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TBR News March 19, 2016

Mar 19 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., March 19, 2016: “There have been recent articles in the media about the origins of the human race.

Anthropologists do not know just where the Cro Magnon peoples originated. They appeared, intact and not evolved, about 35,000 years ago in the delta region of the Volga River and spread down to what is now Iran and then up into Europe and Scandinavia.

Much of this European area was sparsely settled by the Neanderthals, a different breed of man entirely. From the remains found, the Cro Magnon man was modern man and the Neanderthal was much closer to the ape. The latter were not skilled, very stupid and died out entirely when the last great ice age came upon them.

The Cro Magnon man was later called the Celt and these occupied all of Scandinavia, France, Switzerland, Macedonia, northern Spain and parts of Western Europe, as well as what was once Persia.

The Neanderthal can be traced back to African origins but there is no indication that the Cro Magnon evolved from a lower order as did the Neanderthal. He just appeared on the scene from nowhere, fully developed.

This concept is not consistent with the preachings of the advocates of the ‘we-are-all-one’ concepts. No two people are exactly alike but the descendants of the Cro-Magnon/Celt are not at all like the Lucy kin.

Pathologists, working on human remains can attest to this from lengthy observations.

And at the same time, the Asian peoples (to include American Indians in the Western areas of the US) are another distinct group. They did not evolve from Lucy but, like the Cro Magnon man, just appeared on the scene.”


Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.           After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversations with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.




Conversation No. 72

Date: Sunday, March 2, 1997

Commenced: 1:45 PM CST

Concluded: 2:05 PM CST

Date: Sunday, March 2, 1997

GD: That’s either a vacuum cleaner in the background or the Martians are attacking.

RTC: I hate to disappoint you, Gregory. It’s indeed a vacuum cleaner.

GD: Well, we have spoken about flying saucers before so I thought you might have had a run in with them. It’s amazing, the stories people believe.

RTC: Or they want to believe.

GD: Well, crazy old L. Ron Hubbard tells us that his special people, the Thetans, were flown here from outer space in DC3s.

RTC: No, not that. In what? Piston engined aircraft? From….there is no atmosphere up there.

GD: Hubbard started Scientology in the early ‘50s and his writings are full of such silliness.

RTC: A crock of shit, all of it. Still, we were watching him when he was gadding around the Med in an old tub. No one had any idea what the old nut was up to and we knew he had KGB contacts. Not that he was pro-Commie but he was one of those people who believe his own nonsense and the Russians love to get their hands on such like. Stroke him like a cat and get him to work with them. They’re smart and he’s not. We knew his high command was full of foreign agents but we had a hell of a time getting at him. Very well protected. The KGB and the Stasi for sure and we think the Chinks had a hand in the game. The FBI had some snitches planted on him but the whole thing was like play time in a nut house. Still, the old fool made hundreds of millions of dollars of the sucker brigades and it is very hard to argue with that kind of scratch.

GD: Agreed. I am still trying to make up my mind whether Hubbard was a visionary or a self-deluded crook. Your people viewed him as a spy?

RTC: No, we did not but we felt he could do a lot of damage if we didn’t keep an eye on him.

GD: Did you?

RTC: Yes, we planted people with him. Strange, Gregory. The Company, the FBI, the KGB, the Stasi and others all used to work together, all playing roles. We mostly knew who the others were but just never mentioned.

GD: Hubbard died under odd circumstances out in California.

RTC: He was removed, Gregory. The old man was going around the bend and those just under him were afraid he would blow it and they would be kicked out, away from huge sums of money and with the money, growing political power. One injection of the wrong kind and off he went to flying saucer heaven in the sky. They cremated the old man and dumped him into the ocean off the back of a fishing boat.

GD: Sic Gloria transit mundi.

RTC: Oh yes indeed..

GD: A friend of mine’s grandmother was cubically rich but getting really soft and the Scientologists got their hands on her. They wanted her to give all her money to them so my friend, knowing what I really am, came to me for assistance.

RTC: How much did you get out of it?

GD: You assume I was successful in driving them off.

RTC: That’s a given.

GD: I had a terrible time, especially with Linda. She was a vicious bitch and had her hooks into the old lady very deeply. I met her several times, passed off by my friend as a nephew. God, she hated me because she could see I didn’t believe a word of her nonsense. I had my problems with that one, believe it. First off, I got the old lady to like and trust me. Believe me, I can do that when I want to. Anyway, I got a power of attorney from her, put all her money into an iron-clad trust with the interest going to her and a percentage to her grandson. I mean she was a very decent person but talking to dead relatives and losing bladder control. I got her into a really excellent nursing home that I inspected very carefully. I used to work for Catholic Charities and I know something about nursing homes. Anyway, I made sure the old girl was safe and then I dealt with Linda. She was livid with rage over my presence so I had to neutralize her. It took a baggie of heroin under the front seat of her car, a silenced pistol in the trunk and two telephone calls and Linda was trying to convert people in her cellblock.

RTC: I thought you might have dispatched her to be with Hubbard.

GD: I thought about it but it wasn’t worth it. The old lady was safe and sound and her grandson was set for life. Of course he was more than generous to me for my work but I got quite a view of the working side of the Scientology game. Very effective what with the e-meter and the gabble. A lot of pitiful dimwits running around, looking for answers from someone else. Linda bit a federal agent so they added assault to her ticket.

RTC: I take it you disapprove of the Scientologists?

GD: No, actually I don’t. I believe that everyone should find Heaven in their own way. But not on my front porch and not pushing money into the pockets of thieving politicians . I have Mormon friends and I have the highest regard for their family life. Fine people with well-raised, first class children. They have very strange beliefs but I pay more attention to what they practice rather than what they preach.

RTC: Lots of LDS people in the Bureau.

GD: High minded and honest. I have no problem with that. The problem with cults like Scientology is that they want everyone to see what they see, or think they see, and they grab you by the lapels and shout in your face…and leave literature behind. I’m a practicing agnostic and a pragmatist, Robert, but from time to time, I have to deal with nasty people like Linda. I knew a fellow that was great company until I learned that he was sexually abusing his children. It took me two weeks of hard work, Robert, but he got caught and sent off. Rob an insurance company or a bank and you get no response from me but mess with little children and you can believe me when I say that I will do everything in my power to stop it. Since I am ruthless and have no conscience whatsoever, I am usually successful. Oh yes, and going after crazy old ladies is another of my annoyances. Linda did three years and although I have not encountered her after her fall from grace, I would imagine she goes a bit more quietly now.

RTC: Given all of that, what would you do if she ran up on you now?

GD: Kill her, Robert, very dead. Take the remains out to a big hog farm and toss them over the fence. Hogs will eat anything, even dead Scientologists.

