Sunday, October 30, 2016

UN envoy Mistura 'appalled' by rebel attacks on civilians in government controlled Aleppo

    Sunday, October 30, 2016   No comments

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, says he is "appalled and shocked" that rebels in Aleppo are targeting civilians in the city.

The "relentless and indiscriminate" rocket attacks had killed scores of civilians in western Aleppo in the past 48 hours, Mr de Mistura said.

Such attacks could amount to war crimes, he said.

On Friday, rebels began an offensive aimed at breaking the government siege of east Aleppo.

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On Sunday, state media in Syria said rebels had used chemical weapons against government-controlled districts of Aleppo.
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More than 40 civilians are reported to have been killed in western Aleppo since the rebel attacks began, activists say.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 16 were children. It added that 55 soldiers had also died - as well as 64 rebels. source

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Armed groups released tens of videos documenting their attacks on the Western side of the city. They used both makeshift homemade weapons they call "hell cannons" and imported weapons likely provided by the U.S. and its allies.









Saturday, October 29, 2016

Erdogan wants Mosul, Kirkuk, and Aleppo to be part of Turkey, destroying Kurdish aspirations for independent homeland

    Saturday, October 29, 2016   No comments
Turkey's new pap as revealed by the 1920 Ottoman plan.
ISR comment: Turkish president claims that his country has no intention to grab land from its neighbors, yet his actions indicate otherwise as his troops move into Syrian and Iraqi territories. Erdogan uses Turkish nationalism, claiming that he will defend Turkmen brothern, and sectarianism, claiming that he will defend Sunni brotherrn, when in reality he wants to expand Turkey's control over lands eight with natural resources: water, oil, and natural gas.

In Mosul “a history lies for us. If the gentlemen desire so, let them read the Misak-i Milli (National Oath) and understand what the place means to us,” Erdogan declared.

 Erdogan was referring to an Ottoman Parliament-sealed 1920 pact that designated Kirkuk and Mosul as parts of Turkey.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Is Erdoğan creating a powerful presidential system that will be used against him and his party?

    Sunday, October 23, 2016   No comments
ISR comment:  The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, may get his wish and transform the Turkish parliamentarian governing system into a presidential system. His campaign to do so was not motivated by the virtues of the presidential system more than by personal ambitions. He has been the most powerful and consequential president since the founding years of the republic. He has been acting as the executive president without the constitutional authority already. His problem is that, there is a good chance that he may never serve as the first legitimate executive president. In fact, it is possible that an opponent could be elected under and amended constitution, not Erdoğan, and with the consolidated power Erdoğan has built for himself, the new president could end up throwing Erdoğan in prison for many of the unconstitutional and illegal acts he carried inside and outside Turkey. That would be an example of the Islamic proverb: whoever digs a trap-hole for his brother is bound to fall in it himself.
Erdoğan has made many fatal mistakes in the past five years and he is making even more in recent months. He created enemies out of old friends and and never reconciled with old enemies. He is fighting with the U.S. against ISIL, but fighting with ISIL against Iraqi government. He is with the U.S. in its campaign to overthrow Assad but against it in its support for the Syrian Kurds. He made friends with Russian president, Putin, but he continued to antagonize Russia's allies, Iran and Iraq. His is friends with Iraqi Kurds, but considers Turkish Kurdis terrorists. His circle of friends is shrinking and his front of enemies is swelling. All these foreign affairs problems are putting the Turkish economy under extreme stress. His party was accepted by Turkish voters because of the prosperity and peace it brought them. If peace and prosperity are threatened, Turkish voters will vote him and his party out. But he and his party would leave behind a very powerful presidential institution, should it fall in the hands of his adversaries, his legacy would be reduced to a catalog of failures. Strangely, Erdoğan could be creating his dream job for someone else.
 

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The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has finalized preparations for a draft of a constitutional amendment, which will change the country’s parliamentary system to an executive presidency, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Oct. 23.
“We have finalized our work on both the new constitution and on the presidential [system]. We have made sufficient discussions both in parliament and by the public. We’ll bring our proposal to parliament as soon as possible,” Yıldırım said addressing the deputies in his closing speech at the AKP camp.

The government will go to a popular referendum on whether the parliament should adopt new charter draft with 367 votes or agrees to go for public opinion on 330 votes, he said.

So that Turkey will end “system debate and use its energy for its future,” Yıldırım said.

...
After the consultation camp in Afyon, the charter will be introduced to two of the opposition parties in parliament, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), as the AKP has refused to work with the third largest party in parliament, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

After the bilateral discussions with the two opposition parties, AKP will submit the draft to parliament. The AKP officials have indicated that the party anticipates a referendum on the draft in April following an approval in parliament set to be done in January.

The draft will include 12 to 15 articles outlining the presidential model that the party will present to the public.

Constitutional change, in particular, the call for a presidential system, has been on the political agenda since President Erdoğan, the former prime minister, was elected as Turkey’s president in August 2014.

The 2014 election was the first time a Turkish president, whose role is officially defined as symbolic, was directly chosen by popular vote.

The discussion on the presidential system was revived after Bahçeli suggested going to a referendum, to let the people decide if Turkey should change its administrative model.

Changing to a presidential system is opposed by Turkey’s two other parliamentary parties, CHP and HDP, and the AKP lacks the super-majority in parliament needed to make the change without submitting it to a referendum.

The AKP, with 316 seats in parliament, needs the support of the 40-seat MHP to take any constitutional amendment to a referendum. source

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Full text of Syrian President's interview with Swiss TV journalist

    Thursday, October 20, 2016   No comments
Journalist: Mr. President, thank you very much for having welcomed Swiss Television and our program Rundschau here in Damascus.

President Assad: You are most welcome in Syria.

Question 1: First, please, allow me to clarify one thing: may I ask you every question?

President Assad: Every question, without exception.

Question 2: I’m asking because one of your conditions is that interview is being broadcast in its full version. Are you afraid that we might manipulate your statements?

President Assad: You should answer that question, but I think we should build this relation upon the trust, and I think you are worried about the trust of your audience, so I don’t think so. I think you have good reputation in conveying the truth in every subject you try to cover.

Question 3: Do you see it as a lie, that the world considers you as to be a war criminal?

President Assad: That depends on what the reference in defining that word. Is it the international law, or is it the Western agenda or the Western political mood, let’s say, that’s being defined by vested-interests politicians in the West? According to the international law, as a President and as government and as Syrian Army, we are defending our country against the terrorists that have been invading Syria as proxies to other countries. So, if you want to go back to that word, the “war criminal,” I think the first one who should be tried under that title are the Western officials; starting with George Bush who invaded Iraq without any mandate from the Security Council. Second, Cameron and Sarkozy who invaded and destroyed Libya without mandate from the Security Council. Third, the Western officials who are supporting the terrorists during the last five years in Syria, either by providing them with political umbrella, or supporting them directly with armaments, or implementing embargo on the Syrian people that has led to the killing of thousands of Syrian civilians.

Question 4: But we are here to talk about your role in this war, and the US

Secretary of State John Kerry called you “Adolf Hitler” and “Saddam Hussein” in the same breath. Does it bother you?

President Assad: No, because they don’t have credibility. This is first of all. Second, for me as President, what I care about first and foremost is how the Syrian people look at me; second, my friends around the world – not my personal friends as President, I mean our friends as Syrians, like Russia, like Iran, like China, like the rest of the world – not the West, the West always tried to personalize things, just to cover the real goals which is about deposing government and getting rid of a certain president just to bring puppets to suit their agenda. So, going back to the beginning, no I don’t care about what Kerry said, at all. It has no influence on me.

Question 5: You’re the President of a country whose citizens are fleeing, half of your fellow citizens. The people are not only fleeing because of the terrorists, of ISIS, or the rebels, but also because of you.

President Assad: What do you mean by me? I’m not asking people to leave Syria, I’m not attacking people; I’m defending the people. Actually, the people are leaving Syria for two reasons: first reason is the action of the terrorists, direct action in killing the people. The second one is the action of the terrorists in order to paralyze the life in Syria; attacking schools, destroying infrastructure in every sector. Third, the embargo of the West that pressed many Syrians to find their livelihood outside Syria. These are the main reasons. If you can see that the second factor and the third factor are related, I mean the role of the terrorists and the West in undermining and hurting the livelihoods of the Syrians, is one and, let’s say, is commonality between the terrorists and Europe.

Question 6: When you speak of terrorists, who do you mean by that? Surely ISIS, but also the “Free Syrian Army” or the Kurds?

3

President Assad: What I mean is like what you mean as a Swiss citizen, if you have anyone who carries machineguns or armaments and killing people under any titles, and committed vandalism, destroying public or private properties; this is a terrorist. Anyone who adopts a political way in order to make any change he wants, this is not a terrorist. You can call him opposition. But you cannot call somebody who is killing people or holding armaments, you cannot call him opposition, in your country, in my country as well.

Question 7: Well, you don’t have any free opposition in your country.

President Assad: Of course we have, of course we have. We have real opposition, we have people who live in Syria, whom their grassroots are the Syrian people, they’re not opposition who were forged in other countries like France or UK or Saudi Arabia or Turkey. We have them, and you can go and meet them and deal with them with your camera. You can do that yourself.

Question 8: How do you explain to your three children what is happening in

Aleppo? I’m sure that you are discussing about it at the family table.

President Assad: Yeah, of course if I’m going to explain to them, I’m going to explain about what is happening in Syria, not only in Aleppo, taking into consideration that my children are full-grown now, they understand what is going on Syria. But if you want to explain to them or to any other child what is happening, I’m going to explain about the role of the terrorists, about the role of Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia in supporting those terrorists with money, with logistic support, and the role of the West in supporting those terrorists either through armament or through helping them with the propaganda and the publicity. I’m going to explain to them in full what’s going on.

Question 9: Do you, as a father, also say that you have nothing to do with the bombardments of the hospitals in Aleppo?

President Assad: Look, when they say that we are bombarding the hospitals, it means that we are killing civilians. That is the meaning of the word. The question is why would the government kill civilians, whether in hospitals or in streets or schools or anywhere? You are talking about killing Syrians. When we kill Syrians, as a government, or as army, the biggest part of the Syrian society will be against us. You cannot succeed in your war if you are killing civilians. So, this story, and this narrative, is a mendacious narrative, to be frank with you. Of course, unfortunately, every war is a bad war, in every war you have innocent victims, whether children, women, elderly, any other civilian, any other innocent who is not part of this war, he could pay the price, this is unfortunately. That’s why we have to fight terrorism. When we don’t say that, it’s like saying – according to that question or that narrative, that you may reflect in your question – that the terrorists, Al Qaeda, al-Nusra, ISIS, are protecting the civilians, and we as government are killing the civilians. Who can believe that story? No one.

Question 10: But who else got airplanes or bunker-busting bombs besides your army?

President Assad: It’s like you’re saying that everyone who is killed in Syria was killed by the airplanes or aircrafts, military aircrafts! The majority of the people were killed by mortars shelled by the terrorists on them while they’re at schools, in their hospitals, in the streets, anywhere. It’s not related to the aerial bombardment. Sometimes you have aerial bombardment against the terrorists, but that doesn’t mean that every bomb that fell somewhere was by airplane or by the Syrian Army. If you are talking about a specific incident, let’s say, we have to verify that specific incident, but I’m answering you in general now.

Question 11: But you have the power to change the situation also for the children in Aleppo.

President Assad: Of course, that’s why-

Journalist: Will you do that?

President Assad: Exactly, that’s our mission, according to the constitution, according to the law; that we have to protect the people, that we have to get rid of those terrorists from Aleppo. This is where we can protect the civilians. How can you protect them while they are under the control of the terrorists? They’ve been killed by them, and they’ve been controlled fully by the terrorists. Is it our role to sit aside and watch? Is that how we can protect the Syrian people? We need to attack the terrorists, that’s self-evident.

Question 12: May I show you a picture?

President Assad: Of course.

Journalist: This young boy has become the symbol of the war. I think that you know this picture.

President Assad: Of course I saw it.

Journalist: His name is Omran. Five years old.

President Assad: Yeah.

