Archive | January 21st, 2020

The Members of Congress Who Profit from War

Here are the senators and representatives who own stock in Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and other top defense contractors.

By David Moore and Donald Shaw

Global Research,

Sludge produces investigative journalism on lobbying and money in politics. The American Prospect is re-publishing this article.

It was shortly after midnight in Baghdad on Friday, Jan. 3, when a missile strike ordered by President Trump killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

When stock markets opened the next day, dozens of members of Congress saw bumps in their portfolios as their holdings in defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon increased in value on the possibility of war. Over the next three trading days, the leading defense industry stock index would surge 2.4% above Thursday’s close.


[This observation points to another important issue: Those who had “inside information” or foreknowledge of Trump’s statements and/or decisions, including advanced knowledge of their  likely impacts on stock values, must have “made a killing” on the stock market. M.Ch, GR Editor]


Among these members of Congress with personal investments in the defense industry are several who sit on committees that determine major sources of funding for defense companies and weapons contractors.

According to a Sludge review of financial disclosures, 51 members of Congress and their spouses own between $2.3 and $5.8 million worth of stocks in companies that are among the top 30 defense contractors in the world. Members of Congress generally report the values of their investments in ranges, so it’s not possible to know exactly how much their stocks are worth. As Congress debates whether to limit President Trump’s power to take military action against Iran, the complete list of senators and representatives who own defense stocks is displayed below in this article.

Eighteen members of Congress, combined, own as much as $760,000 worth of stock of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor in terms of overall defense revenues. The value of Lockheed Martin stock surged by 4.3% on the day after Soleimani’s assassination—a day in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average overall traded down.

Since Dec. 27, 2019, the day an American contractor was killed by a rocket in Iraq, the aerospace and defense sector has outperformed all other sectors in the S&P 500, according to a Jan. 8 Marketwatch write-up of research from Bespoke Investment Group. “Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and L3 are each more than three standard deviations above their 50-day moving average,” Marketwatch wrote.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed a resolution directing President Trump to terminate the use of the military to engage in hostilities in or against Iran unless Congress has authorized such action or to defend against an imminent threat. A similar resolution may be considered by the Senate this week. The House may vote on additional measures related to Iran, including Rep. Ro Khanna’s (D-Calif.) bill to block funding for military action against Iran and Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Calif.) bill to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force that Congress passed after 9/11.

Rep. Khanna’s wife, Ritu Khanna, owns as much as $376,000 in defense stocks. Khanna told Sludge in an email that he and his wife maintain independent finances and file taxes separately.

“I have not personally invested in any defense stocks,” Khanna said. “I will continue to fight for a progressive foreign policy for this country rooted in diplomacy and regional dialogue. That’s why I have consistently voted against bloated defense spending and sought accountability from some of our nation’s largest defense contractors.”

Serious Conflicts of Interest

Members of Congress’s investments in defense contractors may present more significant potential conflicts of interest than investments in other industries because the contractors rely heavily on defense spending that is approved by Congress for their revenue.

More than 70% of Lockheed Martin’s $51 billion in 2018 revenue came from sales to the U.S. government, for example. Companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon are considered “pure plays” because they sell their products almost exclusively to the government through appropriations approved by Congress.Merger Mania: The Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids

“Members of Congress should divest from all investments tied to their congressional responsibilities and avoid any actual or potential conflicts of interest or ethics dilemmas,” Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, told Sludge.

In the Senate, nearly one-third of the members of the Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee own stocks in top defense contractors. The subcommittee is in charge of drafting the procurement section of the annual Defense spending bill, which allocates funding for the Defense Department and specifies weapons systems and other goods for the department to purchase from private contractors.

In the 2020 Defense appropriations bill, the subcommittee approved $1.85 billion for 18 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircrafts and spare parts from Lockheed Martin. Subcommittee member Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) owns as much as $100,000 worth of stock in Lockheed Martin. The subcommittee also recommended $1.1 billion for 6 P-8A Poseidon aircraft, which is a maritime patrol and reconnaissance plane made by Boeing. Subcommittee members Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) own as much as a combined $750,000 in Boeing stock.

A spokesperson for Feinstein, whose husband owns as much as $650,000 worth of Boeing stock, told Sludge that the senator “has no involvement in her husband’s financial and business decisions,” adding that “the senator’s assets are in a blind trust, which has been the case since her arrival in the Senate.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee oversees arms controls and exports, yet at least four of its members have investments in defense companies whose foreign sales fall under their jurisdiction.

Foreign arms sales that are proposed by the president are referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee for approval, modification, or rejection. The committee may hold hearings on the sales to ask questions or raise concerns before the sales are approved, and it can initiate a joint resolution of disapproval in order to block or modify a sale.

Companies that Foreign Affairs Committee members are invested in, including HoneywellLockheed Martin, and General Dynamics, have been approved for foreign sales and partnerships in recent years.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) owns as much as $400,000 worth of stock in Leidos, which is paid billions of dollars to provide information technology services for the Defense Department. In May 2019, Leidos CEO Roger Krone testified before Connolly’s committee in favor of legislation calling on the government to guarantee back pay for contractors in the wake of government shutdowns. Connolly had written a letter to House appropriators months earlier seeking support for such a bill.

Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) have re-introduced their Ban Conflicted Trading Act, which would prohibit members of Congress from buying and selling individual stocks, giving them six months from enactment to divest their shares, and from serving on corporate boards, something that’s already banned in the Senate but not in the House.

“Members of Congress serve the American people, not their stock portfolios,” Sen. Brown previously told Sludge. “Elected officials have access to nonpublic information that can affect individual companies and entire industries. There must be more accountability and transparency to prevent members from using this information and abusing their positions for personal gain.”

Four companies—Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics—make up 90% of arms sales to Saudi Arabia in deals worth over $125 billion, according to a July 2019 report by the Center for International Policy. American-made weapons have been used by Saudi Arabia’s government in the war in Yemen, with a death toll that has risen over 100,000, including 12,000 civilians from attacks targeting them.

Nearly half of the federal discretionary budget goes to defense—$623 billion in 2018. In his 2020 Pentagon budget request, President Trump proposed increasing that amount to $750 billion. These annual totals understate total military spending: a May report from the Center for International Policy found that, counting all ten funding sources for war fighting, the actual total amount spent on defense in 2019 would be $1.254 trillion, nearly as much as the $1.359 trillion spent in the entire discretionary budget, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Homeland Security, Energy, and more.

Of the at least 380 former high-ranking Department of Defense officials who went through the revolving door to become lobbyists or senior executives in 2018, around one quarter joined the top 5 defense contractors, according to the Project On Government Oversight: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman. Current U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is a former lobbyist at Raytheon, which over the past two election cycles spent $6.4 million on campaign contributions and $20 million on federal lobbying.

Methodology

Sludge built a tool that scrapes the House and Senate financial disclosure portals and extracts machine-readable data. Data from financial disclosures that were handwritten and scanned were manually entered by Sludge reporters. The Senate data comes in two sets: one for the most recently filed annual reports, which cover the entire 2018 calendar year, and another for the periodic transaction reports, which log stock purchases or sales within 45 days of the trade. By adding in 2019 purchases and sales with the 2018 annual data, we arrived at finalized totals for senators as of Dec. 13, 2019. The House data does not include periodic transaction reports, so it’s possible that House members have sold or bought defense stocks since Dec. 31, 2018 that are not reflected in this article.

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Hard Evidence on Torture and Ill-Treatment Against Palestinian Detainees at Nazi Interrogation Centers

By Addameer

Since its creation, the occupying state developed and enforced laws and practices that led to both the systematic use of torture and to absolute impunity for the perpetrator of this crime. There has never been any individual or agency held accountable for the well-documented crimes of torture and illtreatment at Nazi Camp prisons and interrogation centers.

