All Sanctions Against Russia Are Based on Lies Including #Skripal

All Sanctions Against Russia Are Based on Lies

All Sanctions Against Russia Are Based on Lies

All of the sanctions (economic, diplomatic, and otherwise) against Russia are based on clearly demonstrable intentional falsehoods; and the sanctions which were announced on August 8th are just the latest example of this consistent tragic fact — a fact which will be proven here, with links to the evidence, so that anyone who reads here can easily see that all of these sanctions are founded on lies against Russia.The latest of these sanctions were announced on Wednesday August 8th. Reuters headlined “US imposes sanctions on Russia for nerve agent attack in UK” and reported that, “Washington said on Wednesday it would impose fresh sanctions on Russia by the end of August after it determined that Moscow had used a nerve agent against a former Russian agent and his daughter in Britain.” This was supposedly because “Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found slumped unconscious on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury in March after a liquid form of the Novichok type of nerve agent was applied to his home’s front door. European countries and the United States expelled 100 Russian diplomats after the attack, in the strongest action by President Donald Trump against Russia since he came to office.”

However, despite intense political pressure that the UK Government and ‘news’media had placed upon the UK’s Porton Down intelligence laboratory to assert that the poison had been made in Russia (labs in several countries including the UK have also manufactured it), the Porton Down lab refused to say this. Though the US Government is acting as ifPorton Down’s statement “determined that Moscow had used a nerve agent,” the actual fact is that Porton Down still refuses to say any such thing, at all — this allegation is merely a fabrication by the US Government, including its allies, UK’s Government and other Governments and their respective propaganda-media. It’s a bald lie.

On March 18th, the great British investigative journalist and former British diplomat Craig Murray had headlined about UK’s Foreign Secretary, “Boris Johnson Issues Completely New Story on Russian Novichoks” and he pointed to the key paragraph in the Porton Down lab’s statement on this matter — a brief one-sentence paragraph:

Look at this paragraph:

“Russia is the official successor state to the USSR. As such, Russia legally took responsibility for ensuring the CWC [Chemical Weapons Convention] applies to all former Soviet Chemical Weapons stocks and facilities.”

It does not need me to point out, that if Porton Down had identified the nerve agent as made in Russia, the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office — UK’s foreign ministry] would not have added that paragraph. Plainly they cannot say it was made in Russia.

Murray’s elliptical report, which unfortunately was unclearly written — it was rushed, in order to be able to published on the same day, March 18th, when the UK’s official response to the Porton Down lab’s analysis was published — was subsequently fully explained on March 23rd at the excellent news-site Off-Guardian, which specializes in investigating and interpreting the news-media (in this case, Craig Murray’s article, and the evidence regarding it); they headlined “Skripal case: ‘closely related agent” claim closely examined’,” and concluded their lengthy and detailed analysis:

In short, the ruling cited above, even if read in the most improbably forgiving way possible, shows the UK government does not have the information to warrant any of the claims it has so far made about Russian state involvement in the alleged poisoning of the Skripals. It shows the UK government is currently guilty of lying to Parliament, to the British people, and to the world.

Nothing has been published further about the Skripal/Novichoks matter since then, except speculation that’s based on the evidence which was discussed in detail in that March 23rd article at Off-Guardian.

On the basis of this — merely an open case which has never been examined in more detail than that March 23rd analysis did — the Skripal/Novichok case has been treated by the UK Government, and by the US Government, and by governments which are allied with them, and by their news-media, as if it were instead a closed case, in which what was made public constitutes proof that the Skripals had been poisoned by the Russian Government. On that blatantly fraudulent basis, over a hundred diplomats ended up being expelled.

The Porton Down lab still refuses to say anything that the UK Government can quote as an authority confirming that the Skripals had been poisoned by the Russian Government.

All that’s left of the matter, then, is a cold case of official lies asserting that proof has been presented, when in fact only official lies have been presented to the public.

The UK Government prohibits the Skripals from speaking to the press, and refuses to allow them to communicate even with their family-members. It seems that they’re effectively prisoners of the UK Government — the same Government that claims to be protecting them against Russia.

This is the basis upon which the US State Department, on August 8th, issued the following statement to ‘justify’ its new sanctions:

Imposition of Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act Sanctions on Russia

Press Statement

Heather Nauert 

Department Spokesperson

Washington, DC

August 8, 2018

Following the use of a “Novichok” nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal, the United States, on August 6, 2018, determined under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act) that the Government of the Russian Federation has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals.

Following a 15-day Congressional notification period, these sanctions will take effect upon publication of a notice in the Federal Register, expected on or around August 22, 2018.

US law is supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty” — the opposite of legal systems in which the contrary assumption applies: “guilty until proven innocent.” However, regarding such matters as invading and destroying Iraq in 2003 upon the basis of no authentic evidence; and invading and destroying Libya in 2011 on the basis of no authentic proof of anyone’s guilt; and on the basis of invading and for years trying to destroy Syria on the basis of America’s supporting Al Qaeda in Syria against Syria’s secular government; and on the basis of lying repeatedly against Russia in order to load sanction after sanction upon Russia and to ‘justify’ pouring its missiles and thousands of troops onto and near Russia’s border as if preparing to invade ‘the world’s most aggressive country’ — the US federal Government routinely violates that fundamental supposition of its own legal system (“innocent until proven guilty”), whenever its rulers wish. And yet, it calls itself a ‘democracy’.

Donald Trump constantly says that he seeks improved relations with Russia, but when his own State Department lies like that in order to add yet further to the severe penalties that it had previously placed against Russia for its presumed guilt in the Skripal/Novichok matter, then Trump himself is publicly exposing himself as being a liar about his actual intentions regarding Russia. He, via his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s State Department, not only is punishing Russia severely for this unproven allegation, but now adds yet further penalties against Russia for it. Trump is being demanded by the US Congress to do this, but it is his choice whether to go along with that demand or else expose that it’s based on lies. He likes to accuse his opponents of lying, but, quite obviously, the members of Congress who are demanding these hiked rounds of sanctions against Russia are demanding him to do what he actually wants to do — which is now clearly demonstrated to be the exact opposite of exposing those lies. If Trump is moving toward World War III on the basis of lies, then the only way he can stop doing it is by exposing those lies. He’s not even trying to do that.

Nothing is being said in the State Department’s cryptic announcement on August 8th that sets forth any reasonable demand which the US Government is making to the Russian Government, such that, if the reasonable demand becomes fulfilled by Russia’s Government, then the United States Government and its allies will cease and desist their successive, and successively escalating, rounds of punishment against Russia.

Russia is being offered no path to peace, but only the reasonable expectation of escalating lie-based American ‘justifications’ to perpetrate yet more American-and-allied aggressions against Russia.

There have been three prior US excuses for applying prior rounds of sanctions against Russia, and all of them have likewise been based upon lies, and varnished with many layers of overstatements.