Journalist: Covered with blood, scared, traumatized. Is there anything you would like to say to Omran and his family?

President Assad: There’s something I would like to say to you first of all, because I want you to go back after my interview, and go to the internet to see the same picture of the same child, with his sister, both were rescued by what they call them in the West “White Helmets” which is a facelift of al-Nusra in Aleppo. They were rescued twice, each one in a different incident, and just as part of the publicity of those White Helmets. None of these incidents were true. You can have it manipulated, and it is manipulated. I’m going to send you those two pictures, and they are on the internet, just to see that this is a forged picture, not a real one. We have real pictures of children being harmed, but this one in specific is a forged one.

Question 13: But it’s true that innocent civilians are dying, in Aleppo.

President Assad: Of course, not only in Aleppo; in Syria. But now you are talking about Aleppo, because the whole hysteria in the West about Aleppo, for one reason; not because Aleppo is under siege, because Aleppo has been under siege for the last four years by the terrorists, and we haven’t heard a question by Western journalists about what’s happening in

Aleppo that time, and we haven’t heard a single statement by Western officials regarding the children of Aleppo. Now, they are talking about Aleppo recently just because the terrorists are in a bad shape. This is the only reason, because the Syrian Army are making advancement, and the Western countries – mainly the United States and its allies like UK and France – feeling that they are losing the last cards of terrorism in Syria, and the main bastion of that terrorism today is Aleppo.

Question 14: Everything is allowed in this war for you.

President Assad: No, of course, you have the international law, you have the human rights charter, you have to obey. But in every war, every war in the world during the history, you cannot make sure a hundred percent that you can control everything in that direction. You always have flaws, that’s why I said every war is a bad war. But there’s difference between individual mistakes and the policy of the government. The policy of the government, to say that we are attacking civilians, we are attacking hospitals, we are attacking schools, we are doing all these atrocities, that’s not possible, because you cannot work or go against your interests. You cannot go against your duty toward the people, otherwise you are going to lose the war as a government. You cannot withstand such a ferocious war for five years and a half while you are killing your own people. That’s impossible. But you always have mistakes, whether it’s about crossfire, it’s about individual mistakes… bring me a war, a single war in the recent history, that it was a clean war. You don’t have.

Question 15: Do you have made any mistakes too in this war?

President Assad: As President I define the policy of the country, according to our policy, the main pillars of this policy during the crisis is to fight terrorism, which I think is correct and we will not going to change it, of course, to make dialogue between the Syrians, and I think which is correct, the third one which is proven to be effective during the last two years is the reconciliations; local reconciliations with the militants who have been holding machineguns against the people and against the government and against the army, and this one has, again, proven that it’s a good step. So, these are the pillars of this policy. You cannot talk about mistakes in this policy. You can talk about mistakes in the implementation of the policy, that could be related to the individuals.

Question 16: You still believe in a diplomatic solution?

President Assad: Definitely, but you don’t have something called diplomatic solution or military solution; you have solution, but every conflict has many aspects, one of them is the security, like our situation, and the other one is in the political aspect of this solution. For example, if you ask me about how can you deal with Al Qaeda, with al-Nusra, with ISIS? Is it possible to make negotiations with them? They won’t make, they’re not ready to, they wouldn’t. They have their own ideology, repugnant ideology, so you cannot make political solution with this party; you have to fight them, you have to get rid of them. While if you talk about dialogue, you can make dialogue with two entities; the first one, political entities, any political entities, whether with or against or in the middle, and with every militant who is ready to give in his armament for the sake of the security or stability in Syria. Of course we believe in it.

Question 17: There are news from Russia about a short humanitarian pause in Aleppo on Thursday, what does it mean this humanitarian pause, can you explain?

President Assad: It’s a short halting of operations in order to allow the humanitarian supply to get into different areas in Aleppo, and at the same time to allow the civilians who wanted to leave the terrorist-held areas to move to the government-controlled area.

Question 18: This is really a step, an important step?

President Assad: Of course, it is an important step as a beginning, but it’s not enough. It’s about the continuation; how can you allow those civilians to leave. The majority of them wanted to leave the area held by the terrorists, but they won’t allow them. They either shoot them or they kill their families if they leave that area.

Question 19: Russia is on your side, what does it mean for you?

President Assad: No, it’s not on my side. It’s on the international law’s side.

It’s on the other side which is opposite to the terrorists’ side. This is the position of Russia, because they wanted to make sure that the international law prevails, not the Western agenda in toppling every government that doesn’t fit with their agendas. They wanted to make sure that the terrorism doesn’t prevail in that area, that would affect negatively the Russians themselves, Russia itself as a country, and Europe and the rest of the world. That’s what it means for Russia to stand beside the legitimate Syrian government and the Syrian people.

Question 20: Mr. President, you use chemical weapons and barrel bombs in Syria against your own population, these are UN reports, you can’t ignore it.

President Assad: You are talking about two different issues. The chemical issue, it was proven to be false, and they haven’t a shred of evidence about the Syrian Army using chemical weapons, particularly before we give up our arsenal in 2013, now we don’t have it anyway. Before that, it was fiction because if you want to use such mass destruction armaments, you’re going to kill thousands of people in one incident, and we didn’t have such incidents. Beside that, we wouldn’t use it because you’re going to kill your own people, and that’s against your interest. So, this is a false allegation. We don’t have to waste our time with it. You live in Syria, there is a traditional war, but there is nothing related to mass destruction armaments.

Journalist: But the UN report is not a fiction.

President Assad: The UN report never has been credible, never, and because they put reports based on allegations, based on other reports, on forged reports, and they say this is a report. Did they send a delegation to make investigation? They sent one in 2013, and it couldn’t prove at all that the Syrian Army used chemical weapons. This is first. The second, which is more important, the first incident happened at the beginning of 2013 in

Aleppo, when we said that the terrorists used chemical weapons against our army, and we invited the United Nations to send a delegation. We, we did, and at that time, the United States opposed that delegation because they already knew that this investigation – of course if it’s impartial – is going to prove that those terrorists, their proxies, used chemical armaments against the Syrian Army. Regarding the barrel bombs, I want to ask you: what is the definition of barrel bomb? If you go to our army, you don’t have in our records something called “barrel bomb,” so how do you understand – just to know how I can answer you – what a barrel bomb is? We have bombs.

