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TBR News March 7, 2017

Mar 07 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. March 7, 2017: “Are we seeing a reprise of 1914?

War parties in the United States are using their media connections to stir up international tensions.

The problem with this type of a program is that while their friends in the military and the military equipment industry can profit, an outbreak of war, unwanted to be sure, can do terrible damage to everyone.

We note the problems with the eccentric North Koreans and their missile threats and we are publishing a most interesting report on some Israeli very dangerous tricks.

This is the last report in our posting and ought to be read.

In their frantic efforts to fight Trump, the left wing and the oligarchs are walking on a soda cracker bridge and it threatens to rain.”

Table of Contents

  • Pyongyang claims its missiles were part of a drill to hit US bases
  • US deploys missile defense in S. Korea despite Russia, China opposition
  • Sinn Fein Makes Big Gains, Reshuffling Political Landscape In Northern Ireland
  • The Politics Behind ‘Russia-gate’
  • WikiLeaks Releases Trove of Alleged C.I.A. Hacking Documents
  • WikiLeaks publishes massive trove of CIA spying files in ‘Vault 7’ release
  • Secret Israeli False Flag Operation against U.S.

 Pyongyang claims its missiles were part of a drill to hit US bases

North Korean state media has said the country’s recent missile launches involved units tasked with targeting US bases in Japan. Supreme leader Kim Jong Un reportedly supervised the drill.

March 7, 2017

DW

Kim Jong Un ordered the military exercise which led to North Korean army firing four projectiles into the sea near Japan, North Korean agency KCNA reported on Tuesday.

“Feasting his eyes on the trails of ballistic rockets,” he praised the Hwasong artillery unit that launched them, the report said. Kim also said that the rockets were “so accurate that they look like acrobatic flying corps in formation.”

The artillery units are “tasked to strike the bases of the US imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency,” KCNA added.

Previously, South Korean and Japanese officials reported that Pyongyang fired the missiles, at least three of which landed as close as 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Japan’s northeast coast.

South Korea said that the rockets traveled about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the launch site and reached a maximum altitude of 260 kilometers (162 miles). The launch was apparently in response to the start of annual joint exercises of US and South Korean forces last week.

According to the KCNA report, Kim also ordered his military “to keep highly alert as required by the grim situation in which an actual war may break out anytime.”

The launch drew condemnation from Japan and the international community. On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed Pyongyang’s move with the US President Donald Trump.

“President Trump told me that the United States was with Japan 100 percent, and that he wanted his comments to be communicated to the Japanese people,” Abe said at his residence. “He said he wanted us to trust him as well as the United States 100 percent.”

The US currently has around 54,000 troops stationed in Japan. A US State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, was quoted as saying that Washington was “prepared to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against this growing threat.”

Trump also discussed plans to respond to the missile launches with South Korea’s acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn.

The UN Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting on North Korea’s latest provocations on Wednesday.

US deploys missile defense in S. Korea despite Russia, China opposition

March 7, 2017

RT

The US has begun to deploy its advanced THAAD anti-missile defense system in South Korea, despite angry opposition from Russia and China. The step comes after North Korea fired four ballistic missiles toward Japan as part of an exercise targeting US bases there.

According to US Pacific Command, the first elements of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system arrived at Osan airbase in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on Tuesday.

“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris said in a statement, as cited by Reuters.

The move comes after North Korean state media said the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, had personally supervised Monday’s launch of four missiles that landed in the sea off the northwest coast of Japan, angering both Seoul and Tokyo. US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed the launches during a phone call on Tuesday, with Abe stating that the threat posed by North Korea has intensified.

“Japan and the US confirmed that the latest North Korean missile launches were clearly against UN resolutions and a clear provocation against the regional and international community. [North Korea’s] threat has entered a new phase,” Abe told reporters after the call, as cited by Reuters.

Pyongyang’s move came as apparent retaliation for Foal Eagle, the annual joint military exercise of US and South Korean forces currently underway in the region. It has repeatedly been denounced by North Korea as a rehearsal for invasion.

Both Russia and China have spoken out against the THAAD deployment. China’s Foreign Ministry stated on Tuesday that it was “resolutely opposed” to the move, as cited by Reuters. Earlier, China repeatedly noted that the THAAD deployment could undermine its own ballistic missile capabilities.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the current deployment could reduce the situation in the Korean peninsula to a stalemate, Interfax reported. According to Victor Ozerov, who chairs Russia’s Federal Defense and Security Committee, the deployment could be a further step against Russia itself.

“This is yet another provocation against Russia[…] Under the guise of a North Korean threat, they want if not to close the ring around Russia, then at least to besiege it from the west and the east,” Ozerov told reporters on Tuesday.

THAAD is a missile defense system designed to intercept short and medium-range ballistic missiles as they begin their descent to their targets. Developed by Lockheed Martin, THAAD missiles use infrared seeker technology to locate their targets and detonate on impact. South Korea intends to bring the system online by the end of the year, with a military official saying last month that the deployment could be completed by August. That is despite protests against the system staged by South Koreans last week, as well as a lawsuit filed against the South Korean Defense Ministry regarding the deployment.

Sinn Fein Makes Big Gains, Reshuffling Political Landscape In Northern Ireland

March 4, 2017

by Colin Dwyer

NPR

When the dust finally settled Saturday on Northern Ireland’s snap assembly election, it became clear a new political reality now awaits voters there. After an exceedingly strong showing by Sinn Fein, Northern Ireland’s government is split all but down the middle between Irish nationalists and their pro-British counterparts.