The occupation authorities, in particular, the Nazi Gestapo intelligence agency “Shabak” resorts to torture and ill-treatment as standard operating procedure in a systematic and wide-scale approach against Palestinian detainees. Over the past three months, the intelligence agency subjected a number of detainees at Nazi interrogation centers to severe physical and psychological torture without any form of monitoring and protection.

Addameer has hard evidence on the crimes of torture and ill-treatment committed against a number of detainees held at interrogation centers since late August 2019. Addameer was banned from publishing any of the details of torture prior to this date, due to a gag order issued by the Nazi Court of First Instance in Jerusalem.

On 10 September 2019, a gag order was issued on a number of cases under interrogation at al-Mascobiyya interrogation center. Hence, preventing the public, including Addameer the legal representative, from publishing any information regarding these cases. The gag order was issued based on a request from the Nazi Gestapo intelligence agency and Israeli police and was renewed multiple times. Despite the gag order, Israeli media outlets and the Nazi Gestapo intelligence agency published information to the public about some of those cases. This inconsistent enforcement of the gag order, where the Nazi sources exercised the freedom to publish, can only be understood as a means to influence public opinion. Most importantly, the issuance of this gag order is an attempt to hide crimes committed against the detainees and prevent the public and the legal representatives from exposing the details of the crimes of torture and ill-treatment that were committed against the detainees in question throughout the past months.

Torture at Nazi Gestapo interrogation centers

According to Nazi military laws, a detainee can be held in interrogation for a total period of 75 days without receiving any official charges. According to these same laws, a detainee can be banned from meeting his/her lawyer for a total period of 60 days. Those detainees, in particular, were held for extremely long periods of interrogation, and were also banned from lawyers’ visits and legal consultation. The periods of the ban on meeting the lawyers ranged from 30 to 45 days in some cases. During the interrogations, the detainees suffered from different forms of both physical and psychological torture. The methods used against them included, but were not limited to harsh beating, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, stress positions, the denial of basic hygiene needs, sexual harassment, threatening and intensive psychological torture including the use of family members and/or other detainees. The used threats included threats of rape, torture, and revocation of residency. The severe torture and humiliation these detainees suffered from, led to injuries, broken bones, fainting, vomiting, bleedings from different parts of the body (nose, mouth, hands, legs[1] and genital area). In addition, the detainees also suffered from the false assessment made by doctors at the interrogation centers, whom almost in all cases stated that the detainees are qualified for interrogations denying the clear signs of torture.

A short description of some of the torture techniques:

Positional torture (stress positions:Nazi intelligence officers forced the detainees into a number of stress positions such as the banana position,[2] the frog position, sitting on an imaginary chair, squatting and many other different positions. Almost in all of these stress positions, the detainees would lose their balance and fall on the ground, which would lead to a harsh beating by the officers and then forcing the detainee back into the stress position. Other used stress positions included standing on their toes while their hands were shackled above their heads to a wall. Another position included sitting on a chair while handcuffed to the back, where the hands were positioned on a table behind the detainee’s chair. A third position involved the detainee laying on the ground with his/her hands chained to each other with iron cuffs and positioned behind his/her back. This position also includes officers sitting on the detainee to place pressure on his/her body while beat him/her ferociously.

Harsh beatings:

 Nazi occupation intelligence officers used extreme methods of beatings against the detainees using their hands, legs, knees and even their fingers. The Nazi officers hit, slapped, punched, poked (using their fingers), and kicked the detainees. These methods resulted in severe and life-threatening injuries that included broken ribs, inability to walk, brutal bruises, swelling marks on the skin, ulcer wounds…etc. The officers, who exceeded five in number in some cases used to blindfold the detainees’ eyes so they would not expect the beating or know where it is coming from. Several of those detainees appeared in their court sessions with marks on their bodies, expressing severe pain, or in some cases arrived on wheelchairs. In one of the cases, the harsh beating was committed with the intention to kill the detainee, who was in fact transferred to the hospital in serious condition after around 30 hours of severe and extreme methods of beatings.

In another case, the harsh beating aimed at injuries caused by Nazi police dog during the arrest, the interrogators intended to target those previously obtained injuries, which were mainly on the detainee’s genital area causing the wounds to re-open twice. Also, in many other cases, the method of pulling the facial hair from its roots causing injuries and swelling marks was used.

Sleep deprivation:

This technique was implemented through different methods, in some cases the detainees spent around twenty days sleeping from one to three hours a day. Even when those detainees were sent to their cells to sleep, they would be disturbed with loud and eerie sounds made by the prison guards, the voices of other detainees being harshly beaten or the sound of knocking on their cell doors. In some cases, sleep deprivation ranged from 30 to 60 continuous hours, where the detainee would not be sent to sleep at all during these hours and would be woken up if he/she falls asleep during the interrogation. Some detainees were harshly slapped By Nazi Gestapo officer on their faces to wake up, others were also splashed with water. Detainees described the slaps as extremely severe causing them to feel dizzy.

The use of family members (emotional

Blackmailing): psychological torture and ill-treatment were used on the majority of these detainees, focusing on threats against their family members, and loved ones. Nazi occupation forces used the policy of collective punishment through arresting and bringing in some of the family members mostly to al-Mascobiyya interrogations center and Ofer prison. Eight family members for seven different detainees were arrested, and another ten family members were brought in for questioning. Some of these relatives were kept for a number of days while others were kept for hours. In all the cases, family members and loved ones were mainly brought in to pressure the detainees themselves. The Nazi interrogators made the detainees assume that their relatives got arrested and will be tortured as well. Relatives included fathers, mothers, brothers, daughters, wives, etc.

Interrogation at Israeli secret prisons: 

At least one of the detainees Addameer has documented their cases have stated that they were taken to unknown centers. The detainee said that the interrogators at this center were all face-covered and wearing a different uniform than the known usual uniforms. It has been revealed in the past that Israel has secret prisons that are removed from maps and airbrushed aerial photographs.[3]

These detainees that were subject to Nazi torture and ill-treatment in the past months were around 50 detainees, almost half of them were subject to torture, and all of them suffered ill-treatment. The detainees included male and female detainees, they also included university students, union workers, human rights defenders, and a PLC member. Addameer’s lawyer began collecting hard evidence proving the torture and ill-treatment committed against these detainees from the very first day the lawyers were permitted to meet them.

Public International Law:

Violations of Fair Trial Guarantees

Nazi military courts completely disregard the fair trial guarantees. The cases monitored in the last months are just another proof of the fact that the Nazi military court from its creation never met the minimum standards of a fair trial. The right to a fair trial is enshrined in all the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. [4] According to the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, depriving a protected person a fair and regular trial is a grave breach.[5] Additionally, the right to a fair trial is set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and in several other international instruments.[6] For example, the UN Human Rights Committee in its General Comment on Article 4 of the ICCPR stated that the principle of the fair trial cannot be derogated from.[7]

The fair trial guarantees basic principles that are systematically violated at the Nazi military courts include, but are not limited to the following; trail by an independent, impartial and regularly constituted court; presumption of innocence; information on the nature and cause of the accusation (right to be informed); necessary rights and means of defense (right to counsel); the presence of the accused at the trial; and compelling accused persons to testify against themselves or to confess guilt.[8]

As mentioned before, there was a gag order effective for a period of over three months, due to this gag order the court proceedings were not open to the public, and even preventing the family members from attending the court sessions. Thus, violating the right to public proceedings.[9] Also, the majority of the detainees who were included in the gag order were also banned from lawyers’ visits and consultation. Even in the court sessions that were conducted while the lawyers’ ban was effective, detainees were denied to see his/her lawyer. The period of the lawyers’ ban orders ranged from 30 days to around 45 days in some of the cases, depriving them of their right to counsel[10] in the most sensitive period of detention.

