Archive | October 5th, 2017

Hamas elects Saleh Al-Arouri deputy head of its political bureau

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Exiled Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri [Quds Press]

Sources in the movement said that Hamas elected 51-year-old Saleh Al-Arouri as deputy head of its political bureau.

In an interview with Quds Press, the sources, who refused to be named, said: “Al-Arouri was elected by the political bureau of the movement and according to the Hamas covenant.”

Elections began two days ago and ended today. The Shura Council of the Hamas movement, which includes representatives from three regions: the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and outside the Palestinian territories, participated in the elections.

Al-Arouri, who is the founder of the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas in the West Bank, is from the town of Arura, north of the city of Ramallah.

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Islamic Law from Hebron University, south of occupied Jerusalem, is married and has two daughters.

He joined the Islamic Movement at an early age and led Islamic students’ activities at university from 1985 until his arrest in 1992.

He joined the Hamas movement in 1987 and participated in various forms of resistance against the occupation since the movement’s creation.

Al-Arouri was held under administrative detention by Israel between 1990-1992.

He then began to form a military apparatus for Hamas in the West Bank during the period 1991-1992, which contributed to the launch of the Al-Qassam Brigades in the occupied West Bank in 1992.

Israeli occupation forces arrested him in 1992 and he was held until 2007 after being charged with forming the first cells of the Brigades in the West Bank. He was arrested again three months after his release for a period of three years until 2010. Then, the Israeli Supreme Court decided to release him and deport him. It has been reported that he now lives in Malaysia.

He has been a member of the movement’s political bureau since 2010 and is a member of the negotiating team in the Wafa Al-Ahrar deal. He was also a Hamas leader who participated in the recent Cairo dialogues and the movement’s visit to Russia.

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Egyptian army starts third phase of buffer zone plan on Gaza borders

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North Sinai Governor Abdel Fattah Harhour announced Thursday that the third phase of the buffer zone plan along the border areas with Gaza Strip has started.

Buildings and facilities located in the area of the buffer zone have been completely surveyed in preparation for evacuation and demolition, he added.

The first and second phases have been completed, with each phase covering 500 meters. It is believed that the third phase will cover an additional 500 meters.

The first phase involved the displacement of more than 1,000 families, whilst the second phase involved the evacuation of 2,044 families from the area. The third phase will involve approximately 1,215 houses and 40 governmental facilities, according to Harhour’s statements.

The buffer zone is amongst the security measures taken by the Egyptian armed forces in 2014 in order to destroy smuggling tunnels connecting North Sinai with the Gaza Strip. The tunnels were used to smuggle “terrorists and weapons” into the restive Sinai Peninsula, according to Egyptian authorities.

Posted in Africa, Gaza0 Comments

Maduro tells Russia its time to ditch the Dollar and embrace the Rouble and Yuan

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Nicolas Maduro is in Moscow for Russian Energy Week along with many other heads of state from energy producing nations.

President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela has spoken in Moscow as part of Russian Energy Week and proposed that key energy producers work to implement trading strategies which ditch the US dollar in favour of currencies including the Chinese Yuan and Russian Rouble.

Venezuela recently announced that it would begin trading its oil in Yuan and today, President Maduro said that his country seeks to expand the use of other global currencies, including the Russian Rouble.

As reported by RT, the Venezuelan President as suggested,

“Introducing alternative currency baskets, including the Yuan, Rouble, and other currencies will eliminate the impact of futures trading, according to the Venezuelan president”.

Maduro’s thinking is very much in line with the of other BRICS countries, including China and Russia who have begun engaging in bilateral trade using local currencies. Turkey and Russia reached a similar agreement earlier this year.

This comes hot on the heels of the recent BRICS summit in Xiamen where China  announced that it will begin issuing oil futures contracts in gold backed Yuan. Furthermore, the summit placed a heavy emphasis on developing new methods of trade including in local currencies, a new BRICS crypto-currency and perhaps most importantly in a BRICS currency basket.

A currency basket is a name commonly assigned to a value derived from the pooling of different traditional currencies. The most commonly used currency basket is something called Special Drawing Rights, a basket which pools the value of the US Dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen and UK Pound.

As I previously reported,

“The US has previously taken drastic measures when foreign leaders decided to abandon the Dollar as a trading currency. In the year 2000, Iraq stopped trading its oil in the US Dollar, opting instead to trade in Euros, a move that a month prior to the US-UK illegal invasion of Iraq, was reported as having positive effects on the Iraqi economy.

Likewise, former Libyan Revolutionary leader Muammar Gaddafi’s plan to begin trading in what would have been a pan-African gold backed Dinar was exposed in declassified emails as being a source of anger for then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who later masterminded the NATO war which illegally overthrow the Libyan government.

In 2011, the same year that the US and its allies invaded Libya, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the then Managing Director of the IMF was arrested in New York on assault charges. The charges were later dropped but not before he was forced from his powerful position at the IMF while simultaneously ruining his chances to become the President of France. Prior to his arrest he was a favourite to win the Presidency.

