‘US mercenaries’ hired to ‘torture’ Saudi royals

Well, I now you’ll tell me the UK’s Daily Mail is not everyone’s first choice for sourcing reliable news stories. On the other hand, I have to tell you, I’m pretty sceptical about the reliability of the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the UK’s very own Guardian and Daily Telegraph. So where does that leave us?

Saudi USAThis item is all over the web, although the source seems to be the same – some guy tweeted, twittered, or whatever whistle-blowers do these days, that Saudi princes and billionaire businessmen arrested in a power grab earlier this month are being strung up by their feet and beaten by American private security contractors.”

“According to sources quoted by Dailymail, ‘Blackwater’ has been named as the firm involved, and the claim of its presence in Saudi Arabia has also been made on Arabic social media, and by Lebanon’s president.

“Lebanese authorities have unconfirmed information that the Blackwater firm is guarding Hariri and his family – not official Saudi security forces,” tweeted Michel Aoun, the President of Lebanon, last Wednesday.

A high-profile Saudi whistleblower, one who is said to have inside information, also claimed Salman has brought in at least 150 ‘Blackwater’ guards. “The first group of Blackwater mercenaries arrived in Saudi Arabia a week after the toppling of bin Nayef [Salman’s predecessor as crown prince]”, he tweeted.

Saudi & hillary“One of the most important tasks of these aggregates are escorting and guarding bin Salman (especially confidential visits) and implementation of important and sensitive commands in addition to guarding the Princes and officials cut the ways their communication with the outside world.”

The source confirmed that the name ‘Blackwater’ is being circulated as the company providing the mercenaries; the controversial private security company, however, no longer exists under that name and is now known as Academi.

A spokesperson for Constellis, Academi’s parent company, denied the claims. The spokesperson told Dailymail that it has no presence in Saudi Arabia and does not carry out interrogations. “Constellis through Academi does not now or have we ever provided interrogative services,’ they said.

‘We do not provide security services in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), we have no contact or connection with any government official or private party regarding this allegation.’

index-1-e1510746655829When asked if Academi workers were involved in any kind of violence during these interrogations, the spokesperson said: ‘No. Academi has no presence in KSA. We do not have interrogators, nor do we provide any interrogators, advisors or other similar services.’

They added: ‘Academi does not participate in interrogative services for any government or private customer. Academi has a zero tolerance policy for violence. We operate legally, morally, ethically and in compliance with local and US laws.’

A zero tolerance policy for violence! Blackwater! Words fail me!

So what do I take from all this? Saudi Arabia has some very serious internal ideological problems. The ruling elite have been stooges of Britain and the United States since their oil rich desert land achieved “independence” after the Ottoman Empire vanished at the end of the First World War.

Saudi Arabia contains within its borders the two holiest sites of the Muslim religion: Mecca and Medina. Their state religion is an extremist Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam. A good number of devout Saudi Muslims are seriously outraged by their governing royal family’s venal relationship with the United States of America and their grasping capitalist overlords. They are further outraged by the fact that the USA has military bases on their holy land.

5b86ed125e68cba0a17be861f531442f--political-cartoons-atheismThe September 11, 2001 attack on the United States, if it wasn’t actually perpetrated by the Bush administration for their own nefarious purposes, was, at the very least, carried out by Saudi Arabian nationals, the most notorious of which was Osama bin Laden, scion of one of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest families.

After US President Trump visited Saudi Arabia in May this year, the Saudi government joined forces with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to implement a trade embargo on their Arab neighbour Qatar. We can be sure there were many voices within the Saudi kingdom raised against this action.

If I were a betting man I would say this is a power play within Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, supported by the United States and Israeli governments to get rid of dissenting voices and ensure that the kingdom continues to be a loyal ally and supplier of oil into the future. What do you think?

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If you don’t think there’s a conspiracy, you’re not paying attention

An interesting article I came across in Time Magazine: “Why Smart People Still Believe Conspiracy Theories”

wall street conspiracyA coterie of academic stooges set out to prove that people who believe in “conspiracy theories” are of sub-normal intelligence. Unfortunately for them, their findings did not confirm their initial hypothesis – so they had to come up with another one, ie people believe what they want to believe. Which is probably equally true of people who insist that there is no conspiracy.

