The Russian president has repealed the ban prohibiting the delivery of S-300 missile air defense systems to Iran, according to the Kremlin’s press service. The ban was introduced by former President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010.
“[The presidential] decree lifts the ban on transit through Russian territory, including airlift, and the export from the Russian Federation to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also the transfer to the Islamic Republic of Iran outside the territory of the Russian Federation, both by sea and by air, of air defense missile systems S-300,” says the information note accompanying the document, RIA Novosti reported.
The decree enters into force upon the president’s signature.
The contract for supplying S-300 missile systems to Iran was signed in 2007 and implied the delivery of five S-300 squadrons worth $800 million. But in 2010 the contract was put on hold due to the UN imposing sanctions on Iran.
Tehran answered with filing a nearly $4 billion lawsuit against Russia’s Rosoboronexport arms dealer company to a Geneva arbitration tribunal.
The question of S-300 supply to Tehran remained unsettled for years.
After years of negotiation, in February 2015, Moscow offered Tehran the chance to buy its latest Antey-2500 anti-aircraft and ballistic missile system, instead of the older S-300 system. Iran replied that it would consider the offer.
The last time Russia supplied S-300 systems abroad was in 2010, when 15 squadrons were delivered to China.
Since then production of S-300 systems has been suspended as the main producer of the Russian air defenses, concern Almaz-Antey, has launched production of the next generation systems, S-400. China has become the first country allowed to buy S-400 systems, Rosoboronexport chief Anatoly Isaykin told the Russian media.
As of today, S-300 systems have been operable in a number of countries, including Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. There is a valid contract to deliver S-300 systems to Syria, but it was put on hold after the beginning of the civil war in the country.
The foreign policy quandary facing President Barack Obama is that America’s traditional allies in the Middle East – Israel and Saudi Arabia – along with Official Washington’s powerful neocons have effectively sided with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State out of a belief that Iran represents a greater threat to Israeli and Saudi interests.
But what that means for U.S. interests is potentially catastrophic. If the Islamic State continues its penetration toward Damascus in league with Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and topples the Syrian government, the resulting slaughter of Christians, Shiites and other religious minorities – as well as the risk of a major new terrorist base in the heart of the Middle East – could force the United States into a hopeless new war that could drain the U.S. Treasury and drive the nation into a chaotic and dangerous decline.
To avoid this calamity, Obama would have to throw U.S. support fully behind the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, precipitate a break with Israel and Saudi Arabia, and withstand a chorus of condemnations from influential neocon pundits, Republican politicians and hawkish Democrats. Influenced by Israeli propaganda, all have pushed for ousting Assad in a “regime change.”
But the world has already had a grim peek at what an Islamic State/Al-Qaeda victory would look like. The Islamic State has reveled in its ability to provoke Western outrage through acts of shocking brutality, such as beheadings, incinerations, stonings, burning of ancient books and destruction of religious sites that the group deems offensive to its fundamentalist version of Islam.
Over the Easter holiday, there were reports of the Islamic State destroying a Christian Church in northeastern Syria and taking scores of Christians as prisoners. An Islamic State victory in Syria would likely mean atrocities on a massive scale. And, there are signs that Al-Qaeda might bring the Islamic State back into the fold if it achieves this success, which would let Al-Qaeda resume its plotting for its own outrages through terrorist attacks on European and U.S. targets.
Though Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the Islamic State have been estranged in recent months, the groups were reported to be collaborating in an assault on the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, south of Damascus. United Nations spokesman Chris Gunness told the Associated Press, “The situation in the camp is beyond inhumane.”
The AP also reported that “Palestinian officials and Syrian activists say the Islamic State militants fighting in Yarmouk were working with rivals from the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front. The two groups have fought bloody battles against each other in other parts of Syria, but appear to be cooperating in the attack on Yarmouk.”
Syria has become a frontline in the sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiite Islam, with Saudi Arabia a longtime funder of the Sunni fundamentalist Wahhabism, which gave rise to Al-Qaeda under the direction of Saudi Osama bin Laden. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks were Saudi nationals, and elements of the Saudi royal family and other Persian Gulf sheikdoms have been identified as Al-Qaeda’s financiers. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Secret Saudi Ties to Terrorism.”]
The Israeli-Saudi Alliance
In seeking “regime change” in Syria, Saudi Arabia has been joined by Israel whose leaders have cited Syria as the “keystone” in the pro-Iranian Shiite “strategic arc” from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut. In making that point in September 2013, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad and the Shiites.
“We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
In June 2014, Oren expanded on this Israeli position. Then, speaking as a former ambassador, Oren said Israel would even prefer a victory by the Islamic State. “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.
On March 3, in the speech to a cheering U.S. Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also argued that the danger from Iran was much greater than from the Islamic State (or ISIS). Netanyahu dismissed ISIS as a relatively minor annoyance with its “butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube” when compared to Iran, which he accused of “gobbling up the nations” of the Middle East.
He claimed “Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow. … We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror.”
Netanyahu’s rhetoric was clearly hyperbole – Iran’s troops have not invaded any country for centuries; Iran did come to the aid of the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq in its fight with the Islamic State, but the “regime change” in Baghdad was implemented not by Iran but by President George W. Bush and the U.S. military; and it’s preposterous to say that Iran “dominates” Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa – though Iran is allied with elements in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
But hyperbole or not, Netanyahu’s claims became marching orders for the American neocons, the Republican Party and much of the Democratic Party. Republicans and some Democrats denounced President Obama’s support for international negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program while some prominent neocons were granted space on the op-ed pages of the Washington Post and New York Times to advocate bombing Iran. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Publishes Call to Bomb Iran.”]