Strauss-Kahn’s flagship policy at the IMF was favouring something called Special drawing rights (SDRs), a trading value based on the aggregate value of 4 or 5 major currencies. If countries began using SDRs as a main trading vehicle rather than relying exclusively on the US Dollar, this could have greatly damaged the prestige and international value of the Dollar.

Why was Strauss-Khan arrested in a move which destroyed his pro-SDR career and then later fully exonerated of wrongdoing? The trend in relation to Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi speaks for itself.

Many link the US led wars against Iraq and Libya as being proximately related to the two resource rich states moving away from Dollar dependency.

Unlike Libya and Iraq, Russia and China are nuclear superpowers. Even if the US wanted to overthrow the governments in Moscow and Beijing, any attempts to do this would almost certainly lead to a nuclear world war.

The US has therefore boxed itself into a corner. By leaving Russia, China and their trading partners, including NATO member Turkey with no better option than to begin moving away from the Dollar, the US may well have cooked its own golden, or in this case, green goose”.

When it comes to Venezuela, the government has nothing to lose and much to gain by working with international partners to help create new means of trading oil and other energy futures contracts. The US has already imposed multiple sanctions which means that Venezuela’s only realistic option is to more or less fully ditch the Dollar. Furthermore, Russia and China’s robust defence of Venezuela against Washington’s’ threats of military action and further sanctions, put Caracas in a position of having a kind of geo-political insurance policy that Iraq did not have in 2003 and likewise, Libya did not have in 2011.

As Russia, like Venezuela and Iran are all under US sanctions, all countries would be able to more freely exercise their prerogative in international trade via creating a new means or multiple means of exchange. In Moscow today, Venezuela’s President has made it clear that this is the future he sees for his country and his partners, including Russia and China.

Posted in Russia, Venezuela0 Comments

Bloomberg panics: “Putin has succeeded in making Russia a factor in the Middle East”

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Diplomat says: Russia a ‘nimble boxer’ vs musclebound U.S.

The Saudi king’s first visit brings another Middle East leader to Moscow, and the US deep state is in panic mode.

Of course Russia, China, and other nations, will be more than happy to work with Middle East partners under a framework of international law and mutual respect…something the US hegemony was unwilling to do.

Russia did not so much win the Middle East, as much as the US lost the Middle East, through a devastating mix of regime change, jihadist funding, and illegal invasions.

Via Bloomberg

The Israelis and Turks, the Egyptians and Jordanians — they’re all beating a path to the Kremlin in the hope that Vladimir Putin, the new master of the Middle East, can secure their interests and fix their problems.

The latest in line is Saudi King Salman, who on Wednesday is due to become the first monarch of the oil-rich kingdom to visit Moscow. At the top of his agenda will be reining in Iran, a close Russian ally seen as a deadly foe by most Gulf Arab states.

Until very recently, Washington stood alone as the go-to destination for such leaders. Right now, American power in the region is perceptibly in retreat — testimony to the success of Russia’s military intervention in Syria, which shored up President Bashar al-Assad after years of U.S. insistence that he must go.

“It changed the reality, the balance of power on the ground,” said Dennis Ross, who was America’s chief Mideast peace negotiator and advised several presidents from George H. W. Bush to Barack Obama. “Putin has succeeded in making Russia a factor in the Middle East. That’s why you see a constant stream of Middle Eastern visitors going to Moscow.”

Success brings its own problems. As conflicting demands pile up, it’s not easy to send all those visitors home satisfied. “The more you try to adopt a position of dealing with all sides, the more you find that it’s hard to play that game,’’ Ross said.

Moscow was a major power in the Middle East during the Cold War, arming Arab states against Israel. Its influence collapsed along with communism. When the U.S. invaded Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, Russia was a bystander, unable to do more than protest.

The tables began to turn in 2013, when the U.S. under Obama decided not to attack Assad. Two years later, Putin sent troops and planes to defend him.

For the most part, America’s local allies were firmly in the Assad-must-go camp. They were disillusioned when U.S. military might wasn’t deployed to force him out.

Russia’s clout in the region has grown “because Obama allowed it to,’’ said Khaled Batarfi, a professor at Alfaisal University’s branch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. “Unfortunately he withdrew to a great extent from the Middle East.’’

That view is widespread. It was bluntly expressed last month by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who spent years urging American action against Assad. Talks with the U.S. “couldn’t get any results,’’ he said.

Turkey has now joined Russia and Iran in a plan to de-escalate the conflict. It’s “achieving a result,’’ Erdogan said. Two years ago, tensions between Putin and Erdogan had threatened to boil over, after the Turkish military shot down a Russian jet on the Syrian border. Last Friday, the Russian president flew to Ankara for dinner with his Turkish counterpart and “friend,’’ who’s agreed to buy Russian S-400 air defense missile systems, riling fellow NATO members.

Meanwhile the Saudis, who had financed rebels fighting against Assad, are cooperating with Russia in coaxing the opposition to unite for peace talks – which will likely cement the Syrian leader in power.

