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Update on the MH17 Case

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The Netherlands Government is resisting an effort by Dutch victims’ families to find out why Ukraine’s Government, on 17 July 2014 — when the Malaysian airliner MH17 was shot down while flying over Ukraine’s civil-war zone — this passenger-plane had been guided by Ukraine’s air-traffic control to fly through, instead of around (as it instructed other airliners), the war-zone. On 1 October 2019, now more than five years after 196 Dutch nationals had died from that incident, Holland’s RTL News headlined (as autotranslated into English) “Cabinet considers research into Ukraine’s role in disaster MH17”, and reported that “The cabinet will examine whether further research is possible on the role of Ukraine in the disaster with flight MH17,” because “A proposal … for the investigation received the support of all Parties present in the second chamber” of Holland’s parliament. This news-report said that, “So far, the cabinet has not taken any steps against Ukraine. As far as we know, nothing is happening behind the scenes.” Furthermore: “Last year, the Netherlands, together with Australia, decided to make Russia as a country liable. For the liability of Ukraine, according to the cabinet, there was ‘no evidence’ and also ‘no research needed’.” Moreover, Dutch Foreign Minister Stefan Blok said that “We don’t see any reason for an investigation” into that, because “The government is trying to maintain its relationship with Ukraine,” and “because then both the airspace of Ukraine and that of Russia should be looked at,” and because “there are still no indications that Ukraine can also be held liable.” But actually, from the very start of that investigation, there has been a secret agreement not to blame Ukraine for anything having to do with the incident. This agreement is kept secret from the Dutch people. Blok, in resisting to investigate why the MH17 was guided over the civil-war zone, was simply adhering to the secret agreement that Netherlands had signed with Ukraine on 8 August 2014. If he were to agree to the families’ demand, he still would be obligated, by Holland’s 8 August 2014 agreement with Ukraine, to find Ukraine not to have perpetrated the downing. But the families don’t know this.

As I reported back on 24 August 2014, a secret agreement had been signed on August 8th between Netherlands, Ukraine, Belgium, and Australia, that Ukraine would have veto-power over any finding that their official “Joint Investigation Team” (“JIT”) would issue regarding the shoot-down of the MH17. Malaysia was excluded from the Team, but was finally admitted, after agreeing to their secret terms — including not to blame Ukraine. Russia’s RT headlined on 20 November 2014 “Dutch government refuses to reveal ‘secret deal’ into MH17 crash probe” and revealed that the Dutch Government was refusing to comply with its own Freedom of Information law by keeping this agreement secret. On 14 June 2016, the website “What Happened to Flight MH17” headlined “The vague role of Malaysia in the Joint Investigation Team” and reported that the JIT had actually been officially formed on 7 August 2014, and noted that, “In the limited number of public communications by JIT it is not mentioned what the role of Malaysia is in the criminal investigation.” (Malaysia, unlike those other four nations, isn’t a member of America’s core anti-Russia alliance, which includes NATO and Australia, but is instead a neutral nation and therefore considered untrustworthy by the others.) Subsequently, on 21 July 2019, John Helmer and Max van der Werff revealed that Malaysia’s Government rejects the ‘findings’ by the JIT (which, with no reservations, blame Russia for downing the MH17), but that Malaysia isn’t violating the 8 August 2014 secret agreement, since Malaysia isn’t saying Ukraine did it. Instead, Malaysia is saying that further investigations are needed, and that Malaysia possesses the black boxes and other crucial evidence.

The present report is an update regarding the entire matter of the shoot-down on 17 July 2014 of the MH17 Malaysian airliner over the breakaway Donetsk region of Ukraine. The additional facts which will be reported here regarding the MH17 incident shock me. I knew that U.S. President Barack Obama had become desperate for something to happen that would persuade German Chancellor Angela Merkel to endorse added sanctions against Russia regarding Ukraine, but I had had no idea, until now, as to what direct involvement, if any, he had had in the actual setting-up of the MH17 shoot-down. All of the source-evidence for the following can be clicked-through-to here by the reader, and this is important to do, for any reader who is skeptical (as all ought to be) and who wants to see source-evidence, for any assertion that seems outlandish. It’s important especially because the case which will be presented here stuns even me, who had voted three times for Obama, first in his 2008 primary against Hillary Clinton, then once again in his 2008 general election contest against Republican John McCain; and then, finally, once more, yet again, in his 2012 general election contest against Republican Mitt Romney (who, incidentally, right now, is arguing for Trump’s impeachment and replacement by Mike Pence; and who is famous for having said, in his 2012 campaign against Obama, that “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe”). I knew that Obama was the lesser of two evils, but I now recognize that I had had no idea of how evil that actually was. Here I shall report what I now know. This extensively documented reconstruction, of the MH17 incident and of how it came about, seems to me to disprove the fundamental Western ‘historical’ narrative about contemporary international relations, and to signal the necessity for a fundamental rewrite of the mainstream view of world history in our era. At the very least, it disproves that view — the mainstream view or ‘history’ of our time. Whatever the truth might be, it certainly cannot be anything even approximating that ‘historical’ mainstream. Mainstream recent ‘history’ is, now more clearly than ever before, a sinister and carefully orchestrated myth, as will be demonstrated here in what follows. 

The essential background information regarding the MH17 must be presented at the start, and it’s accurately portrayed in an 11-minute video. The first-ever news-report to display and assemble in an easily comprehensible way all of the crucial facts constituting the background context that’s necessary in order to understand the MH17 event and what caused it, was an 11-minute video compilation, which was uploaded to youtube on 12 March 2014, and which you can see here. It’s 100% true, nothing at all deceptive in any way, and it still remains, in my opinion (after my seeing it around 50 times and considering it from a multitude of different perspectives), absolutely a masterpiece, the only perfect public-affairs video that I have ever seen. Beyond that essential background information to the MH17 event, now follows (and entirely within that factual background-context), a summary in more detail, focusing in, or zooming onto, the MH17 event itself, more closely: 

This will be a summary, which — since it might seem incredible to anyone who doesn’t already know the evidence — will immediately be followed by the evidence, all clickable here to each source (though not necessarily via only a single click). The first sentence of the summary will summarize the essential background information to the MH17 event — meaning here only information on the background that’s essential in order to be able to understand the context in which the information that is to be newly introduced here regarding the MH17 event will fit into that bigger picture — and this opening sentence will therefore itself be linked to more-detailed summaries of key aspects of that background part, each aspect of which itself contains links to all of the source-evidences there regarding that aspect of the deepest background, so that the full background will be accessible from the links that are provided here, and the new information, which is to be provided at the end, will be entirely understandable within the context of that full background. 

Here, then, is the overall summary, including the heavily-linked opening sentence regarding this event’s deep background:

President Obama not only perpetrated the February 2014 bloody coup in Ukraine which he had started by no later than 2011 to plan and placed into operation on 1 March 2013 inside the U.S. Embassy in Kiev (months before the democratically elected Ukrainian President whom he was to overthrow decided for Ukraine not to accept the EU’s offer of membership), but Obama and his NATO were so determined to reverse the coup’s resulting breakaway, from Ukraine, of Ukraine’s two most anti-nazi districts, Crimea and Donetsk, that Obama and his NATO then set up the shoot-down of the MH17 airliner by Obama’s newly-installed nazi Ukrainian government, with the objective being to promptly blame it against Russia. Obama was, at that time, in early July 2014, desperate for there to be a pretext on which the European Union would join the U.S. in greatly hiking sanctions against Russia regarding Ukraine. What the most-recent information will show is this: Obama and his NATO were intending to use this false accusation against Russia as a pretext not only to hike anti-Russia sanctions but ultimately to invade both Donetsk and Crimea and risk WW III in order to coerce those two regions back again into Ukraine — now to become (like the rest of Ukraine) under the control of the U.S. regime. The reasons why that plan failed (was aborted) were, first, that Malaysia’s Government held in international law the unchallengeable right of ownership over the airliner’s black boxes; and, second, that there was especially one member of NATO, Angela Merkel, who refused to risk WW III and to join into Obama’s extremely psychopathic scheme, since it risked the whole world over his determination to grab the entirety of Ukraine. Obama always refused to proceed forward with a geostrategic plan if it was strongly opposed by at least one core ally — in this particular instance, he knew enough not to drive Germany to abandon NATO and to ally with Russia (especially since Russia itself was his actual target in his coup to take over Ukraine). By declining to move forward without Merkel, all of those immediate risks to the world were avoided. Furthermore, Malaysia’s holding the black boxes was especially a problem for Obama and NATO, because any preparation for a U.S.-NATO invasion of Donbass and Crimea would spark Malaysia to go public with what it already knew about the U.S.-NATO lies regarding the MH17 incident. Obama possessed no ability to prevent that response from Malaysia. Not only Germany, but also Malaysia, possessed power in this situation, and Obama, fortunately, yielded to it. (Of course, the great worry about Trump is that if he gets into a similar situation, he might move forward regardless.) 

Also noteworthy — especially for Dutch citizens and the families of the passengers on that airliner — the Netherlands Government had been one of the largest financial backers of the February 2014 U.S.-planned overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President. For example, it was the largest single donor, listed at $793,089, to Hromadske TV, which was the leading station that advocated for forcing that President out of power. Whereas the U.S. Government had organized and ran the overthrow, and spent far more on it (over $5 billion) than did any other nation or individual, the U.S. was only the second-largest donor to that station, at $399,650. So: Holland’s government had a significant investment in the post-coup regime, even before that post-coup regime shot down the MH17 plane and thereby slaughtered its 283 passengers, of whom 196 were Dutch. This is yet another reason why the Dutch Government’s heading this investigation in which Ukraine — another member — should be a suspect but is instead a juror, nullifies any rational authority to its ‘findings’.

One of my more important early news-reports regarding the MH17 case was the 24 August 2014 “MH-17 ‘Investigation’: Secret August 8th Agreement Seeps Out”, which article, referenced near the opening of the present article, documented that the secret agreement amongst the 4-party official MH17 ‘investigative’ team — Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, and Ukraine — gave each one of those governments an absolute veto over any public announcement or ‘finding’ from the ‘investigation’, so that if Ukraine, which was a prime suspect in the incident, were to disapprove a ‘finding’, then the team wouldn’t be allowed to issue it. This is like giving a murder-suspect veto-power over the investigation into the murder. It shows how poisoned that whole official ‘investigation’ was, even at its very start. This is important to understand.

Another especially relevant news-report from me was the 7 June 2015 “Obama Sidelines Kerry on Ukraine Policy”, which noted that Obama supported the position of Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, who favored the U.S. backing an all-out invasion of Crimea and Donbass by Ukraine, and that Obama rejected the position of her boss, John Kerry, the Secretary of State, who opposed that policy. “Kerry, for his part, now faces the decision as to whether to quit … or else for Kerry to stay in office and be disrespected in all capitals for his staying on after having been so blatantly contradicted by his subordinate.” (This wasn’t the only instance when Obama trashed Kerry’s work: he likewise did it when Kerry favored the U.S. agreeing with Russia that, in a Syrian-war cease-fire, not only ISIS but also Al Qaeda-led forces in Syria could continue to be bombed. Russia was bombing both, but Obama refused to accept a ceasefire in which Russia would be allowed to continue its bombing of Al Qaeda, not only of ISIS. It was the ultimate humiliation of Kerry, and effectively ended his career in government.) This displays Obama’s profound hatred of Russia. 

My last major report on MH17 was on 31 December 2018, “MH17 Turnabout: Ukraine’s Guilt Now Proven”. That presents conclusive checkmate against the U.S.-NATO case blaming Russia for MH17 (that case being run by the Netherlands Government, which simply ignores its case having become disproven by that evidence). 

