Archive | December 8th, 2017

The Murder of ALI ABDULLAH SALEH and the Endless Crisis of Yemen…

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The Cruel Murder of ALI ABDULLAH SALEH and the Endless Crisis of Yemen…

The murder of former Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh by Houthi rebels will simply guarantee continued and intensified attacks by the Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Yemen since March 2015.

By Sunday, Houthi fighters had taken control of most of the capital, Sanaa, with intense battles going on in the city.

Saudi airstrikes didn’t prvent the Houthi fighters from reaching former President Saleh’s own home on Monday. Shortly after this, the reports began to circulate that he had been murdered, with some versions of the story claiming he had been taken out of the vehicle he had attempted to flee in and summarily executed by Houthi fighers acting no better than Al-Qaeda fighters or jihadists.

The unsettling footage circulating on the Internet and some news channels appeared to show Saleh’s body – with a bullet-wound to the head – being paraded around in the open back of a truck (I preferred not to show it here, but it’s here if anyone wants to see it).

His murder, as has been noted elsewhere, is eerily reminiscent of the brutal murder of Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011.

The Gaddafi comparison arguably goes even further than just the grim manner of death.

Ali Abdullah Saleh, like Gaddafi, had been leader in his country for decades. And, like Gaddafi, he was a ‘victim’ of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, which was what forced him from power a few years ago. Also like Gaddafi in Libya, Saleh was considered by all to be a master at maintaining relationships with all the various tribes in Yemen. As in Libya and a number of other Arab countries, the tribal make-up in Yemen is a delicate thing, and not just anyone can effectively deal with that system or know how to keep everything together.

Saleh has been regarded as a very effective deal-maker in his relationships with Yemen’s tribal interests, which is one of the reasons he was able to stay in power for so long. For many years, he was able to hold the impoverished country together, preventing tribal conflicts from erupting or spilling out of control.

That Saleh was guilty of corruption isn’t argued: but he was by no means the most corrupt leader in a region ruled almost exclusively by dictators or by corrupt regimes (some of them being Western-backed regimes, others not).

Nevertheless, despite his decades in power, the Arab Spring protests were the beginning of his downfall.

But a number of Arab commentators have argued that the fact Saleh still remained in the picture as a key player even after the Arab Spring and his dismissal is proof of how important a figure he was in Yemen: a figure with decades’ worth of relationship-building and influence all across the country.

That is a person it is very difficult to replace or replicate, as has been found in post-Gaddafi Libya.

The irony of his death is that his murderers – the Ansar Alla – were the same people he had been in alliance with against the Saudis and their preferred Yemeni leader.

Up until just a few days ago, were he to have been killed it would’ve been at the hands of the Saudi-led coalition. But Saleh’s apparent decision to try to enter a diplomatic solution with the Saudis and their coalition was – according to most reports – what caused the Houthis to kill him and then boast about it.

While many question Saleh’s decision to enter an alliance with the Houthis in the first place, it was arguably in his long-standing nature as a deal-maker who repeatedly sought alliances with different tribes or factions.

He also must’ve seen the Houthis as a valuable alliance in terms of fighting Al-Qaeda. According to Foreign Policy, Saleh – like Gaddafi in Libya – had been so successful at combating Al-Qaeda that ‘Washington’s priority in Yemen shifted from counter-terrorism to promoting democracy.’

Washington may have therefore been complicit in Saleh’s downfall during the Arab Spring, despite Saleh being an effective ally in the Bush regime’s so-called War on Terror.

His decision to abandon the Houthis and seek a diplomatic rapproachment with the Saudis might’ve been borne out of some kind of self-interest: but it also may have simply been a case of Saleh seeing no other solution to the crisis in Yemen.

With the Saudi bombing of Yemen – along with the enormous humanitarian crisis – having gone on now for over two years, Saleh, arguably, simply saw that it was time to end the devastation; and seeing the Houthis as both a lost cause and a total no-go for the Saudis, he may have seen no other choice but seeking an arrangement with the Saudis to bring about an end to all the bombing.

Many commentators now say the Houthis’ decision to murder him has effectively destroyed any possibility they had of any kind of long-term victory; as he was their only possibility for any kind of legitimacy in Yemen.

Instead, with his blood on their hands, they may in fact unite the majority of the country against them more fully.

What’s clear is that the situation in Yemen is not going to improve; and there will be no relenting from the Saudi coalition while the Houthis are still fighting on. Which means, as usual, it is the people – including scores and scores of starving, ill or malnourished children – who will continue to suffer, caught in the middle.

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When Washington Cheered the Jihadists

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Exclusive: Official Washington helped unleash hell on Syria and across the Mideast behind the naïve belief that jihadist proxies could be used to transform the region for the better, explains Daniel Lazare.

By Daniel Lazare

When a Department of Defense intelligence report about the Syrian rebel movement became public in May 2015, lots of people didn’t know what to make of it. After all, what the report said was unthinkable – not only that Al Qaeda had dominated the so-called democratic revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for years, but that the West continued to support the jihadis regardless, even to the point of backing their goal of creating a Sunni Salafist principality in the eastern deserts.

Journalist James Foley shortly before he was executed by an Islamic State operative in August 2014.

The United States lining up behind Sunni terrorism – how could this be? How could a nice liberal like Barack Obama team up with the same people who had brought down the World Trade Center?

It was impossible, which perhaps explains why the report remained a non-story long after it was released courtesy of a Judicial Watch freedom-of-information lawsuit. The New York Times didn’t mention it until six months later while the Washington Post waited more than a year before dismissing it as “loopy” and “relatively unimportant.” With ISIS rampaging across much of Syria and Iraq, no one wanted to admit that U.S. attitudes were ever anything other than hostile.

But three years earlier, when the Defense Intelligence Agency was compiling the report, attitudes were different. Jihadis were heroes rather than terrorists, and all the experts agreed that they were a low-risk, high-yield way of removing Assad from office.

After spending five days with a Syrian rebel unit, for instance, New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers wrote that the group “mixes paramilitary discipline, civilian policing, Islamic law, and the harsh demands of necessity with battlefield coldness and outright cunning.”

Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, assured the Washington Post that “al Qaeda is a fringe element” among the rebels, while, not to be outdone, the gossip site Buzzfeed published a pin-up of a “ridiculously photogenic” jihadi toting an RPG.

“Hey girl,” said the subhead. “Nothing sexier than fighting the oppression of tyranny.”

And then there was Foreign Policy, the magazine founded by neocon guru Samuel P. Huntington, which was most enthusiastic of all. Gary Gambill’s “Two Cheers for Syrian Islamists,” which ran on the FP web site just a couple of weeks after the DIA report was completed, didn’t distort the facts or make stuff up in any obvious way. Nonetheless, it is a classic of U.S. propaganda. Its subhead glibly observed: “So the rebels aren’t secular Jeffersonians. As far as America is concerned, it doesn’t much matter.”

Assessing the Damage

Five years later, it’s worth a second look to see how Washington uses self-serving logic to reduce an entire nation to rubble.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then Saudi ambassador to the United States, meeting with President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, on Aug. 27, 2002. (White House photo)

First a bit of background. After displacing France and Britain as the region’s prime imperial overlord during the 1956 Suez Crisis and then breaking with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser a few years later, the United States committed itself to the goal of defeating Arab nationalism and Soviet Communism, two sides of the same coin as far as Washington was concerned. Over the next half-century, this would mean steering Egypt to the right with assistance from the Saudis, isolating Libyan strong man Muammar Gaddafi, and doing what it could to undermine the Syrian Baathist regime as well.

William Roebuck, the American embassy’s chargé d’affaires in Damascus, thus urged Washington in 2006 to coordinate with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to encourage Sunni Syrian fears of Shi‘ite Iranian proselytizing even though such concerns are “often exaggerated.” It was akin to playing up fears of Jewish dominance in the 1930s in coordination with Nazi Germany.

A year later, former NATO commander Wesley Clark learned of a classified Defense Department memo stating that U.S. policy was now to “attack and destroy the governments in seven countries in five years,” first Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. (Quote starts at 2:07.)

Since the United States didn’t like what such governments were doing, the solution was to install more pliable ones in their place. Hence Washington’s joy when the Arab Spring struck Syria in March 2011 and it appeared that protesters would soon topple the Baathists on their own.

Even when lofty democratic rhetoric gave way to ominous sectarian chants of “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the coffin,” U.S. enthusiasm remained strong. With Sunnis accounting for perhaps 60 percent of the population, strategists figured that there was no way Assad could hold out against religious outrage welling up from below.

Enter Gambill and the FP. The big news, his article began, is that secularists are no longer in command of the burgeoning Syrian rebel movement and that Sunni Islamists are taking the lead instead. As unfortunate as this might seem, he argued that such a development was both unavoidable and far from entirely negative.

“Islamist political ascendancy is inevitable in a majority Sunni Muslim country brutalized for more than four decades by a secular minoritarian dictatorship,” he wrote in reference to the Baathists. “Moreover, enormous financial resources are pouring in from the Arab-Islamic world to promote explicitly Islamist resistance to Assad’s Alawite-dominated, Iranian-backed regime.”

So the answer was not to oppose the Islamists, but to use them. Even though “the Islamist surge will not be a picnic for the Syrian people,” Gambill said, “it has two important silver linings for US interests.” One is that the jihadis “are simply more effective fighters than their secular counterparts” thanks to their skill with “suicide bombings and roadside bombs.”

The other is that a Sunni Islamist victory in Syria will result in “a full-blown strategic defeat” for Iran, thereby putting Washington at least part way toward fulfilling the seven-country demolition job discussed by Wesley Clark.

“So long as Syrian jihadis are committed to fighting Iran and its Arab proxies,” the article concluded, “we should quietly root for them – while keeping our distance from a conflict that is going to get very ugly before the smoke clears. There will be plenty of time to tame the beast after Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions have gone down in flames.”

Deals with the Devil

The U.S. would settle with the jihadis only after the jihadis had settled with Assad. The good would ultimately outweigh the bad. This kind of self-centered moral calculus would not have mattered had Gambill only spoken for himself. But he didn’t. Rather, he was expressing the viewpoint of Official Washington in general, which is why the ultra-respectable FP ran his piece in the first place.

Saudi King Salman bids farewell to President Barack Obama at Erga Palace after a state visit to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Islamists were something America could employ to their advantage and then throw away like a squeezed lemon. A few Syrians would suffer, but America would win, and that’s all that counts.

The parallels with the DIA are striking. “The west, gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition,” the intelligence report declared, even though “the Salafist[s], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [i.e. Al Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency.”

Where Gambill predicted that “Assad and his minions will likely retreat to northwestern Syria,” the DIA speculated that the jihadis might establish “a declared or undeclared Salafist principality” at the other end of the country near cities like Hasaka and Der Zor (also known as Deir ez-Zor).

Where the FP said that the ultimate aim was to roll back Iranian influence and undermine Shi‘ite rule, the DIA said that a Salafist principality “is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

Bottle up the Shi‘ites in northwestern Syria, in other words, while encouraging Sunni extremists to establish a base in the east so as to put pressure on Shi‘ite-influenced Iraq and Shi‘ite-ruled Iran.

As Gambill put it: “Whatever misfortunes Sunni Islamists may visit upon the Syrian people, any government they form will be strategically preferable to the Assad regime, for three reasons: A new government in Damascus will find continuing the alliance with Tehran unthinkable, it won’t have to distract Syrians from its minority status with foreign policy adventurism like the ancien régime, and it will be flush with petrodollars from Arab Gulf states (relatively) friendly to Washington.”

With the Saudis footing the bill, the U.S. would exercise untrammeled sway.

Disastrous Thinking

Has a forecast that ever gone more spectacularly wrong? Syria’s Baathist government is hardly blameless in this affair. But thanks largely to the U.S.-backed sectarian offensive, 400,000 Syrians or more have died since Gambill’s article appeared, with another 6.1 million displaced and an estimated 4.8 million fleeing abroad.

U.S.-backed Syrian “moderate” rebels smile as they prepare to behead a 12-year-old boy (left), whose severed head is held aloft triumphantly in a later part of the video. [Screenshot from the YouTube video]

War-time destruction totals around $250 billion, according to U.N. estimates, a staggering sum for a country of 18.8 million people where per-capita income prior to the outbreak of violence was under $3,000. From Syria, the specter of sectarian violence has spread across Asia and Africa and into Europe and North America as well. Political leaders throughout the advanced industrial world are still struggling to contain the populist fury that the Middle East refugee crisis, the result of U.S.-instituted regime change, helped set off.So instead of advancing U.S. policy goals, Gambill helped do the opposite. The Middle East is more explosive than ever while U.S. influence has fallen to sub-basement levels. Iranian influence now extends from the Arabian Sea to the Mediterranean, while the country that now seems to be wobbling out of control is Saudi Arabia where Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is lurching from one self-induced crisis to another. The country that Gambill counted on to shore up the status quo turns out to be undermining it.

It’s not easy to screw things up so badly, but somehow Washington’s bloated foreign-policy establishment has done it. Since helping to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, Gambill has moved on to a post at the rightwing Middle East Forum where Daniel Pipes, the group’s founder and chief, now inveighs against the same Sunni ethnic cleansing that his employee defended or at least apologized for.

The forum is particularly well known for its Campus Watch program, which targets academic critics of Israel, Islamists, and – despite Gambill’s kind words about “suicide bombings and roadside bombs” – anyone it considers the least bit apologetic about Islamic terrorism.

Double your standard, double the fun. Terrorism, it seems, is only terrorism when others do it to the U.S., not when the U.S. does it to others.

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Ousted Honduran President Zelaya Says 2009 US-Backed Coup Led to Election Crisis

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Image result for Manuel Zelaya CARTOON

In an exclusive interview, former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 US-backed coup, says US actions led to the current political crisis in Honduras. The government continues to withhold the results of the November presidential election, which pitted US-backed President Juan Orlando Hernández against opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla. Massive protests erupted after the government-controlled electoral commission stopped tallying votes when the count showed Nasralla ahead. Zelaya now heads the opposition LIBRE party, which is part of the Alliance Against the Dictatorship coalition led by Nasralla.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: In Honduras, the political crisis continues as the government is still refusing to release the results of the November 26 presidential election, held almost two weeks ago. The election pits US-backed President Juan Orlando Hernández against opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla, head of the National Alliance Against the Dictatorship. Massive protests erupted over the weekend, after the government-controlled electoral commission stopped tallying votes when the count showed Nasralla ahead of Hernández by more than 5 percentage points. After the delay, the electoral commission then claimed Hernández was ahead, sparking protests in which as many as 11 people were killed and more than 1,200 detained. Earlier this week, the Honduran police mutinied against the government, saying they would no longer enforce a curfew and crackdown against protesters.