The snap election, which was held after Sinn Fein withdrew from a previous power-sharing agreement, handed the Democratic Unionist Party a victory at a steep price. Though the DUP won, the party did so with a historically narrow margin, earning 28 seats to Sinn Fein’s 27 — a dramatic change from the 10-seat advantage the DUP held over Sinn Fein going into the election.

The result, which also handed fewer seats to a smattering of other parties, leaves unionists without a firm majority — and thus without veto power — for the first time since Ireland was partitioned in 1921, according to Reuters. The Irish Independent reports that all told, the assembly now has “40 unionists and 39 nationalist/republicans, with the remainder of the 90 MLAs affiliated to neither tradition.”

Now, the province faces a fateful three weeks.

CNN notes that under the 1998 Good Friday peace accord, which ended three decades of sectarian violence in the region, Northern Ireland’s government “must be run jointly by unionist and nationalist parties.”

If the evenly matched parties should fail to reach a power-sharing agreement in the next three weeks — a prospect that many expect — power over Northern Ireland would be returned to British Parliament for the first time since 2007, says Reuters.

“If we can’t do it in three weeks it could be a prolonged period of direct rule,” the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson told BBC Radio, according to Reuters. “In those circumstances, with Brexit coming down the road, we won’t have our own administration to speak for us and offer the best prospect of delivering the kind of outcome we need.”

As Joe Zefran reports for our Newscast unit, this was Northern Ireland’s first assembly election since last year’s Brexit vote, which determined that the U.K. would leave the European Union — a result most voters in Northern Ireland opposed.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams trumpeted Saturday’s result as a sea change in the politics of Northern Ireland and a sign of hope for the party’s goal of a united Ireland.

“The notion of a perpetual unionist majority has been demolished,” Adams said, according to the BBC.

The Politics Behind ‘Russia-gate’

The hysteria over “Russia-gate” continues to grow – as President Trump’s enemies circle – but at its core there may be no there there while it risks pushing the world toward nuclear annihilation

March 4, 2017

by Robert Parry

consortium news

There may be a turn-about-is-fair-play element to Democrats parsing the words of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other Trump administration officials to hang them on possible “perjury” charges. After all, the Republicans made “lock her up” a popular chant citing Hillary Clinton’s arguably illegal use of a private email server as Secretary of State and her allegedly false claim under oath that her lawyers had hand-checked each of her 30,000 or so emails that were deleted as personal.

But there is a grave danger in playing partisan “gotcha” over U.S. relations with the world’s other major nuclear superpower. If, for instance, President Trump finds himself having to demonstrate how tough he can be on Russia — to save his political skin — he could easily make a miscalculation that could push the two countries into a war that could truly be the war to end all wars – along with ending human civilization. But Democrats, liberals and the mainstream news media seem to hate Trump so much they will take that risk.

Official Washington’s Russia hysteria has reached such proportions that New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman has even compared the alleged Russian hacking of Democratic emails to Pearl Harbor and 9/11, two incidents that led the United States into violent warfare. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, Friedman demanded that the hacking allegations be taken with the utmost seriousness: “That was a 9/11 scale event. They attacked the core of our democracy. That was a Pearl Harbor scale event. … This goes to the very core of our democracy.”

But what really goes to “the very core of our democracy” is the failure to deal with this issue – or pretty much any recent issue – with the sobriety and the seriousness that should accompany a question of war or peace. Just as Friedman and other “star” journalists failed to ask the necessary questions about Iraq’s WMD or to show professional skepticism in the face of U.S. propaganda campaigns around the conflicts in Libya, Syria or Ukraine, they have not demanded any actual evidence from the Obama administration for its lurid claims about Russian “hacking.”

Before this madness goes any further, doesn’t anyone think that the U.S. intelligence community should lay its cards on the table regarding exactly what the evidence is that Russian intelligence purloined Democratic emails and then slipped them to WikiLeaks for publication? President Obama’s intelligence officials apparently went to great lengths to spread these allegations around – even passing the secrets around overseas – but they never told the American people what the evidence is. The two official reports dealing with the issue were laughably short on anything approaching evidence. They amounted to “trust us.”

Further, WikiLeaks representatives have indicated that the two batches of emails – one from the Democratic National Committee and the other from Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta – did not come from the Russians but rather from two different American insiders. That could be wrong – it is possible that Russian intelligence laundered the material through some American cutouts or used some other method to conceal Moscow’s hand – but Obama’s intelligence officials apparently don’t know how WikiLeaks obtained the emails. So, the entire “scandal” may rest upon a foundation of sand.

No ‘Fake News’

It’s also important to note that nothing that WikiLeaks published was false. There was no “fake news.” Indeed, a key reason why the emails were newsworthy at all was that they exposed misconduct and deception on the part of the Democrats and the Clinton campaign. The main point that the DNC emails revealed was that the leadership had violated its duty to approach the primary campaign even-handedly when instead they tilted the playing field against Sen. Bernie Sanders. Later, the Podesta emails revealed the contents of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street bankers, which she was trying to hide from the voters, and the emails exposed some of the pay-to-play tactics of the Clinton Foundation.

In other words, even if the Russians did reveal this information to the American people, how does knowing relevant facts regarding a presidential campaign translate into an attack on “the core of our democracy”? Usually, journalists believe that getting the truth out, even if it embarrasses some politician or some political party, is healthy for a democracy. As an American journalist, I prefer getting information from people who have America’s best interests at heart, but I’m not naïve enough to think that people who “leak” don’t often do so for self-interested reasons. What’s most important is that the information is genuine and newsworthy.

Frankly, I found the WikiLeaks material far more appropriate for an American political debate than the scurrilous rumors that the Clinton campaign was circulating about Trump supposedly getting urinated on by Russian prostitutes in a five-star Moscow hotel, claims for which no evidence has been presented.

Also, remember that no one thought that the DNC/Podesta emails were significant in deciding the 2016 election. Clinton herself blamed FBI Director James Comey for briefly reopening the FBI investigation into her private email server near the end of the campaign as the reason her poll numbers cratered. It’s relevant, too, that Clinton ran a horrific campaign, which included breathtaking gaffes like referring to many Trump supporters as “deplorables,” relying way too heavily on negative ads, failing to articulate a compelling vision for the future, and ignoring signs that her leads in Rust Belt states were disappearing. In other words, the current effort to portray the disclosure of Democratic emails as somehow decisive in the campaign is revisionist history.

Yet, here we are with The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN and almost the entire mainstream media (along with leading liberals and Democrats) panting every time they discover that someone from Trump’s circle met with a Russian. We are supposed to forget that the Russian government for many years was collaborating closely with the U.S. government – and particularly with U.S. national security agencies – on vital issues. Russia assisted in supplying the U.S. military in Afghanistan; President Putin played a crucial role in getting Iran to curtail its nuclear program; and he also arranged for the Syrian government to surrender its stockpiles of chemical weapons. The last two accomplishments were among President Obama’s most important foreign policy successes.

But those last two areas of cooperation – Iran and Syria – contributed to making Putin a target for Washington’s powerful neoconservatives who were lusting for direct U.S. military strikes against those two countries. The neocons, along with the Israeli and Saudi governments, wanted “regime change” in Tehran and Damascus, not diplomatic agreements that left the governments in place.

Neocons inside the U.S. government – including Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, Sen. John McCain and National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman – then took aim at “regime change” in Ukraine, realizing its sensitivity to Russia. Gershman, whose NED is funded by the U.S. government, called Ukraine “the biggest prize” and a key step toward ousting Putin inside Russia; McCain cheered on Ukraine’s ultranationalists who were firebombing police in Kiev’s Maidan square; and Nuland was conspiring with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt on how to “glue” or “midwife” a change in government.

This neocon strategy worked by overthrowing Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych and causing Putin to intervene on behalf of threatened ethnic Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. That, in turn, was transformed by the Western media into a “Russian invasion.”

Partisan Interests

Instead of standing up to this neocon troublemaking, Obama fell in line. Later, the Democrats saw political advantage in becoming the super-hawks standing up to Russia, essentially maneuvering to the right of the Republicans, especially when Donald Trump unexpectedly won the nomination, in part, by calling for better relations with Russia.

As the 2016 presidential campaign sank into infamy as one of the ugliest in U.S. history, Clinton hammered Trump over Russia, calling him a Putin “puppet.” But the Russia-bashing didn’t seem to help Clinton very much. Although it was calculated to pull in some “moderate” Republicans, it also alienated many peace-oriented Democrats.

Still, despite the shaky foundation and the haphazard construction, Official Washington is now adding more and more floors to this Russia “scandal.” Obama holdovers slapped together a shoddy pretext for going after Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – citing the never-prosecuted Logan Act of 1799 and then trapping Flynn because he didn’t have total recall of a phone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on Dec. 29 while Flynn was vacationing in the Dominican Republic.

Similarly, the mainstream media and Democrats are framing in a “perjury” case against Attorney General Sessions because of a sloppily worded response during his confirmation hearing about contacts with Russians. He had met twice with Kislyak (as many others in Washington have done). The heavy-breathing suspicion is that perhaps Sessions and Kislyak were plotting how the Kremlin could help the Trump campaign, but there is zero evidence to support that conspiracy theory.

What’s actually happening here should be obvious. The Obama administration, the Democrats and the mainstream media were horrified at Trump’s election. They understandably were offended by Trump’s personal behavior and his obvious unfitness for the presidency. Many Clinton supporters, especially women, were bitterly disappointed at the failure of the first female major-party presidential nominee who lost to a lout who boasted about how he could exploit his fame and power by grabbing the genitals of vulnerable women whom he assumed couldn’t do anything to stop him.

There was also alarm about Trump’s policies on the environment, immigration, education and the courts. Among the neocons and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks, there was concern, too, that Trump would not continue their “regime change” strategies in the Middle East and their hostility toward Russia.

So, these anti-Trump forces grabbed at the most potent weapon available, the suspicions that Trump had somehow colluded with Russia. It didn’t matter that the evidence was weak to non-existent. It would be enough to spread the allegations around under the cloak of U.S. intelligence “assessments.”

Nobody important would demand to review the evidence and, surely, with the availability of National Security Agency intercepts, people’s memories could be tested against the transcripts of conversations and be found wanting. Verbal missteps could become perjury traps. There could be a witch hunt against anyone who talked to a Russian. Any pushing back from the Trump people could be construed as a “cover-up.”

Having worked in Washington for nearly four decades, I have seen political investigations before, both in steering away from real crimes of state (such as Nicaraguan Contra cocaine trafficking and Republican collaboration with foreign governments to undercut Democrats in 1968 and 1980) and in fabricating scandals that weren’t there (such as the fictional offenses of Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, Chinagate, etc. under Bill Clinton who was finally cornered for the heinous crime of lying about sex). So far at least, “Russia-gate” fits much more with the latter group than the former.

