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The Fine Print: IMF Backs Down on Ukraine Land Reform Ultimatum, But at a Price

Sputnik – 23.07.2017

The International Monetary Fund has slightly relaxed its conditions for the provision of a new loan tranche to Ukraine, removing the demand that Kiev first revise the country’s laws on the privatization of agricultural land. Ukraine watchers Vladimir Zharikhin and Alexander Dudchak say that the IMF’s move is just a ploy designed to entrap Ukraine.

Last week, the IMF confirmed that it would not insist on the immediate implementation of land reform as a precondition for the provision of its next loan tranche to Ukraine in the fall.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, IMF spokesman William Murray confirmed that land reform would not be on the agenda for the program revision meeting next month. “Land reform remains an important condition under the program. However, given the need to design the reform well and reach consensus on key steps ahead, there was a need to reset its timing to later in the year,” he said.

The IMF had earlier insisted that Kiev make changes to its land laws to allow for its privatization. Ukrainian lawmakers have stubbornly and repeatedly rejected these demands.

Other IMF loan conditions remain unchanged, and include pension reform, measures to accelerate privatization, and increased efforts against corruption, including the creation of an independent anti-corruption court. IMF conditions also include the requirement that Kiev continues with fiscal reform and restructuring of the energy sector, programs which have led to severe cuts in public spending, and skyrocketing utilities prices.

Ukraine has received four loan tranches worth $8.5 billion from the IMF since March 2015, when the program – worth $17.5 billion, was approved. Every successive tranche has been accompanied by long delays due to Kiev’s reticence to comply with the IMF’s requirements. The latest tranche, originally scheduled to be delivered in May, has now been postponed until September, pending Kiev’s compliance with the conditions.

In recent weeks and months, some Ukrainian authorities have tried to downplay the significance of the IMF loan program, signaling that it was needed mainly for the purpose of strengthening investor confidence in the country.

Last week, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman tried a different approach, complaining that Kiev does not have enough money to carry out the promised reforms, since most of the budget is spent on servicing foreign debt, defense and the pension fund. According to Groysman, Kiev now spends approximately 100 billion hryvnia – or 4% of its GDP, on debt servicing, with another 5% spent on security and defense.

Kiev is also expecting assistance from the EU in the form of a 600 million euro loan program. This program has its own conditionalities, including a cancellation of the moratorium on the sale of forestry products, and the lifting of import duties on certain goods. Kiev has until October to meet these conditions.

Experts say that without loans from the IMF, Brussels and the US, Kiev will have a more difficult time servicing its gross foreign debt, which currently stands at about $113 billion – or 66.8% of the country’s GDP. Public debt amounts to about $72 billion, 70% of that consisting of currency loans.

Speaking to the Svobodnaya Pressa online newspaper, Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Institute of CIS studies, said he was certain that the IMF would end up giving Ukraine its next loan tranche, since the money is needed to help shore up the current regime in Kiev. At the same time, he warned that the IMF will take every opportunity to squeeze Kiev along the path of austerity reforms.

“The IMF has a pulse on the situation in Ukraine,” Zharikhin said. “They have come to understand that pension reforms can be carried out, because pensioners feel intimidated, and do not pose a serious threat to the regime. As for corruption, this [conditionality] is always restricted to broad terms. A Special Committee on Corruption is functioning, but for some reason does not prosecute anyone. Basically this is just idle talk, while corruption increases. And in fact the IMF does not actively object to this.”

However, in the case of land reform, this is a sensitive issue for the authorities, according to the analyst, because it “affects the interests of a certain section of Ukraine’s political elite… The radical nationalist section of the elite and society opposes abolishing the moratorium on the sale of land, since they fear that land will be bought up by foreigners, including…Russian oligarchs. Therefore, the IMF decided to postpone land reform.”

In any case, the observer stressed that it was impossible to delay allocating the next loan tranche for long. “The IMF understands that doing so could lead to the complete collapse of the Ukrainian economy and the fall of the current regime.” This, Zharikhin emphasized, would not be in the interests of either the Fund itself, or its US sponsors.

Put crudely, the observer said that IMF tranches are allocated mainly “to keep Kiev’s pants from falling down,” and little else. “Factually, this is what they’ve been doing in the last few years now.”

Nonetheless, Zharikhin stressed that in the end, the IMF will never back down from any of its austerity demands for good, instead working more closely with Ukraine’s political and economic elite to return to the trouble spot when the time is right.