America’s Middle East allies mostly welcomed the change of U.S. president, and Donald Trump’s tough talk about challenging Iran. So far, though, he’s stuck close to his predecessor’s policy in Syria, concentrating on fighting Islamic State not Assad.

So, as the goal of regime-change in Syria recedes, priorities have shifted. The Saudis and other Arab Gulf powers are urging Russia to reduce Iran’s role in Syria, where Hezbollah and other Shiite militias supported by Tehran have provided shock troops for Assad’s offensive.

“Russia is better off not to be on one side of it. That’s the key message,’’ said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a U.A.E.-based political analyst. “Here is the king, representing Arab Gulf countries, representing a lot of geopolitical weight, coming to Russia. And Russia has to take that into consideration.’’

But Putin won’t shift his stance on Iran to accommodate Saudi wishes, according to a person close to the Kremlin.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has visited Russia four times in the past 18 months, has also found it hard to sway the Russian leader.

In August, Netanyahu told Putin that Iran’s growing foothold in Syria is “unacceptable.’’ In September he told CNN that the Iranians are trying to “colonize’’ Syria with the aim of “destroying us and conquering the Middle East.’’

Russia, though, refused his demand for a buffer zone inside Syria that would keep the forces of Iran and Hezbollah at least 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Israeli border, a person familiar with the matter in Moscow said. Instead, Russia offered a 5-kilometer exclusion zone, the person said.

Russia also rejected a U.S. demand to make the Euphrates river a dividing line between Syrian government troops and U.S.-supported forces in eastern Syria. This has led to a race to capture territory from retreating Islamic State fighters in a strategic and oil-rich border region.

Yet Russia has succeeded in keeping open channels of communication to all sides, from Iran to Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian radical Islamist group Hamas to Israel, said Ayham Kamel, Middle East and North Africa director at Eurasia Group.

While Russia didn’t give way on the buffer zone, it has a tacit understanding that permits Israel to carry out airstrikes against Hezbollah in Syria, said Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research group set up by the Kremlin.

It’s been mediating, along with Egypt, to end the decade-old inter-Palestinian rift between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Putin invited rival Libyan factions to Moscow, after a series of peace efforts by other countries came to nothing. Russia has become a leading investor in oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan, and was one of the few world powers to refrain from condemning its recent vote on independence.

In economic terms, the contest for influence looks like an unequal one – America’s GDP is 13 times Russia’s. That’s not always the decisive factor, said Alexander Zotov, Moscow’s ambassador to Syria from 1989 to 1994.

“Sometimes you have two boxers coming out to the ring, one is huge with bulging muscles and the other is smaller but nimble, and has a better technique,’’ he said.

While economics are a limiting factor for Russia, Putin also enjoys several advantages over American presidents, according to Paul Salem, vice president of the Middle East Institute in Washington. He has no Congress to worry about, and no elections that he risks losing. Putin has been around for almost two decades, a long time in geopolitics, with “very consistent leadership, a consistent message,” Salem said. “He says what he does, he does what he says.”

Russia’s rise came as U.S. policy makers grew preoccupied with Asia, and the American public tired of Middle East wars – something both Obama and Trump acknowledged.

“Washington remains the indispensable power in the region,’’ said Eurasia’s Kamel. But its commitment to traditional alliances is weakening, he said, and that’s encouraged regional leaders to hedge their bets. “The Kremlin is on everyone’s mind.’’

Posted in Middle East, Russia0 Comments

Erdogan and Rouhani meet in Tehran – offer a united front against Kurdish secessionists

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This comes as US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis defies statements by Donald Trump and tells Congress that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just concluded a press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Both leaders stated that they are firmly committed to the territorial unity of Iraq and also Syria, in the wake of the unilateral secessionist referendum in northern Iraq. While Rouhani called regional Kurds “brothers”, each said that dialogue with legitimate central governments is the only way forward, thus echoing calls of the wider international community, with the exception of Israel whose leaders support Kurdish secession.

Both Presidents also affirmed their commitment to expand growing economic ties, while speaking positively about the Astana peace process for Syria in which Russia, Iran and Turkey have worked jointly to create de-escalation zones in Syria, each of which has also been approved by the Syrian government.

Today’s successful meeting is a further sign of Turkey’s pivot towards fellow Eurasian powers and away from NATO, in spite of Ankara’s continued, however uneasy membership of the US led alliance. It also represents a commitment from the two largest non-Arab powers in the Middle East towards preserving the unity and integrity of Arab states whose borders are under threat from Kurdish secessionist movements.

Over the last several months, America’s traditional ally Turkey and its post-1979 adversary Iran have been taking meaningful steps to enhance bilateral cooperation. In August of this year, Iran’s most senior military General, Mohammad Baqeri visited President Erdogan in Ankara.

Since then, Turkey and Iran have cooperated on a border wall between the two countries aimed at cutting off Kurdish militant groups from supplying arms across states. In the last weeks, both Iran and Turkey have been conducting joint military exercises with the Iraqi army in areas which border Iraq’s Kurdish region.

While the US and Israel continue to use proxy wars and hybrid conflicts to foment ideological discord in the Middle East, Turkey and Iran’s relationship is increasingly one of pragmatic mutual  self-interest.