RTC: They tell me hogs are smart.

GD: They are indeed but they are a wonderful garbage disposal system. And there Linda would be…and there Linda would be…and over there, that’s Linda too! What a fate, Robert. Steaming piles of hog turds in the mud.

RTC: Gregory, you are indeed rather unique. Have you done the hog farm thing?

GD: Only God and the hogs know that one. Ask and it shall not be answered but sniff and you might find.


(Concluded at 2:05PM CST)


The New Atomic Warfare

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

This heavily-suppressed story about the Iranian ship laden with highly radioactive waste, bound for the eastern end of the Mediterranean, is typical of how the American government sits on inconvenient stories. They imposed a silence on the Forward Base Falcon disaster and have not posted all the U.S. dead in Iraq and then we had the saga of the MV Iran Deyanat being blocked from all regular media sites.

The story, cut off initially by a dismissive article in late September of 2008 in the ‘Long War Journal,’ a “very friendly government (DoD) entity” and never a word was found in our controlled press, or government-controlled sites like ‘Wikipedia’ (which basically controlled in toto by the CIA)

On August 21st, 2008, the Iranian MV Iran Deyanat, a 44,468 dead weight tonnage carrier that is owned and operated by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) – a state-owned company run by the Iranian military that was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for its false manifests and traffic in forbidden nuclear materials, was seized by Somali pirates to be held for their usual ransom.

The ship had set sail from Nanjing, China, July 28, 2008.

The Old Nanking Port of Nanjing is the largest inland port in China, yearly reaching 108.59 million tons in 2007. The port area is 98 kilometers (61 mi) in length and has 64 berths including 16 berths for ships with a tonnage of more than 10,000. Nanjing is also the biggest container port along the Yangtze River; in March 2004, the one million container-capacity base, Longtan Containers Port Area opened, further consolidating Nanjing as the leading port in the region.

During her stay at Nanjing, the MV Iran Deyanat was loaded primarily with eight cargo containers, lined with lead and with electronic locks. They all also were loaded with extensive explosive devices concealed beneath them.The 20 ft containers are 8’ wide, and carry a load of 48,060 lbs per container. This special container cargo had a total load of 384,480 pounds which consisted of packaged of nuclear waste that originated at the Tianwan 1&2 Atomic plants from Jiangsu Province (built in 2007) Once the radiation death of many of the pirates became known, reporters attempting to contact responsible officials in the Pentagon and the Department of State were told these officials refused to comment on any of the implications of the cargo. The ship’s manifest was falsified but the deadly cargo was supposed to be headed for Rotterdam and an unspecified “German client.”

Much of the story was covered in a London Times article( which was subsequently removed from that paper’s archive) and the initial story was tailored by the ‘Long War Journal,’ a website with close connections to the Department of Defense and the CIA. It tended to dismiss the entire question of a radioactive cargo and instead, discussed unspecified chemicals.

Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, Commander, US Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain Combined Maritime Forces, said the U.S.-led coalition patrolling the Gulf of Aden “does not have the resources to provide 24-hour protection for the vast number of merchant vessels in the region,”

Russia joined the international efforts to fight piracy off the Somalia coast. However, it conducted its operations independently, RIA-Novosti news agency reported Navy commander Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky as saying “We are planning to participate in international efforts to fight piracy off the Somalia coast, but the Russian warships will conduct operations on their own,” he said.

Russian nationals are frequently among the crews of civilian ships hijacked by pirates off the Somalia coast, notes RIA-Novosti.

At the beginning of June, the UN Security Council passed a resolution permitting countries to enter Somalia’s territorial waters to combat “acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.”

The American media gave no coverage of any kind to this incident,

Russian sources disclosed that when American Naval personnel, attached to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, finally boarded the MV Iran Deyanat and took all of her crew, including the Iranian captain, into what was called “protective custody,” and while the opened cargo container containing Chinese atomic waste was being sealed and decontaminated, the bridge and the captain’s quarters were thoroughly searched. An “intensive” interrogation of the initially recalcitrant captain plus documents obtained from his safe showed a truly horrifying picture to the trained naval intelligence people.

The Deynant was not the only cargo ship to load containers of radioactive waste at Nanjing; and two others had preceded her July, 2008 visit. The problem is that the captain did not know either the names of the two Iranian -controlled ships nor their destinations.

His destination was the eastern end of the Mediterranean but it now appears that the ship was not intended to be blown up. Instead, the eight cargo containers were to be taken to the Israeli port of Haifa on the Mediterranean. Haifa is the largest of Israel’s three major international seaports, which include the Port of Ashdod, and the Port of Eilat. It has a natural deep water harbor which operates all year long, and serves both passenger and cargo ships. Annually, 22 million tons of goods pass through the port.

From Russian sources, we learn that the Iranian plan was to off-load the atomic-waste loaded cargo container in Haifa where they would be warehoused, waiting to be shipped to Israeli businesses. And at the appropriate moment, the well-concealed explosive charges beneath the containers would be activated by a radio signal. When the containers exploded, their deadly cargo would be projected up into the air and spread via the west-to-east wind currents all over Israel.

In 2007, the U.S. DHS’ CBP initiated a joint security agreement with Israel whereby U.S. agents, working with Israel, would develop and install programs to protect the ports from terrorist attacks.

CBP’s Container Security Initiative, (CSI), is a cooperative effort with host country governments to identify and screen high-risk shipments before they leave participating ports. More than 80 percent of all cargo containers destined for U.S. shores originate in or are transshipped through 55 CSI ports in North, South and Central America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

CSI addresses the threat to border security and global trade posed by the potential for terrorist use of a maritime container to deliver a weapon. CSI proposes a security regime to ensure all containers that pose a potential risk for terrorism are identified and inspected at foreign ports before they are placed on vessels destined for the United States.

The initiative seeks to:

Identify high-risk containers. CBP uses automated targeting tools to identify containers that pose a potential risk for terrorism, based on advance information and strategic intelligence.

Prescreen and evaluate containers before they are shipped. Containers are screened as early in the supply chain as possible, generally at the port of departure. Use technology to prescreen high-risk containers to ensure that screening can be done rapidly without slowing down the movement of trade. This technology includes large-scale X-ray and gamma ray machines and radiation detection devices.

If a cargo container ship sails from another port that has the U.S. –controlled CBP system, and does not stop at another port enroute, it is able to enter another port equipped with the CBP system and unload its cargo without interference.

