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Russia throws weight behind Iran’s missile program

Press TV – August 16, 2017

Iran’s defensive missile program is part of its “national interests,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says, asserting that the new US sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its missile activities are “illegitimate” and only harm the nuclear deal between Tehran and the P5+1.

Speaking to reporters in a news conference on Wednesday, Lavrov said Iran’s development of an array of ballistic missiles was not in violation of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2231, adopted in July 2015 to endorse the landmark nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA.)

“The missile program is Iran’s internal affair. Iran is not prohibited from having it,” Lavrov said. “The UN Security Council’s resolution contains no legal bans on that score.”

‘Illegitimate’ pressure

The top Russian diplomat warned the US against upsetting the balance of the deal in favor of its own interests by resorting to unilateral measures.

Washington has on several occasions slapped new sanctions against Iran over its missile program, most recent of which was on July 28.

“Unilateral sanctions are essentially illegitimate. When these sanctions are used to upset the balance on a certain problem in favor of some party, and such a balance was achieved on the Iranian nuclear program, these are irresponsible moves, which may upset and undermine that balance,” Lavrov said.

“One should not come up with such provocations, since the issue at hand is the interests of a vast region where we would like to secure a non-nuclear status rather than some individual country’s national interests,” he added.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned earlier this week that Tehran’s nuclear program could quickly return to its pre-JCPOA status in case the US continued its hostile attitude.

“I do hope that this will not happen,” Lavrov said. “I also hope that the United States will not violate its commitments to the Joint Plan, either.”

He noted that both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the administration of US President Donald Trump had time and again confirmed Iran’s compliance to the deal.

Russia against ‘suffocating’ North Korea

Elsewhere, Lavrov weighed in on the aggravating tensions between the US and North Korea and said Russia was not in favor of economic sanctions that were meant to “suffocate” Pyongyang and its people.

“We cannot support the ideas that some of our partners continue to nourish and that are aimed literally at the economic suffocation of North Korea with all the negative, tragic humanitarian consequences for the North Korean citizens,” Lavrov said, noting that the possibilities for economic pressure on North Korea had almost been “exhausted.”

The standoff was intensified earlier this month after Trump threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury” over its missile program. The North hit back by threatening a missile strike against the US Pacific territory of Guam.

“We are noting that this rhetoric has quieted down recently, and it is probably to be hoped that the hot heads have cooled down,” Lavrov said.

August 17, 2017 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Modi revisits Iran ties

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 6, 2017

The decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to depute the minister of transport Nitin Gadkari to represent India at the inaugural ceremony of Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani on his second term is a most appropriate, timely and thoughtful decision. ‘Appropriate’ – because it is a signal that India attaches high importance to relations with Iran. Gadkari is a senior figure in the cabinet – all but prime ministerial material, one might say. ‘Thoughtful’ – because of two reasons. One, Gadkari is also the government’s point person with regard to the strategic Indian project to develop a transit route to Afghanistan and Central Asia via Iran’s Chabahar Port.

Two, it is an assertive statement that India’s cooperation with Iran will not be buffeted by ‘Trumpspeak’. This is timely because the Iran-US engagement has run into difficulties and US officials have spoken of a preposterous ‘regime change’ agenda vis-à-vis Iran. A confrontation seems improbable but a showdown cannot be ruled out, either. If there is a confrontation / showdown, Modi government will come under pressure not only from the US but also from Israel, and India will be in the unhappy position of having to stand up and be counted. Strategic ambivalence, which comes easy to the Indian DNA, may no longer be an option. The previous UPA government of course simply opted to pull down the shutter and fall in line with the US diktat. It will be interesting to see how much spunk the present nationalist government would show to resist pressure on its regional policies, if push comes to shove.

However, India is in good company if it views Iran as a major partner. The presence of the European Union Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherni at Rouhani’s inaugural underscored that EU does not go along with the US’ sanctions bill against Iran. So, indeed, the presence of Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, a close aide confidante of President Vladimir Putin, signals that Moscow has a big agenda to expand and deepen the cooperation with Iran. The Chinese President Xi Jinping deputed He Lifeng, head of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, to represent China. Of course, He is the principal driver of the Belt and Road Initiative in the Chinese government.

Indeed, if the inaugural ceremony was a litmus test of Iran’s integration with the international community, the result is positive and impressive. Nineteen presidents, vice-presidents and prime ministers as well as 18 heads of parliaments attended the ceremony. It is virtually impossible for the Trump administration to ‘isolate’ Iran over its missile development programme or its regional policies. By the way, the participants at the ceremony in Tehran included a high-powered delegation from Hamas and a cabinet minister from Qatar.

Gadkari has promised that the Chabahar transit route will be operational by next year. The country must hold the government to its word. There shouldn’t be any slip-ups. This can be the first significant footfall in an Indian variant of ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. More importantly, perhaps, India must now resuscitate the plans of investments in the Chabahar region for industrial collaboration. The enthusiasm with which we spoke about it two years ago has petered out. Again, a major push is needed to realise the much-talked about North-South Corridor via Iran.

In political terms, a visit by Rouhani to India is overdue. The visit will give an overall verve to the relationship and add momentum to the bilateral cooperation. The Farzad-B gas field project has proved elusive. The revised $11 billion investment offer by ONGC Videsh is pending for a decision in Tehran. The Iranian side has driven a hard bargain, which is understandable since oil is a major source of income for its economy. But then, Tehran must also realize that Farzad-B will be a ‘game-changer’ for the entire relationship with India. Perhaps, this is the single biggest investment offer India has ever made to a foreign country. The business spin-off in the downstream, if the Farzad-B project takes off, will be massive.

August 6, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

US breach of nuclear deal to face Iran coordinated response: Top official

Press TV – August 2, 2017

A senior Iranian official says the country will meet Washington’s breach of the 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world countries, including the US, with a set of “coordinated” countermeasures.