Well, on Wednesday, in a Democracy Now! exclusive, I spoke with President Manuel Zelaya. He was president of Honduras from 2006 to 2009, before he was ousted in a US-backed coup on June 28th, 2009. He’s now head of the opposition LIBRE party, part of the coalition of the Alliance Against the Dictatorship, which is led by the opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla. We spoke via Democracy Now!video stream. President Zelaya was in Tegucigalpa. I began by asking him to describe the situation in Honduras right now.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Look, people are in the streets. There are a million people in the streets. There are takeovers. There are checkpoints. There are demonstrations. People are also being killed, assassinated by the repressive apparatuses of the state. There is a massive protest of society because of the lack of transparency in the electoral system.

Today, we are calling our candidate, who is now president-elect — we are calling for a count of all polling places. There are only 18,000 polling places. It’s not such a large number. That can be done in a matter of four days. So that the people can regain calm, because based on the data that the state itself put out, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the Alliance of Opposition Against the Dictatorship, on the day of the election, the tribunal said that we had a 5 percent lead, with 71 percent of the votes counted. They said, with 57 percent counted, the alliance already had a 5 percent advantage, and then, with 71 percent counted, the 5 percent trend was maintained — 71 percent. It was a 5 percent lead and growing.

Then, the system went down for three days. They say that the server was overloaded. That’s like putting three needles into a room. How is a server going to be overloaded with so little data. The server can take billions and billions of pieces of data. So, three days, it was the — the vote count was stopped. And then there was a change in service, in the server. And we were told that they had reset, when we asked for the backup, and it was all lost. And then it was resumed, and we’re told, with 29 percent of the vote left to be counted, that we were losing. And so people were indignant, felt bothered.

And we resent the fact that the United States has this duplicitous discourse with respect to Honduras. They control the country. I was the president. They control the media, the private enterprise, the churches, the military. And they are silent. It’s very striking that there’s a twofold discourse, a duplicitous discourse, here on the part of the State Department.

AMY GOODMAN: President Zelaya, what are you calling for right now?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] At this time, we are asking for two things. First, for people to stay firm and stay in the streets, because if we don’t defend what we’ve won at the polls in the streets — the Honduran institutions have been coopted from the coup d’état to date. There’s no democracy here. There’s no rule of law here. We are suffering repression here. People are being persecuted. There are human rights violations every day. Every day. There’s no due process. There’s nothing. Since the coup d’état, the United States has done what it wants with this country. They changed all the laws. This is a military state, with laws like Plan Colombia, like the laws in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is what’s happening in Honduras. And they’ve done away with guarantees and with respect. What’s being done in this country is unjust. We are calling for people to defend themselves in the streets, so that what we won at the polls, we defend in the streets.

And second, the little bit of institutional framework that the state has — well, the OAS is calling for this, the European Union. Let’s count the 18,000 polling places. They say let’s count or let’s review the reports on the votes. But that’s manipulated. Let’s actually look at the votes. Let’s see where the voters signed. And let’s see if the signatures on the reports of the votes coincide with what’s on the actual vote. We’re asking for something — this is a very sensitive demand. And we think that the international community should support democracy in Honduras. We want peace in Honduras.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you calling for a full recount or a new election?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] We know that Salvador Nasralla won the election. Salvador Nasralla, in a matter of six months. We had an alliance with the LIBRE party, which was founded after the coup d’état. We entered into an alliance with him. He’s practically a TV personality and sports journalist. And in a matter of six months — with happiness, dancing in all of the towns, with music — he won the elections. We won.

We defeated 130 years of bipartisan rule in Honduras. We defeated them. The people defeated them, because of the poverty, the misery and the violence. The people cannot put up with it anymore. So, the elections were won. They recognized it the day of the elections. It was in the press worldwide that the alliance had won the election. And today, silence. Let’s hear the voice of the church, the voice the military. Well, they react only when the United States gives them the order.

AMY GOODMAN: President Zelaya, the US State Department certified the Honduran government has been fighting corruption and supporting human rights, clearing the way for Honduras to receive millions of dollars in US aid. This came just a few days after the election took place on November 26th, in the midst of the dispute. Can you talk about the significance of this?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Well, one month ago, the United Nations in Geneva, which looks out for human rights, directly introduced Honduras in the list of countries that violate human rights. One month ago, the United Nations organization in Geneva that looks out for human rights involved Honduras and put it directly on the list of countries that violate human rights. Just one year ago, they assassinated Berta Cáceres, a defender of nature, a defender of the rivers. They went to assassinate her. And the indicia indicate that the masterminds of this crime are being protected by the state.

Nonetheless, the State Department comes out with these things. The State Department is a very political organization. They protect the dictators who are their friends. Nonetheless, in Honduras, it has been clear — well, in the last six months, there’s not been an ambassador of the United States. The ambassador of the United States is like a governor. It’s like a state that is under the dollar. And we find it shameful that the State Department is so indifferent to the Honduran people, who are suffering. There have been 12 assassinations in the last 48 hours. We’re under a state of siege. You know, they’ve declared a state of siege against the protests. They are counting the votes under a state of siege, with a military highly repressive state in Honduras.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the United States doing behind the scenes, President Zelaya?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] They want to leave the dictator in, endorsing a fraud, endorsing a dictator.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is it doing? How do you know that? What is it doing to ensure that?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The Organization of American States put out a report yesterday, which is mostly satisfactory, about how the operational side of the elections are being held. And the OAS — well, this is a report that must be analyzed with the State Department, as well. And they say clearly that the OAScannot consider the results of the — put out by the election tribunal, to be reliable. They’re saying that the current president is being illegally re-elected. They’ve violated the Constitution. They’ve assaulted the institutions of the state. They carried out a fraud. They did not want to carry out the national election census. And now, since they were not able to win at the ballot box, they’re now manipulating the system, the count system. The OAS already put out a report that we find very satisfactory.

