Tag Archive | natural resources

Trump Threatens ‘Strong Actions’ against Venezuela*

Trump Threatens ‘Strong Actions’ against Venezuela*

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened Venezuela with “strong economic actions.” | Photo: Reuters

Maduro defends the Bolivarian process from interference by Western capitals.

In the wake of Sunday’s national dry run vote for the National Constituent Assembly or ANC, President Nicolas Maduro has defended Venezuela’s “dignity and sovereignty” against threats by U.S. President Donald Trump, who issued a statement Monday describing Maduro as “a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.”

“If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions.”

Trump’s threats were repeated by the U.S. State Department which released a statement calling on “the Government of Venezuela to abandon the proposed National Constituent Assembly. ”

The threats come after record high numbers turned out to participate in a historic dry run vote for the ANC, which is aimed at easing tensions and creating a more representative constitution. Despite the mass show of public support, the event was largely ignored, as international leaders continued to criticize the Venezuelan government and demand immediate elections.

Voting in the dry run vote carried on until late evening. | Photo: teleSUR

 

White House spokesman Sean Spicer called on Miraflores to cancel the ANC and convene “free and fair elections.”

E.U. diplomat Federica Mogherini likewise urged Maduro to suspend plans to convene the ANC, noting that the move would be “an important gesture” toward de-escalating tensions.

This message was echoed by Spanish President Mariano Rajoy and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who penned an opinion piece for Spanish newspaper El Mundo criticizing the Venezuelan government.

President Maduro has reacted sharply to the criticism, telling Rajoy “get your nose out of Venezuela” while reminding the “insolent” Mogherini that “Venezuela is a free, sovereign country … not a colony of Europe.”

In defense of the ANC, Maduro recounted the Battle of Ayacucho in Peru, a concluding military victory of the Latin American revolutionary wars, when the forces of Grand Marshal Antonio Jose de Sucre decisively forced the Spanish Empire to surrender and end its rein over South America.

“Ours is a Constituent Assembly for independence, sovereignty and national dignity,” Maduro claimed.

“Let Europe say what it wants to say, we do not care what Europe says. We care about this land, our dignity, the land of the liberators of the Americas!”

The dry run vote was held Sunday in anticipation of the official July 30 vote for the National Constituent Assembly.

Given the surge of right-wing protest violence, Tibisay Lucena, president of the CNE, said Sunday that the voting exercise was particularly important to ensure that the voters can exercise their right to vote in safe conditions. She explained that part of the exercise was to identify those localities within the municipalities where the safety of voters could be threatened during the electoral event.

“We continue to evaluate measures that protect the lives and physical safety of voters because there have been expressions of fear about going to vote … We assure people that we will continue to look for measures so that they can come out and vote peacefully on voting day,” Lucena said.

Voters form queues ahead of the opening of polling booths. | Photo: AVN

 

Voters wait outside one of the polling stations. | Photo: AVN

 

While there were some reports of violence, the dry run vote was largely carried out in a festive mood. Some 496 polling centres were authorized in all the municipalities of the country, 55 of which functioned as pilot centres, according to the National Electoral Council. Nearly 1,942 voting machines were deployed in the dry run to help voters learn how to use the machines.

“It is clear that the majority of Venezuelans want peace, dialogue and a future,” Jorge Rodriguez, head of the Zamora 200 Campaign Command, said at a press conference, noting the unprecedented nature of the turnout.

“Today a new machine has been born, one that will push forward a new history, a new dawn.”

The dry run vote for the National Constituent Assembly coincided with a symbolic referendum called by the opposition which asked people to vote whether they want a constituent assembly or not; whether they want the armed forces to support the existing constitution and the decisions of the national assembly; and whether they want immediate general elections.

Venezuelans in other parts of the world as far as Miami, New York City and Spain also participated in the non-binding referendum.

Opposition leaders claimed that more than 7 million Venezuelans participated, 98% of whom opposed the assembly, but short of the 11 million they had hoped for in a country of just under 20 million eligible voters.

Source*

 

Related Topics:

Search Venezuela Opposition Destroy 50 Tons of Food*

CARICOM Deals a Blow to U.S. Plans for Regime change in Venezuela*

Countries around the World Condemn Attack in Venezuela*

Indigenous Guatemalan Campesinos Show Solidarity with Venezuela Govt*

Venezuela Top Court Confirms Constituent Assembly Will Go Ahead*

Route of Coup against Venezuela Begins at ExxonMobil*

Russia Helps Venezuela Fight Opposition’s ‘Economic War’*

The Strategy behind Washington’s Destabilization of Venezuela*

Venezuela Oil Union Workers Back Maduro’s Constituent Assembly*

Tensions on the Rise As U.S. Announces Military Drills Near Venezuela*

Hundreds of U.S. Military Vehicles Enter Syria from Iraq*

Hundreds of U.S. Military Vehicles Enter Syria from Iraq*

The following report has been partly corroborated by an earlier report in the U.S. Military Times: US Stryker vehicles lead Kurdish reinforcements into Raqqa, dated July 7, 2017.
In effect the Fars News report suggests that the U.S. is expanding its military foothold in Syria. The U.S. is using the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to do so as unlike Russia and Iran, Syria did not invite the U.S. in to assist in the fight against Sunni militants.

