United States spin-doctors – Have they no shame? More on Jamal Kashoggi

I always hated that English expression “gobsmacked”, meaning “shocked beyond the point of incredulity”.

Nevertheless, I have to accept that the word can serve a purpose – and I was pretty close to smacking my gob as I read this article in Time online about the disappearance of rebel Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi.

Kashoggi’s disappearance is attracting some media attention since he entered the door of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, and hasn’t been seen since. I’ve already posted the Turkish version of the story – but here is, I guess, the beginning of the US spin.

There is a saying in Turkish “Hem suçlu, hem güçlü”– which means something like: “Guilty as hell but toughing it out.” While reading the following, keep in mind that the unelected royal family of Saudi Arabia are close allies of the United States, and currently using weapons supplied by Washington to bomb the bejabers out of poor little Yemen. Don’t lose sight of the fact that: “Since the September 11 attacks, the United States government has carried out drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Libya.

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This is just Pakistan

Drone strikes are part of a targeted killing campaign against jihadist militants; however, non-combatant civilians have also been killed in drone strikes. Determining precise counts of the total number killed, as well as the number of non-combatant civilians killed, is impossible; and tracking of strikes and estimates of casualties are compiled by a number of organizations.” (Wikipedia)

“As Donald Trump assumes office today, he inherits a targeted killing program that has been the cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism strategy over the past eight years. On January 23, 2009, just three days into his presidency, President Obama authorized his first kinetic military action: two drone strikes, three hours apart, in Waziristan, Pakistan, that killed as many as twenty civilians. Two terms and 540 strikes later, Obama leaves the White House after having vastly expanding and normalizing the use of armed drones for counterterrorism and close air support operations in non-battlefield settings—namely Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.” (The Council on Foreign Relations)

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These are extracts from the Time article:

Jamal Khashoggi’s Disappearance Comes as Autocrats Are Growing Bolder in their Brutality

As of Oct. 10, the assumption is that the Saudi regime took the opportunity to silence one of its more prominent critics.

The mystery is how. Turkish authorities, albeit not the most trusted bunch themselves, believe Khashoggi was murdered inside the building by a team of 15 operatives, his corpse dismembered and transported outside in boxes. The Saudis claim he left alive and have pledged to investigate—though few believe a Saudi regime that has long been unafraid to detain or punish dissidents.

Although the murder of a critic on foreign soil would, if confirmed, be an unprecedented act even for a brutal kingdom,it fits within a larger pattern. Across the world, authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia have developed a rising sense of impunity when it comes to human rights and the rule of international law. Behavior once hidden behind palace doors now happens beyond borders and in the full view of the world.

Take China. Aside from the legion of human-rights abuses committed inside its own borders, including the detention of 1 million Uighurs, Beijing arrested Meng Hongwei, who as head of Interpol was a symbol of the international rule of law. Both have been ensnared by an antigraft campaign that President Xi Jinping and his regime have used to target critics and rivals. Russia too has taken its crackdown on dissenters global, most recently with the brazen poisoning attempt on former double agent Sergei Skripal in the U.K. 

This is happening with the implicit acceptance of the U.S., which under President Donald Trump has rejected its role as a champion of universal values like human rights.

But Trump is only one facet of this diminution of the U.S. as a moral lodestar for the world. . . A century of moral diplomacy begun by Woodrow Wilson is coming to an end under Trump.

The U.S. Congress may yet do so. And if Khashoggi’s murder can be confirmed, then economic sanctions will likely follow. But defending and spreading liberal values requires a more patient approach than crude dollar diplomacy.

Worryingly, this trend toward impunity comes as voters worldwide seem more attracted to strongmen and dictators.

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Pardon my lapse of memory – When exactly was it that “the U.S. [w]as a moral lodestar for the world”?

Oh, sorry, I see . . . apparently “A century of moral diplomacy [was] begun by Woodrow Wilson”, but “under President Donald Trump has rejected its role as a champion of universal values like human rights”.

