Thursday, March 15, 2018

Today's Links

1---Show me the evidence!

Moscow’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, told the UN on Wednesday night: “We demand that material proof be provided of the allegedly found Russian trace in this high-resonance event. Without this, stating that there is incontrovertible truth is not something that we can take into account."

Russia's Ministry for Foreign Affairs branded May's statement as “an unprecedentedly crude provocation that undermines the foundations of a normal interstate dialogue between our countries.”

2--Putin is winning.  U.S.-backed opposition in Syria is collapsing.  Nordstream 2 is going through.  Ukraine will freeze to death.  China buys their oil and gas, invests in their Uranium and oil industries.  He’s winning the diplomatic war in Afghanistan. He’s put Netanyahu on a leash.

3--Neocons close in on Trump administration

It appears that the military/security complex is closing its grip on the Trump regime. Secretary of State Tillerson has been fired and is being replaced by CIA Director Pompeo. Gina Haspel, the new CIA Director, is the person who oversaw the CIA’s secret torture prisons in Thailand.

4--Nikki Haley goes "Jackie Chan" at UN security counsel confab

"Out of therapy and off her meds"

The fear mongering then quickly escalated, with Haley next telling the UN Security Council that “if we don’t take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used. They could be used here in New York, or in cities of any country that sits on this Council. This is a defining moment.
“The Russians complained recently that we criticize them too much,” she said. “If the Russian government stopped using chemical weapons to assassinate its enemies; and if the Russian government stopped helping its Syrian ally to use chemical weapons to kill Syrian children; and if Russia cooperated with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons by turning over all information related to this nerve agent, we would stop talking about them. We take no pleasure in having to constantly criticize Russia, but we need Russia to stop giving us so many reasons to do so.”
“The Russians complained recently that we criticize them too much,” she said. “If the Russian government stopped using chemical weapons to assassinate its enemies; and if the Russian government stopped helping its Syrian ally to use chemical weapons to kill Syrian children; and if Russia cooperated with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons by turning over all information related to this nerve agent, we would stop talking about them. We take no pleasure in having to constantly criticize Russia, but we need Russia to stop giving us so many reasons to do so.”

The most probable source origin for this chemical are the countries which have since the end of the 90s been carrying out intensive research on these kinds of weapons, including the UK,” Nebenzia told the Security Council. “If the UK is so firmly convinced this is a [Soviet-era] Novichok gas, then that means that they have the samples of this and they have the formula for this and they are capable of manufacturing it.”.

In its most pointed criticism of Russia to date, on Wednesday the White House said in a statement that it agreed with the British government’s assessment that Russia was responsible for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

“The United States shares the United Kingdom’s assessment that Russia is responsible for the reckless nerve agent attack on a British citizen and his daughter, and we support the United Kingdom’s decision to expel Russian diplomats as a just response,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the statement.

“This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes. The United States is working together with our allies and partners to ensure that this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again.”

Until Tuesday night, the White House had avoided pointing the finger at Russia for the attack, in which a former Russian spy was poisoned with a nerve agent near his home in southern England, and which the UK concluded was orchestrated by the Kremlin, despite offering no proof and refusing to comply with Russian demands that the alleged toxin be produced.

5--Another bullshit pretext for war?

A joint statement by the UK, US, France and Germany says the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal was a violation of Britain’s sovereignty by Russia and was the first offensive use of a chemical agent since World War II.

The incident, in which Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury on March 4, involved “a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia,” said the statement issued on Thursday. The four countries said the incident constituted “the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War.”

The document branded the incident “an assault on UK sovereignty,” adding it came in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and international law. Washington, Paris and Berlin back the UK’s claim that Moscow was responsible for what they called “the attack.”

Russia should provide “full and complete disclosure” of Novichok – the nerve agent allegedly used to poison the Skripals – to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the statement urged.

6--US President Donald Trump has weighed in on the United Kingdom's accusations against Russia in the case of the poisoning of former intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

"It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it. Something that should never ever happen and we're taking it very seriously as I think are many others," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday.

7--Jihadists flee E Ghouta as allegations fly at UN
According to reports from BBC journalist Riam Dalati, rebel fighters in Damascus’ East Ghouta region have fully withdrawn from the district towns of Hummuriyah and Saqba. Al-Masdar News cannot yet independently verify this claim.
The claimed development comes amid the mass flight of thousands of civilians from militant-controlled areas of East Ghouta towards Syrian Army checkpoints.

8-- The Russian Crush in E Ghouta...Forces of the Syrian Army have taken full control over the district town of Hammuriyah – for years a key militant stronghold – in Damascus’ East Ghouta region.

9--Escalation scenario  video

10--PUTIN: On chemical weapons, Valdai

I was told, just a few hours ago, that the US President said something on social media about Russia-US cooperation in the important area of nuclear cooperation. True, this is the most important sphere of interaction between Russia and the United States, bearing in mind that Russia and the United States bear a special responsibility to the world as the two largest nuclear powers.

However, I would like to use this opportunity to speak in more detail about what happened in recent decades in this crucial area, to provide a more complete picture. It will take two minutes at most.
Several landmark bilateral agreements were signed in the 1990s. The first one, the Nunn-Lugar programme, was signed on June 17, 1992. The second one, the HEU-LEU programme, was signed on February 18, 1993. Highly enriched uranium was converted into low-enriched uranium, hence HEU-LEU.
The largely utopian social model and ideology, which the newly formed state [the USSR] tried to implement initially following the 1917 revolution, was a powerful driver of transformations across the globe, caused a major revaluation of development models, and gave rise to rivalry and competition, the benefits of which were mostly reaped by the West.
The projects under the first agreement focused on upgrading control systems, accounting and physical protection of nuclear materials, dismantling and scrapping submarines and radioisotope thermoelectric generators. The Americans have made – and please pay attention here, this is not secret information, simply few are aware of it – 620 verification visits to Russia to check our compliance with the agreements. They visited the holiest of holies of the Russian nuclear weapons complex, namely, the enterprises engaged in developing nuclear warheads and ammunition, and weapons-grade plutonium and uranium. The United States gained access to all top-secret facilities in Russia. Also, the agreement was almost unilateral in nature.

Under the second agreement, the Americans made 170 more visits to our enrichment plants, touring their most restricted areas, such as mixing units and storage facilities. The world’s most powerful nuclear enrichment plant – the Urals Electrochemical Combine – even had a permanent American observation post. Permanent jobs were created directly at the workshops of this combine where the American specialists went to work every day. The rooms they were sitting in at these top-secret Russian facilities had American flags, as is always the case.

In addition, a list was drawn up of 100 American specialists from 10 different US organisations who were entitled to conduct additional inspections at any time and without any warning. All this lasted for 10 years. Under this agreement, 500 tonnes of weapons-grade uranium were removed from military circulation in Russia, which is equivalent to about 20,000 nuclear warheads.

The HEU-LEU programme has become one of the most effective measures of true disarmament in the history of humankind – I say this with full confidence. Each step on the Russian side was closely monitored by American specialists, at a time when the United States limited itself to much more modest reductions of its nuclear arsenal, and did so on a purely goodwill basis.

Our specialists also visited enterprises of the US nuclear arms complex but only at their invitation and under conditions set by the US side.

As you see, the Russian side demonstrated absolutely unprecedented openness and trust. Incidentally – and we will probably talk about this later – it is also common knowledge what we received from this: total neglect of our national interests, support for separatism in the Caucasus, military action that circumvented the UN Security Council, such as the bombing of Yugoslavia and Belgrade, the introduction of troops into Iraq and so on. Well, this is easy to understand: once the condition of the nuclear complex, the armed forces and the economy had been seen, international law appeared to be unnecessary.

In the 2000s our cooperation with the United States entered a new stage of truly equitable partnership. It was marked by the singing of a number of strategic treaties and agreements on peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which is known in the US as the 123 Agreement. But to all intents and purposes, the US side unilaterally halted work within its framework in 2014.

The situation around the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) of August 20 (signed in Moscow) and September 1 (in Washington) is perplexing and alarming. In accordance with the protocol to this agreement, the sides were supposed to take reciprocal steps to irreversibly convert weapons-grade plutonium into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel and burn it in nuclear plants, so that it could not be used for military purposes. Any changes in this method were only allowed by consent of the sides. This is written in the agreement and protocols to it.

