Archive | June, 2019

General Haftar Is Trying to Trick Turkey into Overextending Itself in Libya

NOVANEWS
 

Libyan National Army leader General Haftar ordered his forces to attack Turkish ships and companies that he accused of helping the internationally recognized Government of National Accord, as well as to arrest Turkish citizens in the country, which is nothing short of an effort to trick Turkey into overextending itself by provoking it into “mission creep” so that it ends up trapped in the Libyan quagmire.

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The Libyan Civil War might be entering a new phase if the forces led by Libyan National Army (LNA) leader General  Haftar do good on their leader’s threats to attack Turkish ships and companies that he accused of helping the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), a well as to arrest Turkish citizens in the country. The popular warlord has already succeeded in capturing most of the country with the notable exception being the capital of Tripoli, which has only held out as long as it has supposedly because of Turkish support.

The Libyan Civil War was directly caused by NATO’s 2011 War on Libya and the subsequent scramble for influence in the energy-rich and geostrategically positioned North African state, with Turkey playing a leading role in the latter because the de-facto Muslim Brotherhood-led country envisions restoring its Ottoman-era empire through the establishment of ideologically allied governments in this vast trans-continental space. The GNA is comprised of Muslim Brotherhood fighters and their offshoots who came to power after 2011, which is why Erdogan supports them so strongly and has a stake in their continued leadership of the country, something that Haftar is adamantly opposed to because he sees his countrymen’s collaboration with Turkey as treasonous.

The LNA leader is now threatening to impose serious physical costs to Turkey’s unofficial intervention in the Libyan Civil War, hoping that this will either compel it to retreat or counterproductively dig in through “mission creep” and risk overextending itself in what has become a regional proxy war between secular and Islamist forces backed by the UAE/Egypt/France and Turkey/Qatar/Libya respectively. Nevertheless, Erdogan’s ego, his ambition for regional influence, and the domestic political pressure that he’s under after the latest mayoral election rerun in Istanbul are responsible for Turkey’s vow to retaliate against the Libyan warlord.

Should Turkey suffer highly publicized losses at the hands of Haftar’s forces, then it might embolden the country’s Cypriot, Greek, Kurdish separatist, and Syrian enemies in its immediate neighborhood if they interpret those developments as a sign of weakness proving that the Turkish military is just a “paper tiger” incapable of properly defending its interests and/or defeating its first conventional military adversary in decades. Erdogan is therefore in a classic dilemma since he’s damned if he retreats but equally damned if he doesn’t and ends up being humiliated by Haftar. It’ll remain to be seen what ultimately happens, but Turkey is in a very tricky position nowadays and needs to be careful that it doesn’t get trapped in the Libyan quagmire.

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The San Francisco Murals and the “Suicide of the Left”

NOVANEWS

 

The decision of the San Francisco school board to obliterate the historic murals in George Washington High School is not just another instance of Identity Politics foolishness. It is also a terrifying illustration of the drastic mental decline of what is called “the Left”.

Back in the 1930s there was a Left that had brains.  You could agree or disagree with it, you could love it or hate it, but it had ideas, purpose, talent, and a sense of common humanity.  It was working for a just society that would end exploitation and benefit humanity as a whole.

As an example, there were the artistic projects of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the principal New Deal program to combat the Depression, which extended from creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority to artistic enhancement of public buildings. A beneficiary of this enhancement was George Washington High School in San Francisco, which was blessed with a striking set of murals by a leading artist, Victor Arnautoff, a Russian immigrant who had worked with the Mexican master of socially conscience mural art, Diego Rivera.   One would expect that the presence of these powerful murals would be a lasting cause of pride in their school for staff and students. 

The WPA, not least in its art projects, was animated by leftists, and even downright Communists, like Arnautoff, who chose to depart from the sterilized “I cannot tell a lie” cherry tree myth and the crossing of the Delaware glorification of George Washington to introduce reminders of the forgotten victims of the foundation of the United States – the exploitation of African slaves and the violent expropriation of Native American lands.  The murals were clearly part of the leftwing WPA intellectuals’ endeavor to raise social consciousness, a step toward the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s. 

In the age of the House Un-American Activities Committee and Joe McCarthy’s drunken rampage, such red-tinged WPA projects exposing the less glorious side of the birth of the republic aroused hostile suspicion.  And yet, the Arnautoff murals survived Nixon, HUAC and McCarthy witch hunts.  It took Identity Politics to call for their destruction.

What is most shocking is that the African-American president of the San Francisco Board of Education, Stevon Cook, supports this destruction of the murals on grounds that they include “violent images that are offensive to certain communities.”  Joely Proudfit, director of the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center in San Marcos, said it was not worth saving the art if one native student “is triggered by that”.

Everything is wrong with such a position.  Education should include teaching people to analyze what they see rather than simply “be triggered”.  The contemporary world is crammed with images that are deeply offensive.  When a student can have an historic mural torn down because she or he is “triggered” by it, what sort of preparation is this for the future? School should not be a “safe place” for emotions but a preparation for using reason to master those emotions as one goes through life.  The protesters have chosen the worst possible way of interpreting the murals instead of using their reason to understand them and place them in their context. Yes, slavery happened and yes, American Indians were slaughtered, and their descendants can think of the strength they needed to resist and survive, and draw from their tragic history a sense of compassion for all who suffer from comparable injustice today. The attack on the mural is a gesture of impotent spite.

What are the hurt feelings of a San Francisco high school student compared to the pain and hunger of a Yemeni child living under U.S.-supported bombing?  George Washington is dead, but in the city named after him, American leaders are sponsoring the massacre of innocent civilians all around the world.  Why don’t these super-sensitive American students use their sensitivity to oppose such ongoing crimes and develop their intelligence to figure out how to join with others in fighting to end the Permanent War State in Washington?

But the snowflake trend has no use for real strength, the strength of courage to overcome obstacles, and draws an artificial moral strength from perpetual emotional weakness. Instead of gaining strength from increased knowledge, a certain tendency of young persons who have NOT suffered as their forebears did cling to their victimhood as the key to their own privileges.  This may bring a few momentary advantages but is disastrous in the long run.

