Leader: Iran to export as much oil as it needs; US cannot block sales

Press TV

Wed Apr 24, 2019 08:45AM

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei meets with a group of workers in Tehran, Iran, April 24, 2019. (Photo by khamenei.ir)

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei meets with a group of workers in Tehran, Iran, April 24, 2019. (Photo by khamenei.ir)

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says the US administration’s hostile attempts to block Iran’s oil sales will lead nowhere, and that the country will export “as much crude as it needs and wishes” in defiance of American sanctions.

Speaking at a meeting with a large group of Iranian workers on Wednesday, Leader played down Washington’s recent decision to end exemptions from sanctions for countries buying oil from Tehran.

“In the first place, such attempts will lead nowhere, and we are capable of exporting as much oil as we need and want,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

The Leader warned that “this act of hostility will not go unanswered,” emphasizing that the Iranian nation “will not sit idly by” in the face of its enemies.

Ayatollah Khamenei further said the enemies have recurrently failed in their attempts to bring the Iranian nation to its knees.

They are now resorting to economic pressure to achieve that end, but will once again fail to do so, the Leader added.

“They (enemies) imagine they’ve blocked [our] way, but our vigorous nation and vigilant authorities will overcome the dead-ends if they put their efforts into this,” the Leader added.

Ayatollah Khamenei, however, called for collective efforts to reduce domestic dependence on oil.

(This item is being updated.)

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Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution? (5/8)

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution? (5/8)

In Part 3 of this 8-part series I answered the question raised by that part’s title: Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China? To recap: China wanted something which the Eurozone has none of: participatory economic planning. China also wanted much more participatory democracy (political empowerment) at the local level and to move even further away from an all-controlling, imperious central state.

But why did this require a decade-long Cultural Revolution (CR)? The answer to that question is: all Red Guards, promoted to install the CR, weren’t all red!

This article will explain something never even hinted at in Western (faux) histories of China: the differences between the two Red Guard factions – the one on the left of the spectrum of socialist political thought, and the one on the right side of the spectrum.

This explains why the primary victims of the Red Guards were… the Red Guards! But that likely needs further explanation….

These party differences were so deep, so broad, so ingrained and so fiercely held that China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is perhaps best conceived of as “China’s Socialist Civil War”. The CR truly was China’s center and left against their right-wing… but we must remember that “right-wing” in a socialist context is still far, far to the left of the “right-wing” in a capitalist context. Of course, China also had some unrepentant “Western right-wing” citizens who refused to adopt socialism who were also involved.

But we live in a world today where many disbelieve in the concept of a hard and scientific “political spectrum”. Many refute any sort of standardization of political thought, as if a person’s political ideas could be so incredibly unique that they defy labeling of any sort, despite the obvious hindrance to understanding and solidarity this belief can’t help but create. Given this widespread error, we should not be surprised that the Western Mainstream Media has no interest at all in fully describing the Chinese spectrum of battling forces during the CR; for them the CR is divided into murderous savages (the Party, the government, students) and totally-innocent victims (usually professors, intellectuals, and those forced to shovel manure instead of constantly talking it).

I will soon explain how Red Guards were the greatest victims of the CR, but to do so I must first dispense with the Western idea that China’s CR was some sort of power-struggle and byproduct of a Mao-cult, as opposed to being a truly democratic event.

The CR’s democratic bonafides are are proven by the fact that there was massive popular involvement. Conversely, the Eurogroup – which decides the economic policies of the Eurozone – is not democratic because there is extremely limited involvement in decision-making.

This is verified in The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village by Dongping Han, who was raised and educated in rural Jimo County, China and is now a university professor in the US. Han interviewed hundreds of rebel leaders, farmers, officials and locals, and accessed official local data to provide an exhaustive analysis of seeming unparalled objectivity and focus regarding the Cultural Revolution in China. Han was kind enough to write the forward to my brand-new bookI’ll Ruin Everything you Are: Ending Western Propaganda in Red China. I hope you can buy a copy for yourself and your 300 closest friends.