For his part, Ukrainian political scientist and economist Alexander Dudchak told Svobodnaya Pressa that whatever else happens, Kiev’s “addiction” to IMF loans, and specifically their requirement for major socioeconomic reforms, will have disastrous long-term consequences for Ukraine, even if the country’s Maidan-installed authorities were to be removed from power.

In the meantime, Dudchak noted that while all of the IMF’s conditions will continue to have a painful impact on ordinary Ukrainians’ lives, the land issue is a particularly sensitive one.

“If the moratorium [on the sale of land] is lifted, nothing will remain of Ukrainian lands. They will not belong to the state or the people. Ukrainian agro-holdings, which today are considered among the country’s strongest enterprises, will not be able to compete against transnational capital. Ukraine will be deprived of its land and its population gradually returned to the status of serfs.”

As far as the current government is concerned, they are delaying land reform only because they would like to write the new laws on privatization with their own interests in mind, Dudchak said. But whatever they end up doing, “it will be hard for them to prevent foreigners from gaining control over farmland and growing whatever they want there, up to and including genetically-modified foods.”

As for the latest IMF tranche, the economist stressed that it will be spent in its entirety on servicing Ukraine’s massive debts. Otherwise, “for Ukraine as a state the benefit from this loan is zero.”

July 23, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , | Leave a comment

Iran & Iraq sign defense deal to step up military cooperation

RT | July 23, 2017

Iran and Iraq have sealed an agreement to boost military cooperation and to battle against “terrorism and extremism”, Iranian media has reported.

The memorandum of understanding on defense and cooperation was signed Sunday during a meeting between Iraqi Defense minister Major General Erfan al-Hiyali and his Iranian counterpart Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan.

A delegation of high-ranking Iraqi military officials had arrived in Tehran Saturday.

“The expansion of cooperation and sharing experiences in the fields of fight against terrorism and extremism, border security, training, logistics, technical and military supports were included” in the memorandum, the IRNA news agency reported.

The two ministers further expressed hope that the agreement will lead to more serious and deep collaboration between Tehran and Baghdad.

The Iraqi defense minister also thanked Iran for its help in fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) adding, that the Iraqi Army will respond “to any aggression and occupation of its territory and will not permit formation of new seditions and breach of law aimed at partitioning of the country.”

Al-Hiyali also stressed the crucial role of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militia in the liberation of Mosul, stressing that “nobody is permitted to dismiss popular forces because they act based on law,” according to IRNA.

His remarks mirror those of Iraq’s Vice President Nouri al-Maliki in an interview given to Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency earlier this week.

“The main credit [in the Mosul victory] goes to the Iraqi soldiers, people’s militia, Iraqi air force,” al-Maliki underlined.

He added that he “regrets and denies [Americans] claiming the victory [in Mosul] is their achievement” which Washington now plans to use as a way to establish military bases on Iraqi territory in order to maintain influence in the region.

“The Iraqi society is against foreign military bases on the country’s territory,” al-Maliki said, adding that he has already warned the US against “coming back to Iraq and setting up bases here.”

Following the recapture of Mosul from IS earlier this month, American military officials voiced the idea of stationing the troops in Iraq, even after the defeat of the terrorist group.

“The Iraqi government has expressed an interest in having the US forces and coalition forces remain after the defeat of ISIS. Our government is equally interested in that,” senior US military commander in Iraq General Stephen Townsend said. However, he said, other US-led coalition members may join the mission as it is “still in the decision-making stages.”

The defense agreement between Iraq and Iran might not be well received in Washington, as Iran-US tensions escalates.

The strained relations between Tehran and Washington had a relatively warmer spell during the term of president Barack Obama after years of sanctions and mutual distrust, culminating in the landmark Iranian nuclear deal. Iran agreed to limit its nuclear-material processing activities in return for an easing of sanctions.

New US President Donald Trump, however, described the deal as a “wort ever” one and vowed to cancel it, branding Iran a “state sponsor of terrorism” and slapping new sanctions on Tehran.

The US has acknowledged that there were no violations of the deal on the Iranian side, as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson officially informed Congress in April that Iran was in complying with the agreement.

Iran has in turn accused the US of jeopardizing its part in the deal with the new sanctions, calling the US “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

A new batch of sanctions, aimed at Iran, Russia and North Korea is expected to be voted on next week.

July 23, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu: Leave No Palestinian or Arab Alive

By Jonas E. Alexis | Veterans Today | July 23, 2017

Israeli Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu seems to have picked up where the late Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef left off. The Israeli army, Eliyahu said, must slaughter the Palestinians “and leave no one alive.” The Palestinians, the good rabbi continued, must be “destroyed and crushed in order to end violence.” Here is Eliyahu’s algorithm:

If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill 1,000. And if they do not stop after 1,000, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million.”