Moreover, according to the Nazi military law, a detainee can be held without any charges for a total period of 75 days that is subject to renewals. In those cases, in particular, the military prosecution pressed lists of charges after a period of interrogations that ranged from 50 to 60 days in some of the cases. One of the detainees spent more than 100 days at Nazi centre al-Mascobiyya interrogation center without knowing all of the charges brought against him. Thus, violating detainee’s right to be informed[11] of the nature of the accusations brought against them without delay. In other cases, the intelligence agency published accusations against individuals to the public before presenting them with their list of charges at the court. The published statements were for a mere political motive as the actual charges pressed against the same detainees at the military court are not in line with the published accusation.

Furthermore, according to the court sessions’ protocols, detainees have shown and expressed their need for urgent medical care by emphasizing that they were tortured. Some of the detainees attended their sessions in a wheelchair and one was not able to attend a number of his sessions due to his medical situation. Still, the judge at the military court in all of the cases extended the detention periods for the detainees for the purposes of interrogations. In fact, in the past three months, Addameer’s lawyers made several appeals to the Nazi military courts of appeals on the detention periods and many petitions to the Nazi High Court on the orders that ban the detainees from meeting their lawyers. All the petitions submitted to the Nazi High Court were rejected and around 95 percent of the appeals made to the Nazi military court of appeals were also rejected. This shows how the Nazi military court and High Court are not independent, impartial and regularly constituted courts[12] as they prioritize the requests and needs of the Nazi Gestapo intelligence agency without any consideration of the detainees’ rights. Most importantly, the insistence of the Nazi judges at both courts to extend the interrogation periods with the knowledge of the committed torture shows the complicity of this legal system in the committed crimes. In fact, the judges also obstructed the documentation of torture by attempting to delay the obtaining of medical reports and pictures of the bodies of those tortured detainees, rather than monitoring and preventing torture, which is their legal obligation. Only in one of the cases, the judge ordered the detention center’s doctor to document the body of the detainee by taking pictures.

Finally, almost all of those detainees were forced to give confessions under torture. The intensity of the interrogations and severity of the physical and psychological torture forced the majority of the detainees to testify against themselves, against others, and confess guilty.[13] At the Israeli military court, those confessions are used as the main tool to indict those detainees, in complete disregard of all international norms that assert on the inadmissibility of all confessions obtained under torture.

Prohibition of Torture in Public International Law

Prohibition against torture is one of the most fundamental norms of international law that cannot be derogated from. The protection against torture under all circumstances is enshrined in both Treaty[14]  and Customary International Law.[15] Despite the absolute and non-derogable prohibition against torture, enshrined under article (2) of the International Convention against Torture and ratified by Israel on 3 October 1991, torture against Palestinian detainees is systematic and widespread in Nazi occupation prisons and interrogation centers. In fact, torture has been sanctioned by a series of Nazi High Court decisions. In High Court decision number 5100/94 in 1999,[16] the High Court made permissible the use of “special means of pressure” in the case of a “ticking bomb” scenario, where interrogators believe that a suspect is withholding information that could prevent an impending threat to civilian lives as stated in Article (1)34 of the Nazi Penal Code of 1972. This exception constitutes a grave legal loophole that legitimizes the torture and cruel treatment by the Nazi intelligence interrogators against Palestinian detainees and also protects interrogators who are granted impunity for their crimes.

Moreover, the Israeli High Court, in the Tbeish case number 9018/17 in 2018,[17] issued a ruling which expanded the concept of a “ticking bomb” scenario to include cases that are not imminent security threats. In this case, the judge based his ruling on previous decisions and broadened the element of immediacy not to be limited with a time frame. The Nazi occupying state alleges that the “special measures” they use with Palestinian detainees are part of their security measures. However, those practices amount to torture and ill-treatment, and even if the Nazi allegations were accurate, torture is absolutely prohibited in all circumstances including those of security-related measures. Furthermore, torture is committed in Nazi Gestapo interrogation centers regardless of the classification of a “ticking bomb situation/special measures” torture is used with cases that even include the right to affiliation and organize politically.[18]

International legal standards affirm the absolute prohibition of torture under all circumstances. For example, the Council of Europe outlined guidelines on human rights and fighting terrorism which was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 11 July 2002. The guidelines stated: “The use of torture or of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is absolutely prohibited, in all circumstances, and in particular during the arrest, questioning and detention of a person suspected of or convicted of terrorist activities, irrespective of the nature of the acts that the person is suspected of or for which he/she was convicted.”[19]

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, stated: “The ban on torture and ill-treatment was one of the most fundamental norms of international law and could not be justified in any circumstances.”[20] He added in the same statement speaking about the American prison at Guantanamo Bay that, “By failing to prosecute the crime of torture in CIA custody, the U.S. is in clear violation of the Convention against Torture and is sending a dangerous message of complacency and impunity of officials in the U.S. and around the world.”[21] The Nazi occupying state is an outrageous example of complicity and absolute impunity for perpetrators of the crimes of torture and ill-treatment.

Conclusion: Impunity for a war crime

This Nazi illegal occupation has violated all the legal elements of an occupation under international law. The Nazi legal system and practices are just one example of this violation that aims for suppressing and dominating the Palestinian protected population. Crimes of torture and denial of a fair trial for Palestinian detainees are not limited to one perpetrator. In fact, the agencies complicit in those crimes include the intelligence agency, military court, military prosecution, Hight Court, and even the medical staff that were involved in providing medical care and assessment for those detainees subjected to torture and ill-treatment.

According to various human rights organizations fighting against the crimes of the occupation, there are no effective domestic mechanisms of accountability for the crimes of torture, ill-treatment and the deprivation of a fair trial. In point of fact, Addameer, in the last ten years, has annually submitted tens of complaints of torture, and only one of them, a sexual harassment case, was open for investigation. However, rather than pressing a list of charges against the perpetrators, in this case, it was closed without indictment. Furthermore, according to the Public Committee Against Torture in ‘Israel’ (PCATI), about 1,200 complaints of torture during Nazi interrogations have been filed since 2001. All the cases were closed without a single indictment.[22]

Finally, Addameer affirms that the Nazi occupying state with all of its agencies continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. According to the Rome Statute, the denial of a fair and regular trial is a war crime (Article 8 (2)(a) (vi)). Additionally, torture is a war crime (Article 8 (2)(a) (ii)) and if committed in a systematic and wide-scale approach it also amounts to a crime against humanity (Article 7 (1)(f)).[23]

Addameer calls on the international community to hold the Nazi regime accountable for its war crime and crimes against humanity and to put an end to its sanctioned absolute impunity.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Hard Evidence on Torture and Ill-Treatment Against Palestinian Detainees at Nazi Interrogation Centers

50 Years of The Davos World Economic Forum

By Global Research News

Trump At Davos: “The Great American Comeback”

By Andrew Korybko,

The theme of Trump’s second Davos speech during his presidency was what he described at the beginning of his talk as “The Great American Comeback”, a point that he returned to time and again to emphasize the fact that he fulfilled his promise to “Make America Great Again”.

In terms of the bigger picture, it can be said that the US’ domestic and foreign policy gains have been greatly advanced through the economic means that were described. Even if one disagrees with them for reasons of ideology, there’s no denying that they’ve been extremely effective in promoting America’s interests.

How Are Iran and the “Axis of the Resistance” Affected by the US Assassination of Soleimani?