“Iran’s countermeasures against the US lack of commitment to the JCPOA will be coordinated and [conducted in] parallel [with one another],” Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said on Wednesday.

He was referring to the agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), by its acronym.

The comments come as the US is about to impose a new round of sanctions against Iran over its national missile program. The draft sanctions law, which also targets Russia and North Korea, has passed the US Congress and needs President Donald Trump’s signature to become law.

Senior Iranian authorities, including President Hassan Rouhani, have vowed a decisive response to the planned sanctions, which they argue are in violation of both the spirit and letter of the JCPOA.

Iran and the P5+1 group of countries — the US, the UK, France, Russia, and China plus Germany — inked the deal in July 2015. It lifted nuclear related sanctions on Iran, which, in turn, put certain limits on its nuclear work.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog has invariably certified Iran’s commitment to its contractual obligations since January 2016, when the deal took effect. The US, however, has prevented the deal from fully yielding. Washington has refused to offer global financial institutions the guarantees that they would not be hit by American punitive measures for transactions with Iran.

“A host of retaliatory measures in the legislative, technical, nuclear, economic, political, defense, and military areas, have been devised by the body monitoring the JCPOA, which will be pursued in a coordinated way and in parallel with each other,” Shamkhani added.

He added that “the US’s arrogant policies could only be confronted through dependence on national power and capabilities,” Shamkhani said.

Shamkhani further said the current US administration’s “lack of perceptiveness and creativity” in its attitude towards Iran serves as an opportunity for the Islamic Republic’s diplomatic apparatus.

The nuclear agreement has not reduced US enmity towards the Iranian nation, he said, noting that one of the reasons behind Washington’s disappointment at the current status quo is its failure to change Iran’s principal regional policies under the post-JCPOA circumstances.

The official further said the Iranian nation has an inalienable right to develop its missile might, which serves as a deterrent in the face of threats, stressing that the country’s defense capabilities are not up for negotiations.

August 2, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Shall We Fight Them All?

By Pat Buchanan • Unz Review • August 1, 2017

Saturday, Kim Jong Un tested an ICBM of sufficient range to hit the U.S. mainland. He is now working on its accuracy, and a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop that missile that can survive re-entry.

Unless we believe Kim is a suicidal madman, his goal seems clear. He wants what every nuclear power wants — the ability to strike his enemy’s homeland with horrific impact, in order to deter that enemy.

Kim wants his regime recognized and respected, and the U.S., which carpet-bombed the North from 1950-1953, out of Korea.

Where does this leave us? Says Cliff Kupchan of the Eurasia Group, “The U.S. is on the verge of a binary choice: either accept North Korea into the nuclear club or conduct a military strike that would entail enormous civilian casualties.”

A time for truth. U.S. sanctions on North Korea, like those voted for by Congress last week, are not going to stop Kim from acquiring ICBMs. He is too close to the goal line.

And any pre-emptive strike on the North could trigger a counterattack on Seoul by massed artillery on the DMZ, leaving tens of thousands of South Koreans dead, alongside U.S. soldiers and their dependents.

We could be in an all-out war to the finish with the North, a war the American people do not want to fight.

Saturday, President Trump tweeted out his frustration over China’s failure to pull our chestnuts out of the fire: “They do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem.”

Sunday, U.S. B-1B bombers flew over Korea and the Pacific air commander Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy warned his units were ready to hit North Korea with “rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force.”

Yet, also Sunday, Xi Jinping reviewed a huge parade of tanks, planes, troops and missiles as Chinese officials mocked Trump as a “greenhorn President” and “spoiled child” who is running a bluff against North Korea. Is he? We shall soon see.

According to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump vowed Monday he would take “all necessary measures” to protect U.S. allies. And U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley bristled, “The time for talk is over.”

Are we headed for a military showdown and war with the North? The markets, hitting records again Monday, don’t seem to think so.

But North Korea is not the only potential adversary with whom our relations are rapidly deteriorating.

After Congress voted overwhelmingly for new sanctions on Russia last week and Trump agreed to sign the bill that strips him of authority to lift the sanctions without Hill approval, Russia abandoned its hopes for a rapprochement with Trump’s America. Sunday, Putin ordered U.S. embassy and consulate staff cut by 755 positions.

The Second Cold War, begun when we moved NATO to Russia’s borders and helped dump over a pro-Russian regime in Kiev, is getting colder. Expect Moscow to reciprocate Congress’ hostility when we ask for her assistance in Syria and with North Korea.

Last week’s sanctions bill also hit Iran after it tested a rocket to put a satellite in orbit, though the nuclear deal forbids only the testing of ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. Defiant, Iranians say their missile tests will continue.

Recent days have also seen U.S. warships and Iranian patrol boats in close proximity, with the U.S. ships firing flares and warning shots. Our planes and ships have also, with increasingly frequency, come to close quarters with Russian and Chinese ships and planes in the Baltic and South China seas.

While wary of a war with North Korea, Washington seems to be salivating for a war with Iran. Indeed, Trump’s threat to declare Iran in violation of the nuclear arms deal suggests a confrontation is coming.

One wonders: If Congress is hell-bent on confronting the evil that is Iran, why does it not cancel Iran’s purchases and options to buy the 140 planes the mullahs have ordered from Boeing?

Why are we selling U.S. airliners to the “world’s greatest state sponsor of terror”? Let Airbus take the blood money.

Apparently, U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia are insufficient to satiate our War Party. Now it wants us to lead the Sunnis of the Middle East in taking down the Shiites, who are dominant in Iran, Iraq, Syria and South Lebanon, and are a majority in Bahrain and the oil-producing regions of Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. military has its work cut out for it. President Trump may need those transgender troops.