As I wrote recently in The Duran,

“Turkey’s relationship with Iran is built on mutual economic benefits, geo-political realism, petro-politics and the need to intensify regional cooperation in preparation for the arrival of One Belt–One Road in the Middle East. Turkey is no more ideologically in-line with Iran than Russia is. Each country has a completely different state ideology and if anything, were Erdogan to fully bring Sunni Islamism to the front and centre of formerly secular Turkey, this will actually mean that Turkey will be even more ideologically different from Iran vis-a-vis a more religiously neutral Kemalist state.

Erdogan is ultimately not an ideologue, even though his language might often obscure such a fact. Erdogan is actually a pragmatist with a very loud and sometimes loose tongue. Erdogan is a man whose co-opting of Turkish civil society ought to read as a master text for leaders looking to consolidate their rule, gradually remove or placate opponents and remake civil institutions to work in one’s personal favour. Few could pull such a thing off and no Turkish leader since Ataturk has made such a profound mark on the Turkish state.

Likewise, Erdogan’s geo-politics is equally pragmatic. Erdogan has not distanced himself from NATO, the US and EU because of some desire to join ‘club Eurasia’. He has become part of ‘club Eurasia’ because he realised that this will be to Turkey’s economic benefit and that Russia and Iran are more easy to work with than the EU. The contest between an increasingly closed and economically retarded EU and China’s One Belt–One Road, which in any case will still give Turkey access to the EU through the backdoor, was not a matter of ideology, it was a matter of obvious self-interest.

Furthermore, even Erdogan’s decision to quietly shift from a position of ‘Assad must go’ to working in the Astana group and tacitly conceding that the Ba’ath party will remain in power in Damascus is a totally  pragmatic move.

Erdogan switched teams in order to join the winning side in respect of Syria. He thought he’d be able to get a piece of the Syrian pie by calling for regime change and now that he’s sensed that no regime change will occur, he’s increasingly linking himself with Russia and Iran as a ‘master peacemaker’ even though in this respect, Russia is doing most of the heavy lifting.

Here too Erodgan in exiting from the US camp over Syria , he has likewise exited the Israeli camp, though not for ideological reasons”.

While the US rings its hands over how to handle its balancing act between Baghdad the Iraqi Kurds, Turkey and Iran are bolstering Baghdad’s position and by extrapolation that of Damascus, in taking matters into their own hands.

It is also noteworthy that shortly before Erdogan’s meeting with Rouhani, US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis offered a statement which seemingly defies Donald Trump’s view that the JCPOA (aka the Iran nuclear deal) is an “embarrassment” to the United States.

Mattis took a contrary view, stating,

“I believe that they [Iran] fundamentally are [in compliance]. There have been certainly some areas where they were not temporarily in that regard, but overall our intelligence community believes that they have been compliant and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] also says so.

The point I would make is that if we can confirm that Iran is living by the agreement, if we can determine that this is in our best interest, then clearly we should stay with it. I believe at this point in time, absent indications to the contrary, it is something that the president should consider staying with”.

The statement from Mattis was echoed by the Chairman of  the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John  Dunford. This demonstrates that the Pentagon has taken a far more moderate view on Iran than that of the US President. This moderate view is one that is officially shared by the United Nations, the US State Department and to all other parties who signed the JCPOA, including the European Union, Russia and China.

This apparent discrepancy between the Pentagon and White House in respect of Iran, mirrors a recent Twitter row Donald Trump had with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. After Tillerson told journalists that the US maintains basic contacts with North Korea, Donald Trump Tweeted that such attempts at diplomacy were useless. It is still not clear if this is a ‘good cop–bad cop’ strategy or if the Trump administration is simply a rudderless ship.

I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…

…Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!

Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail.

In this sense, President Rouhani’s approach which is centred around not actively countering US rhetoric, but instead allowing pragmatic realities to move at a faster pace than US rhetoric, appears to have paid off.

Now, even the arguably most important member of the Trump administration, General Mattis is conceding that Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA. Furthermore, in Turkey’s turn towards Iran and Russia, the US has effectively lost control over its largest Middle Eastern ally. Turkey is now pursuing an independent foreign policy and business strategy in which Iran, Russia and China will ultimately be of far more use to Ankara than the EU or Washington.

Posted in Iran, Iraq, Turkey0 Comments

Spanish King lines up with Prime Minister to condemn Catalonia

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No words of reconciliation, only more threats and bullying.

Spain’s King Felipe VI has made a televised address in which he offered heavy handed words of condemnation for the leaders of the Catalan independence movement.

Felipe VI began by stating that, “We find ourselves at a critical juncture as a democracy”, before explaining why Madrid thinks that the Catalan exercise in democracy deserved carpet condemnation.

Like Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the King of Spain proceeded to call the referendum an outlaw act and calling a would-be declaration of independence “illegal”.

As a result of this particular statement from the King, Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan leader has publicly stated that Catalonia will declare its independence within a matter of days.