By Elijah J. Magnier,

The US President Donald Trump assassinated the commander of the “Axis of the Resistance”, the (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) IRGC – Quds Brigade Major General  Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad airport with little consideration of the consequences of this targeted killing. It is not to be excluded that the US administration considered the assassination would reflect positively on its Middle Eastern policy. Or perhaps the US officials believed the killing of Sardar Soleimani would weaken the “Axis of the Resistance”: once deprived of their leader, Iran’s partners’ capabilities in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen would be reduced. Is this assessment accurate?

Washington Desperation Drives Nuclear Proliferation

By Ulson Gunnar,

The highly destructive trade wars, real wars and political and/or economic interference the US is engaged in worldwide is creating a negative and very tangible impact on the globe. Despite the high costs of Washington’s increasingly disruptive polices and the prominence they assert themselves with across daily headlines, it is perhaps the nuclear threat of an increasingly reckless political order that poses the most danger.

The Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) Is at It Again – Celebrating 50th Anniversary

By Peter Koenig,

Friends, you should go to the WEF, the notorious World Economic Forum in Davos, (21-24 January), where a 12 square-meter hotel room costs US$ 10,000 per night (if you don’t believe it, look it up on the internet), and where it’s totally normal that sharpshooters are everywhere on roof tops in subfreezing temperatures – to protect the about 3000 upper-echelons, of course – and that a huge section of the Zurich airport has been cordoned-off for the private planes of the ‘environmentally conscious elite’ — and where Trump arrived this morning, Tuesday, 21 January; and where the “plane-spotters” with their sophisticated binoculars and telescopes are practically camping in the airport areal — to be first when the airport gates are opened, for them to enter the airport terraces to “spot” the arriving VIP / CEO / celebrity private planes (you get the picture, it’s sort of like Black Friday, with the campers in front of the Walmart gates) – hundreds of private jets are expected – the normality of abject uselessness and decadence of the rich – and its acceptance and even glorification by the populace, is much more than George Orwell could have ever thought of when he wrote 1984 in 1948.

Despite Limitations, Cuba’s State Budget Maintains Its Eminently Social Focus

By Yudy Castro Morales,

The planned budget for 2020 is based on principles of conservation and rationality in expenditures, and maximizing income, mobilizing all untapped potential that exists in the economy, stated Vladimir Regueiro Ale, first deputy minister of Finances and Prices, during a press conference yesterday.

US Violated Unspoken Rule of Engagement with Iran

By Prof. As’ad AbuKhalil,

The U.S. has long assumed that assassinations of major figures in the Iranian “resistance-axis” in the Middle East would bring risk to the U.S. military-intelligence presence in the Middle East.  Western and Arab media reported that the U.S. had prevented Israel in the past from killing Suleimani.  But with the top commander’s death, the Trump administration seems to think a key barrier to U.S. military operations in the Middle East has been removed.

Guantanamo: An Enduring Symbol of US Islamophobia

By Maha Hilal,

Though Muslims have long been targeted in the US, as a young Muslim, learning about Guantanamo Bay introduced me to the specifics of how this country would criminalise my community. To many Muslim Americans, this prison – an extrajudicial space deliberately opened off the US mainland – is a haunting symbol of Islamophobia.

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US Foreign Interventionism and the Disappearance of Classical Liberalism

By Shane Quinn

American governments have intervened in dozens of countries globally since 1945, either directly by military invasions, indirectly through funding of elite opposition groups and stimulation of unrest, or covertly from its special services such as the CIA.

The level of US interference easily outweighs anything which can be attributed to the USSR or, later, Russia. (1) Among the core reasons behind the meddling pursued abroad by successive US administrations, is to ensure control over raw materials (oil, gas), strategically important areas (Latin America, Middle East, etc.) along with eliminating the threat of popular uprisings (Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and so on).

Image result for george kennan

The prominent American planner George Kennan (image on the right) summarised perfectly much of the thinking behind US foreign policy, when he wrote in a top secret State Department memorandum from February 1948 that,

“We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction… We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards and democratization”. (2)

Kennan was considered one of the liberal doves of his time, perhaps the most benevolent of US strategists.

The extent of American overseas intervention has, through living memory, left in its wake a sorry trail of human suffering only too well known to the victims, and little reported at home.

Yet the early roots behind these actions in fact precede both world wars, and lie mostly within the policies of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine. This credo, proposed first in December 1823 by James Monroe (1758-1831), America’s fifth president, espoused the right of US governments to intervene at will within its Latin American domains, whenever their interests were supposedly threatened by European rivals like Britain, Spain or Portugal.

The first glaring example of US imperial venture was executed during the attack on Mexico in the mid-1840s, so as to secure valuable reserves of cotton for American industry, mainly at the expense of the British. It was an ugly invasion also implemented on racial, expansionist grounds and which Ulysses S. Grant, future US president in the 1870s, described as “the most wicked war in history” and “I have always believed that it was on our part most unjust”. (3)

By 1848, around half of Mexican territory was permanently annexed to the United States, including well known regions such as California, Texas and Nevada.

All of the above actions were decided within the corridors of power in Washington, for the large part free from public judgment and analysis. By the time the Monroe Doctrine was put forth, 196 years ago, dark clouds were already gathering on the horizon.

Former US president and Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – principal author of the 1776 Declaration of Independence – was, by the year 1816, issuing clear warnings about the direction that American democracy was taking. An alarmed Jefferson observed in 1816 that America “was moving toward a single and splendid government of an aristocracy founded on banking institutions and monied incorporations”.

If the trend were to continue, and it was just then beginning, Jefferson prophetically noted that “it would be the end of democracy and freedom. The few would be riding and ruling over the plundered plowmen and the beggared yeomanry”.

A decade later, 1826, Jefferson highlighted two separate groups, the “aristocrats” and the “democrats”; the first category consisting of “those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes” – and the second group, who “identify with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe depository of the public interest, even though not the most wise”.

Jefferson hoped greatly that the bulk of the population would win out, and thereafter have extensive influence in the running of the nation. Aristocrats of this time were proponents of the budding capitalist state, figures whom Jefferson regarded with ample distaste and mistrust, as he identified the obvious contradiction between that of capitalism and democracy.

These viewpoints sound strange and almost extreme today, such has been the steady and unseemly drift towards what is now an absolutist, neoliberal state capitalist system, in which the public’s influence has been gradually eroded as to be almost negligible. Jefferson’s worst nightmares have unfolded.

Preceding Jefferson by a generation, Adam Smith (1723-1790), the famous 18th century British theorist and economist, was firmly opposed to what were then known as “joint stock companies”, in modern parlance: corporations, in their earliest stage.

Smith was pointedly against the evolution of big business, as he feared it would draw untold strength to its clutches and become “immortal persons”, with powers vastly exceeding ordinary people. This is precisely what occurred from the 19th century, particularly in the United States, the foremost capitalist country.

Smith also believed at the very essence of liberty was “the right of every workman to the fruits of his own labour”. Smith commented that should the worker become converted to a tool of production, he would have “no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise his invention”. As a consequence “he naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become”. (4)Foreign Power Intrusion in American Democracy? Guess Who?

A critical element in a person’s fulfillment is to work through one’s own intuition, freely and creatively without external authority or control. The development of natural, inherent qualities are difficult to attain in the typical modern working environment, much of which is in the hands of major corporate control – which are, it must be said, tyrannical institutions utterly unaccountable to public scrutiny.

The highly influential American philosopher and linguist, Noam Chomsky (image on the left), reveals that the rise of corporate power through government action “didn’t happen through the democratic process. It happened primarily through judicial decision, decision by lawyers and judges and so on, as part of the effort to create a developmental state, a powerful interventionist state that would introduce a high level of protectionism and direct public resources to private power, and in that way enable development to take place”. (5)

Smith himself, whose reflections Chomsky has often discussed, furthermore decried what he called “the vile maxim of the masters of mankind, all for ourselves, and nothing for other people”. This is an adage that has been one of the guiding principles taught over the past century or so; along with the “new spirit of the age: gain wealth, forgetting all but self”.

