—Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates—were committed to the fight against the Daesh (ISIL) Takfiri group and agreed on working towards de-escalating regional conflicts.
“We remain united in our fight to destroy ISIL, or Daesh, which is a threat to all of us,” the president said. “The United States will help our GCC partners ensure that their special operations forces are inter-operable and GCC nations will continue to increase their contributions to the fight against ISIL and the coalition that [we] formed.”
Obama admitted, however, that conflicts of opinion do exist between the allies, even as they have all taken part in the ongoing Saudi-led Yemen war that has killed nearly 9,400 people, including 4,000 women and children since it began more than a year ago..
The landmark nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries—the US, Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany—has been a known source of disagreement between the US and some of its Arab allies ever since it went into effect in January.
In the Thursday summit, Obama tried to convince the Persian Gulf countries that the deal would not have happened without their support and said the accord was not “a sign of weakness.”
Before the summit, Obama met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Wednesday, kicking off a trip aimed to mend increasingly strained ties with the long-time Middle Eastern ally.
In a lengthy interview with the Atlantic Magazine published in March, Obama had described Saudi Arabia as a “free rider” on American foreign policy and said the Saudis must learn to “share the neighborhood” with Iran.
The meeting also came against the backdrop of a growing fight in Washington over whether to publicly release documents that may implicate  Riyadh in the planning of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York.
Riyadh has threatened to sell off $750 billion in US assets if Congress passes a bill that would allow American citizens to sue the Saudi government for any role it may have had in the attacks that killed 3,000 people.
Source: Press TV
21-04-2016 – 14:41 Last updated 21-04-2016 – 21:54

“Relationship between U.S. and Saudi Arabia is stronger than ever, helping Saudi in committing war crimes, murders”, [head of U.S. consulate in Saudi Arabia]

This gallery contains 3 photos.
I think that the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia is stronger than it has ever been.
The US is helping Saudi Arabia destroy Yemen, committing war crimes, murder and human rights violations there; giving them information, giving them weapons.
Obama going to Saudi Arabia is designed to strengthen the relationship and erase any questions that may come up about American support for lifting the sanctions on Iran.
Saudis fear that there is information about how they helped recruit terrorists for Afghanistan and helped terrorists to destroy Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria and Libya. They don’t want the truth to come out.
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Zarif: Iran not Recognizing (Zionist) US Court Ruling

Iran’s foreign minister said the country refuses to recognize a recent ruling by the US Supreme Court, which authorizes the transfer of around USD two billion of frozen Iranian assets to the families of the victims of a 1983 bombing in Beirut.
Iran FM Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mohammad Javad Zarif made the remarks on Thursday in New York, where he has been staying since Monday to attend a UN debate on Sustainable Development Goals and the signing ceremony of the Paris climate change agreement as well as to meet foreign officials.
“As we [already] said, we do not recognize the court’s ruling and the US government knows this well,” he said, adding,
“The US knows this well too that whatever action it takes with respect to Iran’s assets will make it accountable in the future and it should return these assets to Iran.”
On Wednesday, the tribunal ordered the sum be paid to the families of the victims of the explosion, which targeted a US Marine Corps barracks in the Lebanese capital, and other attacks blamed on Iran.
The assets belong to the Central Bank of Iran [CBI], which had been blocked under US sanctions.
“The ruling has mocked [international] law,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said earlier in the day, adding that it “amounts to appropriation of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s property” in the US.
Asked whether the matter will be brought up during a planned meeting between Zarif and his American counterpart, John Kerry, on Friday, the top Iranian diplomat said the meeting would only address Iran’s July 2015 nuclear agreement with the P5+1 countries and its proper implementation.
The historical nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], was signed on July 14, 2015 following over two years of intensive talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China – plus Germany.
“Our discussion at the meeting will follow up on previous negotiations over JCPOA. It has been agreed that the American side consider the points brought up by us during the previous meeting regarding the proper implementation of JCPOA and provide us with answers.”