The researchers’ fundamental error was to assume that people who believe there is a conspiracy have no solid evidence to support their belief. Not true, guys and girls.

  • Take a look at the Roman Catholic Church. One huge international conspiracy to keep the poor in slavery.
  • Take a look at Wall Street and the world of international banking and finance. Another monumental conspiracy to hide the truth behind global economic imperialism.
  • Take a look at the United States political system. Another major conspiracy aimed at convincing poor Americans that they actually have a say in how their government rules the country.

trumps-favorite-mcdonalds-meal-is-a-catholic-conspiracyA few extracts from the Time article:

“Millions of Americans believe in conspiracy theories — including plenty of people who you might expect would be smart enough to know better.

Despite mountains of scientific evidence to the contrary, at least 20% of Americans still believe in a link between vaccines and autism, and at least 37% think global warming is a hoax*, according to a 2015 analysis. Even more of us accept the existence of the paranormal: 42% believe in ghosts and 41% in extrasensory perception. And those numbers are stable. A 2014 study by conspiracy experts Joseph Uscinski of the University of Miami and Joseph Parent of Note Dame University surveyed 100,000 letters sent to the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune from 1890 to 2010 and found that the percentage that argued for one conspiracy theory or another had barely budged over time.

Now, a study published online in the journal Personality and Individual Differences provides new insights into why so many of us believe in things that just aren’t true: In some cases, we simply want to believe.

The second study was similar but also sought to correlate belief in conspiracy theories and the paranormal with overall cognitive ability. To determine this, the people answered a number of questions that measured their numeracy — or basic mathematical skills — and their language abilities.

us democracyWhat’s most troubling — and a little mystifying — is the fact is that so many people in the studies score high on all of the rational and intellectual metrics and yet nonetheless subscribe to disproven theories. That’s the case in the real world too, where highly educated people traffic in conspiratorial nonsense that you’d think they’d reject. In these cases, the study concluded, the reason may simply be that they’re invested—emotionally, ideologically—in believing the conspiracies, and they use their considerable cognitive skills to persuade themselves that what’s untrue is actually true. If you want to believe vaccines are dangerous or that the political party to which you don’t belong is plotting the ruination of America, you’ll build yourself a credible case.”

_______________________________

*Interestingly US presidents and CEOs of large corporations seem to subscribe to this one!

Who us? Plot against another country’s government?

US calls Turkish gov’t accusations of plot in Zarrab case ‘ridiculous’

shocked-woman-600_e6fkxk

Would we do something like that?

“The United States on Nov. 21 called the Turkish government’s accusations of a plot in the case of Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab “ridiculous,” referring to an earlier response by Washington on the alleged involvement with last year’s failed coup.

“We’ve heard that story, that old same song and dance from Turkey before, and I would have to give you the same answer as last time they accused us of trying to foment some sort of a coup. And I would say that is ridiculous. We are not engaged in that. Anything related to that particular case, I’d just have to refer you to the Department of Justice,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said during a daily press briefing.

When asked whether the latest remarks by Ankara would lead Washington to review its stance on Turkey’s alliance within NATO, Nauert likened it to a “marriage,” stating that relations with some countries “can ebb and flow sometimes.”

john bass

Former US ambassador in Ankara banished to Afghanistan. Better luck there, John!

“And so somebody may say something that later they regret saying. They are a NATO member. They are a valued ally of the United States. We have had a strong relationship with Turkey. But really, just making comments about the United States trying to foment a coup is just – is simply ridiculous. And I think they recognize – I think they recognize that as well,” Nauert said.

Thanks for the reassurance, Heather. So why did you guys send your former Ankara ambassador to Afghanistan for his next assignment? Reward for a job well done? Yeah, sure!

At the same press conference, Ms Nauert had this to say about what’s going on in Yemen:

A horrific situation that is going on in Yemen. It is something that our team has watched very closely. The ambassador to Yemen and I were exchanging emails just yesterday about the situation on the ground there. He is not in Yemen right now because we don’t have that operation there, but he recently visited to take a look himself.