There is more to this “logic” than meets the eye and ear. Eliyahu even postulated that the Israeli army ought not to get involved in arresting Palestinians because “If you leave him alive, there is a fear that he will be released and kill other people. We must eradicate this evil from within our midst.”

You may say that this is just an isolated case. No Israeli official believes that, right?

Wrong. Listen to Israeli politician and Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked: “Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started…” Shaked had more interesting things to say:

“The Palestinian people has declared war on us, and we must respond with war. Not an operation, not a slow-moving one, not low-intensity, not controlled escalation, no destruction of terror infrastructure, no targeted killings. Enough with the oblique references. This is a war. Words have meanings. This is a war.

“It is not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. These too are forms of avoiding reality. This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started…

“Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. Actors in the war are those who incite in mosques, who write the murderous curricula for schools, who give shelter, who provide vehicles, and all those who honor and give them their moral support.

“They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”[1]

Not a single Zionist outlet has condemned Shaked for saying disgusting things like that, despite the fact that Israeli officials have been regurgitating these kinds of perversions for decades. Former IDF Chief of Staff Raphael Eitan declared way back in the 1980s:

We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel….Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.”

In a similar vein, David Ben Gurion said: “We must expel the Arabs and take their place and if we have to use force, to guarantee our own right to settle in those places – then we have force at our disposal.” This again is consistent with what many rabbis have been saying. Rabbi Ido Elba declared:

“If every single cell in a Jewish body entails divinity, and is thus part of God, then every strand of DNA is a part of God. Therefore, something is special about Jewish DNA…If a Jew needs a liver, can he take the liver of an innocent non-Jew to save him? The Torah would probably permit that. Jewish life has an infinite value. There is something more holy and unique about Jewish life than about non-Jewish life.”[2]

Stephen Steinlight, former Director of National Affairs for the American Jewish Committee (one of the most powerful Jewish organizations in the United States), stated bluntly,

“I’ll confess it, at least: like thousands of other typical Jewish kids of my generation, I was reared as a Jewish nationalist, even a quasi-separatist…I was taught the superiority of my people to the gentiles who had oppressed us. We were taught to view non-Jews as untrustworthy outsiders, people from whom sudden gusts of hatred might be anticipated, people less sensitive, intelligent, and moral than ourselves. We were also taught that the lesson of our dark history is that we could rely on no one.”[3]

Michael Chabon of the New York Times concurs:

“As a Jewish child I was regularly instructed, both subtly and openly, that Jews, the people of Maimonides, Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk and Meyer Lansky, were on the whole smarter, cleverer, more brilliant, more astute than other people. And, duly, I would look around the Passover table, say, at the members of my family, and remark on the presence of a number of highly intelligent, quick-witted, shrewd, well-educated people filled to bursting with information, explanations and opinions on a diverse range of topics.”[4]

Chabon now pokes fun at what he referred to as “nonsense” and “our own stupidity as a people,”[5] but this just shows how ingrained the smarter-than-thou attitude is.

In 2010, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef unapologetically declared,

“Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world—only to serve the People of Israel. In Israel, death has no dominion over them…With gentiles, it will be like any person—they need to die, but [God] will give them longevity…Why are gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat. That is why gentiles were created.”[6]

Many rabbis, according to Jewish scholars Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, see that “Jews killing non-Jews does not constitute murder according to the Jewish religion and that killing of innocent Arabs for reasons of revenge is a Jewish virtue.”[7]

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Scheerson, known as Lubovitcher Rebbe and the seventh of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, came close to believing in something similar, saying that “a non-Jew should be punished by death if he kills an embryo, even if the embryo is non-Jewish, while the Jew should not be, even if the embryo is Jewish.”[8]

The great Rabbi expanded on this view in 1965:

“The difference between a Jewish and a non-Jewish person stems from the common expression: ‘Let us differentiate.’ Thus, we do not have a case of profound change in which a person is merely on a superior level. Rather, we have a case of “let us differentiate” between totally different species. This is what needs to be said about the body: the body of a Jewish person is of a totally different quality from the body of [members] of all nations of the world…

“The Jewish body ‘looks as if it were in substance similar to bodies of non-Jews,’ but the meaning…is that the bodies only seem to be similar in material substance, outward look and superficial quality. The difference of the inner quality, however, is so great that the bodies should be considered as completely different species.