Based on that report, today we will be presenting challenges to the election. We will be calling for a general count of all the votes. Now, if the State Department would like to rectify its position, it should go along with us in this, that there should be a count. If the current president won, what’s the problem with having a recount? If they say he won, well, Mr. President, let’s have a count. You or the United States, let us look. Let’s have a count in Europe. Let’s have a count. What’s the problem? If the electoral tribunal says that you won — well, they’re all employees of the presidency — let’s have a public count, in front of cameras and television and international organizations. The three parties that participated, the main parties, let’s be there. And they say everything is transparent. I would hope it would be. And I would hope that that can happen in coming hours.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in 2009 in a US-backed coup. We’ll be back with our exclusive interview with him, and then we’ll talk about The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assessing a President. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Honduran band Café Guancasco, one of the most politically outspoken bands in Honduras. After the 2009 US-backed coup, they became known as the “Band of the Resistance.” This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to Democracy Now!’s exclusive interview with the former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in the 2009 US-backed coup. The political crisis in Honduras today is continuing as the government still refuses to release the results of the November 26 presidential election, that pit the US-backed President Juan Orlando Hernández against the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla, head of the Alliance Against the Dictatorship. Massive protests erupted over the weekend, after the government-controlled electoral commission stopped tallying votes when the count showed Nasralla ahead of Hernández. I asked President Zelaya whether he’s suggesting the US is still running the show right now in Honduras.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I have no doubt about it, Amy. And you know why? Because I was president of the country, and they tried to run everything. And their opposition is what took me out of power. The coup d’état against me was planned in Miami at the Southern Command. So I know, here, they run the churches — not all of them, not all of the pastors or all of the priests, but the main heads. They finance the main churches, evangelical churches, as well — not all of them, but most of them. They run the large owners of the media corporations. They feed them a line, day after day. And the military obey them, because they were trained by them at the School of the Americas. It now has another name, but the graduates are throughout Latin America. The private business — well, if you’re going to be a businessperson and make money in Honduras, you need to export to the United States, and so you have to have a good relationship, you have to have a visa. So, anything the United States says is the law for the private sector here. If they say, “Go into the abyssum,” they will. That’s how the history of this country has been. They run the transnationals, private sector, the churches, the major media — not just here, around the world. The major media conglomerates answer to the US line.

And that is why it’s necessary for them to reflect upon the harm that they’re doing to a small country like this. It’s incredible. But they’re not going to be able to govern here. If Juan Orlando is imposed in the next four years, they’re not going to be able to govern. The people will be in the streets. Everyone is shouting “Fuera JOH,” which means, “Out, [Juan] Orlando Hernández,” the president.

AMY GOODMAN: Has the United States reached out to Salvador Nasralla? Has he been speaking to the US government?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Yes, quite a bit. They have been meeting with him. But they want Salvador to sign an agreement with the president to review only some of the vote reports. They’re asking him to sign that. Salvador has refused, because he knows that it’s a trap that they’re trying to lead him into. They want just a partial review, and that is obviously not enough.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does Nasralla say to that? What’s his response?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The answer is the same that I’m giving you. I’ve spoken with him. We’re in coordination. I’m the coordinator of the alliance. He is the candidate and the president-elect. The answer is: Let’s have a general count, and let’s have the people in the streets.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about General Kelly, General Kelly who is this White House chief of staff right now, formerly head of SouthCom, certainly involved with matters relating to the United States in Honduras? Do you see him playing a role in the Honduran election?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Well, please extend my greetings to General Kelly. He came here several times. I did not meet him personally, but I know who he is. When he was the head of the Southern Command, head of SouthCom, he was given responsibility over Honduras, and he exercised a great deal of influence in the changes in the country. President Obama said it’s a mistake to put the military in charge of drug trafficking, because their armed forces are going to become contaminated. Well, here, General Kelly made that mistake of getting the armed forces involved. Instead of involved in defense, they’re involved in security. That’s a big mistake, because the military have a patriotic function to defend and support security, but not to be the first line on security. And so, he is, in large measure, responsible for the tragedy that the country is experiencing.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see a difference between the Trump administration’s involvement in Honduras today and the Obama administration, clearly involved in the coup against you, that toppled you, President Zelaya, in 2009?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] There’s less hypocrisy with Trump. He’s more direct about what he’s going to do, and he does it. Under the previous administration, there was a lack of sincerity in the words. And so, in a way, we like this. But Trump is very repressive. He’s very cold and harsh. He only sees the world from the standpoint of business. I think that we, human beings, be it in the eyes of God or in the eyes of the law, have the same value. This is what Jefferson said. It’s what Washington said. It’s what the US Constitution says. He lacks humanity.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see a connection between the coup against you in 2009 and the violence that has grown in Honduras, leading up to, for example, the assassination of Berta Cáceres in 2015?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The world is a global village. Everything is interrelated. You were here after the coup d’état, and you experienced that tragedy in Honduras. Since then, those who carried out the coup and removed me have been governing. I organized the people, and we’ve now defeated them. At the polls, in a civic manner, without violence, we defeated them. They have the weapons and all.

And, of course, they changed the state. They turned it into a military repressive state, violator of human rights. And there’s no more respect for due process. They’ve introduced new laws. There’s a law on secrecy, for example. I had a law called law for access to public information and law for transparency and a law on citizen participation. Now, these are prohibited. Public — popular consultations are provided by this tyrannical government.

They say there can be elections, but the elections are not the essence of democracy. Elections are: You’re presented a piece of paper with a bunch of photos, and you mark it. That is not the full extent of democracy. People making decisions is democracy, and it’s not accepted here now, almost 10 years after the coup d’état.

There’s a tie-in of death squads. People are being massacred, killed in series. We hadn’t seen that before in this country. That is a result of the state. Instead of seeking to be democratic, well, it simply centralized power and made it authoritarian and military. In addition, as indicated in State Department reports, the amount of drugs coming through Honduras has tripled. Of course, now there is directly military control of all movement of the country, and so it’s easier for the drug traffickers than in an open democratic system. Now, there is too much control by the security forces, and therefore the drugs go through very openly through Honduras.

Of course, all of that has been the result of the control that the United States came to acquire after the coup d’état. First, remember, Otto Reich came through with accusations against Honduras and so forth. But even so, we won the elections. Roberto Carmona, a Venezuelan CIA agent, came through. The United States took possession of Honduras after the coup d’état. And they’ve done a very bad job running the country. The economy has been low. The poverty has grown. Violence has grown.

Let me cite one datum: Violence went down in the six months leading up to the elections. Well, that was clearly an indicator that those who are running the violence and control those who are producing the violence are those who reduce the levels of violence. Why? Because there’s elections. And then, after the elections, the violence will come back. They are the ones who are running it. It’s like a Plan Colombia for Honduras. That is what we have called it.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you for the passage of the Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act in the US Congress that would cut off military aid to Honduras until human rights violations stop?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Yes, I agree with passage of the Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act, because the United States is financing a repressive state, violating human rights, and we need to have an in-depth investigation into all of that.

AMY GOODMAN: The former Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga is heading the Organization of American States, the OAS, election observation mission in Honduras. He said the tight margin, along with the irregularities, errors and systematic problems that have surrounded this election, does not allow the mission to be certain about the results. President Zelaya, what’s your response to the former Bolivian president?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Look, Tuto Quiroga, as we know him in Latin America, is a man from the far right. He’s a peon of the CIA. He works with them. He informs them. He was vice president of a dictator in Bolivia. In Bolivia, he appears to be critical of the system and of Evo Morales. Here, he has come to defend a dictator. So I don’t believe him. A traitor once, a traitor forever.

