"Comrade Putin, we have successfully stockpiled novichoks in secret for ten years, and kept them hidden from the OPCW inspectors. We have also trained our agents in secret novichok assassination techniques. The programme has cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but now we are ready.
"Evidence submitted by the British government in court today proves, beyond any doubt, that Boris Johnson has been point blank lying about the degree of certainty Porton Down scientists have about the Skripals being poisoned with a Russian “novichok” agent."
The link is to a briefing note by the Working Group on Syria, Media and Propaganda authored by Professors Paul McKeigue and Piers Robinson. It is important to bear in mind that the note reflects work in progress, but that "the substantive questions raised need answering, especially given the seriousness of the political crisis that is now developing." They welcome comments and corrections.
Although I'm recommending Nafeez Ahmed's article, let me just add a few thoughts on this Skripal affair, because it's been bothering me (as, I suspect, it has you). What would Putin have had to gain from this? It's been suggested that the attack was some kind of warning to other would-be traitors. But if you work for intelligence agencies surely you don't need such a warning. You know the score already: You sell secrets, you may well end up.
“We did not reject our past. We said honestly: ‘The history of the Lubyanka in the twentieth century is our history…’ - Nikolai Patrushev, director of the FSB, Excerpt from an interview in Komsomolskaia Pravda, December 20, 2000.
Another effective short video from "Platos Cave", in which the over-confident statements of NIST's lead investigator for the 9/11 WTC "collapses", Dr. Shyam Sunder, are contrasted with the serious misgivings of various engineers and architects who remain unsatisfied by the official explanations.
It is with sadness that I pass on news of the death of James W. Sire, the well-known Christian writer and former senior editor at InterVarsity Press. This afternoon I received an email from my contact at IVP who kindly informed me that Dr. Sire had passed away last night. But amidst the sadness, there is also peace—which I wish for his family and friends—in the knowledge that he is with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, whom he served for so many years.
I amaze myself. Even though—as the writer reliably informs us (and he must be reliable because he's writing for the BBC)—"subsequent investigations have made it clear that the tower structures were weakened by the inferno from the planes and felled by the weight of collapsing floors"—even now—yes, even now—"some people refuse to believe this version of events."
“The President has committed, as a matter of strategy, that we will not leave Syria. We are not going to declare victory and go. And that is not my opinion; that’s the President’s strategic judgment. We’re going to stay for several reasons:stabilization and assistance in the vital north and northeast, protection of our allies the Syrian Democratic Forces, who have fought so valiantly against ISIS in the northeast, try to work to help transform the political structures in that area to a model for the rest of Syria, and capable of being credibly represented in a new Syrian state; but for other reasons as well, including countering Iran and its ability to enhance its presence in Syria, and serving as a weight or force helping us to achieve some of those broader objectives.”
Protests have been reported across several cities in Iran over the last several days of December 2017. Protesters allegedly decry Iran’s economy as well as the nation’s involvement in nearby Syria. The Western media has attempted to cultivate two narratives – one focused on portraying the protests as widespread, spontaneous, and having focused first on “economic grievances” before becoming political – another narrative openly admitting to US involvement and praising US President Donald Trump for “standing up” to the “Iranian regime.”
Old news? Yes, but maybe important. I've noticed that this June report from the Wall Street Journal (subtitled "Trump administration moves to make Middle Eastern country a higher priority target for American spies") is being referenced by many people as a possible window onto current events in Iran. Of particular note is this sentence:
A familiar sight is taking place across Iran tonight and it has been for the last three days. Protests are taking place in numerous cities citing grievances and demanding that the Ayatollah and Iranian President step down. For a few days, the protests remained non-violent but now violence has indeed flared up as protesters have laid waste to a number of government properties and those belonging to “pro-government militias.”
Isn't our government wonderful? Apparently the UK's Foreign Office (Foreign & Commonwealth Office, to give it its properly bombastic title) likes to request sensitive files from the UK National Archives—with, of course, every good intention of returning them in due course (wink, wink)—only to end up "misplacing" them in the course of its patriotic duties. Oh, those "careless" buffoons!
It may be disappointing for those who like to cling to the traditional stable scene, but the first Christmas might not have looked quite the way most of us (in the West) have been brought up to imagine. I must get a copy of Kenneth E. Bailey's Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, which the blogger recommends and which I've been promising myself for the last three years! (Don't suppose anyone fancies sending a belated Christmas present? Just kidding...)
This is an "interesting" fund: the so-called "Conflict, Stability and Security Fund" (CSSF). At £1 billion per year, and supposedly aimed at promoting the UK's national security interests abroad (whatever they might be), the CSSF seems—as Mark Curtis complains—increasingly to be "using aid money to fund military and counter-terrorism projects which do not appear focused on what aid should be about."
Just a quick note: do check out the new album by Antony Rotunno entitled Adventures in Retrospect. Antony, as many of you know, is a "friend of the show" having been on TMR several times over the last few years, and hopefully will be again in the near future (we're cooking something up). When he joined us last time, we spoke a great deal about music and its power to effect change, so do navigate over to BandCamp.com to sample Antony's own musical ceativity, and perhaps lend your support by buying the album.
I'm delighted to report that the website for Revelations Radio Network (to which TMR is affiliated) is now back up and running. For several weeks the site was unavailable because the domain name had expired, and as I said in one podcast I was unsure what was going to happen to the network, but everything seems to be fine now.
I really am warming to the BBC these days. Some of these reports are actually worth reading! And thank goodness there are still people in the world who make these kinds of embarrassing mistakes. I know it wastes the emergency services' time, but wouldn't life be duller without them?