Among the reasons Trump routed his Republican rivals in 2016 is that he seemed to share an American desire to look homeward.

Yet, today, our relations with China and Russia are as bad as they have been in decades, while there is open talk of war with Iran and North Korea.

Was this what America voted for, or is this what America voted against?

Copyright 2017 Creators.com.

August 1, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 2 Comments

Russia adjusts to realities in US politics

“Trump has nothing to do with the anti-Russia campaign and the public remains indifferent, while an improbable coalition of the Congress and the jeering media is orchestrating the chorus.”

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | July 30, 2017

An instance of such monumental patience is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, in Russian diplomacy: Moscow took 179 days to retaliate against former US President Barack Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats on December 30, 2016, ostensibly to show rancour at alleged Russian efforts to interfere with the US presidential election.

The 35 Russian diplomats were “intelligence operatives”, Obama said. He gave them 72 hours to leave American soil, and he impounded two Russian diplomatic compounds as well.

In Moscow, though, President Vladimir Putin responded that Russia wouldn’t retaliate but would decide on further steps only after considering the actions of the incoming new president, Donald Trump.

Putin went on invite the children of American diplomats posted in Russia to a Christmas party in the Kremlin. But he had a master plan.

Putin preferred to start Russia’s discourse with the Trump administration on a creative note. Trump had raised high expectations in Moscow that a brave new world of partnership between Russia and the US might be approaching.

In the months that followed, however, such hopes began dimming even as Russia became a toxic subject in the Washington Beltway.

Nonetheless, residual hope lingered, as Trump deputed state secretary Rex Tillerson to travel to Moscow for talks in April and within the month also received the visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office.

The Russian spirits certainly soared when Trump and Putin held an extraordinary 126-minute meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg where they discussed a range of issues complicating the relationship and yet managed to stay in their positions.

However, the pendulum has now swung to the other extreme with the US Congress passing legislation on further sanctions against Russia. What stunned Moscow is the near-unanimity with which the US lawmakers voted for the bill.

Moscow has drawn two conclusions. First, an intensification of US pressure against Russia is on the cards even as Russophobia has morphed into an anti-Russian mindset. A hardening of the US stance on Ukraine is likely. In Syria, too, Russia is far from a commanding position since several players are, pursuing their own agenda.

The sanctions encompass areas where Russia has the capacity to offer cooperation – energy, defense, mining, railway transport, etc. Curiously, the bill seeks to arm-twist third countries that may be inclined toward developing cooperation with Russia – countries such as India, Vietnam, Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Again, real pressure will come if the US begins to tamper with the strategic balance with Russia.

Second, the legislation virtually takes the Russia policies out of Trump’s hands. Moscow trusted Trump’s instincts to improve relations with Russia and hoped that he’d call the shots ultimately.

But that may be about to change. Congress is reducing Trump to a subaltern role. Russia has no means to leverage influence in the US Congress. Trump may find a way to strike back at the Congress but it is small comfort if political tensions consequently rise in Washington.

All in all, therefore, Moscow sees that a normalization of Russia-US relations can be ruled out for a foreseeable future. The Congress can be expected to determine the US policy towards Russia through the Trump presidency – and this will be a policy of strangling Russia.

This grim prospect leaves Russia with no alternative but to recognise the US as a strategic and key challenge to its security.

Thus, Moscow’s decision on July 28 to curb the US diplomatic presence in Russia may seem a timid response. After all, Moscow is only responding to Obama’s harsh decision and is merely seeking reciprocity with a ceiling of 455 diplomats for both countries (which is where Russian tally currently stands.)

But on close examination, Washington has been made to look foolish. While Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats, Putin’s order to slash the number of US diplomatic staff to 455 will affect a few hundred US personnel currently assigned to Russia.

Moscow is signalling that bilateral cooperation has become pointless. Indeed, Trump has nothing to do with the anti-Russia campaign and the American public remains indifferent, while an improbable coalition of the Congress and the jeering media is orchestrating the chorus. But the realities cannot be ignored.

The triumphalism on the Hill will be short-lived, because the potential strategic consequences for US’ core interests and vital interests are yet to sink in. The West’s policy on Russia now onward becomes a point of discord between Washington and the EU.

China, no doubt, gets a huge strategic windfall, since Moscow will seek closer rapprochement with Beijing, especially on security. A Russian observer noted wryly, “we can easily imagine them (Russia and China) holding military drills in the Straits of Florida near Cuba.”

Knowing Putin, Russia’s response will be calibrated. He implied in remarks while visiting Helsinki on Tuesday that Russia will play the long game.

After all, it is not only in the US’ relations with Russia, but also with allies in Europe and Asia – Germany and Japan, in particular – that fault lines have appeared. Russian diplomacy can be trusted to exploit what Germans call the “zeitgeist” – the spirit of our times – as the US’ global influence inexorably declines.

Russia’s cooperation can be crucial to US interests, and Moscow now has an option to cherry pick. Make no mistake, Moscow will exercise its option highly selectively.

July 31, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Iran sanctions simply don’t add up

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | July 31, 2017

The new legislation by the venerable lawmakers in the United States, imposing sanctions against Iran (along with Russia and North Korea), has an air of inevitability. But what is inevitable doesn’t always have to be logical.

The base line is how effective these sanctions are going to be. Iran is not new to US sanctions and its economy does not depend on trade or investment from the US. In sum, the US lawmakers are hoping to impose the sanctions via the international community.

But the main difference this time as compared to previous US sanctions is that the POTUS happens to be Donald Trump and the international community regards him with profound scepticism bordering on bewilderment. The world opinion is unlikely to rally behind Trump in an enterprise to punish Iran – or on any issue.

There is a big contradiction in the Trump administration’s approach to Iran because it is legislating sanctions while also certifying that Iran’s compliance with the 15 July 2015 nuclear deal [JCPOA] is satisfactory. And for the world community, JCPOA is a vital platform in international security and is the top priority.