Let us say that a mythical ship, the Extreme Venture, picks up a cargo at an approved port and sails off to another port that is also approved. Again, if a country or entity wanting to take a dangerous cargo to the same port, it need only paint out its name, change its radio call signs, and using the methodology instituted by the U.S., enter, for example, the port of Haifa a day in advance of the real Extreme Venture. Having passed all the approved requirements, it can enter the harbor, proceed to an assigned dock, unload its containers onto waiting trucks and sail out of the harbor without let or hindrance. And the next day when the real Extreme Venture arrives, one can expect that the security people would be in a state of frenzy. By that time, the fake Extreme venture has put yet another name on her bows and stern, run up another flag and using shipping information easily available on the internet, become another innocent cargo ship among many.

The American view, known to several other countries, is that as both the United States and Israel have been at the forefront of violent verbal attacks against, and threats of violence to, Iran, they are now the prime targets of what, at the worst case scenario, could amount to a commercial delivery of least 16 containers of deadly radioactive material, mixed with high explosives.

One of the largest cargo container ports in America, Long Beach, California, has DHS inspection teams at work on a round the clock basis but because of the huge volume of traffic, only 2% of the cargo containers can be checked thoroughly at any given time. This means that should another Iranian, or PRC, cargo container, sailing under a false flag and with a false manifest, dock at Long Beach and offload her deadly cargo, there is a 98% chance that it could avoid any kind of inspection, be loaded onto waiting trucks and shipped to destinations all over the United States.

It is extremely doubtful if the current administration would attack Iran, and in spite of strident Israeli This explains the continued stunned silence on the subject of the Deyanat affair and the tight blackout that has been imposed on any news of her or the purpose of her cargo of powdered death.



You know Area 51, but just what in the world is Area 6?

March 5, 2016

by Keith Rogers

Las Vegas Review-Journal

Built in 2005, the runway covers a dirt landing strip from the 1950s, when the wide, flat valley was used for atomic bomb test shots. A small complex of buildings dominated by a large hangar with unusual clamshell doors dominates the southern end of the asphalt strip.

The complex has no official name. Not many people even know it’s there.

As secret airbases go, the single runway in the test site’s Area 6 is easily overshadowed by the world’s most famous secret military base, Area 51, a dozen miles northeast. Area 51’s existence was only recently acknowledged, even after decades of speculation by UFO enthusiasts that the aircraft development and test facility also houses space aliens and extraterrestrial technology.

Unlike Area 51, which is protected by shoot-to-kill security and shielded from outside view by mountain ranges, Area 6 has only fences and visitor checkpoints. It can be seen at a distance from tour buses on the highway to historic bomb craters at the northern end of Yucca Flat.

But exactly what goes on at the much smaller and much newer Area 6 is still top-secret defense research-and-development work. It’s so hush-hush that the security site’s spokesman can say little about it.

Darwin Morgan, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the low-key Area 6 facilities have been used by the Defense and Homeland Security departments.

“They come here to test their own sensors,” he recently said after spending months fending off questions about the Area 6 runway from the Review-Journal.


Other than a few “Above Top Secret” forum posts from 2009, and a Wikipedia blurb that cites a 2011 Flightglobal story saying the runway is part of an unmanned aerial vehicle test facility, little has been written about the Area 6 runway.

Flightglobal, an aviation industry website, noted a five-sentence description of the Area 6 “aerial operations facility” found in a 7,500-page safety report on the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project.

“The purpose of this facility is to construct, operate, and test a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles. Tests include, but are not limited to, airframe modifications, sensor operation, and onboard computer development. A small, manned chase plane is used to track the unmanned aerial vehicles,” reads the report Energy Department contractor Bechtel SAIC prepared in 2008 for the Yucca Mountain repository license application.

The National Nuclear Security Administration is a semi-autonomous branch of the Energy Department. Its Nevada field office, based in North Las Vegas, runs the security site.

What it costs to operate Area 6 is difficult to determine. Funding is buried in the Nevada field office’s Strategic Partnership Program, which was part of the $84 million budgeted for the entire security site in fiscal year 2015. Program funding was about 13.5 percent of the field office’s $622 million total budget that year.

The program’s activities include research and development of sensors for detecting explosive materials, deadly gases and chemicals, and radioactive sources that could be used in “dirty bombs.”

Biological weapon sources aren’t allowed at the security site, according to its environmental impact statement.Portable radiation monitors and some sensors used in airports and at ports of entry have evolved from the program.

Morgan said agencies in the Strategic Partnership Program take advantage of the security site’s restricted airspace to test sensor-equipped aircraft work without public interference or spying from space.

“We have controlled airspace and that gives them opportunities to test various types of platforms,” he said.

Most of the strategic partnership money comes from Defense Department branches: the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

“We do a wide variety of work for others … supporting people with sensor development activities,” Morgan said. “It evolved from the nuclear testing program. We had to have very good sensors to collect data in a split second before they were obliterated.”

Morgan said the Area 6 runway and its apron were built by Bechtel Nevada, the site’s management and operations contractor at the time, at a cost of $9.6 million. The buildings were constructed over several years, and cost figures aren’t immediately available.

As seen from above on Google Earth, the complex is dominated by the clamshell-door hangar and four smaller outbuildings connected by what appear to be covered walkways. Two smaller modern hangars and an older one used during atomic test days round out the facility. Morgan said antennas were installed to allow ground operators to control the flight of unmanned aerial system aircraft.


The National Nuclear Security Administration has kept Area 6 so low profile that even defense industry experts were unaware of it.

“I had not heard about it,” said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, an Alexandria, Va.-based defense information website.

But Pike’s associate, imagery analyst Tim Brown, has estimated the hangar complex could hold about 15 MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted spy planes.

Pike said the length of the runway suggests Area 6 is used for small planes or remotely piloted aircraft such as Predator and Reaper reconnaissance drones.

Bigger spy planes, such as the jet-powered RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aircraft system, are flown from the Tonopah Test Range by the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron assigned to a Creech Air Force Base wing. It’s unclear if the Sentinel or smaller versions would be flown from Area 6, but Pike said the runway is too small for large jets and bombers. Takeoffs and landings would be tight for an F-16, for example, and an F-15 would need an even longer strip for safe maneuvers.

Pike said aircraft likely in use at Area 6 are best suited for surveillance of hidden targets, weapons or personnel on the ground, particularly in sparsely populated areas. The security site’s high-desert terrain is similar to what might be found in the “boondocks” of Libya, he noted.

“There is a well-founded fear that evildoers are stalking around out there — ISIS and al-Qaida,” he said of Libya. “You have to imagine that trying to develop targeting signatures in this type of mountainous desert terrain. That’s got to be a really high priority … not constrained by funding.”

“I can’t think about a better place to do it where you wouldn’t have civilians stumbling on what you’re doing,” he said in reference to the security site.

So what would stray civilians see if they could stumble in?