“These mass associations (definition coming shortly) were formed largely in the spirit of free association, and enjoyed tremendous independence and freedom. They cut across clan and family lines. It was common for people from the same clan and same family to join different associations. People came together because of their political views. With few exceptions, all of the adult population belonged to one mass association or another.” (emphasis mine)

The Chinese Socialist Civil War showed the one indispensable hallmark of producing a true & successful revolution: universal political participation. In Russia in 1917 or in Iran in 1979, everybody – and I mean everybody – talked politics all the time.

It should not be surprising that the opposite is true: in hugely reactionary cultures like the US or the UK serious political discussion is verboten among friends and family. This is the reason why far-right thinking dominates in these countries – conservatism and traditionalism go unopposed. However, in China the far-right had been (quite properly) banned in 1949; therefore, the CR was a battle among “Chinese right-wing socialists”…which shows how very much more advanced and evolved Chinese political discussion and culture is compared with Anglophone countries, where right-wing elements still are allowed to confuse, distort and champion horrid ideas.

The “mass associations” which Han refers to needs his explanation:

I personally feel there is a need to distinguish between mass organizations and mass associations. The former term would be applied to the organizations like the militia, the Communist Youth League, women’s association, workers’ unions and the official Red Guards which were set up by the CCP and were official in nature. The latter term would refer to the independent Red Guard groups formed largely in the spirit of free association. … Both the rebels and the defenders of the Party leaders were called Red Guards. The rebels were called zaofan pai (rebel faction) while the defenders were known as the baohuang pai (loyalist or royalist faction)….”

This distinction is the essence of the CR: the conflict was between those who were pushed by Mao to criticize the Party in a never-before seen manner – the Rebel Faction (associations) – and those who opposed such criticism and changes – the Loyalist Faction (organizations); both were “Red Guards”, however.

Essentially, the Loyalist Faction Red Guards didn’t know what they were getting into when they started the new CR, as they soon found themselves under attack.

Why the Cultural Revolution was totally different to China, from the Chinese perspective

Han relates in detail and in real-time how the CR came to Jimo County: who were the “rebel leaders”, who were the criticized Party members, who fought back against the CR, and how it evolved from what could have been just another “anti-rightist campaign”, like in 1957, or yet another of near-yearly “anti-corruption campaigns”, into something wholly new – a CR.

Let’s start at the beginning:

“At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, the CCP had total control of Chinese political and economic life. …(the CCP) held the reins of power at each level.”

But what Mao and his supporters wanted was to provoke was something which was previously banned as “anti-party thought” – independent criticism of Party authorities. (Such criticism is widespread in Iran – the critics have not succeeded in persuading Iranians to abandon their revolution, however.)

The democratic bonafides of the CR are further strengthened by the fact that those who openly criticized the government were not punished, but given power. That is a very rare phenomenon. But we are skipping ahead – the first rare phenomenon is that poor rural people were given platforms to explain where their Party-led society had failed, and where the empowerment created by socialist revolution had not yet reached.

“It (the CR) differs from all the previous political campaigns because for the first time in the CCP’s history it circumvented the local party bosses and stressed the principle of letting the masses empower themselves and educate themselves.” (Han’s emphasis)

This is the revolution within a socialist revolution provided by Maoism – only installing a vanguard party is not enough to achieve on-the-ground, democratic socialism.

The first two months of the CR (June-July 1966) saw attacks on the “Four Olds” –in essence, attacks on outdated, repressive and capitalist customs, cultures, habits, and ideas. This was led by the Loyalist Faction Red Guards, to be distinguished from the Rebel Faction Red Guards who came to power later.

“Of course, from the point of view of local party officials, campaigns to destroy the four olds and attack landlords, capitalists and political enemies were convenient ways to divert attention from themselves and protect themselves from attack.” So in this way the first couple months of the CR was a really just a “pseudo-CR”, because it was led by many of the corrupt cadres themselves.