The remainder of the Spanish King’s short speech was largely a diatribe against Catalan leaders and the wider Catalan independence movement.  In many respects, what the King did not say was more telling than what he did say. There was no call for dialogue, for deescalation or the offer of any proposal for reconciliation or mediation. As is the case with Premier Rajoy, the King stated Madrid’s official position that the referendum is illegitimate and that any subsequent declaration of independence is illegal, but no solutions were offered apart from a commitment to a status quo that has clearly failed.

In many ways, Madrid’s attitude towards Catalonia mirrors post-2014 Kiev’s attitude towards Donbass. It is an attitude that seeks to ‘re-claim’ territory that in the case of Donbass has separated and in the case of Catalonia appears to be on the verge of official separation, but without regard for the wishes of the people in that territory. It’s as though to say, “we still want your region and its abundant resources, but we don’t want nor care for you, the people”.

While the regime in Kiev proceeded to attempt and ‘win Donbass back’ through an ongoing war of ethnic cleansing, Madrid has not crossed that Rubicon yet. The EU is supposed to have mechanisms in place to avoid such a catastrophe, but frankly, the EU was supposed to have mechanisms in place to prevent violent police brutality against peaceful voters and this clearly failed.

While the leadership in Madrid are well known to harbour latent neo-Francoist tendencies, the prevailing hope is that they will stop short of unleashing the kind of violence that marred Spanish society during the Civil War of the 1930s.

Ultimately, no matter what one’s position on Catalan independence, rejecting dialogue is now, not only dangerous, but absurd. Madrid’s attitude has only entrenched Catalan opinion against Spain, whereas allowing the vote to proceed peacefully may well have allowed for some Catalan voices for unity to also have their say. As things stand, many more Catalans joined the independence movement than ever before in 21st century history, as a direct result of the disparaging attitude of Madrid and the heavy handed policing tactics on voting day.

As I wrote shortly after the final vote,

“In respect of Brussels, it may be a matter of far too little, far too late and inversely for Madrid, it may be a matter of crossing a red line for Catalonia by using such heavy handed policing and political techniques to try and suppress Catalans from conducting an exercise in regional democracy and peaceful free speech.

It is however, not too late to try and create an atmosphere of dialogue and reconciliation between Madrid and Barcelona. What is clear however, is that Mariano Rajoy, the current Spanish Prime Minister cannot be the man to conduct such talks, nor do many of his front line government ministers seem up to the task. Rajoy’s arrogant remarks and his apparent praise of clear police brutality against unarmed people including young women and the elderly, means that he has no leg to stand on in would-be respectful discussions with the leaders in Catalonia.

This too exposes the hypocrisy of western mainstream media. In countries that the western mainstream media tends not to understand and have likely never even visited, pundits are quick to say that certain non-western leaders ‘must go’.

In Spain, a country in the heart of western Europe, about which western MSM journalists ostensibly have a great deal of knowledge about, little is being said about the figure of Mariano Rajoy and has terrible handling of the referendum in Catalonia.

If Rajoy resigns and is replaced by a more moderate figure, there is a chance that a special conference organised by the EU, an institution to which Spain belongs and which an independent Catalonia seeks to join, could be held in order to reach some sort of agreement. Even if independence is inevitable, surely it is in the interest of the EU, Madrid and Barcelona to foster an atmosphere where Spain and a Catalan Republic could be good neighbours rather than perpetual foes.

There is no other reasonable solution. The question therefore is: who has the moral and political courage to unapologetically call for such a solution and make sure that it becomes a new reality?”

Rather than offering consolation through unity, the Spanish King merely acted as a mouthpiece of the Rajoy regime. Madrid is doing everything it can to lose Catalonia, whether the speech writers and policy makers realise it or not.

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US may revoke Pakistan’s “Non-NATO Ally” status

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James “Mad Dog” Mattis is threatening to do to Pakistan, something many in Pakistan want to do voluntarily.

US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis has just stated that the US is considering revoking Pakistan’s status as a non-NATO ally.

Pakistan joined a club of US partner which are given non-NATO ally status in 2004. Being classed as a non-NATO ally gives nations outside of Europe and Europe’s often controversial near-abroad, similar rankings and ostensibly privileges as formal members of the US led alliance. Other members of the non-NATO ally group include Israel, Japan, South Korea, Egypt and Jordan.

Mattis has stated that the US may kick Pakistan out of the group because of Pakistan’s alleged support of the Afghan Taliban.

Donald Trump and his cabinet colleagues have worked hard to push a narrative that Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism and that in particular, Pakistan aids armed factions in neighbouring Afghanistan. The allegations which have thus far not been backed up by any evidence, are similar to the kinds of things said by Indian mass media and  Hindutva politicians.

However, Pakistan’s growing schism with the United States is, in reality, over a host of issues, all of which are related to Pakistan’s pivot away from the US and its related pivot towards China and Russia.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor build on the border between the two countries is arguably the most important part of One Belt–One Road. It is certainly the most involved and potentially rewarding part of One Belt–One Road which has been or is being built to-date.

In line with One Belt–One Road, Pakistan has been intensifying economic and political cooperation with China.