What I also have learned over these years is that in Official Washington, power – much more than truth – determines which scandals are taken seriously and which ones are not. “Russia-gate” is revealing that the established power centers of Washington arrayed against Trump – the major news media, the neoconservatives and the Democratic Party – have more power than the disorganized Trump administration.

WikiLeaks publishes massive trove of CIA spying files in ‘Vault 7’ release

Julian Assange claims that documents are the most comprehensive CIA release ever and are far larger than the Snowden files

March 7, 2017

by Andrew Griffin

The Independent/UK

WikiLeaks has published a huge trove of what appear to be CIA spying secrets.The files are the most comprehensive release of US spying files ever made public, according to Julian Assange. In all, there are 8,761 documents that account for “the entire hacking capacity of the CIA”, Mr Assange claimed in a release, and the trove is just the first of a series of “Vault 7” leaks.

Already, the files include far more pages than the Snowden files that exposed the vast hacking power of the NSA and other agencies.

In publishing the documents, WikiLeaks had ensured that the CIA had “lost control of its arsenal”, he claimed. That included a range of software and exploits that if real could allow unparalleled control of computers around the world.

It includes software that could allow people to take control of the most popular consumer electronics products used today, claimed WikiLeaks.

“‘Year Zero’ introduces the scope and direction of the CIA’s global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of “zero day” weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones,” the organisation said in a release.

The public files don’t include the cyber weapons themselves, according to a statement. The organisation will refrain from distributing “armed” software “until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the CIA’s program and how such ‘weapons’ should analyzed, disarmed and published”, it said.

The files were made available by a source who intended for them to start a conversation about whether the CIA had gained too much power, according to the organisation.

“In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency,” a release read. “The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”

It also redacts the details of some of the names, locations and targets that are identified in the documents.

The organisation had teased the release in advance with strange messages about the release being “Year Zero”, and references to “Vault 7”. It had planned to release the files later on but that plan was thrown off when its press conference came under cyber attack, Mr Assange claimed

WikiLeaks Releases Trove of Alleged C.I.A. Hacking Documents

March 7,2017

by Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Matthew Rosenbert

New York Times

WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks on Tuesday released thousands of documents that it said described sophisticated software tools used by the Central Intelligence Agency to break into smart phones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions.

If the documents are authentic, as appeared likely at first review, the release would be the latest coup for the anti-secrecy organization and a serious blow to the C.I.A., which maintains its own hacking capabilities to be used for espionage.

The initial release, which WikiLeaks said was only the first part of the document collection, included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments, the group said. The entire archive of C.I.A. material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code, it said.

Among other disclosures that, if confirmed, will rock the tech world, the WikiLeaks release said that the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

The source of the documents was not named. WikiLeaks said the documents, which it called Vault 7, had been “circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.”

WikiLeaks said the source, in a statement, set out policy questions that “urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the C.I.A.’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency.” The source, the group said, “wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”

The documents, from the C.I.A’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, are dated from 2013 to 2016 and WikiLeaks described them as “the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.” One former intelligence officer who briefly reviewed the documents on Tuesday morning said some of the code names for C.I.A. programs, an organization chart and the description of a C.I.A. hacking base appeared to be genuine.

A C.I.A. spokesman, Dean Boyd, said, “We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.”

WikiLeaks, which has sometimes been accused of recklessly leaking information that could do harm, said it had redacted names and other identifying information from the collection. It said it was not releasing the computer code for actual, useable cyberweapons “until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the C.I.A.’s program and how such ‘weapons’ should be analyzed, disarmed and published.”

Some of the details of the C.I.A. programs might have come from the plot of a spy novel for the cyberage, revealing numerous highly classified — and in some cases, exotic — hacking programs. One, code-named Weeping Angel, uses Samsung “smart” televisions as covert listening devices. According to the WikiLeaks press release, even when it appears to be turned off, the television “operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.”

The release said the program was developed in cooperation with British intelligence.

If C.I.A. agents did manage to hack the smart TVs, they would not be the only ones. Since their release, internet-connected televisions have been a focus for hackers and cybersecurity experts, many of whom see the TVs’ ability to record and transmit conversations as a potentially dangerous vulnerability.

In early 2015, Samsung appeared to acknowledge the TVs posed a risk to privacy. The fine print terms of service included with its smart TVs said that the television sets could capture background conversations, and that they could be passed on to third parties.

The company also provided a remarkably blunt warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

Another program described in the documents, named Umbrage, is a voluminous library of cyberattack techniques that the C.I.A. has collected from malware produced by other countries, including Russia. According to the WikiLeaks release, the large number of techniques allows the C.I.A. to mask the origin of some of its cyberattacks and confuse forensic investigators.

Assuming the release is authentic, it marks the latest in a series of huge leaks that have changed the landscape for government and corporate secrecy.

In scale, the Vault 7 archive appears to fall into the same category as the biggest leaks of classified information in recent years, including the quarter-million diplomatic cables taken by Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst, and given to WikiLeaks in 2010, and the hundreds of thousands of documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward J. Snowden and given to journalists in 2013.

In the business world, the so-called Panama Papers and several other large-volume leaks have laid bare the details of secret offshore companies used by wealthy and corrupt people to hide their assets.

Both government and corporate leaks have been made possible by the ease of downloading, storing and transferring millions of documents in seconds or minutes, a sea-change from the use of slow photocopying for some earlier leaks, including the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

The National Security Agency and the military’s closely related Cyber Command have the most extensive capabilities for breaking into foreign communications and computer networks and, if required, destroying them. But the C.I.A. maintains a parallel set of programs, mainly for gathering information.

A set of N.S.A. hacking tools, evidently leaked from the agency or stolen in an electronic break-in, was put up for auction on the web last summer by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. Those tools were among the N.S.A.’s arsenal for penetrating foreign computer networks. At first glance the Vault 7 programs appeared to be aimed at smaller, individual targets rather than large networks.

Secret Israeli False Flag Operation against U.S.

Official secrets no longer are secret

March 7, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

1.The problem under consideration here is that Iran has, or will have, a nuclear weapon within a two year time span. If Iran gets a nuclear bomb, Israelis are afraid Iran will use it on them.

2.Israel would have logistical problems attacking Iran. Any attack would have to be an aerial attack, using fighter-bombers to pin-point known Iranian nuclear facilities.

At some point in the next 12 months, the possible reintroduction of devastating economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran will persuade its leaders to cease their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It is also possible that Iran’s reform-minded Green Movement will somehow replace the mullah-led regime, or at least discover the means to temper the regime’s ideological extremism. It is possible, as well, that “foiling operations” such as the STUXTNET program conducted by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through sabotage and, on occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have hindered Iran’s progress in some significant way.

It is now planned for senior Israeli officials, representing both their political and military establishments, will come to Washington for conferences both with their American counterparts and, eventually, with President Trump. These conversations, which have been carefully planned and scripted will have the Israelis advising their American counterparts that they are planning an attack, nuclear or non-nuclear as the situation develops, , because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years.

They will tell their American colleagues that Israel is now being left with no choice. They will not be asking for permission, because it will soon be too late to ask for permission. Insofar as President Trump is concerned, the Israelis are struggling to answer what is for them the most pressing question: are there any circumstances under which President Trump would deploy force to stop Iran from going nuclear? Everything depends on the answer.

And if the President were to agree fully with Israeli wishes, i.e., use American aircraft to obliterate the perceived Iranian threat by bombing specific targets, could an Israeli-sponsored domestic campaign to encourage sections of the American public, outside of the fully-cooperative Jewish community, to support an American attack. At the present time, it is well-established that Israeli agents, Mossad and others, have inserted themselves into all the instruments of power and propaganda in the United States where they have sent any pertinent information to Israel and kept up a steady offensive against the minds, and wills, of the American people.

Also, many of the more prominent American newspapers, such as the New York Times are entirely Jewish-owned, the Times is stated to be the most receptive to the needs of both Washington and Tel Aviv.

Israel is fully prepared to take a chance on permanently alienating American affection in order to make a high-risk attempt at stopping Iran. If Iran retaliates against American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, the consequences for Israel’s relationship with America’s military leadership could be catastrophic.

It has been seriously discussed in Tel Aviv and in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, that probably the best way to compel the American public and through them, the President, to launch an attack on Tehran is through a false-flag operation. This would consist of a believable attack, or attempted attack, on a major American target a la the 9/11 Saudi-supported attacks.

The most current plan would be for a known militant Arab anti-Israel group, Hezbollah, to actually deliver an atomic device to the city of New York, or, alternatively, to Washington.

The American Central Intelligence Agency, now seeking to reshape its negative image, would report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation the exact details of the arrival and placement of the bomb.

The actual bomb would be genuine but would have a part that was malfunctioning, thus rendering the weapon impossible to detonate. The Arabs involved in this delivery would have in their number, a Yemeni Jew, such as the ones that instigated the 9/11 Saudi-controlled attacks, and this sleeper would carry numerous forged documents “proving” that Tehran was directly behind this planned attack.

Revelation of these documents by the fully-supportive New York Times would immediately swing a significant bulk of the American public behind an immediate attack on Tehran with the purpose of neutralizing its atomic weapons capacity.

This program is now on the table and undercover Israeli agents, posing as top-level Iranian operatives, have located a small group of Hezbollah in Lebanon who would be willing to deliver and prepare this device in New York or, as an alternative, Washington itself.

Israeli intelligence feels that the use of Hezbollah personnel would entirely justify their obliterating Hezbollah territory in southern Lebanon that now house many thousands of long-range surface to surface missiles that could easily reach Tel Aviv and other vital Israeli targets.

This action, which has already been planned in detail, would be conducted by Israel alone and would compliment the projected American attack on Tehran. The Israel secret report stresses the fact that both attacks must be simultaneous lest a forewarned Hezbollah launch rocket attacks on Israel upon hearing of the American attack.

Timing here is considered to be absolutely vital.

Israel would in the future invade Lebanon and continue attacking until Hezbollah’s system of tunnels and bunkers was completely destroyed, as Israel would not tolerate a “zone of invulnerability” occupied by a sworn enemy, or a double threat posed by Hezbollah and Hamas rockets, and that Israel might first attack the Gaza Strip.

Israeli defense officials have provided surveillance photos for the U.S. agencies purportedly showing Hezbollah weapons deposits in the village of Khiam and published maps showing arms stockpiles in 160 other villages in southern Lebanon. The Israeli government stated its intention to “totally destroy these villages” if war breaks out. Hezbollah, however, will not jeopardize its ability to stockpile weapons close to the border in the event of another war with Israel. At the same time, Israel will not continue to accept Hezbollah’s arms build-up.

And there is also the vital necessity that these Israeli military aircraft would be under great pressure to return to base at once because Israeli intelligence believes that Iran would immediately order Hezbollah to fire rockets at Israeli cities, and Israeli air-force resources would be needed to hunt Hezbollah rocket teams.