A healthy society is based on a balance between respect for the individual, regardless of identity or origins, and awareness of belonging to humanity as a whole, with all its sufferings, joys, tragedies and aspirations. Closing oneself into a limited identity group denies both respect for individuals and awareness of universal humanity.  It can only be a basis for endless conflict, “my people are better than your people”, “no, my people are better than your people”.  Those who “win” a momentary victory by imposing on others a destructive act of iconoclasm are only confirming their identification as “losers” as their sole key to success. 

With such divisions, the American people will be absorbed in tribal skirmishes, while their criminal rulers continue to spread devastation around the world.

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Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange

NOVANEWS

Capitalist Development and Community Demolitions in Detroit

By Abayomi Azikiwe

One of the latest schemes of the billionaire ruling interests and their agents is the proposal announced by Duggan to issue $200 million in bonds specifically designed to raise monies for the demolition of even more vacant edifices in the city. The stated objective is to eliminate all vacant homes by 2024.

Persian Peril: Brinkmanship in the Post-INF Treaty Era

By Michael WelchScott Ritter, and Bruce Gagnon, June 30, 2019

Diplomats from China, Russia, Great Britain, Germany and France met with their Iranian counterparts on Friday June 28th in an urgent attempt to steer the Islamic Republic away from breaching conditions of the JCPOA agreement.

Crisis in Northern Syria: A Look Inside the Real Idlib Today

By Steven Sahiounie

Idlib has always been a small farming area, but the western media has inflated it to gargantuan proportions.  There were only 34 hospitals total in Idlib, and yet we hear of dozens of hospitals being hit by airstrikes.

Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange

By Nils Melzer

For once telling the truth has become a crime, while the powerful enjoy impunity, it will be too late to correct the course. We will have surrendered our voice to censorship and our fate to unrestrained tyranny.

Tanzania’s Decision to Suspend the Bagamoyo Port Project: A Surprise Blow against China’s Silk Road Vision for East Africa

By Andrew Korybko

The East African country has the proud distinction of hosting China’s first modern-day Silk Road, the 1970s TAZARA railway, which is why Tanzania’s decision to suspend the $10 billion Bagamoyo port project that was supposed to be built by the People’s Republic is such a big deal and could greatly hamper Beijing’s regional strategy.

Investigate Egypt’s Former President Morsi’s Death

By Dr. Chandra Muzaffar

Immediately after Dr Mohammed Morsi’s death on the 17th of June 2019, a number of organisations and individuals had called for a thorough, independent investigation into the cause of his death while on trial in a Cairo court for espionage charges. The United Nations was one of the organisations that demanded an independent investigation.

Libra: Facebook’s Audacious Bid for Global Monetary Control

By Ellen Brown

On June 18, Facebook unveiled a white paper outlining ambitious plans to create a new global cryptocurrency called Libra, to be launched in 2020. The New York Times says Facebook has high hopes that Libra will become the foundation for a new financial system free of control by Wall Street power brokers and central banks.

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Trump’s Re-election? Did the Federal Reserve Already “Decide the 2020 US Election”?

NOVANEWS
  

As of beginning July 2019 prospects look positive for a re-election ofDonald Trump as President in November 2020. Headline stock market and GDP figures all look positive…at the present. The huge unanswered question is whether that can be sustained until the fateful elections. We see signs already that spell potential trouble for the Republicans.

A major problem for the Trump prospects to win a second term in November 2020 is the fact that since 1913 no American President, nor the Congress, control the decisions of the central bank, the legendary Federal Reserve or Fed. What few are aware of is the fact that the Fed is not a government agency. This is despite the fact the President nominates persons to serve as directors. The reality is that the Fed is privately owned largely by the international banks and financial groups that control global money flows. They determine in complex ways the control of US money creation, the heart of the economy.

In December 1913 a cabal of Wall Street Republican international bankers led by J.P. Morgan, John D Rockefeller, Paul Warburg and cronies pulled off the fateful coup d’etat that saw “Democrat” Woodrow Wilson sign away the money power of the government to the bankers. Since then, the Fed has determined the course of the nation’s economy independent of the interests of the national economy or the citizens.

The President of the New York Fed, Benjamin Strong, as head of the most powerful of the 12 reserve banks, literally determined the fate of the US and Europe until his death in 1928. His interest rate policies were directly responsible for creating the 1920s stock market bubble and the October 1929 Wall Street Great Crash. That in turn led to the 1931 global banking crisis and the Great Depression. It was the Fed under Allan Greenspan that was responsible for the creation of the securitization USA housing bubble and also for its deliberate destruction into the “Great Recession” of 2007-2008, a key factor in the 2008 Obama win. This Fed is the real power over economic good times or bad.

It can be demonstrated that every recession or boom, every so-called business cycle since 1914 has been determined by the Fed. When Donald Trump became President he selected several directors of the Fed Board of Governors, including Chairman Jerome Powell beginning February 2018, apparently believing Powell would continue an easy money regimen.

When Powell and the Fed continued the Janet Yellen interest rate increases and withdrawal from Quantitative Easing by selling off the assets it bought after the 2008 financial crisis, the effects were initially overshadowed by the Trump tax law and other factors that spurred both the stock market, the dollar and the economy. By late 2018, however, it began to become clear that the Fed was on course to create a collapse of the post-2008 asset bubble in stocks and real estate, prompting unprecedented criticism from Donald Trump of Jerome Powell, his choice for Fed chairman.

By December 2018, almost a year into Powell’s term, financial markets appeared in freefall, the stock markets down by 30% in six weeks, junk bond markets freezing and oil prices down by 40%. At that point on the urging of a group of influential business people, Trump began to attack Powell for trying to create a new recession.

By March 2019 Powell announced the Fed would likely not raise Fed Funds rates as had been planned further in 2019, holding it at 2.375%, suspending plans to do three or four added rate hikes in 2019. Markets were euphoric.