At the same time, Pakistan’s relations with Russia have reached an all time high. Pakistan’s membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which was attained this year (along with India) shows that Pakistan is now a full member of the geo-political security group whose most prominent founder members are China and Russia. By contrast, Pakistan’s effective junior membership of what amounts to ‘NATO Lite’ has been one fraught with bearing the burden of a failed US policy in Afghanistan, a policy that many Pakistanis have come to increasingly resent and for good reason, it has objectively failed to bring peace to Afghanistan and security to Pakistan.

China and Russia’s firm defence of Pakistan which came shortly after Donald Trump’s speech announcing a troop surge in Afghanistan, sent a clear message that China and Russia value their Pakistani ally and will diplomatically defend Islamabad against what amounts to baseless allegations from Washington.

As I wrote previously in The Duran

“Russia learned from experience what the US has failed to learn after nearly 16 years in Afghanistan: no peaceful solution can take place without the Pashtun majority having their interests accounted for. The strongest group around which many Pashtuns now rally is the Taliban and has been so for decades.

Russia who in the 1980s fought against the people who would come to support the Taliban in the 1990s, has realised that there is a time for war and a time for dialogue.

It was this approach that allowed Russia to accept Akhmad Kadyrov as a loyal subject to Russia even though he had been a supreme enemy of the state just years prior to this reconciliation. Likewise, in Afghanistan, Russia realises that the Taliban, the moderate rebels of modern Afghanistan, cannot be disregarded and nor can they be bombed into coming to the peace table, not least because many Taliban leaders have already made comparatively generous peace offers that Afghanistan’s neighbours such as Pakistan could easily work with.

Russia has let the ideological wars of the past slip into memory and Russia’s modern leaders have learned the lessons necessary to formulate a new Afghan policy. This new Russian policy of dialogue with the Taliban is in line with that of Pakistan which seeks a stable country free from American or Indian influence on its western border and it is also what China seeks as China requires a stable Pakistan and a comparatively placid Afghanistan in order to complete a crucial section of One Belt–One Road infrastructure in the region. Iran too has come to this realisation in more ways than one.

Ultimately, Russia’s pragmatic approach to Afghanistan is one of dialogue between the Taliban and Kabul. The Taliban’s  popularity among Pashtuns remains strong and most importantly, the Taliban commitment to dialogue is not theoretical but realistic, as many Taliban leaders have stated that they seek a negotiated peace with Kabul once the US vacates the country. This could also help forming a united front against ISIS in Afghanistan, a group opposed by both the Kabul government and the Taliban and of course also Russia, Pakistan and China.

As I wrote shortly after the initial troop surge announcement,

“Today, Pakistan is increasingly supportive of proposals by China and Russia which involve a negotiated settlement to the conflict which involves both the current fractious government as well as the increasingly powerful, influential and in many regions popular Taliban factions. Such proposals fit in with Pakistan’s long term strategy in Afghanistan and suit Islamabad’s contemporary regional desire for stability.

While in the 1980s and 1990s India tended to side with Russia, it is looking increasingly likely that India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to take a more American approach to the conflict.

 However, it remains far from certain whether India will commit troops to the recently announced ‘Trump surge’ or whether India can offer anything at a peace keeping table beyond joining with the United States to further alienate Pakistan, causing Islamabad to grow even closer to Beijing than it already is. In this context, growing closer to Beijing also means implicitly growing closer to Moscow as China and Russia have offered similar solutions to the conflict, both of which involve fostering dialogue between the government in Kabul and the Taliban.

China is all too aware that The United States is isolated in the region in respect of a peace process. Iran is increasingly seeing things along the same lines as Russia and China and in any case, the chances of Donald Trump working with Iran anywhere are nil. The lone exception to this pattern of isolation is India. Under Modi, New Delhi may use Trump’s offer to try and upset the status quo of the region in which all of the key powers are increasingly cooperating with China’s One Belt–One Road project, India being the lone country which under Modi is increasingly hellbent on antagonising China at every opportunity”.

Ultimately Trump’s plan of drawing India into the Afghan conflict in order to antagonise or ‘contain’ Pakistan, ultimately failed. India is happy to supply the rhetoric to such an endeavour but has not been eager to supply the men or material commitments.

Because of this, the US is now directly threatening Pakistan with a demotion from a US led alliance. The trouble for the US is that Pakistan is increasingly seeing such moves as a welcome change.

Popular Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan has been calling for Pakistan to distance itself from US military and geo-political power for many years and now mainstream opinion in Pakistan has largely caught up with such a notion.

Pakistan is no longer quietly seething about the US attitude towards Islamabad. Instead, Pakistan feeling confident in its own economic progress and having faith the good intentions of China and Russia, is moving closer to a position of withdrawing from America’s orbit of its own accord. In this sense, James “Mad Dog” Mattis has just threatened Pakistan with something that many in Pakistan want and want badly.

Posted in USA, Pakistan & Kashmir0 Comments

Ron Paul asks, “What has the US achieved in Syria? Nothing good”

NOVANEWS

The US has shipped two billion dollars worth of weapons to fighters in Syria via eastern Europe.