But what stopped this “pseudo-CR” was the August 1966 Mao-faction drafted “16 Points”, which boldly and correctly proclaimed as its headline: “A New Stage in the Socialist Revolution”. The 16 points is briefly summarized here, but to recap: capitalism is essentially a negative societal habit, and if this habit is not broken wherever it is found within a socialist society then it will lead to the unwanted restoration of capitalism-imperialism. Thus, the CR requires vigorous refutation and discrediting of proven anti-socialist thought and influence.

Crucially, the 16 Points, “…made the distinction between the Communist party as an institution and party bosses as individuals in a definitive manner, and which stressed that the targets of the Cultural Revolution were the capitalist roaders inside the Party.” (Han’s emphasis)

Capitalist roader” is, I feel, a rather inelegant but common English translation of this supremely important Maoist phrase. What it refers to is: a person who wants to get off the road of socialism and return to the road of capitalism-imperialism. It is not an effective translation because it lacks the necessary implication of betraying socialism’s already-acquired advances. “Capitalist re-roader” would be better, but also inelegant. However, one of the beauties of socialist jargon is its refusal to be elegant at all!

What we can also do is to call the capitalist roaders something more accurate – “anti-empowerment roaders”. Or we could call them “king-roaders”, for Muslim countries still oppressed by monarchies, and “CEO-roaders” for the Western republics suffering from bourgeois/West European/Liberal Democracy’s promotion of neoliberal ideals.

Let’s put the 16 Points in China’s historical context:

In a very real way we can say that after 17 years the CCP had definitely established themselves as the dominant and accepted political force in the country – no more Kuomintang, no more foreign powers, far fewer rightists – and thus they could “relax” their grip… by risking a healthy, re-dedicating CR to start focusing on improving the Party’s control rather than just cementing the Party’s control.

It is simply unrealistic politics to imagine that all revolutions don’t have this “consolidation phase”. I would contend that the Iranian Revolution is nearing the end of their consolidation phase; if the US had honored the JCPOA treaty – and if European nations had the courage to honor their word – the Islamic Revolution would have become totally legitimized domestically, and Iran would have to come up with a “New Stage in the Iranian Islamic Revolution” and their own “16 points”. Instead, a totally desperate US has just gone nuclear, by banning anyone from buying Iran oil. Iran’s enemies are as close to war as they can possibly get with that move, simply because they don’t want Iranian Islamic Socialism to spread any more than they want Socialism With Chinese Characteristics to spread.

Indeed, Iran is in a situation we can compare to China in 1963. People act like China was always an equal with the West, as they have been in the 21st century – back then China was still banned from the World Trade Organisation, under US sanctions which would not be lifted until Nixon in 1971, and watching the US wage war on its neighbors & set up nearby military bases. Revolutionary fervour is often imposed rather than chosen – Mao rejected Soviet revisionism and laxity because China did not have the leeway, options and power that the USSR had. If the incredibly belligerent decision of banning Iranian oil actually takes hold, we should thus not be surprised if Iranian “hard-liners” promote a 2nd Iranian Cultural Revolution as a result – indeed, how can socialist-inspired nations relent when compromise is certain death and disgrace? How can we say that China’s CR failed when it obviously convinced the West to call off their Cold War? Regarding Iran, all I can say is: Iranian Cultural Revolution II is far, far, far more likely than the eruption of an unpatriotic civil war which aims to ally itself with the US. LOL….

At this point in China’s CR history, Han elaborates the very essence of the unheard & the unreported point of view of the Cultural Revolution:

“After the ‘16 points’ was publicized, it became very difficult for individual party leaders to use ‘party leadership’ as a shield against criticism. … The ‘chaos’ that attacks on the local party leaders would cause was the price Mao was willing to pay in order to create opportunities to empower the masses. … The ‘16 Points’ and Mao’s support liberated the suppressed rebels throughout China. It also took away the sacred veneer from local ‘dictators’ whom ordinary people called ‘tuhuangdi’ (local emperors) and subjected them to mass criticism. … Former rebel leaders in Jimo like Lan Chengwu and Wang Sibo say that Mao called his 1966 revolution ‘cultural’ because he wanted to cultivate a more democratic political culture in order to eradicate the tuhuangdi phenomenon.”

