The intelligence community politically assassinated Mike Flynn and may be “Friday night massacred” by a hedge fund manager and Trump ally with ties to the defense industry. The race for Raqqa is on and Turkey may be involved. Libya requested NATO help on the 6th anniversary of their “revolution”. And more in our global news roundup…
US: Political Assassination of Flynn by the War Party
_ National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned late Monday night, Feb. 13. Flynn was targeted by the intelligence community and their assets in the media for months but during the few days prior to his resignation, the most prominent establishment media flooded the air waves with claims that Flynn did something sinister by talking to the Russian ambassador during the transition period even though many professionals, even those who aren’t his allies, said the conversation was nothing unusual.
_ As Shadowproof’s Dan Wright reported, “The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Politico” blasted out leak stories with anonymous stories within 30 minutes, in ” one of the most blatant leak campaigns by national security officials in recent memory.”
US: Allegations Against Flynn
_ During their weekly interview on Tuesday night, John Batchelor and Stephen Cohen discussed Flynn:
Batchelor: “There’s reason to believe that there was no violation and that Flynn was a victim of the War Party. He was driven from office with leaking and there is nothing illicit in his conduct.”Cohen: “Flynn was low-hanging fruit — the least liked, the least adept politically of the Trump team that was known to want cooperation with Russia.”
_ Multiple reports said Flynn talked to the Russian ambassador after Pres. Obama’s late December sanctions on Russia, and told the ambassador that the new administration would be in office in a few weeks, and they would review the situation. Many people, even those not generally on Flynn’s “side” said this was “neither illegal nor improper“. Journalist and neoconservative war hawk Eli Lake called it a political assassination. The Washington Post admitted on Wednesday that Flynn’s removal “culmination of swirling forces and resentment unleashed by the 2016 election” and a carefully executed effort by the Obama administration. In other words, as Lake said, a political assassination, and by the same people who forced Flynn out of the Obama administration in 2014.
_ However, Flynn admitted that he did not accurately or completely describe all the details of the conversations with Vice President Pence, and this is what was used to bring him down.
US: Intelligence Community Playing a “Dangerous Game”
_ Dennis Kucinich, no ally of Trump or Flynn, said the intelligence community is playing a dangerous game with our national security, which may lead us into more wars, and they are working to undermine the elected government. In our recent podcast interview with John Kiriakou, we discussed the raging battle going on in the intelligence agencies and the deep state.
US: Leaking Communications of Top Officials
_ Days before Flynn resigned, Politico reported that the CIA is out to get Trump national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and turned denied security clearance for his aide, a former Marine intelligence officer, because they believe “that the CIA doesn’t run the world” and they’re skeptical of the intelligence community’s techniques. The same source said that “some in the intelligence community feel threatened by Flynn and his allies.” Flynn was forced out of his position as head of the rival DIA during the Obama administration after the faction in power at the CIA at the time allegedly forced him out. The sources in the article are anonymous, and some of them claim that the new CIA director, Mike Pompeo, went along with the political “hit job from inside the CIA on Flynn and the people close to him,” which is causing a rift between Trump administration top officials.
_ Democrat Adam Schiff, a Hillary Clinton surrogate and ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said that’s “baloney” and if the CIA denied someone clearance there was a good reason for it. But Schiff himself is also going after Flynn, as he has made clear in public statements. The Washington Post has now, for the second time, reversed the story on Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador. So three versions of this story have been published by the WaPo in the past six weeks. (Version 1, Version 2, Version 3) Version 2 and version 3 were written by the same journalists. Version 1 was written by David Ignatius, the MSM mouthpiece for the CIA.
_ Tuesday night (Feb. 14) The New York Times (NYT) published an article with anonymous current and former intelligence officials leaking that “Trump campaign members and other Trump associates” had contact with “senior Russian intelligence officials” during the year before the election. The leakers said they knew this because of “phone records and intercepted calls.” The anonymous officials named Paul Manafort, a businessman, as one person who had contact with Russian intelligence. They note that American businessmen frequently come in contact with foreign intelligence officials, sometimes unwitting).