The two officials held a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
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Israelis Rally for Release of Killer Soldier

Israeli society is deplorably racist. Anti-Arab sentiment is institutionalized. Palestinian lives don’t matter. Extrajudicial killing them is officially OK’d. 
Last month, Israeli sergeant Elor Azaria murdered ‘Abd al-Fatah al-Sharif in cold blood as he lay helpless, wounded on the ground.
Video evidence showed Azaria lethally shooting al-Sharif in the head at point-blank range. Another nearby soldier said he “did the right thing.”
He’s charged with manslaughter instead of obvious first-degree murder. At trial, he’ll likely get wrist-slap punishment at most - perhaps exoneration for “d(oing) the right thing.”
On Tuesday evening, thousands of supporters rallied in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, expressing solidarity with a cold-blooded killer, demanding his release.
Signs said “KILL THEM ALL,” Nazi SS slogan “My honor is loyalty,” and “Free Elor.” Extremists chanted nationalist slogans, including “death to Arabs.” Israeli flags were displayed.
A poll taken in March found 57% of Israeli Jews believe Azaria never should have been arrested. Almost 60,000 signed a petition demanding he be decorated for “heroism.”
A separate poll conducted last November found 53% of Israeli Jews support “on-the-spot” extrajudicial executions - even if a Palestinian was apprehended and/or poses no threat.
Media scoundrels suppress what demands feature reports, exposing apartheid worse than South Africa’s, soldiers authorized to kill with impunity. Rare exceptions prove the rule.
Ahead of Tuesday evening’s deplorable public display of support for cold-blooded murder, Netanyahu issued a statement, expressing support for the IDF, saying “(o)ur soldiers are not murderers.”
The so-called world’s most moral army myth was debunked long ago. Israeli soldiers are taught and trained to hate Arabs, to kill with impunity.
The Jewish Passover holiday period begins April 22 at sundown. Azaria isn’t imprisoned awaiting trial. He’s confined to base, able to move around freely, afforded privileges. 
On Friday, he was released to go home for Passover, running through nightfall April 30. Family and friends welcomed him like a hero.
Israeli soldiers extrajudicially executed well over 200 Palestinians since last October alone. Azaria is being prosecuted because video showing his crime aroused international outrage - most everywhere except in Israel where Arab killers are honored as heroes.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
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Obama May Be Preaching ’Tough Love’ to Saudi – But Arms Sales Tell another Story

When President Barack Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for a meeting of Gulf leaders, he was greeted at the airport by the governor of Riyadh, instead of the Saudi king. Unlike his previous visits, Obama’s arrival was not broadcast on Saudi state television with its usual pomp and circumstance. It was one sign of how livid Saudi leaders are at Obama and his administration – the decades-long Saudi-US alliance has rarely been more tense.
Saudi FM Adel al Jubeir and US President Barack Obama
Saudi rulers believe that Obama has shifted US foreign policy to be more friendly toward Iran, especially after his administration expended considerable political capital to reach a nuclear deal with Tehran last summer. Obama also reduced direct US involvement in the Middle East, resisting calls to intervene militarily in Syria and to send more US troops to Iraq. And Saudi leaders were particularly upset after Obama suggested in an interview with The Atlantic magazine that they should figure out ways to “share the neighborhood” with Iran.
Despite Saudi anger and US public perception, Obama has not fundamentally altered the “special relationship” between the kingdom and the United States. As Obama has preached a kind of tough love – telling the Saudis that he won’t commit US military resources to reflexively support them against Iran – his administration has dramatically ramped up arms sales to the kingdom and other Gulf allies. Since 2010, the Obama administration authorized a record $60bn in US military sales to Saudi Arabia. Since then, the administration concluded deals for nearly $48bn in weapons sales – triple the $16bn in sales under the George W Bush administration.