What did Russia do? We developed this fuel, built a plant for mass production and, as we pledged in the agreement, built a BN-800 plant that allowed us to safely burn this fuel. I would like to emphasise that Russia fulfilled all of its commitments.
In our opinion, the UN, with its universal legitimacy, must remain the centre of the international system. Our common goal is to raise its authority and effectiveness. There is no alternative to the UN today.
What did our American partners do? They started building a plant on the Savannah River Site. Its initial price tag was $4.86 billon but they spent almost $8 billion, brought construction to 70 percent and then froze the project. But, to our knowledge, the budget request for 2018 includes $270 million for the closure and mothballing of this facility. As usual, a question arises: where is the money? Probably stolen. Or they miscalculated something when planning its construction. Such things happen. They happen here all too often. But we are not interested in this, this is not our business. We are interested in what happens with uranium and plutonium. What about the disposal of plutonium? Dilution and geological storage of the plutonium is suggested. But this completely contradicts the spirit and letter of the agreement, and, most important, does not guarantee that the dilution is not reconverted into weapons-grade plutonium. All this is very unfortunate and bewildering.

Next. Russia ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty more than 17 years ago. The USA has not done so yet.
A critical mass of problems is building up in global security. As is known, in 2002 the United States pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. And despite being initiators of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and international security, they initiated that agreement themselves, they are failing to meet their commitments. They remain as of today the only and largest holder of this form of weapon of mass destruction. Moreover, the USA has pushed back the deadline for eliminating their chemical weapons from 2007 to as far as 2023. It does not look proper for a nation that claims to be a champion of non-proliferation and control.

In Russia, on the contrary, the process was completed on September 27 of this year. By doing so our country has made a significant contribution to enhancing international security.

By the way, the western media preferred to keep quiet, not to notice it, though there was one fleeting mention somewhere in Canada, but that was it, then silence. Meanwhile, the chemical weapons arsenal stockpiled by the Soviet Union is enough to destroy life on the planet multiple times over.

I believe that it is time to abandon an obsolete agenda. I am referring to what was. Without a doubt, we should be looking forward, we have to stop looking back. I am talking about this so as to understand the origins of the current situation that is taking shape.

On March 15, the White Helmets, a notorious pro-militant propaganda mouthpiece, accused the “Assad regime” of conducing a chlorine gas attack in the Damascus subrub of Eastern Ghouta.
According to the White Helmets, the attack took place in the militant-held village of Hammuriyah late on March 14. The group claimed that many women and children had been targeted by the attack but that their number and condition are not yet clear.
The mainstream media already spreading reports about the new “chemical attack” using the White Helmets’ claims.

13--5 seconds to War

On March 13, US President Trump ousted his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, and announced he would replace Mr. Tillerson with Mike Pompeo, the CIA director. At the CIA, Pompeo will be replaced by the current deputy director, Gina Haspel.
Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all! D Trump
Trump said Pompeo “will continue our program of restoring America’s standing in the world, strengthening our alliances, confronting our adversaries, and seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
The new appointment came two days after US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley had threatened that the US will strike Syrian forces if they continue their operation against militants in the Damascus subrub of Eastern Ghouta. Considering that Russia has servicemen involved in helping government forces and providing a humanitarian aid to civilians in the area, this threat was also adressed to Moscow.
Head of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov commented on this threat saying that Russian forces will take retaliatory actions against any “missiles” or “launchers” posing a threat to their service members.
“According to reports, after the false flag attack, the US plans to accuse the Syrian government troops of using chemical weapons, and to provide the world community with the so-called ‘evidence’ of the alleged mass death of civilians at the hands of the Syrian government and “Russia supporting it,” he said. Then, according to Gerasimov, the US “plans to launch a missile strike on the government-held districts of Damascus.”
The chief of the General Staff continued saying that militants are already preparing to falsify a “government” chemical attack.
“We have reliable information about militants preparing to falsify a government chemical attack against civilians. In several districts of Eastern Ghouta, a crowd was assembled with women, children and old people, brought from other regions, who were to represent the victims of the chemical incident.”
A new round of escalation in Syria is developing just few days ahead of Russia’s presidential election scheduled on March 18.
Meanwhile, reports have appeared, that the Ukrainian military is actively preparing for offensive actions against forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) in the eastern part of the country. Local sources also indicate that the Ukrainian government is planning stage provocations on a contact line between its military and forces of the DPR and the LPR. According to reports, a military escalation as well as provocations on the contact line may take place in eastern Ukraine in the coming week.
It’s possible that an escalation scenario in both Syria and Ukraine may be implemented by the US establishment soon after or during the presidential election in Russia. The goal of these actions will be to stage an aggressive war against Russia,