First, in 2012, there was the Magnitsky Act, which was based upon frauds (subsequently exposed here and here and here) which assert that Sergei Magnitsky was murdered by the Russian Government. The evidence (as linked-to there) is conclusive that he was not; but the US Government and its allies refuse even to consider it.

Then, in 2014, Crimea broke away from Ukraine and joined the Russian Federation, and the US and its allies allege that this was because Russia under Putin ‘seized’ Crimea from Ukraine, when in fact America under Obama had, just weeks prior to that Crimean breakaway, seized Ukraine and turned it against Russia and against Crimea and the other parts of Ukraine which had voted overwhelmingly for the democratically elected Ukrainian President whom the Obama regime had just overthrown in a bloody coup that had been in the planning ever since at least 2011 inside the Obama Administration. Several rounds of US-and-allied economic sanctions were imposed against Russia for that — for the constant string of lies against Russia, and of constant cover-ups of “the most blatant coup in history,” which had preceded and caused the breakaway.

These lies originated with Obama; and Trump accuses Obama of lying, but not on this, where Obama really did lie, psychopathically. Instead, Trump makes those lies bipartisan. On what counts the most against Obama, Trump seconds the Obama-lies, instead of exposing them. And yet Trump routinely has accused Obama as having lied, even on matters where it’s actually Trump who has been lying about Obama.

Then, there have been the anti-Russia sanctions that are based upon Russiagate and ‘Trump is Putin’s stooge and stole the election.’ That case against Russia has not been proven, and Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange says that what he had published were leaks from the DNC and Podesta’s computer, not hacks at all; and yet the sanctions were imposed almost as soon as the Democratic Party’s accusations started. Those sanctions, too, are utterly baseless except as being alleged responses to unproven (and likely false) allegations. Furthermore, even in the worst-case scenario: the US Government itself routinely overthrows foreign governments, and continues tapping the phones and electronic communications of foreign governments, and manipulating elections abroad. Even in the worst-case scenario, Russia hasn’t done anything that historians haven’t already proven that the US Government itself routinely does. That’s the case even if Russia is guilty as charged, on all of the U.S-and-allied accusations.

So: Who wants World War III? Apparently, both the Democratic and the Republican Parties do. Obama called Russia the world’s most aggressive nation. Trump joins with him in that bipartisan lie. Outside of America itself, most of the world consider the United States to be actually the “greatest threat to peace in the world today.” Therefore, why isn’t the NATO alliance against America? The NATO alliance is America and most of its vassal-nations: they’re all allied against Russia. Their war against Russia never stopped. That ‘Cold War’ continued, even after the USSR and its communism and its Warsaw Pact mirror-image to NATO, all ended in 1991; and now the intensifying ‘cold war’ threatens to become very hot. All based on lies. But that seems to be the only type of ‘justifications’ the US-and-allied tyrants have got.

Either the lies will stop, or else we all will. Trump, as usual, is on the wrong side of the lies. And he seems to be too much of a coward to oppose them, in these cases, which are the most dangerous lies of all. This is how we could all end. Doing something heroic that would stop it, seems to be way beyond him — he doesn’t even try. That’s the type of cowardice which should be feared, and despised, the most of all. Trump has taken up Obama’s worst, and he runs with it. Trump had promised the opposite, during his Presidential campaign. But this is the reality of Trump — a profoundly filthy liar — at least insofar as he has, thus far, shown himself to be. What he will be in the future is all that remains in question. But this is what he has been, up till now.


Sanctions, Sanctions, Sanctions – the Final Demise of the Dollar Hegemony?

August 17, 2018

by Peter Koenig for The Saker BlogSanctions, Sanctions, Sanctions – the Final Demise of the Dollar Hegemony?

Sanctions left and sanctions right. Financial mostly, taxes, tariffs, visas, travel bans – confiscation of foreign assets, import and export prohibitions and limitations; and also punishing those who do not respect sanctions dished out by Trump, alias the US of A, against friends of their enemies. The absurdity seems endless and escalating – exponentially, as if there was a deadline to collapse the world. Looks like a last-ditch effort to bring down international trade in favor of — what? – Make America Great Again? – Prepare for US mid-term elections? – Rally the people behind an illusion? – Or what?

All looks arbitrary and destructive. All is of course totally illegal by any international law or, forget law, which is not respected anyway by the empire and its vassals, but not even by human moral standards. Sanctions are destructive. They are interfering in other countries sovereignty. They are made to punish countries, nations, that refuse to bend to a world dictatorship.

Looks like everybody accepts this new economic warfare as the new normal. Nobody objects. And the United Nations, the body created to maintain Peace, to protect our globe from other wars, to uphold human rights – this very body is silent – out of fear? Out of fear that it might be ‘sanctioned’ into oblivion by the dying empire? – Why cannot the vast majority of countries – often it is a ratio of 191 to 2 (Israel and the US) – reign-in the criminals?

Imagine Turkey – sudden massive tariffs on aluminum (20%) and steel (50%) imposed by Trump, plus central bank currency interference had the Turkish Lira drop by 40%, and that ‘only’ because Erdogan is not freeing US pastor Andrew Brunson, who faces in Turkey a jail sentence of 35 years for “terror and espionage”. An Izmir court has just turned down another US request for clemency, however, converting his jail sentence to house arrest for health reason. It is widely believed that Mr. Brunson’s alleged 23 years of ‘missionary work’ is but a smoke screen for spying.

President Erdogan has just declared he would look out for new friends, including new trading partners in the east – Russia, China, Iran, Ukraine, even the unviable EU, and that his country is planning issuing Yuan-denominated bonds to diversify Turkey’s economy, foremost the country’s reserves and gradually moving away from the dollar hegemony.

Looking out for new friends, may also include new military alliances. Is Turkey planning to exit NATO? Would turkey be ‘allowed’ to exit NATO – given its strategic position maritime and land position between east and west? – Turkey knows that having military allies that dish out punishments for acting sovereignly in internal affair – spells disaster for the future. Why continue offering your country to NATO, whose only objective it is to destroy the east – the very east which is not only Turkey’s but the world’s future? Turkey is already approaching the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and may actually accede to it within the foreseeable future. That might be the end of Turkey’s NATO alliance.

What if Iran, Venezuela, Russia, China – and many more countries not ready to bow to the empire, would jail all those spies embedded in the US Embassies or camouflaged in these countries’ national (financial) institutions, acting as Fifth Columns, undermining their host countries’ national and economic policies? – Entire cities of new jails would have to be built to accommodate the empire’s army of criminals.