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia – with U.S. logistical and intelligence help – began bombing the Houthi rebels in Yemen who have been fighting a long civil war and had captured several major cities. The Houthis, who practice an offshoot of Shiite Islam called Zaydism, deny that they are proxies of Iran although some analysts say the Iranians have given some money and possibly some weapons to the Houthis.
However, by attacking the Houthis, the Saudis have helped Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula regain its footing, including creating an opportunity to free scores of Al-Qaeda militants in a prison break and expanding Al-Qaeda’s territory in the east.
Increasingly, the choice facing Obama is whether to protect the old alliances with Israel and Saudi Arabia – and risk victories by Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State – or expand on the diplomatic opening from the framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program to side with Shiite forces as the primary bulwark against Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
For such a seismic shift in U.S. foreign policy, President Obama could use the help of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who assisted in brokering agreements in 2013 in which Syria’s Assad surrendered Syria’s chemical weapons and in which Iranian leaders signed an interim agreement on their nuclear program that laid the groundwork for the April 2 framework deal.
In 2013, those moves by Putin infuriated Official Washington’s neoconservatives who were quick to identify Ukraine as a possible flashpoint between the United States and Russia. With Putin and Obama both distracted by other responsibilities, neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland teamed up with neocon National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and neocon Sen. John McCain to help fund and coordinate the Feb. 22, 2014 coup that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych. The resulting civil war and Russian intervention in Crimea drove a deep wedge between Obama and Putin.
The mainstream U.S. news media got fully behind the demonization of Putin, making a rapprochement over Ukraine nearly impossible. Though German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to broker a settlement of the conflict in February – known as Minsk-2 – the right-wing government in charge in Kiev, reflecting Nuland’s hard-line position, sabotaged the deal by inserting a poison pill that effectively required the ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine to surrender before Kiev would conduct elections under its control. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s Poison Pill for Peace Talks.”]
The Kiev regime is also incorporating some of its neo-Nazi militias into the regular army while putting neo-Nazi extremists into key military advisory positions. Though the U.S. media has put on blinders so as not to notice the Swastikas and SS symbols festooning the Azov and other battalions, the reality has been that the neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists have been the fiercest fighters in killing ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Wretched US Journalism on Ukraine.”]
On Saturday, German Economic News reported that the Ukrainian army appointed right-wing extremist Dimitri Jarosch as an official adviser to the army leadership as the Kiev regime – now bolstered by U.S. military equipment and training and receiving billions of dollars in Western aid – prepares for renewed fighting with eastern Ukraine.
The problem with Obama has been that – although he himself may be a “closet realist” willing to work with adversarial countries like Iran and Russia – he has not consistently challenged the neocons and their junior partners, the liberal interventionists. The liberals are particularly susceptible to propaganda campaigns involving non-governmental organizations that claim to promote “human rights” or “democracy” but have their salaries paid by the congressionally financed and neocon-run National Endowment for Democracy or by self-interested billionaires like financier George Soros.
The effectiveness of these NGOs in using social media and other forums to demonize targeted governments, as happened in Ukraine during the winter of 2013-14, makes it hard for honest journalists and serious analysts to put these crises in perspective without endangering their careers and reputations. Over the past year, anyone who questioned the demonization of Putin was denounced as a “Putin apologist” or a “Putin bootlicker.” Thus, many people not wanting to face such slurs either went along with the propagandistic “group think” or kept quiet.
Obama is one person who knows better but hasn’t been willing to contest Official Washington’s narratives portraying Putin or Assad or the Iranians or the Houthis as the devils incarnate. Obama has generally gone with the flow, joining the condemnations, but then resisting at key moments and refusing to implement some of the most extreme neocon ideas – such as bombing the Syrian army or shipping lethal weapons to Ukraine’s right-wing regime or forsaking negotiations and bombing Iran.
Pandering to Israel and Saudi Arabia
In other words, Obama has invested huge amounts of time and energy in trying to maintain positive relations with Netanyahu and the Saudi royals while not fully joining in their regional war against Iran and other Shiite-related governments and movements. Obama understands the enormous risk of allowing Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State to gain firm control of a major Middle Eastern country.
Of course, if that happens in, say, Syria, Obama would be blamed for not overthrowing the Assad regime earlier, as if there actually was a “moderate opposition” that could have withstood the pressure of the Sunni extremists. Though the neocons and liberal interventionists have pretended that this “moderate” force existed, it was always marginal when it came to applying real power.
Whether one likes it or not, the only real force that can stop an Al-Qaeda or Islamic State victory is the Syrian army and the Assad regime. But Obama chose to play the game of demanding that “Assad must go” – to appease the neocons and liberal interventionists – while recognizing that the notion of a “moderate” alternative was never realistic.
As Obama told the New York Times Thomas L. Friedman in August 2014, the idea that the U.S. arming the “moderate” rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Behind Obama’s Chaotic Foreign Policy.”]
But Obama may be running out of time in his halfway strategy of half-heartedly addressing the real danger that lies ahead if the Islamic State and/or Al-Qaeda ride the support of Saudi Arabia and Israel to a victory in Syria or Iraq or Yemen.
If the United States has to recommit a major military force in the Middle East, the war would have little hope of succeeding but it would drain American resources – and eviscerate what’s left of the constitutional principles that founded the American Republic.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Russia supports the proposed withdrawal of weapons of less than 100-millimeter caliber from the front line in eastern Ukraine, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“The possibility of withdrawing weapons of less than 100-millimeter caliber is under discussion now, and we are supporting it,” Lavrov told a media conference during his visit to Slovakia on Saturday.
“We will try to help the sides to reach an agreement, which would increase mutual confidence,” he added.
Kiev made a similar statement last week, saying arms not covered by the Minsk agreements, such as tanks and 80-millimeter mortars and other weapons of up to 100-millimeter caliber could be pulled back.
The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine brokered the latest Ukraine peace deal, dubbed the Minsk-2 agreement, in the Belarusian capital on February 12. It was agreed the sides in the conflict would pull heavy weapons back from the frontline and establish a security zone separating them. According to the document, the zone separating the warring parties must be at least 50 kilometers wide for artillery over 100-millimeter caliber, 70 kilometers for regular multiple rocket launchers and 100 kilometers for heavier long-range weapons.
A final resolution of the Ukrainian crisis will be possible if the conflicting parties are kept to their commitments under the Minsk-2 deal, Lavrov believes.
“It’s important to keep telling them that, to make sure they comply with the agreements,” he said.
International monitors have said the truce is generally holding, but there are still sporadic incidents of violence.
Lavrov noted such incidents happen on both sides, and that it’s necessary to “enforce monitoring of the situation in Ukraine.”
The monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) discovered military equipment belonging to both warring sides in an area near Shirokyno, according to the mission’s report on Friday. Shirokyno is near the front line, and under the Minsk-2 agreements weapons have to be pulled back from this area.
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) “observed one Ukrainian Armed Forces armored personnel carrier near Shirokyno that is under government control, and 15 DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic] main battle tanks in areas around Shirokyno under ‘DPR’ control. In addition, to the north of Zaichenko (DPR-controlled), the SMM observed two destroyed main battle tanks,” the report said.
A Ukrainian military spokesman Andrey Lysenko told reporters on Saturday that three Kiev military men were killed and two more wounded in eastern Ukraine when a bomb exploded near Avdeevka.
The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic spokesman, Eduard Basurin, told Interfax on Saturday that the Ukrainian military has violated the ceasefire many times in the past 24 hours, mainly in the Donetsk airport area. He said that from the 27 violations, 12 were monitored at the airport. The Ukrainian military used cannon artillery, tank weapons, 82-millimeter and 120-millimeter caliber mortars, he added.
During his visit to Slovakia on Saturday, Lavrov once again expressed hope that the law, recently passed by Kiev granting the self-proclaimed Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk special self-rule status, will receive a proper response from the international community.
On March 17, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament), passed a law granting the self-proclaimed Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk special self-rule status. However, it has postponed the introduction of the new status until the regions hold new elections under Ukrainian laws. Ukrainian MPs said the two republics will be recognized as ‘temporary occupied territories’ and voted this status should remain until the Ukrainian military fully restores control.
The leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics have slammed the decisions as “shameful” and blamed Kiev for not having negotiated the law with them.
The law “contravenes the Minsk agreements,” Lavrov said on Saturday. Moscow hopes “this will not provoke the undermining of these important accords,” he added.
By Doug E. Steil | Aletho News | March 28, 2015
Adverse side effects related to taking anti-depressant pharmaceutical drugs are well known. Numerous mass murders in conjunction with suicides were attributable to people who were under the influence of these drugs, which are being over-prescribed due to industry marketing pressure. (At least one in four women in the US are purportedly taking psychiatric medication.)
Nonetheless, according to Federal Aviation Authority regulations, pilots are not permitted to fly under the influence of such medication due to the harmful and potentially dangerous effects they can cause, including abnormal, self destructive, and violent behavior. This is simply a basic issue of public safety.
Today information has emerged that the co-pilot of Lufthansa’s German Wings subsidiary, Andreas Günther Lubitz, who had intentionally caused this crash in an act of mass murder, thereby killing 149 people in addition to himself, was suffering from severe depression and had prescriptions for various medications. He was under treatment and had been seen by neurologists and psychiatrists. They had written sickness notes that were subsequently found, according to which he was to have been on sick leave during the past week.
According to German law confidentiality between doctor and patient is not absolute but subject to exceptions, in which case there is a mandatory duty to inform authorities, including in instances when there is an overriding public interest, such as potentially impending danger of inflicted harm to others by the patient.
It ought to be assumed that they were aware of Lubitz’s occupation as an airline pilot. They had an obligation to notify appropriate authorities to ensure that Lubitz would not be permitted to fly and thereby pose a threat to passengers due to his mental condition and the effects of any medication they prescribed. Though the matter is still under investigation, it appears that the University Clinic in Dusseldorf, where he was undergoing “treatment”, may have acted as an accessory to mass murder by having willfully neglected their notification duty.
If it turns out that this was the case the physicians may be subject to criminal prosecution, and in any case the Dusseldorf University Clinic would need to prepare for a substantial class action civil suit for negligence, as will Lufthansa, for its own negligent behavior, namely having hired Lubitz while knowing of his past mental instability and then continuing to employ him under the special conditions of seeking continual medical supervision. In a press conference two days ago Lufthansa’s CEO thus misled the public in claiming that the co-pilot had been “100% fit to fly”.
The German media, many of which have protected the perpetrator’s privacy by refusing to publish his surname or obscuring the details of his face in published images, have been stalling on seeking answers to the key question: “How could this have happened?” Other media have also been stalling on getting to the heart of the matter, namely causes and proximate culpability. However, the general public does have a right to know the answers to these four questions now:
* Were the treating physicians, including at the Dusseldorf University Clinic, aware that Lubitz was working as an airline pilot?
* Did he ever suggest to physicians, however cryptically, to carry out some spectacular event for the sake of infamy, as he confided to a stewardess?
* Exactly which medications did the physicians prescribe to him in what doses and ingestion frequency during his “treatments”, especially most recently?
* Are pilots in Europe (and specifically at Lufthansa and affiliate airlines) strictly forbidden to fly under the influence of anti-depressant medication?