Even as Obama ramps up arms sales – and US intelligence assistance that helps Saudi Arabia conduct its war in Yemen – American public anger against the kingdom is rising. Members of Congress are pushing through a bill that would allow the Saudi leadership to be held responsible in US courts for the 9/11 terrorist attacks [in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis] if victims’ families can prove that any Saudi officials played a role in the attacks. In response, Saudi officials are threatening to sell off up to $750bn in US assets if the law is adopted.
To the Saudi leadership, the legislation is one more sign of its perceived abandonment by the US during Obama’s tenure. And in response, the kingdom is becoming more militarily aggressive, even as it struggles financially due to the global collapse in oil prices.
For decades, Saudi foreign policy was more cautious and less militarized than it is today. Under the former King Abdullah, who died in January 2015 after two decades in power, the kingdom relied on the United States to guarantee its security, and worked through proxies and checkbook diplomacy to advance its interests. But that’s changing.
Since he ascended to the throne after Abdullah’s death, the new King Salman has pursued a more aggressive foreign policy. Instead of relying on US military intervention and battling Iran through proxies, Salman and his advisers are overturning the old regional order. In March 2015, the new monarch launched a war against Houthi rebels in Yemen – who Saudi leaders accuse of being Iranian proxies – and appointed his 30-year-old son as defense minister [and deputy crown prince] to oversee the campaign.
Salman’s increased support for Sunni militants fighting the government in Syria is another example of the kingdom no longer being reliant on the United States. Saudi is taking a more assertive role to counter what it views as Iran’s growing regional influence in Yemen, Bahrain and Lebanon.
While Saudi is becoming a more dominant regional actor, the economic foundations of the US-Saudi alliance are still strong. Saudi Arabia, which sits on one-fifth of the world’s known oil reserves, is the second-largest foreign oil provider to the United States.
For decades, the kingdom used its leverage within OPEC to keep prices and production at levels that satisfied Washington. In return for ensuring a steady global supply of oil, successive US administrations supported the Saud family and provided military assistance whenever aggressive neighbors like Iraq have threatened the kingdom. In 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait, the United States sent half a million troops to Saudi Arabia and used it as a base from which to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait.
About 5,000 US troops remained in the kingdom at the Prince Sultan Air Base, and the high-tech command center served as headquarters for US air strikes on Afghanistan in 2001. The American military presence on Saudi soil enraged Islamic radicals, who decried the Saud’s decision to allow “infidel” Western forces into Islam’s birthplace. Those troops may no longer be there, but American arms, worth tens of billions, are.
Despite his rhetoric, and his administration’s perceived shift toward Iran, Obama has not fundamentally changed the US status quo toward Saudi Arabia. In fact, he’s sold more advanced weaponry to Saudi leaders than any of his predecessors. And that means one thing: an emboldened Saudi Arabia will contribute to more war and instability in the Middle East – and America will be drawn into more conflict.
Source: The Guardian, Edited by website team
23-04-2016 | 14:31
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New Anti-Assad Propaganda Offensive

Posted on April 21, 2016

By Daniel Lazare | Consortium News
[Ed. note – Bashar Assad, the evil “dictator” who “kills his own people” but yet somehow inexplicably visits churches on Christmas and finds himself surrounded by joyous parishioners, is back in the news again–and this time, one mainstream media outlet has the goods on him for sure!!!!!!
The New Yorker, seemingly just in time for the imminent collapse of the Syrian peace talks, has stumbled upon a “truckload of captured Syrian government documents” proving, once and for all, Assad’s involvement in a litany of crimes so terrible the human imagination can scarcely comprehend or even conceive of. No doubt the US and its allies will either have to intervene on behalf of the poor Syrian people suffering under the tyranny of this mad man, or at the very least they will need to supply the gallant, moderate Syrian rebels with advanced anti-aircraft weapons capable of shooting down Russian planes–strictly, of course, for the sake of ridding the world of this terrible menace.
Or at least that’s what we’ll be expected to believe. And naturally some will believe it. But many others won’t, and the New Yorker piece spoken of in the article below may be a good example of why only 6 percent of Americans any longer trust their media. ]
Now that Syria’s “cessation of hostilities” appears to be crumbling and rebel forces are gearing up for a fresh offensive, the mighty U.S. propaganda machine is once again up and running.
A case in point is “The Assad Files,” an 11,000-word article in last week’s New Yorkerthat is as willfully misrepresentative as anything published about Syria in the last five years or so, which is saying a great deal.
Written by a young Columbia Journalism School graduate named Ben Taub, it tells of a Canadian political entrepreneur named William Wiley who, starting in 2012, persuaded the European Union and the German, Swiss, Norwegian, Danish and Canadian governments to give him millions of dollars so he could begin building a criminal case against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
To that end, Wiley hired lawyers, translators, and analysts and sent investigators into Syria itself alongside “moderate” rebels so that they could rifle security and intelligence installations in search of incriminating evidence. Once they got what they were looking for, they either squirreled it away locally or spirited it over the border to an undisclosed location in Western Europe where the documents could be scanned, bar-coded, and safely secured.
The upshot is a 400-page legal brief that Taub says “links the systematic torture and murder of tens of thousands of Syrians to a written policy approved by President Bashar al-Assad, coordinated among his security-intelligence agencies, and implemented by regime operatives.” It is “a record of state-sponsored torture,” he adds, “that is almost unimaginable in its scope and its cruelty.”
Taub fills his article with lots of J-school-style color, informing us that Wiley is “a field guy, not an office guy”; that he “handles the considerable stress of his profession with Cuban cigarillos, gallows humor, and exercise,” and that, at age 52, “he bench-presses more than three hundred and fifty pounds.” He describes in vivid detail one of Wiley’s associates negotiating his way through 11 rebel checkpoints while transporting a truckload of captured Syrian government documents. But for all his diligence, he manages to overlook the blindingly obvious problems that Wiley’s activities raise. For instance:
–He notes that no international judicial body has jurisdiction over Syrian war crimes and that, in May 2014, Russia and China specifically vetoed a UN resolution assigning the International Criminal Court such a role. So what’s the point of a 400-page legal brief if there’s no court to present it to? Is this a genuine pursuit of legal truth or just another propaganda exercise funded by the West?
–Waving such objections aside, Taub quotes Wiley as saying: “We’re simply confident – and I don’t think it’s hubris – that our work will see the light of day, in court, in relatively short order.” But what on earth does this mean? That Wiley has inside knowledge that Assad is about to fall?
Western Crimes
–By zeroing in on Assad alone, the investigation ignores malfeasance by other players. Arming rebels and sending them to spread terror across the Syrian countryside, for example, is a straight-out violation of the UN Charter, which declares that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
Photo from Wikipedia: Syrian women and children refugees at Budapest railway station
Syrian women and children refugees at
Budapest railway station. (Photo from Wikipedia)
Yet Wiley says nothing about such crimes even though the U.S. and Saudi Arabia commit them daily. The same goes for bombing Syrian targets without express Syrian government permission. That, too, is illegal. Yet Wiley remains silent about that as well.
–Sending investigators into Syria without express government approval is likewise a violation, which means that Wiley and his group are also complicit. Washington would not like it if Syria sent “investigators” to this country to break into FBI offices and rifle through CIA files. So what gives Wiley the right to do the same? And given the intensity of the propaganda war surrounding Syria, what weight should one give to the purported evidence?
Although you wouldn’t know it from a travesty like “The Assad Files,” the facts about Syria have long been clear. In August 2012, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency issued a report stating that Al Qaeda, the Salafists, and the Muslim Brotherhood were “the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” that their goal was to establish a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria, and that this is “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition” – which is to say Turkey, the Arab Gulf states, and the Western powers – “want in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”
In October 2014, Vice President Joe Biden told students at Harvard’s Kennedy School that “the Saudis, the emirates, etc. were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war [that] they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda.”  (See quote starting at 53:20.)