Now that the US/Saudi sponsored ISIS-Al Qaeda army is at the edge of defeat, and the mainstream media has conveniently forgotten all about the war in Syria, Ron Paul dares to ask “What Did Washington Achieve in its Six Year War on Syria?” 

The scary part of Ron Paul’s analysis; the narrative shift of the Syrian conflict from the DC swamp. From “preventing genocide” of the Yazidis to “protect against Iranian influence”…Syria is winning the war against the US/Saudi jihadist proxy army, but the American intervention in Syria may not end anytime soon.

Via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity…

Now that the defeat of ISIS in Syria appears imminent, with the Syrian army clearing out some of the last ISIS strongholds in the east, Washington’s interventionists are searching for new excuses to maintain the illegal US military presence in the country. Their original rationale for intervention has long been exposed as another lie.

Remember that President Obama initially involved the US military in Iraq and Syria to “prevent genocide” of the Yazidis and promised the operation would not drift into US “boots on the ground.” That was three years ago and the US military became steadily more involved while Congress continued to dodge its Constitutional obligations. The US even built military bases in Syria despite having no permission to do so! Imagine if Syria started building military bases here in the US against our wishes.

After six years of war the Syrian government has nearly defeated ISIS and al-Qaeda and the US-backed “moderates” turned out to be either Islamist extremists or Kurdish soldiers for hire. According to a recent report, the US has shipped two billion dollars worth of weapons to fighters in Syria via eastern Europe. Much of these weapons ended up in the hands of ISIS directly, or indirectly through “moderates” taking their weapons with them while joining ISIS or al-Qaeda.

“Assad must go,” proclaimed President Obama back in 2011, as he claimed that the Syrian leader was committing genocide against his own people and that regime change was the only way to save Syrians. Then earlier this year, when eastern Aleppo was about to be liberated by the Syrian government, the neocons warned that Assad would move in and kill all the inhabitants. They warned that the population of eastern Aleppo would flee from the Syrian army. But something very different happened. According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration, 600,000 refugees returned to Syria by August. Half of the returnees went back to Aleppo, where we were told Assad was waiting to kill them.

What happened? The neocons and “humanitarian interventionists” lied.Just as they lied about Libya, Iraq, and so on.

While it was mostly ignored by the mainstream media, just this week a Christian was elected speaker of the Syrian parliament. The new speaker is a 58-year-old Orthodox Christian law graduate and member of President Assad’s Baath party.

How many Christians does our “ally” Saudi Arabia have in its parliament? Oh I forgot, Saudi Arabia has no elected parliament.

Why does it seem that US policy in the Middle East always hurts Christians the most? In Iraq, Christians suffered disproportionately from the 2003 US invasion. In fact there are hardly any Christians left. Why aren’t more US Christian groups demanding that the US get out of the Middle East?

The US is not about to leave on its own. With ISIS all but defeated in Syria, many in Washington are calling for the US military to continue its illegal occupation of parts of the country to protect against Iranian influence! Of course before the US military actions in Iraq and Syria there was far less Iranian influence in the region! So US foreign interventionism is producing new problems that can only be solved by more US interventionism? The military industrial complex could not have dreamed of a better scheme to rob the American people while enriching themselves!

What have we achieved in Syria? Nothing good.

Posted in USA, Syria0 Comments

Zionist Erdogan’s son lashes out at the European (infidel) way of life

NOVANEWS

Erdogan’s son lashes out at the European (infidel) way of life

Angela Merkel said in an election debate last month it was clear Turkey should not join the EU

Turkish President Erdogan said over the weekend that Turkey no longer needs EU membership.

According to Keep Talking Greece, Erodgan’s son, Bilal, who plays an important role in Turkey’s politics went even further and described the Europeans as “gavur” (indifels). The comments come after 12-year-long accession talks with Brussels grind to a halt.

Erdogan said

“We will not be the side which gives up. To tell the truth, we don’t need EU membership anymore.”

Erdogan continues to bash Europe, knowing full well that when push comes to shove, and Europe’s migrant problem flares up once more thanks to a deliberately porous Turkish border, Angela Merkel will most surely run to Turkey to kiss the ring of the Sultan.

Until then, mocking Christian Europeans, or at least what’s left of them, has become a family affair.

Keep Talking Greece reports…

Turkey’s 12-year-long accession talks have ground to a halt, with the EU especially critical of Ankara’s crackdown following a failed coup last year. Tens of thousands of people including teachers and journalists have been detained.

Erdogan’s government says EU states failed to appreciate the gravity of the threat which Turkey faced, and did not respond to requests to extradite coup suspects.

“The EU failed us in a fight against terrorism,” Erdogan said on Sunday, though he also suggested the bloc still needed Turkey.

“If the EU is going to leap forward, there is only one way to do so. And it is to grant Turkey membership and start an action of cultural and economic growth,” Erdogan said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an election debate last month it was clear Turkey should not join the EU and entry talks should end, despite it being a crucial NATO ally.

His son Bilal Erdogan lashed out against against the European -the West- way of life in general and and called “gavur” (infidels) those Turks who “wear clothes, watch films, listen to music and eat Western food.”

“In this country, nothing was allowed to be done nationally. Now, we produce our own aircraft, our tank, our rifle. […]. Why are we looking for these infidel attitudes? […] We are the grandsons of an ancestor with swords, rides, arrows, ” Erdogan’s son stirred told a crowd of western-suits wearing men.

The term Gavur  infidel  in English – is an offensive term, a slur, historically used in the Ottoman Empire for Christians, such as Orthodox Christians in the Balkans (non-Muslims).

Good Luck, then, all the way back to Ottoman times with Janissary costumes and fake mustaches…

Posted in Turkey0 Comments

Two Storms Hit Puerto Rico: Maria and Colonialism

NOVANEWS

Photo by The National Guard | CC BY 2.0

Fans of socialist Rosa Luxemburg looking at Hurricane Maria’s assault on Puerto Rico may recall the deaths of 40 000 people in 1902 when Mt. Pelee erupted in Martinique, a French colony.  Luxemburg wrote then that “the lords of the earth,” who with “faith unshaken – in their own wisdom …have all turned to Martinique [to] help, rescue, dry the tears and curse the havoc-wreaking volcano.” They had plundered and murdered in colonies like Martinique and she was accusing them of hypocrisy in trying to comfort the survivors.

Currently that accusation applies to U. S. words and deeds in the wake of two recent hurricanes – particularly Hurricane Maria – that left Puerto Rico in shambles.

Food, water, and medical supplies were almost exhausted nine days after Maria struck. Lack of diesel fuel to power generators caused electricity shortages such that in hospitals air-conditioners and therapy devices weren’t working. Patients dependent on respirators were dying. The entire electricity grid is destroyed. Puerto Ricans are in the dark and without refrigeration or means for communication. Recovery is measured in months or years.

The U. S. government quickly provided disaster relief funds for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida, respectively. But more than a week after Maria hit Puerto Rico no extra emergency funds were heading for the island. President Trump reminded Puerto Ricans of their debt obligations. News reports mentioned Puerto Rico’s chronic infrastructure deficiencies, but didn’t offer much explanation.

Indeed, Puerto Ricans were facing great difficulties prior to the hurricanes. Almost half of all Puerto Ricans live in poverty, including 60 percent of the island’s children.  Almost 200 schools closed in the months before the hurricanes. The University of Puerto Rico was on the way to losing an estimated $300 million in funds. Public fundingfor healthcare was being reduced. Blame for these problems falls on the U. S. government.

Under new regulations in 1976, corporations gained tax advantagesfor setting up factories on the island. Thereafter, the island’s government ran short of money and secured loans from Wall Street bankers. Later Washington authorities removed the tax advantages and factories departed. By 2016 Puerto Rico’s government owed creditors $74 billion and owed pension funds $50 billion.

The U. S. Congress that year passed its PROMESA law which prioritized payments on debt over human needs. But even before then, Puerto Rico’s government had been cutting away at social services. PROMESA established a Financial Control Board that, according to critic Nelson Denis, is “the de facto government, banker, judge, jury, and executioner of Puerto Rico.”

The die had already been cast. The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 – the Jones Act – benefitted U. S. shipbuilders. Still in effect, it assigns the job of transporting goods from one U. S. port to another exclusively to U. S. ships and U. S. crews. Under the law, says Denis, “any foreign registry vessel that enters Puerto Rico must pay punitive tariffs, fees and taxes, which are passed on to the Puerto Rican consumer.”

Consumer items from the U. S. mainland cost twice as much in Puerto Rico as they do in other Caribbean islands. The cost of living on the island is 13 percent higher than in hundreds of urban areas in the United States.

To promote recovery in Texas and Florida from hurricane damage, the U. S. Congress quickly exempted those places from Jones Act restrictions. But President Trump took over a week to do the same for Puerto Rico. He acted after the Defense Department determined that a waiver for Puerto Rico, in effect for only ten days, would serve national defense.

Puerto Rico has been a special case ever since it was occupied by the U. S. Army in 1898.  Two years later the U. S. Congress took charge of the island and large areas of Puerto Rican farm land fell into U. S. hands. Legislation in 1950 enabled Puerto Ricans to write their own constitution, but required that it be subject to U. S. laws and regulations. Puerto Ricans don’t vote in U. S. presidential elections. They aren’t represented in the U. S. Congress.

Now murmurings are heard of privatization of Puerto Rico’s electrical system, and hedge fund creditors are offering a new billion – dollar loan to “re-establish the electricity system and facilitate access to federal funds.”

But workers on the island may learn from their recent experience, says Puerto Rico’s Communist Party: “People’s wrath provoked by the criminal negligence of the [island’s] government before Maria’s arrival will only increase with each broken promise, each example of government impotence and each slap in the face.”

Rosa Luxemburg weighs in: “a day will come when another volcano lifts its voice of thunder … And only on its ruins will the nations come together in true humanity, which will know but one deadly foe – blind, dead nature.”

Posted in Puerto Rico0 Comments


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