This is the crucial evolution of socialism: away from the Party dictators and jingoistic loyalists, and towards the “rebels”, who should also be considered synonymous with “true socialists” and “true revolutionaries of empowerment”.

In many ways this encapsulates why the West essentially ends modern Chinese history with 1966 – to them, China always remained a “totalitarian” system with absolutely zero local democratic empowerment. Han agrees that the previous system was – in an genuine but certainly not complete sense of the word – “totalitarian” (centralized and dictatorial), but he shows that the CR specifically fought to change this reality; it was even led by the “totalitarians” themselves.

The West has remained stuck in their false mindset by misinterpreting and not discussing the CR. They have refused to tell the truth and do not even try to understand the CR. Again empowering Chinese and Iranian-style socialism, and not empowering their domestic leftists, are their malign motivations.

Han demonstrates that the CR represents a fundamentally-positive and democratic evolution in the quality of their socialist democracy. This evolution facilitated an explosion in rural-dominated China’s rural economies, industries and schooling and lay the foundation, taught the skills and started the industries which fueled their post-1980 economic success. Modern China’s success cannot be understood without grasping this evolution created specifically by the CR because it fundamentally changed the entire country, even if revolutionary fervour inevitably waned some with the arrival of Deng Xiaoping.

The CR was so intense, so thorough and so very democratic (China being 80% rural at the time), that it cannot be ignored by anyone who wants to grasp modern China; failure to understand the CR also means that one’s politics are stuck in the ‘60s, and certainly that is a fair assessment of the West – they have totally regressed to the right politically, culturally and economically since then. This link is never discussed.

Which Red Guards fought which Red Guards and why?

Now that the background running up until 1967 is laid, we can properly understand the fighting that came after. Without this fighting, the CR would have been just another “anti-rightist campaign”. The fighting was the result of the creation and state protection of totally-grassroots groups, which Han called “mass associations”; these mass associations sat in opposition to “mass organizations”, which represented the CCP status quo.

“With the issuing of ’16 points’, the official Red Guards organized under the auspices of local party leaders dissolved very quickly. Independent rebel associations began to appear,” and these are Han’s “mass associations”. In Jimo County a dozen new, independent Rebel Red Guard associations emerged through the spontaneous democracy guarded by the Mao-faction and the army (the left and center).

Han notes how the Chinese Constitution had always protected free assembly, but that it was never really permitted; these associations were the first time rural peasants could create unified groups which served as a challenge to Party domination. Han relates the universal political participation, and how political debate between associations was constant and transparent. This not only allowed the mastery and tweaking of political ideas, but it empowered the peasant masses by allowing them to speak publicly for the first time ever. These are the kinds of things which prove the CR’s democratic bonafides, but which the West cannot accept nor popularize. Indeed, how can the CR be undemocratic when it fostered, protected and promoted new grassroots institutions? What is more democratic than spontaneous grassroots organizations? We see here the truly revolutionary nature of the CR.

Each village Han studied had roughly three to five new mass associations, and he related how widespread the democratic participation was down to the household level. “The major difference between them was whether or not to overthrow the old village party bosses.”

Therefore, the CR was essentially a massive referendum on the performance of individual civil servants.

If you were a good boss, who maybe was in charge of some small town’s only mill or granary or whatever, everyone in that small town surely knew you were good…. because that’s how small towns are – they know your personal business. And such good bosses kept their jobs (and kept in line). But if you were a tuhuangdi who siphoned off the profits to buy presents to seduce married women, everyone in that small town already knew it – because that’s how small towns are – and you’d be exposed and publicly shamed. Public shaming is an Asian thing, perhaps, but I certainly see it as just punishment. I note that Han does not record that any such person died as punishment in Jimo County.

