WaPo Claims American "Tortured Then Executed" in Syria - Admits No Evidence

December 15, 2018 (Tony Cartalucci - LD) - A particularly scurrilous op-ed appeared in the pages of the Washington Post accusing the Syrian government of detaining, torturing, then executing an American citizen, Layla Shweikani.  

Considering US attempts to establish various pretexts to justify its ongoing military occupation of Syria and its attacks on Syrian forces - such an accusation could dangerously escalate the conflict if not checked and exposed.

The Accusation

The op-ed titled, “Assad’s regime killed an American — and no one seems to care,” written by Jason Rezaian - arrested, tried, and convicted of espionage in Iran - begins by claiming (emphasis added):
Last month the U.S. government confirmed that an American citizen had died in Syrian captivity. Sources concluded that Layla Shweikani, a U.S. citizen with Syrian roots, had been tortured and then executed.

The article claims that the Syrian government’s civil registry recorded her death in late 2016. Claims that she died in Syrian government custody come from James Jeffery, the US special envoy for Syria Engagement, but the factual basis of this claim was not provided in the article, nor during recent testimony (video) provided by Jeffery to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.   

US Representative Adam Kinzinger - who during the hearing suggested the US military “target Assad” - would be quoted in the Washington Post’s op-ed, claiming:
I understand there are some classified details, but it is disappointing that Ambassador Jeffrey was unable to say more on behalf of the administration about what happened to Layla and what the repercussions will be when he testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee. ... I’m still waiting on an answer.

The op-ed would end by claiming:
Unless we begin to demand answers for the detention and death of Americans around the world, I don’t see any incentive for Assad or other thugs to stop targeting our citizens.

It is clear that Jason Rezaian among the pages of the Washington Post is accusing the Syrian government of detaining, torturing, and executing Layla Shweikani - and demanding accountability.

Completely absent from Rezaian’s Washington Post op-ed - however - was any actual evidence the Syrian government did “torture then executed” Layla Shweikani.

Washington Post Columnist Admits There's No Evidence

Josh Rogin - a Washington Post columnist and political analyst for CNN - would eagerly promote Rezaian’s op-ed on social media. When pressed for evidence that the Syrian government “tortured then executed” Shweikani, Rogin attempted to first divert the debate away from the lack of evidence, before finally admitting:
...we don't know the specifics of Layla's death. I'd like to know much more. We should not jump to conclusions. Thank you for that caution.
But Rogin would then add:
But the regime is responsible for her death, in their custody.

Rogin would slink away from debate when pressed for an explanation as to how two experienced journalists like Rogin and Rezaian could “jump to conclusions” accidentally and how this was not just another example of the Washington Post’s larger, well known, and long-running war propaganda efforts.

Part of Rogin’s diversions included references to the 2013 “Caesar photographs,” which Rogin would claim were “verified” by the FBI. US Representative Kinzinger is also fond of invoking the photographs which were allegedly smuggled out of Syria and reportedly depict Syrians "tortured then executed" by the Syrian government.

What Rogin failed to mention was that the photographs were “verified” only as undoctored by the FBI who never once stepped foot in Syria to investigate or verify the identities of or circumstances surrounding those depicted in the photographs.

BBC Claims Chemical Weapons Helped Assad But Fails to Explain How

December 14, 2018 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - The BBC published an article in October titled, "How chemical weapons have helped bring Assad close to victory" in which it claims chemical weapons have been "crucial" to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's "war-winning strategy."

Superficially - the article appears impressive - loaded from top to bottom with colorful charts, graphs, and photographs of supposed victims in gas masks, expended munitions, and craters.

However, never once does the BBC provide an actual explanation as to how chemical weapons brought Damascus closer to victory. Even at face value, the article's entire premise is challenged in each paragraph by the statistics and events the article itself presents.

Alleged Chemical Weapon Casualties are a Drop in the Ocean 

The article begins by claiming (emphasis added):
After seven devastating years of civil war in Syria, which have left more than 350,000 people dead, President Bashar al-Assad appears close to victory against the forces trying to overthrow him.
Yet further down in the article under a graph titled, "Estimated number of casualties in the 106 attacks by location 2014-18," the BBC admits that only 55 of the supposed 106 attacks the BBC accuses Syria's government of carrying out even resulted in any casualties at all, and admits that "it was not possible to verify that the casualties reported were the result of exposure to chemicals."

The BBC would also admit that:

Although chemical weapons are deadly, UN human rights experts have noted that most incidents in which civilians are killed and maimed have involved the unlawful use of conventional weapons, such as cluster munitions and explosive weapons in civilian populated areas.
Thus, the BBC itself is undermining the entire premise of its own article - admitting that conventional weapons - not chemical weapons - are by far more effective and that its investigation makes it impossible to even determine if chemical weapons claimed any casualties at all.

But does the BBC try to convince readers chemical weapons still somehow played a role in Damascus' victory?

"Cheap and Convenient" Chemical Weapons? 

The BBC cites Dr. Lina Khatib, head of the Middle East and North Africa program at corporate-financier-funded think tank - Chatham House.

Dr. Khatib would claim:
Sometimes the regime uses chemical weapons when it doesn't have the military capacity to take an area back using conventional weapons.
She would also claim:
Chemical weapons are used whenever the regime wants to send a strong message to a local population that their presence is not desirable. 

In addition to chemical weapons being the ultimate punishment, instilling fear in people, they are also cheap and convenient for the regime at a time when its military capacity has decreased because of the conflict.

There's nothing that scares people more than chemical weapons, and whenever chemical weapons have been used, residents have fled those areas and, more often than not, not come back.
However, after citing Dr. Khatib, the BBC mentions the alleged attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib where Western-backed militants - to this day - still occupy its territory. It claims it was the "deadliest" of the 106 attacks investigated by the BBC - yet the supposed attack failed utterly to drive civilians away or dislodge armed militants occupying the territory - a direct contradiction of Dr. Khatib and the BBC's claims.

The closest the BBC comes to correlating alleged attacks to any sort of victory materializing on the battlefield was regarding Eastern Ghouta where the BBC claims:
Douma, the biggest town in the Eastern Ghouta, was the target of four reported chemical attacks over four months, as pro-government forces intensified their aerial bombardment before launching a ground offensive. 

The last - and deadliest, according to medics and rescue workers - incident took place on 7 April, when a yellow industrial gas cylinder was reportedly dropped onto the balcony of a block of flats. The opposition's surrender came a day later.

Here the BBC dubiously links the April 2018 alleged attack the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) itself has not yet concluded involved chemicals, to the "opposition's surrender" the following day.

NATO's Aggression Reaches for Russian Waters

December 7, 2018 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - The recent Kerch Strait incident marks a new low amid the US-led expansion of NATO eastward.

The intentional provocation executed by Kiev saw three Ukrainian naval vessels seized by Russia. The vessels were intentionally violating protocol for passing through the Strait - protocol previously agreed upon by Kiev and previously observed by Ukrainian naval vessels.

The extent to which Ukraine was aware of these protocols and the 2003 agreement that put them in place includes entire events organized in Ukraine by NATO-sponsored "think tanks" discussing the necessity to "rip them up" and attempt to assert greater control over the current joint-use of the Sea of Azov.

In the wake of this incident - predictable calls are being made to use it as a pretext to expand NATO even further east, with senior American Foreign Policy Council fellow and former professor at the US Army War College Stephen Blank declaring the need for the US to "lease" Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, patrol the sea with US warships,  all while committing to the "full-fledged" arming of Ukrainian forces.

Blank's commentary - published in The Hill in a piece titled, "Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an act of war," predicates an anti-Russian narrative and NATO's eastward expansion into Ukraine upon a number of blatant falsehoods.

He mentions Russia's "seizure" of Crimea, its "claiming that Crimea, the Sea of Azov, and the Kerch Strait are exclusively Russian waters," and the building of the Crimean Bridge which Blank claims is impeding Ukrainian commerce in the Sea of Azov - all as Russian provocations.

However, Blank conveniently omits the US-NATO backed putsch that seized power in Ukraine in 2013 - setting off Ukrainian-Russian tensions in the first place. Nowhere in Blank's commentary does he mention the prominent role paramilitary Neo-Nazi organizations have played in both overthrowing the elected government in 2013 and militancy carried out against Russian businesses, institutions, and even Ukrainians of Russian decedent - particularly in Donbass, eastern Ukraine.

Blank would even feign ignorance over Russian President Vladimir Putin's motives in repatriating Crimea and taking measures against a now fully hostile Ukraine sitting on Russia's borders.

Also conveniently omitted from Blank's commentary was any mention of decades of NATO's eastward expansion along with various episodes in NATO's history where it waged wars well beyond its jurisdiction and mandate, including in Libya and Afghanistan.

Coupled together with Blank's prescription for a "response" - it is abundantly clear who stood most to benefit from the Kerch Strait incident - especially considering the systematic expansion of NATO that has been ongoing long before President Putin ever came to power.

Who is Winning the US-Chinese AI Arms Race?

December 2, 2018 (Gunnar Ulson - NEO) - Information technology has already transformed virtually every aspect of modern civilization. The rise of artificial intelligence and the ability of systems to train themselves rather than be programmed, allowing them to perform tasks no human could, is expected to have as much, if not more an impact than the proliferation of computers and the Internet.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an interview with Kai-Fu Lee, former head of Google in China and current CEO of Sinovation Ventures in Beijing, comparing US-Chinese strategies regarding the research, development and deployment of AI.

China's lack of regulatory obstacles and deeply entrenched corporate monopolies is giving China an advantage over the US. While US higher education is producing more, and better computer scientists specializing in AI at the moment, China is catching up.

Ultimately, for AI, the nation with the most data to train systems is the nation that will eventually dominate the field. Here, China has a clear and uncontested advantage. As tech companies across China work on AI and roll out applications for public consumption, the sensors, input and overall data accumulated across China's 1.3 billion people will far exceed that accessible to US companies.

Lee would explain, regarding whether the US or China was in the lead regarding AI:
In internet AI, which is algorithms making profitable recommendations for people based on their Web browsing history, China and the U.S. are about equal. China will probably get ahead because it has more user data. In business AI, where companies mine their customer data to come up with new product ideas and improve service, or use it to monitor systems to make them more efficient or lucrative, the U.S. is ahead, and will probably stay ahead because its enterprise data is properly archived and more usable for AI. In perception AI, or things like facial recognition and other biometric interfaces, China is ahead because it is building more sensors cheaply and for broader uses, and it will probably get further ahead.

The interview also made it clear that while US and Chinese companies seek to do business in each other's markets, the US and China can be perceived as "parallel universes" where US and Chinese tech companies are better suited to providing solutions and products within their own respective markets. In other words, unless Chinese companies can do what American companies cannot, there is little opportunity for them to do business in America and vice versa.

For example, while Facebook and Google seek to do business in China, the market is already saturated with Chinese companies doing what Facebook and Google do as well or better than Facebook and Google do it. Conversely, Google's Waymo subsidiary which concerns autonomous vehicles has no direct analogue in China, which is why it is able to successfully do business in China.

Syria: Alleged Chemical Attack Elicits 180 Degree Response from West

November 29, 2018 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) -  On the heels of another alleged chemical attack in Syria  - the Western media has responded with skepticism - even silence. This acutely different response to its regular "chemical weapons" hysteria is because unlike previous incidents, it appears this most recent attack was blatantly carried out by Western-backed militants operating in Idlib, Syria. 

While evidence of this most recent alleged attack must still be collected and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has yet to arrive and carry out its investigation, it should be remembered that none of this was previously required by either the Western media to create a storm of hysteria accusing perpetrators - mainly Damascus - and demanding a Western military response, or by Western leaders who would promptly carry out such military responses. 

Compare and Contrast

With no actual evidence in hand, the United States along with the UK and France would carry out military strikes on Syria in April of this year after an alleged chemical attack the West claimed was carried out by Syrian forces in Douma, just six miles northeast of Damascus. 

British state media - the BBC - would unquestioningly repeat claims by dubious organizations like the "White Helmets"  that chemical weapons were used and killed scores of civilians. In one BBC article titled, "Syria war: At least 70 killed in suspected chemical attack in Douma," it was claimed:
The pro-opposition Ghouta Media Center tweeted that more than 75 people had "suffocated", while a further 1,000 people had suffered the effects of the alleged attack.

It blamed a barrel bomb allegedly dropped by a helicopter which it said contained Sarin, a toxic nerve agent.

The Union of Medical Relief Organizations, a US-based charity that works with Syrian hospitals, told the BBC the Damascus Rural Specialty Hospital had confirmed 70 deaths.
Buried deeper in the article - past rhetoric aimed at preparing the public for a Western military strike - the BBC would eventually admit that the Syrian government had taken most of the surrounding territory through years of fighting - assumably through the use of conventional weapons - and that the remaining opposition-held territory was occupied by Jaish al-Islam - one of several US-NATO backed Al Qaeda affiliates operating in Syria. 

The article, and many like it, would begin by claiming:
At least 70 people have died in a suspected chemical attack in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria's Eastern Ghouta, rescuers and medics say.
Compare that with the BBC's  article regarding the most recent chemical attack on Aleppo titled, "Syria war: Aleppo 'gas attack' sparks Russia strikes," which begins by claiming:
Russia has carried out air strikes against Syrian rebels it accuses of launching a chemical attack on the government-held city of Aleppo.  
The BBC would immediately provide denials made by militants operating in Idlib and frame the entire incident as a likely fabrication to justify Russian air strikes on militant positions.

The article fails to point out that even if the mortar rounds allegedly containing chemical weapons were instead conventional - the militants would still be in violation of a provisional buffer zone created between Syrian forces and Idlib-based militants - and would still be viable targets for Russian military aviation as well as Syrian military retaliation.

The sudden skepticism and incredibly ironic "whataboutism" displayed by other appendages of Western war propaganda, including human rights fronts like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as NATO's "Nonresident Senior Fellow, Digital Forensic Research Lab, Future Europe Initiative" Eliot Higgins, also highlights the disingenuous, cynical abuse of human rights and "open source investigations" as war propaganda by the West.

Kenneth Roth - executive director of Human Rights Watch would declare in his only post on social media regarding the attack that:
Syria asks the UN Security Council to condemn an alleged rebel chlorine attack--the same Security Council where Syria's ally Russia vetoed extension of an investigation that could identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks.
Absent from Roth's timeline is the same sort of hysteria, repetitive demands for justice, and calls for immediate action against the perpetrators following other alleged chemical attacks - the only difference being who the accused perpetrators are/were.

The Atlantic Council's Eliot Higgins would spend the day after the attack posting pictures of alleged munitions used in the attack on Aleppo - an admission that an attack and thus a violation of the agreed upon buffer zone had indeed taken place - claiming that none of them could have contained chemicals despite not being any sort of weapons expert and having never set foot inside of Syria, let alone having investigated that actual scene of this particular attack.

Chemical Weapons or Not, Militants Violated Idlib Buffer Zone

It would be premature to conclude what sort of munitions were used in the recent attack on Aleppo. However it is indisputable - even among the West's various propaganda organs - that militants in Idlib carried out some sort of armed attack.

The attack was - regardless and undoubtedly - a violation of agreements made to deescalate fighting between Syrian government forces and their allies and the remnants of the West's mercenary forces in Idlib - and required a military response.

When the OPCW investigators arrive, and as time passes, evidence can be collected and the true nature of the attack can be ascertained with further measures taken against Idlib-based militants if necessary.

And regardless of the outcome of these investigations - the West has suffered yet another tactical, strategic, and now political defeat as another loop of the long rope given to it by its opponents wraps around their collective necks, strangling the remnants of their credibility.

For organizations like British state media - the BBC - its transparent bias and politically-motivated inconsistency has so fully permeated its reporting that side-by-side comparisons of its headlines serve as the greatest indictment against - and parody of - of its legitimacy as a news organization.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.