Imagine Russia – more sanctions were just imposed for alleged and totally unproven (to the contrary: disproven) Russian poisoning of four UK citizens with the deadly nerve agent, Novichok – and for not admitting it. This is a total farce, a flagrant lie, that has become so ridiculous, most thinking people, even in the UK, just laugh about it. Yet, Trump and his minions in Europe and many parts of the world succumb to this lie – and out of fear of being sanctions, they also sanction Russia. What has the world become? – Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, would be proud for having taught the important lesson to the liars of the universe: “Let me control the media, and I will turn any nation into a herd of Pigs”. That’s what we have become – a herd of pigs.

Fortunately, Russia too has moved away so far already from the western dollar-controlled economy that such sanctions do no longer hurt. They serve Trump and his cronies as mere propaganda tools – show-offs, “we are still the greatest!”.

Venezuela is being sanctioned into the ground, literally, by from-abroad (Miami and Bogota) Twitter-induced manipulations of her national currency, the Bolívar, causing astronomical inflations – constant ups and downs of the value of the local currency, bringing the national economy to a virtual halt. Imported food, pharmaceuticals and other goods are being deviated at the borders and other entry points, so they will never end up on supermarket shelves, but become smuggle ware in Colombia, where these goods are being sold at manipulated dollar-exchange rates to better-off Venezuelan and Columbian citizens. These mafia type gangs are being funded by NED and other similar nefarious State Department financed “NGOs”, trained by US secret services, either within or outside Venezuela. Once infiltrated into Venezuela – overtly or covertly – they tend to boycott the local economy from within, spread violence and become part of the Fifth Column, primarily sabotaging the financial system.

Venezuela is struggling to get out of this dilemma which has people suffering, by de-dollarizing her economy, partly through a newly created cryptocurrency, the Petro, based on Venezuela’s huge oil reserves and also through a new Bolivar – in the hope of putting the breaks on the spiraling bursts of inflation. This scenario reminds so much of Chile in 1973, when Henry Kissinger was Foreign Secretary (1973-1977), and inspired the CIA coup, by “disappearing” food and other goods from Chilean markets, killing legitimately elected President Allende, bringing Augusto Pinochet, a horrendous murderer and despot to power. The military dictatorship regime brought the death and disappearance of tens of thousands of people and lasted until 1990. Subjugating Venezuela might, however, not be so easy. After all, Venezuela has 19 years of revolutionary Chavista experience – and a solid sense of resistance.

Iran – is being plunged into a similar fate. For no reason at all, Trump reneged on the five-plus-one pronged so-called Nuclear Deal, signed in Vienna on 14 July 2015, after almost ten years of negotiations. Now – of course driven by the star-Zionist Netanyahu – new and ‘the most severe ever’ sanctions are being imposed on Iran, also decimating the value of their local currency, the Rial. Iran, under the Ayatollah, has already embarked on a course of “Resistance Economy”, meaning de-dollarization of their economy and moving towards food and industrial self-sufficiency, as well as increased trading with eastern countries, China, Russia, the SCO and other friendly and culturally aligned nations, like Pakistan. However, Iran too has a strong Fifth Column, engrained in the financial sector, that does not let go of forcing and propagating trading with the enemy, i.e. the west, the European Union, whose euro-monetary system is part of the dollar hegemony, hence posing similar vulnerability of sanctions as does the dollar.

China – the stellar prize of the Big Chess Game – is being ‘sanctioned’ with tariffs no end, for having become the world’s strongest economy, surpassing in real output and measured by people’s purchasing power, by far the United States of America. China also has a solid economy and gold-based currency, the Yuan – which is on a fast track to overtake the US-dollar as the number one world reserve currency. China retaliates, of course, with similar ‘sanctions’, but by and large, her dominance of Asian markets and growing economic influence in Europe, Africa and Latin America, is such that Trump’s tariff war means hardly more for China than a drop on a hot stone.

North Korea – the much-touted Trump-Kim mid-June Singapore summit – has long since become a tiny spot in the past. Alleged agreements reached then are being breached by the US, as could have been expected. All under the false and purely invented pretext of DPRK not adhering to her disarmament commitment; a reason to impose new strangulating sanctions. The world looks on. Its normal. Nobody dares questioning the self-styled Masters of the Universe. Misery keeps being dished out left and right – accepted by the brainwashed to-the-core masses around the globe. War is peace and peace is war. Literally. The west is living in a “peaceful” comfort zone. Why disturb it? – If people die from starvation or bombs – it happens far away and allows us to live in peace. Why bother? – Especially since we are continuously, drip-by-steady drip being told its right.

In a recent interview with PressTV I was asked, why does the US not adhere to any of their internationally or bilaterally concluded treaties or agreements? – Good question. – Washington is breaking all the rules, agreements, accords, treaties, is not adhering to any international law or even moral standard, simply because following such standards would mean giving up world supremacy. Being on equal keel is not in Washington’s or Tel Aviv’s interest. Yes, this symbiotic and sick relationship between the US and Zionist Israel is becoming progressively more visible; the alliance of the brute military force and the slick and treacherous financial dominion – together striving for world hegemony, for full spectrum dominance. This trend is accelerating under Trump and those who give him orders, simply because “they can”. Nobody objects. This tends to portray an image of peerless power, instilling fear and is expected to incite obedience. Will it?

What is really transpiring is that Washington is isolating itself, that the one-polar world is moving towards a multipolar world, one that increasingly disregards and disrespects the United States, despises her bullying and warmongering – killing and shedding misery over hundreds of millions of people, most of them defenseless children, women and elderly, by direct military force or by proxy-led conflicts – Yemen is just one recent examples, causing endless human suffering to people who have never done any harm to their neighbors, let alone to Americans. Who could have any respect left for such a nation, called the United States of America, for the people behind such lying monsters?

This behavior by the dying empire is driving allies and friends into the opposite camp – to the east, where the future lays, away from a globalized One-World-Order, towards a healthy and more equal multi-polar world. – It would be good, if our world body, the members of the United Nations, created in the name of Peace, would finally gather the courage and stand up against the two destroyer nations for the good of humanity, of the globe, and of Mother Earth.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Vineyard of The Saker Blog; and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.


Iran’s reply: no war and no negotiations


The Saker

[This analysis was written for the Unz Review]

We can all thank God for the fact that the AngloZionists did not launch a war on the DPRK, that no Ukronazi attack on the Donbass took place during the World Cup in Russia and that the leaders of the Empire have apparently have given up on their plans to launch a reconquista of Syria.  However, each of these retreats from their hysterical rhetoric has only made the Neocons more frustrated and determined to show the planet that they are still The Hegemon who cannot be disobeyed with impunity. As I wrote after the failed US cruise missile strike on Syria this spring, “each click brings us closer to the bang“.  In the immortal words of Michael Ledeen, “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business“.  The obvious problem is that there are no “small crappy little countries” left out there, and that those who are currently the object of the Empire’s ire are neither small nor crappy.