AMY GOODMAN: In The Wall Street Journal, there was an opinion piece that said that you are doing the bidding of Venezuela, President Zelaya. It’s also what the PR firms in Washington that represent the Honduran right are trying to say. What is your response to that?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I didn’t know the Venezuelans until I became president of Honduras and I met Hugo Chávez. My record as a citizen is well known throughout my entire life in Honduras. I am a democratic-minded man. I am a pacifist. I don’t use weapons. Plus, I have a clean record, throughout my life, my private life, my public life, my administrative life. No one can have any doubts about me.

Now, in terms of my thinking and my ideology and my ways of thinking, I share directly with all peoples struggling for justice — Venezuela, the people of Bolívar, the people of Central America, of Morazán, the people of Cuba, Martí, and Artigas in Ecuador, the people of Mexico, the people of Farabundo Martí, the Sandinistas. All have struggled against dictatorships, opprobrious dictatorships, for centuries. That is consistent with my way of being. I defend the Bolivarian Revolution and the revolution of Martí and Morazán here, and the revolutions in the African countries and the Middle East, who are putting up with so much pressure by the empire. I am the defender of just causes, and I identify with that.

Now, if because of that they say that I have some affinity with the people, tell them it’s true. It’s true. The struggle being carried out by Nicolás Maduro to defend his natural resources, that the United States wants to recover — oil, the oil wells — and the European countries’ companies, as well, is a just struggle of the Venezuelan people. And I am with Nicolás Maduro in that struggle, because the actions carried out by the United States against Venezuela are public. The Obama decrees against Venezuela, declaring it to be an enemy of the world, is public. The aggression by Trump, saying he’s going to invade Venezuela, is public.

We Latin Americans and Caribbeans, Hispanic Americans who are here, just as we defend immigrants in the United States, we also defend peoples who fight for change. Here in Honduras, I began a process of change, and they took us out by bullets. And it was the Latin American left that defended me. At that time, the right united, but as a matter of hypocrisy, because within months they were with those who carried out the coups here, so they don’t want changes in Latin America, the Caribbean or anywhere in the world. Not even in the United States do they want changes. There was a candidate proposing democratic socialism. And similarly, we have a proposal along the same lines at the opposition alliance. So, the United States is denying reality. They might stop changes momentarily, but changes of humankind cannot be stopped. We continue going forward. Despite all of the forces that historically try to keep things as they are, humankind has gone through all sorts of change — war, revolution, peaceful demonstrations, like Gandhi, as Jesus Christ taught us. And we’re involved in that process. So, my identification with those causes is a matter of public record.

I come from a right-wing party. But in exercising power at the top level of the public life of any human being holding power, we realized we needed to help the workers, the campesinos, the teachers. I wanted this country to have relations with the world. I brought Lula. I brought Chávez. I brought President Bachelet, presidents of Mexico. I maintained good relations with the United States. You might not believe me, but they had a center with Chávez. They wanted to destroy Chávez because he wanted to free these peoples from the oppression of the big transnationals, the military and the transnationals. It’s the US and European military-industrial complex. With that, they’ve gone to destroy the Middle East.

We have anti-imperialist principles and anti-capitalist principles, because capital is good. Capital needs to be developed. Private enterprise plays a fundamental role in the history of our peoples, the private sector. I, myself, own agricultural businesses and so on. But capital was created by man, and it’s not possible that now capital is dominating human beings. Here, they want to run the nations. They want to run the states. They want to oppress and exploit the peoples. I’m a businessperson, but the role of a businessperson is to drive the economy, but not to guide the nation. The nation should be guided by common sense and reason. And that is democracy.

And I am grateful for this opportunity. I see this is not coming from the coup d’état. We are resisting with force, so we will maintain this position the rest of our lives. And we see that the people are the ones who are on the right side of history. The people is like the concept of God. The people is justice. The people is transparency. The people is calling for justice, demanding justice. So, if they want to judge me or criticize me for these views, they may do so.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you say that Salvador Nasralla shares your views?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] In large measure. Salvador is a fair man. He is a man of the right, but he is a fair man. And we entered into an alliance, and we signed this, and we said we’re going for a participatory democracy because representative democracy is a betrayal. It represents betrayal of the people, who need to be involved in referendums and in popular consultations. We consider him to be an advanced and progressive man. He’s not a socialist, but he is a progressive man. And that’s why he was our candidate. And that’s why we won the election. The people were able to pick up on his message.

AMY GOODMAN: President Zelaya, the significance of the police refusing to impose the curfew, enforce the curfew, for President Hernández?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] There was a mutiny in the COBRA Group, which is a special commando group, a rebellion. And that then spread to all of the civilian police. There was like 24 hours of rebellion. Logically, these are disciplined bodies that have their esprit de corps, and they defend their own integrity at the end of the day.

But it sends two messages to the nation: You are governing poorly, we want clean elections, and we want the winner to be recognized as the winner. We don’t want impositions. We’re not going to accept impositions. And we’re not going to obey the president when he orders us to lash out against the people. They are our sisters and brothers. And they said, “We are not going to repress the people. The people demand transparent elections and a transparent vote count.” And it was won. And the police now have stepped back. They reached a specific agreement. But they really left a revolutionary message with the people. It’s a group that is with the people. And we have confidence, and we’re grateful for this historic gesture on the part of the police, unlike the military. The military are the ones who are killing us. They are the ones who are assassinating. And they should reflect upon this, because they, too, are persons of the people.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, what do you see happening from this point on, President Zelaya?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Ask General Kelly. I already told you what we are going to do. And we are going to uphold the will of the people. I’ve told you what Salvador Nasralla is doing. We’re calling on the people to defend themselves in the streets, to take to the streets. If they do not defend their triumph, if we — what we don’t defend in the streets, we’re not going to be able to defend in the institutions, which are totally coopted and controlled by the tyranny that has been established in Honduras and with the support of the State Department.

And the State Department, to conclude, I ask you, look, you, in the United States, you have a major responsibility in the world. You have the money, the weapons, power in the world. You have the technology, some of the greatest strides in science. Don’t do this to this people. Stop supporting a fraud in Honduras. Please, allow us to act democratically. We’re a peaceful people, and we want to have a good relationship with the United States. But in this way, all that is done is for the United States to get a poor image, worse than it already might be.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s former Honduras President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 US-backed coup. He was speaking to us from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He heads the operation LIBRE party, part of the Alliance Against the Dictatorship, which is led by Salvador Nasralla, the opposition presidential candidate. The Honduran government-controlled election commission still refuses to release the final results from the election nearly two weeks ago. You can go to democracynow.org to see all of our coverage of Honduras, including our coverage of his return to Honduras in 2011 on a plane from Nicaragua. This was after he was deposed and then returning to Honduras after the US-backed coup.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll be talking about The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assessing a President. Stay with us.

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Arabs, Europe, UN reject Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Nazi state capital

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Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East on Wednesday condemned the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the Nazi state capital as an incendiary move in a volatile region and Palestinians said Washington was abandoning its leading role as a peace mediator.

The European Union and United Nations also voiced alarm at U.S. President Zionist puppet Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to the illegally occupied Jerusalem and its repercussions for any chances of reviving Nazi-Palestinian peacemaking.

Major U.S. allies came out against Trump’s reversal of decades of U.S. and broad international policy on Jerusalem.