Journalist: The destruction… it’s the destruction, and it is against humanitarian law.

President Assad: Every bomb can make destruction, every bomb, so you don’t have bomb to make nothing. So, this is a word that has been used in West as part of the Western narrative in order to show that there is an indiscriminate bomb that has been killing civilians indiscriminately and that opposes the Western narrative, I’ll show you the contradiction: in other areas they say that we are bombarding intentionally the hospitals, and you mentioned that, and they are targeting intentionally the schools, and we targeted intentionally the convoys to Aleppo last month, those targets need high-precision missiles. So, they have to choose which part of the narrative; we either have indiscriminate bombs or we have high-precision bombs. They keep contradicting in the same narrative, this is the Western reality now. So, which one to choose? I can answer you, but again, we don’t have any indiscriminate bombs. If we kill people indiscriminately, it means we are losing the war because people will be against us; I cannot kill the Syrian people, either morally or for my interest, because in that case I’m going to push the Syrian community and society towards the terrorists, not vice versa.

Question 21: I would like to mention the subject of torture prisons, Mr. President. Amnesty speaks of seventeen thousands dead. Regarding the prison of Saidnaya, there are still horrible reports. When will you allow an independent observer into that prison?

President Assad: Independent, and Amnesty International is not independent and it is not impartial.

Journalist: ICRC?

President Assad: We didn’t discuss it with the Red Cross, we didn’t discuss it. It should be discussed in our institutions, if you want to allow… if there is allegation, it could be discussed. We don’t say yes or no, but the report you have mentioned, it was a report made by Qatar, and financed by Qatar. You don’t know the source, you don’t know the names of those victims, nothing verified about that report. It was paid by Qatar directly in order to vilify and smear the Syrian government and the Syrian Army.

Journalist: But there are a lot of eyewitnesses.

President Assad: No one knows who are they. You don’t have anything clear about that. It’s not verified. So, no.

Journalist: Then open the door for organizations like Red Cross.

President Assad: It’s not my decision to tell you yes or no. We have institutions, if we need to discuss this part, we need to go back to the institutions before saying yes or no.

Question 22: Why are you sure that you are going to win this war?

President Assad: Because you have to defend your country, and you have to believe that you can win the war to defend your country. If you don’t have that belief, you will lose. You know, part of the war is what you believe in, so, it’s self-evident and very intuitive that you have to have that belief.

Question 23: If you walk through Damascus, your picture is everywhere, in every shop, in every restaurant, in every car, a symbol for a dictator, is this your way to fix your power?

President Assad: There is a difference between dictator and dictatorship.

Dictator is about the person. I didn’t ask anyone to put my picture in Syria, I never did it. This is first. Second, to describe someone as a dictator, you should ask his people, I mean only his people can say that he is a dictator or he is a good guy.

Journalist: Thank you Mr. President for having answered our questions for Swiss Television and the Rundschau.

President Assad: Thank you for coming to Syria.

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Interview as released by the Syrian government:



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Interview as released by the Swiss TV:



Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saudi Arabia said it bombed funeral hall because it received "incorrect information"

    Saturday, October 15, 2016   No comments
ISR comment: Saudi Arabia said it bombed the funeral hall, killing and injuring about 800 civilians, because it received "incorrect information." Yes everyone knows that: Saleh and Houthi were not in attendance! Killing the two leaders of the Yemeni resistance to Saudi control over Yemen would have been the knock out punch that could  have ended the war quickly. After nearly a year and a half, the Saudis are now realizing that they cannot win by decision, to continue using the boxing metaphor. It turned out that they received the wrong information and they are now loosing the propaganda war. Their other option will be to ask their Western friends, perhaps the UK, to introduce a UNSC resolution that might save them.
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The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthi movement in Yemen attacked a funeral there after receiving incorrect information from Yemeni military figures that armed Houthi leaders were in the area, an investigative body set up by the coalition said on Saturday.

The Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has come under severe criticism since last Saturday's air strike on the funeral gathering in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, killing 140 people according to one U.N. estimate, and 82 according to the Houthis.

Mourners who died in the attack included some of Yemen's top political and security officials, potentially galvanizing powerful tribes to join the Houthis in opposing a Saudi-backed exiled government.

"A party affiliated to the Yemeni Presidency of the General Chief of Staff wrongly passed information that there was a gathering of armed Houthi leaders in a known location in Sanaa, and insisted that the location be targeted immediately," the investigators concluded, according to a statement. source

Monday, October 10, 2016

Under international law, U.S. might be liable for crimes committed by Saudi Arabia in #Yemen

    Monday, October 10, 2016   No comments


ISR  comment: U.S. administration already admitted that it provided weapons, selection of targets, and refueling assistance to Saudi forces engaged in a war on Yemen. Saudi attack on civilians in a funeral hall is a war crime. The question, then, is U.S. responsible for Saudi actions that result in committing war crimes. Reuters unveiled documents that night help answer that question.

Warning: Some content is graphic and may not be suitable to all viewers and readers. 
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The Obama administration went ahead with a $1.3 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year despite warnings from some officials that the United States could be implicated in war crimes for supporting a Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians, according to government documents and the accounts of current and former officials.

State Department officials also were privately skeptical of the Saudi military's ability to target Houthi militants without killing civilians and destroying "critical infrastructure" needed for Yemen to recover, according to the emails and other records obtained by Reuters and interviews with nearly a dozen officials with knowledge of those discussions.

U.S. government lawyers ultimately did not reach a conclusion on whether U.S. support for the campaign would make the United States a "co-belligerent" in the war under international law, four current and former officials said. That finding would have obligated Washington to investigate allegations of war crimes in Yemen and would have raised a legal risk that U.S. military personnel could be subject to prosecution, at least in theory.

For instance, one of the emails made a specific reference to a 2013 ruling from the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor that significantly widened the international legal definition of aiding and abetting such crimes.

The ruling found that "practical assistance, encouragement or moral support" is sufficient to determine liability for war crimes. Prosecutors do not have to prove a defendant participated in a specific crime, the U.N.-backed court found.

Ironically, the U.S. government already had submitted the Taylor ruling to a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to bolster its case that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al Qaeda detainees were complicit in the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

The previously undisclosed material sheds light on the closed-door debate that shaped U.S. President Barack Obama’s response to what officials described as an agonizing foreign policy dilemma: how to allay Saudi concerns over a nuclear deal with Iran - Riyadh's arch-rival - without exacerbating a conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands.

The documents, obtained by Reuters under the Freedom of Information Act, date from mid-May 2015 to February 2016, a period during which State Department officials reviewed and approved the sale of precision munitions to Saudi Arabia to replenish bombs dropped in Yemen. The documents were heavily redacted to withhold classified information and some details of meetings and discussion.

An air strike on a wake in Yemen on Saturday that killed more than 140 people renewed focus on the heavy civilian toll of the conflict. The Saudi-led coalition denied responsibility, but the attack drew the strongest rebuke yet from Washington, which said it would review its support for the campaign to "better align with U.S. principles, values and interests." Source

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Saudi Arabia bombed hall packed with mourners killing and injuring hundreds of people in Sanaa, Yemen

    Saturday, October 08, 2016   No comments
Saudi Arabia struck hall packed with mourners killing and injuring hundreds of people in Yemen, Saturday, October 8.
A senior health official in Yemen says an airstrike by a Saudi-led coalition that targeted a funeral hall packed with mourners has killed at least 82 people.
Nasser al-Argaly, the Health Ministry’s undersecretary, says Saturday’s strike also left 534 people wounded.
Al-Argaly, addressing a news conference, says the casualty figures are not final.



























 

Assad: If I were the cause, the war would have started in 2000 when I became president not in 2011 when Qatar started funding regime change agendas

    Saturday, October 08, 2016   No comments
President Assad’s full interview with Danish television

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad affirmed that the United States doesn’t have the will to reach any agreement on Syria, and that Syria knew in advance that the US agreement with Russia will not succeed because the main part of that agreement is to attack al-Nusra which is an American card in Syria.

In an interview with Denmark’s TV 2 channel, President al-Assad said that “moderate opposition” is a myth, and that reaching a political solution requires fighting terrorism, asserting that it’s not acceptable that terrorists will take control of any part of Syria.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Question 1: So, Mr. President, let us begin with the current situation in Aleppo. The last few weeks, terrifying pictures have come out from Aleppo. I mean, we see the residents of the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo in a very dire situation. They seem exhausted, they seem terrified, the situation is very violent. What is the strategy behind launching such fierce attack from the Syrian and Russian armies at the moment?
President Assad: Actually, we didn’t launch an attack, because the Syrian Army has continued its drive toward liberating every part of Syria including Aleppo or eastern Aleppo from the terrorists, but there was a ceasefire for one week in order to give the treaty, or the agreement, let’s say, between the Russians and the Americans a way to be implemented, and it didn’t work. When that week ended, we continued our drive as army to liberate eastern Aleppo from the terrorists. But actually, when you want to talk about the dire situation in eastern Aleppo, it’s not because of the government; it’s because of the terrorists. They’ve been in that area for years now, but we only heard about that “dire situation” in the media recently, in the Western media, because the situation of the terrorists is very bad. This is the only reason. While if you want to talk about the situation there, we never prevented any medical supply or food supply or any other thing from entering east Aleppo. There’s no embargo, if that’s what you mean, there’s no embargo, and our role as a government is to encircle the terrorists in order to liberate every part of the city.

Question 2: But what I also mean, we see pictures of children being killed, children at hospitals, we see pictures of demolished hospitals. Who’s targeting those hospitals?

President Assad: Let me tell you something about those pictures of children; of course, in every war, there are victims, there are innocent victims, and that’s why every war is a bad war, but if you look at those pictures that they’ve been promoted as pictures in the Western media, they only singled out a few pictures of children that suit their political agenda, just to accuse the Syrian government, while – you’ve been here now for two days – and they’ve been daily shelling from the eastern part of Aleppo toward the rest of the city, and there was wholesale killing and destruction of the other part of the city and tens of victims and tens of wounded people from Aleppo that the Western corporations didn’t talk about them. The Western officials didn’t issue a single statement regarding those children and women and elderly and innocents in general. So, this is part of the propaganda and demonization of the government in Syria. That doesn’t mean when you have war, again, that you don’t have victims, but the Syrian government has opened the door for the militants in the eastern part of Aleppo to leave safely with guarantees, and for the people of that area to go back to their houses.

Question 3: But residents in the area, eyewitnesses, international aid organizations, all saying that the hospitals have been targeted, and when I look at the pictures, I see hospitals, I see the beds inside the hospitals, and to me it really looks like it is demolished, it has been targeted, so who’s targeting the hospitals?

President Assad: I don’t have the answer to which hospital are you talking about, because we don’t have any facts about it, we only have allegations, so answering allegations shouldn’t be only through-

Question 4: But pictures are facts.

President Assad: Pictures cannot tell you the story, even videos, everything could be manipulated these days. I wouldn’t say that there are no such attacks on any building, but as a government, we don’t have a policy to destroy hospitals or schools or any such facility for a simple reason: first of all, morally, the second reason is that if we do so, we are offering the militants the incubator, the social incubator that they’ve been looking for, it’s going to be a gift, something we wouldn’t do because it’s against our interests. It’s like shooting ourselves in the foot. If there’s such an attack from the army, it could be by mistake, but we don’t have any information that thing has happened. All what we have is allegations and only in the Western media, not from Syria.

Question 5: So, if the Syrian Army didn’t attack hospitals, or maybe they did by mistake, you say, are you sure it’s not the Russian air force who are targeting hospitals?

President Assad: The question that you should ask when you have a crime: who is the beneficiary of that crime? What would they get, I mean for the Russians or the Syrians, if they attack a school or if they attack hospital? What would they get if they attack a hospital? Nothing, they wouldn’t get anything. I mean, even if you want to talk about the terrorists, most of their hospitals for the militants would be in the basement in ordinary buildings. So, attacking a hospital intentionally by the army is based on shaky logic, let’s say.