Pike offers an educated guess: Sensor arrays made up of more than 350 smartphone cameras mounted on an MQ-9 Reaper that can record and archive movements of people and vehicles over an area of about 40 square miles.

It is known in the unmanned aerial vehicle community as the “Gorgon Stare,” derived from Gorgon monsters of Greek mythology whose gaze was so dreadful it was said to turn a person into stone. While the sensors can’t do that, they can keep terrorist targets from evading the sights of U.S. weapons.

According to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency website, sensor development has soared to new heights under ARGUS, or the Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance program.

The goal is to “provide at least 130 independently steerable video streams to enable real-time tracking of individual targets throughout the field of view. The ARGUS-IR system will also provide continuous updates of the entire field of view for enhanced situational awareness,” the defense tech agency website says.

Pike said improving ARGUS and similar sensor capabilities might be among the activities taking place at Area 6.

“The thing you get with ARGUS is time-lapse photography. If there’s a rock out there that’s moving, maybe that’s a rock you ought to be paying attention to. Maybe it has to do with evildoers,” he said.

“I would assume they have airplanes and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) they’re flying around out there to see what they can see,” Pike said.

“If they would let me run the thing, I’d tell (special operation troops) to go out and do the best in terms of infiltration,” he said. “Then turn loose the sensors and see if we could find them, play hide-and-seek.”

Critics of Israel Boycott Warn of Harm to U.S. Corporate Interests

March 18, 2016

by Zaid Jilani and Alex Emmons

The Intercept

Lawmakers this week hosted business groups in a briefing that sought to reframe the movement to boycott Israeli-owned companies as a threat to the American economy.

At Tuesday’s briefing, organized by the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado opened the event by saying that since the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1985 trade between the countries has “multiplied tenfold to over $40 billion annually.”

The boycott movement would not only impact the Israeli economy, but also the U.S. economy and “should be confronted by all means,” he said.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a global campaign calling on Israel to end its occupation of internationally recognized Palestinian territory and restore full equality to its Arab and Palestinian citizens.

The BDS movement has faced a huge backlash from pro-Israel activists and Western governments. In October, France’s highest court ruled that activists handing out BDS fliers were guilty of “inciting hatred and discrimination.” The U.K. government announced last month that it will be illegal for local city councils, public bodies, and student unions to boycott goods from Israeli settlements. In Israel, a 2011 law effectively bans any call for a boycott of Israeli goods.

Congress and state legislatures in the U.S. have also tried to curtail boycotts of Israel. Last week, the Arizona Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill prohibiting the state government from doing business with companies boycotting Israel, and encouraged Arizona businesses to do the same. Similar bills have already passed in New York and Illinois, and have been introduced in dozens of states.

President Obama also signed legislation last month requiring the administration to compile reports on boycott efforts and make opposing them a “principle trade negotiating objective” of the United States. A few weeks earlier, a bipartisan group of Senators and Congressmen introduced the “combatting BDS Act of 2016,” which would protect states who pass anti-BDS legislation from discrimination lawsuits.

At the Tuesday meeting, a representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business lobbying group, dismissed concerns about Palestinian human rights, saying they are not a factor in its opposition to boycotts of Israel. “The economic relationship overshadows the security relationship in monetary aspects,” said Josh Kram, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce’s Middle East Commercial Center.

He referred to the BDS movement as a “poison pill of the U.S.-Israel economic relationship.”

The effort to shield Israel from boycotts by citing not just the security relationship, but also the economic relationship, is similar to arguments made during the 1980s campaign for divestment in the apartheid-regime of South Africa. In a 1981 interview with CBS’s Walter Cronkite, President Reagan explained that part of his opposition to tougher sanctions on South Africa was because it “strategically is essential to the free world in its production of minerals.”

Over thirty years later, these same arguments are being repeated.

“I think for a lot of different reasons that have been discussed, you know human rights issues, do come up in lots of different markets,” Kram said, in response to a question from The Intercept. “And frankly those are issues for political leaders to hammer out, in a foreign policy approach.”

“Do Palestinian human rights issues ever come up in how you determine whether to get involved in this?” The Intercept asked.

“No,” Kram concluded.

Asked if the organization considers Israeli settlements part of the state of Israel and opposes boycotts of Israeli businesses in the occupied territories, Kram responded: “We have no position on that issue.”


Putin and the Art of the Deal

What’s the Russian withdrawal from Syria all about?

March 16, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


While the US media has focused its attention on such pressing matters as valorizing a gang of thugs intent on shutting down peaceful political rallies, and granting fawning interviews to assailants of disfavored presidential candidates, the mess we have made of much of the rest of the world continues to manifest itself.

In Kosovo, which – if you recall – Bill Clinton “liberated” during his warlike reign, antigovernment demonstrators have firebombed the presidential palace, and metal detectors have been installed in the parliament building – because legislators keep bringing in tear gas canisters which they set off at will.

In Ukraine, the US-backed regime is in chaos, the government is collapsing, corruption is pandemic, and the ruthless war waged by the Kiev coup leaders continues to erupt sporadically. Meanwhile, Dutch Euro-skeptics are waging an increasingly successful campaign to keep the former Soviet republic out of the EU. Washington’s solution? Dispense with the pretense that Ukraine is an independent state, and formalize the country’s true status as a US/EU colony by installing an American as Prime Minister.

In Libya, another site of America’s imperial beneficence – where Hillary Clinton claims “we didn’t lose a single person”! – the jihadists we empowered are spilling over into Tunisia, while the weapons “liberated” from Gaddafi’s arsenals are fueling Islamist insurgencies throughout Africa as well as in Syria.

Speaking of Syria, the Russians have announced they are withdrawing the bulk of their forces on the eve of the renewed Geneva negotiations. Unlike in the US, where any hint that we might declare victory and get out is perceived as a sign of “weakness” that would bring a collapsing “world order” down on our heads, in Putin’s Russia foreign policy is directed by realists who refuse to be manipulated by their allies and realize that their power has limits.

Unburdened by the conceit that the fate of the world depends on asserting his nation’s role as an international policeman, Putin is free to cannily pursue Russia’s real interests. Those interests were served by shoring up Assad’s regime, which was crumbling under a sustained assault from the US and its Islamist allies in Riyadh and Ankara (with the Israelis cheerleading from the sidelines). In the meantime, the head-chopping jihadists of al-Nusra and its spin-offs – covertly supported by the Saudis and Turkey – have been declared terrorist outfits by the United Nations, and negotiations are underway in Geneva while the ceasefire continues to hold (albeit somewhat shakily).