Israel’s Northern Command, at his headquarters near the Lebanese border, is ordered that in the event of a unilateral Israeli or American strike on Iran, their mission would be to attack and completely destroy any and all identified Hezbollah rocket forces. At the present time the Iranians are keeping their Hezbollah firm ally  in reserve until Iran can cross the nuclear threshold.

During  the eleven years since the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon Hezbollah has greatly increased its surface-to-surface missile capability, and an American/Israeli strike on Iran, could provoke all-out retaliation by Iran’s Lebanese subsidiary, Hezbollah, which now possesses, by most intelligence estimates, as many as 45,000 surface-to-surface rockets—at least three times as many as it had in the summer of 2006, during the last round of fighting between the group and Israel.

It is known that  Russia has sent large numbers of longer range surface-to-surface missiles to Syria which has, in turn, shipped them to Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. These missiles have the capacity to easily reach Tel Aviv and Israelis are very concerned that a massive rocket barrage deep into Israel could not only do serious damage to their infrastructure but could easily provoke a mass immigration of Israelis to other areas, thus depriving Israel of both civilian and military personnel it would certainly need in the event of increased military actions against Israel.

Even if Israel’s Northern Command successfully combated Hezbollah rocket attacks in the wake of an Israeli strike, which American experts have deemed to be “nearly impossible,” political limitations would not allow Israel to make repeated sorties over Iran. America, too, would look complicit in an Israeli attack, even if it had not been forewarned. The assumption—often, but not always, correct—that Israel acts only with the, at least tacit, approval of the United States is a feature of life in the Middle East, and it is one the Israelis say they are taking into account.

But what if American intelligence learns about Israeli intentions hours before the scheduled launch of an attack? “It is a nightmare for us,” one of these officials reported in a conversation held at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

“What if President Trump calls up Bibi and says, ‘We know what you’re doing. Stop immediately.’ Do we stop? We might have to. A decision has been made that we can’t lie to the Americans about our plans. We don’t want to inform them beforehand. This is for their sake and for ours. So what do we do? These are the hard questions.” (Two officials suggested that Israel may go on pre-attack alert a number of times before actually striking: “After the fifth or sixth time, maybe no one would believe that we’re really going,” one official said.)

At this time, the Israelis have drawn up specific plans to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and the Bushehr reactor, along with four other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program that have been identified by joint past and present Israeli-American aerial surveillance.

If Isreali aircraft succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, all well and good but even if  they fail to damage or destroy these targets ,such an attack is feared by American and other nations as risking a devastating change in the Middle East.

Such an attack could initiate immediate reprisals such as a massed rocket attack by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon as well as other actions from neighboring Muslim states.  This could become a major diplomatic crisis for President Trump that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of seriously endangering Jewish groups around the world, and especially in the United States by making them the targets of Muslim-originated terror attacks and most certainly accelerating the growing immigration of many Israelis to what they felt might be much safer areas.

A consensus has emerged that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by May-June 2017. (Of course, it is in the Israeli interest to let it be known that the country is considering military action, if for no other reason than to concentrate the attention of the Obama administration. The Netanyahu government is already intensifying its analytic efforts not just on Iran, but on a subject many Israelis have difficulty understanding: President Trump.

The Israelis argue that Iran demands the urgent attention of the entire international community, and in particular the United States, with its unparalleled ability to project military force. This is the position of many moderate Arab leaders as well. if America allowed Iran to cross the nuclear threshold, the small Arab countries of the Gulf would have no choice but to leave the American orbit and ally themselves with Iran, out of self-protection. Several Arab leaders have suggested that America’s standing in the Middle East depends on its willingness to confront Iran. They argue self-interestedly that an aerial attack on a handful of Iranian facilities would not be as complicated or as messy as, say, invading Iraq. “This is not a discussion about the invasion of Iran,” one Arab foreign minister told me. “We are hoping for the pinpoint striking of several dangerous facilities. America could do this very easily.”

—why the Jewish state should trust the non-Jewish president of the United States to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold.

For more than a year, these White House officials have parried the charge that their president is unwilling to face the potential consequences of a nuclear Iran, and they are frustrated by what they believe to be a caricature of his position. It is undeniably true, however, that the administration has appeared on occasion less than stalwart on the issue. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, himself a Hungarian Jew,has criticized Obama as a purveyor of baseless hope. At the UN Security Council last September, Sarkozy said, “I support the extended hand of the Americans, but what good have proposals for dialogue brought the international community? More uranium enrichment and declarations by the leaders of Iran to wipe a UN member state off the map,” he said, referring to Israel.

Obama administration officials, particularly in the Pentagon, have several times signaled unhappiness at the possibility of military preemption. In April, the undersecretary of defense for policy, Michele Flournoy, told reporters that military force against Iran was “off the table in the near term.” She later backtracked, but Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has also criticized the idea of attacking Iran. “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome,” he said in April. “In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.”

One question no administration official seems eager to answer is this: what will the United States do if sanctions fail?

In Israel, of course, officials expend enormous amounts of energy to understand President Obama, despite the assurances they have received from Emanuel, Ross, and others. Delegations from Netanyahu’s bureau, from the defense and foreign ministries, and from the Israeli intelligence community have been arriving in Washington lately with great regularity. “We pack our thermometers and go to Washington and take everyone’s temperature,” one Israeli official in Tel Aviv said on a conference call March 3..