The Arabic-language media sources reported that over 150 military vehicles of the U.S. army crossed Iraq’s border into Syria.

The Arabic-language Al-Mayadeen news network quoted a well-informed source as saying that over 150 military vehicles of the U.S. army along with their crew crossed the border at Fishkhabour and entered Syrian territories.

The source said that the vehicles were accompanied and backed up by five American Apache military helicopters and non-military vehicles for the first time.

Based on intel, a large  number of American, British and Jordanian army men are deployed in Southern Sweida and Dara’a at the border with Jordan (from Tal Shahab to Nasib passageway, al-Ramtha and Khirbet Awad regions) along with a number of British Challenger tanks, nearly 2,300 army men and a number of Cobra and Black Hawk helicopters.

In the meantime, almost 4,000 militants that went under military training in Jordan are deployed in al-Tanf region in Syria.

Local sources in Northeastern Syrian reported on Saturday that a large number of U.S. military vehicles and troops were observed in the different neighborhoods of the Eastern part of Raqqa.

The sources said that a number of the U.S. military vehicles were seen in al-Mashlab neighborhood that was recently captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

In the meantime, the U.S. military helicopters increased flights over Raqqa in recent days.

Meantime, footage released recently revealed that the US was operating an airbase in the Eastern parts of Aleppo near the provincial border with Raqqa.

According to AMN, the footage showed a large U.S. plane taking off and plenty of Humvees protecting the site.

Also, an American flag was hoisted above the airfield which was located in the territory controlled by the SDF.

Meanwhile, Colonel Ryan Dillon, the US-led Coalition Spokesman, confirmed dozens of U.S. military advisors were deployed inside Raqqa city with U.S. marines providing artillery support against the ISIL from the surrounding areas.

He said the troops, many of them special operations forces, were working in an “advise, assist and accompany” role to support Kurdish fighters in battle against ISIL.

“They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq,” Dillon added.

He stressed that the number of U.S. forces in Raqqa was “not hundreds” and that they had been working closely with SDF fighters since the operations to encircle Raqqa began.

The Pentagon is secretive about exactly how big its footprint is in Syria, but has previously declared that some 500 U.S. special forces are there to train and assist the SDF.

Kurds heavily assisted by U.S. soldiers and bombers – have captured some 35% of Raqqa city despite facing fierce resistance from the ISIL militants.

A Kurdish commander announced early July that the U.S. Army established seven military bases in regions controlled by the Kurds in Eastern Syria.

Siban Hamou was quoted as saying by al-Sharq al-Awsat that the US army established six military airports and a base on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River, adding that a modern large airport in Kobani (Ein al-Arab) was the most important one of them.

“The U.S. has set up two airports in Hasaka, one airport in Qamishli, two airports in al-Malekiyeh (Dirik), and one more airport in Tal Abyadh at border with Turkey in addition to a military squad center in the town of Manbij in Northeastern Aleppo,” Hamou said.

Hamou went on to say that 1,300 forces of the U.S.-led coalition were deployed in the airports and centre.

Meantime, other reports declared that the U.S.-led forces have several times transferred the ISIL leaders from Iraq and Syria to other regions by heliborne operations.

Source*

Related Topics:

New U.S-backed Rebel Group being formed to further U.S. interests in Syria*

U.S. Planes Caught Sneaking ISIS Terrorists Out Of Syria again*

U.S. Amassing Spy Planes Off Syria, Aircraft Carrier to Arrive in Israel*

CIA officer – ‘we have no business being in Syria’*

Syrian Refugees Return Home in the Hundreds of Thousands, U.N. says*

Aleppo Rising: Swimsuits, Concerts and its First ISIS -Free Summer*

Syrian Refugees Return Home in the Hundreds of Thousands, U.N. says*

Rothschild’s Israel Pushes Russia and U.S. Towards Nuclear Confrontation Over Syria*

What the Media Won’t Tell You about Syria*

Haiti Official Who Exposed the Clinton Foundation is Found Dead*

Haiti Official Who Exposed the Clinton Foundation is Found Dead*

By Mac Slavo

The mainstream media’s silence over Klaus Eberwein’s death is deafening. Eberwein was a former Haitian government official who was expected to expose the extent of Clinton Foundation corruption and malpractice next week. He has been found dead in Miami at the age of 50.

The circumstances surrounding Eberwein’s death are also nothing less than unpalatable. According to Miami-Dade’s medical examiner records supervisor, the official cause of death is “gunshot to the head.“ Eberwein’s death has been  registered as “suicide” by the government. But not long before his death, he acknowledged that his life was in danger because he was outspoken on the criminal activities of the Clinton Foundation

Eberwein was a fierce critic of the Clinton Foundation’s activities in the Caribbean island, where he served as director general of the government’s economic development agency, Fonds d’assistance économique et social, for three years. “The Clinton Foundation, they are criminals, they are thieves, they are liars, they are a disgrace,Eberwein said at a protest outside the Clinton Foundation headquarters in Manhattan last year. Eberwein was due to appear on Tuesday before the Haitian Senate Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission where he was widely expected to testify that the Clinton Foundation misappropriated Haiti earthquake donations from international donors. But this “suicide” gets even more disturbing…

Eberwein was only 50-years-old and reportedly told acquaintances he feared for his life because of his fierce criticism of the Clinton Foundation.  His close friends and business partners were taken aback by the idea he may have committed suicide. “It’s really shocking,” said friend Gilbert Bailly. “We grew up together; he was like family.”

During and after his government tenure, Eberwein faced allegations of fraud and corruption on how the agency he headed administered funds. Among the issues was FAES’ oversight of the shoddy construction of several schools built after Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.  But, according to Eberwein, it was the Clinton Foundation who was deeply in the wrong – and he intended to testify and prove it on Tuesday.

According to Eberwein, a paltry 0.6 percent of donations granted by international donors to the Clinton Foundation with the express purpose of directly assisting Haitians actually ended up in the hands of Haitian organizations. A further 9.6 percent ended up with the Haitian government. The remaining 89.8 percent – or $5.4 billion – was funneled to non-Haitian organizations. –WND

Eberwein was expected to testify against the Clinton Foundation in court and ends up committing suicide shortly before.  Where have we heard this before?  Untimely deaths seem to follow the Clinton’s around, and this one especially is probably something – considering since the mainstream media is silent about this death.

Source*

Related Topics:

Media Caught Covering Up Clinton’s Ongoing Looting Of Haiti*

What Hillary Clinton Did To Haiti Should Scare any Voter*

The Clinton’s Eugenics Agenda in Haiti*

The Clinton-Silsby Trafficking Scandal and the Media Cover-Up*

Haiti Rejects Election under Occupation*

The Clintons Treat Haiti as Their Own Vassal State*

Israel’s Key Role in the Refugee Crisis*

Israel’s Key Role in the Refugee Crisis*

By Jim W. Dean

Refugees flood Europe. Terror spreads to the rest of the world. And bankers line up in anticipation of more military spending.

By Phil Butler

[ Editor’s note: Phil Butler reminds us of the vast oil and gas riches at stake in the Golan Heights, and how the West and the Rothschild groupies simply will not be denied claiming Golan as their territory. He also brings to our attention the Golan Knights, operating in the Golan Heights – a wordplay that might be too good for Hollywood producers to miss… ]

“An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it” – John F. Kennedy quoting Orlando Battista

Europe has been content to blame its current societal and economic decline on malfeasant leaders like EU Jean-Claude Juncker, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, or France’s ex-president François Hollande. If the people of Europe only knew the real actors behind, Israel would not be unscathed in this whole Arab Spring charade. Yes, Europe has the Israelis to thank for sapping what’s left of the E.U.’s strength. Here’s a story you won’t read in the New York Times, but one the Wall Street Journal will hint at.

This morning I was astonished to find a Wall Street Journal story that framed Israel’s support for Syrian insurgents against the government of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad.

In a strange twist of the fates, by reporters Rory Jones in Tel Aviv, Noam Raydan in Beirut and Suha Ma’ayeh in Amman, Jordan, the newspaper owned by Genie Oil investor billionaire Rupert Murdoch suddenly decided to spill some of the beans on Israel’s role in the Syria. The WSJ story is but one of the recent revelations hinting at how Israel played a key role in the conflict that has destroyed Syria, and which has flooded Europe with refugees and potential terrorists.

The lead from the WSJ is telling:

“Israel has been regularly supplying Syrian rebels near its border with cash as well as food, fuel and medical supplies for years, a secret engagement in the enemy country’s civil war aimed at carving out a buffer zone populated by friendly forces.”

But Murdoch’s newspaper only skims the surface on the Israeli operations directly relating to the war to unseat Assad no matter what. For months I’ve asked the question, “How could the Arab nations’ most hated foe keep from being bloodied by ISIL?” Some of the answers now emerge. This story from Syria Deeply was probably sourced from the same informants that the WSJ used. Its intro paragraph points to a bigger story.

“Over the past five years, Israel has been quietly working to establish a foothold in southern Syria to prevent Syrian government-backed forces from controlling the area and to bolster its claim over the Golan Heights.”

GENIE ENERGY Advisory Board: Former chair of the US Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Mary Landrieu, Former CIA Director James Woolsey, Former V-P Dick Cheney, Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, Lord Jacob Rothschild, Former Energy Secretary & Governor Bill Richardson, Former engineer of the Glass-Steagall Act Larry Summers, Hedge fund speculator Michael Steinhart.

 

There’s some clear reasons the older Syria Deeply story (June 15th versus June 17th for the WSJ version) is different from the new WSJ one. First and foremost, Israel’s claims over the Golan Heights link Rupert Murdoch and several other prominent western figures to the conflict in Syria via Genie Energy. While it’s no secret the whole Arab Spring upheaval was in part over pipelines and energy wars, the carving up of Syria for select interests has been a lesser known fact.

On Genie Energy, the reader may be interested to know Genie Oil and Gas (GOGAS) found substantial oil and shale reserves in the Golan Heights. This border region is now seems to be associated with more US and British billionaires and power brokers than any stretch of land east of Manhattan. From dumped Donald Trump security adviser James Woolsey to the homicidal maniac former US VP Dick Cheney, the Genie machinates are in our face trying to profit from Syria’s destruction.

By October 2015, Genie Energy Ltd.’s chief geologists assured investors that major oil reservoir were indeed in the Golan, and then in early 2016 Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began losing his mind over the deals the US, Russia and the rest of the West were discussing settlement of the Golan affair as being “Syrian land”. If you’re wondering if Netanyahu has a stake in the western oligarch play for energy in Syrian territory, his later statements were also telling:

“The Golan will always remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights.”

All ISIS/Daesh wounded are taken to Israel for medical treatment, all expenses paid and those that can be are returned to Iraq or Syria to attack and torture

Fast forward to this presidency and Donald Trump’s kinship with Netanyahu and Israel. Political analyst Anthony Bellchambers encapsulated what a Trump presidency means for Golan and for Syria overall. He wrote for Global Research on what a Trump White House means:

“It would almost certainly embolden Israel to unilaterally annex the occupied Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan Heights in gross violation of international law and in contempt of the United Nations…It would increase the likelihood of a global war between the U.S. and Russia, and their respective allies…”

Returning to the Israeli real and logistical support for insurgents inside Syria, this recent UNDOF report spoke of “a significant increase in interaction” in between the IDF and the opposition to Assad across the alpha-beta fence in between Golan and Syria proper. The report speaks of both “personnel and supplies being observed to have been transferred in both directions.”

Instances of the Israelis treating “moderate jihadist wounds”, as well as government-organized aid entities trucking in medical aid, food and clothing are well documented (US News & World Report from 2015); but what’s not so publicized are the funding and support for Israel’s own Free Syrian Army faction, known as the Golan Knights (Liwa Forsan al Joulan) made up of between 300 and 1000 fighters.

On the wider scale, the Israelis have also been promoting the National Salvation Front leader Fahad al Masri, who has publicly called for Israeli intervention in Syria. All of this activity exactly mirrors what the Israelis did in Lebanon back in the early 1970’s to the mid 2000’s.

Once ISIL reared its ugly head to further the effort to unseat Assad, Israeli officials began expanding Israeli settlements in Golan, as well as infrastructure projects there.

Where funding of ISIL is concerned, the Russian air forces bombing black market oil headed from ISIL-held territory to Israeli ports was well documented by me and many others.

Environmentalists slammed the Northern Regional Committee’s approval of fracking in the Golan, which they said was obtained in underhanded ways that did not reveal the large area that was being approved for exploration until the approval process had reached advanced stages. “This is a very grave case of rejecting public participation [in a decision] to give an oil company [licensed access to] public and agriculture land,” said Dr. Orr Karassin, environmental policy expert.

Direct contact in between anti-Assad insurgents, Israel’s military and leadership, and U.S. Senator John McCain has also been documented by Global Research founder, Professor Michel Chossudovsky and others.

In the story linked here, there’s a photograph showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon visiting a wounded mercenary at an Israeli military field hospital at the occupied Golan Heights’ border with Syria, 18 February 2014.

Finally, the underneath support from Israel to anyone opposing the Assad government was made clear by me on my personal blog some months back. Supported by reports from other sources, this was my conclusion on the Israel role in all this back in September of 2015, when the Russia air campaign was about to go into full swing. Israel is set to benefit from Assad’s downfall accordingly:

With Assad gone, and with U.S. duplicity in these matters, Israel would become the ultimate powerhouse of stability in this region. Her enemies dispersed like wandering nomads, the Jewish state could go ahead and eradicate the Palestinians, expand her territories uninhibited, and dictate policy for the whole region. That is, with Washington’s say so.”

Back then the Jerusalem Post revealed most of Israel’s oil actually came from Kurdistan, so my theories were not unsupported by evidence of Israel’s role. Looking at the situation today, one nation has benefitted more than any other since the onset of what became known as “Arab Spring”.

Gabriel Scheinmann, Ph.D. candidate in international relations at Georgetown University, wrote a piece evidencing just such a win. “The Real Big Winner of the Arab Spring” reflects on what I would call “the subterfuge the Israeli lobby inserted” into think tank mentalities from the start, that somehow Israel lost from this upheaval in the Arab world. The article also reveals a more logical reality.

To quote Scheinmann:

“There is good reason to think, however, that this assessment is largely incorrect. In fact, the changes wrought by the Arab Spring are likely to be of long-term benefit to Israel. Its most dedicated enemies, especially the Iran-led “Axis of Resistance,” have been seriously weakened, both economically and militarily. The Arab states, hostile and otherwise, will be unable to directly challenge Israel for a long time. “

Israel, surrounded by enemies, is one of a handful of neighbouring states that have been totally unscathed by these wars and revolutions. Meanwhile, millions of refugees flood Europe. Terror spreads to the rest of the world. And bankers line up in anticipation of additional military spending, trillions in reconstruction costs in Syria and elsewhere, and the economic loans half a hundred nations will soon need.

The E.U. is sinking under austerity and added pressure from this crisis, and somehow nobody looks at who is benefitting? If there is any real justice in the world, then Israel’s role in all these conflicts will be revealed.

Source*

Related Topics:

Israel Moves to Restructure Fatah Al-Sham/al Nusra Command in Quneitra*

Israeli Warplanes Missile Attack on Syrian Army in Quneitra*

Israel Helps Refugee Pawns Migration as Weapons of War in Europe*

Mass Migration as Weapons of War*

Norway Aiding Israeli Fuel Extraction on the Golan Heights Under Fire*

U.N. Passes Resolution Urging Israel to Leave Syria’s Golan Heights*

Israel Consolidates Grip on Golan under Cover of Syria’s Engineered Chaos*

Israel Starts Demolition of Homes in the their Illegal Occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights*

Syrian Army Seizes Control of Al-Amal Farms in Golan Heights*

Greater Israel and the Tale of Two Temples*

3,000 Year Old Plan: The Real Nakba*

Noble Energy’s Natural Gas Discovery in the Levant Launched U.S.-Israeli Operation ISIS to Oust Assad*

Trump-Israel Struggling to Save ISIS to divide and Conquer Syria and Iraq*

Hack of Netanyahu Chief of Staff Shows Israeli Control of ISIS*

Congress Trying to Sneak Through Major Giveaway to Defense Contractors*

Congress Trying to Sneak Through Major Giveaway to Defense Contractors*

U.S. Marines advance on the Black Sea shore during a military training exercise in Romania on March 20, 2017.

 

By David Dayen

Congress is on the brink of a major giveaway to defense contractors, tucking language into a must-pass piece of legislation that would broadly expand their ability to gouge the federal government on sole-source contracts.

The National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, is practically the only bill Congress passes on time every year. The last 50 NDAA’s, which authorize funds and set policy for the Department of Defense, have reached the president’s desk without a holdup. Education, healthcare, and jobs can wait, but supporting the troops — actually, supporting the defense contractors who make the weapons — must never face a delay. The bill even goes through a regular process, with dozens of amendments and bipartisan votes. It’s like nothing else in Washington.

This year’s version of the NDAA, which authorizes $696 billion in military spending, includes a nice gift for contractors, particularly those that have monopolized a particular part the Pentagon needs. Buried in the NDAA, which is scheduled to pass the House Friday, is an increase in the amount of products which can be sold to the military without providing cost information — data about the price of manufacturing and labor. Without this information, monopoly contractors could enjoy a huge markup on their sales to the government without anyone knowing about it.

Section 803 of the House NDAA raises the threshold for cost information in “noncompetitive” contracts — meaning contracts that are sole-source, with no other supplier for the government — from $500,000 to $2.5 million. The Senate version, in Section 813, raises that threshold to $1 million. If both pass as written, the gift to contractors will be assured; the only question would be how big.

Hiding cost information benefits a small group of sole-source contractors, including TransDigm, which I wrote about for The Intercept in April. TransDigm, a private equity-style conglomerate, specializes in cornering the market for proprietary parts for military aircraft and then jacking up the price. Several Democrats in Congress have highlighted TransDigm’s practices, and the Defense Department’s inspector general is actively investigating the company.

Increasing the threshold for disclosure could allow TransDigm to further avoid sharing information with the Pentagon. Critics charge that TransDigm has subverted the cost information requirement by creating the illusion of multiple suppliers for a product, when in fact they are all owned by TransDigm. The company wouldn’t need to always resort to such subterfuge if this new loophole becomes law. They can also split up contracts to stay under the dollar threshold and avoid disclosure.

The change updates the Truth in Negotiations Act (TINA), an important law passed in 1962 that almost nobody knows about. That law was part of a strong anti-monopoly tradition in military procurement, dating back to the exposure of profiteering by the Truman Committee during World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Pentagon favored competitive bidding, and under TINA, any sole-source contracting required cost information, so procurement officers at the Defense Logistics Agency could ensure they were only paying a reasonable markup, without price gouging.

This model of competition in defense contracting ran aground after the Cold War, when policymakers made streamlining the primary objective. The number of audits of contractor facilities fell. Experienced procurement officers were let go. Buy American mandates were loosened. Contractors won an exception to cost information disclosure if they listed their items as “commercial.” Indeed, the House’s justification for raising the cost information threshold, obtained by The Intercept in a summary of the NDAA, is to “reduce administrative burdens” and “improve process timelines for smaller contracts.” Keeping costs down is no longer the focus.

In addition to creating fake markets, TransDigm uses the commercial item exception routinely (even if there’s no commercial market for the products), according to an Inspector General’s report in 2006. The increased threshold exemption just adds to the company’s bag of tricks.

Partially due to these procurement changes, the defense contractor sector has concentrated significantly since the 1990s. A handful of companies control the sector, and all these loopholes for disclosure prevent public understanding of whether the taxpayer is being harmed by exorbitant pricing.

This document photographed in Washington on in January details the announcement of a five-year, $500 million contract. Photo: Jon Elswick/AP

 

 

“There’s a very serious monopoly problem in the defense industrial space, and it’s time Congress start taking it seriously,” said Matt Stoller, a fellow with the Open Markets Program of the New America Foundation, who is also an Intercept contributor.

It’s hard to identify how this loophole got into the NDAA, because the process is so secretive. Citing national security, the Senate Armed Services Committee did all its work on the bill this year in closed sessions. While the House Armed Services Committee markups were open, some of the subcommittee hearings lasted as little as 2 minutes, merely recording votes on their part of the bill. Seventeen organizations, led by the Project on Government Oversight, protested the closing of the NDAA committee process, insisting, “It’s time to bring the NDAA into the light of day.”

Some people are watching over the process: the ones paid by their defense contractor clients. Lobbying by the defense industry has exceeded $70 million annually for five of the past six years.

The Armed Services Committees claim they are cracking down on the acquisition process. The Senate bill authorizes a study on software acquisition, and enhanced training for procurement officers. The House version requires more oversight in service contracts, which make up about half of Pentagon contract spending. There’s even a provision in the House bill inserted by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who has led the charge on TransDigm, to study the ownership structures of defense contractors, to prevent “hidden monopolists with unreasonable prices.”

But the NDAA also gives a boost to another monopoly provider — Amazon. Both the House and Senate encourage the Pentagon to use online commercial sites for procurement, with speed and convenience again being the primary goal.

So far, no amendments have been filed in either chamber to eliminate the increase on sole-source cost information thresholds. If it becomes law, it’ll be hard to even gauge its impact, because the entire point is to prevent disclosure of how much monopoly defense contractors are overcharging the government.

Source*

Related Topics:

Europe Moves Away from U.S. to Become Independent in Terms of Defense Capability*

U.S. Guilty of Premeditated Murder of Civilians*

The U.S. Has Been at War for Over 220 it’s 241 Years*

U.S. Treasury Will Run Out Of Cash in Mid-October, CBO Warns*

Imminent Starvation Resulting from U.S. Led Wars: U.N. Officials Warn of Worst Famine Crisis Since World War II*

Trump To Continue Bankrupting The U.S. Through Foreign Wars*

Leaked Trump Presidential Memo Would Free U.S. Companies to Buy Conflict Minerals from Central African Warlords*

Secrets of Ancient Japan Informs Modern Japanese Technology

Secrets of Ancient Japan Informs Modern Japanese Technology

Related Topics:

The Japanese Dance of the Pleiades

These Sculptures Tell the Story of the First Japanese Americans Sent to Camps*

Japan Officially asked the U.S. to Stop Military-related Rapes*

Russia Bans Japanese Seafood*

Can Japan Withstand More Natural Disasters?

The Japanese Pyramid: Crafted By Nature or Man?

Aleppo Rising: Swimsuits, Concerts and its First ISIS -Free Summer*

Aleppo Rising: Swimsuits, Concerts and its First ISIS -Free Summer*

By Tyler Durden

When taxi and bus drivers take journalists into Syria via the Beirut-Damascus Highway these days, there’s a common greeting that has become a kind of local tradition as the drivers pull into their Damascus area destinations. They confidently tell their passengers: “welcome to the real Syria.” Local Syrians living in government areas are all too aware of how the outside world perceives the government and the cities under its control. After years of often deceptive imagery and footage produced by opposition fighters coordinating with an eager Western press bent on vilifying Assad as “worse than Hitler”, many average Syrian citizens increasingly take to social media to post images and scenes of Syria that present a different vision: they see their war-torn land as fundamentally secular, religiously plural, socially tolerant, and slowly returning to normalcy under stabilizing government institutions.

As the most intense phase of fighting in Aleppo was unfolding in 2016, veteran journalist Stephen Kinzer took to the editorial pages of the Boston Globe to remind Americans that the media has created a fantasy land concerning Syria. Kinzer painted a picture quite opposite the common perception:

Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press… For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents:

“Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.”

Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it…

The United States has the power to decree the death of nations. It can do so with popular support because many Americans — and many journalists — are content with the official story.

Now, during the first summer of relative calm Aleppo residents have seen in over four years of grinding conflict, the city commonly referred as “the jewel of Syria” is once again rising from the ashes. Foreign journalists are also accessing places like East Aleppo and the heart of the walled ‘old city’ for the first time. Some few honest correspondents, unable to deny the local population’s spirit of hopefulness and zeal with which they undertake rebuilding projects, acknowledge that stability and normalcy have returned only after the last jihadists were expelled by the Syrian government and its allies.