But by then Fed prior actions had set into motion deep shifts in the economy which are now becoming undeniable. Monetary actions tend to have a lag effect of six to nine months in the real economy. The aggressive Fed tightening through the end of 2018 is just beginning to show damage in the real economy. This is beginning to concern the White House. Here are some preliminary indicators that all is not peachy.

Trucking and Agriculture

According to the Bank of America’s Trucking Diffusion Index for the week of June 21, the national truck freight outlook hit the lowest level since October, 2016, just before the US elections. More alarming, the indicator is down 29% year-on-year, the largest decline since the index started. The current US outlook for freight demand is at a five-year low. Reports are that the construction sector is struggling due to weather issues in key markets.

What this suggests is that the volume of goods being shipped by truck through the US economy is showing a not healthy trend. How long this goes on is at this point not clear. It is an indicator of real problems.

If we add to this the developing crisis in US agriculture, the picture becomes darker not only for trucking but for the overall economy. Record rainfall across the Midwest farmbelt has so far had a devastating impact on crop prospects well into the key summer growing season.

The US Department of Agriculture cut its estimate of the corn harvest, a rare event, in June. Farmers say the government is downplaying the crisis. In addition lack of Congressional action on the Mexico and Canada trade agreements and the Chinese restrictions on US soybean exports are combining to create one of the worst US farm crises in recent years. The US Farm Bureau Federation, a major lobby, has stated that a third emergency farmer bailout would be necessary if export markets for US farm products are not soon reopened. The Farm Bureau states that the combination of disruption of key export markets together with low spot prices, high inventory levels, a slowing economic outlook, and damaging weather across the Midwest, “could culminate into a full-blown farm crisis on par to the 1980s.”

These are not the only signs of storm clouds in the US economy. Sales of existing homes have declined on a Year-on-Year basis for 15 straight months. Rising interest rates are a major deterrent for home buying. Further, the monthly Philadelphia fed survey of Business Outlook expectations, which monitors expected company new orders, sales, employment and other indicators of business activity, registered a sharp drop from 16.6 in May to only 0.3 in June.

This all does not yet indicate a full recession in the overall economy. However it shows how vulnerable the fragile recovery from the 2008 debacle still is. In this situation the Powell Fed is not at all playing a constructive role.

Powell proclaims Fed Independence

On June 25, Fed Chairman Powell gave a speech to the New York Council on Foreign Relations, the original think-tank of the Wall Street bankers created in the wake of World War I parallel to the British Chatham House. In his remarks Powell stressed the Fed’s independence from political pressures: “The Fed is insulated from short-term political pressures — what is often referred to as our ‘independence,” Powell said. “Congress chose to insulate the Fed this way because it had seen the damage that often arises when policy bends to short-term political interests. Central banks in major democracies around the world have similar independence.” It was a declaration of independence from Trump.

The reality, as Donald Trump noted repeatedly in public speeches in March and April, despite the Fed statement about interest rate pause in March, the Fed has not stopped tightening. It is via the little-noticed policy called Quantitative Tightening, the moves by the Fed to tighten money liquidity in the banking system and economy by forcing major banks to buy back some of the almost $4 trillion in corporate bonds and other assets the Fed bought to bail out the major banks and financial giants after the September 2008 Lehman Bros. crisis.

In early 2018 as it was simultaneously raising Fed Funds interest rates, the Fed delivered a double-whammy effect on market interest rates by “selling” some $50 billion a month of its assets from the unprecedented Quantitative Easing (QE) experiment of 2008. QE was a de facto policy of Fed money printing by buying select bonds and other securities, including mortgages, from primary security dealer banks, giving them huge liquidity in return. QT is the attempt to put the QE liquidity Genie back in the bottle by reversing the process, a highly dangerous experiment, one by no means urgent.

As the impact of Fed QT actions began to cause alarm, in February 2019 the Fed agreed to reduce the tightening, but only from $50 to $40 billion a month until now. That comes to almost half-a-trillion dollars less liquidity in the economy annually, not small. If a recession now unfolds over the next 6 months until the November, 2020 elections, it will once again by the “gods of money” at the Fed and their banker backers who caused it. If Trump then loses the 2020 re-election it will owe more to the Fed than to his bizarre Democrat opponents.

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Trump-Xi Meeting: US to Lift Ban on High Tech Sales to China’s Huawei? While Keeping Chinese Telecom Companies on a Blacklist

NOVANEWS

In May, the Trump regime placed China’s tech giant Huawei and its 70 affiliates on its so-called Entity List.

The action shut them out of the US market, along with banning sales of US tech products and components to the companies without Washington’s approval.

The move was unrelated to US national security concerns. It’s all about wanting US telecommunication companies to have a competitive advantage over Huawei.

The Chinese tech giant is leading the race to roll out 5G technology in Western and world markets. At stake are trillions of dollars of economic value, why the company is targeted.

The Trump regime wants China prevented from becoming an economic, industrial, and technological powerhouse on the world stage.

Following talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the just concluded G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Trump suspended the ban on sales of tech products and components to Huawei — while keeping the company and its affiliates blacklisted from doing business in the US market.

Easing the Trump regime’s restrictions on Huawei reportedly was the price Xi demanded for meeting Trump for discussions at the G20.

In remarks to reporters following the summit, Trump said “US companies can sell their equipment to Huawei,” adding: There is no “great national emergency problem.”

“(O)ur companies were very upset” about the ban. Where things stand on Huawei remains very much uncertain, Trump delaying how the company will be treated overall until there’s a deal or no deal with China.

As for de-blacklisting Huawei, its affiliates, and other Chinese tech companies, Trump said

“I don’t want to talk about it now. We will look at it very carefully.”

If talks remain at impasse ahead over unacceptable US demands, how things have gone so far for the past year, toughness against Huawei and other Chinese companies could continue, along with imposing US tariffs up to 25% on all Chinese imports.

Trump added that a Tuesday Commerce Department meeting will decide on whether to take Huawei off the US Entity List.