“The Americans consider a temporary postponement of Iran’s nuclear program to be of dubious value. We Israelis don’t. When Menachem Begin bombed Osirak [in Iraq], he had been told that his actions would set back the Iraqis one year,.He did it anyway.”

Some Israeli generals, like their American colleagues,have  questioned the very idea of an attack. “Our time would be better spent lobbying Barack Obama to do this, rather than trying this ourselves,” one Israeli general said. “We are very good at this kind of operation, but it is a big stretch for us. The Americans can do this with a minimum of difficulty, by comparison. This is too big for us.”

Both Israeli and American intelligence agencies are of the firm belief that Iran is, at most, one year, or less,  away from having a breakout nuclear capability, which is the capacity to assemble more than one missile-ready nuclear device.. The Iranian regime, by its own statements and actions, has made itself Israel’s most zealous foe; and the most crucial component of Israeli national-security doctrine, a tenet that dates back to the 1960s, when Israel developed its own nuclear capability as a response to the Jewish experience during the Holocaust, is that no regional adversary should be allowed to achieve nuclear parity with the reborn and still-besieged Jewish state. the Iranian desire for nuclear weapons and the regime’s theologically motivated desire to see the Jewish state purged from the Middle East

The Iranian leadership’s own view of nuclear dangers is perhaps best exemplified by a comment made in 2001 by the former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who entertained the idea that Israel’s demise could be brought about in a relatively pain-free manner for the Muslim world. “The use of an atomic bomb against Israel would destroy Israel completely while [a nuclear attack] against the Islamic countries would only cause damages,” Rafsanjani said.

It is this line of thinking, which suggests that rational deterrence theory, or the threat of mutual assured destruction, might not apply in the case of Iran, that has the Israeli government on a knife’s edge. And this is not a worry that is confined to Israel’s right. Even the left-wing Meretz Party, which is harsh in its condemnation of Netanyahu’s policies toward the Palestinians, considers Iran’s nuclear program to be an existential threat.

Israeli policy makers do not necessarily believe that Iran, should it acquire a nuclear device, would immediately launch it by missile at Tel Aviv. “On the one hand, they would like to see the Jews wiped out,” one Israeli defense official reported . “On the other hand, they know that Israel has unlimited reprisal capability”—this is an Israeli euphemism for the country’s second-strike nuclear arsenal—“and despite what Rafsanjani and others have said, we think they know that they are putting Persian civilization at risk.”

Benjamin Netanyahu feels, for reasons of national security, that if sanctions fail, he will be forced to take action. But an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, successful or not, may cause Iran to redouble its efforts—this time with a measure of international sympathy—to create a nuclear arsenal. And it could cause chaos for America in the Middle East

“The real threat to Zionism is the dilution of quality,” Ehud Barak has said. “Jews know that they can land on their feet in any corner of the world. The real test for us is to make Israel such an attractive place, such a cutting-edge place in human society, education, culture, science, quality of life, that even American Jewish young people want to come here.” This vision is threatened by Iran and its proxies, our young people can consciously decide to go other places, if they dislike living under the threat of nuclear attack. Our best youngsters could stay out of here by choice.”

Patriotism in Israel runs very high, according to numerous polls, and it seemed unlikely to me that mere fear of Iran could drive Israel’s Jews to seek shelter elsewhere. But one leading proponent of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, If Iran crossed the nuclear threshold, the very idea of Israel as a Zionist entity would be endangered. “These people are good citizens, and brave citizens, but the dynamics of life are such that if someone has a scholarship for two years at an American university and the university offers him a third year, the parents will say, ‘Go ahead, remain there,’ If someone finishes a Ph.D. and they are offered a job in America, they might stay there. It will not be that people are running to the airport, but slowly, slowly, the decision-making on the family level will be in favor of staying abroad. The bottom line is that we would have an accelerated brain drain. And an Israel that is not based on entrepreneurship, that is not based on excellence, will not be the Israel of today.”

Most critically if a Zionist Israel is no longer seen by its 6 million Jewish inhabitants and also by the approximately 7 millions of Jews resident outside of Israel that because of continuing threats from outside the country as no longer a natural safe haven for Jews then the entire concept of a Zionist haven/state is destroyed

To understand why Israelis of different political dispositions see Iran as quite possibly the most crucial challenge they have faced in their 69-year history, one must keep in mind the near-sanctity, in the public’s mind, of Israel’s nuclear monopoly. The Israeli national narrative, in shorthand, begins with shoah, which is Hebrew for “calamity,” and ends with tkumah, “rebirth.” Israel’s nuclear arsenal symbolizes national rebirth, and something else as well: that Jews emerged from World War II having learned at least one lesson, about the price of powerlessness.

If Israel is unable to change Trump’s mind, they will continue to threaten to take unilateral action against Iran by sending approximately one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran—by crossing Saudi Arabia, and along the border between Syria and Turkey, and, without consulting the Americans or in any way announcing their missions  by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft. (It’s so crowded, in fact, that the United States Central Command, whose area of responsibility is the greater Middle East, has already asked the Pentagon what to do should Israeli aircraft invade its airspace. According to multiple sources, the answer came back: do not shoot them down.) Successive Israeli prime ministers have ordered their military tacticians to draw up plans for a strike on Iran, and the Israeli air force has, of course, complied. It is impossible to know for sure how the Israelis might carry out such an operation, but knowledgeable officials in both Washington and Tel Aviv shared certain assumptions with me.

