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Jeremy R. Hammond

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Standard Narrative on Syria Conflict Whitewashes US Role


The standard mainstream narrative of the war in Syria is that President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents only took up arms after his regime cracked down brutally on peaceful protesters in March 2011. The New York Times, for example, in a piece this week on ISIS reminds that “after a brutal crackdown by government forces, Syrian protest groups morphed into fighters”.

The problem with this narrative is that it is false.

Here’s what the Times is referring to: On March 25, 2011, it described how tens of thousands of peaceful protesters took to the streets and were met with regime violence that killed a reported 38. The protests had begun seven days before (March 18), according to the Times.

Likewise, CNN begins its timeline of events in March 2011 with the killing of dozens of protesters in Daraa, and Reuters pinpoints it a couple days before the Times, on March 16, when security forces broke up a protest in Damascus and arrested 30.

It was only after this mid-March crackdown, according to the Times and the rest of the media, that the regime’s opponents took up arms.

Yet already on March 21, Israel’s Arutz Sheva reported that in addition to four protesters, seven police were killed and a courthouse and the Ba’ath party headquarters in Daraa were torched.Arutz Sheva described how the police “opened fire on armed protesters” (emphasis added).
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Crimean Referendum Ilegal? Nonsense!


On the question of why the U.S. government considers the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine to be illegal, Michael S. Rozeff points to an interview with John B. Bellinger III, Adjunct Senior Fellow for International and National Security Law at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), whose answer consists of (a) Alice-In-Wonderland-worthy illogic and (b) lying about what international law has to say about the right to self-determination. Bellinger’s full response to the question is as follows:

The Obama administration and most European governments argue that the referendum violates both the Ukrainian constitution and international law. The Ukrainian constitution requires that any changes to the territory of Ukraine be approved by a referendum of all of the Ukrainian people. The requirement is consistent with general principles of international law, which respects the territorial integrity of states and does not recognize a right of secession by a group or region in a country unless the group or region has been denied a right to "internal self determination" (i.e., its right to pursue its own political, economic, social, and cultural development) by the central government or has been subject to grave human rights violations by the central government. These factors, which could give rise to a right of remedial secession under international law, are not present in Crimea.

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Understanding Media Propaganda About Recent Talks Over Iran’s Nuclear Program


There are a couple points worth noting about recent reporting on the recent talks between the U.S. and its Western allies and Iran over its nuclear program.

1) The first is that the media effectively accepts the U.S. government’s framework that Iran’s rights derive from Washington, D.C. Here’s the New York Times this week:
As Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers from other world powers sought to work out an interim agreement to constrain Iran’s nuclear program, the Iranian government’s insistence on formal recognition of its “right” to enrich uranium emerged as a major obstacle, diplomats said Sunday…. Iran has asserted repeatedly that it has the right to enrich uranium, a necessary step in producing nuclear fuel both for power plants and, at a much higher level, for weapons…. The Obama administration is prepared to allow Iran to enrich uranium to the low level of 3.5 percent as part of an interim agreement, as long as Iran agreed to other constraints on its nuclear activity. But the administration is not prepared to acknowledge at this point that Iran has a “right” to enrich…. “The United States does not believe there is an inherent right to enrichment, and we have said that repeatedly to Iran,” a senior administration official said before the latest round of talks in Geneva.
The Times uncritically parrots the government position, leaving readers with the impression that Iran’s claim lacks any basis. Naturally, there’s not one word in the article about the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a party. How can this be? How can the Times report about the issue of Iran’s right to enrich uranium and the U.S.’s rejection of that right without presenting readers with a discussion of what the NPT has to say about it?
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US Policy is to Prolong the Violence in Syria


Although the threat of U.S. strikes against Syria has for the time being abated due to intervention from Russian President Vladimir Putin and an agreement from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to declare its stockpiles of chemical weapons to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague to be eventually turned over and destroyed, the ultimate goal of U.S. policy remains regime change.

The U.S. has long been supporting the armed rebels seeking to overthrow the Syrian government. The CIA has been coordinating the flow of arms to the rebels, including anti-tank guided missiles, from Saudi Arabia and Qatar and training them from bases in Turkey and Jordan. More recently, the U.S. has also begun arming the rebels directly.

This support for the rebels continues despite their ranks including Islamic extremist groups, such as the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The jihadists are not only recognized as the most effective fighters among the rebel forces, but, as the New York Times reported in October of last year, most of the arms funneled by the CIA ended up in their hands.
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Syria and Lessons Unlearned from The Bombing of Kosovo

Wesley Clark

One theme we repeatedly hear about the Obama administration’s plan to bomb Syria is that the U.S./NATO bombing of Kosovo serves as a model. An examination of the reason for this is instructive.

It is well understood that the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) will not authorize this use of force against Syria, particularly given Russian opposition to such action. And short of using force in self-defense against armed aggression or with authorization from the UNSC for a specific mandate, such as to protect civilians, any resort to force against another country is under international law an act of aggression, defined at Nuremberg as “the supreme international crime”.

Incidentally, Nazis were hanged at Nuremberg not only for waging aggressive war, but for conspiring to. Obama is already a war criminal, such as for his illegal bombing of Libya (and, no, the UNSC emphatically did not authorize the use of force to implement a policy of regime change by supporting the armed rebels whose ranks included al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic extremists); but he could be prosecuted under international law just for his efforts to gain support for bombing Syria, even if this doesn’t come to pass, since this is the crime of conspiracy to commit aggression.
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US Egypt Policy: Democracy Promotion?

Morsi Red Nose

When the Obama administration announced on July 25 that it was free to violate U.S. law by continuing to finance the Egyptian military to the tune of $1.5 billion annually, even though it was responsible for overthrowing the democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, in a coup d'tat on July 3, the message was understood loud and clear in Cairo. Two days later, the Egyptian military massacred over 70 demonstrators who were protesting Morsi's ouster.

The commander of the Egyptian armed forces, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had sought a "mandate" for the military's actions, calling on supporters of the coup to take to the streets in a show of support. "Although he has vowed to lead Egypt through a democratic transition,"  Robert Springborg pointed out in the journal Foreign Affairs, "there are plenty of indications that he is less than enthusiastic about democracy and that he intends to hold on to political power himself."

The response from the U.S. Congress and the White House to the massacre was nevertheless that there remained little interest in complying with U.S. law and cutting off the aid. The editors of the New York Times weighed in that "American military aid to Egypt should not be cut off", despite this being a requirement of U.S. law. The Times nonsensically added that "Washington’s leverage" to prevent such violence "has been limited, despite $1.5 billion in annual military aid". The editors didn't bother to even attempt to explain why $1.5 billion didn't amount to a great deal of leverage, indeed.
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