China’s Foreign Ministry official Wang Zialolong said he has no information on whether the US lifted restrictions on the tech giant, adding:

“We will welcome it if they can do what they have said. Huawei is a private company and its technology is at a pioneering position.”

According to Sino/US analyst Liu Weidong, it’s unclear “under what conditions” Trump will soften his position on Huawei and other Chinese companies.

Clearly he wants something in return, likely unacceptable demands China rejects. Moreover, time and again, he says one thing and does something entirely different.

China has no intention of sacrificing its sovereign rights to US interests — why world’s apart bilateral differences most likely will resurface when talks resume.

Huawei’s CEO Ren Zhengfei said if Google fails to sell its Android operating system to the company, it’ll lose up to 800 million users, a major financial loss for the firm.

Loss of the Chinese market for other US tech companies will be a major blow to their profitability — why suspending the ban on their sales to Huawei and other Chinese companies may stick.

A politically motivated US Justice Department 13-count indictment against Huawei charged the company with wire fraud, money laundering, intellectual property theft, and obstruction of justice.

The action remains a major unresolved bilateral issue.

So is charging its chief financial officer Sabrina Weng Wanzhou with bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, related to allegedly violating (illegal) US sanctions on Iran.

The Trump regime formally requested Canada to extradite her to the US. Currently she’s illegally held under house arrest in Vancouver.

A second 10-count US indictment charges Huawei and its US affiliate with theft of trade secrets from T-Mobile USA, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice – also alleging Huawei “offer(ed) bonuses to employees who succeeded in stealing confidential information from other companies.”

China and Huawei deny US charges. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry accused Washington of using state power to subvert the operations of Chinese companies, notably high-tech ones like Huawei and ZTE – vowing to protect their legitimate rights.

Canadian authorities approved Meng’s extradition to the US, acting on Trump regime orders, her legal team contesting the order.

A legal battle is ongoing for her release. Her status is a major unresolved contentious issue with the US and Canada since her arrest in Vancouver on December 1 last year, Ottawa acting as a Trump regime proxy.

Following her arrest and detention, Trump said he’d intervene for her if China agrees to his demands in talks — showing she’s a political bargaining chip, why action was taken against her, what Beijing considers unacceptable.

In May, her legal team said charges against her are “guided by political considerations and tactics, not by the rule of law.”

Remaining under house arrest, her next court appearance is scheduled on September 23, formal extradition hearings expected to begin in January.

Sino/Canadian relations are at a crossroads over Ottawa’s mistreatment of Meng. Canada is subservient to US interests. It’s Washington’s call on  how the issue will be handled. It’s a major Sino/US sticking point.

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Trump’s Dubious Outreach to North Korea

NOVANEWS
  

US relations with other countries, especially sovereign independent ones it doesn’t control, are long on unacceptable demands, woefully short on seeking cooperative relations.

Two summits between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-unfailed to improve bilateral relations.

They featured one-sided unacceptable US demands in return for empty promises — how Washington always deals with nations it wants transformed into vassal states.

The Trump regime wants a North Korean client state bordering China. Its hardliners want the DPRK rendered defenseless by eliminating its nuclear deterrent and ballistic missiles.

According to John Bolton earlier,

“(w)e have very much in mind the Libya model from 2003, 2004. There are obviously differences. The Libyan program was much smaller, but that was basically the agreement that we made.”

In 2011, US-led aggression raped and destroyed the country, Gaddafi sodomized to death, a fate Kim understands, wanting a similar outcome for himself from future US aggression avoided.

On Friday in Osaka, Trump said he’d like to meet Kim at the DMZ, separating North and South Korea — “just to shake his hand and sell HELLO,” he tweeted, adding:

“After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (to meet with President Moon).”

“While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border…”

Both leaders last met in Hanoi, Vietnam last February. Two Kim/Trump summits achieved virtually nothing toward stepping back from the brink on the Korean peninsula toward regional peace, stability, and normalized bilateral relations.

North Korea maintains a nuclear and ballistic missile deterrent because of the genuine fear of possible US aggression.

Bilateral relations are dismal, pockmarked by multiple rounds of oppressive sanctions, showing extreme US hostility toward the country and its people.

Kim showed good faith during summit talks with Trump — in June 2018, again in February, accomplishing nothing, showing the futility of negotiating with a partner bent on dominating North Korea, unwilling to deal with its ruling authorities cooperatively.

Nothing suggests a change of US tactics ahead. Talks in Hanoi broke down because Trump regime officials refused to offer any concessions, nothing as a show of good faith, something not in the US imperial vocabulary.

Kim asked DJT for partial sanctions relief alone, wanting only ones affecting North Korea’s economy lifted.

Trump refused, insisting on full compliance with his regime’s unacceptable one-sided demands, refusing even a modest gesture of good faith in return.

Bilateral talks were suspended following the failed summit. At the time, DPRK Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui blamed Trump regime officials for the breakdown, saying:

“We have no intention to yield to the (one-sided) US demands in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind,” adding:

Pompeo and Bolton “created the atmosphere of hostility and mistrust and, therefore, obstructed the constructive effort for negotiations between the supreme leaders of North Korea and the United States.”

Choe quoted Kim saying:

“For what reason do we have to make this (65-hour) train trip again? Choe added: “I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the US will eventually put the situation in danger.”

“We have neither the intention to compromise with the US in any form nor much less the desire or plan to conduct this kind of negotiation.”

On June 20 and 21, days before the Osaka G20 summit, China’s Xi Jinping visited Pyongyang, his first state visit as head of state following Kim’s invitation, part of efforts by both countries to work cooperatively.

Both leaders said they reached consensus on “important issues,” agreeing to further cooperative relations, especially given US hostility toward North Korea.

There’s virtually no prospect for normalizing US relations with the country.

An uneasy armistice has persisted between them since US aggression in the early 1950s ended.

It continued endlessly by other means from then to the present day. It won’t end as long as the DPRK defends its independence, its sovereign right.

It rejects the acceptable US demand to subordinate its sovereignty to its interests — as it should. The same goes for all nations.

Note: On Sunday, Trump and Kim met in the DMZ, DJT saying talks between both nations will begin “over the next two or three weeks.” He also stepped over the demilitarized zone border into North Korea, the first sitting US president to do it.

Talks are better than conflict even if there’s no prospect that the Trump regime will take steps toward normalizing bilateral relations.

This is a developing story, more on it as further information becomes available.

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To Avoid War, the US Must Stop the Sanctions against Iran and Return to the JCPOA

NOVANEWS
  

Iran’s decision to increase its stock of low enriched uranium from 174.1 kilograms on 20 May to beyond the JCPOA’s agreed limit of 300 kilograms on 27 June 2019, is not a “violation” or “breach” of the nuclear deal, as has been described.  Neither is Iran’s suspending the implementation of some of its commitments under the JCPOA, on 7 July, that is, at the end of its 60 day ultimatum to the European troika to observe their part of the deal and produce practical measures to counter the calamitous effects of US sanctions on the lives of Iranians.  It is Iran’s legitimate and necessary response to a contract already left by the US and breached by its European allies. 

Despite continued promises, the Europeans signatories have lacked both willingness and sovereignty to secure mechanisms for trade with Iran.  To expect Iran to continue adhering to its commitments unilaterally with the population strangulated under sanctions and tortured by threats of war, is the product of a colonial mindset; disingenuous, cruel, outrageous and delusional.  This legitimate stance is clearly acknowledged by Nathalie Tocci, advisor to the EU’s Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, Federica Mogherini:

“if I were Iran I would probably not stick with the JCPOA because indeed, as I said, the social contract can only hold if both sides live up to the bargain”.

Spurred by Iran’s decision, on 27 June the Europeans announced that their mechanism for trade labelled Instex which had been promised in February after months of empty talks since US’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, will now become operational in a matter of days.  However, INSTEX is limited in scope and tied to the Financial Action Task Force (FTAF), the accession to which requires Iran adopting the Terrorist Financing Convention (CFT) and Palermo Convention.  These would seriously compromise Iran’s sovereignty and rather than combatting sanctions, become an instrument of pressure on Iran.  It is important to see the preconditions for Instex and how it would work in practice.

After years of unsubstantiated accusations and fabrications against Iran’s peaceful civilian nuclear programme, the imposition of inhumane sanctions and the chronic shadow of war over the Iranian population, on 14th July 2015, two years of intense negotiations resulted in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Nuclear Deal, between the Security Council members plus Germany (P5+1) and Iran.  The nuclear deal which was adopted unanimously in the Security Council Resolution 2231 on 20th July 2015, severely curbed Iran’s nuclear programme and placed it under strict monitoring within an agreed time frame.  In return, the Security Council Resolutions and sanctions on Iran – secured through US manipulation and threats of military action – were removed and Iran’s file was normalised and returned to the jurisdiction of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Iran’s right to uranium enrichment was recognised, and US/EU comprehensive sanctions on Iran were to be removed.

The nuclear deal lifted the shadow of war, and raised hopes for economic, social and democratic progress for Iranian people.  However, despite all the IAEA verification and monitoring reports of the past 4 years, consistently confirming Iran’s faithful adherence to its obligations under the nuclear deal, from the beginning the US refused to adhere to its part of the deal in the removal of all the sanctions, and directly or indirectly through whipping up a climate of uncertainty and fear of punitive measures dissuaded its European allies from fully meeting their commitments, particularly in the removal of the banking sanctions and the operation of SWIFT for international banking transactions.

Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal on 8th May 2018 and the imposition of wide-ranging sanctions intending “to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero” depriving the country of “its principal source of revenue” has been an explicit declaration of war on a population of 80 million, inflicting intense suffering, pauperising and wiping out the middle class, destroying the country’s infrastructure, civil society and democratic aspirations.  On the occasion of the recent unprecedented floods in Iran in April of this year which left thousands homeless, without access to food and clean water, the US sanctions blocked the accounts of Iran’s Red Crescent preventing humanitarian aid being sent to Iran, an egregious crime against humanity, to which the Europeans helplessly bowed down.  Where does the violation of Iranians’ human rights to jobs, homes, medicine, affordable food, and to live without the terror of war fit in with Europe’s deafening advocacy of “human rights” for which it wages wars of aggression, as in Libya and Syria?

Sanctions rather than military intervention is the option of choice for President Trump and Pentagon analysts.  The idea being that given enough time and assisted by propaganda, sanctions would create large scale discontent, would weaken Iran’s defensive capabilities and human resources, and ripen it for regime change or make it an easier target for future military attack.

Iran’s planned suspension of part of its commitment under the JCPOA, such as increasing the level of enrichment and increasing its stock of heavy water, are not violations of its NPT obligations and a path to nuclear weaponisation.  Possession and stockpile of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction have been forbidden by repeated religious FATWAs for decades including the Fatwa from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.  The US and Israel’s fabricated accusations of weaponization against Iran come in the context of Israel’s possession of hundreds of nuclear warheads targeting Iran.  The US has continued its refusal to ratify the nuclear Test Ban Treaty and its recent announcement that limited wars fought with “low yield nuclear weapons”, are winnable, is a clear threat against Iran, described by Moscow as “blackmailing the countries, who oppose American dictates”.

Trump administration’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and sabre rattling against Iran are led and fuelled by hawks in his cabinet, his National Security Adviser John Bolton, the architect of the invasion of Iraq, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, powerful Christian Zionists,  and the military industrial complex.

Arms manufacturers  play a crucial role in creating climates of threat and igniting wars.  This was exemplified on 21 June, the day after Iran downed the US spy drone over Iranian territory.  James Winnefeld, a Raytheon board member and retired Navy admiral, masquerading as CBS’s news analyst heavily criticised President Trump for calling off retaliatory strikes against Iran, insisting that the US will “lose a lot of credibility”.

US’s demand to “drag” Iran into ‘talks’ with a gun to its head and under the pressure of sanctions is clearly an aggressive non-starter.  US’s demands, outlined in Pompeo’s “twelve pre-conditions” for talks, are nothing short of Iran signing its own death warrant, that is, signing the conditions for its surrender and invitation for military attack.  Indeed,  US’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA and its demands and behaviour have helped unify Iranians and cemented a deep mistrust towards the US.

The Trump administration tore up an international agreement, supported by the UN Security Council, with impunity, holding a nation of 80 million at gunpoint.  Europeans have proven compliant and cooperative with the US’s lawlessness. What is there to guarantee the US’s adherence to any other agreement that could conceivably be reached?  International law and treaties do not operate in a vacuum and outside of the context of the balance of power. The JCPOA, negotiated over two years, which involves domestically contentious concessions from Iran, addresses all concerns about any potential weaponisation risks by Iran.  It is not open to re-negotiation.

The US’s real concern however is Iran’s conventional missile programme which is proving increasingly vital for Iran’s defence and a powerful deterrent against regional adventurism.  Iran’s leading role in the Axis of Resistance,  its success in defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria and foiling the US/Israeli/Saudi regime change agenda in Syria, with Iran as the next target, is the focus of the US concerns and demands.  Iran’s regional links, and the respect and loyalty it commands at popular level, has provided it with strategic depth and influence and a powerful defence for Iran.

This is viewed as a serious obstacle to US/Israeli hegemonic agenda in the region and a challenge to Saudi/Emirati sectarian regional ambitions. This is the context in which the accusations of “Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism” needs to be viewed.  Not ISIS or many thousands of  Saudi/NATO recruited and sponsored, head-chopping, heart-eating, rapist sectarian ‘jihadists’ from 80 countries around the world, who unleashed a bloodbath in Syria and Iraq, who routinely kill and maim citizens not only across the Middle East but also in Western heartlands.  No, many of these are the West’s “freedom fighters”, just as the Neo-Nazi thugs who were supported to take power in Ukraine’s “Maidan Revolution”. The bothersome “terrorists” are the Palestinian resistance, Hezbollah and the popular forces of the Axis of Resistance pushing against US-led agenda and its hand-reared terrorists.  Remarkably, a confidential report to the US Congress on 18th June refuted Pompeo’s public claim that Iran “had hosted al Qaeda, they have permitted al Qaeda to transit their country … There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Al Qaea. Period, full stop”.  The report confirmed that there is no evidence of Al-Qaeda cooperation with Iranian government.

Trump might be reluctant to engage in a costly military confrontation.  The assessment of Pentagon, military analysts and economists might be that such a war would seriously damage world economy and could escalate into a global war.   However pressure from war lobbies and the hawks in Trump’s cabinet and the huge US military build-up in the Persian Gulf make igniting war through false flag operations and miscalculation a real possibility.  The designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation has closed vital channels of communication between the US and Iran and increased the risk of miscalculations.

The tanker attacks in the Persian Gulf which were immediately blamed on Iran without any credible evidence, and the trigger happy reaction of the US to attack Iran over the shooting down of the US spy done over Iranian territory  (an attack which was allegedly called off by Trump 10 minutes before the operation, and to the huge dismay of the hawks), are clear indications of the incendiary circumstances ripe for false flag operations and which could very quickly slide into military confrontation.  The idea put forward by Trump that war with Iran would be short-lived is another dangerously erroneous assumption which could lead to miscalculation and a catastrophic war.

Whatever, the evidence and counter evidence, with Trump’s policy of “Maximum Pressure on Iran’, all responsibility for any attack or confrontation squarely falls on the US.  As Daniel Larison says very clearly in American Conservative (June 18, 2019),

“It is the U.S. that has been ramping up pressure and inflicting collective punishment on all Iranians. It is the U.S. that reneged on the JCPOA, and it is the U.S. that has issued unrealistic ultimatums effectively demanding Iranian capitulation. After strangling and kicking Iran for more than a year, the administration tries to pretend that Iran is engaged in “aggression” when it pushes back against relentless economic warfare and escalating threats. “Maximum pressure” is what has brought us to the verge of war, and Trump is the proud owner of that policy. If we want to avoid further escalation, the U.S. needs to back off on its pressure campaign at a minimum.”

The possibility for an unstoppable regional and potentially global war, is real, and it is only a matter of time for a spark to ignite a military confrontation. It is crucial for the Europeans, if they have any concern for the security of their own populations, to, instead of pressuring Iran to effectively ‘lie down and die’ under sanctions, actively pressure the US to remove the sanctions on Iran and return to the JCPOA.

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on To Avoid War, the US Must Stop the Sanctions against Iran and Return to the JCPOA

UN Secretary General Guterres ‘Has Hidden Behind Protocol’ over Khashoggi, No UN Investigation into Murder

NOVANEWS

Agnes Callamard tells MEE that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other UN institutions should have been more proactive in aftermath of journalist’s killing

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “has hidden behind protocol” rather than push for an investigation into the murder of Saudi journalistJamal Khashoggi, the UN special rapporteur who probed the killing has told Middle East Eye.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 41st UN Human Rights Council, which she will address on Wednesday, Agnes Callamard said Khashoggi could be “a model case” for the UN to show that it takes targeted killings seriously.

It could have acted as a mediator, allowing better coordination during the investigation of the brutal killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, and between the parties involved, she said.

Instead, the inaction of Gutteres and various UN bodies has “poisoned” what was already a terrible crime.

“In my view, the secretary-general could have set a more proactive process for himself and the UN and he chose otherwise,” Callamard said.

“I think by now they must understand that inaction and silence and hoping that it is going to disappear is just not going to work with this particular killing.”

Last week, Callamard, a human rights expert who serves as the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, released a nearly 100-page report into the murder of the US resident who wrote for the Washington Post and Middle East Eye.

The inquiry, based on more than 120 interviews, concluded that there was credible evidence that the killing was premeditated and that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other high-level officials were liable.

‘Sacrificial animal’

It also gave the fullest public account so far of the 59-year-old’s final moments inside the consulate where a team of Saudis were recorded discussing dismembering him and referring to him as a “sacrificial animal” in the minutes before he arrived, according to Callamard’s inquiry.

The Saudi Human Rights Commission rejected the report’s findings, saying it was biased and that Callamard breached UN principles of impartiality, objectivity and professionalism.

The crime, she told MEE on Tuesday, was exceptional in its brutality, yet unexceptional because it represents a pattern of other killings that have been the focus of UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

“So it was little bit paradoxical that there was no more commitment to find a meaningful role for the UN when confronted with a crime that was, by November or December, becoming an international crisis,” she said.

It was the inaction, she said, that drove her to pursue her inquiry.

“I could not understand why the UN – the secretary-general, the Security Council, the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly – have not moved forward with more resolve.”

Now, she said, she hopes the UN will hear her call, and push for an international investigation.

“I’m not suggesting they intervene in all [killings], but they should intervene in a killing that is demonstrated to be an international killing touching on many aspects of international law,” she said.

Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee who spoke with Callamard on a panel hosted by the Canadian government at the UN on Tuesday, said it was “scandalous” that high-level officials may be implicated.

“I don’t want this significance to remain on a piece of paper, or to remain on the shelves of the UN,” she told a packed room of diplomats, NGO representatives and reporters. “If the UN will not do the follow up on such murders, who will do it?”

MEE contacted Guterres’ office for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Posted in USA, Saudi Arabia, UNComments Off on UN Secretary General Guterres ‘Has Hidden Behind Protocol’ over Khashoggi, No UN Investigation into Murder

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Visit to China

NOVANEWS

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Visit to China Will Elevate Bangladesh’s Role in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Extend China’s Influence in South Asia

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will visit China from July 3 to 5, during which time she’s expected to ink several agreements focusing mostly on power generation and economic cooperation, according to her country’s media. The South Asian state has always enjoyed excellent relations with China and has recently become one of its largest overseas investment destinations, with some reports calculating that the People’s Republic has approximately 30-billion-U.S.-dollars’ worth of interests there already.

A lot of this is concentrated in the power generation industry, just like the lion’s share of investments in the nearby China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), though textiles are quickly catching the attention of Chinese businessmen nowadays too. Bangladesh is already one of the world’s largest garment producers, and its role in this trade is only expected to increase as more companies come to appreciate its low-cost labor, high-quality production capabilities, and strategic location.

China and Bangladesh have yet to sign a free trade agreement even though Beijing proposed one back in 2014. Negotiations are presently ongoing and some progress might be made on this front during Prime Minister Hasina’s visit, though no breakthrough should be expected at this point in time. Although the two sides are very close partners and located in near proximity to one another, they lack the physical connectivity between them that could take their trading ties to the next level and make the clinching of a free trade agreement a reality.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) and Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali deliver speeches after the meeting in Beijing, China, June 29, 2018. /CGTN photo

China has been trying to pioneer the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor for quite a few years but the project stalled after New Delhi expressed disinterest due to what some observers speculated might have been political reasons. India is opposed to anything having to do with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) because it believes that the CPEC, its flagship project, infringes on its sovereignty since it transits through Pakistani territory that it claims as its own per its maximalist approach to the Kashmir Conflict.

Even so, Indian Prime Minister Modi sent some positive signals to President Xi during their interactions at the SCO Summit in Bishkek and the G20 in Osaka, especially since the latter event saw the hosting of an informal summit between the Russian, India and Chinese leaders who collectively represent the Eurasian core of BRICS.

It’s therefore not entirely unforeseeable that India might reconsider its inflexible stance towards the BRI and decide to selectively participate in some projects of shared interest such as the BCIM Economic Corridor, which in that case would naturally improve China and India’s trading ties with Bangladesh and Myanmar.

After all, they already have converging interests in those two countries, so it makes sense to cooperate with one another instead of competing like some observers have suggested they’re doing. Should that scenario eventually transpire, then Bangladesh and Myanmar would be all the more developed and stable because of it.

And that’s exactly what those two neighboring countries need most of all and as soon as possible, too, since the Rohingya issue continues to plague their bilateral relations and endanger regional stability. Bangladesh is hosting around 700,000 Rohingya refugees that fled a large-scale anti-terrorist operation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State back in 2017 that some countries criticized as excessive and possibly even deliberately targeting the civilian members of this demographic.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Qingdao to attend the SCO Qingdao Summit in Qingdao, China, June 9, 2018. /VCG Photo

In any case, the BCIM Economic Corridor probably won’t make any progress until this humanitarian issue is resolved between Bangladesh and Myanmar, but it’s here where China could play a constructive peacemaking role by helping to mediate a solution among its two partners. In fact, some Bangladeshi media reports even speculated that Prime Minister Hasina might discuss this issue during her upcoming trip to China and ask Beijing to encourage Naypyidaw to guarantee the safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees.

It’s too early to make any predictions about how exactly China could help to resolve this humanitarian problem, but it’s nevertheless important to point out that it does indeed have the diplomatic sway to at the very least make any prospective proposals heard in Myanmar. Considering that China’s vision is to ensure regional peace through equitable development and that the BCIM Economic Corridor would greatly facilitate its goal in this regard, then it wouldn’t be too surprising if its leaders listen attentively to whatever Prime Minister Hasina might suggest that they do about this during her upcoming trip.

Altogether, while the bulk of the Bangladeshi leader’s trip to China is expected to entail discussions and deal-making about various economic topics, there’s also the possibility that the Rohingya issue will be brought up too since its ultimate resolution would greatly facilitate more economic cooperation between all sides through the BCIM Economic Corridor that would then become politically feasible for all participants.

Posted in BangladeshComments Off on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Visit to China

Washington’s Infatuation with Iran’s Mujahedin-e Khalq (M.E.K) Terrorist Organization

NOVANEWS

Inarguably, Washington has a long history of supporting terrorists. As General William Odom, President Reagan’s former National Security Agency (NSA) Director wrote in his 2007 article “American Hegemony, How to Use It, How to Lose It”:

 “[T]errorism is not an enemy. It is a tactic. Because the United States itself has a long record of supporting terrorists and using terrorist tactics…”.