In October 2015, a New York Times editorial noted that private donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait were continuing to channel funds to ISIS (also known as ISIL, Islamic State, and Daesh), while, in January 2016, the newspaper reported that Saudi aid to Islamist rebels in Syria has totaled not hundreds of millions of dollars as Joe Biden had stated, but billions.
In other words, the U.S. and its Arab Gulf allies lavished immense funds on a Sunni fundamentalist rebellion from the start, they encouraged the growth of Salafist caliphate, and they stood by as private money flowed to Al Qaeda and Islamic State.
This is a scandal that people should be shouting about from the rooftops. Standing reality on its head, however, The New Yorker wants us to believe that the only person to blame for this debacle is Assad. If he hadn’t disregarded Barack Obama’s order to step down in August 2011, then America and its allies would not have been obliged to fund jihadists bent on installing a Sunni dictatorship in Damascus.
Through his obstinacy, Assad forced the U.S. to back a religious war of extermination against Alawites, Christians and other minorities, which is why Washington now has no choice but to arrest him, give him a fair trial and then find him guilty as charged.
Cooking the Books
Taub cooks the books in various ways. He devotes much of his article to a 38-year-old dissident named Mazen al-Hamada who says he spent a year in Assad’s prisons, suffering repeated beatings and emerging a broken man as a consequence.
“People went crazy,” he tells Taub of his time inside. “People would lose their memories, people would lose their minds.” Even though Hamada was eventually able to leave Syria and join his sister in the Netherlands, he spends his days agonizing over the friends and relatives he left behind.
“Where are they?” he cries. “Are they alive? Are they dead?” Every day is “misery,” he tells Taub. “It’s misery. It’s misery. It’s death. It’s a life of death.”
This is powerful stuff, especially for those who enjoy reading about evil Arab dictators. But the careful reader will notice that Hamada has no connection to Wiley’s campaign and that his role, rather, is to put flesh on the bones of Wiley’s dry legal arguments by describing what’s at stake.
Taub thus goes into painful detail about the tortures that Hamada says he endured – beatings, burnings, electric shock, and so on. It’s gruesome stuff, and, according to Taub, Hamada “sobbed desperately” in recounting it.
A general view showing damages after what activists said was an airstrike with explosive barrels from forces loyal to President al-Assad in Al-Shaar area in Aleppo
A general view showing damages after what activists said was an airstrike with explosive barrels from forces loyal to President al-Assad in Al-Shaar area in Aleppo
But what did Hamada do to merit such treatment, if indeed such abuses were inflicted? The article says only that he comes from an educated middle-class family in the city of Deir Ezzor and that members “were outspoken critics of the government, and even before the revolution they were routinely followed and periodically arrested. They were especially outraged by the government’s failure to do anything about the widening gap between the rich and the poor. ‘It was all organized to benefit the élites,’ Hamada said.”
This makes them sound like Bernie Sanders supporters. Taub adds that Hamada also organized inside a local mosque but assures us that it was just a matter of convenience.
“It was a logistical issue,” he quotes Hamada as saying. “Everyone went to the mosque on a Friday, everyone came out. …  If we could have come out of churches, we would have come out of churches!”
But is that really all there is to it? In fact, Deir Ezzor is part of Syria’s wild east, a tribal region that was an Al Qaeda stronghold following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and then again after the Arab Spring beginning in early 2011.
“The religious and tribal powers in the [border] regions began to sympathize with thesectarian uprising,” states the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report, written just a few months after Hamada’s arrest the following March. (emphasis added). “This sympathy appeared in Friday prayer sermons, which called for volunteers to support the Sunni’s [sic] in Syria.”
So what The New Yorker doesn’t tell us is that Hamada agitated inside mosques at a time when they were resounding with calls for holy war against Assad and his fellow Alawites. This doesn’t prove that Hamada is not a liberal, a social democrat, or some other mild-mannered sort. But it raises the possibility that he’s something else – a Salafist, perhaps, a Wahhabist, or a supporter of Al Qaeda.