An Argentinean appeals court has dismissed charges against the country’s president and foreign minister over an alleged cover-up said to have taken place with regards to a 1994 bombing.
In July 1994, a car bomb exploded at the building of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, also known as AMIA, in the capital, Buenos Aires. Eighty-five people died and some 300 were injured.
The Israeli regime accuses Tehran of masterminding the terrorist attack. The Islamic Republic of Iran has strongly denied any involvement in the incident.
The prosecutor had accused a number of high-ranking Argentinean officials, including President Fernandez de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, and lawmaker Andrés “Cuervo” Larroqu of trying to “protect Iranians” in the case.
The government has staunchly denied the allegations and insisted that “there is no evidence whatsoever, not even circumstantial in nature,” that Fernandez de Kirchner or her aides committed any crimes.
On February 26, Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas said likewise that there were no elements to justify the continuation of an investigation into an alleged political effort by Kirchner to cover up the role claimed to have been played by Iran in the bombing.
The documents against Kirchner failed to meet “the minimal conditions needed to launch a formal court investigation,” the judge had said.
Nisman was found dead in the bathroom of his apartment in Buenos Aires on January 18. The initial police report said he had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Nisman’s death came hours before he was to testify in a congressional hearing about the AMIA attack.
The Buenos Aires Herald quoted Kirchner as saying on January 22 that the “real move against the government was the prosecutor’s death…. They used him while he was alive and then they needed him dead. It is that sad and terrible.”
Prosecutor German Moldes can still file another appeal against the ruling by the Federal Chamber.
The Iranian foreign minister has called on Saudi Arabia to immediately cease its military aggression against Yemen.
“We demand an immediate stop to the Saudi military operations in Yemen,” Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with Iran’s Arabic-language al-Alam news network on Thursday.
Zarif said the military operations constitute a violation of Yemen’s sovereignty and will only lead to bloodshed.
“We will spare no effort to contain the crisis in Yemen,” Zarif said.
He pointed out that the act of aggression will benefit no country, adding that the military campaign will further escalate the tensions in the region.
The Iranian foreign minister also urged the regional and western countries to avoid playing into the hands of terrorists such as al-Qaeda and ISIL in Yemen.
Strikes will fuel flames
Earlier in the day, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham also strongly condemned the Saudi military campaign against members of the Ansarullah movement in neighboring Yemen, stressing that the move will create an insecure atmosphere in the Middle East.
“Resorting to military actions against Yemen, which is already engaged in internal conflict and fighting terrorism, will further complicate the situation, spread the extent of the crisis and squander opportunities to peacefully resolve internal disputes in Yemen,” Afkham said.
She also called for the immediate implementation of agreements struck between Yemeni factions, and a quick cessation of Saudi air strikes and operations against Yemen and its nation.
Afkham further noted that the ongoing onslaught against Yemen will have no outcome other than the spread of terrorism and extremism, and will undermine security in the Middle East.
Saudi strikes to backfire
Chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Iran’s Parliament Alaeddin Boroujerdi also denounced the Saudi attacks against Yemen, stating that such an action would eventually backfire.
“The fact that Saudi Arabia has waged a new war in the region attests to its disregard and irresponsibility towards issues in the Muslim world. The outcomes of this crisis will boomerang on Saudi Arabia as war is not confined to the borders of one particular region,” Boroujerdi pointed out.
He also criticized the United States for fomenting instability in the Middle East, stating that Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies have had Washington’s carte blanche in order to launch attacks against Yemen.
The ongoing Saudi air strikes on Yemen have so far claimed the lives of 13 civilians with more deaths feared, according to Yemeni sources.
“Thirteen civilians, including women and children, were killed in the Saudi raids overnight,” a civil defense source said on Thursday.
According to witnesses, residents are helping civil defense authorities in the search for any more victims under the rubble of houses damaged in the air raids.
Following the attacks, forces loyal to fugitive Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi seized control of the international airport in the southern port city of Aden.
Troops of the 39th Armored Brigade, who are allied to the Houthi Ansarullah movement, had earlier seized the facility.
The Al Arabiya News Channel reported on Thursday that Saudi Arabia has deployed “100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and other navy units” for the military campaign in Yemen.
Meanwhile, Yemeni sources say parachutists of Saudi forces have already landed in Aden, located approximately 420 kilometers (260 miles) south of the capital, Sana’a.
In the never-never land of how the mainstream U.S. press covers the Ukraine crisis, the appointment last year of thuggish oligarch Igor Kolomoisky to govern one of the country’s eastern provinces was pitched as a democratic “reform” because he was supposedly too rich to bribe, without noting that his wealth had come from plundering the country’s economy.
In other words, the new U.S.-backed “democratic” regime, after overthrowing democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych because he was “corrupt,” was rewarding one of Ukraine’s top thieves by letting him lord over his own province, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, with the help of his personal army.
Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky confronting journalists after he led an armed team in a raid at the government-owned energy company in Kiev on March 19, 2015.
(Screen shot from YouTube)
Last year, Kolomoisky’s brutal militias, which include neo-Nazi brigades, were praised for their fierce fighting against ethnic Russians from the east who were resisting the removal of their president. But now Kolomoisky, whose financial empire is crumbling as Ukraine’s economy founders, has turned his hired guns against the Ukrainian government led by another oligarch, President Petro Poroshenko.
On Thursday night, Kolomoisky and his armed men went to Kiev after the government tried to wrest control of the state-owned energy company UkrTransNafta from one of his associates. Kolomoisky and his men raided the company offices to seize and apparently destroy records. As he left the building, he cursed out journalists who had arrived to ask what was going on. He ranted about “Russian saboteurs.”