_ Later in the NYT article they report an ongoing classified FBI investigation of all Trump “associates” (they don’t define what an associate is) and their communications. The FBI refused to comment but the NYT named 3 individuals who the FBI “has closely examined.” They don’t specify a source and don’t say they were implicated. They chose to put out the names: Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and Carter Page, for some reason, to report that they were under investigation.
_ On Tuesday, in a drastic change of tone during the press briefing, Trump’s press secretary said that the “evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable instances is what led the President to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.” He then stressed that Flynn “did not do anything wrong” and this is “not a legal issue, but rather a trust issue.” The thing that led to Flynn being forced out was “misleading the Vice President and others, or the possibility that he had forgotten critical details of this important conversation had created a critical mass and an unsustainable situation.” Flynn had years of experience with the intelligence community (IC) and with him out of the way, manipulation of the president by the IC will be much easier.
_ In another drastic change in tone, Pres. Trump praised Michael Flynn at a press conference and said he was treated badly and unfairly by the media but his reason for not completely informing Vice Pres. Pence was not acceptable, even though he did nothing wrong. Trump also pledged to find and punish the criminal leakers at a meeting with House Republicans, saying they would “pay a big price”. He also lashed out at the intelligence community and the media for leaking and publishing his own communications and the communications of top officials.
US: Opposition to Detente With Russia
_ During the campaign Trump favored detente, as did Flynn. The tone and positions toward Russia began to change immediately on the day after Flynn was fired. Sean Spicer said that “President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to deescalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea.” He then quoted UN ambassador Nikki Haley saying: “dire situation in Eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” After all that, Spicer said Trump “fully expects to and wants to be able to get along with Russia” so they can work together against terrorism.
_ The head of Russia’s foreign affairs committee in the upper house of parliament, Konstantin Kosachev said: “Flynn, unlike many other high-ranking Americans, was at least open to dialogue.”
_ To make things even more perplexing, even after the radical change in stance toward Russia during the press briefing from his spokesman, and with the media, led by the New York Times, publishing sinister articles with anonymous sources about connections with “the Russians,” Trump continued to use social media to protest that these connections are hogwash, et al. Trump, Wednesday morning, on his personal Twitter account:
“This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign.”
“Thank you to Eli Lake of The Bloomberg View – “The NSA & FBI…should not interfere in our politics…and is” Very serious situation for USA”
“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by “intelligence” like candy. Very un-American!”
_ Retired Gen. Breedlove, (nicknamed by many as Gen. Strangelove) the former NATO commander who was a key figure in reigniting the Cold War and made the previously unthinkable hot war with Russia now very thinkable, invoked his fighter pilot experience to rant against cooperation with Russia to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Breedlove said: “To align ourselves with Iran and Russia in support of Mr. Assad would be very tough for me to deal with,” although, given that he is retired, it’s not clear what exactly he would be expected to “deal with.”
_ Breedlove was so belligerent that Germany had to intervene to get him to tone down his warmongering rhetoric during his stint as NATO commander. Hacked emails revealed that Breedlove had also “plotted in private to overcome President Barack Obama’s reluctance to escalate military tensions with Russia.”
_ The extremely hawkish Senate Foreign Relations Committee is publicly undermining the new president’s intentions (and campaign promises) for detente with Russia. There is bipartisan agreement on the committee “that the legislative branch should take decisive action against Russia, even if that means circumventing the White House’s expressed desire for a better relationship between the two nations.” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) is preparing legislation to “take decisions about Russian sanctions out of the hands of the White House.” (Hearing video)
_ Joint Staff reported a meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan between the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs Gen. Dunford and his Russian counterpart Gen. Gerasimov on Thursday, Feb. 16, to further the military-to-military relationship. Dunford was in Azerbaijan to meet with their Minister of Defense and chief of General Staff to discuss the status of the relationship between the military forces of the United States and Azerbaijan.
US: New National Security Advisor
_ Flynn reportedly recommended Vice Admiral Robert Harward as his replacement. The next day, Reuters reported that US officials had told him Harward was offered the job. On Friday Harward turned down the job.