It must be time for another false flag “chemical attack” to be blamed on the Assad forces – but, hey, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

The prospect that peace might break out in Syria has our warmongers down in the dumps. Sen. John McCain moaned that the Russkies “have changed the military facts on the ground and created the terms for a political settlement more favorable to their interests. [The] likely result is that the Syrian conflict will grind on, ISIL will grow stronger, and the refugees will keep coming.”

It doesn’t look like the Syrian rebels agree with their champion – but then again, they actually live in Syria, and so their perspective is quite different. As for the refugees: since most of the those pouring into Europe are from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and other theaters of devastation that people like McCain brought to their current state, it is likely that they will indeed keep coming. But what will not happen – quite yet – is the destruction of non-Islamist communities in Syria, notably Alawaites and Christians, who – if it were up to McCain & Co. – would have long since been eliminated from the face of the earth.

Putin has never let his allies lead him around by the nose: the Russian withdrawal is a clear signal to Assad that he’d better approach the negotiations seriously, rather than as a means to buy time in order to pursue a military solution. It is also a signal to the US, and the outgoing Obama administration, that there’s a deal-maker in the Kremlin, but that time to close the transaction is running short.

It’s no wonder that Putin has expressed admiration for Donald Trump. The conventional wisdom is that the two are simpatico because they’re both tyrants, bad guys who would sooner waterboard you than look at you, but the reality is a bit more nuanced: like Trump, Putin seems to have mastered the art of the deal, and is ready to strike one rather than call out the troops. Oh, he may have to threaten to use military force, and even occasionally do so, but essentially he’s ready to sit down and bargain – because the alternative is a lose-lose situation.

Russia is a declining power beset by severe economic problems: it has limited resources to defend itself against NATO’s advance on its Western front, and resist the US/Saudi push to eliminate it from the Middle Eastern shore of the Mediterranean. And yet the Russian leader has parlayed what resources he has to stunning effect, once again outsmarting the warlords of Washington. Preferring to deal rather than issue diktats, he understands that this is quality is a strength rather than a display of weakness. Also – like Trump – he understands the importance of flexibility in negotiations.It would be too much to ask for the know-it-alls in Washington to take a lesson from Putin’s successes. Their capacity to learn from their mistakes is limited by their inability to admit to error. As far as our political elites are concerned, the very idea that there is anything to be gained by following the Russian leader’s example is absolutely taboo: it violates the cold war mentality that has both parties in its wintry grip.

As we stumble into conflicts all around the globe, the blind arrogance of our leaders is a real and present danger. They don’t make deals unless they’re dictating the terms of surrender. No wonder there’s a growing movement in this country to put a real deal-maker in the White House.

Putin: Russia’s air defense systems to remain in Syria

The Russian president has announced Moscow’s plans to leave air defense systems in Syria along with service members. The announcement follows Putin’s orders for a Russian withdrawal from the conflict-stricken country.

March 17, 2016


President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said Russia’s air defense systems will remain in Syria on permanent combat duty. He made the announcement during an awards ceremony honoring officers who served in Syria, according to a transcript issued by the executive office.

“Our bases in Syria are at Tartus and Khmeimim. The service personnel there are reliably protected from land, sea and air. All the components of the deployed air defense system, including close-range Pansir-F and long-range S-400 Triumph units will be on regular duty,” Putin told officers of Russia’s armed forces at the Kremlin in Moscow.

The naval facility in Tartus, built by the Soviet Union in 1971 under an agreement with the Baathist party, is Russia’s sole port on the Mediterranean Sea. The Khmeimim air base was built in 2015 in Assad’s home region Latakia to provide Russian forces with a launching pad for operations in Syria.

The statement follows Putin’s announcement that Russian forces would pull out of Syria, after the country had entered the five-year conflict in September 2015 by launching airstrikes aimed at supporting government forces combating “terrorist groups. “Russia’s involvement in Syria was seen by the international community as a controversial turn to the five-year conflict. Early on, activists accused Russia of targeting moderate opposition groups fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad, although Moscow denied such claims.

‘Any target’

Meanwhile, Putin warned that perceived threats to remaining Russian military personnel in Syria would be met with resistance.

“We have created together with the American side an efficient mechanism to prevent air incidents, but all our partners have been warned that our air defense systems will be used against any target that we deem to be threatening Russian service personnel,” said Putin.

“I want to stress: any target,” the Russian president added.

Towards peace?

Putin stressed that Russian service members remaining in Syria will work towards ensuring conditions for a political solution to ending the conflict.

“I will repeat that the primary task is to monitor ceasefire and create conditions for a political internal dialogue in Syria,” Putin said.

Russia’s partial pullout from Syria coincided with new negotiations between Damascus and the Saudi-backed mainstream opposition alliance High Negotiations Committee in Geneva.


Putin’s Syrian strategy: Not guided by playbook of American exceptionalism

March 19, 2016

by Catherine Shakdam


The world stood still this week when Moscow said it would begin withdrawing its forces from Syria. The question on everyone’s lips: What made Russia abandon its position in the ME?

While many may have smirked at the news that Russia was calling back its boys from Syria just 22 weeks into its intervention, make no mistake: President Vladimir Putin’s decision was a strategic one.

Without political dealing, leaning and wrangling, Russia did what Russia set out to do in the first place: create a space within which Syria would be able to safely negotiate, devise and carve its future – away from foreign interventionism, latent neo-colonialism, and of course the danger of radicalism.

In Oct. 2015 Putin said: “Our goal… is to stabilize the legitimate power in Syria, and to create conditions for the search for political compromise.” And he wasn’t kidding. I understand that it might come as a shock to many, but some state officials occasionally tell the truth and follow through with their pledges.

There are two main factors most have lost sight of when considering Russia’s Syrian exit strategy: First, Putin’s intervention in Syria was never about winning the war against ISIL, or even asserting President Bashar al-Assad’s position over his people. Second, Russia entered the military fray under a strict invitation from Damascus for a predetermined period of time.

Russia’s move in Syria was one rooted in support and clever politicking, not interventionism. Moscow never planned to exploit Damascus’ call for help and turn a regional ally into an obedient vassal, or worse.

Russia, it needs to be remembered, is not guided by America’s exceptionalism playbook, but international law. There is no underlying Russian territorial ambitions, no desire to utilize Terror to better chip away at a state’ sovereignty – and this in itself is marvelously refreshing.

And while of course such methods stand in stark contrast to what we have all grown accustomed to over the past decade or so, I would caution readers to pay close attention to the message and political precedent Russia has set forward at a time when rampant illegality reigns supreme.

Make no mistake here, Putin’s decision, however sudden and seemingly unpredictable, does not underline a change of strategy or political flip-flopping. No power scared Russia away… Russia’s withdrawal is neither a military defeat, nor is it a sign of political taming.