“This is the reason why the Talmud states that there is an halachic difference in attitude about the bodies of non-Jews [as opposed to the bodies of Jews] ‘and their bodies are in vain’…An even greater difference exists in regard to the soul. Two contrary types of soul exist, a non-Jewish soul comes from three satanic spheres, while the Jewish soul stems from holiness…

“The body of a Jewish embryo is on a higher level than is the body of a non-Jew…We therefore ask: Why should a non-Jew be punished if he kills even a non-Jewish embryo while a Jew should not be punished even if he kills a Jewish embryo?

“The answer can be understood by [considering] the general difference between Jews and non-Jews: A Jew was not created as a means for some [other] purpose; he himself is the purpose, since the substance of all [divine] emanations was created only to serve the Jews.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” means that [the heavens and the earth] were created for the sake of the Jews, who are called the “beginning.” This means everything, all developments, all discoveries, the creation, including the “heavens and the earth—are vanity compared to the Jews. The important things are the Jews, because they do not exist for any [other] aim; they themselves are [the divine] aim.”[9]

In 2010, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira wrote that “according to true Jewish values, [the Jews’] lives come before those of the enemy, whether he is a soldier or a civilian under protection.”[10]

If you challenge that racist ideology, you almost certainly will be viewed as an anti-Semite and a wicked person. This also gives Israeli officials like Benjamin Netanyahu a license to say or do wicked things. You remember what Netanyahu said a few years ago? Take it from him:

“I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in [our] way.”[11]

Well, this man has been moving America “very easily” for years. This has allowed him to brag about illegally attacking Iran “dozens of times” in Syria.[12] But since Netanyahu does not understand what Hegel calls “the cunning of reason,” he cannot see that he is setting up his own doom by conjuring one lie after another.


[1] Ishaan Tharoor, “Israel’s new justice minister considers all Palestinians to be ‘the enemy,’” Washington Post, May 7, 2015.

[2] Shahak and Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, 43, 62

[3] Stephen Steinlight, “The Jewish Stake in America’s Changing Demography: Reconsidering a Misguided Immigration Policy,” Center for Immigration Studies, October 2001.

[4] Michael Chabon, “Chosen, but Not Special,” NY Times, June 4, 2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Jonah Mandel, “Yosef: Gentiles Exist only to Serve Jews,” Jerusalem Post, Oct 18, 2010.

[7] Shahak and Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, 43.

[8] Ibid., 59.

[9] bid., 59-60.

[10] “Leading rabbi encourages IDF soldiers to use Palestinian human shields,” Haaretz, October 20, 2010

[11] Quoted in “Netanyahu In 2001: ‘America Is A Thing You Can Move Very Easily,’” Huffington Post, May 25, 2011.

[12] Aria Bendix, “Netanyahu Admits Israel Struck Iranian Convoys ‘Dozens of Times,’” Atlantic, July 19, 2017.

July 23, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

The Balfour Declaration: Time to Say Sorry and Time We Made Amends

By Stuart Littlewood | Dissident Voice | July 22, 2017

In a letter to a local newspaper about Brexit and the way prime minister Theresa May is handling it, I happened to mention in passing the Balfour Declaration, criticising her plans to celebrate the centenary “with pride” and invite Israel’s PM Netanyahu to the fun. This drew a sharp response from someone spouting the usual Israeli propaganda ‘facts’ and saying my attitude harmed the Jewish community worldwide.

The Balfour Declaration is a deadly serious subject. It is a cause of great horror and grief, of justifiable international anger, and a matter for profound regret. This is a right time and proper time for debate. Let’s focus on it for the next few months because justice groups are urging the British Government to mark the Balfour Declaration centenary by saying sorry.

Mrs May could do some real good here. She could, at a stroke, help quell the destructive turmoil in the Middle East and begin repair to Britain’s tattered prestige. She could even open new trade routes into Islamic markets, vitally important as we leave the EU.

By eating a little humble pie and apologising on our behalf for 100 years of agony inflicted on lovely people in a lovely part of the world Mrs May could take a giant step for mankind on the world stage. She has between now and November to do it. Will she?

No, she’ll be celebrating Balfour in style with the Israeli prime minister and not giving a toss about the people Britain wronged.

Which is shocking when a UN report recently branded Israel an apartheid regime. It’s even more regrettable considering the desperate cry for help from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine in an open letter to the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement, signed by over 30 organisations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Here’s an extract:

We are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unlawful Balfour declaration… followed by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza and the fragmentation of our people and our land through policies of isolation and confiscation, and the building of Jewish-only settlements and the Apartheid Wall…

Mrs May needs a jolt.

When I enquired whether the Balfour Declaration is taught in our schools I was told ‘no’. So what exactly is it?

Arthur Balfour, British foreign secretary in 1917, penned a letter to the most senior Jew in England, Lord Rothschild – pledging the Government’s “best endeavours” to facilitate the establishment in Palestine of a national home for Jewish people. Balfour also wrote:

We do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country.

It amounted to a betrayal of our Arab allies in WW1. Many in Parliament objected, including Lord Sydenham who remarked:

What we have done, by concessions not to the Jewish people but to a Zionist extreme section, is to start a running sore in the East, and no-one can tell how far that sore will extend.

At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 when the Great Powers carved up the territorial spoils of war a Zionist delegation produced Balfour’s promissory note. It planted a powder-keg in the Middle East and the fuse was now lit. Britain accepted the mandate responsibility for Palestine and eventually in 1947 the Great Powers pushed the United Nations into partitioning the territory, again without consulting those who lived there.

So what made Balfour do it? The more you delve, the more incredible the answers to those unaware of the growing influence of worldwide Zionism. Support for the movement and its ambition to create a New Israel was quite fashionable in the corridors of power around the time of WW1. The story I find compelling is that, while Britain struggled desperately against German U-boat successes and ammunition shortages, the Zionist power-brokers of Germany and Eastern Europe consulted with their opposite numbers in America and decided, given their grip on money and media, they could bring the US into the war against Germany and its Ottoman ally if Britain were to promise them Palestine for a Jewish homeland afterwards.

Balfour was a Zionist convert (as were many others including prime minister David Lloyd-George) and in the right position. The proposition was put to Britain in 1916. The Zionists delivered. The US entered the war. In the meantime immigrant Polish-Zionist chemist Chaim Weizmann offered a solution to the production of enough acetone, a critical ingredient in cordite for artillery shells, to satisfy the war effort. He demanded the same promise. Balfour handed them their ‘receipt’ in November 1917 even though Palestine was not, and never could be, Britain’s to give away.

‘Name of the game: erasing Palestine’

Balfour had inserted into his ‘declaration’ that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing and non-Jewish communities….” on the insistence of the only Jew in the British Cabinet, Lord Montague, who was anti-Zionist and opposed the deal. But this safeguard was jettisoned as soon as Britain lost control of events.

Not content with the territory allocated to them under the UN Partition Plan the Israelis declared statehood ignoring all boundaries. Their ‘Plan Dalet’ offensive, begun beforehand, had seized much Arab-designated land at gunpoint.  Jewish militia – the Irgun, Haganah, Palmach and Lehi – raided towns and villages forcing inhabitants to flee. Numerous attrocities were committed including the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem (headquarters of the British administration) in 1946 murdering 91, and the massacres at Deir Yassin and Lydda in 1948.

Today Israel illegally occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the Old City, and has Gaza in a stranglehold so pitiless as to have caused a long-term humanitarian crisis and irreparable environmental damage. For nearly 70 years millions of dispossessed Palestinians and their families have languished in refugee camps, and those who remain in their homeland – Christian and Muslim alike – live a miserable life under brutal military occupation.

The situation stands as a monumental stain on the flag of the United Nations, which hasn’t the backbone to take action. And the continuing repercussions throughout the Holy Land should concern all true Christians and Muslims especially regular churchgoers like Mrs May.

Miko Peled, the son of an Israeli general and a former soldier in the Israeli army – and now an important figure in the struggle for justice – confirms what many have been saying for years:

The name of the game: erasing Palestine, getting rid of the people and de-Arabizing the country… By 1993 the Israelis had achieved their mission to make the conquest of the West Bank irreversible…. That is when Israel said, OK, we’ll begin negotiations…

My critic in the local newspaper called Hamas terrorists. Peled describes the Israeli army, in which he served, as “one of the best trained and best equipped and best fed terrorist organisations in the world.” Take your pick. But Hamas’ political wing is not proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the UK.

The accusation that criticising the Israeli regime harms Jewish communities is unacceptable. There are many admirable Jewish groups vehemently campaigning against Israel’s crimes. One-time Israeli Military Intelligence chief Yehoshafat Harkabi warned that Jews throughout the world would pay the price of Israel’s misconduct. So the problem appears to be a ‘family’ matter between Jews everywhere.

July 23, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment