On Friday The New York Times featured a report based on anonymous intelligence officials that the Russians were paying bounties to have U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan with President Donald Trump refusing to do anything about it. The flurry of Establishment media reporting that ensued provides further proof, if such were needed, that the erstwhile “paper of record” has earned a new moniker — Gray Lady of easy virtue.
Over the weekend, the Times’ dubious allegations grabbed headlines across all media that are likely to remain indelible in the minds of credulous Americans — which seems to have been the main objective. To keep the pot boiling this morning, The New York Times’ David Leonhardt’s daily web piece, “The Morning” calls prominent attention to a banal article by a Heather Cox Richardson, described as a historian at Boston College, adding specific charges to the general indictment of Trump by showing “how the Trump administration has continued to treat Russia favorably.” The following is from Richardson’s newsletter on Friday:
— “On April 1 a Russian plane brought ventilators and other medical supplies to the United States … a propaganda coup for Russia;
— “On April 25 Trump raised eyebrows by issuing a joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin commemorating the 75th anniversary of the historic meeting between American and Soviet troops on the bridge of the Elbe River in Germany that signaled the final defeat of the Nazis;
— “On May 3, Trump called Putin and talked for an hour and a half, a discussion Trump called ‘very positive’;
— “On May 21, the U.S. sent a humanitarian aid package worth $5.6 million to Moscow to help fight coronavirus there. The shipment included 50 ventilators, with another 150 promised for the next week; …
— “On June 15, news broke that Trump has ordered the removal of 9,500 troops from Germany, where they support NATO against Russian aggression. …”
Historian Richardson added:
“All of these friendly overtures to Russia were alarming enough when all we knew was that Russia attacked the 2016 U.S. election and is doing so again in 2020. But it is far worse that those overtures took place when the administration knew that Russia had actively targeted American soldiers. … this bad news apparently prompted worried intelligence officials to give up their hope that the administration would respond to the crisis, and instead to leak the story to two major newspapers.”
Hear the siren? Children, get under your desks!
The Tall Tale About Russia Paying for Dead U.S. Troops
Times print edition readers had to wait until this morning to learn of Trump’s statement last night that he was not briefed on the cockamamie tale about bounties for killing, since it was, well, cockamamie.
Late last night the president tweeted: “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or the VP. …”
Jaber Al Jaberi, an Iraqi member of parliament, told The National that the CTS raid on Kataib Hezbollah was an attempt to exert state authority and a test to see what the reaction might be.
Al Jazeera's Simona Foltyn, reporting from Baghdad, said Iraq's elite Counter Terrorism Service seized at least 10 rockets during the operation, which was "carried out an in effort to pre-empt an impending rocket attack on the Green Zone and Baghdad International Airport, both of which house US troops".
"Subsequently, dozens of armed Kataib Hezbollah fighters arrived in the Green Zone and laid siege to one of the buildings belonging to the Counter Terrorism Service, demanding the release of the detainees, claiming they were arrested illegally without an arrest warrant," she said.
Iraqi law prohibits local militias from receiving directives from abroad. Since their establishment, pro-Iranian militias in Iraq have committed war crimes, violated Iraqi law, and become a threat to the security of the state and its citizens.
The “Hizbullah Brigades” issued a statement accusing Mustafa al-Kadhimi of cooperating with the United States and that while he served as Iraqi intelligence chief, he helped the United States assassinate Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The brigades promised that they were lying in wait for him for his deeds.
Even before he was appointed prime minister, Kadhimi denied these accusations, and he met with Lebanese Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah in order to receive a “Kosher certification,” which would allow him to be appointed Iraq’s new prime minister.
Congressional pressure is building to reprimand Turkey for its military campaign against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.
The Turkish military is carrying out two offensives—Operation Claw-Eagle and Operation Claw-Tiger—aimed at rooting out Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
The operation has struck rural PKK hideouts as well as populated areas, including the Makhmour Refugee Camp and the Yazidi community of Mount Sinjar.
“I strongly condemn the Turkish air strikes & ground operations near Kurdish & Yazidi civilian areas,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D–N.Y.) announced in a Friday statement. “This type of reckless endangerment of civilian lives is unacceptable, especially for a NATO ally.”
Engel, the outgoing head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to stop the operation “immediately.”
Rep. Jim Cooper (D–Tenn.) added on Saturday that he was “disturbed” by the operation. Cooper represents Nashville, a city with a large Kurdish community.
The lawmakers’ comments came after a widely-shared video showed an alleged Turkish bomb striking a lake while a family played nearby. Local journalist Jîl Şwanî claims that the video showed his brother and nephew in Kunamasi, a town in Sulaymaniyah Governorate.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, appointed by Congress to investigate human rights worldwide, condemned the offensive for its effects on Yazidi genocide survivors.
To make matters worse, Turkey launched an air campaign dubbed Operation Claw-Eagle on June 15, striking suspected Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in the Kurdistan Region and disputed territories of northern Iraq. It launched ground invasion Operation Claw-Tiger two days later, putting Turkish commando boots on Iraqi ground.
A day after Turkish airstrikes began, Iran struck areas of the Kurdistan Region close to its border, targeting suspected positions of the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) and PKK. Media affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) reported that the Turkish and Iranian airstrikes were conducted with coordination.
Iraq’s government released a statement last week calling on Turkey to end its operations. Turkish ambassador to Iraq Fatih Yildiz has been summoned twice by Iraq's foreign ministry to answer for his country's air and ground campaigns. The Iraqi government has yet to release a statement condemning the violation of sovereignty by Iranian artillery, though it did summon the Iranian ambassador to answer for the strikes on June 18.
Despite condemnations of foreign operations by the governments of federal Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, the strikes have the consent of both, Iraqi security analyst Husham al-Hashimi told Rudaw English on Friday.
“Baghdad and Erbil have both given Turkey and Iran the green light to conduct airstrikes,” Hashimi said.