I would venture to say that Putin’s move out of Syria, like his decision to get in, is rooted in sheer strategic genius … yes, you read that right: genius. Rather than allow for his country to be dragged into neocons murky waters, Putin carved a way through, reinventing foreign policy outside the system. How many countries can claim political innovation at such a level? How many heads of state have managed to not just look beyond, but above to find an alternative to global war?

Before I delve into what I believe to be Putin’s magic chess move, allow me to level the field a little on what is turning out to be THE political gossip of the month: Russia’s grand demobilization.

If Russia has recalled its planes and its personnel, Moscow is not exactly abandoning Damascus to the fury of ISIL – nothing that dramatic. I would argue that realities on the ground completely lack sensationalism. For starters, Russia did not just take-off to greener pastures – military continuity has been secured through a carefully laid out military cooperation plan, whereby the Syrian Arab Army was granted temporary custody of Russia’s S-400 missile system.

“[S-400 missile systems] may stay [in Syria] for a certain period of time,” Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s defense and security committee, Viktor Ozerov told Interfax on March 15. To which he added: “When we see that events in Syria develop in a way that is in line with today’s vision of the president, the General Staff and the Defense Ministry, when it is seen that the political component will move forward successfully, and the Syrian army and police will be capable of destroying hotbeds of terrorism in Syria on their own, then we will possibly think about the S-400 [systems].”

Syria today has rallied around its army that is newly empowered and perfectly capable of shaping its sovereign destiny thanks to President Putin. I’d like to remind readers that from a Russian perspective a strong and independent Syria offers greater security than a Russian-dependent Syria. Unlike the United States, Russia carries no imperialistic nostalgia – it remembers only too well what havoc territorial over-expansion can generate. Bilateral cooperation is a far better cement than unfettered militarism. It makes for a more peaceful arrangement too.

But back to President Putin’s master plan. His Syrian gamble could soon be remembered as THE one defining moment which allowed for Syria to win its war against both neo-colonialism and terrorism. In one smooth political stroke, Russia flipped one grand narrative of war on its head, literally stealing the wind from belligerent military powers’ sails. Not without irony, President Putin also deprived Western politicians from their favorite scapegoat: Russia. Who will the world blame now for Syria?

Rather than risk getting stuck in a conflict which would have drained Russia’s military resources without offering any real political options for Syria, and beyond the Middle East, Putin orchestrated a truly surgical military campaign. With ISIL weakened, Syria now has a chance at a proper transition. Not bad considering Russia managed all this in less than six months, right in time for a new round of peace talks in Geneva. Welcome to Russia’s peace architecture!

As John Wight wrote for the American Herald Tribune: “By any reckoning the danger of the collapse of the Syrian state, a distinct possibility five and half months ago, has passed. The air umbrella supplied by the Russian air force, combined with naval support, and the influx of new and advanced equipment and weapons systems, has reinvigorated the Syrian Arab Army.”

Great leadership I believe is demonstrated in the diplomatic ability to broker peace, not wage war. Wars are easy. It is living up to international law standards that require true political mastery.

Mr. Putin: Chapeau bas!


Putin’s honouring of Syria veterans suggests wider involvement

Tank and artillery commanders decorated in Moscow despite Kremlin previously insisting only air force took part in fighting

March 18 ,2016

by Alec Luhn

The Guardian

Moscow-Vladimir Putin has awarded medals to tank and artillery commanders at a ceremony for soldiers who fought in Syria, apparently contradicting the Kremlin’s previous insistence that only its air force was in combat there.

At a ceremony to honour veterans of the Syria campaign in the Kremlin on Thursday, the Russian president awarded the order of St George in the fourth degree to Maj Gen Yury Yarovitsky, deputy commander of the 1st tank army of the western military district, Kommersant newspaper reported.

Participants told the Kommersant journalist Andrei Kolesnikov, a Putin biographer known for his access to the president, that at least five Russian tanks were in Syria and were operated by Russian crews. According to a list of Syria awards published by the state news agency Tass, Putin also decorated the deputy commander of the 120th artillery brigade’s howitzer battalion.

The Kremlin has previously said that only its air units were fighting in Syria, although other weapons systems had been deployed there to protect its air and naval bases. It has also said Russian ground equipment was sold to the Bashar al-Assad regime through existing arms contracts.

Activists have published photographic and video evidence suggesting Russian armour was fighting alongside Assad’s forces, including tanks and Msta-B howitzers. The Moscow-based Conflict Intelligence Team, which has studied Russian troops’ clandestine operations in eastern Ukraine and Syria, reported that maps presented by the defence ministry at a November briefing showed the 120th artillery brigade deployed near Homs, which is far from Russia’s Latakia airbase.

“There wasn’t any infantry charging with rifles, but there was support by [Russian] equipment, howitzers, tanks and maybe infantry fighting vehicles,” Ruslan Leviev of the CIT said.

In a surprise announcement on Monday, Putin said he was pulling most of Russia’s forces out of Syria as their mission had been completed. At the awards ceremony in the Kremlin, he said the number of military flights in Syria had decreased from 60-80 to 20-30 a day and the task force there had become “loss-making” since a ceasefire came into effect earlier this month.

Moscow has from the beginning insisted it was targeting Islamic terrorists in Syria, while western media and governments have said the majority of its airstrikes were carried out against moderate rebels fighting Assad’s forces.

Speaking on the sidelines of a defence ministry briefing on the Syria ceasefire on Friday, spokesman Igor Konashenkov called reports that Russia had mounted a ground operation in Syria “total stupidity”. He said Yarovitsky had served in Syria as a military advisor, teaching Syrian crews how to operate Russian-made equipment.

“Our men were there as advisers … our tanks were not. But the Syrians have a lot of tanks,” he said.

Konashenkov confirmed that five Russian soldiers had died in Syria during the Russian campaign, but declined to comment on Islamic State’s claim that another five soldiers had been killed near Palmyra in recent days.


The Ever-Curiouser MH-17 Case

The shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine has served as a potent propaganda club against Russia but the U.S. government is hiding key evidence that could solve the mystery

March 16, 2016

by Robert Parry


The curious mystery surrounding the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, gets more curious and more curious as the U.S. government and Dutch investigators balk at giving straightforward answers to the simplest of questions even when asked by the families of the victims.

Adding to the mystery Dutch investigators have indicated that the Dutch Safety Board did not request radar information from the United States, even though Secretary of State John Kerry indicated just three days after the crash that the U.S. government possessed data that pinpointed the location of the suspected missile launch that allegedly downed the airliner, killing all 298 people onboard.