Trump doesn’t have the ghost of a chance to get the UN Security Council to sanctify new sanctions against Iran (on whatever pretext). And in the absence of UN mandate, this becomes an issue of his “America First” foreign policy.

Things will be different if Iran retaliates against these sanctions by exiting the JCPOA, pleading that Washington is backing out from the deal. But Tehran is instead playing an astute game. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif said yesterday that Iran will not give a “gift” to Trump.

Zarif signalled that: a) Iran can live with Trump’s sanctions; b) Iran stands to gain more by complying with the JCPOA and earn international goodwill (especially among the world powers); and, c) Iran is utterly free anyway to pursue its missile program (which is indigenous and does not depend on Western technology).

What matters to Iran is that its successful (re)integration with the international community does not suffer any setback. So long as Iran can sell its oil and gas in the world market and so long as there is no sanctions regime with a cutting edge such as the one Barack Obama brilliantly succeeded in imposing (by getting even China and Russia on board), Iran can advance its development agenda.

In fact, Russia’s Gazprom just signed an agreement with Iran’s Oil Industries’ Engineering and Construction to develop Azar and Changuleh oil fields, Iran’s most recent discoveries located in the western province of Lorestan, which are believed to hold an in-place reserve of about 3.5 billion barrels of oil. (Azar is a joint field Iran shares with Iraq.)

Clearly, in the developing global scenario with the US-Russia relations nose diving – and no improvement possible in a foreseeable future – Russian military technology reaches Iran more freely than ever before. Iran’s strategic defiance of the US matters to the Russian strategy.

Equally, China views Iran as the regional hub in its Belt and Road Initiative. Only last week, China agreed to provide $1.5 billion as funding for the upgrade of the Tehran-Meshaad trunk railway line which connects Central Asia.

Suffice to say, if Iran can sell oil in the world market to generate income and with full-throttle cooperation with Russian and Chinese (and even some EU countries), Tehran will be doing reasonably well against Trump’s best-laid plans to “isolate” it.

The EU is giving an unmistakeable signal to Trump through the announcement on Saturday in Brussels that EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will be travelling to Tehran on August 5 to attend the inaugural ceremony of President Hassan Rouhani in her capacity as the head of the Iran-5+1 Joint Commission monitoring the JCPOA. (In addition to Mogherini, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has also announced his intention to participate in the event.

However, this is not to say that Trump will back off from his enterprise to punish Iran and bring about a ‘regime change’. Knowing Trump, he might well be planning to score a hat-trick by dumping the JCPOA sometime around September when the next certification on Iran’s compliance is due – thereby completing a trifecta of withdrawals from international agreements that he inherited from Obama (the other two being Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris accord on climate change.)

How does it all add up? By withdrawing from JCPOA, Trump will the isolating the US in international opinion. The political optic will be simply “disastrous” – to borrow Trump’s favourite idiom. The US will be the outlier.

Trump’s biggest challenge is that while the US’ allies support strict and verifiable implementation of the JCOPA by Iran, they disapprove of Trump’s game plan to create a pretext to collapse or renegotiate the deal. Even for proposing a renegotiation of the JCPOA, Washington needs five of the eight members of the Joint Commission (comprising US, UK, France, Britain, Germany, EU, Russia and China) to back the proposal.

Finally, as the Bible says, “Behold, a little cloud, like a man’s hand is rising” on the horizon – pressure is building over the release of Americans under detention in Iran. Some Iranian news reports recently mentioned the names of several Iranian citizens in jail in the US for sanctions violations.

Tehran could be signalling interest in a quiet conversation over a potential political prisoner exchange similar to what Obama administration once negotiated. Which, of course, requires the Trump administration to engage directly with the government of Iran.

July 31, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

Embraer still waiting US approval for Iran plane sales

Press TV – July 30, 2017

Brazil’s regional jet maker Embraer says it is still waiting for an approval by the US Treasury Department for sales of aircraft to Iran.

The company was quoted by the media as saying that it remained “active and optimistic” with regards to its plans to sell planes to the Islamic Republic.

It added that providing the required funds for the planned sales to Iran was not so much the issue as gaining licenses from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury, the Aviation Week news website reported.

Iran in February 2016 confirmed that it had ordered 50 planes from Brazil’s Embraer, the world’s third biggest commercial aircraft manufacturer.

The confirmation was made by Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, the country’s government spokesman who emphasized that the deal with Embraer will be a hire purchase contract.

Reports later said the Brazilian company was considering a plan to sell its E-195 jets to Iran through a deal which would be worth above $1 billion.

The company requires an OFAC license for the sale to Iran of sensitive jet engine technology in its planes.

Sales of Embraer planes to Iran featured in trade talks between the Islamic Republic and Brazil during a visit to Tehran by Trade Minister Armando Monteiro.

Two major Iranian carriers – ATA and Kish Air – have already announced plans to purchase planes from the Brazilian company.

Apart from selling planes, Minister Monteiro also discussed potential sales of taxis, buses and trucks with Iranian officials during his visit to Tehran, the media reported.

July 30, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Bipartisanship! The Evil Party and Stupid Party Team Up to Cripple Trump, Subvert the Rule of Law, and Put the US on a Road to War

By James George JATRAS | Strategic Culture Foundation | 28.07.2017

The overwhelming approval by both chambers of the US Congress of a bill imposing new, permanent sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea puts President Donald Trump in an impossible position. He can either sign the bill or allow it to become law without his signature, in which case he has acquiesced in the Legislative Branch’s usurpation of what is supposed to be among the Executive’s primary constitutional responsibilities, the conduct of relations with foreign states.

Or he can veto it, but with a total of only five votes against it in both the Senate and the House together, an override is almost certain. Trump would still find his authority curtailed, on top of crippling his clout during the infancy of his term.