A One-Sided Morality Play 
If Taub seems stingy with the details, it’s most likely because he doesn’t want anything getting in the way of his simple-minded morality play about a noble dissident suffering at the hands of a cruel and vicious tyrant.
But how do we know Hamada suffered at all? How do we know he’s not making it all up? Taub summons up bits and pieces of corroborative evidence in an effort to buttress his account, none of it terribly convincing.
Hamada says that after he and his fellow prisoners were transferred to an air base at Al-Mezzeh, a few kilometers west of Damascus, guards taunted them by saying that the Americans would soon bomb the installation, killing them all.
The controversial map developed by Human Rights Watch and embraced by the New York Times, supposedly showing the flight paths of two missiles from the Aug. 21 Sarin attack intersecting at a Syrian military base.
The controversial map developed by Human Rights Watch and embraced by the New York Times, supposedly showing the flight paths of two missiles from the Aug. 21 sarin attack intersecting at a Syrian military base. The map’s claims ultimately collapsed when inspectors could find no sarin or other chemical weapons agent in the rocket to the west and the rocket to the east, which did carry sarin, was discovered to have a range of only two kilometers, with the base nine kilometers away.
Since Obama was threatening to retaliate against Syria for the use of sarin gas a few days earlier and “at least one of the sarin-gas rockets is believed to have been launched from the base at al-Mezzeh,” according to Taub, the story seems to make sense.
But there’s a problem: Taub’s statement about al-Mezzeh is dubious at best. In contrast to the Aug. 21, 2013, sarin-gas attack at the Ein Tarma/Zamalka area, located to the east of Damascus, the sarin-gas attack at Al Moadamiyah, located near al-Mezzeh to the west, is so poorly documented that it’s unclear whether it occurred at all.
Members of the United Nations inspection team, which gained access to the site five days later, found no evidence of sarin from their field tests, a result later confirmed by two U.N. labs, which reported no sarin or other chemical weapons agents present, although the two labs had conflicting findings on whether a trace chemical from the area might have resulted from degraded sarin.
But even that suspicion was undercut by the fact that a second rocket recovered in the Ein Tarma/Zamalka area several days later tested positive for actual sarin (though it had been exposed to the elements even longer). That crude second rocket was later determined to have a range of only about two kilometers, meaning that it could not have come from the Syrian base and more likely came from rebel-controlled territory. Later evidence, including a report by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, pointed to the likelihood that it was launched by rebel jihadists as a provocation to draw the U.S. military into the conflict on their side.
There was also the question of why Assad would have invited in U.N. inspectors to examine a prior chemical attack against his troops and then launch a large-scale sarin attack on a nearby location just as the investigative team was settling into a Damascus hotel.
As the excellent open-source “WhoGhouta” blog points out, it doesn’t make sense unless the Baathists were bent on suicide – and if there’s one thing we know after five years of civil war, it is that the Damascus regime’s goal is not suicide but survival.  [See also’s “A Call for Proof on Syria-Sarin Attack.”]
Of course, it is possible that Hamada’s Syrian guards might have anticipated a U.S. attack even if Assad’s government had nothing to do with the sarin attack. But the dubious case surrounding the sarin gas incident leaves his account sounding contrived and unsubstantiated, an example of old anti-Assad propaganda being dredged up in support of yet another round of lies and distortions.
Dubious Photos
Taub also invokes the famous “Caesar,” the pseudonym of a Syrian army photographer who caused a sensation in early 2014 by defecting with 55,000 photographs purportedly documenting the torture and killing of 11,000 detainees at the hands of the Syrian security establishment.
Where Hamada says he was assigned a four-digit identification number during his confinement, many of Caesar’s victims were also tagged with a four-digit ID, which makes Hamada seem more plausible. Where Hamada reported a pile-up of dead bodies at the hospital in which he was interned, Caesar, clicking away at the same facility, also reported a gruesome pile-up. If Caesar is believable, then Hamada is as well.