Question 6: Do you then agree that whoever attacks hospitals, they are guilty of war crimes?

President Assad: Of course, by international law, it is. I mean, hospitals have immunity. Any other facility for any inhabited area – inhabited by civilians, not by militants – has immunity, and any government shouldn’t do it, of course, I agree with you.

Question 7: Mr. President, you have kids yourself, and I’m sure you’re also watching television, you also watch these pictures of children at the hospitals, children being buried in the rubble. How does it affect you when you look at these pictures of Syrian children?

President Assad: Of course, I have children, I have the same feelings of any father and mother who would care a lot about their children, and how would they feel if they lose a member of their family. And by the way, we lost members of our families during the conflict because of the terrorist attacks. But when you look at those killed children, you think why? Why the terrorists did so? Why did Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Turkey commit those crimes? And I wonder why would the Western countries, mainly the USA and its allies in Europe, have supported those terrorists who’ve been committing crimes in Syria? That’s the first thing I thought about. Of course, as President, the second thing that I would think about is how can I protect the Syrian people and the Syrian children, and how can I protect the innocent from having the same fate in any coming day.

Question 8: So, you are blaming the rebels in the eastern part of Aleppo of being behind the attacks on the children of Aleppo?

President Assad: You can take your camera to Aleppo, to the other part of Aleppo which is under the control of the government, which is – I mean, when you see the fact, it’s more credible than what I’m going to say – but you can see how many civilians have been killed during the last two months in Aleppo. Hundreds of civilians have been killed by the rebels. The question is why didn’t we hear about them in the Western media? That’s my question. Again, I wouldn’t say that you don’t having civilians going as victims, but when it’s shelled by mortars by the rebels intentionally, we have to talk about this crime as well.

Question 9: At the moment, there’s a seven-year-old girl, her name is Bana al-Abed, from Aleppo. She’s Tweeting about her life in the eastern part of Aleppo. She’s talking about the massive bombardment. She’s very scared, every time she wakes up and realizes, fortunately, she’s still alive. Do you trust her as an eyewitness?

President Assad: You cannot build your political position or stand, let’s say, according to a video promoted by the terrorists or their supporters. It’s a game now, a game of propaganda, it’s a game of media. You can see anything, and you can be sympathetic with every picture and every video you see. But our mission as a government is to deal with the reality. You have terrorists in Syria, they are supported by foreign powers and foreign countries, and we have to defend our country. In some areas, the terrorists use the civilians as a human shield, but we have to do our job to liberate them, we cannot say “we won’t do anything because the terrorists are holding those hostages.” It’s our mission. Again, we are going to the same point; you always have mistakes that are committed by anyone, but this is not policy, and you always have innocent victims of that war.

Question 10: What kind of mistakes did the Syrian Army do?

President Assad: Any individual mistakes.

Question 11: Have you any examples of mistakes?

President Assad: I mean, you have institutions, I mean anyone could be punished if he commits a mistake, that would happen in any war, in every army, this is common sense.

Question 12: You have encouraged the civilians in the eastern part of Aleppo, and also actually the rebels, to leave the place. You wanted to create a humanitarian corridor. Can you guarantee the safety of those civilians and the rebels if they leave the rebel-held part of the city?

President Assad: Exactly, that’s what we announced a few days ago, and we announced it two months ago, because we wanted the civilians to leave away from the terrorists. Yeah.

Question 13: And how are you going to protect them?

President Assad: They are allowed to leave. It happened many times, in many different areas in Syria. We allowed the terrorists to leave that area in order to protect the civilians. We don’t need any more blood-letting and blood-shedding. This is one of the ways or the methods we’ve been using in order to protect the civilians. Of course, if they don’t obey, we tell the civilians that we’re going to attack that area, so they can move away from it. But the best way is to allow the terrorists to leave, and the civilians will be safe, then you can if you want to follow or chase the terrorists, you can chase them somewhere else where there’s no civilians.

Question 14: Do you understand if people around the world who are watching these terrifying pictures coming out of the eastern part of Aleppo, if they maybe think that you are denying facts? That you also have some kind of responsibility for the victims, for the bombing of the hospitals, for the bombing of the civilian infrastructure? Do you understand that some people, they may think you are denying facts?

President Assad: Look, if we’ve been faced by lies since the beginning of the war on Syria, accepting those lies as reality doesn’t make me credible. I wouldn’t be credible if I say “oh, yeah, you’re right.” That’s why I said there’s a difference between accepting that this is a policy, or accepting that they always have mistakes. I didn’t deny any mistake to be committed by any individual. I said there’s always mistakes. There are always mistakes committed in any war. So, I’m very realistic. But to say that this is our aim as a government, we give the order to destroy hospitals or schools or to kill civilians, this is against our interests. I mean, if you want to put the morals aside, we wouldn’t do it because this is against us, so how can those people, that would say that we are only denying facts, convince anyone that we are working against our interests?

This is first. Second, if we are killing people, Syrian people, and destroying hospitals and committing all these atrocities, and we’ve been faced by all the great powers and the petrodollars in the world, how can I be President after nearly six years of the beginning of the war? I’m not Superman, if I don’t have support, I wouldn’t be here, and because I have the support, and because we defend the Syrian people, we have the support as President or as a government. This is how to refute all these claims. I mean, at the end, the reality is telling.

Question 15: So, there’s a fierce battle going on in Aleppo right now. What will be the Syrian army and the Russian army’s next move to retake the eastern rebel-held part of Aleppo?

President Assad: To continue the fight with the rebels till they leave Aleppo. They have to. There’s no other option. We won’t accept that terrorists will take control of any part of Syria, not only Aleppo. This is our mission, and this is our goal, and this is our next step.

Question 16: So, this intense way of warfare that we see right will continue, that’s what you’re saying?

President Assad: No, if you have any other option like the reconciliations in other areas, that’s the best option, not the war, and that’s why we announced – we gave many amnesties to hundreds, and maybe thousands, not hundreds, thousands of militants, in order to save blood, and it worked. That’s why we said we give them guarantee, whether they want to have reconciliation and to have the amnesty, or to leave with their armaments outside the city of Aleppo completely, to leave the city safe, and for the people to go back to their normal life.

Question 17: The United States, they stopped all bilateral talks with Russia about any kind of peace agreement, and the Russians they said that they actually regret this. Do you regret it as well?

President Assad: We regret it, but we knew in advance that it wouldn’t work, because the agreement, it’s not only about the talks between the two great powers, it’s not about what they’re going to sign or agree upon; it’s about the will, and we already knew, we had already known that the Americans didn’t have the will to reach any agreement, because the main part of that agreement is to attack al-Nusra which is, according to the American list and to the United Nations list, is a terrorist group, but in the Syrian conflict, it’s an American card. Without al-Nusra, the Americans cannot have any real, let’s say, concrete and effective card in the Syrian arena. That’s why we regret it, but we already knew that it wouldn’t happen.
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Question 18: But isn’t it very difficult for the United States to separate the so-called “moderate rebels” and some of the more radical ones? This is very difficult, when you are attacking the moderate rebels all the time.

President Assad: You are right, do you know why you are right? Do you know the unicorn, the animal that’s like a horse, has a long horn? It’s a myth. And the moderate opposition is a myth. That’s why you cannot separate something that doesn’t exist from something that exists. All of them have the same grassroots, the same grassroots that used to be called “free Syrian army” four years ago, five years ago, then it became al-Nusra, then it became ISIS. So, the same grassroots move from group to another group. That’s why they cannot separate it. And they don’t want.. if this is reality, not a myth, they don’t want, but they cannot, because it doesn’t exist.

Question 19: But why did you ask them to do it if it’s not possible?

President Assad: Because they insisted that there is a moderate opposition, and the Russian told them “ok, if there is a moderate opposition, please separate those moderates from the extremists,” and it didn’t work, because they don’t exist, that’s why.

Question 20: What do you think will be the consequences of the US suspension of the bilateral talks? I mean, until now, the Syrian and Russian armies, they have avoided direct clashes with the US army. Do you think that there’s an increased risk of direct attacks between you and your allies and the US army?

President Assad: Many people are talking about the escalation, if the agreement didn’t work or if it’s not implemented. But actually that escalation has been happening for a while now. I mean, before that agreement, let’s say, failed, the Americans attacked our forces in Deir Ezzor, and everybody knows that only one group existed in Deir Ezzor, which is ISIS, and ISIS came and took the place of the Syrian Army and they threaten the city, which is called Deir Ezzor, because of the American attacks. So, talking about escalation, it’s already happening. Talking about direct confrontation, since World War II, that never happened, I mean, it was very close to happening during the Cuban missile crisis, in 1962 I think. Now the situation is different, because in the United States you don’t have superior statecraft. When you don’t have superior statecraft, you should expect anything, and you should always expect the worse. I’m sure that Russia is doing its best not to reach that point, but do the Americans – or, let’s say, the “hawks” part or the group within the administration – do their best to avoid that confrontation, or the opposite, do their best to have this confrontation with Russia? That’s what worries us.

Question 21: And talking about the incident in Deir Ezzor on September 17. It was British, Australian, US, and Danish fighter jets who allegedly attacked the Syrian Army. Denmark, like the other countries, they said it was a mistake. Do you accept that explanation?

President Assad: We accept the explanation, but that doesn’t mean we accept that error, doesn’t mean we justify it. To say a mistake, maybe you have the wrong information, especially as you are fulfilling an American mission; I’m sure not the Danish, not the British, decided which target they should attack. I’m sure the Americans said “this is our target, and this is where ISIS is.” Of course, they deceive the others, and tell them “we’re going to attack ISIS.” Maybe that’s the truth. But is it acceptable for the Danish people that your army is fulfilling military missions of other countries without verifying the target and knowing where is it heading? Do you take a bus without knowing where the bus is going to? You don’t. So, it’s not acceptable. Maybe it’s a mistake, that’s true, but the mistake is not acceptable.

Question 22: So do you think that, indirectly, Denmark, they were helping ISIS?

President Assad: In reality, they helped ISIS because of this attack, because they killed tens of Syrian soldiers who are defending the city of Deir Ezzor from being under the control of ISIS, and now ISIS took the place, took the hills that overlook the city, so they could be able someday to take control of Deir Ezzor because of that attack.

Question 23: And you think that the US, they did that on purpose, and Denmark, they helped them without knowing?

President Assad: I don’t know about Denmark; I don’t know if it’s without knowing. Maybe. The only reason that makes me believe so is because the Europeans implement and fulfill what the Americans want in every field without asking and without discussing, to be frank, so it could be one of the reasons. But for the Americans, a hundred percent, they did it intentionally, because ISIS gathered their militants in the same place before the attack, and when the attack started, it took about one hour, and in the next hour ISIS attacked and took control of those hills. How could ISIS knew about this raid before it happened? Of course, this is not the only indication for us that the United States is supporting ISIS, the attack on Palmyra, when they occupied and took control of Palmyra under the supervision of the Americans, the smuggling of oil, the extraction of oil from oil fields in Syria in the desert in the middle of the day. This is a strong indication that the United States has been supporting ISIS in order to use ISIS.

Question 24: Until now, the Danish government they have followed US policy towards Syria. They even said that they were willing to engage in a military operation against the Syrian Army. What do you think about the Danish policy towards Syria?

President Assad: First of all, the intervention in Syria, as part of the international coalition which is actually an American coalition, this is against the international law, this is against the sovereignty of Syria because this is not in coordination with the Syrian government, while the Russian came to Syria after taking the permission of the Syrians; actually after having an invitation from the Syrian government to support us in our fight against the terror. So this is against the sovereignty, this is against the international law and this is against any moralized policy anywhere in the world. It’s illegal.

The other aspect of that policy is the embargo. As part of the European Union, they made embargo on the Syrian population; tens of millions of Syrians, they are not allowed to reach the basic needs of their life. For example, you cannot buy now pumps for the water, they cannot buy medical equipment to diagnose somebody who has a cancer who would die because he cannot afford these materials. The embargo prevents the Syrian companies, airlines companies, from having spare parts for their airplanes in order to prevent those airplanes from crashing in the air and killing the passengers. This is the policy of the European Union, and Denmark is part of that policy.

Question 25: But what else should they do? I mean, they are very much against what’s going on in Syria right now. They have been supporting the opposition. Maybe they don’t want to be involved in a direct war with the Syrian Army. So what else to do?

President Assad: For the government?

Journalist: Yes.

President Assad: The question is would you as a Danish citizen accept me as a foreigner to support opposition in your country with money and to tell them “go and kill, and that’s how you achieve your political goals?” If there is opposition, what is the definition of opposition? Could you accept an opposition in your country that belongs to other countries? Or should it be a Danish opposition that belongs to Danish people. They cannot tell which opposition to support in any other country. This is an intervention in internal matters. This is against the sovereignty, against the international law. They don’t have the right to support anyone in Syria against anyone. It’s not their business. We are a sovereign country; we are independent. We have the right to tackle our problems. So, they’re not in a position to support anyone, whether right or wrong.

Question 26: Do you see Denmark as an enemy of Syria?

President Assad: No, they are not. They are not an enemy. There is a big difference between the Danish people, like most of the European people, they were friends to Syria, but it’s about the policy of the government. It’s about whole Europe now being absent from the political map at least since 2003 after the invasion of Iraq, just because they had to follow the Americans, and they don’t dare to take their independent, let’s say, path in politics. We differentiate precisely between the government and the people of Denmark, and the same for other countries.

Question 27: If it could speed up the negotiations for a peaceful future in Syria, if you left office and may be another one from the Syrian administration took over, why wouldn’t you do that?

President Assad: To leave, you mean?

Journalist: Yes.

President Assad: That depends on the Syrian people. It’s not my decision. And if you don’t have the support of the Syrian people, you have to leave right away, because without their support, you cannot achieve anything, you cannot produce anything, you are going to fail. So that’s simply the reason, especially during the war you have to lead the ship to the shore; you don’t run away because there is a war, unless the Syrian people want you to leave. If I’m the problem, again, or the other point, let’s say, or the other side of the story, if I’m the reason of the war, I would leave. But it’s not about me; I am just used as a nominal reason. It’s much bigger than that; it’s about Syria, it’s about the government, it’s about the independence, it is about the war on the regional level, it is about the war between the great powers. Syria is just the headline and the President is the main headline.

Question 28: So you don’t think that you are one of the reasons for the war?

President Assad: No, I am not a reason for the war, because if I am a reason, the war should have started in 2000, since I became President, not 2011 when the money started pouring from Qatar and when the United States took the decision that they want topple governments and presidents because they do not suit them.

Question 29: But don’t you think you are the reason that the war escalated?

President Assad: Because of me?

Journalist: Yes.

President Assad: So, the terrorists according to what you are saying, terrorists are not responsible, they are very peaceful people. The money of Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Turkey are something legal and natural, let’s say, and the agenda of the United States fulfilled the needs of the Syrian people, which is not realistic.

Question 30: Mr. President, you have said many times that you will continue the fight until you have recaptured the whole country, is that still your approach to this process?

President Assad: No, it’s not my approach; it’s my mission according to the constitution. It’s the mission of the army according to the constitution; it’s the mission of the state’s institutions according to the constitution. It’s not an option, it’s not a personal opinion, and it’s not my plan. My mission is to defend the civilians. My mission is to fight terrorists. My mission is to take control of every part of my country. You don’t take part of your country as a state. You don’t say “it is enough for me have half of the country” or so.

Question 31: So you think that you are defending the civilians?

President Assad: Definitely.

Question 32: I mean more than hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed; some people say 250 thousands; some people say 300 thousands. Do you think that you are defending the civilians in Syria?

President Assad: The majority of those that you are talking about, the victims, are supporters of the government, not the opposite. Another part which is unbiased, in the middle, it doesn’t belong to the government or to the other. So the majority are supporters. So, of course, I am defending the civilians. Again, otherwise if I’m not, If I’m killing the civilians, as the propaganda would promote for four years, I wouldn’t be here as President. I cannot withstand for nearly six years.

Question 33: Last question, Mr. President: Do you believe in a diplomatic political solution, or do you, deep inside your heart, know that this is going to be a military solution, and that is really what you want?

President Assad: Neither, neither, because when you have a problem you have a solution, you don’t have a kind of solution, but the problem itself will tell you how many aspects of that problems you have. For example, if I believe in political solution but you have terrorism, you cannot have a political solution because you have chaos. If you have chaos, this is the antithesis to anything natural, including the political process. So, you need first to fight terrorists in order to reach political solution. So, in reality, you have to follow both paths; the military and the diplomatic or the political, because they are related to each other. So, it’s not about my belief; it’s not what I believe; it’s what the requirement of this conflict to be solved. So you don’t define it. The whole circumstances define it. For example, regarding the terrorists, it’s not only about military solution; it’s about the adjacent countries and the Western countries stop supporting the terrorists. If they stop supporting them, the military aspect of that solution will be marginalized; it won’t be important because they will be weak. You will give a chance to more political initiatives in that regard. If they support them more, actually what is going to happen is the opposite; the political solution or path will be marginalized. So, it’s not about what I believe in. I wish we can solve everything politically, I wish, that’s what I think is suitable, but it’s not about what I wish, it’s about the facts on the ground.

Journalist: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

President Assad: Thank you for coming.


SANA


________

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Lavrov: Not once has the U.S. military hit al-Nusra positions, U.S. is protecting Jihadists in Syria

    Saturday, October 01, 2016   No comments
al-Nusra's leaders announcing the changing of its name
Speaking to BBC, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the U.S. of protecting al-Nusra and other Jihadist groups in Syria to leverage them to achieve its political goals. He emphatically declared that the U.S. military never attacked, not even once, al-Nusra positions in Syria. When BBC asked a U.S. senator with that assertion, he did not refute it, claiming instead, that the U.S. priority is to push for political solution that does not include Assad (listen starting at 7 min. mark), all but confirming Russia's claim that U.S. priority is confront ISIS, but did not mention al-Nusra, and to bring about a regime change in Syria. Watch the BBC interview in full.


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