Keep in mind that this is being inflicted on Trump mainly by members of his own party. The Republican Congressional leadership can’t manage to repeal Obamacare, reform taxes, stop voter fraud, keep dangerous people out of our country, build the Mexican Wall, or renew our national infrastructure. But they find plenty of time to hold hands with the Democrats, who are trying to unseat the constitutionally elected president in a «soft coup» over phony «Russiagate», to enact a misguided piece of legislation that is expressly intended to guarantee that Trump can’t, under any foreseeable circumstances, improve ties with the one country in the world with which we absolutely must get along, at least on some minimal level: «It’s the Russia, Stupid!»

This is bipartisanship at its worst. In case we need to be reminded, America does not have a multiplicity of parties like most other countries. Instead, we have just two: an «Evil Party» and a «Stupid Party» – and when something is really evil and stupid, we call that «bipartisan».

To appreciate how corrosive of the rule of law this bill is, consider the status of an authority the Constitution does put firmly into the hands of Congress: the power to make war. Congress has uttered hardly a peep of protest over the decades as their most solemn trust has effectively become a dead letter. Successive presidents have conducted operations in or against dozens of countries without authorization from Congress in clear violation of international law. (In fact, during President Bill Clinton’s aggression against Serbia in 1999, Congress affirmatively voted down his request for war authority. He and lapdog NATO proceeded anyway.)

Recently the Pentagon was enraged at Turkey’s revealing the existence of at least 10 secret American bases in northern Syria. The anger was over the exposure of the bases’ existence, not the fact that they had no legal justification to be there at all, under either US domestic law or binding international law. With respect to both the military presence in Syria is lacking, but no one in Congress cares. They’re too busy clipping Trump’s wings.

Let’s keep in mind that in addition to the illegal bases, the US is busy conducting military activities in Syria under the bizarre fiction of acting pursuant to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed in September 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. Under that resolution, the President is authorized to wade war against entities that «authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001». That might conceivably be applicable to the operations of al-Qaeda in Syria, although until President Trump’s recent decision to cut off CIA arms supplies to jihadists in Syria, al-Qaeda linked groups seemed to be mostly beneficiaries of Washington’s involvement, not military targets. It can’t possibly apply to ISIS, which didn’t even exist in 2001. Even more blatantly illegal is the repeated targeting of Syrian governments forces operating on their own territory and fighting against al-Qaeda, among other terrorist groups.

With respect to international law there is no murkiness at all: US actions in Syria are flatly illegal. First, let us keep in mind that treaties and conventions, like the UN Charter, are not optional; they are binding on state parties, and in the US legal system have the same weight as federal statute. Under the Charter, which is the fundamental law of the international system, there are two – and only two – legitimate uses of military force.

  • First, authorization by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII «ACTION WITH RESPECT TO THREATS TO THE PEACE, BREACHES OF THE PEACE, AND ACTS OF AGGRESSION». Clearly, that justification is inapplicable, since the UNSC has authorized no US action in Syria.
  • Second, there is Article 51, which upholds the «inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations». Nobody in Syria has attacked us or any US treaty ally, though Turkey has occasionally flirted with invoking NATO (a collective self-defense organization subject to Article 51, which is cited in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty) while itself aggressing against Syria.

On point of comparison, let’s remember the ex post facto rationales trotted out after the 1999 Kosovo war. As stated by Dr. Richard Falk, in arguing the illegality of military actions against Syria:

In the aftermath of the Kosovo NATO War of 1999 there was developed by the Independent International Commission the argument that the military attack was ‘illegal but legitimate.’ The argument made at the time was that the obstacles to a lawful use of force could not be overcome because the use of force was non-defensive and not authorized by the Security Council. The use of force was evaluated as legitimate because of compelling moral reasons (imminent threat of humanitarian catastrophe; regional European consensus; overwhelming Kosovar political consensus—except small Serbian minority) relating to self-determination; Serb record of criminality in Bosnia and Kosovo) coupled with considerations of political feasibility (NATO capabilities and political will; a clear and attainable objective—withdrawal of Serb administrative and political control—that was achieved). Such claims were also subject to harsh criticism as exhibiting double standards (why not Palestine?) and a display of what Noam Chomsky dubbed as ‘military humanism.’ None of these Kosovo elements are present in relation to Syria.

But of course none of those «compelling moral reasons» were really «present» in Kosovo, either. They were lies then and remain lies today.

In any case, Trump is about to suffer a debilitating wound to his authority, care of the Republican-controlled Congress. Meanwhile the lynch mob led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, with his unlimited budget and all-star lineup of partisan Democrat lawyers, will broaden and dig till they can find someone they can nail for something, dragging it out into the 2018 Congressional election year.

If the Republicans lose the House next year, Trump without any doubt will be impeached. And unlike Democrats, who rallied around «their» president Bill Clinton, enough GOP Senators will rush to convict Trump. He’ll have to resign or be removed. The Deep State’s soft coup will have succeeded.

As the noose tightens around Trump’s neck, there’s only one apparent way out: a splendid little war. Whether it’s against Iran or North Korea may be decided by the flip of a coin.

July 29, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , | 1 Comment

Collateral Damage: U.S. Sanctions Aimed at Russia Strike Western European Allies

By Diana Johnstone | CounterPunch | July 28, 2017

Do they know what they are doing? When the U.S. Congress adopts draconian sanctions aimed mainly at disempowering President Trump and ruling out any move to improve relations with Russia, do they realize that the measures amount to a declaration of economic war against their dear European “friends”?

Whether they know or not, they obviously don’t care. U.S. politicians view the rest of the world as America’s hinterland, to be exploited, abused and ignored with impunity.