But Caesar’s tale fairly cries out skepticism.  For instance:
–His publicity campaign was paid for and organized by Qatar, a key backer of Islamist rebel groups, which also engaged a London law firm to testify that the photos were genuine.
–The photos were hurriedly released just as peace talks in Geneva were about to begin, talks that Qatar and its rebel allies both opposed.
–Rather than victims of the regime, an examination by Human Rights Watch found that nearly half the pictures were of dead army soldiers, members of the security services, or victims of fires and car bombs – i.e. victims not of the government, but of the rebels.
–A further examination by the Syria Solidarity Movement found that significant numbers of photos showed fresh bullet or shrapnel wounds suggesting that the victims had died in combat rather than in prison; signs of bloating suggesting that they had also perished in conflict zones; or bandages indicating that they had died after receiving medical treatment.
Where Hamada, moreover, said that dead bodies were stored in toilets of all places – guards instructed him to “pee on top of the bodies,” he assures a credulous Taub – the bodies that Caesar photographed were stored in a morgue or in a garage bay.
Caesar’s photos thus prove absolutely nothing about the Assad regime in general or about Hamada’s experience in particular. Since their evidentiary value is nil, we have no reason to believe that he is telling the truth as opposed to filling a young reporter’s head with stuff and nonsense designed to set his editor’s pulse racing back in New York.
The result is every bit as outrageous as the articles The New Yorker ran prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq alleging collusion between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
The Christian Science Monitor, one of the few publications not to tumble into bed with Caesar and his photos, described them as “a well-timed propaganda exercise funded by Qatar, a regime opponent who has funded rebels fighting Assad who have committed war crimes of their own.”
With the White House preparing to up the ante in Syria by possibly supplying the rebels with portable anti-aircraft missiles — weapons that will almost inevitably find their way into the hands of ISIS and Al Qaeda – is there any reason to regard “The Assad Files” as anything other than a well-timed propaganda exercise as well?
[For more on this topic, see’s “How The New Yorker Mis-Reports Syria.”]
Daniel Lazare is the author of several books including The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace).
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The Durable US-Saudi Alliance...

Darko Lazar
A cloud of deepening mistrust between Washington and Riyadh ushered in an icy reception for US President Barack Obama at the King Khalid International Airport in the Saudi capital this week.
The Durable US-Saudi Alliance...
While Saudi state television closely covers the arrival of Persian Gulf heads of state, which are always welcomed on the tarmac with splendor by King Salman, Obama was received by a small delegation headed by the governor of Riyadh. His arrival was not covered by state television.
Disagreements centered on setbacks in the Syrian conflict, the Iranian nuclear deal and the headline-grabbing controversy over the declassification of 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission’s report that deal with Saudi Arabia have all opened the debate on whether the previously durable, decades-old alliance is in terminal decline.
Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al Faisal said that the US-Saudi relationship has irrevocably changed.
“There is going to have to be a recalibration of our relationship with America — how far we can go with our dependence on America. How much can we rely on steadfastness from American leadership,” Al Faisal said.
But while these may very well be trying times for US-Saudi relations, Barack Obama’s farewell presidential visit to Riyadh is hardly a farewell to Saudi Arabia’s status as America’s ‘most important Arab ally’.
Down But Not Out
Saudi Arabia’s decision to assume a much more aggressive foreign policy in recent years is not one taken by choice, but out of necessity. Washington chose to focus on its superpower rivalry with China and Russia, shifting the bulk of their resources to the Pacific and Eastern Europe, while giving rise to a new Cold War.
And as the US – at least to some degree – has realigned its policy priorities away from the Middle East, the Saudis attempted to assume the hegemonic role in the region, often falling short of achieving stated goals and leaving many of their so-called friends in Washington fuming.
From the blame game over their failures in Syria, to the Iranian nuclear agreement, which the Al-Saud family considers an existential threat, the US-Saudi alliance appeared at times to be strained to near-breaking point.
But these disagreements are often exaggerated and misleading. In fact most times, they can be summed up as little more than Washington’s way of concealing its role in destabilizing the region through the use of proxies and giving rise to the deadliest wave of terror in the history of the Middle East. 
For its part Saudi Arabia has continued to enjoy steady US backing where it counts.
Washington’s support for the Saudi-led bombardment in Yemen includes both military and logistical assistance. There has been total support from Washington for the war, and almost nothing said about the mounting civilian casualties and tragic humanitarian costs.
Despite the seemingly icy receptions, Obama’s administration has in fact moved the US even closer to the Saudi regime, particularly in the realm of military coordination. In the past five years, the US has concluded more than 100 billion dollars in arms deals with the Saudi monarchy.
In Syria, the Americans and Saudis are forcing home the notion that Bashar al-Assad is the key problem. And while disagreements may persist over which terrorist groups can be trusted, constant pressure from both Washington and Riyadh has kept the issue of removing the Syrian President firmly on the table, prolonging the war and making a political solution to the conflict a distant prospect.
Away from all the talk of how the Obama administration is laying the foundations for better relations with Iran through the recently signed nuclear agreement, Washington\’s foreign policy remains hostile towards Tehran. While sanctioning Iran\’s regional allies, like Hezbollah, the Americans have proven time and again that they remain fully committed to their strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia.
The 28 Pages
The latest issue to threaten the US-Saudi alliance is a determined effort by some US politicians to declassify 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission’s report that sheds more light on the Saudi government’s role in the September 11 attacks.
According to former CIA Analyst, Larry Johnson, Riyadh’s support for global terrorist networks is hardly a secret.
“It has been one of those truths that has been staring everyone in the face. We ‘ve known form the beginning; fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudis. We ‘ve known that the Saudis have been providing money to terrorist organizations for years,” Johnson said.
Meanwhile a bill is making its way through the US Congress that would allow a group of families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government over its alleged role.
In true Saudi fashion, the kingdom’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, threatened a ludicrous response if the bill was passed, telling US lawmakers that Riyadh would sell up to 750 billion dollars in treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts.

Economists have already dismissed the threat, saying that such a sell-off would be difficult to execute and would end up crippling the Saudi economy.
Nevertheless the Obama administration rushed to aid the Saudis. The White House has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage, citing the possibility of foreign citizens – presumably victims of US wars and drone strikes – suing the government in Washington.
“If we open up the possibility that individuals in the United States can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being continually sued by individuals in other countries,” Obama told CBS’ Charlie Rose.
No such concerns were expressed by Obama earlier this week, over one of the more ludicrous verdicts delivered in a US courtroom. A judge ordered over 10 billion dollars in frozen Iranian assets to be paid as damages to families of victims who died in the September 11 attacks, despite the lack of any evidence to support Tehran’s involvement in the attack. 
The same judge had previously cleared Saudi Arabia from culpability. The ruling, which was described as ‘absurd and ridiculous’ by a senior aide to Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Hossein Sheikholeslam, is noteworthy because it further omits all references to the real culprits behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Those attacks have served as the basis for modern-day Islamophobia in the west and more importantly, the perpetual global ‘War on Terror’.
Despite US public perception, Saudi Arabia could not possibly have masterminded such an undertaking.
But details concerning their involvement could open the doors to questions about their partners in crime, namely members of the Bush administration, and the neocons on Capital Hill.
Washington-based Saudi dissident and Director at the Center for Gulf Affairs, Ali al Ahamd believes that the truth about 9/11 will not see the light of day.
“The US Administration is being pushed by some members of Congress into promising to release these 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission’s report. But this will not be successful. It will fail in the end,” Al Ahamd said. 
While Washington’s relationship with Riyadh may be in flux, the US-Saudi alliance persists, kept afloat on the recognition of mutual self-interest.
Source: al-Ahed News
23-04-2016 | 09:22

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