Reports of Syrian Government Re-taking 40% of E. Aleppo; Fidel Castro Passes; Ukraine – EU Approves Visa-Free Travel for Ukraine, Kiev Announces Missile Firing Exercise Over Crimea; WaPo Thinks Anyone Who Questions Washington’s Foreign Policy Narrative is Russia’s Useful Idiot

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(SANA News Agency, 2016; http://sana.sy/en/?p=94571)

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has been advancing for the past several days into Al-Nusra-occupied eastern Aleppo.  A recent statement by the Russian Defense Ministry says that 40% of eastern Aleppo has been liberated with thousands of civilians making their way to the government-controlled western part of the city through humanitarian corridors that have been opened for this purpose.   Food and medical aid are also being provided.   According to RT:

More than 3,000 civilians have left the eastern part of the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo in the last 24 hours, the Russian Center for Reconciliation said. It later reported that about 40 percent of the militant-held part of the city has been liberated.

Some 3,179 people, including 1,519 children – among them 138 newborn babies – have left Eastern Aleppo through the ‘humanitarian corridors’ set up by Syrian government forces, Russian Reconciliation Center said on Monday.

The center reported that 12 neighborhoods, comprising roughly 40 percent of the territory previously controlled by the militants, have been cleared.

According to the Russian Center for Reconciliation, more than 80,000 people live in the newly liberated areas of the eastern part of the city. It added that more than 5,000 people fled from the southern districts of eastern Aleppo, which are still controlled by the militants, to the areas held by government forces.

Earlier on Monday, the center reported that to date 10 neighborhoods and more than 3,000 buildings have been cleared of Al-Nusra Front militants. The militants have also been pushed out of al-Qadisiyah, a key Aleppo district.

 Euronews provided the following additional details on the SAA capture of a key district of eastern Aleppo, al-Sakhour:

Rebel-held territory in eastern Aleppo has been split in two after Syrian government forces captured the key district of al-Sakhour.

….The Syrian military and their allies launched a major operation in the east of Syria’s second largest city in September. This weekend alone (November 26-27), heavy fighting forced thousands of civilians to flee, while hundreds of families within the besieged districts have been displaced.

Government forces are now said to be working to dismantle explosive devices and mines in the area.

The FARS News Agency, which is approved by the Iranian government,  has been reporting the taking of another major district of eastern Aleppo, Masaken Hanano, which would confirm the above report by Euronews that the jihadist-controlled east of the city has been split in two, cutting off the jihadists in the northern area from their comrades in the southern area.

It appears that things are moving fast and that the SAA’s hopes of retaking all of Aleppo before a new U.S. president is inaugurated are on track, barring a major unforeseen setback.

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Deena Stryker meets Fidel Castro

(Fidel Castro and American journalist, Deena Stryker; from Deena Stryker’s personal collection)

We’ve all heard the news by now that Fidel Castro, or “El Comandante” as he was known in Cuba, passed away peacefully this past Friday night at the age of 90.  It’s a fitting end to a man who, whether you loved him or hated him, took 60 years worth of what history’s most powerful empire threw at him (over 600 assassination attempts by some estimates, numerous coup attempts and economic blockades) and endured.

My retired journalist friend, Deena Stryker, interviewed Castro in 1964 (along with Raul Castro, Celia Sanchez and Che Guevara), which culminated in a compelling book discussing – from the horses’ mouths – what the revolution was all about, how they had pulled it off and what their future hopes were at the time.   Stryker wrote the following upon the news of Castro’s death:

In July, 1963, Fidel Castro knocked on my door at the Habana Libre. I had been scheduled to depart that very morning, having exhausted my funds in what seemed like a hopeless attempt to reach him with my request for a ‘portrait’ for the French weekly Paris Match. A last minute intervention by the foreign minister, then by the head of the propaganda department of the ruling party, changed what would have been the next 50 years of my life.

….Since the year Kennedy was killed, there has scarcely been a part of the world that has not been impacted by Fidel’s thirst for knowledge, his energy and his generosity. Meanwhile, the US”s protege, Haiti, located fifty miles across the Caribbean from Cuba, has still not recovered from an earthquake that struck six years ago, and the country that obsessively sought to silence him heads into the unknown.

Few countries have had leaders so determined to lift their people out of poverty (in the US, no one has come close to FDR) and those of us who witnessed his efforts, can only wonder how much longer it will be before the rest of the world’s South catches up to Cuba.

For those raised on the old Cold War shibboleths about socialism being evil and Castro being the worst dictator in Latin America, Stryker’s words may be hard to swallow.  But the fact is that Castro brought major advances in health and education to a deeply impoverished island nation whose chief export to the rest of the world became doctors.   Alexander Mercouris writes in Fidel Castro – Death of a Titan:

The death of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro has provoked the usual praise of him from some and condemnation of him from others.

What no one denies is the colossal impact he has had, not just on his own country but on the world.

This fact bears repeating because it is so remarkable.  Cuba – the country which Fidel Castro led – is small (its current population is 11 million) and relatively poor.  It has no great wealth of natural resources, and no great industries.  At the time Fidel Castro came to power its social services were primitive, its school and health systems hugely unbalanced and undeveloped, and much of its population was illiterate.

By no conceivable stretch of the imagination is Cuba a Great Power, and before Fidel Castro became its leader it occurred to no one to think of it as one.

That the leader of such a small country was able to have such an extraordinary impact on the world stage is little short of astonishing, and says a huge amount about Fidel Castro’s personality as incidentally it does about Cuba and about the revolution he led.

….There have been many other left wing and revolutionary leaders in the Caribbean and Latin America before and after Fidel Castro.  None of them – not even Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez – have ever come close to matching Fidel Castro’s political stature, or managed to make their countries the centre of superpower conflict in the same way.

The reason Fidel Castro succeeded in doing this was because he was prepared to do things in the Caribbean and Latin America – the US’s backyard – that no other Caribbean or Latin American leader has been prepared to do. Unlike them he carried out in the 1960s a genuine revolutionary transformation of Cuban society, something that no other Caribbean or Latin American leader has ever done.

What that means in practice is that there is no institutional continuity between pre-Castro Cuba and the Cuba today.

The army, police, state bureaucracy, media and judiciary, are completely different, the wealth – including the lands and factories – of the old Cuban oligarchy, has been subjected to a comprehensive revolutionary expropriation, and the economy, health and education systems have been entirely taken over and recreated in Fidel Castro’s own image.

To say that this was controversial would be a gigantic understatement.  In fact it remains the main charge and grievance against Fidel Castro of the people he displaced to this day, and explains the relentless quality of their hostility to him.

It is also the reason for the US embargo.

The revolutionary changes Fidel Castro carried out in Cuba in the 1960s made it impossible for his government and revolution to be reversed internally – the fate of every single other Caribbean and Latin American revolution before and since – because it deprived the US of the usual tools it uses to reverse such revolutions.

It is however important to say that Fidel Castro was able to do it because of the support of Cuban society.  The reason for that is in part because of a peculiar feature of the Cuban revolution, which is bound up with Cuba’s unusual relationship to the US.

….“The breakdown in relations between the United States and Cuba was the consequence of the Castro Revolution of 1959. This was a revolution launched from the countryside against a corrupt oligarchic elite based in Havana.

That elite in turn had extremely close connections with the United States. These extended back decades to Cuba’s liberation war against Spain in the 1890s. The United States intervened in that war in a manner that achieved for it a dominant position in Cuba right up to the point of Castro’s revolution in 1959. It would not be an exaggeration to say that throughout this period Cuba was essentially a protectorate of the United States.

….This US political and economic control went together with considerable corruption. Its status as a protectorate was incompatible with democracy and at no time before the Castro Revolution in 1959 was Cuba in any true sense one. At the time of the Revolution Cuba was actually a dictatorship led by a former staff Sergeant Fulgencio Batista.

….In fairness it was also a time of considerable cultural achievement, of the emergence in Havana of a substantial middle class and of the construction of a highway system of a sort unknown at this time in other Latin American states.

These intense connections between Cuba and the United States explain much about the subsequent period of protracted hostility.

For the Cubans many of their societal problems became explicable by reference to their subordinate position to the United States, which to a proud people was humiliating and exploitative. The Castro Revolution was in a sense Cuba’s declaration of independence from the United States.”

….Though the revolution has transformed Cuba – especially its formerly impoverished countryside – and has provided Cuba with what are by any standard exceptional health and education systems, the degree of political and social control Fidel Castro was forced to impose on Cuban society in order to safeguard his revolution has by all accounts been causing increasing frustration within Cuba itself, as an immeasurably better educated, healthier and far more self-confident generation of younger Cubans increasingly feels – whether rightly or wrongly – that the existing system does not give full scope to them to develop their abilities.

….Despite perennial Western criticisms of Cuba’s human rights record, Fidel Castro never carried out  the sort of Terror in Cuba that has been such a feature of other revolutions carried out elsewhere, and in a region where political repression continues to be common, and where life is still cheap, life in Cuba under Fidel Castro has been immeasurably safer and more secure for the vast majority of Cuba’s people than it has been in any of Cuba’s neighbours.

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The EU has announced that they are finally going to allow visa-free travel for Ukrainians, part of what was promised with the EU Association Agreement that was rejected by former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich in late 2013.  According to the BBC:

The announcement was made at a meeting of Ukrainian and EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday.

The visa-free scheme will allow Ukrainians with a biometric passport to enter the Schengen area – including some non-EU areas such as Switzerland and Iceland, but not the UK or Ireland – without a visa for up to 90 days.

Kiev was perhaps so emboldened by this announcement of visa-free travel that they decided to announce missile-firing exercises over Crimea:

Ukraine has made a unilateral decision to organize missile-firing exercises over Crimea, in the sovereign airspace of the Russian Federation, Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency Rosaviatsiya reported. Missiles will be fired in regions where civil and state aviation flights run.

Kiev’s move breaches a number of international laws and agreements, Rosaviatsiya said, adding that not only will the military exercise invade Russian territory, but the plans also had not been coordinated with Moscow.

On Friday, Russia’s Defense Ministry voiced protests against Kiev’s intention to apply restrictions to airspace above the Black Sea and the Crimean peninsula due to missile-launching training. The ministry summoned Ukraine’s military attache, to present him with an official diplomatic note.

What could possibly go wrong, right?  And, what is the point?   The utter stupidity of Kiev’s current crop of leaders never fails to amaze.

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The Washington Post has provided a platform for claims by a shadowy group calling itself ProporNot which has compiled a list of alternative media sites and blogs they have determined to be either direct Russian agents or Moscow’s “useful idiots.”   Of course, a couple of alternative outlets I write for (Consortium News and OpedNews) were included on this illustrious list, which basically includes anyone who doesn’t further Washington’s narrative on the world.

Robert Parry of Consortium News responded to the list and the Washington Post’s foolish decision to publish this drivel  from an organization that has been in existence for 3 months, refuses to name its “experts” that are making these determinations, and where they are getting their funding from.

Read Parry’s piece here:

https://consortiumnews.com/2016/11/27/washington-posts-fake-news-guilt/

Glenn Greenwald over at The Intercept also does a good take-down of ProporNot and the Washington Post:

https://theintercept.com/2016/11/26/washington-post-disgracefully-promotes-a-mccarthyite-blacklist-from-a-new-hidden-and-very-shady-group/?comments=1#comments

 

One thought on “Reports of Syrian Government Re-taking 40% of E. Aleppo; Fidel Castro Passes; Ukraine – EU Approves Visa-Free Travel for Ukraine, Kiev Announces Missile Firing Exercise Over Crimea; WaPo Thinks Anyone Who Questions Washington’s Foreign Policy Narrative is Russia’s Useful Idiot”

  1. “The EU has announced that they are finally going to allow visa-free travel for Ukrainians, part of what was promised with the EU Association Agreement that was rejected by former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich in late 2013. “

    The areticle is from Nov 24. There is still no “Holy Bezviz” for the Ukraine. Basically, EUrocarats only promised to promise visa-free travel again. Somewhere in the future. When they work out all the details. In due time. Maybe.

    So far, only Carpathian lumber in the Ukraine got the opportunity of visa-free travel to the EU!

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