The Bill H.R. 3364 “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” was adopted on July 25 by all but three members of the House of Representatives. An earlier version was adopted by all but two Senators. Final passage at veto-overturning proportions is a certainty.

This congressional temper tantrum flails in all directions. The main casualties are likely to be America’s dear beloved European allies, notably Germany and France. Who also sometimes happen to be competitors, but such crass considerations don’t matter in the sacred halls of the U.S. Congress, totally devoted to upholding universal morality.

Economic “Soft Power” Hits Hard

Under U.S. sanctions, any EU nation doing business with Russia may find itself in deep trouble. In particular, the latest bill targets companies involved in financing Nord Stream 2, a pipeline designed to provide Germany with much needed natural gas from Russia.

By the way, just to help out, American companies will gladly sell their own fracked natural gas to their German friends, at much higher prices.

That is only one way in which the bill would subject European banks and enterprises to crippling restrictions, lawsuits and gigantic fines.

While the U.S. preaches “free competition”, it constantly takes measures to prevent free competition at the international level.

Following the July 2015 deal ensuring that Iran could not develop nuclear weapons, international sanctions were lifted, but the United States retained its own previous ones. Since then, any foreign bank or enterprise contemplating trade with Iran is apt to receive a letter from a New York group calling itself “United Against Nuclear Iran” which warns that “there remain serious legal, political, financial and reputational risks associated with doing business in Iran, particularly in sectors of the Iranian economy such as oil and gas”. The risks cited include billions of dollars of (U.S.) fines, surveillance by “a myriad of regulatory agencies”, personal danger, deficiency of insurance coverage, cyber insecurity, loss of more lucrative business, harm to corporate reputation and a drop in shareholder value.

The United States gets away with this gangster behavior because over the years it has developed a vast, obscure legalistic maze, able to impose its will on the “free world” economy thanks to the omnipresence of the dollar, unrivaled intelligence gathering and just plain intimidation.

European leaders reacted indignantly to the latest sanctions. The German foreign ministry said it was “unacceptable for the United States to use possible sanctions as an instrument to serve the interest of U.S. industry”. The French foreign ministry denounced the “extraterritoriality” of the U.S. legislation as unlawful, and announced that “To protect ourselves against the extraterritorial effects of US legislation, we will have to work on adjusting our French and European laws”.

In fact, bitter resentment of arrogant U.S. imposition of its own laws on others has been growing in France, and was the object of a serious parliamentary report delivered to the French National Assembly foreign affairs and finance committees last October 5, on the subject of “the extraterritoriality of American legislation”.

Extraterritoriality

The chairman of the commission of enquiry, long-time Paris representative Pierre Lellouche, summed up the situation as follows:

“The facts are very simple. We are confronted with an extremely dense wall of American legislation whose precise intention is to use the law to serve the purposes of the economic and political imperium with the idea of gaining economic and strategic advantages. As always in the United States, that imperium, that normative bulldozer operates in the name of the best intentions in the world since the United States considers itself a ‘benevolent power’, that is a country that can only do good.”

Always in the name of “the fight against corruption” or “the fight against terrorism”, the United States righteously pursues anything legally called a “U.S. person”, which under strange American law can refer to any entity doing business in the land of the free, whether by having an American subsidiary, or being listed on the New York stock exchange, or using a U.S.-based server, or even by simply trading in dollars, which is something that no large international enterprise can avoid.

In 2014, France’s leading bank, BNP-Paribas, agreed to pay a whopping fine of nearly nine billion dollars, basically for having used dollar transfers in deals with countries under U.S. sanctions. The transactions were perfectly legal under French law. But because they dealt in dollars, payments transited by way of the United States, where diligent computer experts could find the needle in the haystack. European banks are faced with the choice between prosecution, which entails all sorts of restrictions and punishments before a verdict is reached, or else, counseled by expensive U.S. corporate lawyers, and entering into the obscure “plea bargain” culture of the U.S. judicial system, unfamiliar to Europeans. Just like the poor wretch accused of robbing a convenience store, the lawyers urge the huge European enterprises to plead guilty in order to escape much worse consequences.

Alstom, a major multinational corporation whose railroad section produces France’s high speed trains, is a jewel of French industry. In 2014, under pressure from U.S. accusations of corruption (probably bribes to officials in a few developing countries), Alstom sold off its electricity branch to General Electric.

The underlying accusation is that such alleged “corruption” by foreign firms causes U.S. firms to lose markets. That is possible, but there is no practical reciprocity here. A whole range of U.S. intelligence agencies, able to spy on everyone’s private communications, are engaged in commercial espionage around the world. As an example, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, devoted to this task, operates with 200 employees on an annual budget of over $30 million. The comparable office in Paris employs five people.

This was the situation as of last October. The latest round of sanctions can only expose European banks and enterprises to even more severe consequences, especially concerning investments in the vital Nord Stream natural gas pipeline.

This bill is just the latest in a series of U.S. legislative measures tending to break down national legal sovereignty and create a globalized jurisdiction in which anyone can sue anyone else for anything, with ultimate investigative capacity and enforcement power held by the United States.

Wrecking the European Economy

Over a dozen European Banks (British, German, French, Dutch, Swiss) have run afoul of U.S. judicial moralizing, compared to only one U.S. bank: JP Morgan Chase.

The U.S. targets the European core countries, while its overwhelming influence in the northern rim – Poland, the Baltic States and Sweden – prevents the European Union from taking any measures (necessarily unanimous) contrary to U.S. interests.

By far the biggest catch in Uncle Sam’s financial fishing expedition is Deutsche Bank. As Pierre Lellouche warned during the final hearing of the extraterritorial hearings last October, U.S. pursuits against Deutsche Bank risk bringing down the whole European banking system. Although it had already paid hundreds of millions of dollars to the State of New York, Deutsche Bank was faced with a “fine of 14 billion dollars whereas it is worth only five and a half. … In other words, if this is carried out, we risk a domino effect, a major financial crisis in Europe.”