Aleppo orchestra concert, Summer 2017/via Sarah Abdallah

A Western press and political class which generally mourned the liberation of the city from al-Qaeda groups like Nusra (AQ in Syria), calling government actions a ‘massacre’ and ‘genocide’, now finds a reality that can’t be ignored or denied: Aleppines are returning to ravaged parts of the city to rebuild, they are enjoying nightlife, going to music concerts, staying out late at cafes; families are swimming at local pools, women are strolling around in t-shirts and jeans free of the oppressive Wahhabi fighters that once ruled parts of the city.

Kinzer’s Boston Globe piece further concluded that the entire web of assumptions on Syria woven by the media and fed to the public over the years were “appallingly distant from reality” and warned that these lies are “likely to prolong the war and condemn more Syrians to suffering and death.” As new photos continue to emerge of the real Aleppo and the real Syria it is essential to revisit the most destructive among the lies that have helped serve to prolong this tragic and brutal war.

Aleppines didn’t want to live under Wahhabi Islamist rule

Andalusia Swimming Pool in Aleppo, Summer 2017/via Syria Daily

 

According to multiple eyewitness reports and studies, the story of how war entered Aleppo’s environs was not primarily one of mass public protests and government crackdown, but of an aggressive jihadist insurgency that erupted suddenly and fueled from outside the city. According to then Indian ambassador to Syria, V.P. Haran (Amb. to Syria from 2009 to 2012), Aleppo on the whole was unwillingly dragged into the war after remaining silent and stable while other cities raged. In an interview which detailed his own on-the-ground experience of the opening years of war in Syria, the ambassador said:

Soon parts of Latakia, Homs and Hama were chaotic but Aleppo remained calm and this troubled the opposition greatly. The opposition couldn’t get the people in Aleppo to rise up against the regime so they sent bus loads of people to Aleppo. These people would burn something on the streets and leave. Journalists would then broadcast this saying Aleppo had risen.

Why did it take until July 2012 – well over a year since conflict in Syria began – for Aleppo to see any fighting? Why did residents not “rise up” against the government?

The answer is simple. The majority of Syrians, whether Sunni, Shia, Alawi, Christian, Kurd, or Ismaili, are sane individuals – they’ve seen what life is like under the “alternative” rebel rule marked by sharia courts, smoke and alcohol bans, public floggings, street executions, desecration of churches, and religious and ethnic cleansing of minorities. They recognize that there is a real Syrian national identity, and it goes beyond mere loyalty to the current ruling clique that happens to be in power, but in Syria as a pluralistic Levantine society that rejects Saudi style theocracy.

Rebuilding Aleppo, Summer 2017. Latin Parish of St. Francis/via Sarah Abdallah

 

The kind of religious and cultural pluralism represented in the liberal democracies of the West are present in Syria, ironically, through a kind of government-mandated “go along, get along” policy backed by an authoritarian police state. One can even find Syrian Jews living in the historic Jewish quarter of Damascus’ walled old city to this day.

Syrian urban centers have for decades been marked by a quasi-secular culture and public life of pluralist co-existence. Aleppo itself was always a thriving merchant center where a typical street scene would involve women without head-coverings walking side by side with women wearing veils (hijab), cinemas and liquor stores, late night hookah smoke filled cafés, and large churches and mosques neighbouring each other with various communities living in peaceful co-existence. By many accounts, the once vibrant secular and pluralist Aleppo is now coming back to life (and largely never left government-held West Aleppo).

“Moderates” did not “liberate” Aleppo, but gave cover to an ISIS and al-Qaeda invasion

One of the most under reported and least understood events surrounding the history of how all of Aleppo province and the Northern Syria region became a hotbed of foreign jihadists is the fall of the strategically located Menagh airbase near Aleppo. As a Reuters timeline of events indicates:

In early 2012 rebels take control of the rural areas northwest of Aleppo city, besieging the Menagh military air base and the largely Shiite towns of Nubl and Zahra.

After a lengthy siege of Menagh, the base finally fell to jihadist factions under the command of the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) in August of 2013. This event was key to rebel fighters gaining enough territory to cut off the Aleppo-Damascus Highway, which allowed them to encircle all of Aleppo for much of that year. But a little known yet hugely important detail of the Menagh episode is that rebels only got the upper hand after being joined by ISIS suicide bombers commanded by Omar the Chechen (ISIS’ now deceased most senior military commander). The fall of this government base is what opened a permanent jihadi corridor in the North, allowing terrorists to flood the area. The commander for the operation was US Ambassador Robert Ford’s personal friend, Col. Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, who was head of the US and UK funded Revolutionary Military Council of Aleppo (FSA). Okaidi worked in tandem with ISIS military commander Omar the Chechen and his crew for the operation – all while being supported by the United States and Great Britain.