Smith further attacked the “merchants and manufacturers” in England that were “by far the principal architects” of policy, and who ensured their personal interests were “most peculiarly attended to”, no matter how “grievous” the result for the wider population, including victims of their “savage injustice” overseas in the British colonies.

Many of Smith’s views are supported in following decades by the Prussian philosopher and diplomat, Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835), who affirms too, “if a craftsman creates something beautiful but does it on external command, by the orders of someone else and under coercion, we may admire what he does, but we will despise what he is, because he’s not human; he’s a machine”.

Humboldt believed that the state has a tendency to “make man an instrument to serve its arbitrary ends, overlooking his individual purposes”, and “To inquire and to create – these are the centres around which all human pursuits more or less directly revolve”. (6)

Humboldt expounds that,

“There is something degrading to human nature in the idea of refusing to let any man the right to be a man” (7); and he remarks, “Whatever does not spring from a man’s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very being, but remains alien to his true nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness”.

The above are classical liberal expressions, opposed to all but minimal forms of state intervention or outside interference in society and personal life. This would seem quite alien to many of those regarding themselves as “liberals” in the present era.

Humboldt, another of the major classical liberal thinkers who has almost been forgotten, inspired the 19th century British philosopher John Stuart Mill.

These opinions are actually steeped in Age of Enlightenment ideals – an intellectual movement of especially high standard that existed roughly from the early 18th to the late 19th century; and which, in later eras, may have partly inspired extremely important intellectual figures like Chomsky, and preceding him, John Dewey (1859-1952).

Dewey, an American philosopher and educational reformer, recognised that the workers of a nation should be “the masters of their own industrial fate”, and not implements to be utilised by unelected, autocratic employers. Dewey’s insights are based on mainstream Enlightenment thinking, which developed long before the emergence of any “dangerous foreign ideologies” like Marxism or Leninism.

Dewey distinguishes that political policies are “the shadow cast on society by big business and, as long as that is so, the attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance”. Simply put, reforms and other mild antidotes are effectively useless. What is needed are large-scale popular revolts seeking to remove “the shadow”, and institute genuine public participation in policy; that is, real democracy.

With the regression in overall intellectual standards taking hold in the 20th century, the arguments and ideas expressed by Dewey were becoming isolated indeed.

Chomsky, one of the increasingly lone voices of reason from the second half of the 20th century onward, writes that the erosion of intellectual capabilities from the year 1900 and beyond “shows how much we have declined since Jefferson’s day… This should be part of intellectual history in a free society, the kind of thing that you ought to learn in elementary school. Jefferson’s distinction applies with precision to the modern age, except everything has been reversed and forgotten. This is also pretty standard in the academic culture”. (8)

To grant an insight into the steep decline in the 20th century, we can briefly examine figures like Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), a leading American intellectual and esteemed political scientist of his day. Lippmann stood as the most prominent individual in US journalism for around half a century.

Among other things Lippmann believed that, “We have to protect ourselves against the trampling and roar of the bewildered herd”, meaning the majority, whom he felt should be designated a “spectator” role in society, coming forth to “lend their weight” to “the responsible men” in “democratic elections”.

Lippmann thought that the governing of the country should be left to “the specialized class”, rather than to the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders”, another of his flattering descriptions for the masses, who instead “must be put in its place”; which could be achieved through “the manufacture of consent”, in plain English, propaganda. (9)

As the 20th century advanced into the 21st century, with the neoliberal era strengthening its grip, about 70% of the American population have become disenfranchised, with little or no input upon public policy, the political arena or the media they consume. To provide an example, the US has “one of the worst election processes in the world, and it’s almost entirely because of the excessive influx of money”, according to former US president Jimmy Carter in 2012.

The situation is not much more favourable in the many other capitalist “democracies” prevalent in the Western hemisphere, and also throughout much of mainland Europe and elsewhere.

Chomsky discerned that,

“Effective power is indeed in the hands of the higher classes. The early institutions, banking institutions and monied incorporations that he [Jefferson] was concerned about are now in vast power and control and dominate the decision-making system, essentially in secret. Modern democratic theory, interestingly, has veered very sharply from Jeffersonian ideas, and in fact is precisely based on fear and distrust of the people”. (10)

The current form of state capitalism is often rather grotesquely called “liberal democracy”. Classical liberalists would quite likely be appalled.

Posted in USAComments Off on US Foreign Interventionism and the Disappearance of Classical Liberalism

OPCW Inspector Debunks Doctored Syria Report. “The Chemical Weapons Incident That Never Occurred”

The OPCW Fact Finding Mission willfully falsified information, falsely blaming Syrian authorities for a CW incident that never occurred.

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research,

Last November, WikiLeaks published information from an OPCW whistleblower.

A member of its fact finding mission to Douma, Syria, he expressed grave “concern over intentional bias introduced to a redacted version of the report he co-authored.”

The OPCW’s so-called Fact Finding Mission (FFM) doctored its March 2019 report on the alleged April 7, 2018 Douma, Syria CW incident — that never happened, falsely saying the following:

“Regarding the alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon in Douma (Syria)…evaluation and analysis…of information gathered by the FFM (delaying its visit to the site for 11 days) provide(s) reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon has taken place on April 7, 2018.”

“This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine. The toxic chemical was likely molecular chlorine.”

The so-called incident was fake, a US/NATO-staged false flag, Syria wrongfully blamed for a victimless nonevent.

No one in Douma died, was hospitalized, or became ill from exposure to chemical or other toxins.

Local eyewitnesses and medical personal debunked the falsified narrative. Russian technical experts found no evidence of chemical or other toxins in soil samples and other analysis of the site.

Yet the OPCW FFM willfully falsified information — in deference to Western interests, falsely blaming Syrian authorities for a CW incident that never occurred.

In Monday Security Council testimony, former OPCW inspector team leader Ian Henderson debunked the agency’s doctored report on the alleged April 2018 Douma CW incident, saying the following:

“There were two teams deployed, one team, which I joined shortly after the start of field deployments, was to Douma in Syria, the other team deployed to country X,” adding:

“(T)he so-called FFM core team(’s) inspectors…deployed (to) Douma (were) dismiss(ed).”

“(F)inal FFM report…findings…were contradictory…a complete turnaround (from) what the team” actually found on the ground.

When the “interim report (was released) in July 2018, our understanding was that we had serious misgivings that a chemical attack had occurred.”

“(T)he final FFM report…does not reflect the views of the team members (sent) to Douma…”

It “did not make clear what new findings, facts, information, data, or analysis in the fields of witness testimony, toxicology studies, chemical analysis, and engineering, and/or ballistic studies had resulted in the complete turn-around in the situation from what was understood by the majority of the team, and the entire Douma team, in July 2018.”

“In my case, I had followed up with a further six months of engineering and ballistic studies into these cylinders, the result of which had provided further support for the view that there had not been a chemical attack.”WikiLeaks Exposes Doctored OPCW Report on Alleged CW Attack in Syria

Cylinders found in Douma with alleged toxins were manually placed on the ground, not aerially dropped as the final FFM report falsely claimed. More on this below.

Henderson was an OPCW inspector for 12 years, an inspection team leader and engineering expert.

Evidence compiled by his team in Douma showed no CW attack occurred. The OPCW falsely claimed otherwise in its doctored report.

The Douma incident was a US/NATO-staged false flag. So-called video evidence showing men, women and children foaming at the mouth was fake.

It was prepared in advance by US/UK/NATO/Israeli supported al-Qaeda-linked White Helmets, masquerading as civil defense workers.