In short, U.S. sanctions amount to a sword of Damocles threatening the economies of the country’s main trading partners. This could be a Pyrrhic victory, or more simply, the blow that kills the goose that lays the golden eggs. But hurrah, America would be the winner in a field of ruins.

Former justice minister Elisabeth Guigou called the situation shocking, and noted that France had told the U.S. Embassy that the situation is “insupportable” and insisted that “we must be firm”.

Jacques Myard said that “American law is being used to gain markets and eliminate competitors. We should not be naïve and wake up to what is happening.”

This enquiry marked a step ahead in French awareness and resistance to a new form of “taxation without representation” exercised by the United States against its European satellites. The committee members all agreed that something must be done.

That was last October. In June, France held parliamentary elections. The commission chairman, Pierre Lellouche (Republican), the rapporteur Karine Berger (Socialist), Elisabeth Guigou (a leading Socialist) and Jacques Myard (Republican) all lost their seats to inexperienced newcomers recruited into President Emmanuel Macron’s République en marche party. The newcomers are having a hard time finding their way in parliamentary life and have no political memory, for instance of the Rapport on Extraterritoriality.

As for Macron, as minister of economics, in 2014 he went against earlier government rulings by approving the GE purchase of Alstom. He does not appear eager to do anything to anger the United States.

However, there are some things that are so blatantly unfair that they cannot go on forever.

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at diana.johnstone@wanadoo.fr

July 29, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Treasury Imposes Secondary Sanctions on 6 Iranian Entities

Sputnik – 28.07.2017

The United States has imposed secondary sanctions on six Iranian entities, the US Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in an update on Friday.

Amir al Mo’menin Industries, Shahid Cheraghi Industries, Shahid Kalhor Industries, Shahid Karimi Industries, Shahid Rastegar Industries and Shahid Varamini Industries have been added to non-proliferation designations, OFAC stated.

In a press release, the Treasury Department said the sanctions were in response to Iran’s claimed launch of a Simorgh satellite on Thursday.

“OFAC sanctioned six Iran-based subordinates of Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), an entity central to Iran’s ballistic missile program,” the release stated.

Each of the six entities is responsible for developing, manufacturing or producing components that can be used in ballistic missiles or launchers, according to OFAC. SHIG is already under US, EU and UN sanctions.

Following reports of the satellite launch, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Washington would consider it to violate the 2010 UN Security Council resolution against Iran’s ballistics program and the “spirit” of the 2015 Joint Plan of Comprehensive Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal.

On July 18, the United States imposed sanctions on 18 entities and individuals over their alleged ties to Iran’s military and ballistic missile program.

Moreover, on Thursday, US Senate approved a bill that would impose new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea. The bill now has to be either signed or vetoed by US President Donald Trump.

Tehran maintains its ballistics program complies with the UN resolution, which called on Iran to refrain from activity related to ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear weapons. Following Iran’s latest test-launch in February, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the test did not violate the resolution because the missiles are not produced to carry nuclear warheads.

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Impressions of Iran

By Robert Fantina | Aletho News | July 25, 2017

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity of visiting Iran. I spent time in the capital city of Tehran, the country’s largest city, and Mashhad, a large city in the northern part of Iran. I saw what I expected to see: each was a bustling city. The downtown area of each was crowded and busy, not unlike other cities I’ve visited in different parts of the world.

Where I gained the impression that Iran was a prosperous, modern nation before my visit, I don’t know. Prior to my departure, when I announced to friends and acquaintances that I would soon be visiting Iran, I was met with shocked reactions. Here are some of the questions I was asked at that time:

  • Is it safe?
  • Don’t you worry about being arrested?
  • Don’t people disappear there all the time?

Following my invitation to visit, but before the actual visit, Tehran experienced its first terrorist attack in several years. I was then asked if I was still going. My response: ‘London has had a few terrorist attacks, but if I were planning a visit there, I’d still go’. This seemed to make sense to my questioner.

Since my return, some of the questions I’ve been asked indicate that my view of Iran as a modern nation is not shared by everyone else. The following are some of the questions I’ve been asked about my visit to Iran:

  • How do the people there live?
  • Did you feel safe?
  • Did anyone stop you from taking pictures?
  • Were you afraid when visiting mosques?

The U.S. demonizes Iran, mainly because it is a powerful country in the Middle East, and Israel cannot countenance any challenge to its hegemony, and when Israel talks, the U.S. listens. Apparently, this demonization is working at least somewhat successfully, judging by the comments I received concerning my trip there.

I have to wonder how this is acceptable in the world community, but then again, there really isn’t much question. The U.S. uses its military might and its declining but still powerful economic strength to intimidate much of the world. This is why the Palestinians still suffer so unspeakably, but that is a topic for another conversation. The U.S. again, in the last few days, asserted that Iran is complying with the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement that regulates Iran’s nuclear development program. Yet it continues to sanction Iran; for some bizarre reason, Iran must comply with its part of this agreement, but the U.S. government doesn’t feel any obligation to maintain its part. If Iran’s leaders were to say that, since the U.S. was not keeping to its word, Iran has no obligation to do so, the U.S.’s leaders would then say, ‘See? We told you so! Iran isn’t living up to the agreement!’.

The U.S.’s continued criticism and sanctions of Iran adds to the impression that it is a rogue nation, funneling all its money into the military, while its oppressed citizens cower in the streets, awaiting arrest for just about anything.