It was a revealing display of how the corrupt Ukrainian political-economic system works and the nature of the “reformers” whom the U.S. State Department has pushed into positions of power. According to BusinessInsider, the Kiev government tried to smooth Kolomoisky’s ruffled feathers by announcing “that the new company chairman [at UkrTransNafta] would not be carrying out any investigations of its finances.”
Yet, it remained unclear whether Kolomoisky would be satisfied with what amounts to an offer to let any past thievery go unpunished. But if this promised amnesty wasn’t enough, Kolomoisky appeared ready to use his private army to discourage any accountability.
On Monday, Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, chief of the State Security Service, accused Dnipropetrovsk officials of financing armed gangs and threatening investigators, Bloomberg News reported, while noting that Ukraine has sunk to 142nd place out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s Corruptions Perception Index, the worst in Europe.
The see-no-evil approach to how the current Ukrainian authorities do business relates as well to Ukraine’s new Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, who appears to have enriched herself at the expense of a $150 million U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund for Ukraine.
Jaresko, a former U.S. diplomat who received overnight Ukrainian citizenship in December to become Finance Minister, had been in charge of the Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), which became the center of insider-dealing and conflicts of interest, although the U.S. Agency for International Development showed little desire to examine the ethical problems – even after Jaresko’s ex-husband tried to blow the whistle. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine Finance Minister’s American ‘Values.’”]
Passing Out the Billions
Jaresko will be in charge of dispensing the $17.5 billion that the International Monetary Fund is allocating to Ukraine, along with billions of dollar more expected from U.S. and European governments.
Regarding Kolomoisky’s claim about “Russian saboteurs,” the government said that was not the case, explaining that the clash resulted from the parliament’s vote last week to reduce Kolomoisky’s authority to run the company from his position as a minority owner. As part of the shakeup, Kolomoisky’s protégé Oleksandr Lazorko was fired as chairman, but he refused to leave and barricaded himself in his office, setting the stage for Kolomoisky’s arrival with armed men.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported on the dispute but also flashed back to its earlier propagandistic praise of the 52-year-old oligarch, recalling that “Mr. Kolomoisky was one of several oligarchs, considered too rich to bribe, who were appointed to leadership positions in a bid to stabilize Ukraine.”
Kolomoisky also is believed to have purchased influence inside the U.S. government through his behind-the-scenes manipulation of Ukraine’s largest private gas firm, Burisma Holdings. Last year, the shadowy Cyprus-based company appointed Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, to its board of directors. Burisma also lined up well-connected lobbyists, some with ties to Secretary of State John Kerry, including Kerry’s former Senate chief of staff David Leiter, according to lobbying disclosures.
As Time magazine reported, “Leiter’s involvement in the firm rounds out a power-packed team of politically-connected Americans that also includes a second new board member, Devon Archer, a Democratic bundler and former adviser to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Both Archer and Hunter Biden have worked as business partners with Kerry’s son-in-law, Christopher Heinz, the founding partner of Rosemont Capital, a private-equity company.”
According to investigative journalism in Ukraine, the ownership of Burisma has been traced to Privat Bank, which is controlled by Kolomoisky.
So, it appears that Ukraine’s oligarchs who continue to wield enormous power inside the corrupt country are now circling each other over what’s left of the economic spoils and positioning themselves for a share of the international bailouts to come.
As for “democratic reform,” only in the upside-down world of the State Department’s Orwellian “information war” against Russia over Ukraine would imposing a corrupt and brutal oligarch like Kolomoisky as the unelected governor of a defenseless population be considered a positive.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Groups like IS, which could be behind the Bardo Museum shootings, have a long history of collaborating with the West and may have attacked tourists just to maintain their anti-Western façade, says independent political analyst Dan Glazebrook.
RT: Do you think that the Western tourists were targeted on purpose?
Dan Glazebrook: Yeah, I think so. The thing is with ISIS and these groups – they have a long history of collaborating with the West. It’s fundamental to their appeal that they kind of try to present themselves as anti-Western. If you look over the last several years, they’ve been singing from the same song-sheet – whether it’s on Libya, the fight against Gaddafi; Syria, the fight against Assad. We’ve had revelations about fighters’ passage to Syria to go and fight against Assad being facilitated by MI5, by British intelligence. This all came out in the hearings in Mozambique last year. So these guys are on the same page, they are helping to fulfill the West strategic aims of destabilization in the area. … The thousands and thousands people they’ve killed, the vast majority of them have been other Muslims and non-white people. From time to time they have to kill some Europeans and some Westerners in order to maintain this façade of somehow being opposed to the West, whilst they continue to carry out and facilitate the West’s strategic aims.
RT: A large number of Islamic State fighters reportedly come from Tunisia. Why is that?
DG: It was estimated at one point that the actual majority of foreign fighters in Syria were of Tunisian origin, over 3,000… They’ve also fought in Libya; they’ve fought in terrorist campaigns in Algeria. There are many different reasons; part of it is a kind of extremist backlash against the extremist secularism of the previous President [Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali and his predecessor [Habib Bourguiba]. But I think a lot of it is just simply to do with the economics and finances. There is very high unemployment in Tunisia. It is rumored that you can get up to $27,000 a year for going to fight for ISIS… Billions of dollars were put into these sectarian militias to build up these groups by Saudi Arabia and the USA as a bulwark against the resistance axis of Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah. These billions of dollars are still slushing around.
‘Attack might be publicizing Ansar al-Sharia’s merger with ISIS’
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, also commented on the Tunis museum attack.
RT: No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. Who in your view is most likely to be behind it?
Brian Levin: The most likely would probably be Ansar al-Sharia which is a radical Salafist terrorist group which started in Tunisia shortly after the Tunisian revolution in January, 2011. It was formed three months later by a fellow named Abu Ayadh. That is the most likely suspect, although, ISIS affiliates are present in neighboring Libya as well.
RT: Do you think the attackers were pursuing any particular goal with this terrible assault?
BL: Yes, I would think that if it is Ansar al-Sharia or if Ansar al-Sharia is using this to publicize some kind of merger with ISIS – this would be the time and the place to do it. Tunisia, as I said, in an area where ISIS has been exporting its brand of radicalism. That is one thing – Tunisia is Western friendly and it has got a strong economy.
RT: Earlier, a warning for tourists had been issued calling on them not to visit certain areas. Is this kind of attack in Tunisia a rare event and just how dangerous is the country for travelers?
BL: There have been advisories put out about travel to Tunisia. Its biggest industries are in fact tourism and minerals. It is a democratic society and it is Western friendly. Its economy is strong [but] it relies on these exports and tourism. And an attack like this could really hurt the economy in a place where there is fragility with respect to the economic situation. Remember again, Tunisia was the success story of the Arab Spring. This is the time and the place where groups like ISIS and Ansar al-Sharia are trying to make radicalism an imprint there and in the neighboring countries as well.
RT: The EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has said that IS was behind the attack. Do you believe that that is likely?
BL: It could be in a sense to the extent that these actors had the same goal… Ansar Al-Sharia is allying itself with the al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa. The fact of the matter is it very well could be ISIS. ISIS does have an imprint in North Africa. One of the things that ISIS had wanted to do even when it was just AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] back in 2004, they wanted to export their terrorism to places like Jordan, and now has an imprint in places like Libya which neighbors Tunisia.
An annual security report submitted recently to the US Senate by James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, removed both Iran and Hezbollah from the list of terrorism threats to the United States for the first time in years.
The unclassified version of the “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities” dated 26 February, noted Iran’s efforts to fight “Sunni extremists”, including elements affiliated with the Islamic State group who were perceived to constitute the “preeminent terrorist threat to American interests worldwide”.
Last year’s report described the global terrorist activity of Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah group to have increased in recent years to “a level we have not seen since the 1990s”, however this year’s report mentioned the group only once saying it faces a threat from ISIS and Al-Nusra Front near Lebanon’s orders.
Meanwhile, despite removing Tehran from the list, the report described it as source of cyber-attacks and a regional threat to the United States because of its support for Syrian regime President Bashar Al-Assad and its hostile policies against Israel.
Why did Obama declare a ‘national emergency’, claim that Venezuela represents a threat to US national security and foreign policy, assume executive prerogatives and decree sanctions against top Venezuelan officials in charge of national security, at this time?
Venezuela’s Support of Latin America Integration is Obama’s Great Fear
To answer this question it is essential to begin by addressing Obama’s specious and unsubstantiated charges of a Venezuelan ‘threat to national security and foreign policy’.
First, the White House presents no evidence … because there is nothing to present! There are no Venezuelan missiles, fighter planes, warships, Special Forces, secret agents or military bases poised to attack US domestic facilities or its overseas installations.
In contrast, the US has warships in the Caribbean, seven military bases just across the border in Colombia manned by over two thousand US Special Forces, and Air Force bases in Central America. Washington has financed proxy political and military operations intervening in Venezuela with intent of overthrowing the legally constituted and elected government.
Obama’s claims resemble a ploy that totalitarian and imperialist rulers frequently use: Accusing their imminent victims of the crimes they are preparing to perpetrate against them. No country or leader, friend or foe, has supported Obama’s accusations against Venezuela.
Obama’s charge that Venezuela represents a ‘threat’ to US foreign policy requires clarification: First, which elements of US foreign policy are threatened? Venezuela has successfully proposed and supported several regional integration organizations, which are voluntarily supported by their fellow Latin American and Caribbean members. These regional organizations, in large part, replace US-dominated structures, which served Washington’s imperial interests. In other words, Venezuela supports alternative diplomatic and economic organizations, which its members believe will better serve their economic and political interests, than those promoted by the Obama regime. Petrocaribe, a Central American and Caribbean association of countries supported by Venezuela, addresses the development needs of their members better than US-dominated organizations like the Organization of American States or the so-called ‘Caribbean Initiative’. The same is true of Venezuela’s support of CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations). These are Latin American organizations which exclude the dominating presence of the US and Canada and are designed to promote greater regional independence.
Obama’s charge that Venezuela represents a threat to US foreign policy is an accusation directed at all governments who have freely chosen to abandon US-centered organizations and who reject US hegemony.
In other words, what arouses Obama’s ire and motivates his aggressive threats toward Venezuela is Caracas’s political leadership in challenging US imperialist foreign policy.
Venezuela does not have military bases in the rest of Latin America nor has it invaded, occupied, or sponsored military coups in other Latin American countries – as Obama and his predecessors have done.
Venezuela condemned the US invasion of Haiti, the US-supported military coups in Honduras (2009), Venezuela (2002, 2014, 2015), Bolivia (2008), and Ecuador (2010).
Clearly, Obama’s ‘emergency’ decree and sanctions against Venezuela are directed at maintaining unchallenged US imperial supremacy in Latin America and degrading Venezuela’s independent, democratic foreign policy.
To properly understand Obama’s policy toward Venezuela, we have to analyze why he has chosen overt, unilateral bellicose threats at this time?
Obama’s War Threat Results from Political Failure
The principal reasons why Obama has directly intervened in Venezuelan politics is that his other policy options designed to oust the Maduro government have failed.
In 2013, Obama’s relied on US financing of an opposition presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, to oust the incumbent Chavista government. President Maduro defeated Obama’s choice and derailed Washington’s ‘via electoral’ to regime change.
Subsequently, Obama attempted to boycott and discredit the Venezuelan voting process via an international smear campaign. The White House boycott lasted 6 months and received no support in Latin America, or from the European Union, since scores of international election observers, ranging from former President James Carter to representatives of the Organization of American States certified the outcome.
In 2014, the Obama regime backed violent large-scale riots, which left 43 persons dead and scores wounded, (most victims were pro-government civilians and law enforcement officers) and millions of dollars in damages to public and private property, including power plants and clinics. Scores of vandals and rightwing terrorists were arrested, including Harvard-educated terrorist Leopoldo Lopez. However, the Maduro government released most of the saboteurs in a gesture of reconciliation.
Obama, on his part, escalated the terror campaign of internal violence. He recycled his operatives and, in February 2015, backed a new coup. Several US embassy personnel (the US had at least 100 stationed in their embassy), turned out to be intelligence operatives using diplomatic cover to infiltrate and recruit a dozen Venezuelan military officials to plot the overthrow of the elected government and assassinate President Maduro by bombing the presidential palace.
President Maduro and his national security team discovered the coup plot and arrested both the military and political leaders, including the Mayor of Caracas.
Obama, now furious for having lost major internal assets and proxies, turned to his last resort: the threat of a direct US military intervention.
The Multiple Purposes of Obama’s ‘National Emergency’
Obama’s declaration of a national security emergency has psychological, political and military objectives. His bellicose posture was designed to bolster the spirit of his jailed and demoralized operatives and let them know that they still have US support. To that end, Obama demanded that President Maduro free the terrorist leaders. Washington’s sanctions were primarily directed against the Venezuelan security officials who upheld the constitution and arrested Obama’s hired thugs. The terrorists in their prison cells can console themselves with the thought that, while they serve ‘hard time’ for being US shock troops and puppets, their prosecutors will be denied visas by President Obama and can no longer visit Disneyland or shop in Miami. Such are the consequences of the current US ‘sanctions’ in the eyes of a highly critical Latin America.
The second goal of Obama’s threat is to test the response of the Venezuelan and Latin American governments. The Pentagon and CIA seek to gauge how Venezuela’s military, intelligence, and civilian leaders will deal with this new challenge in order to identify the weak links in the chain of command, i.e. those officials who will run for cover, cower or seek to conciliate, by giving in to Obama’s demands.
It should be remembered that during the US-backed April 2002 coup, many self-styled ‘Chavista revolutionaries’ went into hiding, some holing up in embassies. In addition, several military officials defected and a dozen politicians curried favor with the coup leaders, until the tide turned and over a million ordinary Venezuelans, including slum dwellers, marched to surround the Presidential Palace and, with the backing of loyalist paratroopers, ousted the golpistas (coup-makers) and freed their President Chavez. Only then did the fair-weather Chavistas come out from under their beds to celebrate the restoration of Hugo Chavez and the return of democracy.
In other words, Obama’s bellicose posture is part of a ‘war of nerves’, to test the resistance, determination and loyalty of the government officials, when their positions are threatened, US bank accounts are frozen, their visas denied and access to ‘Disneyland’ cut.
Obama is putting the Venezuelan government on notice: a warning this time, an invasion next time.
The White House’s openly thuggish rhetoric is also intended to test the degree of opposition in Latin America – and the kind of support Washington can expect in Latin America and elsewhere.
And Cuba responded forcefully with unconditional support for Venezuela. Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Argentina repudiated Obama’s imperial threats. The European Union did not adopt the US sanctions although the European Parliament did echo Obama’s demand to free the jailed terrorists. Initially Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Mexico neither backed the US nor the Venezuelan government. The Uruguayan Vice President Raul Sendic was the only official in Latin America to deny US intervention. However, on March 16 at an emergency meeting of UNASUR in Quito Ecuador, the foreign ministers of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay, and Venezuela unanimously denounced US sanctions and military intervention
President Maduro Stands Firm: They Shall Not Pass
Most important, President Maduro stood firm. He declared a national emergency and asked for special powers. He called for two weeks of nationwide military exercises involving 100,000 soldiers beginning March 14. He made it clear to the Pentagon and the White House that a US invasion would meet resistance. That confronting millions of Venezuelan freedom fighters would not be a ‘cake walk’ – that there would be US casualties, body bags and new US widows and orphans to mourn Obama’s imperial schemes.
Obama is neither preparing an immediate invasion nor giving up on ‘regime change’ because his coup operatives failed in two consecutive years. His militarist posture is designed to polarize Latin America: to divide and weaken the regional organizations; to separate the so-called ‘moderates’ in Mercosur (Brazil/Uruguay/Paraguay) from Venezuela and Argentina. Despite his failures thus far, Obama will press ahead to activate opposition to Venezuelan security policies among the Chilean, Peruvian, Mexican, and Colombian neo-liberal regimes.
Washington is building pressure externally and preparing for a new round of violent unrest internally to provoke a robust government response.
In other words – Obama’s military invasion will follow the well-rehearsed scenario of ‘humanitarian intervention’ orchestrated in Yugoslavia, Libya and Syria – with such disastrous consequences on the people of those countries. Obama, at this time, lacks international political support from Europe and Latin America that would provide the fig leaf of a multilateral coalition and has lost his key internal operatives. He cannot risk a bloody unilateral US invasion and prolonged war in the immediate future.
However, he is inexorably moving in that direction. Obama has seized executive prerogatives to attack Venezuela. He has alerted and mobilized US combat forces in the region. He understands that his current teams of operatives in Venezuela have demonstrated that they are incapable of winning elections or seizing power without major US military backing. Obama is now engaged in a psychological as well as physical war of nerves: to run down the Venezuelan economy, to intimidate the faint-hearted, and exhaust and weaken the militants through constant threats and widening sanctions over time.
The Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro has accepted the challenge. He is mobilizing the people and the armed forces: his democratically elected regime will not surrender. The national resistance will be fighting in their own country for their own future. They will be fighting an invading imperial power. They represent millions, and they have a ‘world to lose’ if the ‘squalidos’ (the domestic fifth column) should ever take power: if not their lives, their livelihoods, their dignity and their legacy as a free and independent people.
President Maduro has sought and secured Russian military support and solidarity in the form of arms, advisors, and an agreement to engage in joint military maneuvers to meet the challenges of Obama’s war of attrition. President Putin has addressed a public letter of support to the Venezuelan government in response to Obama’s threats.
Obama is engaged in a two-pronged economic and military strategy, which will converge with a US military invasion.
The overt military threats issued in early March 2015 are designed to force the Maduro government to divert large-scale financial resources away from meeting the economic crisis to building emergency military defense. Through escalating military and economic threats, the White House hopes to diminish government subsidies for the import of basic foodstuffs and other essential commodities during an internal campaign of hoarding and artificial shortages committed by economic saboteurs. Obama is counting on his Venezuelan proxies and the local and international mass media to blame the government for the economic deterioration and to mobilize the big protests of irate consumers. White House strategists hope a massive crowd will serve as a cover for terrorists and snipers to engage in violent acts against public authorities, provoking the police and armed forces to respond in a re-play of the ‘coup’ in Kiev. At that point, Washington will seek to secure some form of support from Europe or Latin America (via the OAS) to intervene with troops in what the State Department will dub as ‘peace mediators in a humanitarian crisis’.
The success of sending the US Marines into Venezuela on a peace mission will depend on how effective Special Forces and Pentagon operatives in the US Embassy have been in securing reliable collaborators among the Venezuelan military and political forces ready to betray their country. Once the collaborators seize a piece of territory, Obama can mount the charade that US Marines are there by invitation… of the democratic forces.
Under conditions of explicit military threat, Maduro must change ‘the rules of the game’. Under emergency conditions, hoarding is no longer just a misdemeanor: it becomes a capital crime. Politicians meeting and consulting with representatives of the invading country should lose their immunity and be summarily jailed. Above all, the government must take total control over the distribution of basic goods; establishing rationing to ensure popular access; nursing scarce financial resources by limiting or imposing a moratorium on debt payments; diminishing or selling assets in the US (CITGO) to avoid confiscation or their being made illiquid (“frozen”) by some new Obama decree. On the external front, Venezuela must deepen military and economic ties with its neighbors and independent nations to withstand the US military and economic offensive. If Obama escalates the military measures against Venezuela, the parliamentary elections scheduled for September should be temporarily suspended until normality is re-established.
Ecuador is working to rescue and promote the use of indigenous languages.
As reparation for historical injustices and as a means to strengthen the nation’s intercultural identity, the Ecuadorean government and citizens are prioritizing the recuperation of the country’s 14 indigenous languages.
Human migration and societies stigmatization of their tounge are two factors which have led to the near disappearance of some languages in recent years. Studies have shown that in 1950 14 percent of the population spoke an indigenous language, with that number plummeting to be 3.7 percent in 1990.
Director of the Center for Economic and Social Rights Eduardo Pichilingue told teleSUR English, “I think that language is fundamental for creating a group, so that it has identity. I work with the Waorani indigenous group, the Waorani thankfully have a relatively healthy language still, they were contacted not too long ago, this makes the change in their language not as drastic as in other nationalities.”
Giving a space to those previously excluded and ignored indigenous voices is the Ecuador Educational Coordination of Popular Radio. With the objective of democratizing communication, it allows Kichwa-speaking producers to design their own programs, and report on both national and international events.
“On behalf of the government I think there has been an effort above all else to strengthen processes of cultural exchange. I believe the government is working hard in communication processes between people and nationalities. 18 community radios have been implemented at a national level to strengthen processes of communication between people from distinct nationalities,” said Sandy Chavez, the Coordinator of Networks at CORAPE.
She went on to say, “From us as an institution, a great success has been incorporating producers, young people who did not speak Kichwa, into our educational initiative and transmit in the Kichwa language. So our first success has been that these young people are not embarrassed to speak in the language, but that they are part of this initiative to rescue indigenous languages, and this has been the first.”
A country with more than 10 indigenous nationalities, the 2008 constitution of Ecuador declares it a plurinational and intercultural state. The Foreign Ministry has expressed that it is willing to foster diplomatic relationships with these distinct nationalities within Ecuador, as a way to strengthen national identity as the country continues working to save and further the use of indigenous languages.
The Colombian military will stop bombing FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) camps for one month, President Juan Manuel Santos announced Tuesday.
The President emphasized that this is a temporary measure to try to de-escalate the more than 50 year conflict in the country, however he did not rule out the possibility of extending the one month deadline.
The FARC – the country’s largest guerrilla group – declared a unilateral ceasefire in December 2014, which it has so far honored, but the Colombian government has been slow to reciprocate.
Santos’ decision is an attempt to support ongoing peace talks, however he was specific in saying the bombing of camps would stop and did not mention ground troop deployment.
“To promote the de-escalation of the conflict, I decided to order the defense minister (Juan Carlos Pinzón) and the commanders of the forces to cease the bombing of the FARC camp for a month,” said the president.
“After that time we will further review the implementation of the unilateral termination by the FARC and, according to its results, decide whether to continue with the measure or not. In any case we will not waive the bombing if we see an imminent threat of a population,” he added.
The FARC and the Colombian government have been undergoing peace talks in Havana, Cuba since November of 2012 in an attempt to find a solution to the decades long conflict that has killed and displaced millions of Colombians.