Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A World On Fire: High Heat as New Normal

Is Extreme Heat the New Normal?


July 26, 2017

The Real News team spoke with first responders and science and medial experts in Arizona, where high temperatures have grounded planes and significantly increased health emergencies

Philippines: Media Distortions of Duterte's ISIS Battle

Philippines: Western Media is Distorting Reality - People and Army Unite to Battle ISIS

by Andre Vltchek - 21st Century Wire

July 25, 2017

At the beginning of July, I visited Mindanao as one of only a few foreigners allowed inside the besieged city of Marawi and to its surrounding area. I spoke to local people, to the IDPs [internally displaced persons] – those who managed to escape the city taken over by the jihadists.

Andre Vltchek with military leaders
in Marawi, Philippines

I also managed to discuss the situation with the highest commanders of the military in charge of the combat, including General Ramiro Rey and Lt. Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera.

I encountered many soldiers, civil servants, and relief workers. My contacts in the capital informed me via text messages that I had been “red-flagged,” clearly, by the pro-US faction in the Philippine military. So before my presence was finally cleared from Manila, I was detained and held in a provisional military base in the city of Saguiaran. Here I was “softly” interrogated by military intelligence. A few steps away, a howitzer was firing artillery toward ISIS positions in Marawi, some 10 kilometers distant.

“So you believe the United States is responsible for spreading terrorism all over the world,” I was asked late at night by one of the officers, point blank, while local starlet was imitating old Chuck Berry’s hit “Johnny B. Goode” on TV, sound blasted all over the barracks. It was clear that someone ‘behind the scenes’ was busy studying my published work.

The Western establishment media and various servile NGOs (including those which are “defending human rights” in several rebellious and independent-minded countries) consistently demonize President Duterte, an anti-imperialist, progressive leader who enjoys well over 80 percent approval rating. It is no secret in the Philippines there are two distinct factions inside the military – one supports the president and his drive for independence from the West. The other, which is trained and often corrupted by Washington and other Western capitals, would love to see him go.

The pro-Western faction obviously wanted me out, detained, perhaps even disappeared. The other one that stands by its president wanted me to see the truth, even to be allowed into Marawi.

A final decision was made late at night in Manila. I was released and granted permission to work in the besieged city. But even when the top commanders personally called the camp, there was, at least for a while, apparent reluctance to let me go.

My first reaction after visiting the Marawi front was one of shock and outrage. What I witnessed was fundamentally different from what has repeatedly been said by most of the Western mass media outlets, as well as pro-Western local news channels broadcasting from Manila.

It is evident, right from the start, that Marawi is not “totally destroyed,” as has been reported. Most of it is standing and standing firm. I would estimate that only between 20 and 30 percent of the houses and buildings, (most of them in the wealthy core center of the city) have sustained heavy damage.

It was explained to me during the presentation by top army commanders that the ISIS-related jihadists began their offensive on May 23rd 2017 and their plan was to take full control of the town by the time Ramadan was to begin (May 26th). The military spoiled their plans; it counter-attacked and managed to contain the terrorists in just one neighborhood, retaining or regaining control of all the other ‘barangays.’

Undoubtedly there were heavy losses, and, because of the palpable sense of fear after tremendous brutality unleashed by the terrorists, a substantial movement of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). But it was never 400,000 people escaping the area, as reported in the West, but approximately 200,000 (the number once peaked at about 300,000 for a short time).

There has been no “indiscriminate bombing” of the civilians. I witnessed both incoming and outgoing howitzer fire and also very limited bombing from the air; it was all targeted and mostly precise, aiming at the position of the terrorists. As in all other war zones where I have been working, I refused any protection, including helmets and bulletproof vests. That allowed me to remain more mobile. I did manage to come ‘very close’ to the front. It was clear the fighting and bombing were strictly contained to one area, no more than one-kilometer square. Even there, the mosques and almost all other buildings and houses were still standing, as is demonstrated on my photographs.

Anti-Duterte NGOs and many Western governments claim that they ‘worry’ about the martial law imposed on Mindanao Island. I was told that in and around Marawi (or anywhere else on the Island), the martial law carried no brutal consequences. Even the curfew (9PM-5AM) is laxly implemented.

General Rey, head of Joint-Task-Force, Ranao (photo Andre Vltchek)

Brigadier General Ramiro Rey (head of the Joint Task Force Group, Ranao) explained to me in Marawi City:

“The difference between this martial law and those that were imposed during the reign of Ferdinand Marcos is that now the military is mainly doing real fighting while providing assistance to the civilians. I absolutely don’t interfere with the work of local elected government officials. I’m actually encouraging them to do their job as before, asking them to contact me only when my assistance is needed. I never took, and I don’t intend to take, control of the area.”

Local government officials and volunteers working for various relief agencies and NGO’s operating in the area have confirmed what General Rey said.

During my work in the conflict zone, I detected no fear among the residents. The relationship between the army and civilians was clearly friendly and cordial. As the military convoys were moving between the cities of Illigan and Marawi, both children and adults were smiling, waving, some cheering the soldiers.

In the camps housing the IDPs, there was almost unanimous consensus: while many citizens of Mindanao Island in general and the Marawi area in particular would most likely welcome more autonomy from Manila, during this ongoing and brutal conflict almost all local people have been supportive of the military and government efforts.

“We hope that both Filipino and foreign jihadi cadres would soon be crushed,” was an almost unanimous statement coming from the local people.

The Military Perspective

In the cities of Illigan and Marawi I was shown detailed maps clearly indicating positions of the ISIS and the military.

Both Lt. Colonel Jun Abad from Ranao Camp and the commanding officer, General Rey, gave me a clear and detailed briefing. As of July 3rd, the Agus River represented the ‘borderline’ between the ISIS-held area and the zone liberated and controlled by the army.

General Rey explained during our meeting in the Municipality of Marawi City (now the complex is also serving as the headquarters of the war theatre):

“The ISIS wants to establish their state on the island of Mindanao – an Islamic caliphate – right here in the Province of Lanao del Sur.”

But that’s not what the majority of local people want. Before President Duterte came to power little over one year ago, social situation in many parts of Mindanao was desperate and therefore there was at least some support for radical ‘solutions’. Since then, however, things changed dramatically. Healthcare, education and public housing are improving. Indiscriminate mining by multi-national companies has been deterred. People here; as well as in almost all other parts of the Philippines finally feel hopeful and optimistic about their future.

This converts into great support for both the government and the military.

Marawi ground-zero (photo Andre Vltchek)

There is no doubt the entire city will be freed, soon, most likely in July or August. The only reason why it did not happen yet is that the terrorists are using hostages, both Christians and Muslims, as human shields. President Duterte, General Rey, and other civilian and military officials are trying to avoid unnecessary human losses.

Cultural topography’ of the area is also very complex. Near the front line I was told by one of the top commanding army officers:

“We could take the city in just one day, but there would be great civilian casualties. The houses in this area are very sturdy; they are 2-3 stories high and fortified, as there are constant and brutal family feuds, called’ rido’, raging here, and have been for centuries.”

But to delay the liberation of Marawi is also very dangerous.

“The terrorists began using captured women as sex slaves,” explained Major Malvin Ligutan, standing in front of a temporary military base in Saguiaran.

Despite all the horrors of the Marawi war, the army refused to use brutal tactics, even after it found out that various local citizens clearly miscalculated and before the conflict began, offered substantial support to the ISIS-related terrorists.

Captain John Mark Silva Onipig clarified:

“These people belonging to the ISIS are not only terrorists, but they are also criminals. They were dealing in drugs… And some local people knew that… Actually, locals knew quite a lot; they knew about the presence of the terrorists in the area long before all this started, but they never reported it to the authorities.”

“How did the terrorists get hold of so many weapons?” I wanted to know.

“In the Philippines, those who have money can buy as many weapons as they want on the black market.”

The situation is extremely sensitive as there is clearly the involvement of foreign fighters. On June 30th, in Saguiaran, Major Malvin Ligutan admitted, hesitantly:

“In one of the safe houses, we found passports issued in Indonesia, Malaysia and several Arab countries.”

A month ago I wrote an essay exposing the complex network of Western-sponsored terrorism in Asia (“Washington Jihad Express: Indonesia, Afghanistan, Syria and Philippines”). I argued that in the 1980’s, Indonesian and Malaysian jihadists, indoctrinated by the Southeast Asian brand of extreme anti-Communism, went to fight in Afghanistan against the socialist governments of Karmal, and then Mohammad Najibullah, with the ultimate goal of destroying the Soviet Union.

Hardened and further brainwashed, they returned home to Southeast Asia, participated in several ethnic strives and pogroms (including those in Ambon and Poso), and then, in order to ‘bridge the generational gap’, embarked on the coaching of a young generation of terrorists, who eventually ended up fighting in Syria and recently in the Philippines.

My essay was full of facts, and I put into it various testimonies of Southeast Asian academics, thinkers, and even of one active and prominent ‘jihadi cadre’ who is now living in Jakarta.

In the Indonesian city of Bandung, Prof. Iman Soleh, a professor at the Faculty of Social and Political Science (University of Padjadjaran- UNPAD) offered his take on why the West is now so obsessed with destabilizing and smearing the Philippines and its current rebellious administration:

“Since World War Two, the U.S. was afraid of so-called ‘domino effects’. Among other things that are now happening in the Philippines under president Duterte, the government is curbing activities of the multi-national mining conglomerates, and the West cannot accept that. Philippines are putting its environmental concerns above the short-term profits! For the millions of left-wing activists here in Indonesia and all over Southeast Asia, President Duterte is a role model.”

It is no secret that the West punishes such ‘bad paradigms’ brutally and decisively.

Prof. Soleh continued:

“I think all that is happening is not just to ‘destabilize’ the Philippines, but also because the country has conflict areas that could be ‘nurtured’. The best example is the predominantly Muslim island of Mindanao, vs. the rest of the Philippines, which is predominantly a Catholic country…”

The West is regularly using ‘jihad,’ directly and indirectly, to destabilize socialist, anti-imperialist, and just patriotic countries and governments. In the past, it managed to ruin countries like Afghanistan, Indonesia (1965) and Syria. Many believe that the Philippines is the latest addition to the ‘hit-list.’

Soldiers ready for the front (photo Andre Vltchek)

The China & Russia Connection

As Drei Toledo, a prominent Philippine journalist, educator and pro-Duterte activist, originally from Mindanao, explained:

“The reason why the West is hostile toward President Duterte is simple: he is working hard to reach a peace agreement with China, a country that is seen by Washington as its arch-enemy. Another ‘adversary of the West,’ Russia, is admired by Duterte and increasingly by his people. Recently, Russia and the Philippines signed a defense agreement. The president is also forging close ties with Cuba, particularly in the area of health… Before Duterte became our President, poverty by design in Philippines was restored and perpetuated by the U.S. and Malaysia-controlled Cojuangco-Aquino clan.

Foreign and local entities that have long benefited financially from Philippines being a weak state are now threatened overwhelmingly by President Duterte’s unifying agenda to create a socialist system in the Philippines.”

Ms. Toledo pointed her accusative finger at Malaysia:

“Malaysia benefits from Mindanao being in a perpetual state of chaos and conflict because this means we can never reclaim oil-rich Sabah.”

She also doesn’t spare Indonesia and its sinister political (anti-socialist and anti-Communist) as well as economic interests:

“As exposed by Rigoberto D. Tiglao, a Filipino diplomat and writer, Indonesian magnate Anthoni Salim, not only does have total control or substantial stakes in local mainstream media papers and networks, his conglomerate in Philippines is also based on telecoms, power, water distribution, and other public utilities.”

Or more precisely: it is based on making sure that ‘public utilities’ will never become truly ‘public’, remaining in private hands. Salim’s ‘empire’ already brought great damage to India, particularly to West Bengal where, some argue, because of allowing it to operate and to implement its brutal feudal-capitalist practices, the CPI (M) (Communist Party of India – Marxist) managed to thoroughly disgust local voters and to lose power.

The Human Cost

Nobody could deny the gravity of the situation.

I witnessed exhausted glances of the people from Marawi, now living in a rescue center built on the land of the town hall of Saguiaran.

“Yesterday two infants died,” I’m told by Amer Hassan, a student volunteer from Mindanao State University (MSU).

The reason was “different water, malnutrition, exhaustion…”

I wanted to know more, and Amer continues:

“People are still in shock… They can’t believe what is happening. Especially those whose houses were destroyed; those who lost their relatives, everything…”

While the West is constantly criticizing, does it provide help? Amer just shrugs his shoulders:

“There is no foreign help coming… Almost all that we have here comes from Manila, either from the government or local agencies. Duterte is working very hard, helping our people.”

A family of three, Camal Mimbalawag, his wife Ima and one-month-old baby Mohammad, is squeezed into a tiny space at the center. Their memories are bleak. Ima gives her account almost mechanically:

“We were in Marawi during the first stage of the attack. I was pregnant, ready to give birth. We were in the city hall when ISIS attacked… They erected checkpoints; divided people into groups… they pointed guns at us… They asked: ‘Muslim or not?’…and ‘If Muslim, then recite ‘Shahadat.’ If cannot, you get killed or taken as a hostage… We saw corpses of those killed, eaten by dogs under the burning sun…”

The battle for the city of Marawi is raging. I face it from the highest floor of the building, destroyed by ISIS snipers, a place where an Australian reporter was hit just two days earlier.

Family in Marawi (photo Andre Vltchek)

It is not Aleppo, but it could have been, if not for the heroic counter-attack of the army.

Marawi is just one new chapter in the already long book of horrors of brutal religious terrorist acts, most of them directly or indirectly triggered by Western imperialism. In the first wave of its fight again the secular socialist Muslim governments, the West destabilized Iran, Egypt and Indonesia. Then came the Afghanistan ‘gambit’, followed by the arch-brutal destruction of Iraq and Libya. Then it was Syria’s turn.

‘Jihad’ is consistently used against Russia, China as well as the former Central Asian Soviet republics.

All this I described in my 840-page book: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”, but one can never write fast enough and fully catch up with the crimes committed by the West.

It is often easy to pinpoint Western involvement in the religious conflicts, particularly in such places as Afghanistan and Syria. In the Philippines, the link is still indirect, well concealed, but it certainly exists.

To rebel against the Western Empire is always a costly and bloody affair. It often leads to coups sponsored by Washington, London or Paris, and even to direct military conflicts, interventions and full-scale wars.

But by now, the people of the Philippines have had it ‘up to here’. They had enough of being submissive; enough of being plundered while remaining silent. They are assembling behind their president. Duterte’s popularity is still around 75%. The army is clearly winning the war against the hardened local and foreign jihadists. Relief operations are effective and well organized. Things are just fine.

In only one year, the country has diametrically changed. To break the spirit of the liberated masses, to force people back onto their knees would be difficult, perhaps almost impossible, even if jihadi terror is unleashed brutally.

Almost 100 soldiers already lost their lives. Just one day before I encounter General Rey, six of his men were injured. It is said that 800 or more civilians died. Nobody knows exactly how many terrorists were killed. It is real war: tough and merciless as all wars are, but in this case, the ‘newly independent’ country is clearly winning.

It is an incredible sight: some soldiers, patriotic and determined, are still wearing those helmets with the US flags engraved into them, or some old Israeli bulletproof vests. But have no doubts: this is real, new country! Totally different Philippines and Marawi is one of the first and toughest tests it will have to endure.

The war united people and the army. No matter what the West and local corporate media are saying, most Filipinos know: this is their struggle; this is their president and their military fighting against something extremely foreign, violent and dreadful.

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are revolutionary novel “Aurora” and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. View his other books here. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo. After having lived in Latin America, Africa and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.

Source: 21st Century Wire

Sea Shepherd and Crew Launch 'Virus Hunter II'

Sea Shepherd Research Vessel Returns to Canada to Investigate Farmed Salmon Industry

by Sea Shepherd Society

July 26, 2017

Biologist Alexandra Morton, actor/activist Martin Sheen, environmentalist David Suzuki kick off campaign on July 27th

View campaign details here

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is re-teaming with renowned Canadian biologist Alexandra Morton for Operation Virus Hunter II, the non-profit's wild salmon defense campaign. It launches July 27th with a 1pm press conference at Vancouver’s False Creek Harbor aboard Sea Shepherd’s R/V Martin Sheen.

Morton, environmental activist and broadcaster David Suzuki, and Traditional First Nation leaders Willie Moon and Farron Alexander Soukochoff of the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation tribe will be among the speakers at the press conference. Actor/activist Martin Sheen, the ship’s namesake, will also be in attendance.

July 27, 2017

False Creek Harbor Authority,
1505 W. 1st Ave. Vancouver, BC

1p.m. @ Dock XX

Pacific Northwest salmon are threatened by open-net salmon farms that share the same migratory route. These farms are breeding grounds for disease and parasites which spread to the surrounding waters and put wild salmon in danger.

As with last year’s inaugural Operation Virus Hunter campaign, Morton will once again travel aboard the Sheenover the course of several weeks, stopping at various salmon farms to conduct audits for disease and other factors.

Morton’s findings from the 2016 research mission were summarized in this end-of-campaign video:

“I have worked to protect wild salmon from the catastrophic impact of salmon farms for 31 years,” said Morton.
 “I am enormously grateful to Sea Shepherd, because they dare to take a close look at exactly what is happening in these industrial facilities.”

"The farming of this exotic alien species (Atlantic salmon) is a lethal assault on wild salmon populations, an insensitive assault on the First Nations, and a shocking assault upon the marine ecology of British Columbia’s marine ecosystems,” added Sea Shepherd founder and C.E.O. Captain Paul Watson.
“The government’s duty should be to protect the rights of the First Nations, to defend the wild salmon and not to cater to a foreign controlled destructive salmon farming industry.”

To learn more about Operation Virus Hunter and what you can do to help, click here:

JULY 24, 2017

Media Inquiries: Zorianna Kit - or call

ABOUT ALEXANDRA MORTON: Alexandra Morton has dedicated over three decades to protecting wild salmon from the disease and sea lice that pours out of salmon farms. Morton has been featured on 60 Minutes, published dozens of scientific papers on impact of salmon farms, and has taken the fishing industry to court among other efforts. She began studying wild orcas in 1984 and moved her focus to salmon farms when they arrived and began to negatively affect the whales and the environment.

ABOUT THE R/V MARTIN SHEEN:The R/V Martin Sheen is a 92-foot sailing ketch acquired in Los Angeles in 2014 and named for long-time celebrity supporter, Martin Sheen. The Martin Sheen conducts a combination of research, education and anti-poaching work. To learn more about the ship and the man who bears its name, click here:

For media inquiries please email Zorianna Kit or call323-697-5307.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Foreign Investment and Housing Crises

Foreign Investment and The UK Housing Crisis


July 25, 2010

Real Media speaks to Anna Minton, the author of "Big Capital: Who Is London For?" about the causes, effects and potential remedies for the housing crisis that has been growing for 30 years in London and beyond.

Kushner on Russia: Fallen Apples from the Stupid Tree

Jared Kushner's Testimonial to Stupidity and Unfitness - American and Russian

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

July 25, 2017

Moscow  - Stupidity isn’t a crime; it’s a life sentence. Not so for power. Supposing everything Kushner has written in his presentation to the US Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday is true, then one conclusion from a half-dozen bits of evidence he testifies to is obvious – Kushner is unfit to rule, and so are the Russians whom he mentions.

Jared Kushner’s title is Director of the Office of American Innovation at the White House, a new function for the old one of overseeing everything in the US Government for the benefit of the incumbent president.

He’s also ranked Senior Advisor to the President, and by marriage he is son-in-law to President Donald Trump.

Here are the eleven pages of Kushner’s public statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. His committee appearance and additional testimony were behind closed doors, lasting about two hours. Kushner gave his testimony on Monday (July 24). Reading the statement isn’t difficult because the vocabulary is simple, the logic of presentation rudimentary, the style impersonal.

Two slips are revealing, but they have so far gone undetected in the voluminous US media coverage. The first reveals just how ignorant Kushner, his legal and other advisors are of Russia, although it is the target of the proceeding. At page 8, he claims “Nvgorod [is] the village where my grandparents were from in Belarus.”

This looks like a typo for Novgorod (literally, “new town”), the ancient Russian city west of Moscow. It is more than 200 kilometres from the current Russian frontier with Belarus and the historical border with the territory which for a thousand years has been occupied by Lithuanian, Polish, German and Russian imperial as well as Soviet forces. Kushner’s grandparents actually came from Navahrudak (Навагрудак), spelled in Russian as Новогрудок (Novogrudok). The meaning of the word, which was first used for the place in the 11th century, is “new little town”. When the Germans arrived in July 1941, there were 20,000 residents, 10,000 of whom, including the Kushners, were Jewish. The Kushners escaped; the majority who didn’t were killed. Kushner reveals he doesn’t know. His, and everyone else’s mistake, is 834 kilometres off the mark.

Also, by the M1 highway direct between Minsk, the current capital of independent Belarus, and Moscow, the distance is 856 kms. If Kushner’s father-in-law launched a nuclear attack on Russia, followed up by NATO missiles and forces from Poland, the Baltic Sea and the shore territories, it’s likely Novogrudok would be bypassed; and depending on which way the wind was blowing, the radioactive fall-out, too. Kushner reveals he doesn’t comprehend these things.

Kushner’s second slip is evidence on the issue, as he states it, of collusion with Russia during the election campaign and during the presidential transition, before Trump was inaugurated on January 20. Kushner claims at the end of his testimony:

“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government. I had no improper contacts.”

But Kushner admits that during the campaign he “had incoming [sic] contacts with people from approximately 15 countries.” He also had “hundreds” of “calls, letters and emails from people…outside the United States.” He says he asked Henry Kissinger for “advice on policy for the candidate, which countries/representatives with which the campaign should engage, and what messaging would resonate.” He says he spoke once for “less than a minute” with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak at an April 2016 Trump campaign speech in Washington, when the Russian was accompanied by three other foreign ambassadors; Kushner doesn’t name them.

He denies any record of receiving or remembering two reported telephone calls with Kislyak between April and November, and had forgotten his name when, on November 9, an official congratulatory note arrived for Trump from President Vladimir Putin. From November 9 to January 20, Kushner says he received “over one hundred contacts from more than twenty countries…They included meetings with individuals such as Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Luis Videgaray Caso and many more.”

A neophyte in foreign affairs as Kushner confesses himself to be, he doesn’t reveal that Videgaray and he set up candidate Trump’s visit to Mexico City to meet the Mexican President on August 31. The Mexican reaction to that was extremely hostile. Videgaray was forced to resign as finance minister on September 7, but promoted to foreign minister on January 4. Videgaray might be charged with colluding with the Americans to advance himself, with Kushner as co-conspirator, but no senator on the Intelligence Committee is reported to have asked Kushner about that.

Kushner may not know the nicknames of Videgaray or King Abdullah, but he certainly refers to the Israeli prime minister as Bibi, an appellation well-known to Israelis and Jews worldwide. His official name is Benjamin, and there is ample evidence that Kushner has been familiar with Netanyahu for many years. Kushner’s father is also widely reported in Israel as Netanyahu’s personal friend. Kushner’s slip in yesterday’s evidence was to reveal just how familiar he is with that foreign official, who met with Trump and Kushner for a campaign appearance in Israel in June, five months before Election Day.

The special relationship between Israel and the US cannot be collusion – that’s a rule of US politics. The rule wasn’t quite so fixed in the 1980s when the FBI caught US officials at spying, stealing and smuggling on behalf of Israel, and sent one of them to prison; click for details.

Nor can God and the Orthodox Jewish group known as Chabad-Lubavitch be reported as colluding in Trump’s victory, despite the evidence that Kushner and his wife Ivanka prayed for it at a Lubavitcher shrine on the weekend before the poll.

The Israeli and Jewish community media also claim the possibility that Kushner’s pilgrimage reminded God to intervene when there was a suspected assassination attempt against Trump in Arizona at the same time.

The inadvertence of these slips in Kushner’s statement reinforces his claim that he knows the difference between collusion with Russians and special relationships with Mexican, Israeli and Lubavitcher friends. The US press and the US Senate appear convinced of the same thing.

The evidence presented on Kushner’s meetings with Russians between April 2016 and January 20, 2017, adds up to four occasions for durations he reports of “less than” 1 minute + 10 minutes (“or so”) + 20-30 minutes + 20 – 25 minutes. That makes a total of 66 minutes at most, with several accompanying witnesses.

“Ten or so” of the minutes involved the recently reported meeting in New York on June 9, 2016, at which Kushner’s brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr. was hosting a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and her associates. Supposing that Kushner is telling the truth about the meeting on two points — that its subject was “the issue of a ban on US adoptions of Russian children”, and that he was uninterested and left prematurely – this time ought to be subtracted from the serious time Kushner admits he did spend on matters of state policy towards Russia. That leaves 56 minutes.

There are revelations in Kushner’s testimony about what transpired in this time. The first is that Dmitri Simes was involved with Kushner in arranging Trump’s campaign speech in April 2016, and that Simes fixed Kushner’s 1-minute introduction to Ambassador Kislyak. Simes runs the think-tank called Center for the National Interest, which was the creation of former President Richard Nixon. A Center press release reveals the other ambassadors Kushner shook hands with but doesn’t name were from Italy, Singapore and the Philippines. The names of others attending can be found here, without mention of Kushner, plus Trump’s speech.

About Russia on that occasion, Trump said:

“Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism. I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible. Common sense says this cycle, this horrible cycle of hostility must end and ideally will end soon. Good for both countries. Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out. If we can’t make a deal under my administration, a deal that’s great — not good, great — for America, but also good for Russia, then we will quickly walk from the table. It’s as simple as that. We’re going to find out.

Simes (Дмитрий Саймс), son of Jewish dissidents expelled from the Soviet Union to the US in 1978, is the Uriah Heep of Russian-American advisors, ingratiating themselves to both sides and making a living out of obsequious intermediation. He was Richard Nixon’s factotum when the disgraced president visited Moscow. Nixon died in 1994 leaving Simes his think-tank as an inheritance. Its motto is “America’s Voice for Strategic Realism”. Kissinger is the honorary chairman, succeeding the American International Group (AIG) fraudster Hank Greenberg.

From left to right: Simes, Greenberg and Kissinger. This month Greenberg was 
given the Center’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” in Kissinger’s presence, 
along with a general, an admiral, and four senators. Source: 

When there is escalating conflict between the US and Russian governments, Simes is of next to no value to either side. His advice has also been worthless when there is booming business between the Russian oligarchs and their US counterparts. The long dominance of Russia policy by the Clinton and Obama Administrations has been bad for Simes’s business; war between the White House and the Kremlin allows him no room for manoeuvre at all. So cultivating Kushner and Trump in the spring of 2016 was a business opportunity Simes exploited. Trading that to the Washington embassies of Italy, Singapore, the Philippines and Russia was Simes’s bread and butter. Kislyak and the other envoys got their minute with the candidate. They are likely to have paid for it.

Kushner now reveals how Kislyak tried cashing in. Kissinger and Simes continued being helfpul to the Trump campaign once they were sure he would win the Republican Party nomination. When Kushner’s memory of Kislyak’s name failed, he didn’t google for it — he says he sent Simes an email. Evidently, the name wasn’t urgently needed. Simes has continued to be as ingratiating to Kushner as he was at first to Nixon, and since then with every other candidate with the main chance.

What Kushner reveals with Simes, again inadvertently, is how inconsequential the Russian ambassador’s links were in Washington in 2016, despite starting his term eight years before, in 2008. If Simes was the go-between with Kislyak – if Kislyak couldn’t have gone straight to Kissinger, for example – then this is evidence of haphazard collision, not of calculated collusion.

Kislyak (right) meets Kissinger at the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, 
with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in May 2017. Kissinger was directly 
courted by the Kremlin immediately before the US poll with election to the 
Russian Academy of Sciences, voted on October 28; for details, read this.

Kushner reveals more. According to his Senate testimony yesterday, Kislyak told Kushner “he especially wanted to address U.S. policy in Syria, and that he wanted to convey information from what he called his ‘generals’.” Supposing Kushner to have heard right, it is a remark which may be as novel for the Russian General Staff as it is new for the US Senate to hear. Was a diplomat really proposing to talk about operations on a war front with the enemy? And was Kislyak asking Kushner and General Michael Flynn, then the US National Security Advisor in waiting, for “a secure line in the transition office to conduct a conversation”?

Never mind that Kushner and Flynn said no, and “so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration.” Accepting that Kushner didn’t ask for a back-channel, as he claims, the disclosure that Kislyak asked for one in this fashion — if Kushner is telling the truth — is a blunder of Kislyak-sized proportions. It begs the question: what were the ambassador’s instructions from the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, and what clearance had been given by the Security Council for such a meeting, with such a script, to take place?

Putin chaired Security Council meetings on November 8 – before the 
election result in the US was known – and on November 17 (pictured above) 
and November 28. Between November 17 and 28 Putin was travelling. 
Kislyak met Kushner on December 1, and asked for a follow-up session on 
 December 6. That didn’t occur until December 12. In Moscow the Security 
 Council met with Putin in the chair on December 1, 7, 13, and 24.

Kushner has one more disclosure to make of significance. He says that Kislyak kept pestering for another meeting but that he declined because he was too busy. Kislyak then proposed, and Kushner agreed, on a meeting between Kushner’s assistant and Kislyak. That happened on December 12.

Next, according to Kushner, “my assistant reported that the Ambassador had requested that I meet with a person named Sergey Gorkov who he said was a banker and someone with a direct line to the Russian President who could give insight into how Putin was viewing the new administration and best ways to work together. I agreed to meet Mr. Gorkov because the Ambassador has been so insistent, said he had a direct relationship with the President, and because Mr. Gorkov was only in New York for a couple days. I made room on my schedule for the meeting that occurred the next day, on December 13.”

Gorkov, head of the state bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), had met Putin in August of 2016 (pictured below, left), when they discussed development banking policy. They were to meet again, officially, on February 10 of this year (below, right).

Kushner now says he met Gorkov for “twenty to twenty-five minutes”. 
That’s shorter shrift than Kushner gave Kislyak.

“He told me a little about his bank,” Kushner testifies, “and made some statements about the Russian economy. He said that he was friendly with President Putin, expressed disappointment with U.S.-Russia relations under President Obama and hopes for a better relationship in the future. As I did at the meeting with Ambassador Kislyak, I expressed the same sentiments I had with other foreign officials I met. There were no specific policies discussed. We had no discussion about the sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration. At no time was there any discussion about my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind.”

Kushner omits to say whether he employed an interpreter, notetaker or taperecorder at the meeting, and if Gorkov did the same. If Kushner didn’t, he cannot have been following Kissinger’s advice. That Gorkov’s VEB is not a commercial bank, and not intended to conduct the kind of business Kushner has operated for his family raises the questions of what Gorkov was intending to achieve with the call-in, why Kislyak requested it, and who in Moscow decided to push it.

Again, supposing the meeting with Gorkov was as anodyne as Kushner testifies, there is one little thing which stands out on the Russian side. Make that two little things. Kushner describes how Gorkov opened their meeting:

“He introduced himself and gave me two gifts — one was a piece of art from Nvgorod, the village where my grandparents were from in Belarus, and the other was a bag of dirt from that same village.” 

Kushner has told the Senate the fact that he immediately registered the gifts with the presidential transition office proves that he wasn’t trying to conceal the meeting.

But what was Gorkov doing making a gift of anything? If Putin’s power vertical was running normally, this should have required a chain of memoranda, approvals, and instructions running from Putin through the Security Council, the Foreign Ministry and Kislyak. Whose idea was it to make a gift at such a place and time, and what gift options were discussed at the Kremlin?

Whatever the Russian calculation was on December 13, it appears now, in Kushner’s inadvertent retrospect, to have failed disastrously. He can’t remember the name or how to spell his grandparents’ natal village.

It is a traditional Jewish custom to bury the faithful with a phial of earth from the Holy Land. But Kushner, apparently not as faithful as he might be, says Gorkov gave him “a bag of dirt”. That phrase says everything.

Worse Than Gaza? Shipping The Strip to Sinai

Is Gaza-Sinai state a possibility for Palestinians?

by Jonathan Cook - Al Jazeera

July 25, 2017

The long-discussed plan could see most of Gaza's population end up in Sinai, alongside millions of Palestinian refugees.

Gaza has been the focus of intense talks behind closed doors in recent weeks as disquiet has risen among Arab states at the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the coastal enclave.

Image of Banksy Gaza mural

Palestinians there are enduring a scorching summer with barely a few hours of power a day, after Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority (PA) has refused to finance essential services. Abbas is trying to weaken his Hamas rivals who rule Gaza and assert his own authority.

In the background, an ominous deadline is rapidly approaching. Gaza is expected to be "uninhabitable" within a few years, according to United Nations forecasts. Its economy has been broken by years of Israeli military attacks and a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade, its population is mostly destitute, and its aquifers are increasingly polluted with sea water.

Gaza's rapidly growing population of two million is already suffocating in a tiny patch of territory. In May, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned that Gaza was on the brink of "systemic collapse".

Israel has good reason to fear the future. Another round of fighting with Hamas, and heavy casualties among ordinary Palestinians, will further damage its image. And sooner or later, ordinary Palestinians are likely to rise up and tear down the security fences that imprison them.

For that reason, Israel and its patrons in Washington - as well as the Arab states - are desperately in search of a remedy.

It is in this context that Palestinians have been pondering the significance of a series of recent secret meetings between Egypt, Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, an exiled Fatah leader and enemy of Abbas. Are they paving the way to a permanent solution for Gaza - and one that will be largely on Israel's terms?

One possibility - known to be much-favoured by Israel - would be to engineer the creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza and then pressure Egypt to allow it to expand into the neighbouring territory of northern Sinai.

According to this plan, not only would most of Gaza's population end up in Sinai, but so too would potentially millions of Palestinian refugees.

Atef Eisa, a journalist in Gaza City, told Al Jazeera that the meetings between Egypt, Hamas and Dahlan were the main topic of discussions in the enclave: "People understand that Israel wants Gaza permanently separated from the West Bank. They wonder whether Sinai might be a way to achieve it."

Suspicions of a Gaza-Sinai state are not new. In fact, there is strong evidence that Israel has been pushing aggressively, along with the United States, to create a Palestinian state in Sinai since it withdrew its soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip more than a decade ago.

Now rumours are circulating that the Sinai plan is being revived. Are the stars aligned for Israel? The US administration of Donald Trump is openly on its side, Hamas is at its weakest point ever, and Israel is increasingly close to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

"There is no doubt that this is what Israel would like to see happen," Shawqi Issa, a Palestinian analyst and former government minister in the PA, told Al Jazeera.

Issa believes Israel is now firmly set on turning Gaza into the Palestinian state, as part of a regional solution that might also see the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, currently in Abbas' charge, ultimately falling under Jordanian responsibility.

But such a regional solution - what Israel calls its "outside-in" strategy - hinges on Egyptian help. "The chief difficulty with the Sinai option is allaying Egyptian concerns," said Issa. "Israel and the United States can manage it only as part of a dramatic reshaping of the entire Middle East."

The plan requires Cairo to accept a humiliating compromise of its sovereignty by surrendering territory in Sinai, possibly in a swap for Israeli land in the Negev. It would also undermine long-standing Arab demands that a Palestinian state be realised in historic Palestine.

But most importantly, the military regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is concerned about an expansion of Hamas' influence into Sinai, strengthening support for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' sister organisation and the main opponents of Sisi's rule.

However, the extent of Egypt's opposition is far from clear, especially given that it may be facing stiff pressure from the Trump administration and the Saudi-led Gulf states to alleviate Gaza's problems.

In fact, Israeli media reports in 2014 suggested that Sisi may have agreed to cede 1,600sq km in Sinai to Gaza, expanding the enclave's size fivefold. This would have realised Israel's vision of a demilitarised Palestinian state it calls "Greater Gaza".

Abbas is reported to have rejected the plan outright.

Not surprisingly, both Egyptian and Palestinian officials publicly denied the reports. Nonetheless, Abbas and his officials subsequently appeared to corroborate some aspects of the story.

At a meeting of Fatah loyalists in August 2014, Abbas reportedly said that a "senior leader in Egypt" had told him: "A refuge must be found for the Palestinians and we have all this open land."

A week earlier, he told Egyptian TV that the Israeli plan had "unfortunately been accepted by some here [in Egypt] … Don't ask me more about that. We abolished it."

Abbas was unclear about whether these were references to Sisi or his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, who briefly headed a Muslim Brotherhood government before being removed by the Egyptian military.
At the same time, a report in the London-based Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat indicated how long the Sinai plan may have been gestating. An aide to Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president until he was toppled in 2011, quoted the former leader as saying: "We are fighting both the US and Israel … In a year or two, the issue of Palestinian refugee camps in Sinai will be internationalised."

Indications that the Sinai plan may have been revived at a high level have come from Ayoub Kara, a government minister and ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In February, shortly before Netanyahu and Trump met in Washington, Kara tweeted that the two leaders would "adopt the plan of Egypt's Sisi. A Palestinian state in Gaza and Sinai".

Kara added that this would provide a regional solution of the kind Netanyahu and Trump officials have recently been talking up: "This is how we will pave a path to peace, including with the Sunni coalition [of Arab states]."

Egyptian officials again issued hurried denials. But Kara's statements prompted so much alarm that a group of prominent Egyptian lawyers filed a suit against any moves by Cairo to resettle Palestinians in Sinai.

In what could be seen as a territorial precedent, the Egyptian parliament approved last month the transfer of two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia in return for billions of dollars of investments in Egypt's ailing economy.

There are good reasons why Israel may believe all the pieces are falling into place to realise a Palestinian state mostly outside the borders of historic Palestine.

Hamas is at its lowest ebb ever, with Israeli officials speaking of the movement "fighting for its life". After Egyptian and Saudi-led moves to sideline Qatar and Turkey's support, Hamas is now all but friendless.

The carrot for Hamas of a Greater Gaza would be the chance to rule a much more substantial piece of territory, solving the enclave's humanitarian crisis and rehabilitating the Islamic movement in the eyes of the international community.

Naji Shurrab, a political scientist at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, told the Jerusalem Post newspaper that the creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza would be the first step. But he believed territory in Sinai would be included too, once Egyptian security concerns had been addressed.

Israel has all but gone public with its close security ties with Egypt and the other key regional Arab state, Saudi Arabia. The two share Israel's concern about curtailing Iran's influence in the region and appear to be prioritising that alliance over the Palestinian cause.

Indications are that the White House is engaging in vigorous shuttle diplomacy with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to help with what Trump has called the "ultimate deal" for peace.

What of Abbas, who has previously rejected the Greater Gaza plan?

He is much weaker than he was a few years ago and has alienated Saudi Arabia and Egypt with his continuing bitter feud with Mohammed Dahlan, his key rival within the Fatah movement and the man the Arab states would like to see succeed him.

Yoni Ben Menachem, a former Israeli intelligence officer, told Israel's Channel 1 earlier this month that Sisi intends to bring down Abbas.

Dahlan has been living in exile in Dubai, in the Gulf, reportedly channelling money from the United Arab Emirates into Gaza and the occupied West Bank to buy popularity and political influence. There are long-established suspicions that Dahlan is close to officials in Washington, too.

In fact, Dahlan is rapidly emerging as a pivotal figure, promoted by Riyadh and Cairo. Could he be the key to unlocking the Greater Gaza plan?

Over recent weeks, a series of secret, three-way meetings between Dahlan, Hamas and the Egyptian security figures have been trying to devise a new power-sharing arrangement in Gaza.

Reports suggest that Egypt will agree to reopen Gaza's Rafah crossing into Sinai if security is overseen by Dahlan loyalists rather than Hamas. According to some reports, Dahlan may even become prime minister of Gaza, with Hamas leaders serving under him.

Hamas has been trying to prove its good faith by creating a buffer zone inside Gaza to prevent fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), who have targeted Egyptian soldiers in northern Sinai, from using tunnels to find sanctuary in the enclave. "These measures serve as a message of assurance to the Egyptian side," Tawfiq Abu Naeem, Gaza's head of security services, told reporters.

What is slowly emerging looks suspiciously like a "Gaza state" project.

This arrangement could reassure Egypt and Israel that Hamas' influence can be contained and that the movement may even be able to help in the fight against ISIL. A strong Dahlan would be expected to restrict Hamas efforts at arming, prevent rocket fire on Israel and block any alliance with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

Assuming the model is successful, and with Abbas likely to be out of the picture soon, the Sinai plan could be properly unveiled with Dahlan and Hamas maintaining order in a Palestinian state in northern Sinai, sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

All of this could be sold to the watching world as a supremely humanitarian gesture - to end the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and the region.

The question remains, however, whether Israel and the US can pull it off.

Source: Al Jazeera

Monday, July 24, 2017

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Marie Aspiazu, Bonny Glambeck, Christina Nikolic July 26, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

July 26, 2017

Last month, as Spring's last day gave way to Summer, and Canadians from coast to coast to coast assiduously busied themselves with plans to avoid the mundanities of governance and governments, Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, along with the Justice Minister, held a twilight press conference to announce on Parliament's penultimate day the birth of 'Bill C-59: An Act Respecting National Security Matters'.

And, on Parliament's last sitting day, Justin Trudeau answered opposition party questions about the long-promised undoing of Bill C-51, legislation roundly condemned by social libertarians as invasive to the point of draconian.

Listen. Hear.

The Prime Minister then reminded the ousted Tories of duties incumbent upon leaders; patiently explaining the reasons for the erasure of their contentious, Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015, saying, "Canadians expect their government to do two things: to protect our rights and freedoms and keep our communities safe."

But is that all they expect, and does C-59 fit the billing?

Marie Aspiazu is the Social Media Specialist at Open Media, a civic engagement organization working to, "keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free." The Vancouver-based Aspiazu has worked within the environmental, conservation, and non-profit sectors, while her articles on those topics have appeared at Rabble, Common Ground, and

Marie Aspiazu in the first half.

And; twenty years after Clayoquot Summer '93, arguably the peak of environmental activism not only in the Sound, but on Vancouver Island, kayak guides and naturalists Dan Lewis and Bonny Glambeck shifted oars and founded Clayoquot Action, an organization dedicated to keeping "Clayoquot Sound clean and green for future generations, to preserve the diversity and integrity of the ecosystems, and to maintain and develop community and cultural richness."

While they've been educating and activating people living in and visiting to Clayoquot for a long time, this Summer they launched Clayoquot 2.0, an "all-new weekly, multi-media journey through the visually stunning landscape, wildlife and culture of Clayoquot Sound."

Bonny Glambeck and Clayoquot 2.0 in the second half.

And; Victoria-based horticultural guru, Christina Nikolic will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of what's good going on in and around our town in the coming week. But first, Marie Aspiazu and Bill C-59; real National Security Act reform, or just an act?"

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mann: Can We Survive Climate Change?

Michael Mann Responds to 'Uninhabitable Earth'


July 23, 2017

Leading Climate Scientist Michael Mann separates myth from reality in climate change reporting 

On July 9th New York Magazine published a grim assessment of humanity's future.

The lengthy article authored by David Wallace-Wells was entitled The Uninhabitable Earth.

The article began with these ominous words,

"It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible even within the lifetime of a teenager today. Absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable and other parts horrifically inhospitable as soon as the end of this century." 

So how bad is it really? Now here to impact this dire assessment of humanity's future is Professor Michael Mann. Professor Mann, a frequent guest on The Real News, is a distinguished research professor and a director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. He's the author of the book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, and his latest book, co-authored with Tom Toles, is titled The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Now is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.

Dr. Michael E. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC). 

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Myth of Irreproachability: YPG and the Syria Conflict

The Myth of the Kurdish YPG’s Moral Excellence

by Stephen Gowans - What's Left

July 11, 2017

A barbed criticism aimed at the International Socialist Organization, shown nearby, under the heading “If the ISO Existed in 1865” encompasses a truth about the orientation of large parts of the Western Left to the Arab nationalist government in Damascus.

The truth revealed in the graphic is that the ISO and its cognates will leave no stone unturned in their search for an indigenous Syrian force to support that has taken up arms against Damascus, even to the point of insisting that a group worthy of support must surely exist, even if it can’t be identified.

Of course, Washington lends a hand, helpfully denominating its proxies in the most laudatory terms. Islamist insurgents in Syria, mainly Al Qaeda, were not too many years ago celebrated as a pro-democracy movement, and when that deception proved no longer tenable, as moderates. Now that the so-called moderates have been exposed as the very opposite, many Leftists cling to the hope that amid the Islamist opponents of Syria’s secular, Arab socialist, government, can be found votaries of the enlightenment values Damascus already embraces.

Surely somewhere there exist armed anti-government secular Leftists to rally behind; for it appears that the goal is to find a reason, any reason, no matter how tenuous, to create a nimbus of moral excellence around some group that opposes with arms the government in Damascus; some group that can be made to appear to be non-sectarian, anti-imperialist, socialist, committed to the rights of women and minorities, and pro-Palestinian; in other words, a group just like Syria’s Ba’ath Arab Socialists, except not them.

Stepping forward to fulfill that hope is the PKK, an anarchist guerrilla group demonized as a terrorist organization when operating in Turkey against a US ally, but which goes by the name of the YPG in Syria, where it is the principal component of the lionized “Syrian Democratic Force.” So appealing is the YPG to many Western Leftists that some have gone so far as to volunteer to fight in its units. But is the YPG the great hope it’s believed it to be?

Kurds in Syria

It’s difficult to determine with precision how many Kurds are in Syria, but it’s clear that the ethnic group comprises only a small percentage of the Syrian population (less than 10 percent according to the CIA, and 8.5 percent according to an estimate cited by Nikolaos Van Dam in his book The Struggle for Power in Syria. [1] Estimates of the proportion of the total Kurd population living in Syria vary from two to seven percent based on population figures presented in the CIA World Factbook.

Half of the Kurd community lives in Turkey, 28 percent in Iran and 20 percent in Iraq. A declassified 1972 US State Department report estimated that only between four and five percent of the world’s Kurds lived in Syria [2]. While the estimates are rough, it’s clear that Kurds make up a fairly small proportion of the Syrian population and that the number of the group’s members living in Syria as a proportion of the Kurd community as a whole is very small.


Kurdish fighters in Syria operate under the name of the YPG, which is “tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a radical guerrilla movement combining [anarchist ideas] with Kurdish nationalism. PKK guerrillas [have] fought the Turkish state from 1978” and the PKK is “classified as a terrorist organization by the European Union, Turkey and the U.S.” [3]

Cemil Bayik is the top field commander of both the PKK in Turkey and of its Syrian incarnation, the YPG. Bayik “heads the PKK umbrella organization, the KCK, which unites PKK affiliates in different countries. All follow the same leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who has been in prison in Turkey” [4] since 1999, when he was apprehended by Turkish authorities with CIA assistance.

Ocalan “was once a devotee of Marxism-Leninism,” according to Carne Ross, who wrote a profile of the Kurdish nationalist leader in The Financial Times in 2015. But Ocalan “came to believe that, like capitalism, communism perforce relied upon coercion.” Imprisoned on an island in the Sea of Marmara, Ocalan discovered “the masterwork of a New York political thinker named Murray Bookchin.” Bookchin “believed that true democracy could only prosper when decision-making belonged to the local community and was not monopolized by distant and unaccountable elites.”

Government was desirable, reasoned Bookchin, but decision-making needed to be decentralized and inclusive. While anarchist, Bookchin preferred to call his approach “communalism”. Ocalan adapted Bookchin’s ideas to Kurd nationalism, branding the new philosophy “democratic confederalism.” [5]

Labor Zionism has similar ideas about a political system based on decentralized communes, but is, at its core, a nationalist movement. Similarly, Ocalan’s views cannot be understood outside the framework of Kurdish nationalism. The PKK may embrace beautiful utopian goals of democratic confederalism but it is, at its heart, an organization dedicated to establishing Kurdish self-rule—and, as it turns out, not only on traditionally Kurdish territory, but on Arab territory, as well, making the parallel with Labour Zionism all the stronger. In both Syria and Iraq, Kurdish fighters have used the campaign against ISIS as an opportunity to extend Kurdistan into traditionally Arab territories in which Kurds have never been in the majority.

The PKK’s goal, writes The Wall Street Journal’s Sam Dagher, “is a confederation of self-rule Kurdish-led enclaves in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey” [6] countries in which Kurdish populations have a presence, though, as we’ve seen, an insignificant one in Syria. In pursuit of this goal “as many as 5,000 Syrian Kurds have died fighting alongside the PKK since the mid-1980s, and nearly all of YPG’s top leaders and battle-hardened fighters are veterans of the decades-long struggle against Turkey.” [7]

In Syria, the PKK’s goal “is to establish a self-ruled region in northern Syria,” [8] an area with a significant Arab population.

When PKK fighters cross the border into Turkey, they become ‘terrorists’, according to the United States and European Union, but when they cross back into Syria they are miraculously transformed into ‘guerrilla” fighters waging a war for democracy as the principal component of the Syrian Democratic Force. The reality is, however, that whether on the Turkish or Syrian side of the border, the PKK uses the same methods, pursues the same goals, and relies largely on the same personnel. The YPG is the PKK.

An Opportunity

Washington has long wanted to oust the Arab nationalists in Syria, regarding them as “a focus of Arab nationalist struggle against an American regional presence and interests,” as Amos Ma’oz once put it. The Arab nationalists, particularly the Ba’ath Arab Socialist party, in power since 1963, represent too many things Washington deplores: socialism, Arab nationalism, anti-imperialism, and anti-Zionism. Washington denounced Hafez al-Assad, president of Syria from 1970 to 2000, as an Arab communist, and regards his son, Bashar, who succeeded him as president, as little different. Bashar, the State Department complains, hasn’t allowed the Syrian economy—based on Soviet models, its researchers say—to be integrated into the US-superintended global economy. Plus, Washington harbors grievances about Damascus’s support for Hezbollah and the Palestinian national liberation movement.

US planners decided to eliminate Asia’s Arab nationalists by invading their countries, first Iraq, in 2003, which, like Syria, was led by the Ba’ath Arab Socialists, and then Syria. However, the Pentagon soon discovered that its resources were strained by resistance to its occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and that an invasion of Syria was out of the question. As an alternative, Washington immediately initiated a campaign of economic warfare against Syria. That campaign, still in effect 14 years later, would eventually buckle the economy and prevent Damascus from providing education, health care and other essential services in some parts of the country. At the same time, Washington took steps to reignite the long-running holy war that Syria’s Islamists had waged on the secular state, dating to the 1960s and culminating in the bloody takeover of Hama, Syria’s fourth largest city, in 1982. Beginning in 2006, Washington worked with Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood to rekindle the Brother’s jihad against Assad’s secular government. The Brothers had two meetings at the White House, and met frequently with the State Department and National Security Council.

The outbreak of Islamist violence in March of 2011 was greeted by the PKK as an opportunity. As The Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov recounts, “The PKK, once an ally of…Damascus…had long been present among Kurdish communities in northern Syria. When the revolutionary tide reached Syria, the group’s Syrian affiliate quickly seized control of three Kurdish-majority regions along the Turkish frontier. PKK fighters and weapons streamed there from other parts of Kurdistan.”[9] The “Syrian Kurds,” wrote Trofimov’s colleagues, Joe Parkinson and Ayla Albayrak, viewed “the civil war as an opportunity to carve out a self-governing enclave—similar to the one established by their ethnic kin in neighboring Iraq.” [10] That enclave, long backed by the United States and Israel, was seen as a means of weakening the Iraqi state.

Damascus facilitated the PKK take-over by withdrawing its troops from Kurdish-dominated areas. The Middle East specialist Patrick Seale, who wrote that the Kurds had “seized the opportunity” of the chaos engendered by the Islamist uprising “to boost their own political agenda” [11] speculated that the Syrian government’s aims in pulling back from Kurd-majority areas was to redirect “troops for the defence of Damascus and Aleppo;” punish Turkey for its support of Islamist insurgents; and “to conciliate the Kurds, so as to dissuade them from joining the rebels.” [12] The PKK, as it turns out, didn’t join the Islamist insurgents, as Damascus hoped. But they did join a more significant part of the opposition to Arab nationalist Syria: the puppet master itself, the United States.

By 2014, the PKK had “declared three self-rule administrations, or cantons as they call them, in northern Syria: Afreen, in the northwest, near the city of Aleppo; Kobani; and Jazeera in the northeast, which encompasses Ras al-Ain and the city of Qamishli. Their goal [was] to connect all three.” [13] This would mean controlling the intervening spaces occupied by Arabs.

A Deal with Washington

At this point, the PKK decided that its political goals might best be served by striking a deal with Washington.

The State Department had “allowed for the possibility of a form of decentralization in which different groups” — the Kurds, the secular government, and the Islamist insurgents — each received some autonomy within Syria. [14] Notice the implicit assumption in this view that it is within Washington’s purview to grant autonomy within Syria, while the question of whether the country ought to decentralize, properly within the democratic ambit of Syrians themselves, is denied to the people who live and work in Syria. If we are to take seriously Ocalan’s Bookchin-inspired ideas about investing decision-making authority in the people, this anti-democratic abomination can hardly be tolerated.

All the same, the PKK was excited by the US idea of dividing “Syria into zones roughly corresponding to areas now held by the government, the Islamic State, Kurdish militias and other insurgents.” A “federal system” would be established, “not only for Kurdish-majority areas but for all of Syria.” A Kurd federal region would be created “on all the territory now held by the” PKK. The zone would expand to include territory the Kurds hoped “to capture in battle, not only from ISIS but also from other Arab insurgent groups.” [15]

The PKK “pressed U.S. officials” to act on the scheme, pledging to act as a ground force against ISIS in return. [16] The group said it was “eager to join the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in return for recognition and support from Washington and its allies for the Kurdish-dominated self-rule administrations they [had] established in northern Syria.” [17]

The only people pleased with this plan were the PKK, the Israelis and the Americans.

“US support for these Kurdish groups” not only in Syria, but in Iraq, where the Kurds were also exploiting the battle with ISIS to expand their rule into traditionally Arab areas, helped “to both divide Syria and divide Iraq,” wrote The Independent’s veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk. [18] Division redounded to the benefit of the United States and Israel, both of which have an interest in pursuing a divide and rule policy to exercise a joint hegemony over the Arab world. Patrick Seale remarked that the US-Kurd plan for Kurdish rule in northern Syria had been met by “quiet jubilation in Israel, which has long had a semi-clandestine relationship with the Kurds, and welcomes any development which might weaken or dismember Syria.” [19]

For their part, the Turks objected, perceiving that Washington had agreed to give the PKK a state in all of northern Syria. [20] Meanwhile, Damascus opposed the plan, “seeing it as a step toward a permanent division of the nation.” [21]

Modern-day Syria, it should be recalled, is already the product of a division of Greater Syria at the hands of the British and French, who partitioned the country into Lebanon, Palestine, Transjordan, and what is now Syria. In March, 1920, the second Syrian General Congress proclaimed “Syria to be completely independent within her ‘natural’ boundaries, including Lebanon and Palestine.” Concurrently “an Arab delegation in Palestine confronted the British military governor with a resolution opposing Zionism and petitioning to become part of an independent Syria.” [22] France sent its Army of the Levant, mainly troops recruited from its Senegalese colony, to quash by force the Levantine Arabs’ efforts to establish self-rule.

Syria, already truncated by British and French imperial machinations after WWI “is too small for a federal state,” opines Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. But Assad quickly adds that his personal view is irrelevant; a question as weighty as whether Syria ought to become a federal or confederal or unitary state, he says, is a matter for Syrians to decide in a constitutional referendum, [23] a refreshingly democratic view in contrast to the Western position that Washington should dictate how Syrians arrange their political (and economic) affairs.

Tip of the US Spear

For Washington, the PKK offers a benefit additional to the Kurdish guerrilla group’s utility in advancing the US goal of weakening Syria by fracturing it, namely, the PKK can be pressed into service as a surrogate for the US Army, obviating the necessity of deploying tens of thousands of US troops to Syria, and thereby allowing the White House and Pentagon to side-step a number of legal, budgetary and public relations quandaries. “The situation underscores a critical challenge the Pentagon faces,” wrote The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Sonne; namely, “backing local forces…instead of putting American troops at the tip of the spear.” [24]

Having pledged support for Kurdish rule of northern Syria in return for the PKK becoming the tip of the US spear, the United States is “providing “small arms, ammunition and machine guns, and possibly some nonlethal assistance, such as light trucks, to the Kurdish forces.” [25]

The arms are “parceled out” in a so called “drop, op, and assess” approach. The shipments are “dropped, an operation [is] performed, and the U.S. [assesses] the success of that mission before providing more arms.” Said a US official, “We will be supplying them only with enough arms and ammo to accomplish each interim objective.” [26]

PKK foot soldiers are backed by “more than 750 U.S. Marines,” Army Rangers, and US, French and German Special Forces, “using helicopters, artillery and airstrikes,” the Western marionette-masters in Syria illegally, in contravention of international law. [27]

Ethnic Cleansing

“Large numbers of Arab residents populate the regions Kurds designate as their own.” [28] The PKK has taken “over a large swath of territory across northern Syria—including predominantly Arab cities and towns.” [29] 

Raqqa, and surrounding parts of the Euphrates Valley on which the PKK has set its sights, are mainly populated by Arabs, observes The Independent’s veteran foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn—and the Arabs are opposed to Kurdish occupation. [30]

Kurdish forces are not only “retaking” Christian and Muslim Arab towns in Syria, but are doing the same in the Nineveh province of Iraq—areas “which were never Kurdish in the first place. Kurds now regard Qamishleh, and Hassakeh province in Syria as part of ‘Kurdistan’, although they represent a minority in many of these areas.” [31]

The PKK now controls 20,000 square miles of Syrian territory [32], or roughly 17 percent of the country, while Kurds represent less than eight percent of the population.

In their efforts to create a Kurdish region inside Syria, the PKK “has been accused of abuses by Arab civilians across northern Syria, including arbitrary arrests and displacing Arab populations in the name of rolling back Islamic State.” [33] The PKK “has expelled Arabs and ethnic Turkmen from large parts of northern Syria,” reports The Wall Street Journal. [34] The Journal additionally notes that human rights “groups have accused [Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish fighters] of preventing Arabs from returning to liberated areas.” [35]

Neither Syrian nor Democratic

The PKK dominates the Syrian Democratic Forces, a misnomer conferred upon a group of mainly Kurdish fighters by its US patron. The group is not Syrian, since many of its members are non-Syrians who identify as Kurds and who flooded over the border from Turkey to take advantage of the chaos produced by the Islamist insurgency in Syria to carve out an area of Kurdish control. Nor is the group particularly democratic, since it seeks to impose Kurdish rule on Arab populations. Robert Fisk dismisses the “Syrian Democratic Forces” as a “facade-name for large numbers of Kurds and a few Arab fighters.” [36]

The PKK poses as a Syrian Democratic Force, and works with a token force of Syrian Arab fighters, to disguise the reality that the Arab populated areas it controls, and those it has yet to capture, fall under Kurd occupation.

A De Facto (and Illegal) No Fly Zone

In August, 2016, after “Syrian government bombers had been striking Kurdish positions near the city of Hasakah, where the U.S. [had] been backing Kurdish forces” the Pentagon scrambled “jets to protect them. The U.S. jets arrived just as the two Syrian government Su-24 bombers were departing.” This “prompted the U.S.-led coalition to begin patrolling the airspace over Hasakah, and led to another incident…in which two Syrian Su-24 bombers attempted to fly through the area but were met by coalition fighter jets.” [37]

The Pentagon “warned the Syrians to stay away. American F-22 fighter jets drove home the message by patrolling the area.” [38]

The New York Times observed that in using “airpower to safeguard areas of northern Syria where American advisers” direct PKK fighters that the United States had effectively established a no-fly zone over the area, but noted that “the Pentagon has steadfastly refused to” use the term. [39] Still, the reality is that the Pentagon has illegally established a de facto no-fly zone over northern Syria to protect PKK guerillas, the tip of the US spear, who are engaged in a campaign of creating a partition of Syria, including through ethnic cleansing of the Arab population, to the delight of Israel and in accordance with US designs to weaken Arab nationalism in Damascus.

An Astigmatic Analogy

Some find a parallel in the YPG’s alliance with the United States with Lenin accepting German aid to return from exile in Switzerland to Russia following the 1917 March Revolution. The analogy is inapt. Lenin was playing one imperialist power off against another. Syria is hardly an analogue of Imperial Russia, which, one hundred years ago, was locked in a struggle for markets, resources, and spheres of influence with contending empires. In contrast, Syria is and has always been a country partitioned, dominated, exploited and threatened by empires. It has been emancipated from colonialism, and is carrying on a struggle—now against the contrary efforts of the PKK—to resist its recolonization.

The PKK has struck a bargain with the United States to achieve its goal of establishing a Kurdish national state, but at the expense of Syria’s efforts to safeguard its independence from a decades-long US effort to deny it. The partition of Syria along ethno-sectarian lines, desired by the PKK, Washington and Tel Aviv alike, serves both US and Israeli goals of weakening a focus of opposition to the Zionist project and US domination of West Asia.

A more fitting analogy, equates the PKK in Syria to Labor Zionism, the dominant Zionist force in occupied Palestine until the late 1970s. Like Ocalan, early Zionism emphasized decentralized communes. The kibbutzim were utopian communities, whose roots lay in socialism. Like the PKK’s Syrian incarnation, Labor Zionism relied on sponsorship by imperialist powers, securing their patronage by offering to act as the tips of the imperialists’ spears in the Arab world. Zionists employed armed conquest of Arab territory, along with ethnic cleansing and denial of repatriation, to establish an ethnic state, anticipating the PKK’s extension by armed force of the domain of a Kurdish state into Arab majority territory in Syria, as well as Kurd fighters doing the same in Iraq. Anarchists and other leftists may have been inspired by Jewish collective agricultural communities in Palestine, but that hardly made the Zionist project progressive or emancipatory, since its progressive and emancipatory elements were negated by its regressive oppression and dispossession of the indigenous Arab population, and its collusion with Western imperialism against the Arab world.


Representing an ethnic community that comprises less than 10 percent of the Syrian population, the PKK, a Kurdish anarchist guerrilla group which operates in both Turkey and Syria, is using the United States, its Air Force, Marine Corps, Army Rangers and Special Forces troops, as a force multiplier in an effort to impose a partition of Syria in which the numerically insignificant Kurd population controls a significant part of Syria’s territory, including areas inhabited by Arabs in the majority and in which Kurds have never been in the majority. To accomplish its aims, the PKK has not only struck a deal with a despotic regime in Washington which seeks to recolonize the Arab world, but is relying on ethnic cleansing and denial of repatriation of Arabs from regions from which they’ve fled or have been driven to establish Kurdish control of northern Syria, tactics which parallel those used by Zionist forces in 1948 to create a Jewish state in Arab-majority Palestine. Washington and Israel (the latter having long maintained a semi-clandestine relationship with the Kurds) value a confederal system for Syria as a means of weakening Arab nationalist influence in Arab Asia, undermining a pole of opposition to Zionism, colonialism, and the international dictatorship of the United States. Forces which resist dictatorship, including the most odious one of all, that of the United States over much of the world, are the real champions of democracy, a category to which the PKK, as evidenced by its actions in Syria, does not belong.

1. Nikolaos Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria: Politics and Society under Assad and the Ba’ath Party, IB Taurus, 2011, p.1.

2. “The Kurds of Iraq: Renewed Insurgency?”, US Department of State, May 31, 1972, https://2001-2009.state.gove/documents/organization/70896.pdf

3. Sam Dagher, “Kurds fight Islamic State to claim a piece of Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2014.

4. Patrick Cockburn, “War against ISIS: PKK commander tasked with the defence of Syrian Kurds claims ‘we will save Kobani’”, The Independent, November 11, 2014.

5. Carne Ross, “Power to the people: A Syrian experiment in democracy,” Financial Times, October 23, 2015.

6. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

7. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

8. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

9. Yaroslav Trofimov, “The State of the Kurds,” The Wall Street Journal, June 19, 2015.

10. Joe Parkinson and Ayla Albayrak, “Syrian Kurds grow more assertive”, The Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2013.

11. Patrick Seale, “Al Assad uses Kurds to fan regional tensions”, Gulf News, August 2, 2012.

12. Seale, August 2, 2012.

13. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

14. David E. Sanger, “Legacy of a secret pact haunts efforts to end war in Syria,” the New York Times, May 16, 2016.

15. Anne Barnard, “Syrian Kurds hope to establish a federal region in country’s north,” The New York Times, March 16, 2016.

16. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

17. Dagher, November 12, 2014.

18. Robert Fisk, “This is the aim of Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia – and it isn’t good for Shia communities,” The Independent, May 18, 2017.

19. Seale, August 2, 2012.

20. Yaroslav Trofimov, “U.S. is caught between ally Turkey and Kurdish partner in Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2017.

21. Anne Barnard, “Syrian Kurds hope to establish a federal region in country’s north,” The New York Times, March 16, 2016.

22. David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, Henry Holt & Company, 2009, p. 437.

23. “President al-Assad to RIA Novosti and Sputnik: Syria is not prepared for federalism,” SANA, March 30, 2016.

24. Paul Sonne, “U.S. seeks Sunni forces to take militant hub,” The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2016.

25. Dion Nissenbaum, Gordon Lubold and Julian E. Barnes, “Trump set to arm Kurds in ISIS fight, angering Turkey,” The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2017.

26. Nissenbaum et al, May 9, 2017.

27. Dion Nissenbaum and Maria Abi-Habib, “Syria’s newest flashpoint is bringing US and Iran face to face,” The Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2017; “Syria condemns presence of French and German special forces in Ain al-Arab and Manbij as overt unjustified aggression on Syria’s sovereignty and independence,” SANA, June 15, 2016; Michael R. Gordon. “U.S. is sending 400 more troops to Syria.” The New York Times. March 9, 2017.

28. Matt Bradley, Ayla Albayrak, and Dana Ballout, “Kurds declare ‘federal region’ in Syria, says official,” The Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2016.

29. Maria Abi-Habib and Raja Abdulrahim, “Kurd-led force homes in on ISIS bastion with assent of U.S. and Syria alike,” The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2017.

30. Patrick Cockburn, “Battle for Raqqa: Fighters begin offensive to push Isis out of Old City,” The Independent, July 7, 2017.

31. Robert Fisk, “This is the aim of Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia – and it isn’t good for Shia communities,” The Independent, May 18, 2017.

32. Dion Nissenbaum and Maria Abi-Habib, “U.S. split over plan to take Raqqa from Islamic state,” The Wall Street Journal. March 9, 2017.

33. Raja Abdulrahim, Maria Abi_Habin and Dion J. Nissenbaum, “U.S.-backed forces in Syria launch offensive to seize ISIS stronghold Raqqa,” The Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2016.

34. Margherita Stancati and Alia A. Nabhan, “During Mosul offensive, Kurdish fighters clear Arab village, demolish homes,” The Wall Street Journal, November 14, 2016.

35. Matt Bradley, Ayla Albayrak, and Dana Ballout, “Kurds declare ‘federal region’ in Syria, says official,” The Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2016.

36. Robert Fisk, “The US seems keener to strike at Syria’s Assad than it does to destroy ISIS,” The Independent, June 20, 2017.

37. Paul Sonne and Raja Abdulrahim, “Pentagon warns Assad regime to avoid action near U.S. and allied forces,” The Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2016.

38. Michael R. Gordon and Neil MacFarquhar, “U.S. election cycle offers Kremlin a window of opportunity in Syria,” The New York Times, October 4, 2016.

39. Michael R. Gordon and Neil MacFarquhar, “U.S. election cycle offers Kremlin a window of opportunity in Syria,” The New York Times, October 4, 2016.