How much, however, does this impression actually mirror the U.S? A few facts are instructive:

  • Currently, the U.S. is bombing 6 nations; Iran, none.
  • The U.S. has used nuclear weapons, resulting in the horrific deaths of hundreds of thousands of people; Iran has never used such weapons.
  • Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has invaded, destabilized and/or overthrown the governments of at least 30 countries; Iran hasn’t invaded another country in over 200 years.
  • The U.S. has the largest per capita prison population in the world: 25% of all people imprisoned in the world are in prisons in the U.S. In the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’, 716 of every 100,000 people are in prison. Iran’s rate is 287 per 100,000.
  • The U.S. finances the brutal apartheid regime of Israel, and has full diplomatic relations with that rouge nation and Saudi Arabia, both of which have human rights records that are among the worst in the world. Iran supports Palestine, and the Palestinians’ struggle for independence.
  • The poverty rate in the U.S. is 13.1%; between 2009 and 2013, Iran’s poverty rate fell from 13.1% to 8.1% (that has increased somewhat since 2014, but details were not readily available).

Based on this limited information, it seems that despite its somewhat successful efforts to demonize Iran, the U.S. is, in fact, the more dangerous and threatening nation.

But such facts are not what interests Congress. Beholden first and foremost to the lobbies that finance election campaigns, and Israeli lobbies chief among them, truth, justice, human rights and international law all take a back seat. And so the propaganda continues, with Iran being portrayed as an evil empire, when all evidence contradicts that view.

It is unfortunate that not everyone in the U.S. is able to visit Iran, to learn for themselves that it is nothing like what the corporate-owned media, working hand-in-hand with the government, portrays. The U.S. government seems anxious to extend its wars to Iran; this would be a global disaster. It is to be hoped that such a catastrophe can be prevented.

July 25, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , | 2 Comments

EU To Retaliate “Within Days” If US Imposes New Sanctions On Russia

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | July 24, 2017

In what appears set to be major diplomatic showdown between Washington D.C. and Brussels, on Sunday the White House said that President Trump was open to signing legislation toughening sanctions on Russia after Senate and House leaders reached agreement on a bill late last week.

“We support where the legislation is now and will continue working with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia until the situation in Ukraine is fully resolved and it certainly isn’t right now,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” program.

As noted yesterday, congressional Democrats said on Saturday they had agreed with Republicans on a deal allowing new sanctions targeting Russia, Iran and North Korea in a bill that would limit any potential effort by Trump to try to lift sanctions against Moscow. A White House official quoted by Reuters later said the administration’s view of the legislation evolved after changes were made, including the addition of sanctions on North Korea. The official said the administration “supports the direction the bill is headed, but won’t weigh in conclusively until there is a final piece of legislation and no more changes are being made.”

As RT notes, restrictions against Russia come as part of the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act, targeting not only Tehran, but also North Korea. Initially passed by the Senate last month, the measures seek to impose new economic measures on major sectors of the Russian economy. The draft legislation would also introduce individual sanctions for investing in Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, outlining steps to hamper construction of the pipeline and imposing sanctions on European companies which contribute to the project.

Other energy projects, such as the Caspian Sea oil and gas pipelines, the Ukraine gas transit, and the Zohr field off the Egyptian coast, may also be affected due to the participation of Russian companies.

Yet while Russia’s adverse reaction is to be expected, and will likely lead to immediate counter-sanctions, perhaps coupled with the expulsion of the aforementioned 35 diplomats as well as confiscation of US properties in Russia, it is the EU’s response that will be closely watched.

According to an internal memo leaked to the press, Brussels said it should act “within days” if new sanctions the US plans to impose on Russia prove to be damaging to Europe’s trade ties with Moscow. Retaliatory measures may include limiting US jurisdiction over EU companies. The memo, reported by the Financial Times and Politico, has emerged amid mounting opposition to a US bill seeking to hit Russia with a new round of sanctions. The bill, if signed into law by the U.S. President, would also give US lawmakers the power to veto any attempt by the president to lift the sanctions.

The document reportedly said European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker was particularly concerned the sanctions would neglect the interests of European companies. Juncker said Brussels “should stand ready to act within days” if sanctions on Russia are “adopted without EU concerns being taken into account,” according to the Financial Times.

The EU memo also warns that “the measures could impact a potentially large number of European companies doing legitimate business under EU measures with Russian entities in the railways, financial, shipping or mining sectors, among others.”

The freshly leaked memo suggests that the EU is seeking “a public declaration” from the Trump administration that it will not apply the new sanctions in a way that targets European interests, as cited by Politico.  Other options on the table include triggering the ‘Blocking Statute,’ an EU regulation that limits the enforcement of extraterritorial US laws in Europe. A number of “WTO-compliant retaliatory measures” are also being considered, according to the memo.

Earlier on Sunday, we reported that Brussels expressed its concerns over the sanctions bill, when the European Commission said in a statement that “the Russia/Iran sanctions bill is driven primarily by domestic considerations,” adding that it “could have unintended consequences, not only when it comes to Transatlantic/G7 unity, but also on EU economic and energy security interests.”

As RT adds, on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “we heard of some corrections to the administration’s stance on sanctions and will wait patiently until it is clearly articulated.” He reiterated that Russia believes the restrictions are “counterproductive” and are harming both US and Russian interests. Russian President Vladimir Putin also warned that any new sanctions on Russia will only result in the deterioration of US-Russia relations.

Germany, Russia’s main European trading partner, called the bill “a peculiar move,” also promising a swift response to it. Some American corporations, including BP, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Boeing, Citigroup, MasterCard, and Visa, have reportedly lobbied against the move. The corporations, according to a CNN report, want changes to the bill, while lobbyists and trade associations have been visiting Capitol Hill in recent days meeting with members of Congress.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the controversial sanctions bill on Tuesday. Previously, adoption of the draft was put on hold as the House was reluctant to pass it, citing “procedural issues.”

With the vote assured passage it will be up to Trump to determine if the feud with Russia dumped on his lap now escalates, and involves European nations who are far closer to Russia in socio-economic terms than they would like to admit.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment