By Douglas Edward Steil | Aletho News | February 6, 2017
President Trump promised efforts to improve US relations with Russia, yet even after his inauguration there were reports in the media, including videos, about a large buildup of NATO tanks, led by the US, at “Russia’s doorstep” (FOX News) in Poland, featuring joint military exercises (“war games”) as part of “Operation Atlantic Resolve”.
On January 31, 2017, RT (formerly Russia Today) described these maneuvers as “… the largest military buildup in Europe since the end of the Cold War…” in alarming terms without providing the appropriate historical context for its geographically-challenged readers. Lacking contextual knowledge, both those commentators from the discredited dinosaur (old legacy) media and the rapidly growing independent (new alternative) media inadvertently amplified the sense of alarmism the general public must have perceived. It ought to at least be obvious that the RT quote cited above is inherently self-contradictory and therefore misleading: If the Cold War had really already ended, then there would be no conceivable basis for the military buildup, which also included tanks from Germany (by invitation) on Polish and Lithuanian territory.
What should one make of these military maneuvers coming in the wake of Trump’s new presidency, which might appear on the surface to be hostile toward Russia?
The Kaliningrad Oblast is useful to Russia primarily as a potential staging ground for launching a quick ground invasion into Central Europe. The benefits of air rights and adjacent sea rights, featuring an ice-free port, cannot be ignored either. The countries most concerned about the potential for future Russian military adventurism are obviously Poland and Lithuania, which both formed a Commonwealth for 227 years, until the late 18th century. Though Russian’s current leadership claims to harbor no such invasive ambitions in this part of Europe, circumstances could possibly change under a different leadership. The NATO troop maneuvers a few days ago are essentially putting the future of this territory “on the table” and signaling a readiness to call Russia’s bluff, as it were. If Russia were truly sincere about not having any territorial ambitions in this region, and thus not needing to preserve this as a future option, there would really be no fundamental justification for its continued presence in this enclave. Unlike Crimea, which has historically been a part of Russia, and which legitimately broke from the Ukraine and reunified with Russia in 2014, after two public referenda (which the so-called “International Community” should finally accept and formally recognize rather than perpetuating self-destructive sanctions), the Kaliningrad Oblast should not continue to remain a part of Russia because it never “belonged” to Russia, in a historical and cultural sense. It’s continued occupation and administration merely prolongs the formal ending of the Cold War.
For the record, as cited by a Lithuanian journal and presented through Wikipedia:
“Germany… has not renounced any claims to the possibility of territory reunification.”
Technically, Russia is provisionally administering the territory until a future agreement determines its fate, which will surely involve a protracted transition period during the course of a few decades thereafter. The Russian population currently living there, who feel attached to this region, where they may have grown up and lived all their lives, would not be expelled but be given the chance to integrate into a new environment. The experiences of three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) in accommodating Russian speakers could be used as a model for those people who wish to remain rather than seeking new life opportunities in their Russian homeland.
It is unfortunate that this issue was not settled during the first half of 1990 during the so-called “2+4 Talks” that led to German reunification on October 3rd. Though it is not widely known why settling this territorial matter was deferred, one must bear in mind that at that time, just a few months after the Berlin Wall was breached any quick German unification, as advocated by the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, was publicly opposed by Margaret Thatcher, Mikhael Gorbachev, François Mitterand, representing the European Allied victors, along with other European leaders, including those in Italy and the Netherlands, as well as the organized Jewish community in the US, whose hostile position was expressed in the nearly hysterical diatribes by the editor of the New York Times, Abe Rosenthal; even some western German leaders did not support rapid German unity in light of the pending economic burden involving the difficult task of integrating two different economies. With such determined opposition from nearly all sides, it almost seems like a miracle that unity eventually came about. Only President George H.W. Bush and the Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey were on the side of Helmut Kohl. Obviously, numerous concessions were made. It is understandable that under that negotiating constellation a German demand to reclaim Königsberg would have been going too far. Ultimately, while any future claims on territory occupied by Poland after the war were renounced by Germany in the agreement, this, however, was not the case with regard to the Königsberg region, which clearly implies an unwillingness to so. The historical city of Königsberg obviously has an important place in German culture. Its architectural splendor should be restored similar to the old towns of such Baltic cities as Tallinn, Riga, and Lubbock, now UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Serious diplomatic discussions with regard to the region will eventually have to be on the agenda anyway; better sooner than later. The upcoming annual Munich Security Conference would be an opportune forum for affirming some basic positions, if not publicly then at least in private conversations.
Foremost, it would be incumbent upon the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, representing the occupying power, to take the lead and acknowledge the unresolved status of the region and a sincere willingness (as opposed to what we are accustomed to hearing by Israelis) to conclude a final agreement in return for legitimate written assurances by NATO countries. Such assurances would necessarily include (1) acknowledging Crimea’s status as a part of Russia, (2) the legitimacy of any future attempts by the former Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk to join the Russian Federation, along with any subsequent annexation by Russia, if so desired by the population, as was the case with Crimea, (3) recognizing the independence of the former Georgian republics of Abkhasia and South Ossetia and not diplomatically impeding any future desires by the people in these republics to join Russia, if the majority of the respective population decides so in a fair referendum, (4) resolution of the Transnistria conflict, (5) pulling back all NATO troops and military equipment from eastern European regions to prior positions, in accordance with the terms of a verbal promise purportedly given by George H.W. Bush to Mikhael Gorbachev in 1990, (6) refraining to enlist Ukraine and Georgia into the NATO military territory, (7) reaching a mutual comprehensive agreement banning the placement of mid-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Europe and western Russia, respectively, and (8) negotiated conventional forces reductions.
Both Poland and Lithuania would be entitled to rural territories of the Kaliningrad Oblast contiguous with their respective land territories, whereas Germany would regain the city of Königsberg and surrounding territory that is sufficiently large to support the city. The future borders would be a matter for these three countries to work out and decide among themselves. All three countries should then formally announce their territorial claims. The question as to whether Russia would receive financial reimbursement, or, if so, to what extent, would be subsumed in the context of forming strong economic ties, including joint business ventures.
NATO and other parties involved in this unresolved matter concerning the future of Königsberg should announce their resolve: “Let’s finally end the Cold War!” Even then, implementing the associated steps will still take many years.
Trident whistleblower William McNeilly. / RT
Royal Navy whistleblower William McNeilly has returned fire after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) again tried to discredit him. He labeled it an attempt to cover up the dangers of Britain’s nuclear arsenal.
McNeilly was thrown out of the navy in 2015 after publishing a dossier of potentially catastrophic security and safety issues relating to Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
After reports in January this year of a failed 2016 missile test, which saw senior government figures accused of lying, McNeilly told RT that he himself had been witness to a number of serious mishaps during a Trident patrol a year earlier.
The 2016 test saw a missile which was supposed to be aimed in the direction of Africa veer toward Florida due to an internal systems failure.
The MoD responded to the former weapons engineer’s comments to RT by telling the Independent newspaper: “McNeilly’s claims, from his brief serving time before being discharged, have proved to be factually incorrect, demonstrate a lack of understanding or drew on historic, previously known, events.
“We have absolute confidence in the nuclear deterrent,” they insisted.
The Independent specifically referred to McNeilly’s “claims that there were four unreported Trident missile test failures in 2015…”
McNeilly responded Monday, telling RT: “I have never stated that there were four failed missile launches.
“The Trident report and the information I gave RT made it clear that I was talking about missile tests.”
McNeilly pointed out he had served on a nuclear missile patrol, including on watches in the command center.
“There are multiple missile tests conducted every patrol,” he said.
“The MoD has tried to downplay the information in the Trident report by claiming that I said things that I have never said.”
The truth of the matter, he insisted, was that “I have never said I witnessed four failed missile launches… that is a lame attempt to discredit me and the Trident report by fabricating nonsense.”
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang
China says it has protested to the US for putting Chinese companies and individuals on a new sanctions list targeting Iran.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Monday Beijing had “lodged representations” with Washington after Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on 25 people and entities on Friday for trade with Iran.
“We have consistently opposed any unilateral sanctions,” Lu told a regular press briefing in Beijing.