Although Kerry claimed that the U.S. government knew the location almost immediately, Dutch investigators now say they hope to identify the spot sometime “in the second half of the year,” meaning that something as basic as the missile-launch site might remain unknown to the public more than two years after the tragedy.

The families of the Dutch victims, including the father of a Dutch-American citizen, have been pressing for an explanation about the slow pace of the investigation and the apparent failure to obtain relevant data from the U.S. and other governments.

I spent time with the family members in early February at the Dutch parliament in The Hague as opposition parliamentarians, led by Christian Democrat Pieter Omtzigt, unsuccessfully sought answers from the government about the absence of radar data and other basic facts.

When answers have been provided to the families and the public, they are often hard to understand, as if to obfuscate what information the investigation possesses or doesn’t possess. For instance, when I asked the U.S. State Department whether the U.S. government had supplied the Dutch with radar data and satellite images, I received the following response, attributable to “a State Department spokesperson”: “While I won’t go into the details of our law enforcement cooperation in the investigation, I would note that Dutch officials said March 8 that all information asked of the United States has been shared.”

I wrote back thanking the spokesperson for the response, but adding: “I must say it seems unnecessarily fuzzy. Why can’t you just say that the U.S. government has provided the radar data cited by Secretary Kerry immediately after the tragedy? Or the U.S. government has provided satellite imagery before and after the shootdown? Why the indirect and imprecise phrasing? …

“I’ve spent time with the Dutch families of the victims, including the father of a U.S.-Dutch citizen, and I can tell you that they are quite disturbed by what they regard as double-talk and stalling. I would like to tell them that my government has provided all relevant data in a cooperative and timely fashion. But all I get is this indirect and imprecise word-smithing.”

The State Department spokesperson wrote back, “I understand your questions, and also the importance of the view of these families so devastated by this tragedy. However, I am going to have to leave our comments as below.”

Propaganda Value

This lack of transparency, of course, has a propaganda value since it leaves in place the widespread public impression that ethnic Russian rebels and Russian President Vladimir Putin were responsible for the 298 deaths, a rush to judgment that Secretary Kerry and other senior U.S. officials (and the Western news media) encouraged in July 2014.

Once that impression took hold there has been little interest in Official Washington to clarify the mystery especially as evidence has emerged implicating elements of the Ukrainian military. For instance, Dutch intelligence has reported (and U.S. intelligence has implicitly confirmed) that the only operational Buk anti-aircraft missile systems in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, were under the control of the Ukrainian military.In a Dutch report released last October, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) reported that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian government.

MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.”

The intelligence agency added that the rebels lacked that capability: “Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; MANPADS) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.”

One could infer a similar finding by reading a U.S. “Government Assessment” released by the Director of National Intelligence on July 22, 2014, five days after the crash, seeking to cast suspicion on the ethnic Russian rebels and Putin by noting military equipment that Moscow had provided the rebels. But most tellingly the list did not include Buk anti-aircraft missiles. In other words, in the context of trying to blame the rebels and Putin, U.S. intelligence could not put an operational Buk system in the rebels’ hands.

So, perhaps the most logical suspicion would be that the Ukrainian military, then engaged in an offensive in the east and fearing a possible Russian invasion, moved its Buk missile systems up to the front and an undisciplined crew fired a missile at a suspected Russian aircraft, bringing down MH-17 by accident.

That was essentially what I was told by a source who had been briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts in July and August 2014. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s “Flight 17 Shoot-Down Scenario Shifts” and “The Danger of an MH-17 Cold Case.”]

But Ukraine is a principal participant in the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which has been probing the MH-17 case, and thus the investigation suffers from a possible conflict of interest since Ukraine would prefer that the world’s public perception of the MH-17 case continue to blame Putin. Under the JIT’s terms, any of the five key participants (The Netherlands, Ukraine, Australia, Belgium and Malaysia) can block release of information.

The interest in keeping Putin on the propaganda defensive is shared by the Obama administration which used the furor over the MH-17 deaths to spur the European Union into imposing economic sanctions on Russia.

In contrast, clearing the Russians and blaming the Ukrainians would destroy a carefully constructed propaganda narrative which has stuck black hats on Putin and the ethnic Russian rebels and white hats on the U.S.-backed government of Ukraine, which seized power after a putsch that overthrew elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014.

Accusations against Russia have also been fanned by propaganda outlets, such as the British-based Bellingcat site, which has collaborated with Western mainstream media to continue pointing the finger of blame at Moscow and Putin – as the Dutch investigators drag their heels and refuse to divulge any information that would clarify the case.

Letter to the Families

Perhaps the most detailed – although still hazy – status report on the investigation came in a recent letter from JIT chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke to the Dutch family members. The letter acknowledged that the investigators lacked “primary raw radar images” which could have revealed a missile or a military aircraft in the vicinity of MH-17.

Ukrainian authorities said all their primary radar facilities were shut down for maintenance and only secondary radar, which would show commercial aircraft, was available. Russian officials have said their radar data suggest that a Ukrainian warplane might have fired on MH-17 with an air-to-air missile, a possibility that is difficult to rule out without examining primary radar which has so far not been available. Primary radar data also might have picked up a ground-fired missile, Westerbeke wrote.

“Raw primary radar data could provide information on the rocket trajectory,” Westerbeke’s letter said. “The JIT does not have that information yet. JIT has questioned a member of the Ukrainian air traffic control and a Ukrainian radar specialist. They explained why no primary radar images were saved in Ukraine.” Westerbeke said investigators are also asking Russia about its data.

Westerbeke added that the JIT had “no video or film of the launch or the trajectory of the rocket.” Nor, he said, do the investigators have satellite photos of the rocket launch.

“The clouds on the part of the day of the downing of MH17 prevented usable pictures of the launch site from being available,” he wrote. “There are pictures from just before and just after July 17th and they are an asset in the investigation.” According to intelligence sources, the satellite photos show several Ukrainian military Buk missile systems in the area.

Why the investigation’s data is so uncertain has become a secondary mystery in the MH-17 whodunit. During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on July 20, 2014, three days after the crash, Secretary Kerry declared, “we picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”

But this U.S. data has never been made public. In the letter, Westerbeke wrote, “The American authorities have data, that come from their own secret services, which could provide information on the trajectory of the rocket. This information was shared in secret with the [Dutch] MIVD.” Westerbeke added that the information may be made available as proof in a criminal case as an “amtsbericht” or “official statement.”

Yet, despite the U.S. data, Westerbeke said the location of the launch site remains uncertain. Last October, the Dutch Safety Board placed the likely firing location within a 320-square-kilometer area that covered territory both under government and rebel control. (The safety board did not seek to identify which side fired the fateful missile.)