Having now shown several times that for all its hysterical barking the Empire has to back down when the opponent does not cower away in fear, the Empire is now in desperate need to prove it’s “uniqueness” and (racial?) superiority.   The obvious target of the AngloZionist wrath is Iran.  In fact, Iran has been in the cross-hairs of the Empire ever since the people of Iran dared to show the AngloZionists to the door and, even worse, succeed in creating their own, national and Islamic democracy.  To punish Iran, the US, the USSR, France and all the other “democratic” countries unleashed their puppet (Saddam Hussein) and gave him full military support, and yet the Iranians still prevailed, albeit at a terrible cost.  That Iranian ability to prevail in the most terrible circumstances is also the most likely explanation for why there has not been an overt attack on Iran for the past four decades (there have, of course, there has been plenty of covert attacks during all these years).

I won’t list all the recent AngloZionist threats against Iran – we all know about them.  The bottom line is this: the US, Israel and the KSA are, yet again, working hand in hand to set the stage for a major war under what we could call the “Skripal-case rules of evidence” aka “highly likely“.  And yet,  in spite of all this saber-rattling, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has summed up Iran’s stance in the following words “there will be no war and no negotiations“.

First, let’s first look at Iranian rationale for “no negotiations”

The obvious: “no negotiations”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been very clear in his explanations for why negotiating with the USA makes no sense.  On his Twitter account he wrote:

The Iranian Supreme Leader even posted a special graphic summary to summarize and explain the Iranian position:

Finally, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated his fundamental approach towards the AngloZionist Empire:

The contrast between the kindergarten-level low-IQ bumbling hot air and threats coming out of the White House and the words of Ali Khamenei could not be greater, especially if we compare the words the two leaders decided to post all in caps;



Notice first that in his typical ignorance, Trump fails to realize that Hassan Rouhani is only the President of Iran and that threatening him makes absolutely no sense since he does not make national security decisions, which is the function of the Supreme Leader.  Had Trump taken the time to at the very least check with Wikipedia he would have understood that the Iranian President “carries out the decrees, and answers to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who functions as the country’s head of state“.  It is no wonder that Trump’s infantile threats instantly turned into an Internet meme!

In contrast, Khamenei did not even bother to address Trump by name but, instead, announced his strategy to the whole world.

Trump’s ALL IN CAPS meme

Of course, issuing  ALL IN CAPS threats just to be treated with utter contempt by the people you are trying to hard to bully and having your words become a cause of laughter on the Internet will only further enrage Trump and his supporters.  When you are desperately trying to show the world how tough and scary you are, there is nothing more humiliating as being treated like some stupid kid.  Therein also lies the biggest danger: such derision could force Trump and the Neocons who run him to do something desperate to prove to the word that their “red button” is still bigger than everybody else’s.

It is important to note here that making negotiations impossible is something the Trump administration seems to have adopted as a policy.  This is best illustrated by the conditions attached to the latest sanctions against Russia which, essentially, demand that Russia admit poisoning the Skripals.  In fact, all the western demands towards Russia (admitting that Russia is guilty for the Skripal case, that Russia shot down MH-17, that Russia hand over Crimea to the Ukronazis, etc.) are carefully crafted to make absolutely sure that Russia will not negotiate.  The sames, of course, goes for the ridiculous Pompeo demands towards the DPRK (including handing over to the USA 60 to 70 percent of its nukes within six to eight months; no wonder the North Koreans denounced a “gangster-like” attitude) or the latest US grandstanding towards Turkey.  Sadly, but the Neocon run media has successfully imposed the notion that negotiations are either a sign of weakness, or treason, or both.  Thus to be “patriotic” and “strong” no US official can afford to be caught red-handed negotiating with the enemy of the day.

Under these conditions, why would anybody want to negotiate with the US?

Frankly, the “no negotiations” approach makes perfectly good sense, and while the Iranians are the only ones who have openly said so, the Russians have hinted to the same on many occasions (see their words about the US being “non-agreement capable” or about US diplomats confusing Austria and Australia).  To any objective observer it should by now be completely obvious by now that a) the US cannot negotiate (due to intellectual, cultural and political limitations) and b) the US has no desire to negotiate.  This is, of course, a highly undesirable and dangerous situation, but it would only make things worse to pretend that civilized negotiations with the USA are possible.

So, if both sides agree on “no negotiations”, what about war?

The not so obvious: No war?

This is where Ali Khamenei’s stance is more puzzling, at least to me: when he says that there will be no war, does he mean that the US threats are not credible or does he mean that Iran has the means to deter a US attack?  His words make it sound like he is quite certain that there will be no war.  How can he be so sure?  I am especially amazed by the apparent Iranian confidence that the AngloZionists will not attack them when I compare it with the obvious Russian policy of actively preparing for war since at least 2014 (also see hereherehereherehere and here).  Of course, Iran has been preparing for war with the USA since almost 40 years now whereas the Russians only woke up to reality comparatively recently.  I see several potential explanations for Ali Khamenei’s statement (there might be more, of course):

  • Political: Iran is trying to demonstrate that it will do everything possible to avoid a war so that if a war should break out, it would be absolutely clear to everybody that Iran did not want it, Iran did not trigger it and the responsibility for the consequences fall entirely and solely upon the US and Israel.
  • Deception: Iran knows that a war is coming but is trying to pretend like it won’t to better conceal the war preparations and lure the Empire into a sense of complacency resulting into an ineffective/costly attack.
  • Intelligence: the Iranians might have intelligence indicating to them that all the US threats are just hot air spewed in order to appease the Israel Lobby and to look “patriotic” in preparation for the upcoming elections this Fall.
  • Miscalculation: the Iranians might underestimate the level of hubris, arrogance and stupidity of the US leadership and mistakenly conclude that since an attack on Iran makes no sense and the US cannot “win”, such an attack will therefore not happen.

Personally, every time I think of a possible US attack on Iran I think of the Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006 which happened in spite of the fact that it was plainly visible to everybody that the Israelis were waltzing straight into a conflict which they could not win and which, in fact, resulted into one of the most abjects defeats in military history.  Conversely, while Hezbollah did win a truly historical victory, it also remains a fact that Hezbollah leaders did not expect the Israelis to launch a full-scale ground offensive.  Finally, history is full of examples of wars which were started in spite of all objective factors indicating that they would end up in disaster.

It seems to me that in purely military terms (not in political ones!) Israel could be seen as a stand-in for the USA and Hezbollah as a stand-in for Iran and that the outcome of any future US-Iranian war will be very similar to the outcome of the war in 2006, albeit on a much larger (and bloodier) scale.  I am confident that the folks in the Pentagon realize that, but what about their Neocon bosses – do they even care about Iranian or, for that matter, US casualties?  I highly doubt it: all they care about is their power and messianic ideology.

If it weren’t for it’s nuclear arsenal, the USA could be dismissed as a particularly obnoxious country lead by ignorant leaders with bloated and mostly ineffective armed forces.  Alas, the US nuclear arsenal is very real (and still very capable) and we know that top-level US Neocons have already considered using tactical nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state’s conventional force in the past.  In a twisted way, this makes sense: if you are a megalomaniac infused with a sense of messianic superiority then international or even civilizational norms of behavior are of no interest (or even relevance) to you.  Listening to US Presidents, pretty much all of them (but especially Obama and Trump) it is pretty clear that these folks consider themselves to be the Kulturträger and the Herrenvolk of the 21st century and their messianism is in no way less delusional than the one of their Nazi predecessors (or, for that matter, the one of the Popes of the past 1000 years).  And why would the people who nuked two Japanese cities under the (entirely fallacious) pretext of “shortening the war” (almost a humanitarian operation!) not do the same thing in Iran?

Of sure, they probably realize that using nukes will result in a massive political backlash, but they are confident that no matter what happens in the end, they will always be able to say “screw you!” to the rest of the planet.  After all, this is something which Israel and the USA have been doing with almost total inpunity for decades already – why would they stop now?  As for the fact that the Persian people have been dealing with all kinds of invaders since no less than 2500 years will not stop the AngloZionists from trying to crush them.  After all, having laid waste to a country which many see as the cradle of civilization, Iraq, why not do the same thing to Iran?  Iraq, Iran – what’s the difference, they are all just “sand niggers” and our red button is bigger than theirs, right?

Standing up to Shaytân-e Bozorg (almost alone?)

It would be a big mistake to dismiss the USA because of its incapable military or moral bankruptcy.  The truth is that in terms of aggregate national power, the USA still remains the most powerful country on the planet (even if we don’t include nuclear weapons).  Anyone doubting that needs to look how how the currencies of the countries the US is singles out for attack suddenly began slipping: the Russian ruble (which has since bounced back), the Iranian rial, the Venezuelan bolivar, the Turkish lira, etc.) or how little time it took Trump to bring the (admittedly spineless) Europeans to heel.  As for Russia, for all her military might, she remains only a semi-sovereign country in which the pro-US/pro-Israeli “Atlantic Integrationists” continue to try to sabotage (often successfully) everything Putin and his supporters are doing.  I would not place big hopes in China either, especially considering the lack of meaningful Chinese action in Syria where Russia and Iran did all the heavy lifting.  Sadly, but the only ally Iran can truly count on is Hezbollah.  And while Hezbollah is considered a “non-state actor”, it has a formidable capability to strike at the USA’s colonial masters, especially in terms of missiles.  This will not protect Iran, but it could serve as a very real deterrent to the Israelis, especially since Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah he has made it clear that Hezbollah more than capable of taking on Israel.  For the time being, the Israelis are already preparing for a re-match against Hezbollah and they are massing forces in the north to prepare for a war against Hezbollah.

Does that look to you like there will be no war against Iran?

I hope so.  But to me it very much looks like an attack is pretty much inevitable.  I have been predicting such an attack since 2007 and, so far, I have been completely wrong (and thank God for that!).  The very first article I ever wrote for my blog was entitled “Where the Empire meets to plan the next war” ended with the following words:

So count with yet another imperial war of aggression, a barrel of crude at over 100$ and oil shortages, rocketing inflation, job losses, a stagnant real estate market and stock exchange, and a national debt and government deficit which would make even Reagan proud. And plenty of dead Americans (nevermind the Iranians, right?).  But don’t worry: there will still be a huge supply of Chinese-made US flags to wave!

And yet, 11 years later, the AngloZionist attack which looked so imminent in 2007 has not happened yet.  Could it be that this time again an attack on Iran can be avoided?  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appears to be very confident that it will not happen.  I am not so sure, but I fervently hope that he is right.

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Syria in the Last 24 Hours: Army Drives Out Daesh from More Positions in Sweida Province


Army Drives Out Daesh from More Positions in Sweida Province

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Damascus Army imposed control over more areas in Eastern Badiyeh (desert) after fierce clashes with the ISIL terrorists over the past 24 hours.

The ISIL was pushed back by the army men from Um Madoukh region Northwest of Toloul al-Safa in the Eastern Badiyeh of Sweida that is located South of Damascus.

The artillery and missile units of the army also opened heavy fire at the ISIL’s movements Southwest of Toloul al-Safa, and smashed two heavy military vehicles of the terrorists.

Meantime, the Syrian army continued its military advances in other parts of Syria over past 24 hours.

Tens of terrorists were killed and dozens more were injured during the Syrian army’s operations in provinces across Syria.


The Syrian Army units engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL in the Eastern Badiyeh of Sweida on Tuesday, and imposed control over more regions.

The army men pushed ISIL back from Um Madoukh region Northwest of Toloul al-Safa in the Eastern Badiyeh of Sweida.

In the meantime, the army’s artillery and missile units opened heavy fire at ISIL’s movements Southwest of Toloul al-Safa, destroying two heavy military vehicles of the terrorists.

Local sources, meantime, said that the army men exchanged fire with a group of ISIL terrorists and repelled their attack that was aimed at breaking the siege on the terrorists in Toloul al-Safa.

ISIL suffered heavy casualties in the failed attack and pulled back the remaining pockets of its militants from the battlefield.

Reports said earlier on Tuesday that the army men pushed the ISIL back from Minqar Rahbah, Rahbah and Hawi Hossein regions in Badiyeh.

In the meantime, the army’s artillery and missile units pounded ISIL’s positions and developments in a region in the Eastern Badiyeh, destroying their strongholds and killing a number of them.

Also, other units of the army carried out an ambush operation in Qabr Sheikh Hossein in Badiyeh, inflicting heavy casualties on a group of ISIL terrorists and capturing several more.

The army has tightened noose on ISIL following its recent advances in Badiyeh.

Deir Ezzur

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) sent aid convoys to the ISIL-held regions in Deir Ezzur province.

The Arabic-language al-Watan daily reported that the SDF has dispatched a sum of 13 trucks to the regions that are still under the ISIL terrorists’ control in Southeastern Deir Ezzur.

The daily went on to say that the trucks were sent to the towns of al-Sha’afah, al-Souseh and Hajin, adding that the SDF has justified the move by claiming that the convoys carried food for civilians in the ISIL-held regions.


The Syrian Army’s artillery and missile units opened heavy fire at the positions and movements of Tahrir al-Sham Hay’at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) in Northwestern Hama on Tuesday, killing tens of terrorists.

The artillery and missile units conducted a heavy shelling on the positions of Tahrir al-Sham and other terrorist groups in the villages and towns of Albuyzeh, al-Lahata, Morek, al-Janabara, Latmin and al-Sarmaniyeh in Northern and Northwestern Hama.

Other artillery and missile units pounded terrorists’ movements in the village of Bafatemoun, al-Hawash and Jisr Beit al-Ra’as in Western al-Ghaab.


The US military has started developing and equipping its three operational bases in Hasaka and Aleppo provinces and is also building a new large base in regions that are under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces in Manbi.

The US-led coalition has started developing and equipping its military airports in Northeastern Syria after it sent a large military convoy to al-Shadadi airport in Southern Hasaka.

US forces have also started developing Ein al-Arab (Kobani) base in Northeastern Aleppo and another base in Tal Tamar region in Northwestern Hasaka.

The US army is planning to build a large military base in Manbij region on the Western Bank of the Euphrates River in Northeastern Aleppo.

Last week a military convoy of the coalition crossed Iraq into Northeastern Syria via Simalka border-crossing.

The US military convoy, including 150 trucks with military vehicles on board, a number of oil tankers and other military equipment, was sent to regions that are under SDF’s control in the province of Hasaka and Raqqa.

Local sources in Hasaka city reported that an SDF commander was killed by unknown assailants in al-Nashwa neighborhood.

The sources further said tensions between Syrian civilians and the SDF in Hasaka and Raqqa are high, adding that residents of the village of al-Hajiyeh Southeast of the town of Qamishli in Northeastern Hasaka engaged in heavy fighting with the SDF on Friday.


A large number of terrorists are escaping from Idlib to Turkey as the clock is ticking for the Syrian Army’s large-scale operation in Northwestern Syria, media reports said.

The Arabic-language al-Watan daily quoted media activists as reporting that a large number of terrorists have each paid $250 to human traffickers to cross into Turkey in women’s dress as the army is preparing to kick off a large-scale operation to end terrorists’ presence in Northwestern Syria.

In the meantime, the Arabic-language al-Mayadeen news network quoted local sources in Western Idlib as reporting that some have even been forced to pay $1,500 to bribe Turkish gendarmes.

Meanwhile, terrorists of the National Liberation Front arrested 30 more civilians in the towns of Ma’arat al-Nu’aman and Ariha on charges of attempts to join peace with the government forces.

A-Watan had also quoted sources affiliated to terrorists of the National Liberation Front as saying on Monday that the Front fighters did not trust Tahrir al-Sham Hay’at and would possibly abandon them in the upcoming battle with the government forces.

It went on to say that Tahrir al-Sham vowed to support its allies, including Jeish al-Izzah and al-Turkistani Islamic Party in Northern Hama and Northeastern Lattakia, while it focused on saving its non-Syrian and Arab members.

The daily further pointed to growing rifts in the terrorist front, adding that the militants did not believe in each other, accusing each other that they already endorsed peace agreement with the Syrian army in covert action similar to the agreements that they had signed with Damascus to retreat from their earlier positions in Homs, Eastern Ghouta and Southern provinces when they lost battles.

Syria, Russia in Final Coordination over Idlib Operation

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Russian and Syrian forces are making final coordination on a major offensive against terrorists in Idlib, the Russia-run Sputnik news agency reported on Wednesday.

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik quoted a military source as saying that the Russian and Syrian armies have been coordinating to launch the long-waited assault in Idlib, adding that a vast joint reconnaissance operation has been underway by Russian and Syrian experts in the last few days as the zero hour is arriving for the operation in Northwestern Syria.

The Arabic Sputnik further said that monitoring movements and gatherings of terrorists in the villages and towns in Southeastern Idlib has been among the joint reconnaissance operation conducted by the Russian and Syrian forces.

In the meantime, the Syrian army artillery units shelled heavily the positions of Tahrir al-Sham Hay’at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) in the region, destroying their bases and positions, the website added.

In the meantime, a source in Idlib Peace Committee reported that a humanitarian corridor has been proposed by the Russian and Syrian Command to pave the ground for the evacuation of civilians before the operation in Idlib.

Earlier reports said that the army sent fresh convoys of military vehicles and well-equipped soldiers to Northern Lattakia and al-Ghaab Plain, reinvigorating the government forces’ combat capabilities and setting up new positions.

Also, a military convoy, including hundreds of army men and a large volume of equipment, left Southern Syria for Northern Hama.

In the meantime, the army’s artillery and missile units opened heavy fire at the positions of Tahrir al-Sham Hay’at and other terrorist groups in the town of al-Latamina and the village of Ma’arkaba in Northern Hama and also in the villages of al-Mushayrafa, Um al-Khalalil, Badama, al-Tineh and al-Lubideh in Eastern and Western Idlib.

Terrorists suffered heavy casualties and their military hardware sustained major damage in the attacks.

Army destroys terrorists’ sites in Idleb southern countryside

15 August، 2018
Idleb, SANA

Units of Syrian Arab Army carried out intensive operations against terrorists’ gatherings and defense lines in the direction of the southeastern part of Idleb province.

SANA’s reporter in Hama said that army units directed artillery strikes on Jabhat al-Nusra gatherings in Sarja and Um Rjim towns in the southeastern countryside of Idleb, killing scores of terrorists and injuring many others.

The reporter added that vehicles affiliated to al-Nusra were destroyed and scores of terrorists were killed in the towns of al-Tah and al-Tamania in parallel with the destruction of an operations site along with all terrorists inside it, including the terrorists’ leader Khaled al-Wazer, aka “Abu Obada”.

Manar al-Frieh/Manal

Army deploys in Quneitra western countryside after cleansing the area of terrorism

15 August، 2018
Quneitra, SANA

After cleansing them from terrorism, army units deployed in the military posts which they were positioning in before 2011 in the villages of Briqa and Beir Ajam in the western countryside of Quneitra.

SANA’s reporter said that army units deployed in the two villages to strengthen the security situation in the area and in completion of implementing the agreement reached last month stipulating for evacuating terrorists unwilling to settle their legal status and the return of locals and state’s institutions to the area.

The authorities, according to the reporter, are continuing the settlement of the legal status of the militants and those who are assigned or reserved to military service in addition to draft dodgers.

The reporter added that hundreds of displaced persons have returned to their houses in the villages of Briqa, Beir Ajam and al-Qahtania.

The returnees expressed relief due to the return of security and stability to their area following the deployment of the Syrian Arab Army.

Several Children, Women Killed, Wounded in US Air Raid in Eastern Syria

TEHRAN (FNA)- The US-led coalition warplanes bombed a village in Eastern Deir Ezzur, killing and wounding several children and women.

The fighter jets pounded residential areas in al-Baqouz village in Eastern Deir Ezzur, killing four civilians, including children and women.

Several more were also injured in the air attack. Some of the injured are in critical condition.

In a relevant development, over ten bodies of the civilians killed in the US warplanes’ attacks on Raqqa city were discovered on Tuesday.

Bodies of nine civilians that were killed by the US air raids were taken out of debris near a historical Wall in Raqqa city.

In the meantime, bodies of three civilians that also were killed in the US-led coalition air attacks were unearthed near al-Sharaka Grand Mosque in the Southern part of Raqqa city.

US-Backed Militias Continue to Suppress Popular Uprising in Northeastern Syria

TEHRAN (FNA)- The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stormed civilians that had demonstrated against foreign occupiers in Raqqa city on Wednesday.

The SDF gunmen opened fire at civilians in Raqqa that had demonstrated against the occupiers in Baq Rashid neighborhood.

The SDF kept fighters on alert in Baq Rashid and seized over ten civilian vehicles.

In the meantime, the Arabic-language al-Manar TV reported that three SDF militias were killed after a bomb planted by ISIL terrorists on the way of the SDF fighters went off in the village of Jadidah Baladiyah East of al-Karama in Eastern Raqqa.

A fresh wave of insecurity and tensions has covered Raqqa following the SDF measures against people and unknown attacks on them.

Are the mainstream U.S. ‘news’media evil?

August 15, 2018

by Eric Zuesse for The Saker BlogAre the mainstream U.S. ‘news’media evil?

William Binney, the U.S. National Security Agency’s former technical director for global analysis, has, for the past year, been globe-trotting to investigate the actual evidence regarding the official Russiagate investigations, and he finds that the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, who is prosecuting Russia’s Government, can only accuse Russian officials, not convict any of them on at least the important charges, because conclusive evidence exists and has already been made public online, making clear that the important accusations against those officials are false. However, Binney can’t get any of the U.S. major ‘news’media’s interest in this fact, nor even into openly discussing it with them. Apparently, they don’t want to know. Binney is knocking on their doors, and they refuse to answer.

Patrick Lawrence, at the non-mainstream U.S. newsmedium Consortium News, headlined on Monday August 13th, “‘Too Big to Fail’: Russia-gate One Year After VIPS Showed a Leak, Not a Hack” and he reported what Binney has found and has been trying to get the major U.S. ‘news’media to present to the American public.

The “VIPS” there is Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, and they are 17 whistleblowing former high officials of the CIA, NSA, State Department, and other U.S. officials with top secret national-security clearances, who jointly signed and published on 24 July 2017, their report, which likewise was at Consortium News, “Intel Vets Challenge ‘Russia Hack’ Evidence”, in which they confirmed the validity of a 9 July 2017 report that had been published by Elizabeth Vos of Disobedient Media . com, which was titled “New Research Shows Guccifer 2.0 Files Were Copied Locally, Not Hacked” and which I then reported in more ordinary language seven days later under the headline “Russiagate Exposed: It’s a Fraud”. I quoted there the analysis’s basic finding “that the DNC computer network which the media tells us and the DNC tells us was hacked by the Russians, … was physically accessed by someone within close proximity of the DNC” and not outside the United States (Russia or anywhere else). The original research-report had been done by an anonymous person who called himself “the forensicator,” and he had sent it to Adam Carter, another highly technically knowledgeable person, who happened to be at Disobedient Media, and who then worked with Vos to prepae her article on it.

Binney, as the nation’s now-retired top NSA expert in the analysis of such matters, then followed up, during the past year, in order to probe more deeply, by contacting various individuals who had been involved behind the scenes; and Patrick Lawrence’s article was a report of what Binney had found. It’s this:

The forensic scientists working with VIPS continued their research and experiments after VIPS50 was published. So have key members of the VIPS group, notably William Binney, the National Security Agency’s former technical director for global analysis and designer of programs the agency still uses to monitor internet traffic. Such work continues as we speak, indeed. This was always the intent: “Evidence to date” was the premise of VIPS50. Over the past year there have been confirmations of the original thesis and some surprises that alter secondary aspects of it. Let us look at the most significant of these findings.

At the time I reported on the findings of VIPS and associated forensic scientists, that the most fundamental evidence that the events of summer 2016 constituted a leak, not a hack, was the transfer rate—the speed at which data was copied. The speed proven then was an average of 22.7 megabytes per second. …

The fastest internet transfer speed achieved, during the New Jersey–to–Britain test, was 12.0 megabytes of data per second. Since this time it has emerged from G-2.0’s metadata that the detected average speed—the 22.7 megabytes per second—included peak speeds that ran as high as 49.1 megabytes per second, impossible over the internet. “You’d need a dedicated, leased, 400–megabit line all the way to Russia to achieve that result,” Binney said in a recent interview. … That remains the bedrock evidence of the case VIPS and others advance without qualification. “No one—including the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA—has come out against this finding,” Binney said Monday. …

The identity of Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a Romanian hacker but which the latest Mueller indictment claims is a construct of the GRU, Russian military intelligence, has never been proven. The question is what G–2.0 did with or to the data in question. It turns out that both more, and less, is known about G–2.0 than was thought to have been previously demonstrated. This work has been completed only recently. It was done by Binney in collaboration with Duncan Campbell, a British journalist who has followed the Russia-gate question closely.

Peak Speed Established

Binney visited Campbell in Brighton, England, early this past spring. They examined all the metadata associated with the files G–2.0 has made public. They looked at the number of files, the size of each, and the time stamps at the end of each. It was at this time that Binney and Campbell established the peak transfer rate at 49.1 megabytes per second. … “Now you need to prove everything you might think about him,” Binney told me. “We have no way of knowing anything about him or what he has done, apart from manipulating the files. …

The conclusions initially drawn on time and location in VIPS50 are now subject to these recent discoveries. “In retrospect, giving ‘equal importance’ status to data pertaining to the locale was mistaken,” Ray McGovern, a prominent VIPS member, wrote in a recent note. “The key finding on transfer speed always dwarfed it in importance.” … 

How credible are those indictments in view of what is now known about G–2.0?

Binney told me: “Once we proved G–2.0 is a fabrication and a manipulator, the timing and location questions couldn’t be answered but really didn’t matter. I don’t right now see a way of absolutely proving either time or location. But this doesn’t change anything. We know what we know: The intrusion into the Democratic National Committee mail was a local download—wherever ‘local’ is.” That doesn’t change. As to Rosenstein, he’ll have a lot to prove.”

However, yet another technically knowledgeable analyst of the available evidence, George Eliason, claims that to assert that there were only “leaks” and not also “hacks” would clearly be wrong, because there were both. On August 14th, he bannered at Washington’s Blog, “Beyond The DNC Leak: Hacks and Treason” and he wrote:

There were multiple DNC hacks. There is also clear proof supporting the download to a USB stick and subsequent information exchange (leak) to Wikileaks. All are separate events.

Here’s what’s different in the information I’ve compiled.

The group I previously identified as Fancy Bear was given access to request password privileges at the DNC. And it looks like the DNC provided them with it.

I’ll show why the Podesta email hack looks like a revenge hack.

The reason Republican opposition research files were stolen can be put into context now because we know who the hackers are and what motivates them.

At the same time this story developed, it overshadowed the Hillary Clinton email scandal. It is a matter of public record that Team Clinton provided the DNC hackers with passwords to State Department servers on at least 2 occasions, one wittingly and one not. I have already clearly shown the Fancy Bear hackers are Ukrainian Intelligence Operators.

This gives some credence to the Seth Rich leak (DNC leak story) as an act of patriotism. If the leak came through Seth Rich, it may have been because he saw foreign Intel operatives given this access from the presumed winners of the 2016 US presidential election. No political operative is going to argue with the presumed president-elect over foreign policy. The leaker may have been trying to do something about it. I’m curious what information Wikileaks might have.

Eliason’s analysis doesn’t support Robert Mueller’s indictments any more than the others do. All are essentially incompatible with the accusations (including ones which now have become also indictments) from Mueller. Moreover, as Patrick Lawrence noted, “Indictments are not evidence and do not need to contain evidence. That is supposed to come out at trial, which is very unlikely to ever happen. Nevertheless, the corporate media has treated the indictments as convictions.” Maybe that’s the biggest crime of all.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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All hands on deck: the Caspian sails towards Eurasia integration

The Saker

All hands on deck: the Caspian sails towards Eurasia integration

August 14, 2018

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with the Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

The five states surrounding the sea – Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan – have reached difficult compromises on sovereign and exclusive rights as well as freedom of navigation

The long-awaited deal on the legal status of the Caspian Sea signed on Sunday in the Kazakh port of Aktau is a defining moment in the ongoing, massive drive towards Eurasia integration.

Up to the early 19th century, the quintessentially Eurasian body of water – a connectivity corridor between Asia and Europe over a wealth of oil and gas – was exclusive Persian property. Imperial Russia then took over the northern margin. After the break up of the USSR, the Caspian ended up being shared by five states; Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

Very complex negotiations went on for almost two decades. Was the Caspian a sea or a lake? Should it be divided between the five states into separate, sovereign tracts or developed as a sort of condominium?

Slowly but surely, the five states reached difficult compromises on sovereign and exclusive rights; freedom of navigation; “freedom of access of all the vessels from the Caspian Sea to the world’s oceans and back” – in the words of a Kazakh diplomat; pipeline installation; and crucially, on a military level, the certitude that only armed forces from the five littoral states should be allowed in Caspian waters.

No wonder then that President Putin, in Aktau, described the deal in no uncertain terms as having “epoch-making significance.”

A sea or a lake?

So is the Caspian now a sea or a lake? It’s complicated; the convention signed in Aktau defines it as a sea, but subject to a “special legal status.”

This means the Caspian is regarded as open water, for common use – but the seabed and subsoil are divided. Still a work in progress, the devil is in the details in sorting out how the seabed is divided.

According to the draft text, published two months ago by Russia’s Kommersant, “the delimitation of the floor and mineral resources of the Caspian Sea by sector will be carried out by agreement between the neighboring and facing states taking into account generally recognized principles and legal norms.” Stanislav Pritchin, director of the Center for Central Asia and Caucasus Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, described this as the best possible compromise, for now.

The maritime boundaries of each of the five states are already set; 15 nautical miles of sovereign waters, plus a further 10 miles (16 km) for fishing. Beyond that, it’s open water.

In Aktau, Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev frankly admitted that even to reach this basic consensus was a difficult process, and the key issue of how to share the Caspian’s underground energy wealth remains far from solved.

Two offshore oil rigs on the Caspian sea. Photo: iStock

Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov, quoting from the final text, emphasized that, “the methodology for establishing state base lines shall be determined in a separate agreement among all the parties according to this convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. This is a key phrase, especially important for our Iranian partners.”

The reference to Iran matters because under the deal Tehran ended up with the smallest share of the Caspian seabed. Diplomats confirmed to Asia Times that up to the last minute President Rouhani’s team was not totally satisfied with the final terms.

That was reflected in Rouhani’s comment that the convention was “a major document” even as it did not solve for good the extremely complex dossier.

What Rouhani did emphasize was how “gratifying” was the fact his Caspian partners privilege “multilateralism and oppose unilateral actions that are developing in some countries.” That was not only a direct reference to the Caspian partners supporting the JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal, but also a veiled reference to President Trump’s threat that “anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States.”

Rouhani and Nazarbayev in fact held a separate meeting dedicated to increased economic cooperation, including the mutual drive to use their national currencies on trade, bypassing the US dollar.

These waters are off-limits to NATO

Iran-Kazakhstan economic cooperation is bound to follow Iran-Russia parameters. Putin and Rouhani, who enjoy a warm, close personal relationship, spent quite some time in Aktau discussing issues far beyond the Caspian, such as Syria, Gazprom investment in Iranian gas fields, and how to deal with Washington’s sanctions offensive.

Both were adamant in their praise of a key stipulation of the deal; there will be no NATO roaming the Caspian. In the words of Rouhani, “the Caspian Sea only belongs to the Caspian states.” Putin for his part confirmed Russia plans to build a new deepwater port in the Caspian by 2025.

A panoramic view of Baku, Azerbaijan from the Martyrs Lane viewpoint, near the center of Baku. Photo: iStock

In the turbulent geoeconomic realm that I defined years ago as “Pipelineistan,” the deal will allow a lot of leeway; from now on, pipelines to be laid offshore require consent only from neighboring states, rather than from all “Caspian Five”.

A major consequence is that Turkmenistan may finally be able to lay down its own 300 km-long trans-Caspian underground pipeline to Azerbaijan – a project that was never exactly encouraged by Russia. This pipeline will allow Turkmenistan to diversify from its massive exports to China by tapping the European market via Baku, in direct competition with Gazprom.

Ashgabat may finally be on its way towards a win-win; not only Baku could use more gas imports to compensate for production shortfalls, but Moscow seems inclined to restart imports of Turkmen gas.

From now on, the game to watch in the Caspian is how deeper energy/economic cooperation may go, in the spirit of true Eurasia integration, even with China not directly involved in the affairs of the sea. Chinese companies though are heavily invested in the Kazakhstan oil business and are major importers of Turkmenistan gas.

Historically, Persia always maintained a demographic, cultural and linguistic pull across most of Central Asia. Persia remains one of its organizing principles; Iran is a Central Asian as much as a Southwest Asian power.

This should be contrasted with Caspian nations still heavily influenced by Soviet atheism and Turkish shamanism. A particularly interesting case to watch will be Azerbaijan – which is part of the Western sphere of influence via pipelines such as the BTC (Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan), which crosses Georgia all the way to the Turkish Eastern Mediterranean.

This was The Art of the Deal – Central Asian-style. What’s already established is that the Caspian 2.0 is a major multilateral win for Eurasia integration.

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