Here’s the more-recent report, what I did not previously know, which comes from the great independent Western journalist living in Moscow, John Helmer; and presented here are the highlights from his report — a report that fills-in crucial additional details ofthe same historical narrative that I have previously documented regarding the MH17 incident

“MH17 Evidence Tampering Revealed by Malaysia – FBI Attempt to Seize Black Boxes; Dutch Cover-Up of Forged Telephone Tapes; Ukrainian Air Force Hid Radar Records; Crash Site Witness Testimony Misreported” John Helmer, 21 July 2019

A new documentary from Max van der Werff, the leading independent investigator of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 disaster, has revealed breakthrough evidence of tampering and forging of prosecution materials; suppression of Ukrainian Air Force radar tapes; and lying by the Dutch, Ukrainian, US and Australian governments. An attempt by agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to take possession of the black boxes of the downed aircraft is also revealed by a Malaysian National Security Council official for the first time.

The sources of the breakthrough are Malaysian — Prime Minister of Malaysia Mohamad Mahathir; Colonel Mohamad Sakri, the officer in charge of the MH17 investigation for the Prime Minister’s Department and Malaysia’s National Security Council following the crash on July 17, 2014; and a forensic analysis by Malaysia’s OG IT Forensic Services of Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU) telephone tapes which Dutch prosecutors have announced as genuine.

Watch it in full here. …

The film reveals the Malaysian Government’s evidence for judging the [Joint Investigative Team] JIT’s witness testimony, photographs, video clips, and telephone tapes to have been manipulated by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), and to be inadmissible in a criminal prosecution in a Malaysian or other national or international court.

For the first time also, the Malaysian Government reveals how it got in the way of attempts the US was organizing during the first week after the crash to launch a NATO military attack on eastern Ukraine. The cover story for that was to rescue the plane, passenger bodies, and evidence of what had caused the crash. In fact, the operation was aimed at defeating the separatist movements in the Donbass, and to move against Russian-held Crimea.

The new film reveals that a secret Malaysian military operation took custody of the MH17 black boxes on July 22, preventing the US and Ukraine from seizing them. The Malaysian operation, revealed in the film by the Malaysian Army colonel who led it, eliminated the evidence for the camouflage story, reinforcing the German Government’s opposition to the armed attack, and forcing the Dutch to call off the invasion on July 27. …

Although German opposition to military intervention forced its cancellation, the Australians sent a 200-man special forces unit to The Netherlands and then Kiev. …

The new film reveals in an interview with Colonel Mohamad Sakri, the head of the Malaysian team, what happened next. Sakri’s evidence, filmed in his office at Putrajaya, is the first to be reported by the press outside Malaysia in five years. A year ago, Sakri gave a partial account of his mission to a Malaysian newspaper.

“I talked to my prime minister [Najib],” Colonel Sakri says. “He directed me to go to the crash site immediately.” At the time Sakri was a senior security official at the Disaster Management Division of the Prime Minister’s Department. Sakri says that after arriving in Kiev, Poroshenko’s officials blocked the Malaysians. “We were not allowed to go there…so I took a small team to leave Kiev going to Donetsk secretly.”

Sakri goes on to say he was asked by the [nominally nonpartisan] OSCE’s special monitoring mission for Ukraine to hand over the black boxes; he refused. He was then met by agents of the FBI (Min 6:56). “They approached me to show them the black box. I said no.” He also reports that in Kiev the Ukrainian Government tried “forcing me to leave the black boxes with them. We said no. We cannot. We cannot allow.”

The handover ceremony in Donetsk, July 22, 2014: on far left, the two black boxes from MH17; in the centre, shaking hands, Alexander Borodai and Mohamad Sakri. …

Van der Werff and Yerlashova contracted with OG IT Forensic Services, a Malaysian firm specializing in forensic analysis of audio, video and digital materials for court proceedings, to examine the telephone tapes. The Kuala Lumpur firm has been endorsed by the Malaysian Bar. The full 143-page technical report can be read here.

The findings reported by Akash Rosen and illustrated on camera are that the telephone recordings have been cut, edited and fabricated. The source of the tapes, according to the JIT press conference on June 19 by Dutch police officer Paulissen, head of the National Criminal Investigation Service of The Netherlands, was the Ukrainian SBU. Similar findings of tape fabrication and evidence tampering are reported on camera in the van der Werff film by a German analyst, Norman Ritter. …

CLOSING NOTE: The present article was offered as an exclusive to virtually all mainstream news-media in the U.S. and its major allied countries, none of which responded. It therefore is not copyrighted, and is instead available to all news-media, free of charge, for publication. Readers are therefore encouraged to distribute it to others without any limitation.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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How Putin’s Russia is Exploiting Jihadists Against pro-Navalny Protesters?

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Who is Putin’s terrorist: Navalny or Jihadist?

Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin is considering using old tactics to stem the growing wave of nationwide protests in support of his fiercest critic, popular opposition leader Alexei Navalny. This tactic was developed in the late 90s by the KGB ideologists and successfully applied in order to bring to power Vladimir Putin, who is ruling the country with an iron hand longer than all his Soviet predecessors except Joseph Stalin. The tactical skills of the Putin’s policy architects were aiming to frighten Russian citizens by Islamist terrorism and Chechen separatism and unite patriotic and nationalist forces around a new leader capable of challenging the West.

Thus, when the nationwide protests in support of Navalny from Yakutia to Kaliningrad became the most serious challenge, the Kremlin began to trumpet the threat of Islamist extremists and international terrorists. This time, the Putin regime is intimidating protesters with impending terrorist attacks of Central Asian and Caucasian jihadists and their Syrian parent organization, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

On the eve of the next nationwide protests on February 14, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Investigative Committee and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russia warned of the inadmissibility of calls to participate in an unsanctioned rally. Russian state news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS have disseminated information that the most powerful Sunni militant faction of HTS in northern Syria is preparing a series of lone-wolf attacks during the upcoming mass street protests of Navalny’s supporters in various Russian cities. In doing so, however, the pro-Kremlin media cited its undisclosed law enforcement sources and ultimately spread merely conspiracy theories.

According to anonymous sources of Russian security services, HTS-backed Uzbek Jihadi battalion Katibat Tawhid wal Jihad(KTJ), Chechen militant groups Ajnad al-Kavkaz (AK) and Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar (JMA) are planning to carry out explosions and attack protesters. To achieve these purposes, terrorist groups allegedly recruited Russian citizens and Central Asian migrants, who expect their leaders’ commands.

pro-Navalny protesters

The Putin regime faced the most serious challenge when anti-government protests took place across the Russia in support Navalny in recent weeks. As is known, in mid-January, Navalny returned to the country after recovering from a chemical Novichok poisoning that nearly took his life and was immediately detained and later jailed for alleged parole violations. The robust Putin regime first demonstrated its grave alarm when tens of thousands pro-Navalny protesters demanded his resignation in more than 100 cities and towns, chanting Putin as a ‘thief’. Police detained more than 11,000 people at what they say were unsanctioned protests that the Moscow condemned as illegal and dangerous.

Alexei Navalny’s political creativity and tactical skill inspired Russian liberal youth weary with the corruption-plagued political order presided over by Putin. Fierce clashes between protesters and riot police during the mass rallies indicate that a new generation is not afraid of arrests and the repressive state machine. And to stop the pace of marathon confrontation with the opposition, Putin resorted to his long-standing KGB tactics, intimidating society with possible terrorist attacks and explosions by Islamists.

Will Uzbek and Chechen Jihadists hit pro-Navalny Protesters?

But the fact is, it’s not the first time Putin’s Russia has intimidated society with possible terror attacks by Islamist terrorists and Chechen separatists to achieve political goals. During the transition of power from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin at the end of the second millennium, Kremlin ideologists successfully tested anti-Islamist tactics to overcome the challenges of the political opposition. The ideologists of Putin’s election campaign created his image as a decisive and strong leader, the one who can defeat Islamist terrorism, Chechen separatism and preserve the integrity of Great Russia. His image as the only savior of the Russian Empire was accompanied by radio and television spots and news about the atrocities of Chechen militants and their beheading of Russian soldiers.

Meanwhile, there is a conspiracy theory in Russian political circles that the powerful FSB orchestrated apartment bombings in the Russian cities of Buinaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999 to boost Putin’s approval rating aiming to ensure his victory in the presidential elections. As a result of these “terrorist attacks”, 307 people were killed, more than 1,700 people were injured. Russian officials concluded that there was a “Chechen trail” in the bombings, but no proof of their involvement was adduced. Many still doubt the results of the investigation and consider Putin to be the culprit of this tragedy.

That’s when Putin uttered his famous phrase: “We will pursue the [Islamist] terrorists everywhere. If they are in an airport, we’ll kill them there. If we catch them in the toilet, we’ll exterminate them in the toilet.” Many still believe that the apartment bombings and the FSB’s tactic against Islamist extremists catapulted Putin into the presidency. Putin soon launched a second war in Chechnya and emerged victorious in the intra-Kremlin struggle. His ratings soared. He met with huge approval in a society weary from the economic collapse, corruption and crime of the Yeltsin era.

Usually people prefer to keep quiet about this tragedy. Russian political figures Sergei Yushenkov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, and Boris Berezovsky worked to unravel the mystery of apartment bombings. But all of them were brutally murdered under mysterious circumstances. Ultimately, the Kremlin’s tactics to combat Islamist terrorists not only helped to rocket Putin to the political Olympus, but also increased Islamophobia, nationalism and chauvinism in Russian society.

Today, even 22 years after Putin came to power, the Kremlin’s ideologists have begun to intimidate Russia’s liberal society with likely Islamist terrorist attacks again as the nationwide protests seriously threaten his regime. This illustrates the regime exhaustion and the lack of confidence in face of the strategic sophistication of Navalny’s team.

So far, neither HTS, nor Central Asian and North Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups have officially responded to the FSB on the plotting of terrorist attacks in Russian cities during opposition rallies. However, in encrypted Telegram chats, Uzbek and Chechen jihadists actively discussed the “leak information”.

Thus, one of the KTJ’s followers on Telegram under the name Al Hijrat said in Uzbek: “Kafir Putin frightens his people with the just sword of Allah.But the people of the blessed land of Sham know that he himself is the main terrorist. Russian infidels and Putin’s Nusayri puppy (Alawites regime of Bashar al-Assad) bomb Greater Idlib to destroy Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah. Executioners will have to hold a harsh response before the Almighty for their crimes.”

A pro-Jihadi chat “Inspire” in Telegram wrote in Russian: “the information about the impending attacks by Ajnad al-Kavkaz is fake. The authorities are trying to hold Russia’s awakening people from mass protests against Putin’s criminal group. To intimidate civilians, the Russian siloviki (FSB) can and are ready to commit terrorist acts, blaming HTS for this, which are not interested in what is happening there in Russia. The Putinists have a lot of experience in killing their own citizens and blowing up their houses.” In this message, Chechen militants indirectly protect HTS from accusations by pro-Kremlin media on impending terrorist attacks in Russian cities during opposition protests. This is no coincidence, since Ajnad al Kavkaz is known for its close ties with HTS.

On Telegram channel, some Russian-speaking jihadists from the post-Soviet space mocked at the ‘leaked information’, some expressed their anger against the “Russian occupants” in Sham, some advised protesters to be vigilant before the FSB provocation. A pro-Jihadi chat Icharkhoin Telegram recommended Muslims of Caucasus be ready for new repressions of Russian infidels and local Murtad (apostate), because after the bombings of houses in Volgodonsk, Putin started the 2-Chechen war and took away the independence of Ichkeria. The Telegram chat “Muhajireen” says that the Kremlin is preparing for a harsh suppression of the mass protests.

It is not the first time the Russian authorities have accused Central Asian and North Caucasian Jihadi networks of organizing terrorist act. On April 3, 2017, the Russian FSB blamed KTJ for the bombing on a subway train in St. Petersburg that killed 16 people and injured 67 others. On October 15, 2020, the FSB once again accused the Uzbek KTJ militants of preparing subversive and terrorist acts in Russian cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ufa, Maikop and Volgograd. In a statement, the intelligence services claimed that during the counter-terrorist operation, they prevented explosions and eliminated two members of KTJ. Then FSB distributed photos and videos of firearms, ammunition, IED’s chemical components, and religious literature seized during the operation.

On October 16, 2020, KTJ in its statement denied the Russian authorities’ accusation in these attacks. The Uzbek militant group stated that “according the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s policy, our activities are limited to the territory of Sham, and we do not conduct jihadi acts outside of it.” Further, KTJ assured via its Telegram channel that it “does not have its cells in Russia and is not involved in organizing terrorist acts there.”

Jihadi factor of Russian democracy

The Russian authorities often make thunderous statements about plotting terrorist attacks by “international terrorist groups” and how siloviki (FSB) successfully prevented its. This time, trumpeting about terrorist plots by HTS and its foreign subsidiaries during mass protests in various Russian cities, Moscow hoped to hit two birds with one stone. First, the Kremlin hopes that alarm on terrorist attacks could become a cold shower for Navalny’s supporters, as a result of which the activity of protesters will subside and the scale of the rallies will decrease. Second, by accusing HTS of plotting terrorist attacks, Russia is trying to justify its bloody bombing in northern Syria before the international community.

However, experts on jihadism and political Islam were skeptical about accusations of HTS for plotting terrorist attacks in Russia.HTS, Syria’s most powerful rebel group, is trying to implement a new strategy to transform itself from a global jihadist outlook into a local “moderate national liberation movement”. Today its new agenda is entirely dedicated to Syria and the Syrian local Sunni community. Within this new strategy, HTS severely restricted external attacks by its subsidiaries – Central Asian and North Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups –KTJ, AK and JMA. Consequently, HTS, which holds the last major rebel bastion in Idlib province and backs the local Salvation Government, is focused only on the internal Syrian jihad than organizing external terrorist attacks.

HTS emir Abu Mohammed al-Julani is well aware that any terrorist attacks in Russia could place his group among the global terrorist organizations, such as ISIS and al Qaeda, from which he decisively disavowed. HTS pursues a pragmatic approach to the political context, and its external attacks outside of Syria could undermine its fragile legacy, which Julani has achieved with great difficulty.

According to the new strategy, HTS has excluded Central Asian and local hardliners from its ranks. Those jihadists who did not want to submit to its new policy, such as former KTJ emir Abu Saloh al-Uzbeki and HTS Shura Council member Abu Malek al-Talli, were arrested or taken out of the Syrian jihad zone. Given the ability of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to pressure Russian-speaking militant groups to abandon its global jihadist ambitions, it can be concluded that the Russian FSB’s accusation against HTS raises many questions.

In conclusion, the Russian authorities alert about Islamists terrorist attacks during pro-Navalny protests is aimed at an internal audience and pursues exclusively domestic political goals. And these goals are clear as plain as the nose on the face. Using these methods, the Kremlin wants to stop the turbulent development of mass protests and divert the attention of people from the Navalny factor. If they succeed, the authorities will take time out to gather strength for the parliamentary elections in the fall of 2021.But if the wave of protests grows ever stronger and threatens Putin’s regime, then a repetition of the 1999 scenario is quite possible. As then, radical Islamism and terrorism can become a starting point for strengthening authoritarianism in Russia.

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Corona pandemic: Realism limitation in solving 21st century security threats

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Today, most serious threats of the 21st century are not ones we can protect ourselves by using armies or advanced weapons. Indeed, the popularity of extreme-right politics, unilateralism based on nationalism and COVID-19 are threatening the world’s post-war security architecture. 

The state-based unilateralism and the trends of national response to the 21st century’s biggest security threat trigger lack of coordination, diplomatic divisions, and incoherent global answer to COVID-19. Hence, as we face the biggest challenge of the contemporary century today, we need to rethink the very nature of our comprehension of national security threats. By doing so, we need a different approach to facing security threats.

With the Corona pandemic as a security threat, one of the foundational international relations theories, the realism, has been revealed to be far limited in terms of its explanatory power than it declares. The argument is that realism has a valid logic and reasons for confidence since answers to the pandemic have confirmed the supremacy of sovereign states, the grounds for the state’s power competition. Nevertheless, the pandemic also presents realism’s weaknesses as a source for successful policy answer to this security challenge. In other words, realism is better at defining risks and threats than suggesting solutions. Put simply, realism’s explanatory power lies in diagnosis rather than treatment or prevention. To make this clear, one insight the theory emphasizes is the representation of states as the fundamental actors in world politics. 

As the coronavirus hit, states shifted quickly to close or tighten international borders, controlled movement within their borders. However, while much independent national action is understandable from a realism’s point of view, it’s insufficient. Unilateralism and state-based measures, such as border controls did not spare states from the pandemic, and unilateral measures risk ending up in national economic and social crisis. 

To fight the Corona pandemic most efficiently, policymakers will have to shift to other theoretical traditions to overcome this security threat. They will depend more and more on greater international openness, trust and cooperation. Hence, while from the realism’s view, unilateral and state-based actions may serve national interest to fight the pandemic “within the national borders”, the pandemic is a global security threat and thus remains unsolved so long as other states and non-state actors have not done the same and states move on unilaterally. 

Solving global crises and security threats such as a pandemic, similar to world economic or other security crises cannot be solved based on the realist considerations of zero-sum competitive logic. Instead, transnational security threats, such as Coronavirus, is unmasking the limitations of individual states actions in the global system. Thus, while realism does an excellent job of “diagnosing the problem”, it does not offer solutions to that problem.   

Considering the necessity of worldwide medical items and actions, coordinated and offered by international organizations and non-state actors, the uncoordinated state-based actions result in an ineffective solution to this security crisis. The perspective this article aims to offer is that given the limitations of realism, we need more faith in international transboundary cooperation based on mutual trust, especially trust vis-a-vis international institutions. However, neither the United Nations nor the World Health Organization (WHO) nor any other non-state actor can overcome the Coronavirus on its own; nor non-state actors such as international institutions are alternatives to national states in international relations. 

Instead, they are an instrument of foreign policy and statecraft and states need to rely on them, incorporating them in finding solutions to global security threats. According to constitutionalists, Robert Keohane and Lisa Martin, “States are indeed self-interested, but cooperation is often in their interest and institutions help to facilitate that cooperation.”

From our partner Tehran Times

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The Media System Within and Beyond the West: Australian, Russian and Chinese Media

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on

This article takes Australian, Russian and Chinese media as three examples to differentiate media systems and elucidate their political or economic context to understand media systems globally. Arguably, the concept of media systems “does not possess a normative or even generally accepted definition“, mainly because the notion is posited on existing publications and empirical research rather than normative theory. More precisely, “this is so for two reasons: firstly—because of the term’s content specificity; secondly—because it is dynamic and variable in time and therefore difficult to precisely define“.

Drawing on the current research of advanced capitalist democracies in Western Europe and North America, Hallin and Mancini propose “there are two main elements of the conceptual framework of Comparing Media Systems (setting aside political-social system variables): the set of four “dimensions” of comparison, and the typology of three models that summarizes what we see as the distinctive patterns of media system development among our 18 cases”. Furthermore, they clarify the four major dimensions that can be compared in different media systems: “first, the development of media markets, with particular emphasis on the strong or weak development of a mass circulation press; second political parallelism; that is, the degree and nature of the links between the media and political parties or, more broadly, the extent to which the media system reflects the major political divisions in society; third, the development of journalistic professionalism; and fourth, the degree and nature of state intervention in the media system”.

Drawing on the four dimensions, Hallin and Mancini summarize three modules from Western Europe and North America: “the Mediterranean or Polarized Pluralist Model, the North/Central European or Democratic Corporatist Model,

and the North Atlantic or Liberal Model”, which will be elaborated on by the next tables.

Table 1 Mediterranean or Polarized Pluralist Model

Country ExamplesFrance, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain
Newspaper IndustryLow newspaper circulation; elite politically oriented press
Political ParallelismHigh political parallelism; external pluralism, commentary-oriented journalism; parliamentary or government model of broadcast governance—politics-over-broadcasting systems
ProfessionalizationWeaker professionalization; instrumentalization
Role of the State in Media SystemStrong state intervention; press subsidies in France and Italy; periods of censorship; “savage deregulation” (except France)

Table 2 North/Central European or Democratic Corporatist Model

Country ExamplesAustria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland
Newspaper IndustryHigh newspaper circulation; early development of mass-circulation press
Political ParallelismExternal pluralism, especially in the national press; historically strong party press; a shift toward neutral commercial <p>press; the politics-in-broadcasting system with substantial autonomy
ProfessionalizationStrong professionalization; institutionalized self-regulation
Role of the State in Media SystemStrong state intervention but with protection for press freedom; press subsidies, robust in Scandinavia; strong public-service broadcasting

Table 3 North Atlantic or Liberal Model

Country ExamplesBritain, the United States, Canada, Ireland
Newspaper IndustryMedium newspaper circulation; early development of mass circulation commercial press
Political ParallelismNeutral commercial press; information-oriented journalism; internal pluralism (but external pluralism in Britain); professional model of broadcast governance—formally autonomous system
ProfessionalizationStrong professionalization; noninstitutionalized self-regulation
Role of the State in Media SystemA market dominated (except strong public broadcasting in Britain, Ireland)

Source: created by the author of this thesis and based on Hallin and Mancini.

Furthermore, it is unfeasible to simply apply the conceptual framework to other countries without appropriate modification. In fact, the “four dimensions” and “three models” are just perfect types, only loosely matched by the media systems of different countries. The ultimate purpose is not to classify individual media systems but to identify the “characteristic patterns of relationship between system characteristics“. Consequently, these inherent patterns of media systems offer “a theoretical synthesis and a framework for comparative research on the media and political systems“.

The Australian media system as an outlier in the Liberal Model

Hallin and Mancini illustrate that Australia should be another example of the Liberal Model. It is because firstly, the “Liberal Model is the broadest, attempting to bridge the trans-Atlantic gulf that regularly emerges in the comparative literature“. Secondly, Australia has historical connections with the UK and the US regarding “early democratization and highly professionalized information-based journalism“. This association has led to strong characteristics of Anglo-American conventions in the Australian media structure, with the quintessence of a dual media system. The binary design has combined the UK-style PSBs (public service broadcasters) such as ABC and SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) with the “US-style commercial networks“. Thirdly, Australia is famous for one of the highest commercial media ownership concentration rates globally, particularly in the newspaper area.

However, the Australian media system does not offer the quintessence of the Liberal Model. Jones and Pusey apply the Liberal Model to the Australian media system and identify four remarkable discrepancies. More precisely, compared to the Liberal Model, Australia has “historically late professionalization of journalism; comparatively low levels of education of journalists; low per capita investment in PSBs; poor regulation for accuracy and impartiality of commercial broadcast journalism; and slow development of relevant bourgeois liberal institutional conventions and rational-legal authority, e.g., formal recognition of freedom of the press”.

Furthermore, Jones and Pusey contend that Australia has several similar features with the Polarized Pluralist Model, especially in clientelism. Based on the definition of Hallin and Mancini, “clientelism tends to be associated with instrumentalization of both public and private media. In the case of public media, appointments tend to be made more based on political loyalty than purely professional criteria”. More concretely, Jones and Pusey outline the following examples to indicate the similarities of the Australian media system with the Polarized Pluralist Model: “the widely accepted recognition that appointments to the ABC Board have been more often than not party-political; the infamous ‘Murdoch amendments’ by the Fraser government to broadcasting legislation in the late 1970s to facilitate Murdoch’s concentration of television ownership; and the long history of proprietorial intervention in the political world”.

Thus, to this extent, there is a certain degree of political parallelism in the Australian media system. However, the Australian one does not match the Polarized Pluralist Model in some key areas. More precisely”, Australia does not have a highly polarized political culture and a strong tradition of mass-circulation party newspapers“. Therefore, it is arguable to perceive the Australian media system as an outlier of the Liberal Model, which can be shown in the following figure:

Figure 1 Relation of individual cases to the three models

Source: derived from Jones and Pusey.

Beyond the West: the unique Russian and Chinese media model

Although the Australian media system is an outlier in the Liberal Model, it still belongs to the typology and scope of the three models, posited on the empirical reality of Western Europe and North America. However, bringing the Russian and Chinese media models into this global comparative apparatus involves two distinct and peculiar systems into the Western-centric framework. Thus, the three models’ classification cannot apply to Russia and China’s two unique systems. Nevertheless, the four dimensions of comparison as a tool for analyzing systemic characteristics still work. However, they are not perfect and need to be modified in the application, as mentioned before.

The Russian media system as a statist commercialized model

After the disintegration of the USSR, Russia took a series of measures to adopt elements of the Western media apparatus, such as “abolition of censorship, freedom of press concepts and related legislation, privatization of media, a shift to more objective reporting, and increasing control by journalists and editorial boards over news production“. However, arguing that the Russian media have been westernized only shows “a poor understanding of” the legacy of the Soviet Union and the “complexity and dissimilarities of the post-Soviet society“, ignoring the most influential factor in the Russian media system: the state. Arguably, the interplay between the state and media has defined the essence and main features of the Russian media system. Historically and culturally, “in Russian public communications, relations between the state and a citizen have involved a clear subordination of the individual to a social power that has always been associated in the Russian context with the state“.

Thus, even though the Polarized Pluralist Model is the most similar of the three models to the Russian one, the Russian media system is still far from the Mediterranean apparatus. The Russian state’s role has exceedingly overshadowed that of the Mediterranean states, suggesting that they cannot be classified as the same type. Ivanitsky differs the Russian media system from the Polarized Pluralist Model in that “it is the state which defined the particular journalism modes such as Court journalism, Imperial journalism, Communist Party journalism in Russian history. Currently, while liberating the media’s economic activity, the state is not ready to relax the control over the content”.

This overwhelming influence of the state also reflects in Russian political parallelism. Although new political parties have appeared after the formation of the Russian Federation, Oates argues that “rather than encouraging the growth and the development of a range of political parties, media outlets in Russia have worked at supporting relatively narrow groups of elites”, part of which have been formed due to the privatization. These elites, combining old political and new emerging business elites, “became key players in the media scene“. More concretely, they created “a particularly Russian form of political parallelism” by using “political media as traditional instruments of political elite management“. Besides, due to the dominant role of the state in Russia, “media, particularly television, have been used to subvert the development of a pluralistic party system“.

Furthermore, in terms of the media industry, the influence of the state is also ubiquitous. Ivanitsky believes the state “has produced practically unsolvable tension for the media themselves trying to function both as commercial enterprises and as institutions of the society”, even though Russia has achieved rapid development in its advertising and media market. Hypothetically, these tensions between the media and the state are supposed to be the “decentralized market competition as a vital antidote to political despotism“. However, Vartanovaargues that “the aims of the state converged with those of the advertising industry, and commercially determined content became both a means of increasing depoliticization and instrumentalization of political communication, and of stimulating consumption”. From another angle, de Smaele believes that the Western influence on Russian media has only been limited to market demand, with the lack of Western notions such as “independent Fourth Estate”.

As for Russia’s professionalization, “journalism as a profession had a rather late start” with a strong censorship history, thus resulting in a self-censorship tradition until now. Another factor contributing to the self-censorship is that “formally declared freedom and autonomy of media professionals came into conflict with the efforts of the new owners”, deeply connected to the state and political elites, “to use these new professional values to further their own interests” rather than the public interests and social responsibility. Thus, to notch economic successes and avoid potential political risks, Russian journalists have become increasingly market-driven and apathetic to politics. Due to the different “professional identity“, Russian journalists have a dissimilar “literary style and attitude to facts and opinions“, which has restrained them from integration into Western journalism.

However, this statist media policy does not mean there is no freedom regarding the Russian media system’s political news. Admittedly, the state has strong influences on “television channels with national distribution“, which has been regarded as “the main source of information about Russia and the world“. By comparison, the pressure of the state has become weak and even non-existent in some less disseminated areas such as the television channel “REN-TV“, the radio station “Ekho Moskvy“, and the newspapers “Novaya Gazeta“, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” and “Kommersant“, as well as almost the whole of the internet.

Therefore, it is possible to say that the duality of authoritarian attitudes to mass media and journalism—a statist media policy deeply rooted in the framework of state influence on media combined with the growing market-driven economy—has become the most crucial characteristic of the Russian media system“. To this extent, the Russian media system can be described as a statist commercialized model.

The Chinese media system as a state-dominated model

If there is still a likelihood to compare the Russian media system with the Mediterranean Model due to a certain extent of similarities, “bringing the Chinese media system into a worldwide comparative project is to bring one of the most dissimilar systems into the non-Western empirical reality“. Furthermore, if the role above of the state in the Russian media system can be portrayed as “strong influence”, the Chinese state’s position or the sole ruling party CPC in its media apparatus should be regarded as dominant. As mentioned, regarding the political news, Russians still enjoy some freedom in less influential media. In contrast, there is no autonomy in the Chinese press, with the omnipresent regulative measures such as media censorship and the internet Great Firewall in China. Thus, considering the state’s special role, the Chinese media system is far beyond the intervention framework in the West.

In fact, despite Deng Xiaoping’s reform, the Chinese media system of the post-Mao period has still applied the “different versions of Marxism and socialism” to “build socialism with Chinese characteristics” by “providing moral guidance to the population and engineering economic development and social change“. One of the most important reasons that may clarify this “guidance”, namely, strong and resilient media control, is the media ownership in China. It is undeniable that the post-Mao economic reforms have expanded the private capital to some areas that had been commanded by the Chinese government or state-owned enterprises for decades. However, Zhao argues that “in the media sector, although the Chinese state has not only drastically curtailed its role in subsidizing media operations but has also targeted the media and cultural sector as new sites of profit-making and capitalistic development, the state continues to restrict private capital, let alone the privatizing of existing media outlets”.

In fact, the Chinese state has opened the door to private and even foreign capital participation in “the media’s entertainment function” such as the film industry with the intention of profit-making. However, this profit-making entertainment also needs to be filtered by the ideological orientation of the state. More importantly, “the production and distribution of news and informational content” and the “ownership of news media outlets” have remained “monopolized by the state“. Furthermore, this monopoly also results in the fact that the state has appointed major media agencies’ leadership.

Despite the state’s overwhelming control, the Chinese media market has boomed for years since the economic reform of Deng Xiaoping, attributable to the power of marketization. For instance, in 2004, there were 6,580 daily newspapers published worldwide, and the number of daily newspapers published in China ranked first in the world, accounting for 14.5% of the global daily newspapers. However, the commercialization of the Chinese media industry has not surmounted the ideological control of the state. The media market has constituted “two distinct and yet institutionally intertwined press sectors or subsystems“. The first press sector is market-based as the film above industry, while the second is “the party organ sector“, which combines the duality of the political instrument and profit-making. This is because “most state media outlets no longer receive large government subsidies and have largely to depend on commercial advertising“. Nevertheless, rather than causing tensions, the dual roles the party organ sector plays have adopted and contained the marketization within the current political control by the statist implementation of “licensing system and the sponsor unit system“. Consequently, these two systems have guaranteed the predominance of the state over the commercialization and marketization.

As for the political parallelism, the state-dominated Chinese media system has top-level political instrumentalization, indicating “all the features of a quintessential party-press parallelism“. Almost all the media content should and, in practice, have revolved around the official ideology and slogan of the state. This is pertinent to another aspect of four dimensions, based on the theory and standard of Hallin and Mancini: the utterly low professionalization in Chinese journalism, where journalists have to successfully balance the “market forces and the party-press system” to obtain financial benefits and political security. Furthermore, Pan and Lu argue that Chinese journalists “do not fit their practices into the universal model of professionalism”, but “utilize and appropriate diverse and often conflicting ideas of journalism through their improvised and situated practices”, leading to the “truncated and fragmented in Chinese journalism”. Also, unlike the Western conception of relative objectivity in journalism, Hackett and Zhao create a term “regime of objectivity” to describe how Chinese journalists portray information on the precondition of conforming to the state ideology.

Therefore, due to its restricted commercialization and dominated state, Chan summarizes the Chinese media industry’s development as commercialization without independence. Drawing on the above, the Chinese media system can be described as a state-dominated model.

References

  • Chan, Joseph Man. “Commercialization without Independence: Trends and Tensions of Media Development in China”. In China Review 1993, edited by Joseph Cheng Yu-shek and Maurice Brosseau, 25.1 – 25.21. Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 1993.
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  • Dunn, John A. “Lottizzazione Russian Style: Russia’s Two-Tier Media System”. Europe-Asia Studies 66, no. 9 (2014): 1425-51. https://doi.org/10.1080/09668136.2014.956441.
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  • Hallin, Daniel C., and Paolo Mancini. Comparing Media Systems: Three Models of Media and Politics. Communic
  • ation, Society and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • ———. “Ten Years after Comparing Media Systems: What Have We Learned?”. Political Communication 34, no. 2 (2017): 155-71. https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2016.1233158.
  • Hu, Zhengrong, Peixi Xu, and Deqiang Ji. “China: Media and Power in Four Historical Stages”. In Mapping Brics Media, edited by Kaarle Nordenstreng and Daya Kishan Thussu, 166-80. London ;: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.
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  • Jones, Paul K., and Michael Pusey. “Political Communication and ‘Media System’: The Australian Canary”. Media, Culture & Society 32, no. 3 (2010): 451-71. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443709361172.
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  • Oates, Sarah. Television, Democracy, and Elections in Russia. Basees/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies. Abingdon, Oxon, England: Routledge, 2006.
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  • Sonczyk, Wieslaw “Media System: Scope—Structure—Definition”. Media Studies 3, no. 38. (2009). Retrieved from http://mediastudies.eu/.
  • Sosnovskaya, Anna. Social Portrait and Identity of Today’s Journalist: St. Petersburg-a Case Study. (Södertörn Academic Studies: 2000). https://bibl.sh.se/skriftserier/hogskolans_skriftserier/Russian_reports/diva2_16051.aspx.
  • Tiffen, Rodney. How Australia Compares. Edited by Ross Gittins. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Vartanova, Elena. “The Russian Media Model in the Context of Post-Soviet Dynamics”. In Comparing Media Systems Beyond the Western World, edited by Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini, 119-42. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • Wang, Guoqing. “China Newspaper Annual Development Report [中国报业年度发展报告]”. People’s Daily, August 5 2005. http://www.people.com.cn/.
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  • Zhou, Shuhua. “China: Media System”. In, edited by W. Donsbach2015.

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