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Are you as gobsmacked as me?

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What’s going on with Jamal Kashoggi?

Apparently, the Trump administration have offered to send FBI agents to Istanbul to “help” with the investigation. An article I’ve just read in Time says:

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Protesting the disappearance in Istanbul

“the assumption is that the Saudi regime took the opportunity to silence one of its more prominent critics.

The mystery is how. Turkish authorities, albeit not the most trusted bunch themselves, believe Khashoggi was murdered inside the building by a team of 15 operatives, his corpse dismembered and transported outside in boxes.”

What can you say to that? The FBI couldn’t stop 9/11, even when they had strong evidence it was coming! And you can’t trust Turkish authorities?! On the other hand, of course, you can totally trust US authorities, and British, and New Zealand, and Australian . . .

Well, if you’d like to see what the Turkish investigation has turned up so far, check this out – and then decide for yourself who to trust.

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Apple Watch ‘at heart of investigation’ on missing Saudi journalist Khashoggi

Two senior Turkish officials revealed the existence of an object that may provide important clues to the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who disappeared in Istanbul last week: The black Apple watch he was wearing when he entered his country’s consulate.

The watch was connected to a mobile phone he left outside, Reuters quoted the Turkish officials as saying on Oct. 10.

Did-the-Saudis-chop-up-journalist-Jamal-Khashoggi-and-sneak-his-body-from-their-consulate-in-bags

“Will you come into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly . . .

Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist and newspaper editor, had lived in exile in Washington for more than a year, writing a column for the Washington Post in which he regularly criticised his country’s crackdown on dissent, its war in Yemen and sanctions imposed on Qatar.

He said he could write freely in the United States in a way that was impossible at home, according to friends and colleagues, but he was increasingly worried that Riyadh could hurt him or his family.

In Turkey, though, Khashoggi had friends in high places, including some of President Tayyip Erdoğan’s advisers. So when he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2, he hoped the appointment would be brief, a simple bureaucratic task that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancee, whom he had met four months earlier.

“He said the safest country in the world for Saudi Arabians was Turkey,” said Yasin Aktay, an Erdoğan aide and close friend of Khashoggi.

Friends and family have not seen him since.

Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi, 59, was killed inside the consulate.

Read more

Every cloud has a silver lining – looking on the bright side in Yemen

Made-in-the-USA missiles bring some benefits to Yemen’s economy

Yemeni smiths beat missiles into knives for half price of Turkish steel (but maybe Turkey won’t be so happy)

Sometimes, the raw material of Ali Ghomari’s work comes screaming from the sky.

Missiles fired by Saudi-led coalition jets rain down on militiamen and civilians alike, killing and maiming thousands. Children, farmers and others collect shrapnel from their farmlands, from dirt alleys in impoverished neighborhoods, and offer it for sale to Ghomari and other artisans.

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Dagger crafted from missile fragment

From missiles, they do not make ploughshares. They make knives – jambiyya, the ornamental daggers Yemeni men wear for prestige and as a show of courage.

Once, they were made of imported steel, but high prices have forced craftsmen to use the refuse of war. One kilogram of fragment steel costs about 500 rials (less than $1), half the price of Turkish steel.

Ghomari, who is in his 50s, said he learned his craft from his father, who inherited the skill from his ancestors. The entire Ghomari family of seven households works as blacksmiths in the northern city of Abs; they sit in huts constructed of cinderblocks or tree branches, forging glowing metal around open fires.

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Searching for missile fragments amongst the rubble

Ghomari said knives were once a profitable business. But the father of six lamented that the market has weakened as the war-ravaged economy has tanked, and fewer men have extra money to pay for jambiyya.

When he has the money, Ghomari sometimes buys the remains of trucks and cars destroyed in wrecks, bombings or airstrikes.

“Trucks make the best dagger because the steel is strong and special,” he said.

The daggers have curved blades and are a part of traditional Yemeni attire – slipped into a decorated, hook-shaped sheath and tucked in vertically at the center of ornate belts if men are wearing robes, or placed in the top of a maawaz, a wrap-around male skirt. The blade is made of steel and the stronger the steel the more expensive the dagger. The shape of the hilt often refers to the city, region or tribe of the person carrying it, and the price also depends on whether the hilt is made of wood, buffalo horn or rhinoceros horn.

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Oh good! Another missile strike! Now we can make more daggers!

The more expensive the dagger, the more elevated the status of the man who wears it. Prices for new daggers range from $100 to $150. Old ones inherited from ancestors might be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The war between Yemen’s government and the Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels has been going on for nearly four years. The Saudi-led coalition of Sunni countries supported by the United States joined the fray in March 2015, launching a relentless air campaign with an arsenal made up mostly of U.S.-made missiles and other weaponry, providing plenty of metal for Ghomari and his family.

This is nothing new. During Yemen’s 1962-1970 civil war, Egypt and Saudi Arabia backed opposite sides. Ghomari’s father used Egyptian tank treads, artillery shells and rockets to make knives.

Today, Ghomari points to the anvil on which he beats missiles into daggers.

It is an empty mortar shell – from the 1960s.

Saudi journalist murdered, dismembered and “disappeared” in Turkey

JAMAL-ONE-At this stage Saudi official sources are denying it – but it seems increasingly likely that veteran journalist Jamal Kasshoggi was lured into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, murdered and smuggled in pieces out of the building.

Kashoggi had been living in the United States and writing articles critical of the Saudi regime which were published in the Washington Post and elsewhere.

President Erdoğan says following case of missing Saudi journalist Khashoggi ‘personally’

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Oct. 7 he was “personally” following the case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared last week, and added that he still hoped for a positive outcome to the matter.

“Whatever comes of this, we will be the ones to declare it to the world,” the president said, while answering reporters’ questions in the capital Ankara. “It is very, very upsetting for us that it happened in our country,” he said.

A presidential adviser said on Oct. 7 that Khashoggi had not left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in “normal ways.” Turkish authorities have concrete information on Khashoggi’s disappearance and the case would not go unsolved, Yasin Aktay told broadcaster CNN Türk.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported on the night of Oct. 6 that Turkish investigators believe Khashoggi was killed in “a preplanned murder” at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, citing two anonymous officials.

Kashoggi

It’s probably too late for that!

One Turkish official also told The Associated Press that detectives’ “initial assessment” was that Khashoggi was killed at the consulate, without elaborating. Saudi authorities early Oct. 7 called the allegation “baseless.”

Khashoggi, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for the last year, vanished on Oct. 2 while on a visit to the consulate.

The Post cited one anonymous official who said investigators believe a 15-member team “came from Saudi Arabia.” The official added: “It was a preplanned murder.”

Khashoggi, 59, went missing while on a visit to the consulate in Istanbul for paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée. The consulate insists the writer left its premises, contradicting Turkish officials.

saudi1As a contributor to the Post, Khashoggi has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticizing its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving. All those issues have been viewed as being pushed by Prince Mohammed, who similarly has led roundups of activists, businessmen and others in the kingdom.

“With young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power, he promised an embrace of social and economic reform,” Khashoggi wrote in his first column for the Post. “But all I see now is the recent wave of arrests.”

Khashoggi maintained ties with Saudi elites, including those in its intelligence apparatus, and launched a satellite news channel, Al-Arab, from Bahrain in 2015 with the backing of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

The channel was on air for less than 11 hours before it was shut down. Its billionaire backer was detained in the Ritz Carlton roundup overseen by Prince Mohammed in 2017.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, expressed shock over the news.

“If this is true—that the Saudis lured a U.S. resident into their consulate and murdered him—it should represent a fundamental break in our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.saudi arabia

EU, Iran defying the Trump administration

In case you missed it . . .

EU, Iran set financial ‘vehicle’ to ease trade between them

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A new alliance? Maybe they’ll get invited to join the club. There are a few other anomalies if you look closely at the green.

Five world powers and Iran agreed late on Sept. 24 to establish a financial facility in the European Union to facilitate payments for Iranian imports and exports including oil, a key move sought by Tehran following the U.S. pullout from the 2015 nuclear deal and its re-imposition of sanctions.

Foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran said in a joint statement that the so-called “Special Purpose Vehicle” will “assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran.”

The nuclear agreement is meant to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, but U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May he was unilaterally pulling out because he felt it wasn’t strong enough and didn’t cover other issues of concern to the U.S. and its allies, such as Iran’s military influence in the Middle East and ballistic missile program. The U.S. has also accused Iran of promoting international terrorism, which Tehran vehemently denies.

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European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini with Iran’s President Rouhani. Me ‘n’ you, gal – Let’s do it!

Iran’s economy is already suffering from the sanctions that Washington re-imposed after walking away from the nuclear agreement, and the U.S. has threatened to punish companies from other nations that continue doing business with Iran.

In sharp contrast, the five other world powers who signed the nuclear deal remain strongly committed to it, and the new financial facility is almost certain to anger the Trump administration.

New York Times

Giuliani: U.S. ‘Sympathizes’ With Attempt to Overthrow Iran’s Government

Well, they’ve done it before, in Iran and pretty much everywhere else in the world! The United States and their allies invaded Russia back in 1918, trying to overturn Russia’s revolution. They supported the exiled/defeated Chinese Kuomintang party after they fled to Taiwan in 1949. 70 years later, maybe the US is still hoping those guys will make a comeback! They organized a coup to get rid of Iran’s democratically elected government in 1952, and supported the puppet Shah for 27 years until Iranians threw him out.

Now, it seems Uncle Sam wants to bring that puppet government back – and they talk about democracy!!

Time report(NEW YORK) — Donald Trump’s attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, told members of Iran’s self-declared government in exile on Saturday that the U.S. sympathizes with their efforts to overthrow that country’s official government.

Funeral of John McCain, Washington DC, USA - 01 Sep 2018

Bringing democracy to the world – at gunpoint if necessary

The former New York mayor spoke to members and supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the biggest opposition group to Iran’s Islamic regime. Two U.S.-based members who joined the gathering have been targeted for assassination by alleged Iranian agents named last month in criminal complaints issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“So I say to the Iranian government, you must truly be afraid of being overthrown,” Giuliani said. “We will not forget that you wanted to commit murder on our soil.”*

After Saturday’s attack on a military parade in Iran that killed more than 20 people, security was tight surrounding more than 1,500 people who came to a midtown Manhattan hotel for the meeting.

Giuliani said the Paris-based opposition organization is the democratic answer* to an Iranian regime he called “a group of outlaws and murderers and people who pretend to be religious people and then have so much blood on their hands it’s almost unthinkable.”

Instead, Giuliani said, “Iran is entitled to freedom and democracy.”

Several months ago, Trump withdrew from a nuclear deal with Iran put in place by President Barack Obama and sanctions were reinstated.

The National Council comes to New York annually during the United Nations General Assembly, staging protests outside the world body against Iran’s leaders who are in town.

The U.S. government considered the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, linked politically to the council, to be a terrorist group the U.S. State Department removed from its list of such organizations in 2012.

Since the beginning of the year, Iranians have kept protesting and marching against the clerical regime, and the national currency has lost about two-thirds of its value, said Maryam Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, and the declared president-elect in exile of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Speaking via video, she said: “The regime is surrounded, politically and internationally, and in economic terms it is on the brink of collapse.”*

The new Iran, she said, would be based on free elections resulting in the separation of religion and state, human rights including equal participation of women in politics and the abolition of the death penalty.*

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*“We will not forget that you wanted to commit murder on our soil.” – Which, of course, the United States would NEVER do!

*Overthrowing Iran’s “official government” with a “Paris-based organization is the democratic answer”! Democracy, American style!

*“a group of outlaws and murderers and people who pretend to be religious people and then have so much blood on their hands it’s almost unthinkable.” Seems to me that could perhaps better apply to the US government and its backers.

*“The regime is surrounded, politically and internationally, and in economic terms it is on the brink of collapse.” Certainly that’s what US leaders have been trying to do for 40 years. Interestingly, Iran seems to be winning support from some important members of the international community.

*”abolition of the death penalty” – Which, of course, they don’t have in civilized countries like the United States, oh no!

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Meanwhile, what does the Iranian government have to say for itself? And who would you choose to believe?

Report in Turkey’s Hürriyet Daily News:

Rouhani says Iran ready to confront US after military parade attack

President Hassan Rouhani said on Sept. 23 Iran was ready to confront the United States and its Gulf Arab allies, a day after an attack on an Iranian military parade killed 25 people, including 12 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

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More and more countries seem prepared to stand up against US bullying tactics

Speaking before leaving Tehran to attend the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York, Rouhani accused U.S.-backed Gulf Arab states of providing financial and military support for anti-government ethnic Arab groups in Iran.

“America is acting like a bully towards the rest of the world…and thinks it can act based on brute force,” said Rouhani, who engineered Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal that ushered in a cautious detente with Washington before tensions flared anew with President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the accord.

“But our people will resist and the government is ready to confront America. We will overcome this situation [sanctions] and America will regret choosing the wrong path.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Sept. 23 summoned the United Arab Emirates’ charge d’affaires over comments made about the bloodshed in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.

State-run PressTV said the action was taken over comments by an unnamed UAE official, without giving details.

The Gulf Arab state of Qatar, which is at odds with U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, condemned the assault on the military parade, which wounded at least 70 people.

Gunmen fired on a viewing stand where Iranian officials had gathered to watch an annual event marking the start of the Islamic Republic’s 1980-88 war with Iraq. Soldiers crawled as gunfire crackled. Women and children fled for their lives.

It was one of the worst ever attacks against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, the sword and shield of Shi’ite clerical rule in Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

It answers to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and runs its own business empire in Iran, a major oil producer which has been relatively stable compared with Arab states that have grappled with unrest since uprisings in 2011.

Since pulling out of the big powers’ nuclear pact with Iran in May, Trump has reimposed U.S. sanctions meant to isolate Tehran and force it to negotiate tougher curbs on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Iran has ruled this out.

“America wants to cause chaos and unrest in our country so that it can return to this country, but these are unreal fantasies and they will never achieve their goals,” said Rouhani.

Shiite Iran is at odds with Western-allied Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia for predominance in the Middle East.

The regional powers back opposing sides in the conflicts in Yemen and Syria as well as rival political groups in Iraq and Lebanon, with the Guards defending Iranian interests.

“The small puppet countries in the region are backed by America, and the United States is provoking them and giving them the necessary capabilities,” said Rouhani.

An Iranian ethnic Arab opposition movement called the Ahvaz National Resistance, which seeks a separate state in oil-rich Khuzestan province, claimed responsibility for the attack.

“The Persian Gulf states are providing monetary, military and political support for these groups,” said Rouhani.

ISIL militants also claimed responsibility. Neither claim provided evidence. All four attackers were killed.

“Hopefully we will overcome these sanctions with the least possible costs and make America regret its aggressiveness towards other countries, and particularly Iran,” said Rouhani.

Coalition? Or Axis of Evil?

Saudi-led coalition admits ‘mistakes’ in deadly Yemen bus strike

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen admitted Saturday that “mistakes” had been made in an August air strike on Yemen that killed 51 people including 40 children.

YemenAn official said an investigation by the coalition had found “mistakes” were made in the strike on a crowded market in northern rebel-held Yemen, adding that those responsible must be “punished”.