_ Harward is a former Navy SEAL who currently is an “executive for defense contractor Lockheed Martin (LMT.N), with responsibility for its business in the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East.” Like Flynn, Harward is a Rhode Island native. He went to school in pre-revolution Iran, graduated from the Naval Academy, and an MIT masters program. He served on Pres. George W. Bush’s national security council from August, 2003 to April, 2005, served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and had high ranking jobs in Joint Special Operations Command and CENTCOM. In 2013, he Huffington Post published his article: “Half of our Potential,” where he advocated “integrating women into the force,” gender equity, and women’s education around the world.
US: Push Back Against Intelligence Community
_ Former military and intelligence officials (named, not anonymous) are speaking out to The Daily Caller about the “hit job launched by intelligence operatives, Obama government holdovers and former Obama national security officials.” They called it “stage Two of ‘Kill Mike Flynn” and said it was part of a larger operation against the new president. They explained that it was also part of a vendetta by the Obama administration against Flynn from his days as head of DIA.
“There he garnered a reputation to balk at the “politicization of military intelligence” in order to conform with President Obama’s world views. Flynn refused to downplay the threat posed by the Islamic State and other radical Islamic groups throughout his two-year reign at the DIA. He was fired after offering congressional testimony that was at odds with the Obama administration’s posture on the Islamic threat.”
_ At a roundtable meeting with House Republicans, Trump said “We are going get the leakers… we are gonna find the leakers and they’ll pay.” (via press pool).
US: Trump Calls Monitored by Intelligence Community
_ In an interview, William Binney, a whistleblower and former high level technical official at the NSA, said the intelligence community is monitoring the new president’s calls and leaking them to the press.
Binney: “Absolutely. How did they get the phone call between the president and the president of Australia? Or the one that he made with Mexico? Those are not targeted foreigners.”
“If they weren’t behind it, they certainly had the data. Now the difference here is that FBI and CIA have direct access inside the NSA databases. So, they may be able to go directly in there and see that material there. And NSA doesn’t monitor that. They don’t even monitor their own people going into databases.”
US: Un-elected Senior Intelligence Operatives Say They’re Going Nuclear, Trump Will Die in Jail
_ Former NSA analyst John Schindler, known for his aggressive social media behavior, obsessive Russophobia, and for being fired from the Naval War College after sending illicit photos of himself to a woman who later exposed him, claims that a senior intelligence community “friend” sent him an email that said “now we go nuclear” in their war against the new president. The “friend” also said of Trump: “He will die in jail.” Ironically, Schindler has been published frequently in The Observer, a weekly newspaper owned by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
US: Cerberus Exec Will Do Intelligence Community Review; IC Fears “Friday Night Massacre”
Kiriakou: “There have been two events in the CIA’s history that CIA officers called ‘Friday Night Massacres.” One was in October, 1977, when then CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner (this was during the Carter administration) just arbitrarily fired something like a hundred and forty officers from the Directorate of Operations, some of them just weeks away from retirement. He did it because the D.O. had failed. They had failed on Iran and on a couple of other major issues at the time, on terrorism. And it was time for a clean slate and he just fired them. Now, it was probably a bad idea to fire your most experienced officers, but that’s what he did, and he did it on a Friday, and they called it the ‘Friday Night Massacre.'”
“The same thing happened in the very beginning of the Clinton administration. And it was because — and we’re seeing a parallel here now — it was because Clinton said that the CIA was bloated and inefficient, that there was a peace dividend because there was no more Soviet Union, and we didn’t need to spend all this money spying on every single country in the world. He also did it on a Friday. People were fired. It’s the second ‘Friday Night Massacre.'”
“Well Donald Trump has come out and said that the CIA is bloated and inefficient. He’s certainly no friend of the CIA’s leadership, as we’ve discussed. And I wouldn’t be surprised if when he was interviewing Pompeo, he said that his vision for the CIA was more streamlined, more focuses on overseas recruitments, and I want you to clean out headquarters and get rid of all these operational people who aren’t doing operations.”
_ Pres. Trump hired private equity firm executive Stephen Feinberg to do a review and “clean up” of US intelligence agencies. The private equity firm/hedge fund, Cerberus Capital Management, owned the now bankrupt Chrysler auto company, owns DynCorp, and in recent years has bought up many gun companies and put them under an umbrella Freedom Group entity. DynCorp is in a dispute with the State Dept. over their previous contract “to provide air support for counternarcotics operations overseas.”
_ “The findings of any White House review would give Trump ammo should he seek full-scale change to the way intelligence agencies operate,” according to MarketWatch. James Risen of The New York Times (NYT) said there has been no announcement of Feinberg’s job but he told his shareholders about a “senior role.” Risen said the idea has met “fierce resistance” from intelligence officials who think Feinberg, an outsider, may be placed into a high level position inside the intelligence apparatus, which are usually reserved for career intelligence professionals.
_ The NYT article notes the frequently and loudly voiced concerns about Trump’s alleged (and possibly concocted, since there has been no hard evidence) ties with Russia when discussing the concerns of intelligence officials about an outsider encroaching on their territory, possibly even running the black ops clandestine branch of the CIA or another high level position.
_ Feinberg is an ally of White House advisors Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner. The Reagan administration brought a businessman, Max Hugel, in to run the spy service and he was forced out within 6 months. He later won a libel suit. Some members of Congress and former CIA chief Michael Hayden think that either no major overhaul is needed or that Congress won’t allow it.
_ Risen noted that distrust of the intelligence community “has been building for years” even before the latest unprecedented chaos they have created. The CIA was seen as “heavily politicized” under the Obama administration. In our podcast interview with John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, he said that he noticed the politicization of the agency under the Bush administration and has escalated ever since. 9/11 changed everything.
US: Army Air Strikes Not Included in Official Counts
_ Thousands of US air strikes have gone unreported, according to Military Times. Nobody seems to know why the Army air strike numbers aren’t included in the widely used data.
“Those airstrikes were carried out by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the U.S. Army, metrics quietly excluded from otherwise comprehensive monthly summaries […] Most alarming is the prospect this data has been incomplete since the war on terrorism began in October 2001.”
US: New CIA Director Gave Saudi Prince a Medal for Counterterrorism Work
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) February 10, 2017
_ New CIA director Mike Pompeo visited Saudi Arabia and awarded Crown Prince Muhammed bin Nayef with the George Tenet Medal in recognition of his “excellent intelligence performance, in the domain of counter-terrorism and his unbound contribution to realise world security and peace”. The prince told the Saudi Press Agency that “no attempt will succeed in driving a wedge between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the US”. Pompeo visited Saudi Arabia after a trip to Turkey last week.
_ Gulf states are reportedly very optimistic about Trump and his administration. “They see in Trump a strong president who will shore up Washington’s role as their main strategic partner in a region central to U.S. security and energy interests.” Mattis, Pompeo, and Tillerson, Trump’s choices for Sec. Defense, CIA Director and Sec. State are “all well known to Saudi officials.”
US: KSM Letter to Obama
_ One day after the Miami Herald published a letter to Pres. Obama from the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad (KSM), the Pentagon decided it was classified. KSM had written the letter but the Guantanamo prison officials refused to mail it. His trial judge ordered the prosecutors to get the letter to Obama before he left office and to publish a redacted version on the military commission’s website._ The Herald’sCarol Rosenberg describes the letter in her article and says that KSM said “America brought the 9/11 attacks on itself for years of foreign policy that killed innocent people across the world.” He referred to Obama as the “head of the snake” and to the US as “the country of oppression and tyranny.” KSM doesn’t fear death or life in prison. He listed numerous US wars and interventions but was “particularly focused on the cause of the Palestinians, highlights civilian suffering and accuses Obama of being beholden to special interests.” But KSM’s lawyer said that Gaza was the primary motivation for writing the letter, which he began to draft in 2014. “Your hands are still wet with the blood of our brothers and sisters and children who were killed in Gaza.”
_ KSM, now on trial at Guantanamo, was held in CIA black site prisons for 3 1/2 years and was waterboarded 183 times.
Syria: Race for Raqqa
_ Fabrice Balanche at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an Israeli lobby-backed think tank: “The Campaign to Retake Raqqa is Accelerating.” Balanche had also written in June, 2016, about how Raqqa would not fall until Arab tribes joined the fight against ISIS, and that now seems to be happening.
_ Turkey seeks the “safe zones” despite Russia’s refusal.
Syria: Turkey Sets Sights on Raqqa
_ Turkey’s Pres. Erdogan announced that his next targets are Manbij and Raqqa.
_ On Friday, US chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Dunford will visit Turkey “for talks on a possible joint operation to recapture the Islamic State group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.” Turkey objects to Kurdish fighters participation.
Syria: Russian Air Strikes Hit Turkish Troops in al-Bab
_ The Turkish military reported 3 dead and 11 wounded near al-Bab due to a Russian air strike that was intended to hit ISIS. Russia and Turkey agreed to “increase military co-operation during operations in Syria against IS militants and other extremist organisations”. They had just begun cooperating on al-Bab air strikes in January.
_ Syrian forces are moving toward al-Bab from the south as Turkish-backed forces have just taken the western outskirts of al-Bab. They are now within 3km of each other. “Reports suggest the rebels and government forces have reached an accommodation over al-Bab, orchestrated by Syria’s key ally, Russia.”
_ The Turkish-backed forces and Syrian forces clashed as the Syrians advanced rapidly on al-Bab. According to reports from rebel officials, Turkish-backed rebels fired a warning shot and the Syrian tanks fired back. Russia intervened to prevent further conflict.
Iran: Russia Using Allied Iran Airspace Again
_ Russian planes are again using Iran’s airspace for air force operations, according to Reuters. The secretary of Iran’s National Security Council told FARS news that: “Their (Russians’) use of Iran’s air space has continued because we have a fully strategic cooperation with Russia.” He said that in recent cases they had used airspace only, not refueling operations at the Iranian base. In August, Russia’s use of an Iran’s Hamadan air base stirred a lot of controversy.
Syria: Pentgon May Call for Ground Troops to Invade Syria
_ A Pentagon official told CNN: “It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time.” Trump had asked new Sec. Defense Mattis for a plan to defeat ISIS. An invasion with US ground troops would completely violate Trump’s campaign promises. Based on the sentiment in the United States in 2013 for another invasion of another Middle East country, it would be vehemently opposed by the public. Pres. Obama had been slowly escalating US military involvement in Iraq and Syria but had placed a limit on the number of troops. Commanders are reportedly looking to remove any limits. If Trump does this, his support would rapidly collapse.
Syria: Jordan and Southern Syria Rebels Join Astana Peace Talks
_ Jordan has joined Russia, Iran, Turkey and the UN envoy Steffan de Mistura at peace talks in Astana. Middle East analyst Alexey Khlebnikov said that Jordan will be representing armed opposition groups in southern Syria, who have agreed to the ceasefire and will fight against ISIS and al Qaeda in Syria. Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry posted the agenda for the Feb. 15-16 Astana talks:
“According to the guarantor states – Russia, Turkey, Iran – the following issues will be discussed at the meeting: implementation of the ceasefire regime in Syria, measures to stabilize situation in particular areas, adoption of rules for a joint operational group, and agreeing further measures to consolidate the ceasefire regime, as well as other practical steps in light of the upcoming intra-Syrian talks in Geneva.”
Syria: Russia Brokered Talks Between Kurds and Syrian Government
_ Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed that between June and December, 2016, Russia brokered 4 rounds of talks between the Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government “for the sake of a united Syria.” Both the political and military arms of the Syrian Kurds (YPG) have been involved in these talks but they have not been included in the Astana talks. Lavrov would not talk about whether federalization of Syria has been discussed. The draft constitution stresses that Syrian territory is “inviolable and indivisible,” which suggests that “restructuring of internal borders and proclaiming autonomous regions within Syria should be done only with respect to the country’s own laws.”
Syria: Evolution of the Syrian Rebels, Failure of CIA Program
_ Twitter essay by Ehsani on the evolution of the Syrian opposition. Moderate secular opposition were overpowered and displaced by radical factions after the opposition decided to take up arms and needed foreign backers to sustain their uprising. There was a steady shift to the right and toward Islamists. Today, they have shifted so far that al Qaeda will soon be considered the “mainstream”. After watching the opposition as it began “morphing into an armed resistance” in the summer of 2011, Ehsani wrote, cautioning about this path in early 2012 and called for a moment of sanity before the revolution turned into a suicide mission for Syria.
_ Financial Times (FT) profiled a former Syrian rebel commander and CIA “fixer” who acted as a conduit for weapons from the Americans, and now they won’t even answer his calls. FT describes his “rise and fall” and how he came “to terms with failed US policy.”
Syria: Gutman’s Hit Piece on Syrian Kurds
_ Roy Gutman wrote a controversial piece at The Nation asking whether the Syrian Kurds have committed war crimes. It has stirred many arguments and discussions. Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi wrote a response at Syria Comment in which he doesn’t dispute all of Gutman’s claims, especially ties to PKK and their treatment of the Arab population in Syria and Iraq. But Al-Tamimi offers alternative explanations to other Gutman’s claims such as the accusation that the YPG were colluding with ISIS against the Syrian rebels, which he says is a “recurring trope.” Al-Tamimi cites Gutman’s long held biases toward the Syrian opposition and Turkey “have had and still have a problematic impact on his reporting.” The lawyer who was interviewed for the article later accused Gutman of falsifying the interview.
Syria: ISIS Destroying More of Ancient Palmyra
_ ISIS destroyed more of ancient Palmyra, including the amphitheater. The Russian defense ministry published video evidence. Syrian coalition forces are advancing on Palymyra, and the ministry also reported that ISIS is in the process of bringing more explosives into the area of the ancient ruins, apparently planning to destroy as much as they can before they’re forced out again.
MidEast: American-Israeli-Arab NATO
_ Via Stratfor: Washington, Arab Allies Discussing Possible Military Alliance. The US, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan (with membership open to other states) are discussing a NATO-like military alliance with an intelligence sharing arrangement with Israel and the US would provide military and intelligence support.
UK: Blair Calls For People to Rise Up Against Brexit
_ From the “Open Britain” event at Bloomberg News headquarters in London, Tony Blair gave a speech urging the people to rise up against Brexit. Blair said the people voted for Brexit “based on imperfect knowledge.”
_ Foreign minister Boris Johnson urged people to “rise up and turn off the TV next time Tony Blair comes on with his condescending campaign.” Boris said everyone heard these same arguments last year, “were told all sorts of claptrap about the economic consequences of leaving the EU,” and the “very opposite has happened.” He also reminded the public that Blair ” is the guy who dragooned the United KIngdom into the Iraq War on a completely false prospectus.”
UK: Iraq Investigation Shut Down
_ The UK government will shut down the Iraq Historic Allegations (IHAT) investigations which was set up in 2010 to investigate accusations made by Iraqi civilians against the British military. Officials condemned the committee, said it was “horrific” for the soldiers being investigated and the IHAT’s most telling failure was that there had been no successful prosecutions. The parliament’s Defence Committee report said:
“IHAT has operated without any regard to its impact on the UK military which has directly harmed their reputation across the world, and negatively affected the way this country conducts military operations and defends itself.”
Germany: Summit With Israel Canceled
_ Germany canceled an annual summit with Israel to be held in Jerusalem in May. The official reason was “national and international political commitments,” the G20, and elections in September, but Israeli media said “it was also due to Merkel’s alarm over the settlement legalization law.” The German foreign ministry said of the legislation:
“The confidence we had in the Israeli government’s commitment to the two-state solution has been profoundly shaken […] “We follow these developments with great concern and have repeatedly voiced our view. Building settlements in the occupied territories, also in east Jerusalem, contravenes international law and jeopardizes a lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians.”
_ New US Treasury Secretary sanctioned Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, a “42-year-old lawyer and criminologist”, for alleged drug trafficking under the “Kingpin” Act. El Aissami is a ” long-time confidant and member of Chavez’s and Maduro’s inner circles,” and Maduro gave him much wider powers last month, indicating that he might become the next president.
_ El Aissami called it a “miserable provocation” by Washington. Via Twitter, he said: “these miserable provocations do not distract us, our main task is to accompany Nicolas Maduro in the economic recovery […] “Let us focus on the priorities of the revolutionary government: recovery and economic growth, and guarantee PEACE and social happiness.”
_ The Venezuelan foreign minister said it was “lamentable and highly dangerous” for the new Trump government to “perpetuate the historic mistakes against Venezuela” that his predecessor Pres. Obama had made. Up until now the Maduro government had not criticized Trump.
Libya: Peace Talks
Libya: 6th Anniversary of Feb. 17 “Revolution”
_ Xinhua media reports that Libyans mark the 6th anniversary of their revolution “in despair” and ” with no positive change but trapped the country into endless chaos.” For the majority of Libyans it has only brought “violence and terrorism” and massive corruption. They interviewed Libyans and found that most regret overthrowing Gaddfi not because of their love for him but because of the alternative.
Jalal Fituri (professor): “When we demonstrated against the regime, we were dreaming of freedom and enjoying our wealth. However, we are now surrounded by criminals and warlords. Instead of enjoying our oil wealth, poverty has increased and citizens are helpless.”
Ibtisam Naili (nurse): “Those who demonstrated against Gaddafi’s regime in 2011 were fooled by Libyan politicians abroad who wanted power so badly. They took the power by brainwashing young Libyans.”
Najwa Al-Hami (human rights advocate): “How could it be a people’s revolution while three quarters of the people supported Gaddafi?”
Libya: British Defense Secretary Warns Russia Interfering
_ At the Munich Security Conference, with echoes of the Cold War era, British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon grumbled about the Russians interfering in Libya and their recent visit with Haftar. NATO offered to help the UN-appointed government in Tripoli but the offer was too “broad.” The UN-appointed government has no support in the east and little support in the west of Libya and for months has been hanging on by a thread.
Sir Michael Fallon: “We don’t need the bear sticking his paws in […] Putin is testing the West, he’s testing the alliance. At any point where he sees weakness, he pushes home.”
_ On the eve of the anniversary of the “revolution,” Jane’s Intelligence Review reported that the UN-appointed government in Libya “finally requests NATO help.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced at a NATO summit that:” Last night, I received a formal request from Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj requesting NATO’s advice and expertise in the field of defence and security institution building.” Last year NATO offered to help Libya “bulwark against refugee flows and terrorism.”
_ The EU is still waiting for permission to operate in Libya’s coastal waters with Operation Sophia. British Royal Marines are currently working with the Libyan coast guard. Italy offered economic aid, equipment and investment to help with the “struggle against migrant smuggling” to mayors of the Fezzan desert region of Libya. After a top secret trip to Rome, the mayors signed an agreement. They will conduct “joint operations to combat illegal immigration.”
Egypt: Bullish on Oil and Gas
_ Oil companies are “bullish on Egypt” as their giant Zohr gas field discovered in 2015 is set to come online this year. Egypt had to import gas in recent but now expects to become a net exporter and “seeks to transform itself into a gas trading hub for its own and other emerging Mediterranean producers.” Developers expect to find more gas and also expect to find oil.
North Korea: Kim Jong-Il Brother Assassinated
_ North Korea launched a missile on Sunday that traveled 310 miles. the launch occurred while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Pres. Trump in Florida. Sec. Defense Mattis recently visited South Korea and said there would be an “effective and overwhelming” response by the US if North Korea tested any nuclear weapons.
_ The half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was reportedly killed by 2 female assassins at a Kuala Lumpur airport. The details of the attack on the estranged brother, Kim Jong-Nam, vary from South Korean media and Malaysian police.
_ Kim Jong-nam was the eldest son of Kim Jong-Il and had been critical of the succession process and of his half brother’s regime, according to the hankyoreh, who also reported the version of the story where 2 women attacked him with a poison spray. Kim Jong-nam was next in line of succession until 2001 when he fell out of favor. He left North Korea and lived in China and Macao and spoke out on Japanese TV about being “personally opposed to the handover of power to the third generation.”
_ It is “widely suspected” that the assassination was ordered by North Korean authorities, according to Korean media.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
_ Jon Finer for Foreign Policy magazine: “From SEALs to All-Out War: Why Rushing Into Yemen Is a Dangerous Idea.”