Unilateral US sanctions in the past have infuriated China. Last March, Beijing was outraged after the US government punished China’s largest telecom equipment maker ZTE Corps for alleged violations of sanctions on Iran.
China’s Foreign Ministry expressed anger at the action, saying it is “opposed to the US citing domestic laws to place sanctions on Chinese enterprises.”
The new US sanctions list includes two Chinese companies and three Chinese people. Those on the list cannot access the US financial system or deal with American companies.
They are subject to secondary sanctions, meaning foreign companies and individuals are prohibited from dealing with them or risk being blacklisted by the United States.
China has close economic and diplomatic ties with Tehran. Executives of two Chinese companies included on the list said they had only exported “normal” goods to Iran and didn’t consider they had done anything wrong.
Lu said such sanctions, particularly when they harmed the interests of a third party, were “not helpful” in promoting mutual trust.
China has said it is “seriously concerned” about President Donald Trump’s recent hawkish rhetoric on Beijing. Experts say the new administration’s moves are set to further strain relations between China and the US.
Russia disagrees with a remark recently made by US President Donald Trump’s that branded Iran as “the number one terrorist state,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, citing partnership between Moscow and Tehran.
“We do not agree with the definition,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday. “All of you know that Russia enjoys warm relations with Iran, we do cooperate on a range of issues, and we do appreciate our economic ties which, we hope, will go further,” he added.
Trump lambasted the landmark nuclear deal reached in 2015 between Iran, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States, plus Germany), and the European Union.
In the first part of the interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, which was published on Sunday, Trump said “they [Iran] have total disregard for our country, they’re the number one terrorist state, they’re sending money all over the place and weapons.”
Earlier in February, one day after the White House imposed new sanctions on Iran in response to a ballistic missile test, US Defense Secretary James Mattis called Tehran the world’s “biggest state sponsor of terrorism.”
“It’s no secret for anyone that Moscow and Washington hold diametrically-opposed views on many international and regional policy issues,” said Peskov. “Meanwhile, it can’t be and should not be an obstacle when it comes to forging normal communication and pragmatic mutually-beneficial relations between Russia and the US.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoed the Kremlin’s statement, stressing that Tehran takes an active part in fighting Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL).
“Iran has never been complicit in any links to IS or Al-Nusra Front whatsoever,” the minister said.
“Moreover, Iran contributes to combatting IS. We have long advocated the idea of creating a unified anti-terrorist front. I am convinced that Iran must be part of our common effort if we evaluate potential contributors to such an alliance objectively,” Lavrov said.
Why would one of Toronto’s leading anti-racist writers share a stage with three individuals who support an explicitly racist institution?
Recently radio host and Toronto Star columnist Desmond Cole spoke at a forum put on by the Mosaic Institute titled “Canada in a Trump World”. It was about “increased racist and xenophobic attacks” and offered a “dialogue for communities to come together for honest conversation.”
Executive director of the Mosaic Institute and head of the Canadian Jewish Congress between 2005 and 2011, Bernie Farber also spoke. So did former Executive Director of the B’nai Brith league for Human rights, Karen Mock. The chair of the event was Warren Kinsella, a former board member of the Canada-Israel Committee.
All three of these individuals have worked with or expressed support for the Jewish National Fund. An owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, the JNF discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) who make up one-fifth of the population. According to a UN report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” Echoing the UN, a 2012 US State Department report detailing “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel says JNF “statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”
In October JSpaceCanada, which Karen Mock chairs, was a “participating organization” with JNF Canada on an event honouring the life of former Israeli president Shimon Peres. Mock also sat on the board of the Canadian Peres Center for Peace Foundation, which raised funds for the Israeli-based Peres Center For Peace. In Israel the Peres Center operated a slew of projects with JNF Canada and other branches of the racist organization.
In 2001 Mock spoke at a Hamilton rally titled “Israel under siege”.
In August Warren Kinsella criticized a Green Party of Canada resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status because of its “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel.” Alongside Ezra Levant, Kinsella sat on the board of directors of the Canada-Israel Committee, whose personnel were often close to the JNF. In 2014 Kinsella approved of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which led to the killing of 2,200 Palestinians.
For his part, Bernie Farber called the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (Independent Jewish Voices predecessor) “a rump on the edge of Jewish society” because it, among other things, called for the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status. During Farber’s quarter century at the Canadian Jewish Congress the organization and its personnel had many ties to the JNF. In 2015 the Consulate of Israel in Toronto co-hosted an event with Farber’s Mosaic Institute.
Should we laugh or cry at an antiracist forum put on by individuals with ties to an organization practicing discriminatory land-use policies outlawed in this country half a century ago? Does Farber, Mock and Kinsella’s support for an explicitly racist institution concern Desmond Cole or does he have an opinion about Ottawa subsidizing racist land use policies abroad?
US President Donald Trump has landed in hot water yet again when he told media that he respected Russian leader Vladimir Putin – in spite of (unfounded and sensationalist) accusations that the latter is responsible for killing journalists and political opponents.
Trump was being interviewed on Fox News by Bill O’Reilly, and while expressing respect for Putin as the president of Russia, his interlocutor interrupted with the terse assertion: «He’s [Putin] a killer, though. Putin’s a killer».
Unfazed, Trump replied: «We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?»
The program went on air Sunday ahead of the US Super Bowl football final, and so is sure to have drawn a record audience. Western media outlets also reported the interview in advance with outraged tone that Trump was offering an apology for the Russian leader, and equally as bad, that the president was making a moral equivalence with the misconduct of the US.
Britain’s Guardian headlined: «Donald Trump repeats his respect for ‘killer’ Putin».
The news outlet added: «Asked on Fox about the Kremlin chief’s bloody reputation, the US president said: ‘There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers’».
The Washington Post, among other outlets, noted that this was not the first time that Trump has appeared insouciant in front of interviewers who make claims about Putin’s alleged involvement in violent repression against opponents.
The Post recalled: «It wouldn’t be the first time Trump has brushed aside the topic of Putin’s political killings».
As with much of Western media coverage on Russia and its leader, there is an offending journalistic sloppiness that states allegations and even slander («Putin’s political killings») as if they are factual.
On one hand, Trump deserves a measure of credit for the way he handled the testy media questioning. He did not fully capitulate to the assertion about Putin being a «killer»; and, rightly, Trump reminded his interlocutor that American official hands are indeed covered in blood from the killing of countless human beings.
One can well imagine how other American politicians, including Trump’s defeated presidential rival Hillary Clinton, would have indulged in ramping up the allegations against Putin in a similar media situation.
However, on the other hand, Trump’s response was far from adequate. What he should have done was hold to legal principle and put his interlocutor on the defense, by asking for evidence to support such a sensational claim that «Putin is a killer».
While Trump did not jump on the bandwagon of denouncing Putin, he nevertheless through his response lent tacit credibility to the claim – a claim which actually could qualify as insulting slander against a foreign head of state.
Hence what we got from Trump’s inadequate response was the follow-up headlines proclaiming that Trump pays respect to «killer Putin».
The problem with Trump’s apparent apology for Putin is that it tends to substantiate the Western media demonization of the Russian leader.
In the Guardian report cited above, the article goes on: «According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 36 journalists have been murdered in Russia since 1992, 23 since Putin first became president in 2000. Most famously Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in 2006 while investigating torture in Chechnya».
The British newspaper, like other Western media outlets, insidiously conflates Trump’s apparent ceding to allegations against Putin – with the deaths of journalists in Russia being ascribed to the Russian president.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) does indeed list 36 journalists killed in Russia since 1992. (During the same period four were killed in the US.) But the CPJ does not imply that the Kremlin was involved in the killings. Most of the case studies, including that of well-known journalist Anna Politkovskaya, were related to Russia’s violent conflict zones of the northern and southern caucasus where there has been an ongoing Islamist insurgency. Still another category of journalist deaths in Russia is associated with media investigations into its notoriously dangerous criminal underworld.
There is no evidence that any of the deaths could be attributed to involvement of the Russian government, let alone Vladimir Putin.
What is commonly asserted in Western media is that deceased journalists such as Anna Politkovskaya were «critics of Putin». Such a qualifier is an absurd premise upon which to make the allegation that Putin is somehow personally responsible.