Russia’s Defense Ministry earlier debunked the notion that OPCW inspectors found evidence of toxins in Douma soil samples – or  that witness testimonies indicated CW incident, just the opposite, adding:

The Trump regime wants the OPCW used as “an instrument of political pressure on Syria under the control for US machinations.”

In response to the doctored OPCW report, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the following:

“We are concerned that the mission prefers to completely ignore the substantial information provided by the Russian and Syrian parties confirming that this (fake) chemical incident had been staged by the pseudo-humanitarian organization White Helmets.”

At the time, Syria’s Foreign Ministry expressed outrage over the OPCW’s fake report, saying it was prepared by non-professional biased personnel, falsely blaming Damascus for a staged false flag, pretending use of CWs, adding:

“This report does not differ from the previous mission reports filled with distorted facts” and bald-faced Big Lies.

It “ignored the statements of witnesses who lived with that incident and described the allegations of using chemical weapons in Douma as a play performed by armed terrorist organizations” — White Helmets in cahoots with jihadists, supported by the West.

Syrian technical experts “eas(ily) discover(ed) that the OPCW experts were lying when claiming that they investigated the incident in the report from various aspects.”

Their report excluded “neutrality and objectivity, as they ignored the possession of toxic chemicals by terrorist groups, although the mission found those substances in the warehouses of terrorists when they visited them.”

Monday during the Security Council session on the alleged Douma incident, Russia’s envoy to the OPCW Alexander Shulgin said the following:

“(T)he investigation of the (Douma) incident conducted by the (OPCW’s) Fact Finding Mission in Syria le(ft) much to be desired.”

Its findings were delayed for nearly a year. Testimonies from credible witnesses on the ground were “completely ignored.”

Conclusions in the doctored FFM report “differed (markedly) from the observations of the Russian experts, who were convinced that the chlorine gas cylinders were brought into the premises by militants manually – for provocation.”

“The Russian side kept trying to induce the OPCW Technical Secretariat to have a professional dialogue regarding what happened in Douma” to no avail.

“The current situation with the disputable official report of the OPCW looks like an abscess.”

“We cannot move forward until we eliminate it. How can we talk about trust to the Technical Secretariat and between the States Parties?

Shulgin called for actions to “restor(e) trust and normalization (of) the situation in the OPCW” — what’s currently nonexistent.

Russia UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia Monday’s SC remarks noted “something fishy is cooking (at) the OPCW,” adding:

“(T)he impartiality and integrity of the OPCW…is seriously questioned, and not just by us and other member states…”

“Why do some of our colleagues (sic) so vehemently defend the reports by the OPCW FFM, which…were fabricated?”

“(T)he FFM (Douma) report was made up. (W)e have no illusions about the positions of member states, but we earnestly aimed at restoring the credibility of OPCW, which we see seriously compromised.”

Why was the initial FFM Douma report “shelved…and then disappeared and destroyed” — replaced by a doctored one with no credibility.

Throughout nearly nine years of US aggression in Syria, wanting its sovereign government replaced by pro-Western puppet rule, its ruling authorities were falsely blamed for CW and other incidents they had nothing to do with.

Note: Establishment media reported nothing about OPCW inspector Henderson’s Jan. 20 Security Council testimony.

They’re silent about what reliable alternative media featured, the same true on virtually all major issues mattering most, especially geopolitical ones.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on OPCW Inspector Debunks Doctored Syria Report. “The Chemical Weapons Incident That Never Occurred”

Naziyahu Drumming Up Opposition to ICC as World Leaders Descend on I$raHell

Netanyahu Drumming Up Opposition to ICC as World Leaders Descend on Israel

Mass public support from allies in face of likely investigation into Israeli war crimes has not been forthcoming

By Middle East Eye

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to use the influx of foreign leaders to Israel for the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation to drum up support for efforts to block the International Criminal Court (ICC) from investigating war crimes, local media has reported.

Dozens of dignitaries are descending on Israel this week for the commemoration including Russian President Vladimir Putin, US Vice President Mike Pence and France’s Emmanuel Macron.

Sources familiar with Netanyahu’s preparations told the Haaretz daily that the prime minister will encourage leaders to oppose the ICC prosecutor’s efforts to investigate Israeli war crimes in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Last month, Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, said there was a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.

“I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed,” she said.

Now the ICC is mulling whether or not it has jurisdiction in the territories affected.Israel Discusses Denying ICC Staff Entry into Israel

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is recognised as a non-member state by the United Nations, which permits it to sign treaties and enjoy the majority of benefits, similar to full member states.

In 2015, the PA signed the Rome Statute that governs the ICC. Some countries, including the United States and Israel, are not signatories and therefore are shielded from prosecution in the Hague over war crimes.

‘Full frontal attack’

Since Fatou’s announcement, Netanyahu has asked Israel’s allies to publicly reject any ICC investigation, which amongst other cases would look into the 2014 Gaza War, which killed 2,251 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, and 74 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

Any ICC investigation would probe war crimes on both sides. Eventually, an investigation could see charges against individuals, but not states.

So far, Israel has received public support from only the United States, Hungary, Germany and Canada, which have repeated Israel’s official line that Palestinians in the territories in question are not residents of a sovereign state.

In an interview aired on Tuesday with Trinity Broadcasting Network, the world’s largest Evangelical Christian TV station, Netanyahu derided the ICC and urged opposition to it.

“I think that everybody should rise up against this,” he said.

“They’re basically in a full frontal attack on the democracies. Both on the democracies’ right to defend themselves and on Israel’s right, the Jewish people’s right, to live in their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel.”

Netanyahu noted that Washington had criticised the ICC for its attempts to investigate Israel, adding that he urged “all your viewers to do the same and ask for concrete actions, sanctions, against the international court. Its officials, its prosecutors, everyone”.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Naziyahu Drumming Up Opposition to ICC as World Leaders Descend on I$raHell

Former Nuremberg War Crimes Prosecutor on the Immoral Killing of the Iranian General.

Below is timely letter to the New Your Times by Benjamin B Ferencz, who was chief prosecutor at Nuremberg. What is required is the establishment of a Nuremberg 2.0 Criminal Court to judge US War Crimes. As pointed out by Benjamin B., the ICC and the ICJ are being bypassed

By Benjamin B. Ferencz

Global Research,

***

To the Editor:

Now in my hundredth year, I cannot remain silent. I entered the United States in January 1921 as a poor immigrant boy, and I have felt obliged to repay the United States for the opportunities given to me.

I was an American combat soldier in World War II, and was proud to serve my country as the chief prosecutor in a war crimes trial at Nuremberg against Nazi leaders who murdered millions of innocent men, women and children.

The administration recently announced that, on orders of the president, the United States had “taken out” (which really means “murdered”) an important military leader of a country with which we were not at war. As a Harvard Law School graduate who has written extensively on the subject, I view such immoral action as a clear violation of national and international law.

The public is entitled to know the truth. The United Nations Charter, the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice in The Hague are all being bypassed. In this cyberspace world, young people everywhere are in mortal danger unless we change the hearts and minds of those who seem to prefer war to law.

Benjamin B Ferencz

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Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI, IranComments Off on Former Nuremberg War Crimes Prosecutor on the Immoral Killing of the Iranian General.

Iran Takes 5th and Final JCPOA Rollback Step

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research,

It took years of negotiations to conclude the landmark JCPOA nuclear deal in 2015 between Iran and P5+1 countries (Russia, China, UK, France and Germany + the EU).

Adopted unanimously by Security Council Resolution 2231, the agreement became binding international law.

In May 2018, the Trump regime unlawfully pullout out, a mortal blow to the deal based on what followed.

Britain, France, Germany and Brussels breached the JCPOA by failing to fulfill their mandated obligations, effectively killing it by siding with hostile US policies toward Iran.

In response, Tehran incrementally rolled back its voluntary commitments as permitted under Articles 26 and 36 — on Sunday taking a 5th and final step, a statement saying:

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, in the fifth step in reducing its commitments, discards the last key component of its operational limitations in the JCPOA, which is the limit on the number of centrifuges,” the level of uranium enrichment, the stockpile of nuclear fuel, as well as nuclear research and development.

Henceforth, Tehran’s legitimate nuclear program will be developed according to its internal needs.

Cooperation with IAEA monitors will continue unhindered as before.

If unlawful US sanctions are lifted and Europe comes into compliance with its mandated obligations, Iran will again adhere to its voluntary commitments under the deal.

On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif announced the news, tweeting:

“As 5th & final REMEDIAL step under paragraph 36 of JCPOA, there will no longer be any restriction on number of centrifuges.”

“This step is within JCPOA & all 5 steps are reversible upon EFFECTIVE implementation of reciprocal obligations.”

“Iran’s full cooperation w/IAEA will continue.”

Unless reversed which appears highly unlikely, Europe’s failure to fulfill its mandated obligations effectively killed the deal — as things now stand.

Trump’s assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani, along with failure by Europe and the UN to condemn what happened, further assured Iran taking its final step.

Last Friday, German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said the following in response to Soleimani’s assassination:

“The American action was a reaction to a series of military provocations for which Iran is responsible (sic),” adding:

“We also see with great concern Iran’s activities in the region (sic). We stand before a dangerous escalation” — against Iran, not by its ruling authorities, she failed to stress.New Poll Shows Most Americans Oppose Trump’s Iran Agenda

Iran responded strongly to her remarks, Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi, saying the following:

“The Islamic Republic of Iran regards the German government’s stances in support of brutal and unilateral US actions which are against international law as complicity in these actions, and Iran reminds the German government of General Soleimani’s key role in fighting the terrorism of Daesh, whose continued existence would have endangered the lives of countless number of people even in Europe.”

Britain’s Boris Johnson also stands with the Trump regime against Iran. According to the London-based Sun broadsheet:

Senior UK war ministry officials support US actions against Iran.

“If things unravel quickly, the UK will always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the US,” the Sun reported, adding:

Royal navy “hunter-killer…submarines (are) within range of Iran,” the broadsheet quoted a UK military source.

The London Independent said foreign secretary Dominic Raab “backed Donald Trump’s ‘right’ to assassinate (Soleimani, falsely calling what happened) a right of self-defense.”

Press TV reported that “preparation for potential (UK) military action against Iran contradicts Raab’s claim that the UK seeks regional “de-escalation.”

Britain’s Tony Blair partnered with Bush/Cheney’s 2003 aggression against Iraq.

Mark Twain long ago noted that history doesn’t repeat but it rhymes.

Right-wing London Guardian editors criticized PM Boris Johnson for “go(ing) from (Trump regime) poodle to lapdog,” adding:

Britain “will not (benefit) from (allying with) Trump’s Iranian misadventure.”

Trump “lacks the imagination to see the issues involved in the Middle East. The killing of the Iranian general is just another example of the failure of his ‘maximum pressure campaign’ on Iran.”

Allying with Trump against Iran shows neither the US or Britain can be trusted.

After speaking with Trump on Sunday, French President Macron expressed “solidarity” with the US and West while criticizing Middle East “destabilizing activities” — referring to Soleimani’s assassination by the Trump regime.

France’s Europe minister Amelie de Montchalin expressed concern about “a more dangerous world” in the wake of what happened, calling for “stability and deescalation.”

As millions of Iranians in Tehran and nationwide mourn Soleimani on Monday, Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council secretary/former IRGC chief Mohsen Rezaei warned that if the Trump regime strikes Iranian territory militarily, Tehran’s response “will completely level Haifa and (other) key Israeli targets,” adding:

“The whole world should know that that the Americans will be removed from the region soon.”

On Sunday, Iraqi PM Mahdi said “specialists from various agencies (in the country) are drafting a document on further legal and procedural actions to implement the parliament’s decision to” expel US and other foreign troops from its territory.

Regional tensions are more greatly heightened than any time since the run-up to Bush/Cheney’s 2003 aggression on Iraq.

The danger of anything happening ahead by accident or design is ominously real.

A Final Comment

Following the Trump regime’s assassination of Iranian General Soleimani, will other key IRGC commanders be targeted for elimination by the US?

Will hardliners surrounding DJT urge more hostile actions against Iran, pushing the envelope toward toward greater confrontation?

Will similar actions be taken against Iraq after its parliament passed legislation to expel US and allied forces from the country?

Will the US escalate ongoing Middle East wars? Is another regional one likely?

These are hugely dangerous times because of hostile US actions in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Posted in IranComments Off on Iran Takes 5th and Final JCPOA Rollback Step

Mike Pompeo threatens to assassinate more Iranian leaders if they retaliate against US

Iran has already complained that the US breached international laws with the targeted killing of General Soleimani. The US Secretary of State said any US military strikes inside Iran would be legal.

Ben Gelblum

 by Ben Gelblum

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The US military may strike more Iranian leaders if the Islamic Republic retaliates for the Trump administration’s killing of Tehran’s most powerful general last week by attacking Americans or American interests, secretary of state Mike Pompeo said.

As Mr Pompeo conducted a round of TV interviews on Sunday to explain President Donald Trump’s decision to target Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, the repercussions from that attack played out.

The Iraqi parliament called on the 5,200 US forces in the country to leave; the US military coalition in Baghdad suspended training of Iraqi forces to concentrate on defending coalition troops; and in Beirut, the Lebanese Hezbollah chief said US forces throughout the Middle East are fair targets for retaliation.

Lebanon Soleimani
A supporter of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah wears the words ‘powerful revenge’ on her hand (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

Iran abandons nuclear deal after US air strike

In Tehran, Iranian state television reported that the country will no longer abide by any limits of the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with the United States and other world powers.

Mr Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018 and stepped up economic sanctions on Tehran – actions that accelerated a cycle of hostilities leading to the Soleimani killing.

Democrats in Congress complained about the administration’s failure to consult with legislative leaders before conducting the drone attack Friday against Soleimani, and the White House faced a barrage of questions about the killing’s legality.

Mr Pompeo said the administration would have been “culpably negligent” in its duty to protect the United States if it had not killed Soleimani, although he did not provide evidence for his previous claims that Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks on Americans.

Instead of arguing that an attack had been imminent, Mr Pompeo said it was inevitable.

Iran Soleimani
The coffin of Qassem Soleimani during a funeral procession in Mashhad, Iran (Mohammad Hossein Thaghi/Tasnim News Agency/AP)

“We watched him continue to actively build out for what was going to be a significant attack, that’s what we believed, and we made the right decision,” he said.

He added later: “We continue to prepare for whatever it is the Iranian regime may put in front of us within the next 10 minutes, within the next 10 days, and within the next 10 weeks.”

Mr Pompeo appeared on six news shows while Mr Trump kept silent on the final day of his holiday break in Florida.

The appearances by the top American diplomat appeared aimed at dissuading Iran from launching a major retaliation for the Soleimani killing.

The Iranians have said the US should expect a strong response. They have a range of options, from cyberattacks to military assaults.

Mike Pompeo: any US military strikes inside Iran would be legal

Mr Pompeo declined to say whether he had sought to communicate with Iran since Friday. He stressed the US resolve to hold Iran accountable for its interventions in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Mr Pompeo said the Obama administration had tried to “challenge and attack everybody who was running around with an AK-47 or a piece of indirect artillery.

“We’ve made a very different approach. We’ve told the Iranian regime, ‘Enough. You can’t get away with using proxy forces and think your homeland will be safe and secure’.

“We’re going to respond against the actual decision-makers, the people who are causing this threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

He said the cost to Iran if it uses proxy forces to hit American targets will come down on not just those proxies, which are present in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere.

“They will be borne by Iran and its leadership itself,” Mr Pompeo said. “Those are important things the Iranian leadership needs to put in its calculus as it makes its next decision.”

Mr Pompeo tip-toed around questions about Mr Trump’s tweet Saturday threatening to attack Iranian cultural sites, a military action that is likely to be illegal under the laws of armed conflict and the UN charter.

Iran has already complained that the US breached international laws with the targeted killing of General Soleimani.

Mr Pompeo said any US military strikes inside Iran would be legal.

“We’ll behave inside the system,” Mr Pompeo said. “We always have and we always will.”

READ MORE: Iran abandons nuclear deal after US air strikeTags:US headline

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Ben Gelblum

Ben Gelblum

Contributing & Investigations Editor & Director of Growth wears glasses and curly hair cool ideas to: ben.gelblum (at) thelondoneconomic.com @BenGelblum

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on Mike Pompeo threatens to assassinate more Iranian leaders if they retaliate against US

Trump’s Latest Debacle: an Incompetent and Deceitful National Security Team

by MELVIN GOODMAN

Photograph Source: U.S. Department of State from United States – Public Domain

For the past three years, the conventional wisdom has been that the United States and the Trump administration have been fortunate in not having to face a national security crisis.  The killing of Qassim Suleimani is Trump’s first (self-inflicted) crisis, and his national security team has failed in every aspect. Since his inauguration, Trump has committed major blunders—leaving the Iran nuclear accord and the Paris climate accord; weakening the European alliance and deserting the Trans-Pacific partnership in Asia; and separating families at the border with Mexico.  The unconscionable assassination policy directed at Iran has exposed failure at every level: national security personnel; national security process; and national security policy.

PERSONNEL.  Trump’s national security team has gone from bad to worse over the past several years.  The initial team was dominated by retired general officers: Michael Flynn, currently facing a possible prison sentence, was the national security advisor for less than a month; John Kelly headed the Department of Homeland Security and clumsily handled Trump’s crackdown on immigrants before becoming chief of staff; Jim Mattis faced a series of embarrassments as secretary of defense before resigning, ostensibly to protest the announced troop withdrawal from Syria; and Mike Pompeo, who challenged  intelligence assessments that concluded authoritatively that Tehran was adhering to the Iran nuclear accord.

Ironically, the civilian replacements for the general officers in Trump’s second year have given him the “war cabinet” that he was seeking.  The shared experience and background of the original group, the anointed generals, revolved around one issue: the global war on terror.  The current civilian leaders promoted the assassination policy and favored a military solution to the problem of Iran.  Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper were classmates at West Point; now, they are civilian teammates favoring the use of military force.  Director of CIA Gina Haspel strongly recommended the killing of Suleimani, although the CIA director should not be a policy advocate in any circumstance.  National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, a former hostage lawyer, has no relevant strategic and geopolitical experience to inform his primary task—overseeing the conceptualization and implementation of national security policy.

The personnel situation cannot be easily corrected in view of the huge number of vacancies among the top positions at the National Security Council and the Department of State; the use of “acting” secretaries and deputies throughout the national security community; and the inability to attract seasoned and serious civilians to central national security positions.  Trump’s impulsive and bellicose manner is not a recruitment tool at a time when he is undermining American ideals at home and abroad.

POLICY.  The killing  of General Suleimani has not only worsened America’s Iran policy.  It has added a new dimension to strategic instability in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf; enhanced Russia’s efforts to gain credibility in the region; caused controversy within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European community; and substituted anti-Americanism for the opposition to Iran that was dominating discussion in the Iraqi government.  The major winner of Trump’s policy is the Islamic State as the U.S. military presence is now preoccupied with force protection because of the threat of war between the United States and Iran.  The major loser is the global community, which faces the renewal of Iran’s nuclear program; Tehran’s thirst for revenge; and a Trump administration that sees military power as a first, and not a last, resort.

The best indicator of Trump’s policy failure is the current Iraqi effort to seek the withdrawal of American forces, which is one of Iran’s highest priorities in the region.  In Baghdad, “death to America” has superseded “death to Khamenei.”  The American embassy, one of the country’s largest and most expensive embassies, is now occupied by very few political and economic officers.  Any reduction of U.S. military and diplomatic presence in Iraq will complicate U.S. policy throughout the region, particularly in Syria.  U.S. allies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates now must face a more hostile Iranian entity, which means more difficulties in Yemen and Bahrain.  Russian President Vladimir Putin’s sudden visit to Damascus and his high-level talks with Turkish and Iranian officials point to Moscow’s efforts to capitalize on U.S. isolation in the region.

PROCESS.  When the Bush administration used deceit and disinformation to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the principal members of the administration sang in unison from a false script prepared by the White House Iraq Group: “the smoking gun should not be a mushroom cloud.”  This phrase became a mantra for President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and national security adviser Rice, beginning on the Sunday morning talk shows in September 2002.  The president’s State of the Union speech in January 2003 and Secretary of State Colin Powell’s  spurious UN speech in February 2003, prepared by CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, used similar language.  It is noteworthy that Bush and Powell cited Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction as justification for the invasion; Trump similarly cited Iran’s “pursuit of nuclear weapons” as a threat to the “civilized world.”

The Trump administration’s rationale for the killing of Suleimani is far more random and convoluted.  There is no White House effort to craft a public propaganda campaign so every principal member of the administration, including the president himself, is free to craft his own rationale.  Trump emphasized that Suleimani’s Revolutionary Guard was targeting at least four U.S. embassies; Pompeo cited previous activity of the Revolutionary Guard; Esper made the strongest case for the “imminence” of an Iranian attack against the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, but—like the others—cited no evidence and urged the Congress not to press for any.

Now, we have learned that the killing of Suleimani was part of a larger plan that also targeted a senior Iranian official in Yeman.  This suggests that there was no issue of imminence regarding the assassinations, but that Trump was pursuing a larger campaign to stymie Tehran’s proxy wars in the region.  The unsuccessful strike in Yemen targeted an official with Iran’s Quds Force that was led by Suleimani.  Senior Pentagon and State Department officials have acknowledged that there was no intelligence that indicated any unusual threat.

In any event, the National Security Council played no role in debating the case for military force, let alone the preparation of declarative policy to use with allies and with a domestic audience.  National security adviser O’Brien’s predecessor, John Bolton, removed the National Security Council from the process game.  He rarely convened his cabinet colleagues, which was responsible for Mattis’s resignation from the Pentagon, and prepared no policy papers for dealing with Congress or the press.  Bolton never appointed a deputy director to manage the NSC, and spent most of his time in overseas travel.  O’Brien rarely addresses policy issues in public and appears totally out of his element.

Trump and his national security team have racked up a series of policy failures.  Iran is free to resume its nuclear activities; U.S. forces may have to leave Iraq; U.S. forces in Syria are more vulnerable; the Islamic State has greater freedom of action; and the United States has sent more troops to the region to conduct force protection.  Washington’s unwillingness to withdraw forces from Iraq—even if that is demanded by a sovereign state—will give China, Russia, and North Korea more propaganda leverage against the United States.

On the basis of judging presidential leadership, such as political skill, cognitive style, vision, public communications, organization skill, and emotional intelligence, Donald Trump is certainly the worst president in U.S. history and most definitely unfit to serve.  There has never been a more incompetent or deceitful national security team in the service of a president.  When Professor Richard Hofstadter wrote about the “paranoid style in American politics” because of his apprehension about the rise of right-wing extremism after World War II, he could not have imagined the rancid syndrome that now characterizes U.S. national security policy.

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