France rejected the “unilateral” decision while appealing for calm in the region. Britain said the move would not help peace efforts and Jerusalem should ultimately be shared by ‘Israel’ and a future Palestinian state. Germany said Jerusalem’s status could only be resolved on the basis of a two-state solution…

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UN Expert: No Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela

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By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas | Venezuelanalysis 

An independent United Nations expert has publicly stated that Venezuela is not suffering from a humanitarian crisis following a recent trip to the country.

Alfred De Zayas, an independent expert on International Democratic and Equitable Order at the United Nations (UN), visited Venezuela in late November to assess its social and economic progress.

On arriving back in Geneva Tuesday, the UN official told press that he did not think the country’s current economic problems had given way to a humanitarian crisis.

“I agree with the FAO [UN Food and Agriculture Organization] and CEPAL [Economic Commission for Latin America & the Caribbean] that the so-called humanitarian crisis does not exist in Venezuela, although there are shortages, scarcity, and distribution delays, etc.” he said.

“What is important is to get to know the causes and take measures against contraband, monopolies, hoarding, corruption, manipulation of the currency and the distortions in the economy caused by an economic and financial war which includes [the effects of international] sanctions and pressure,” he added.

Venezuela’s opposition and private media have often alleged that the country is suffering from a humanitarian crisis in a bid to promote international intervention from foreign governments and agencies such as the UN. Opposition leaders have made the “opening of a humanitarian channel” to allow more food and medicine imports into the country one of their chief demands in negotiations with the national government, which began on December 1.

However, according to De Zayas, international solidarity is what is needed to help Venezuela overcome the current crisis. He also said that mainstream media coverage of the country is often “theatrical” and “does not help to resolve the problems” that the country faces.

During his visit, De Zayas met with government representatives, including Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, as well as with opposition leaders and civil society organizations. He also accompanied the initial talks held between the government and opposition in the Dominican Republic on December 1-2.

The UN expert said he would formulate a series of constructive recommendations to address Venezuela’s crisis and present them as a report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2018. He has now departed to Ecuador, where he will be carrying out a similar visit.

Venezuela’s economy has been severely hit by the decline in global oil prices since 2014, directly impacting on the state’s ability to import the same quantity of food and medicine as in previous years.

The Trump administration imposed economic sanctions on Venezuela in August, prohibiting US financial agencies from negotiating debt relief with the beleaguered country. Canada has also passed sanctions against individual government officials.

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What is the link between the UK Foreign Office and terrorist groups in Syria? ‘VIDEO’

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goingundergroundRT | December 9, 2017

We speak to investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley about her most recent trip to Syria.

Posted in Syria, UKComments Off on What is the link between the UK Foreign Office and terrorist groups in Syria? ‘VIDEO’

How the *other* N-word is used in the Nazi state ‘Video’

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gangreentv

A short scene from the Israeli feature film “The Kindergarten Teacher” (2014)

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France , Qatar sign deals worth around 12 billion euros: Macron

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French President Emmanuel Macron and Qatar’s ruling emir have signed contacts worth around 12 billion euros ($14.15 billion) during the French president’s visit to Doha.

“In total, it amounts to nearly 12 billion euros which was signed today and which underlines the closeness of our relations,” Macron said at a press conference with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Thursday.

Macron and Sheikh Tamim agreed on a deal for Qatar to purchase at least a dozen French-made Dassault Rafale fighter jets with the option of buying 36 more. The deal also includes purchase of 490 VBCI armored vehicles from French firm Nexter.

Qatar would additionally buy 50 Airbus twin-engine A321s with the option of buying 30 more.

The small Persian Gulf country also signed a transportation deal with France’s national rail authority to manage and maintain Doha’s planned metro, as well as a light rail system north of Doha.

The French president is traveling with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who in 2015 as defense minister helped negotiate a deal with Qatar buy dozens of Rafale fighter jets.

Macron’s one-day trip comes as Doha faces a continued boycott by some of its Saudi-led Arab neighbors.

In the rare press conference, Qatar’s ruling emir expressed his regret for the boycott and said it was especially disheartening that the crisis erupted in June.

Qatar has been locked in a political standoff with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries for the past months. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut relations with Qatar in early June

Earlier this week, a Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting in Kuwait failed to bring the standoff any closer to a resolution.

There has been almost no sign that Qatari authorities would bow to the demands of Saudi Arabia and its allies to restore diplomatic ties.

Among the conditions put forward for a full normalization of ties is the need for Qatar to downgrade its relations with Iran and expel foreign troops, including those from Turkey, from military bases in the country.

Macron visits US, French troops in Qatar

During his visit to Qatar, Macron traveled to the vast al-Udeid air base, which is home to some 10,000 American troops and the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command.

France also has a contingent of several hundred troops in Qatar as part of the 1,200 French forces deployed to the region.

The troops are a part of the US-led coalition, which is purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

Speaking to the soldiers, he said the next few months of battle would determine the outcome of the war against Daesh in Iraq in Syria.

“This military win does not signify the end of the operations and the end of our battle because first we need to stabilize and win peace in Iraq and Syria,” he said.

Macron also stressed in his remarks that France wanted to avoid the partitioning of Syria and “avoid the domination of certain international elements whose interests contradict peace.”

The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

The airstrikes, however, have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism.

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The Foretold Election of Mario Centeno as Eurogroup President

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Adelina Marini

On December 4 Erozone finance ministers chose their new president for the next two and a half years – Portuguese Finance Minister Mario Centeno. With the election of the successor to the current chairman, Jeroen Dijsselbloem (the Netherlands, Socialists and Democrats), the so-called Eurogroup opens a new page in its history, at a time when a series of deep changes in the functioning of the eurozone is forthcoming. The election on Monday showed that the Eurogroup has come a long way in its institutional evolution – a way in which member states learned a lot about each other during the gruelling crisis in the eurozone, and especially along the hardest of them – the crisis in Greece. The Eurozone has come a long way in its democratic development as well.

Unlike the opaque choice of the first Eurogroup chairman, Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg, EPP), and the election of Jeroen Dijsselbloem in 2013, when he was the only candidate, Mario Centeno was chosen more transparently and democratically, despite the fact that his choice was pre-announced. This time there were four candidates for the post. Apart from Mr Centeno, the finance ministers of Luxembourg (Pierre Gramegna), Slovakia (Peter Kazimir) and Latvia (Dana Reizniece-Ozola) were nominated. However, weeks prior to the regular Eurogroup meeting on 4 December, it was already known that the Portuguese minister of finance had gathered the most support.

Moreover, just before the start of the meeting, President Jeroen Dijsselbloem blundered during a conversation with Dutch journalists, saying that Mario Centeno was his successor. He asked the media not to quote him, but as these briefings are webcast live by the audiovisual service of the Council of Ministers, there was no way this blunder could be ignored.

Why was Mario Centeno elected?

The name of the Portuguese minister of finance surprisingly appeared before the Eurogroup on the 4th of December. Surprisingly, because until now he has not been mentioned as claiming the post, unlike Peter Kazimir, who is one of the frequently mentioned potential candidates for the position, and he himself has never hidden his ambitions. Luis de Guindos was a candidate for the position for a long time as well, however he never officially submitted his candidacy. Pierre Gramegna has also always been a very active figure in the work of the Eurogroup, but his candidacy never had any real chances, primarily because he is from Luxembourg. Another problem is that he is from a party that is a member of the liberal political family, and the inter-party deal is to give the post to the Social Democrats.

Mr Gramegna himself said before the start of the meeting that he would had not run at all if he thought he had no chances. He has a very rich experience as minister of finance. Unfortunately, the vote was secret and the Eurogroup refused to publish the results, so we cannot see how many ministers supported Mr Gramegna. Jeroen Dijsselbloem announced that Centeno was elected in the second round of voting, suggesting that the race was strongly challenged, but it is unclear with whom. Peter Kazimir was one of the most likely candidates because checks a lot of boxes – he comes from a party that is from the Social Democrats’ family, from a new member state, and his views are very similar to those of Jeroen Dijsselbloem in terms of fiscal discipline and Greece, which means he is acceptable to the left, to the right, and to the centrists. But his problem is that he comes from a country that is in a friendly company with illiberals and European opportunists – the Visegrád Group. Over the years, he has gained much experience and was quite active and direct in his comments (very often in English) on sensitive topics on the Eurogroup agenda. That is why he was very much loved by the Brussels media.

The most unlikely, most unexpected but most interesting candidate was the Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola. She is 36 years old. She has been in office for less than a year, which is not a problem, as Jeroen Dijsselbloem was also a minister for just five months when he was elected head of the Eurogroup (somewhat because that). Dana Reizniece-Ozola is a chess champion and received her Master’s degree at the International Space University in France. She is a mother of four children. After Centeno’s election, she stated that this is probably due to the fact that old member states still dominate. She sees this as a clear signal that the younger member states must be twice as active as they have been so far. She explained her candidacy by saying that she wanted to shed light on Latvia.

Despite the indisputable qualities of all the candidates, Mario Centeno won for one major reason. He comes from a country which symbolises the end of the crisis that marked the evolution of the Eurogroup over the past decade.  Portugal is one of the five countries which had adjustment or rescue programs. It is considered one of the successful stories in the long wandering of the eurozone in search of the most appropriate tool to help countries in crisis. Mario Centeno, who has been the finance minister since 2015, has undoubted merit for this success, although Jeroen Dijsselbloem has repeatedly stressed that the previous government has merit, and that shouldn’t be ignored.

Dijsselbloem’s legacy

When the former Dutch finance minister took over the Eurogroup’s presidency in early 2013, the eurozone was already showing signs of a crisis, but the recovery was hesitant and unconvincing. This was the year of ideas for the future of the eurozone. The first report of the four Presidents was just published describing the new outlines of the currency union. The construction of the banking union was yet to come. Cyprus was already in bankruptcy and was one of the reasons for the headaches of eurozone finance ministers. Greece was still on the agenda, Euroscepticism was beginning to emerge as a factor, and significant compromises were already being made with the European semester. This was also the year of the first enlargement of the euro area with the accession of Latvia.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem met no competition for the post, but he did have a strategy, which was officially published. The greatest challenge for him then was unemployment and making economic growth sustainable. Five years later, the eurozone is in flourishing health – it has marked economic growth for 18 quarters in a row. Unemployment is still a problem in some countries, but the trend is tending towards a convincing decrease. Public finances have been significantly improved. The most difficult moments of Jeroen’s two mandates (2 x 2.5 years) in his own words were the situation with Cyprus, the change of government in Greece in 2015 and the establishment of the banking union.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, in front of journalists after the end of the December Eurogroup, said that during the Cyprus crisis, many difficult decisions were taken. Then the approach changed. A few days later, on December 7, before the Economic Committee of the European Parliament, he explained in much greater detail the great drama that had begun with Cyprus in 2013, and admitted of mistakes made. The program was supposed to start much earlier, but instead, the Cyprus government left things out of control for too long. In fact, the then Cyprus government was counting on shedding responsibility, and therefore did nothing until the election, and afterwards counted on unconditional financial support from Russia.

Another problem was that Cyprus did not like much of the solutions offered by the Eurogroup. Ultimately, a completely new type of rescue program was launched, in which the banking system was bailed in with investors taking great losses. Many ministers demanded this decision from the beginning. Dijsselbloem has firmly rejected criticism that the bailout program damaged the deposit insurance scheme, reminding everyone that Cyprus had not had such a scheme before. He stressed that if the approach that was applied to Greece, ie bailing out all banks and investors, were chosen, it would have completely bankrupted Cyprus, and today the country would have also had a huge debt.

Dijsselbloem admitted to mistakes with Greece, but stressed that in the then situation it was not possible otherwise. In response to the charges of the Greek MEP Notis Marias (ECR), Mr Jeroen Dijsselbloem explained that in many countries, huge mistakes have been made in the pre-crisis period and bad policies had led to accumulation of risks, excessive lending to the economy, unproductive investments. During the crisis, major mistakes were also made in the way the EU responded. There were many improvisations in the first rescue programs. “Personally, I believe that the way we dealt with banks was very expensive and not very effective“, he said. In the first phase, investors were bailed out, many of whom were outside Greece. This, he said, was a fundamental mistake.

However, he expressed hope that Greek politicians are at least as critical as he is to his own decisions in the past. This is important in order to avoid such problems in the future, he said. With regard to the banking union, Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the problem was set in the road map agreed in 2016. Then a decision was made on what to do specifically for risk reduction and risk sharing. The bad thing, however, is that it was not specified when exactly everyone would be happy to move on to the next step and now it is skillfully used by countries that do not want to take this next step. Dijsselbloem also denied allegations that an austerity policy has been pursued during his term of office.

The strategy of the Eurogroup has never been austerity. Full stop. The strategy has always been structural reforms, making our economies more resilient, more competitive, improving productivity. Second, working towards sustainable finances. The strategy has always been twofold or threefold“, he said.

The end of a feud

Happiest with Mario Centeno’s election was the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici (France, Socialists and Democrats). He did not like Jeroen Dijsselbloem from the start, and they were often in conflict, especially with regard to the management of the Eurogroup. A remarkable verbal shootout broke out between them after the end of the September Eurogroup when Mr Moscovici was asked to comment on his views on more democracy in this intergovernmental format. “In my view, democracy is about democratic accountability that means that you have an executive, that means that you have leadership, that means you have a debate and that you have control. And I must say that this is not fully the case of the Eurogroup“. The decision, according to Pierre Moscovici, is the creation of a eurozone finance minister, who is also the chairman of the Eurogroup.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem reacted sharply to this remark. “I simply do not agree with – and this, I think, is indeed a matter of difference of opinion – that intergovernmental cooperation between ministers is not democratic. To that I have strong objections. My parliament and many parliaments in eurozone scrutinise our work – the legal sides of it, the financial sides of it and certainly the political sides of it. There are lively debates throughout Europe where the minsters, members of the Eurogroup, have to give full explanation and get criticised for their work in the Eurogroup“, Jeroen Dijsselbloem said. On December 4, Pierre Moscovici did not conceal his happiness with Mario Centeno’s election, reminding for how long he had been calling for the two-hatted decision for the Eurogroup as well.

This is a model like that of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Frederica Mogherini (Italy, S&D), who is both the president of the Foreign Affairs Council and a Vice-President of the European Commission.  Moscovici wants such a decision for the Eurogroup (for the ECOFIN respectively) as well. On Wednesday, one of the proposals in the Commission’s euro area package is precisely about the future European finance minister. However, according to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, this idea is too broad and still quite vague.

Although both come from the same European political family, their views have also varied considerably over other topics over the past five years. While Moscovici was finance minister, France received significant concessions under the European Semester for the first time, and then, as a commissioner, he often faced the direct style and determination of Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who has always insisted that the fiscal rules be respected.

On Monday, Pierre Moscovici first started with his expectations for the new head of the Eurogroup. “You will need to steer the work of the Eurogroup on the deepening of our eurozone and there’s no secret that the Commission will make proposals on that in two days from now [they were officially presented on 6 December], and also to ensure a smooth conclusion of the Greek programme. And we will count on your leadership on these and other challenges. I want to assure you that you will be able to count on my strong support and that of the Commission, of course“, said Pierre Moscovici, who was France’s Finance Minister when Jeroen Dijsselbloem was first elected to the office. He then had objections to his elections until the very last moment.

On Monday, however, Mr Moscovici did not save the praises of Jeroen Dijsselbloem, but he also did not conceal his expectations that the Eurogroup’s current policy will leave with him. He said that with him leaving a long chapter in the history of the Eurogroup will be closed. “When you took the Eurogroup presidency, the euro area was still facing a kind of existential crisis and you played a key role in steering the Eurogroup through those difficult and sometimes dramatic times. Challenges were immense, the way ahead was often not obvious and we found a way. And I think it was largely due to the way you managed to act, thanks to your patience, to your attention to detail, extreme technicalities and efficiency“, said Pierre Moscovici.

In front of MEPs of the economic committee on Thursday morning, Dijsselbloem said he does not expect the Eurogroup’s policy to change seriously. According to him, the Eurogroup will, in a realistic way, insist on retaining its president. Ministers strongly believe that a distinction between the Eurogroup and the Commission should be maintained. He also stated that changing the president doesn’t necessarily mean changing the Eurogroup policy.  Many of the Group’s policies are rooted in the Stability and Growth Pact and other agreements, decisions are taken unanimously. He advised his successor to work hard to preserve the integrity of the Eurogroup and to draw the tasks ahead of him – to work on the next phase of building the banking union. Now is the best time to finish reforms.

From the very cautious statements of the newly elected president, Mario Centeno, it can be said that he will bet on continuity. He told journalists on Monday he would be nothing more than a president of the Eurogroup, as the main work must be done by the member states, the Commission and all other European institutions. For him, the main priority will be to seek consensus, “which is also what Jeroen left us as heritage“. “We have to continue the way the Eurogroup paved in the last 5 years to generate consensus“, said the Portuguese Finance Minister. “We have to take the lessons of what we just

 

finished and complete what has to be completed in precisely the same way as we did until today“, he added.

Mario Centeno is 51 years old. He has been the minister of finance since November 2015. He was an economist at the Central Bank of Portugal, a member of the European Commission’s Economic Policy Committee. He is the author of several scientific publications, books and book chapters on topics such as labour economics, econometrics, macroeconomics and contract theory. He graduated economics from the Technical University of Lisbon and has two magistrates. The first is Applied Mathematics from the same university, and the second is in Economics from Harvard University. He will take over the presidency of the Eurogroup on 13 January. The next meeting of this format will be on January 22, when it is expected to be decided on the next tranche of Greece’s rescue program.

His main task will be to balance the various interests during the debates on the future of the eurozone. Whether he will be the ally Pierre Moscovici has been dreaming of is yet to be seen. If this happens, and if Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats in Germany get key positions in the future ruling coalition in Germany, the balance in the eurozone could be seriously violated. The currency club has emerged from the crisis, but that does not mean that the way forward is clearly drawn. On the contrary, it will float in uncharted waters, which requires no less sobriety and determination than that of  Jeroen Dijsselbloem. Can a person from the European South offer it? Judging from Portugal’s rescue program, the positive response is not unrealistic.

Posted in EuropeComments Off on The Foretold Election of Mario Centeno as Eurogroup President

Trump apes Balfour: giving away what isn’t his to give

NOVANEWS
Trump in solidarity with Netanyahu

By Stuart Littlewood

Here’s what an Early Day Motion, tabled by several prominent British MPs in the House of Commons, says about Trump’s statement on Jerusalem.

That this House notes with dismay that Donald Trump, President of the USA, has declared that the US has formally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that the US embassy in Israel will relocate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; further notes that no other country currently has an embassy in Jerusalem, and the international community, including the US until now, does not recognise Israel’s jurisdiction over and ownership of the eastern part of that city; acknowledges Jerusalem’s status as an extremely sensitive aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which it considers will be antagonised by this move; further acknowledges that the final status of Jerusalem is to be determined by negotiation; notes that East Jerusalem is intended to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, but that East Jerusalem is currently occupied by Israel; considers that this decision was taken against the advice of a wide range of world leaders and breaks with years of precedent; further considers that the announcement itself may lead to unrest in the Middle East and that the longer term consequences are unpredictable; condemns in the strongest possible terms what it considers to be a rash, unnecessary and deliberately inflammatory act, and one which destroys the US’s credibility as an honest broker in the Middle East peace process; and calls on world leaders to put pressure on the president to reverse this ill-advised decision.

Early Day Motions (EDMs) are formal motions submitted for debate and they must be squashed into a single sentence. The House seldom gets around to actually debating them but they are an effective way of attracting the attention of MPs and especially the media to matters of concern.

The wording of this EDM isn’t too bad. However, East Jerusalem, including the Old City, is regarded by the world community and international law as Palestinian, and Israel has no business occupying or annexing it.

It’s worth recalling that the UN Partition of 1947 intended Jerusalem to be a corpus separatum under international administration, for the obvious reason that the Holy City cannot be said to belong to any single religious persuasion. None has exclusive claim.

Trump has simply hammered the final nail into any prospect of the US being taken seriously ever again in a peacemaking role.

I question the quaint idea that Jerusalem’s final status should be “determined by negotiation”. We’ve seen these lopsided negotiations before, brokered by meddlers who are totally devoid of impartiality or goodwill. And besides, the issue has already been determined by international law and is waiting to be enforced. Again and again, politicians overlook the simple fact that there can be no peace while one side’s boot is on the other’s neck and without first delivering justice.

Furthermore, it is not Trump who has destroyed the US’s credibility as an honest broker. If such credibility ever existed it evaporated decades ago. Trump has simply hammered the final nail into any prospect of the US being taken seriously ever again in a peacemaking role.

You may think that the EDM is just a bunch of British MPs sounding off. No. The EDM fairly represents the view of the whole world – barring Israel and its stooges in London, Washington and Paris.

As protesters here in the streets are saying, Jerusalem is not Trump’s to give away in 2017 any more than Palestine was Balfour’s to promise the Zionists in 1917. So, hands off Jerusalem! We see where Balfour’s running sore has led one hundred years later.

Americans should know that Britain isn’t with them on this Jerusalem lunacy. And neither is anyone else.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Trump apes Balfour: giving away what isn’t his to give


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