Another source relied on by Western media are assertions made by exiled Russians like the late Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko claimed that Putin ordered the killing of journalist Politkovskaya and also accused Putin of poisoning himself before Litvinenko died in 2006. Living in exile in Britain and working commercially as a «Putin critic», Litvinenko had plenty of self-serving reasons to make such claims. But, again, where is the evidence?
Alternatively, there are substantial grounds to believe that Litvinenko, as with Politkovskaya, may have been the victims of vendettas carried out by criminal gangs.
The point is that there is a dearth of facts but lots of innuendo in the Western narrative imputing crimes to Russian President Putin. Indeed, one can argue the case that this is just part of the Western propaganda campaign of Russophobia and demonization to project Washington’s geopolitical agenda of undermining Moscow.
American politicians like Senator John McCain are given ample media platforms to call Putin a «thug and a murder». But the same media do not question McCain on where he sourced his sensationalist claims, which more accurately should be termed as «slander».
During Congressional confirmation hearings of cabinet nominees for the Trump administration, Senator Marco Rubio again reiterated claims that Putin was a murderer. When pressing Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson to call Putin a murdering criminal, Tillerson, to his credit, said that he had seen no evidence to make such a claim. Rubio arrogantly retorted that the number of dead journalists and political opponents in Russia was the «proof» of Putin’s criminal responsibility.
Such reasoning is beyond fatuous, devoid of any legal or intelligent standards. It is simply anti-Russian propaganda that has become internalized by Western media and politicians, who then regurgitate on cue.
This is the kind of delegitimizing, demonizing and dehumanizing mindset that is cultivated as a prelude to launching war on a designated enemy.
One can be sure that if Vladimir Putin were an American vassal giving US capital rampant access to exploit Russian resources or facilitating Washington’s overseas illegal wars, then none of the tendentious smears against Putin would ever be vented.
Admittedly, it would be an extremely difficult position politically to take, but Trump should boldly challenge US media allegations/slander against Putin. He should make lazy journalists and politicians actually do work by obliging them to provide some factual evidence to back up their hysterical speculations. In short, they should be made to put up or shut up.
The trouble with Trump’s response to media claims about Putin is that it is misconstrued as an apology. This can then be used to beat up on Trump as an unscrupulous «Putin stooge».
As for the «moral equivalence» complaint, the truly objective answer is that there is no comparison between unfounded allegations against Putin as a «killer» and what US presidents actually do as a matter of routine.
Just this week, Trump reportedly ordered a raid by US navy commandos in Yemen which resulted in over 20 civilians, including a newborn baby, being murdered along with Al Qaeda militants. Trump’s predecessors, Obama and Bush, between them killed millions of innocent civilians in drone assassinations and illegal wars across North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
The consternation expressed by Western media about Trump’s «moral equivalence» is a reflection of just how propagandized Western journalists and politicians are. Amazingly, they are blind to the glaring facts of mass murder committed by US presidents on an habitual basis. Yet they leap up and down with tendentious, unfounded allegations/slander concerning Vladimir Putin.
Within days of the flawed roll-out for Trump’s Executive Orders regarding Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements and Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, the President’s promises on the campaign trail and his Inaugural Address that the US would not pursue regime change or initiate new foreign interventions and that his administration would pursue a new foreign policy based on engagement, have been called into question.
The week began with President Trump praising, as a success, the administration’s first attack on al Qaeda in Yemen which inexplicably included special ops from UAE. Reports state that the group of Navy Seals unexpectedly walked into an hour long fire fight which contained elements of an ambush including hand grenades and a certain amount of panic with indiscriminate gunfire; leaving one Navy Seal dead with several injured, at least a dozen civilians dead including an eight year old girl and destroyed a $75 million Osprey – you might say the raid was more of the same kind of failure with which the US military has some long-standing familiarity. Black Hawk Down in 1993 comes to mind.
Described by Trump press secretary Sean Spicer as a “very, very well-thought out and executed raid”, the mission began on November 7 when the Pentagon presented President Obama with a plan. From there, the proposed raid went through all the necessary channels arriving in front of Trump Defense Secretary James Mattis on January 24th. Mattis approved and forwarded the plan to the White House for the President’s approval which he gave the next day at a dinner which included several key staff members including special assistants to the White House Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon and after consulting with National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn.
All of the reviews and approvals, however, did not guarantee success as there is reason to believe that the alQ stronghold was expecting an American raid with armed female and AQ snipers on a rooftop. After the raid, anonymous U.S. military officials told Reuters that “Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.” In addition, Reuters quoted three unnamed US military officials that “the attacking SEAL team found itself dropped into a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.” This does not sound like a surprise raid but more like a disaster waiting to happen.
These unprecedented ‘leaks’ indicate an undercutting of the Administration by anonymous military officials who are in direct contradiction to the timeline as presented by Spicer that the entire plan had been appropriately vetted by the government’s foreign policy structure – with the exception of Rex Tillerson who had not yet been confirmed as Secretary of State.
It has been said that the mission needed to receive a green light to take advantage of a Moonless night and that the mission was to acquire certain computer hard drives with speculation that there was some urgency of obtaining the intel contained potentially embarrassing data regarding the interconnections between the terrorists and certain foreign nations which support terrorists. In any case, it was a botched mission that was poorly planned and executed and appears to have a major security problem given the unauthorized disclosures by anonymous military officials who disagreed about what the public has been told about the raid. So which is it – was the raid properly vetted and the right questions asked – or was it insufficiently vetted?
US CommCentral released the clip that they say was obtained from a series of videos during the raid which shows a black hooded individual giving instructions on how to make a do-it-yourself bomb. The clip, which has no audio and its written instructions are written in perfect English, is now reported to be a decade old AQ training video [sourced from SITE]. It is assumed that the President’s Monday trip to Central Command and Special Ops in Florida was not just a get-to-know-you visit.
As if that were not enough faux pas for the week, General Flynn took an unprecedented place on center stage at a press conference sounding like the Commandant of Stalag 19, stridently warning Iran and spouting old, worn out rhetoric that the “Trump administration condemns such actions by Iran that undermines security, prosperity and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East which places American lives at risk. As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”
The accusations came after Iran reportedly fired a test of a medium-range ballistic missile on February 1st with Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan stating that “The test did not violate the nuclear deal or (U.N.) Resolution 2231″ and that “… we will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defence affairs,” striking a chord with Trump’s Inaugural statement that “it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”
On the heels of Flynn’s rant, the Trump administration quickly announced economic sanctions on twenty five Iranian individuals and entities that have unnecessarily escalated tensions with:
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and engages in and supports violent activities that destabilize the Middle East.”
“The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests. “
“The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.”
The Flynn/Trump obsession against Iran has little basis in rational thought and is not the kind of nation-building and “forming of new alliances” that the President promised in his Inaugural address. Flynn may be myopic on the subject of Iran since Iran supported the insurgents in Iraq during the US invasion in 2003 but he may also be blowing smoke with the realization that the administration must know that any serious effort to eliminate ‘radical Islamic terrorists’ will be dependent upon Iran’s participation.
As Ron Paul has repeatedly suggested, Iran has every reason to want its own nuclear capability, if only as a defensive mechanism to protect itself from Israel and the US. A spokesperson for the EU foreign policy chief in Brussels said that the “Iranian ballistic missile program was not part of the 2015 nuclear pact and hence the tests are not a violation of it.”
On February 3rd, President Trump tweeted “Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!” to which Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted “We will never, I repeat never, use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement.”
If the Trump Administration believes Iran is in violation of the Plan, they have the option to initiate a dispute resolution process or to engage the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which has regular access to all Iranian nuclear facilities to verify that Iran is in compliance. Iran says it will impose its own sanctions and release its own list of US-related ‘entities’ entwined with supporting terrorists.
With an imminent visit to the US, it is not outside the realm of possibility that all this Tough on Iran talk is to impress Bibi Netanyahu who hailed Flynn’s statement with “Iranian aggression must not go unanswered” which sounds reminiscent of Sen. John McCain. As if to tone down the US inflammatory reaction, new Defense Secretary James Mattis said he sees ‘no need to increase number of troops in the Middle East” in response to the Iranian missile crisis.
Of special interest will be how Trump deals with whatever demands Netanyahu has in his pocket and how Trump’s high regard for Israel may be affected, assuming that he is already apprised of Israel’s role in funding ISIS in Syria and its support and participation in fomenting terrorist actions throughout the Middle East. If Flynn/Trump are concerned with who is causing instability in the Middle East, they have no further to look than Saudi Arabia and Israel. It is difficult to image that Trump does not already have an appreciation for Netanyahu’s expectation to continue to run the show otherwise known as US foreign policy.
As if the Trump foreign policy objectives had not already experienced a week of upsets, contradictions and overall confusion, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s diatribe against Russia was stunning in its vitriolic attack on Russia alleging “aggressive actions of Russia” and “dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” In addition, Haley asserted, in contradiction to President Trump’s previous position on Crimea that “The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea” and that “Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”
In his February 3rd press conference, Trump press secretary backed up Haley with “I think Ambassador Haley made it very clear of our concern with Russia’s occupation of Crimea. We are not — and so I think she spoke very forcefully and clearly on that.”
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin responded that ‘the belligerent rhetoric toward Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis is nothing new” and that “it is Kiev that has escalated the situation there”. He also cited “OSCE reports and surveillance data which places the blame squarely on the Ukrainian government and not the rebel forces.”
After the initial shock at Haley’s level of hostility, an immediate reaction was that as a former Republican Governor of South Carolina, Haley had to have a working relationship with Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), the alter ego of Sen. John McCain who remains an irrational proponent of intervention wherever possible around the globe and that her maiden speech before the Security Council had somehow gone askew as a more combative, divisive script found its way into her file.
However, U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, met with her Ukrainian counterpart “to reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” according to a statement.
In view of another pending humanitarian disaster as a result of US intervention in Ukraine, the best that the State Department could do, prior to Tillerson taking office, was to issue a statement calling for a ceasefire and return to implementation of the Minsk Agreement.
It is reported, though unconfirmed, that soon after her speech, Haley visited Russian Ambassador Churkin at his home, presumably to reassure him that there was a bureaucratic snafu and that US policy toward Russia was not accurately reflected in her introductory remarks.
As a result of a week of significant snafus, the Trump Administration has either caved in to neo-con pressure like Eliot Abrams (convicted of lying to Congress during Iran-Contra) who is currently vying for the Deputy Secretary position at the State Department or they are dealing with repeated staff blunders and turmoil that are seriously threatening any hope of credibility for Trump’s oft-stated foreign policy goals.
Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will face hundreds of protesters when he meets with his British counterpart Theresa May in London on Monday morning.
Pro-Palestine activists have organized a demonstration outside Downing Street, where Netanyahu is due to discuss among other things the rising ‘threat’ of Iran.
A Facebook page advertising the event claims to have support from several activist organizations, including Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, War on Want and the Muslim Association of Britain.
Some 268 people have confirmed they will attend, according to the page.
Before flying to Britain, Netanyahu said he wants to “tighten” relations with the UK in the face of the “extraordinary aggression” from Iran after the Islamic Republic tested a ballistic missile over the weekend. Tehran denies the test was in breach of the 2015 nuclear deal.
“We are in a period of diplomatic opportunities and challenges. The opportunities stem from the fact that there is a new administration in Washington, and a new government in Britain,” Netanyahu said.
“I intend to speak with both of them about tightening relations, between each side and Israel and trilaterally.”
According to the Telegraph, a Downing Street spokesman said May was expected to raise concerns about illegal settlement building, but it would only form a small part of their discussions.
Netanyahu’s visit comes six weeks after Britain assisted in the passage of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank as a “flagrant violation under international law.”
The resolution was able to pass because the United States made the unusual choice not to exercise its veto power.
Britain played a key role in brokering the resolution, according to the Guardian, which claimed the Foreign Office did not deny it had been involved in the drafting process.
Netanyahu reacted furiously to UNSC resolution 2334, reserving his strongest condemnation for outgoing US President Barack Obama.
In a sign of frustration with London, Netanyahu summoned Britain’s ambassador on Christmas Day for a telling-off.
Nine other ambassadors were also summoned by the Israeli PM, including the US ambassador.