Concerning U.S.-backed Okaidi’s close relationship to the ISIS faction in the summer of 2013, there is actually video evidence and eyewitness testimony (U.S. Ambassador Ford himself later admitted the relationship to McClatchy News). Amazingly, the video, titled “US Key Man in Syria Worked Closely with ISIL and Jabhat al Nusra” never had very widespread public distribution, even though it has been authenticated by the top Syria expert in the U.S., Joshua Landis, of the University of Oklahoma, and author of the hugely influential Syria Comment. Using his Twitter account, Dr. Landis commented: “in 2013 WINEP advocated sending all U.S. military aid thru him [Col. Okaidi]. Underscores U.S. problem with moderates.”

The video, documenting (now former) U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford’s visit to FSA Col. Okaidi in Northern Syria, also shows the same Col. Okaidi celebrating with and praising a well-known ISIS commander, Emir Abu Jandal, after conducting the joint Menagh operation. In an interview, this U.S. “key man” at that time, through which U.S. assistance flowed, also praised ISIS and al-Qaeda as the FSA’s “brothers.” Abu Jandal was part of Omar the Chechen’s ISIS crew assisting the FSA. Further video evidence also confirms Omar the Chechen’s role at Menagh. The videos also show Okaidi proudly declaring that al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda in Syria) makes up ten percent of the FSA. The FSA was always more of a branding campaign to sell the rebels as “moderates” to a gullible Western media than a reality on the ground; it was a loose coalition of various groups espousing militant jihad with the end goal of establishing an Islamist polity in Syria.

Foreign fighters flooded Aleppo Province. The U.S. State Department’s own numbers: read the full report at STATE.GOV

In the end, terror groups like ISIS enjoyed a meteoric rise in Syria due to U.S. government and media support for these so-called “moderate rebels” – all entities which collectively sought regime change at all costs – even the high cost of mass civilian death and suffering that inevitably results from unleashing an insurgency in urban areas.

The Syrian Army and government were never “Shia” or sectarian-based

The Arab Spring narrative was the ideological lens through which experts initially pit the oppressive supposedly “Alawite/Shia regime” against a popular uprising of Syria’s majority Sunnis. As Sunnis make up about 70% of Syria’s population, it was simply a matter of numbers, and of time. But this view proved overly simplistic, and according to one little known West Point study, utterly false. It was commonly assumed that the Syrian Army was a hollowed out Alawite institution with its Sunni conscripts apprehensively waiting for the right moment to defect to the rebel side. This was the fundamental supposition behind years of repetitious predictions of the Assad regime’s impending collapse, and predicated upon a view of the Syrian military as a fundamentally weak and sectarian institution. But West Point’s 2015 study entitled Syria’s Sunnis and the Regime’s Resilience concluded the following:

Sunnis and, more specifically, Sunni Arabs, continue to make up the majority of the regular army’s rank-and- file membership.

The study’s unpopular findings confirmed that the Syrian Army, which has been the glue holding the state together throughout this war, remains primarily a Sunni enterprise while its guiding ideology is firmly nationalistic and not sectarian.

The highest ranking Syrian officer to fall victim to rebel attack was General Dawoud Rajiha, Defense Minister and former chief of staff of the army, in a major 2012 bombing of a Damascus national security office. General Rajiha was an Orthodox Christian. Numerous Christians and officers of other religious backgrounds have served top positions in the Syrian Army going back decades – a reflection of Syria’s generally nationalist and religiously tolerant atmosphere.

Mainstream press did not report from Aleppo, but was hundreds of miles away.

Outside the Citadel of Aleppo: life returning to normal, Summer 2017/via Syria Daily

 

The heavily populated urban areas of Syria continue to be held by the government. But most reporting has tended to dehumanize any voice coming out of government held areas, which includes the majority of Syrians. The war has resulted in over 6.5 million internally displaced people – the vast majority of which have sought refuge in government territory.

The fact remains that there are some popular figures in the establishment media and analyst community who speak and write frequently about Syria, and yet have never spent a significant amount of time in the country. Throughout much of the war they’ve primarily reported from Western capitals – thousands of miles away – or, if they are in a Middle East bureau, without ever leaving the safety of places like Beirut or Istanbul. Fewer still have the necessary Arabic language skills to keep pace with local and regional events. Some have never been to Syria at all. They become willing conduits of rebel propaganda beamed through WhatsApp messages and Skype interviews, which was especially the case when it came to the battle for Aleppo. That much of the world actually considers these people as authorities on what’s happening in Syria is a joke – it’s beyond absurd.

Outdoor concert venue and Aleppo springs back to life, Summer 2017/via Maram Kasem

 

We are hopeful that the jihadist menace will be fully expelled and that the international proxy war which has taken so many lives and reduced much of a beautiful nation to rubble will finally come to an end. Aleppines and other Syrians are rebuilding – they are optimistically preparing for the future. Welcome to the real Aleppo.

Final national exams just before summer 2017/via Syria Daily

 

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