احباط عملية انتحارية بصعدة واستشهاد 135 بتفجيرات صنعاء

US humanitarian assistance in Yemen

I can tell you we’re working very closely with the Government of Saudi Arabia – as you well know, we have a good relationship with the Government of Saudi Arabia – to try to encourage better humanitarian assistance.

We recognize the food and the aid and the supplies that are needed in Yemen. The Government of Saudi Arabia has assured us that all the ports under control of the Government of Yemen have been opened to humanitarian aid and access. We have concerns, certainly, that that’s not moving quickly enough. I mean, you saw the pictures on 60 Minutes – many of us did – about the dire situation, especially for young, young children, and how terrible that is.

So we’ll continue to have conversations, and those conversations, I can assure you, are happening between our government and the Government of Saudi Arabia to try to facilitate better and faster humanitarian assistance.”

Come again, Heather? The USA is supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia which they are using to bomb the living bejesus out of the people of Yemen – and we should believe that crap about “humanitarian assistance”. And we should also believe your government is not trying to depose Turkey’s democratically elected president?

Plots against Turkey

I don’t know what sort of coverage it got in your part of the world. I did find a piece or two in the UK’s Guardian, and on the BBC, linked to a lot of “related” pieces about Turkey’s “Islamic dictator” imprisoning poor innocents merely because they tried to have him ousted by a military coup last July. Both articles make judicious use of words like “allegedly” and “reportedly”, but there doesn’t seem to be much doubt about the facts.

erdoğan foeTurkey had sent 40 soldiers to participate in a NATO training exercise in Norway. Well, even military exercises need an enemy, and apparently the NATO organisers in their wisdom chose to use the name of Turkey’s much-maligned President Erdoğan, alongside a picture of the revered founder of Turkey’s republic.

Understandably, the Turkish government was not amused and withdrew its participants from the exercise. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg promptly issued an apology, followed by a statement by Norway’s minister of defence expressing his “concerns about the incident”. So, it seems pretty clear that the facts are essentially as reported.

Stoltenberg’s statement claimed the incident was the result of an “individual’s actions” – a Norwegian civil contractor seconded by Norway, and not a NATO employee – and did not reflect the views of the alliance.

Turkey, it seems, is not to be so easily appeased. The country’s EU Minister asked, with some justification, “Is there no chain of command? Does he [the civilian contracted person] not have a commander?” A government spokesman, addressing a press conference, said “We welcome the apologies issued. We welcome the removal of those responsible from office and the launching of an investigation. But we don’t see these incidents as solely extending to individuals. It’s not possible to explain these incidents merely in terms of individual responsibility,”

reza zarrab

Reza Zarrab in custody in the USA

Meanwhile, a curious court case is proceeding slowly in the United States. An Iranian-Turkish businessman, Reza Zarrab, was arrested in the US last year “on charges that he conspired to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars in financial transactions for the Iranian government and other entities to evade U.S. sanctions.”

Whatever we may think about the rest of the world being expected to support corporate America in its vendetta against uncooperative foreign leaders, it struck many people as strange that Mr Zarrab would voluntary enter the USA knowing that he would probably be arrested.

An opinion piece in Turkey’s English language Hürriyet Daily News voiced these concerns, suggesting CIA involvement:

ny times

What’s changed since 1974?

“It was never convincing that Zarrab, known worldwide for breaching the U.S.’s Iran sanctions and getting arrested in Turkey in the Dec. 17- 25, 2013 corruption and bribery operations, came to the U.S. to take his child on a trip. 

His arrival in the U.S. was thought to be the result of a negotiation. It is claimed that he negotiated to become a confessor in return for a permission that will allow him to keep his assets outside Turkey and continue commercial activity.

If he becomes a confessor, the story will widen more and a new indictment will be written.

‘It smells fishy,’ President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said about it.

The writer, Abdulkadir Selvi, goes on to say, “The U.S, after failing to overthrow Erdoğan through FETÖ on Dec. 17 – 25, 2013, stepped into the issue with the Zarrab case.”

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bekir Bozdağ said the other day, “We make no secret of it: This is a political case and does not have a legal basis. It is a plot against Turkey. The prosecutors have been openly imposing pressure on the accused. . . [Zarrab] is in a sense taken hostage,” Bozdağ said, claiming that Zarrab is “under pressure from prosecutors to become a confessor and to make accusations against the Republic of Turkey.”

venezuela

Bringing democracy to the developing world

Another writer in Hürriyet, Barçın Yinanç, no slavish supporter of the government, made some apt observations about negative portrayals of Turkey and its government in foreign media. In a piece entitled “Who is losing Turkey? She wrote:

“Turkey lives in a troubled neighborhood and the Western world has often had problematic relations with its neighbors.

There has been a bad guy in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad. No one was supposed to cooperate with him and Turkey was once asked to follow suit.

There was also a bad guy in Iraq, Saddam Hussein. Sanctions were applied against his regime and Turkey was asked to abide by those sanctions.

In Iran, there has been a bad regime ever since the Islamic Revolution. Tehran has been continuously under sanctions, which Turkey has been under pressure to abide by.

There has also been a bad guy in Russia, the Kremlin. Sanctions have been introduced and Turkey has been required to follow them.

People sometimes forget that economically thriving nations trade with their neighbors. Some also forget that while the EU wanted Turkey to abide by the sanctions it imposed on countries to its east, north and south, it did not exactly have its arms wide open when Turkey turned to Europe.

Currently, when a foreign observer looks at Turkey, they see an Islamist leader distancing Turkey away from the transatlantic alliance. But the same observer may forget that it was that same leader who once undertook the most sweeping democratic reforms Turkey has ever seen. They may also forget that when Ankara knocked on the EU’s door in the 2000s, Germany’s Angela Merkel and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy effectively closed the door in its face. It also suited Europe’s interest to keep Turkey at arm’s length, hiding behind the Greek Cypriot administration which has been blocking accession talks.

This has all been forgotten. No one in Europe is questioning who caused the EU to lose Turkey. Why should they?”

germany-lead

New election coming up in Germany? Wasn’t the September result satisfactory? German voters should think again!

Economic gobbledegook – and why the world is going to hell on a fast train

This is by some guy called Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, writing in the UK’s Daily Telegraph. Well, with a name like that you wouldn’t imagine he’d have missed too many meals in his life. He’s probably right in picking that it’s not a good sign for the future of the world when someone can pay $450 million for a painting, even if Leonardo da Vinci did paint it. Reading between the lines of overblown pretentious verbiage, I reckon he’s saying the world is in for another major financial crash, engineered by the same grotesquely over-paid, grasping, selfish “financiers” that brought us the last one.

Cy twomble

$46 million painting by Cy Twombly

Leonardo da Vinci has special cachet. What is striking about the Christie’s soiree in New York last week was not so much the US$450m ($661m) paid for his rediscovered Salvator Mundi but the prices fetched by everyone else.

Buyers forked out $46m for vermilion spirals from the Bacchus series by Cy Twombly, executed 12 years ago with a paint-drenched brush on a pole. Soothing sands called Saffron by Mark Rothko fetched US$32m.

The week’s haul at Christie’s and Sotheby’s topped US$1.5 billion, with Asian buyers snapping up Monets. Fernand Leger’s abstract Contrastes de Formes fetched US$62m.

It screams late-cycle liquidity, recalling Japan’s impressionist fever in the late Eighties before the Nikkei collapsed and the bottom fell out of the art market.

092216-best-paidBitcoin clinches the argument. It has risen more than 1,200 per cent over the past year to more than US$8000 – five times an ounce of gold – on a “greater fool” presumption.

This is not a criticism of blockchain technology. It will flourish. But you cannot yet buy and sell things in any meaningful way with cryptocurrencies worth US$180b.

Bitcoin will end badly, either when the Chicago Mercantile Exchange launches its futures contracts in two weeks and allows traders to short it, or when the global cycle turns. A runaway asset boom can last a long time when the G4 central banks are holding real interest at minus 1.5 per cent and spending US$2 trillion a year soaking up “safe assets”

And here’sAcademic bulls say the stock of central bank assets is still growing. Market bears counter that the flow is falling, which matters more to them. Hence the recent rout in high-yield credit. Junk bond funds saw the biggest outflows since 2014 last week.

A parallel retreat is under way in East Asia where US$800m of bond sales in steel, solar and palm oil were cancelled. These are minor tremors. What threatens the universe of stretched asset values is the return of US inflation. The boom is built on the premise that the Fed will bathe the global system with ample liquidity.

banking-2015

2015 figures for the UK

Yet that is precisely what is now in doubt as US unemployment drops to a 17-year low and the dormant Phillips curve reawakens. The New York Fed’s underlying inflation gauge has jumped to a post-Lehman peak of 2.96 per cent.

All it will take from now on is a single piece of hard data to confirm this trend and the markets will reprice interest rate futures abruptly, shaking the whole edifice of global risk appetite.

Staccato rate rises by the Fed would ignite a dollar surge, squeezing an estimated US$10.7t of offshore dollar debt. There is a further US$14t of global dollar debt hidden in derivatives and FX swap contracts, pushing the total to US$25t.

The Wolf of Wall Street

“Watching with wolfish concentration . . . “

I didn’t want to upload the whole pretentious, jargon-loaded article – just give you a taste – but here’s Evans-Pritchard’s conclusion:

“Major players in the City are watching with wolfish concentration. Bank of America says the air is getting thinner for risk assets but tells clients to stay with the “Icarus trade” as long as you can still breathe.

Mark Haefele, investment chief at UBS, says it is too early to bail out but the coming inflection point is “something we think about a lot”.

More evidence that the US was behind the failed coup attempt in Turkey

Reassessing The Reasons For The Failed Turkish Coup AttemptEVIL_EMPIRE_COVER_2_670

This review aims to re-evaluate the motivations for the regime change attempt and argues that the US exploited sharp pre-existing differences within Turkey’s military, elite, and society in order to instigate the coup for envisioned zero-sum geostrategic ends against Russia.

Church, Mosque – or what? A taste of Istanbul’s complex history

CollageWorth a visit if you happen to be in Istanbul, the mosque of Molla Zeyrek, formerly the Byzantine monastery church of Christ Pantokrator, has recently undergone a complete restoration. Next door, a tasteful café and restaurant located on a terrace overlooking the Golden Horn offers magnificent panoramic views of Pera district, the entrance to the Bosporus, the imperial mosques of Sultanahmet and Suleiman the Magnificent, with glimpses of the Asian shore behind. The café also features an excellent bookshop selling memorabilia for the tourist who prefers something a little classier than what is to be found in the more frequented attractions.

A little of the building’s history:

Whole monastery

Prior to restoration

Shortly after Constantinople fell to the invading Ottoman armies in 1453, the twelfth-century Church of the Monastery of Christ Pantokrator was converted into the Zeyrek mosque. Named after Molla Zeyrek, a well-known scholar who lived during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II, Zeyrek Camii served not only as a religious center but also as a hub for Islamic enlightenment. The church-turned-mosque is one of the finest examples of religious architecture from the Byzantine era in Istanbul and the second-largest surviving Byzantine religious structure in the city after Hagia Sophia. The church and monastery were built by Emperor John II Komnenos to honor his wife’s wishes to house the “poor, sick, and suffering souls.” The north and south churches, dedicated to Christ Pantokrator and the Archangel St. Michael, are connected by an imperial chapel that was used as a mausoleum for the Komnenos and Palaiologos dynasties. This masterpiece of the middle period of Byzantine architecture consists of extraordinary domes capping the north and south churches and the imperial chapel, with complimentary interiors formed by elegant vaults and arches. Today, the monastery has completely disappeared except for the cistern, some structural elements, and timber houses that served as residences during Ottoman rule, encircling the Zeyrek Camii. Source.

Tiled floor

Interior tiled floor

The Monastery of Christ the Almighty (Pantokrator) was founded by Ioannes II Komnenos (1118-1143) and his wife Eirene, a born princess of Hungary, and built between 1118 and 1137. The south church was built first, then the north church was added, and finally a grave chapel with two oval domes was constructed in the space between both churches after their outer halls in this area had been demolished. This monumental ensemble is the greatest church building in Istanbul after the time of Justinian I, and it is the only one from the later time where we know the name of the architect, Nikephoros. The monastery is known in detail from the surviving foundation document where its buildings, the life of the monks there and the hospital connected to it are described. In the grave chapel, a number of emperors were buried including Ioannes and Eirene themselves, Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180) and Manuel II Palaeologos (1391-1425).

The Zeryek Camii complex served as both an important Christian religious and education center and later as a mosque established to educate Muslim students. Zeyrek Camii shares similarities with its not-too-distant neighbor, Hagia Sofia. Both have housed two religions under their majestic domed roofs and have functioned as dominant architectural symbols of the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. Source.

Molla Zeyrek

The monastery church with the mosque of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror behind

The complex of Monastery of the Pantokrator (Ruler of all), was dedicated to Christ and stood on a hill overlooking the ancient aqueduct of Valens near the geographical center of the city. There are three interconnected churches. The first building was constructed by the Empress Irene between 1118 – 1124. This was the largest church and it was richly decorated with mosaics and rare marbles. Shortly thereafter a large church was built alongside the first one to the south and it was dedicated it to the Vigin Eleosa – “Mercy”. Finally, a wide space between the two churches was vaulted over by two domes and transformed into an Imperial mausoleum dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel.

The south church is one of the largest churches built during the Middle Ages in Constantinople with a nave 16 metres square and a dome 7 metres across. The survival of so many huge cathedrals in the capital, like Hagia Sophia and Holy Apostles, made the further construction of big churches unnecessary. The pietism of the time and the preference for smaller, community monastic churches also dictated a more intimate size.

View from caf

View from the terrace

The splendid interiors of all three churches were remarked upon in the Middle Ages. The Comnenian Emperors and their wives lavished money and gifts on the monastery, which was covered in golden mosaic tiles, rich marble veneer, precious metals and semi-precious stones. Even the floor was inlaid with a fantastic opus sectile rinceau carpet of carved, colored marbles depicting mythological scenes, hunters and animals. Fragments of stained glass set in lead found in the church indicate the windows of the apse were set with figures of Christ, the Virgin and possibly other saints.

The mausoleum church contained many relics, including the stone upon which, it was claimed, Christ had been anointed after his crucifixion. This mausoleum was filled with the marble tombs of Emperors and Empresses and its iconostasis was said to have been encrusted with gold enamel and gems.

The church was founded as a hospital with many beds and there were nurses and doctors attached to the monastery. It was also a center of learning and art. The founding document for the monastery – its Typicon – survives and outlines all its social functions in detail.

The+Fourth+Crusade+1202-1204.+Original+goal+was+to+conquer+the+Muslim-controlled+parts+of+Jerusalem+by+invading+through+Egypt.In 1204 the city of Constantinople fell to the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade after a series of vast and horrible fires set by the Crusaders. These conflagrations levelled large swaths of the city and consumed art treasures and books created and gathered over 900 years by the Byzantines. These included some of the greatest works of antiquity and a vast trove of Western civilization went up in flames. Catholic looters spread throughout the city to snatch what was left and the booty was thought to be the greatest ever seen.

The soldiers from France, Italy, and all across Europe did not spare the churches of their brother Christians; they stripped them bare of their valuables. The Pantokrator was attacked and looted. The tombs of the Emperors and Empresses were opened and their bodies were stripped. Monks and nuns were murdered and raped. Tens of thousands perished.

1204_sack

“Christian” crusaders loot and sack the cathedral church of Hagia Sophia, 1204

The Venetians claimed the Pantokrator as part of their booty and occupied the complex until the Latins were ousted from the city by the Byzantines in 1261. Towards the end – when it became apparent they could not hold on to Constantinople it is said the Venetians removed the enameled panels from the iconostasis of the Pantokrator and shipped them to Venice, where they became the centerpiece of the famous Pala d’Oro. Source.

[That’s Christians for you!]