By contrast, Almaz-Antey, the Russian arms manufacturer of the Buk systems, conducted its own experiments to determine the likely firing location and placed it in a much smaller area near the village of Zaroshchenskoye, about 20 kilometers west of the Dutch Safety Board’s zone and in an area under Ukrainian government control.

Westerbeke wrote, “Raw primary radar data and the American secret information are only two sources of information for the determination of the launch site. There is more. JIT collects evidence on the basis of telephone taps, locations of telephones, pictures, witness statements and technical calculations of the trajectory of the rocket. The calculations are made by the national air and space laboratory on the basis of the location of MH17, the damage pattern on the wreckage and the special characteristics of the rockets. JIT does extra research on top of the [Dutch Safety Board] research. On the basis of these sources, JIT gets ever more clarity on the exact launch site. In the second half of the year we expect exact results.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to stonewall a request from Thomas J. Schansman, the father of Quinn Schansman, the only American citizen to die aboard MH-17, to Secretary Kerry to release the U.S. data that Kerry has publicly cited.

Quinn Schansman, who had dual U.S.-Dutch citizenship, boarded MH-17 along with 297 other people for a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014. The 19-year-old was planning to join his family for a vacation in Indonesia.

In a letter to Kerry dated Jan. 5, 2016, Thomas J. Schansman noted Kerry’s remarks at a press conference on Aug. 12, 2014, when the Secretary of State said about the Buk anti-aircraft missile suspected of downing the plane: “We saw the take-off. We saw the trajectory. We saw the hit. We saw this aeroplane disappear from the radar screens. So there is really no mystery about where it came from and where these weapons have come from.”

Although U.S. consular officials in the Netherlands indicated that Kerry would respond personally to the request, Schansman told me this week that he had not yet received a reply from Kerry.


Istanbul suicide bombing shakes city center

An explosion in the center of Istanbul’s busiest shopping area killed at least five people on Saturday, emptying the streets of Turkey’s largest city.

March 19, 2016

by Tom Stevenson


Istanbul-Police believe that Saturday’s attack on Istiklal Street, Istanbul’s main pedestrian shopping street, was a suicide bombing gone wrong. In addition to the five deaths, at least 36 people were injured – 12 of them foreign nationals, according to the Ministry of Health.

Helicopters circled overhead as police quickly cordoned off the main entrances and side exits of Istiklal Street, while the smell of the explosion hung in the air long after the attack.

According to officers at the scene, an unknown attacker detonated an explosive device on the corner of Istiklal and Balo sokak, a side street next to the office of the district governor.

“We heard the explosion and then the police came and closed the road – it was frightening of course,” said Jacob, the manager of a kebab restaurant on Istiklal Street, just down from the site of the attack. “Many thousands of people depend for their livelihoods on the commerce of this street.”

“These attacks just keep happening and we should not be surprised,” he told DW. “The army is fighting a war in the southeast of the country and it is obviously making a lot of people angry. They have to pull back and stop this: violence is just causing more violence.”

At present, no group has claimed responsibility for the explosion.

‘They want to scare Turkey’

The attack came just a week after Turkey’s capital, Ankara, was struck by large-scale attack that claimed 37 lives and was subsequently claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a radical militant group that split off from the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in 2006.

The group claimed the Ankara attack was a response to the government’s military operations in the predominantly Kurdish southeast, and warned of future attacks.

“They want to scare Turkey with these attacks […] they can do whatever they want, but we will not get used to terror,” Numan Kurtulmus, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, said Saturday after the Istanbul attack.

In a secret document circulated to municipal workers in Istanbul, and seen by DW, the Istanbul Security Directorate warned of a high likelihood of attacks over the weekend and around the period of Newroz, the Kurdish spring festival which falls on March 21. Kurds in Turkey have traditionally used the day to assert national identity.

On March 17, the German embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul, along with the German school in Istanbul, were temporarily closed after German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced that the government had received intelligence of a possible attack. The German school in Istanbul is located on a side road off Istiklal Street.


Five killed, 36 wounded in suicide bombing in central Istanbul

March 19, 2016

by Nick Tattersall and Orhan Coskun


ISTANBUL/ANKARA-Five people including a suicide bomber were killed and 36 wounded in a suspected attack by Kurdish militants on a major shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul on Saturday.

The fourth suicide bombing in Turkey this year hit part of Istiklal Street, a long pedestrian zone lined with global brand name shops and foreign consulates, just a few hundred meters from an area where police buses are usually parked.

Preliminary findings indicate that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) or an affiliate carried out the attack, a senior Turkish official told Reuters.

“The attacker detonated the bomb before reaching the targeted point because they were scared of the police,” the official said, adding the bomber had planned to hit a more crowded spot.

Armed police sealed off the shopping street where half a dozen ambulances had gathered. Forensic teams in white suits scoured the area for evidence. Police helicopters buzzed overhead and panicked shoppers fled the area, ducking down narrow sidestreets.

“My local shopkeeper told me someone had blown himself up and I walked toward the end of the street,” one neighborhood resident told Reuters.

“I saw a body on the street. No one was treating him but then I saw someone who appeared to be a regular citizen trying to do something to the body. That was enough for me and I turned and went back.”

Istiklal Street, usually thronged with shoppers on weekends, was quieter than normal before the blast as more people are staying home after a series of deadly bombings.

Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu confirmed that 36 people had been wounded and seven of those were in serious condition. Twelve of the wounded were foreigners, he said. Israel’s foreign ministry confirmed some of its citizens were among the wounded.

“We as a nation are unfortunately now face to face with a situation of unlimited, immeasurable acts that are inhumane, defy human values and are treacherous,” Muezzinoglu said.

          Deadly Bombings

A suicide car bombing in the capital Ankara killed 37 people this month. A similar bombing in Ankara last month killed 29 people. A Kurdish militant group has claimed responsibility for both of those bombings.

In January, a suicide bomber killed around 10 people, most of them German tourists, in Istanbul’s historic heart, an attack the government blamed on Islamic State.

NATO member Turkey faces multiple security threats. As part of a U.S.-led coalition, it is fighting Islamic State in neighboring Syria and Iraq. It is also battling PKK militants in its southeast, where a 2-1/2-year ceasefire collapsed last July, triggering the worst violence since the 1990s.

In its armed campaign in Turkey, the PKK has historically struck directly at the security forces and says that it does not target civilians. However, the recent bombings suggest it could be moving toward a tactical shift. A claim of direct responsibility for Saturday’s attack could underscore that.

The PKK is looking to carry out attacks aggressively during the coming Newroz spring holiday, the official said. Newroz, which falls on March 21, is Kurdish New Year.

(Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley, Asli Kandemir, Humeyra Pamuk and Daren Butler; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Tom Heneghan)


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