Despite this long-standing use of tactic, there is no record of terrorists operating but a stone’s throw away from the White House.  Nor has there been such brazen embrace of  a terrorist group dubbed an undemocratic cult – until now.

The 1997 Patterns of Global Terrorism report issued by the State Department stated the following about the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO, NCRI and various other acronyms):

“During the 1970s, the MEK staged terrorist attacks inside Iran to destabilize and embarrass the Shah’s regime; the group killed several US military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Tehran. The group also supported the takeover in 1979 of the US Embassy in Tehran. In April 1992 the MEK carried out attacks on Iranian embassies in 13 different countries, demonstrating the group’s ability to mount large-scale operations overseas.”

Listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in 1997,  the offices of the group’s spokespersonAlireza Jafarzadeh was located at 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Even after the attacks of September 11 and America’s declared “war on terror”, the spokesperson and representative of the terror group was just down the street from the White House. Later, the organization would move its offices to 1747 Pennsylvania Avenue, remaining close to the residence of the President of the United States of America located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It is said that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. This is certainly not true of Washington officials and their cozy ties with the MEK cult.   It seems that they are inching ever closer and have the audacity to flaunt  their ties. Washington’s actions are a long cry from Israel’s who in the 1990’s was secretly aiding the group. (The Israeli-MEK relations continues to be omitted from news headlines while the accusatory finger is pointed to Saudi Arabia for their financial support of the cult).

Connie Brock of The New Yorker writes:

“Israel had a relationship with the M.E.K at least since the late nineties, and had supplied a satellite signal for N.C.R.I. broadcasts from Paris into Iran. An Israeli diplomat said: “The M.E.K is useful,” but did not elaborate.”.

According to the same report, the Israelis provided the MEK with unsubstantiated ‘intelligence’ on Iran’s nuclear program. Not surprising since the aforementioned 1997 Patterns of Global Terrorism report states,

“The MEK directs a worldwide campaign against the Iranian Government that stresses propaganda and occasionally uses terrorist violence .”.

The close relationship with Israel may help explain why it was that in spite of being listed as terrorists, the group managed to bribe prominent politicians; even as a provision of the defense authorization bill would grant the military the authority to detain and hold anyone indefinitely, or to assassinate any individual suspected of having ties to terrorists/al Qaeda. Yet, these terrorists were giving speaking fees to American politicians. (The group also has its tentacles around British politicians – see HERE).

What is even more mind-boggling is the fact that Israel was supporting a terrorist cult that had massacred the Kurds in Iraq in 1991, and only a few year later, the Israelis were training the Kurds in Iraq who has survived the massacre (obviously something that has been lost on the Kurds)  while their killers, the MEK, were being chauffeured around by American soldiers a short distance away in Iraq – in America’s ‘war on terror’!

Meanwhile, back home, politicians were being bribed by the terrorists! Clearly, FATF (Financial Action Task Force) did not prevent money from being funneled to and from terrorists. Shamelessly, Washington is demanding that Iran become a member of FATF to stop terrorism financing!

Even while the terrorist group was doling out money to corrupt politicians so they could be removed from the FTO list, and Washington politicians accepted money from terrorists, the group continued with its terrorism and carried out cross-border raids inside Iran with the full knowledge and encouragement of the Bush administration (History Commons).

Concurrently, Washington was using other group members to promote propaganda against Iran with emphasis on ‘human rights’.  The leader of the terrorist cult, Maryam Rajavi’s live satellite broadcast into Washington was  cheered. This certainly gave new meaning to ‘human rights’ promotion by America – as well as its ‘war on terror’.

The hypocrisy reached across the aisle. Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much, but both parties supported this terrorist cult – all the way to the top. When Hillary Clinton was running for President in 2008, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D -Texas), co-chair of Hillary’s presidential campaign, not only shared her friendship with America’s then presidential hopeful, but she also promoted America’s pet terrorists – the MEK. Congresswoman Jackson Lee went as far as calling Maryam Rajavi “Sister Maryam,[i]. (Would this make Hillaryand Maryam ‘sisters’ too?).

Certainly, Hillary’s push to remove the MEK from the FTO was a very sisterly act.

It is important to bear in mind that the group was removed from the list of FTO after  U.S. officials disclosed to NBC that the  MEK terrorist group was financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service and responsible for the killing of Iran’s nuclear scientists; and at a time when the United States was negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran Deal.

This year, as the Iranians mark the 38th anniversary of a horrendous attack by the MEK cult, the Trump administration is openly promoting the cult and flaunts Washington’s decades long, bipartisan infatuation with a notorious, anti-democratic cult.    What makes the MEK stand out?

Israel’s support aside, they seem to be brought out in the open whenever Washington wants to play tis psychological games with Iran – its  ‘stick’, the term [offensive] policy makers like to use.  Washington knows full well that the group is hated in Iran.  That not a single member of this group will be tolerated in Iran, and there is no future for the group.  History also shows that Washington has experienced blow-back every time it has supported an unsavory group or when it has encouraged terror and terrorists.  Terrorism, like pollution, does not recognize borders.  Why the mad romancing of the MEK?

Perhaps Washington hopes that this cult will simply come to an end.  As the Council on Foreign Relations has reported:

“Many analysts, including Rubin, have characterized the MEK as a cult, citing the group’s fealty to the Rajavis. Older women were reportedly required to divorce their husbands in the late 1980s, and younger girls cannot marry or have children.”.

Perhaps Washington’s thinking is that their numbers will dwindle and there will be no future generations of this cult to come back and haunt it. Now there is a wish both Washington and Tehran share!

But wishes don’t make policies. Washington needs to understand that its stick is a boomerang that will come back at it.  Washington has become morally and fiscally bankrupt as a result of its wrong policies. Its high time to save itself from the quagmire of its own creation before sinking beyond redemption.

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on Washington’s Infatuation with Iran’s Mujahedin-e Khalq (M.E.K) Terrorist Organization

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