Jan Oberg & Vanessa Beeley Report on the Ground from E. Aleppo; Patrick Cockburn on Propaganda as Opposed to Reporting Out of Syria; Putin’s Plan for Syria Peace Settlement; Robert Parry & Ray McGovern Counter Russian Hacking Claims; Russian Ambassador Gunned Down in Turkey

Eastern Aleppo in December 2016 (photo by Jan Oberg on Facebook)

Eastern Aleppo in December 2016 (photo by Jan Oberg on Facebook)

 

 

After battlefield pauses, failed ceasefires and the shelling by jihadists of Shia militia fighters leaving by bus per agreement, independent western reporters have made their way to east Aleppo to report on the situation.   Swedish journalist and peace advocate, Jan Oberg, filed the following on-the-ground report on December 15th:

Western media tell you about regime killings and mass murder, only bad things about the Syrian regime. But I saw another side today:

Syrian Arab Army soldiers participate in the humanitarian work at the Jibrin Reception Center in Aleppo that receives people from Eastern Aleppo. All with whom I talked today expressed their joy over their freedom from the four-year siege and for the assistance the government, army and also university student volunteers provide them – as many as 90,000 to 100,000 people.

I was free to talk with and photograph anyone I chose and I was there without any security, police or other protection. Kind and professional officials who thanked me for being in Aleppo exactly now and bringing their stories out. Not one declined to be photographed, many asked me to.

More from Oberg can be read here 

British journalist, Vanessa Beeley, who has reported numerous times from all over Syria, shared the following report from Aleppo on December 12th:

On the morning of the 12th December we headed for Sheikh Saeed in East Aleppo. This area had been the scene of very fierce fighting between the Syrian Arab Army and their allies, particularly Hezbollah and the terrorist factions that have brutally occupied East Aleppo for the last four years. Terrorist factions such as Nusra Front [Al Qaeda], Nour al Din Zinki [child beheaders] Ahrar Al Sham [ethnic cleansers of all minorities in areas they occupy] and other lesser militants, all funded and armed by NATO and Gulf states and focused upon wholesale destruction of Syrian infrastructure and the abuse, imprisonment & massacre of the Syrian people.

The whole area had only been fully liberated the day before. There was still a large degree of tension on the ground and Syrian and Russian jets were still flying overhead, gunshot and mortar fire can be heard in the video. The destruction was shocking.

We were taken up on to a rooftop for the Syrian military press briefing. While the commander was talking to the press, a young Syrian Army soldier came to speak to me…

Do these young men, fighting for their country, their families and their people, really look as if they are capable of then executing, raping and murdering the people they would give their lives to save from their incarceration under a NATO and Gulf state imposed terrorist regime? [View video, two and a half minutes, at weblink here.]

Veteran middle east journalist for the Independent of London, Patrick Cockburn, has written about the clever (and successful) policy by the jihadists who controlled E. Aleppo of killing and/or intimidating journalists so as to deter them from having a presence in the areas they occupy, thereby creating a vacuum of information that can be filled by those who are either supporters or appeasers of the jihadists:

The foreign media has allowed – through naivety or self-interest – people who could only operate with the permission of al-Qaeda-type groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham to dominate the news agenda.

The precedent set in Aleppo means that participants in any future conflict will have an interest in deterring foreign journalists who might report objectively. By kidnapping and killing them, it is easy to create a vacuum of information that is in great demand and will, in future, be supplied by informants sympathetic to or at the mercy of the very same people (in this case the jihadi rulers of east Aleppo) who have kept out the foreign journalists. Killing or abducting the latter turns out to have been a smart move by the jihadis because it enabled them to establish substantial control of news reaching the outside world. This is bad news for any independent journalist entering their territory and threatening their monopoly of information.

Meanwhile, Putin, who was just named Forbes‘ most powerful person in the world for the fourth year straight, is reportedly planning to organize a meeting in Kazakhstan in which Iran, Turkey, Russia, the Syrian government and the non-jihadi opposition will negotiate a settlement of the Syrian conflict, leaving Washington and the EU out in the cold.
I will keep an eye on developments relating to this story.
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Ray McGovern, former 30-year veteran CIA analyst specializing in the Soviet Union and now a member of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) gave a 17 minute interview to WHDT‘s Mark Maxwell in which he explains how the corporate media and Washington politicians’ narrative of Russia having hacked the DNC and Podesta emails to tilt the election toward Donald Trump does not stand up to technical scrutiny and is still bereft of evidence.   Watch the interview here:
Investigative journalist Robert Parry, who has kept on this story, among others, with the diligence and skepticism required of a real reporter, had this to say about the possible motivation for the leaks – as explained in a recent Scott Horton interview with diplomat Craig Murry – as well as the motivation for pinning them on a Russian hacking conspiracy:

 

At the center of this controversy is the question of who leaked or hacked the DNC and Podesta emails. The CIA has planted the story in The Washington Post, The New York Times and other mainstream outlets that it was Russia that hacked both the DNC and Podesta emails and slipped the material to WikiLeaks with the goal of assisting the Trump campaign. The suggestion is that Trump is Putin’s “puppet,” just as Hillary Clinton alleged during the third presidential debate.

But WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has publicly denied that Russia was the source of the leaks and one of his associates, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, has suggested that the DNC leak came from a “disgruntled” Democrat upset with the DNC’s sandbagging of the Sanders campaign and that the Podesta leak came from the U.S. intelligence community.

Although Assange recently has sought to muzzle Murray’s public comments – out of apparent concern for protecting the identity of sources – Murray offered possibly his most expansive account of the sourcing during a podcast interview with Scott Horton on Dec. 13.

Murray, who became a whistleblower himself when he protested Britain’s tolerance of human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, explained that he consults with Assange and cooperates with WikiLeaks “without being a formal member of the structure.”

But he appears to have undertaken a mission for WikiLeaks to contact one of the sources (or a representative) during a Sept. 25 visit to Washington where he says he met with a person in a wooded area of American University. At the time, Murray was at American University participating in an awards ceremony for former CIA officer John Kiriakou who was being honored by a group of former Western intelligence officials, the Sam Adams Associates, named for the late Vietnam War-era CIA analyst and whistleblower Sam Adams.

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, a founder of the Sam Adams group, told me that Murray was “m-c-ing” the event but then slipped away, skipping a reception that followed the award ceremony.

Reading Between LInes

Though Murray has declined to say exactly what the meeting in the woods was about, he may have been passing along messages about ways to protect the source from possible retaliation, maybe even an extraction plan if the source was in some legal or physical danger.

Murray has disputed a report in London’s Daily Mail that he was receiving a batch of the leaked Democratic emails. “The material, I think, was already safely with WikiLeaks before I got there in September,” Murray said in the interview with Scott Horton. “I had a small role to play.”

Murray also suggested that the DNC leak and the Podesta leak came from two different sources, neither of them the Russian government.

“The Podesta emails and the DNC emails are, of course, two separate things and we shouldn’t conclude that they both have the same source,” Murray said. “In both cases we’re talking of a leak, not a hack, in that the person who was responsible for getting that information out had legal access to that information.”

Reading between the lines of the interview, one could interpret Murray’s comments as suggesting that the DNC leak came from a Democratic source and that the Podesta leak came from someone inside the U.S. intelligence community, which may have been monitoring John Podesta’s emails because the Podesta Group, which he founded with his brother Tony, served as a registered “foreign agent” for Saudi Arabia.

“John Podesta was a paid lobbyist for the Saudi government,” Murray noted. “If the American security services were not watching the communications of the Saudi government’s paid lobbyist in Washington, then the American security services would not be doing their job. … His communications are going to be of interest to a great number of other security services as well.”

….In reference to the leak of the DNC emails, Murray noted that “Julian Assange took very close interest in the death of Seth Rich, the Democratic staff member” who had worked for the DNC on voter databases and was shot and killed on July 10 near his Washington, D.C., home.

Murray continued, “WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the capture of his killers. So, obviously there are suspicions there about what’s happening and things are somewhat murky. I’m not saying – don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that he was the source of the [DNC] leaks. What I’m saying is that it’s probably not an unfair indication to draw that WikiLeaks believes that he may have been killed by someone who thought he was the source of the leaks … whether correctly or incorrectly.”

Though acknowledging that such killings can become grist for conspiracy buffs, Murray added: “But people do die over this sort of stuff. There were billions of dollars – literally billions of dollars – behind Hillary Clinton’s election campaign and those people have lost their money.

“You have also to remember that there’s a big financial interest – particularly in the armaments industry – in a bad American relationship with Russia and the worse the relationship with Russia is the larger contracts the armaments industry can expect especially in the most high-tech high-profit side of fighter jets and missiles and that kind of thing.

“And Trump has actually already indicated he’s looking to make savings on the defense budget particularly in things like fighter [jet] projects. So, there are people standing to lose billions of dollars and anybody who thinks in that situation bad things don’t happen to people is very naïve.”

….There’s another possibility in play here: that the U.S. intelligence community is felling a number of birds with one stone. If indeed U.S. intelligence bigwigs deemed both Clinton and Trump unfit to serve as President – albeit for different reasons – they could have become involved in leaking at least the Podesta emails to weaken Clinton’s campaign, setting the candidate up for the more severe blow from FBI Director Comey in the last week of the campaign.

Then, by blaming the leaks on Russian President Putin, the U.S. intelligence leadership could set the stage for Trump’s defeat in the Electoral College, opening the door to the elevation of a more traditional Republican. However, even if that unlikely event – defeating Trump in the Electoral College – proves impossible, Trump would at least be weakened as he enters the White House and thus might not be able to move very aggressively toward a détente with Russia.

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In Ankara earlier today, the Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot dead during a public appearance by a member of the Turkish police.  The gunman reportedly shouted comments in regard to the war in Syria.  According to an early report by the New York Times:

ISTANBUL — Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was assassinated at an Ankara art exhibit on Monday evening by a lone Turkish gunman shouting “God is great!” and “don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” in what the leaders of Turkey and Russia called a provocative terrorist attack.

The gunman, described by Turkish officials as a 22-year-old off-duty police officer, also wounded at least three others in the assault on the envoy, Andrey G. Karlov, which was captured on video. Turkish officials said the assailant was killed by other officers in a shootout.

The assassination, an embarrassing security failure in the Turkish capital, forced Turkey and Russia to confront a new crisis tied directly to the Syrian conflict, now in its sixth year.

A subsequent report by the Washington Post had the first public reaction from both Putin and Erdogan:

The leaders of Turkey and Russia say the killing of the Russian ambassador in Turkey has been intended to ruin Russia-Turkey ties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking in televised remarks during a meeting with senior officials, said that the killing of Ambassador Andrei Karlov was a “provocation aimed at derailing Russia-Turkey ties and the peace process in Syria.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a video message being shown on several Turkish TV channels, says that “this is a provocation to damage the normalization process of Turkish-Russian relations. But both the Russian and Turkish administrations have the determination not to fall for this provocation.”

Both leaders said that Russian investigators will be part of the official probe into the assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in Ankara.

The Washington Post also reported on Washington’s reaction to the assassination:

The White House is strongly condemning the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, saying “this heinous attack on a member of the diplomatic corps is unacceptable.”

National Security Council spokesman Ned Price says the United States government’s thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of Karlov and the other victims.

Price says “we offer our condolences to the Russian people and government.”

Price also says the U.S. government stands united with Russia and Turkey in its determination to confront terrorism in all of its forms.

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