The first is that Israel would get only one try. Israeli planes would fly low over Saudi Arabia, bomb their targets in Iran, and return to Israel by flying again over Saudi territory, possibly even landing in the Saudi desert for refueling—perhaps, if speculation rife in intelligence circles is to be believed, with secret Saudi cooperation. Israel has been working through the United States to procure Saudi cooperation with an Israeli air strike against Tehran and other targets inside Iran.. The Saudis are treating this subject with great caution lest other Arab states learn of their putative cooperation in an Iranian attack with over flights of Saudi territory by Israeli military aircraft. The current American/Israeli plans are for the Saudis to turn off their radar after they have been noticed by the American embassy that an Israeli attack is imminent and also to permit the Israeli aircraft to land in their country for refueling The Israelis are not concerned with any kind of Iranian aircraft resistance because their airfields have been pinpointed by American satellites and one of the attacking groups would use low-yielt atomic rocketry on all the identified Iranian bases. It is obvious that when, not if, the Saudis part in this will create immense ill-will in neighboring Muslim states, an impression the Saudi government is most anxious not to deal with.

Israel has twice before successfully attacked and destroyed an enemy’s nuclear program. In 1981, Israeli warplanes bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak, halting—forever, as it turned out—Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions; and in 2007, Israeli planes destroyed a North Korean–built reactor in Syria. An attack on Iran, then, would be unprecedented only in scope and complexity.

The reasoning offered by Israeli decision makers was uncomplicated: At the present moment, Israel possesses 221 nuclear weapons, most of them  mainly two-stage thermonuclear devices, capable of being delivered by missile, fighter-bomber, or submarine (three of which are currently positioned in the Persian Gulf). Netanyahu is worried about an entire complex of problems, not only that Iran, or one of its proxies, would, in all probability, destroy or severely damage Tel Aviv; like most Israeli leaders, he believes that if Iran gains possession of a working nuclear weapon, it will use its new leverage to buttress its terrorist proxies in their attempts to make life difficult and dangerous; and that Israel’s status as a haven for Jews would be forever undermined, and with it, the entire raison d’être of the 100-year-old Zionist experiment.

Another question Israeli planners struggle with: how will they know if their attacks have actually destroyed a significant number of centrifuges and other hard-to-replace parts of the clandestine Iranian program? Two top Israeli strategists stated that Israel will have to dispatch commandos to finish the job, if necessary, and bring back proof of the destruction. The commandos—who, according to intelligence sources, may be launched from the autonomous Kurdish territory in northern Iraq—would be facing a treacherous challenge, but one military planner I spoke with said the army would have no choice but to send them.

Netanyahu’s obvious course is to convince the United States  that Iran is not Israel’s problem alone; it is the world’s problem, and the world, led by the United States, is obligated to grapple with it, not Israel alone. It is well-known that Israel by itself could not hope to deal with a retaliation against it by Iran and other Arab states but that a confederation of other nations, led, of course, by the United States could defend Israel against her enemies.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, does not place any credence in the current sanctions, former, current or possible future, against Iran, even the ones initiated by the United States at Israel’s urgent request. Is it known that Netanayahu is not happy with former President Obama’s reluctance to support an Israeli attack on Iran and has brought a great deal of political pressure to bear on the President by American Jewish political and business groups.

Israel’s current period of forbearance, in which Israel’s leadership waits to see if the West’s nonmilitary methods can stop Iran, will come to an end. Probably in April this year. A classified DoD report said that most intelligence estimates predict that Iran is one to two years away from building a nuclear weapon.

One of the consistent aims of Israel is to pressure on official Washington, which has said on a number of occasions that they finds the prospect of a nuclear Iran “unacceptable,” into executing a military strike against Iran’s known main weapons and uranium-enrichment facilities.

Barack Obama was steadfastly opposed to initiating new wars in the Middle East and an attack by U.S. forces on Iran was not a foreign-policy goal for him or his administration. The attitudes of the current Trump administration are open to conjecture. The Israeli goal is to compel him by public, and private, pressure to order the American military into action against Iran

Barack Obama  said any number of times that he would find a nuclear Iran “unacceptable.” His most stalwart comments on the subject were discounted by some Israeli officials because they were made during his campaign for the presidency, while visiting Sderot, the town in southern Israel that had been the frequent target of rocket attacks by Hamas. “The world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said. “I will take no options off the table in dealing with this potential Iranian threat. And understand part of my reasoning here. A nuclear Iran would be a game-changing situation, not just in the Middle East, but around the world. Whatever remains of our nuclear nonproliferation framework, I think, would begin to disintegrate. You would have countries in the Middle East who would see the potential need to also obtain nuclear weapons.”

But the Israelis are doubtful that a man who positioned himself as the antithesis of George W. Bush, author of invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq, would launch a preemptive attack on a Muslim nation.

“We all watched his speech in Cairo,” a senior Israeli official reported, referring to the June 2009 speech in which Obama attempted to reset relations with Muslims by stressing American cooperativeness and respect for Islam. “We don’t believe that he is the sort of person who would launch a daring strike on Iran. We are afraid he would see a policy of containing a nuclear Iran rather than attacking it.”

This official noted that even George W.Bush balked at attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, and discouraged the Israelis from carrying out the attack on their own. (Bush would sometimes mock those aides and commentators who advocated an attack on Iran, even referring to the conservative columnists Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol as “the bomber boys,”)

If the Israelis reach the firm conclusion that Trump will not, under any circumstances, launch a strike on Iran, then the countdown will begin for a unilateral Israeli attack.

And understanding that perhaps the best way to obviate a military strike on Iran is to make the threat of a strike by the Americans seem real.

 

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