Han relates how workers and farmers joined the Rebel Faction out of dissatisfaction with local Party leaders. These Rebel Faction Red Guards (associations) were supported by the left-wingers in the Chinese Socialist Democratic System (Mao and those who thought like him), whereas the Loyalist Faction Red Guards (organizations) were the status quo-preserving establishment. All were Red Guards, though.

The Rebel Faction Red Guards were joined by idealistic students, and now the two sides began to really fight it out against the Loyalist Faction Red Guards. Many might assume that the army tipped the balance, but that’s not the case:

“The army was called upon to support the revolutionary leftists by the center. But since there was no concrete criterion for a revolutionary leftist, it was really up to the soldiers in the fields to decide who they wanted to support.”

Even though Mao, the center, and the left called for the army to support the Rebel Faction Red Guards, Han reveals yet another democratic bonafide of the CR: the army was not manipulated for political reasons, but was allowed to freely choose their own side. Therefore, if the right wing in China’s socialist spectrum was overwhelmed in the CR decade, and if the army did not intervene to prop them up, the only reason is because many in the People’s Liberation Army were genuine leftists themselves, i.e. democracy prevailed.

When the dust cleared, the Red Guards (Rebel Faction) beat the Red Guards (Loyalist Faction)

As expected, in the early years of the CR the Rebel Faction Red Guards initially faced much local official persecution for denouncing people like Police Chiefs for poor performance, capitalist-roading and abuse of authority. People talk about the CR as if there was no give-and-take of abuse, imprisonment and mistreatment, but of course the Loyalist Faction had many levers to pull and obstacles to throw up despite the opposition of Mao way over in the capital.

So when we talk about the violent excesses of the CR, we must keep in mind that the CR’s victors had to overcome much initial official repression. Revolutionary payback is usually not a bouquet of flowers with a thank-you card.

But the primary reason there was so much anger was likely because prior to the CR there simply, “…were no regular channels for ordinary villagers to air their opinions and grievances against the Party authorities.” It’s not that Chinese Socialism had failed, but that equality was not universal due to a clear urban/rural divide. The CR was essentially a rural explosion which demanded that equality. It is not for nothing the very first big character poster – the Chinese version of a free press back then, and that is no exaggeration at all – attacked the educational inequalities at China’s top university and demanded that the doors be opened wider to rural students. The Yellow Vests are doing the same… but less coherently, which should be expected – Westerners are not as intellectually politically advanced & experienced as the Chinese in 1964.

The Yellow Vests are essentially demanding a Cultural Revolution

In the end, the CR was about demanding that second pillar of Marxism – redistribution of power – for rural areas; the CR was China dealing with it’s rural/urban divide, whereas the West is only starting to come to grips with their divide with Brexit, the Yellow Vests, the “basket of deplorables”, etc.

“Some villagers say that before the Cultural Revolution villagers felt shorter before party leaders, and always nodded to them first when they met on the street. After the Cultural Revolution ordinary villagers no longer felt diminished before the village leaders and such leaders often greeted ordinary villagers first when they met on the street.”

Such “who greets whom first” etiquette is a classic small-town concern, LOL.

But it is a real concern, and public servants simply must address public concerns – that is their primary job. Public servants who expect to be feted like social superiors are clearly not “of” or “for the People”.

We can see why the Western 1% is so fearful of a CR occurring locally – capitalism is all about venerating the “Great Man”, whom we should be thanking for giving us the opportunity to work for peanuts.

The CR is supposed to be so bloody, but Han does not list any deaths in Jimo County as a result of CR violence. Han says with only a few exceptions the corrupt party leaders were rehabilitated. Heck, the CCP allowed Pu Yi, “the Last Emperor” to be rehabilitated and live his life out in peace, so why not the local emperors? It is capitalist legal systems which prioritize useless and unequal punishment over rehabilitation, not socialist systems.

The idea that 500,000 to 2 million people died in the CR is a number which seems to be invented by Western imaginations, because how many of these claimants did the in-depth study Han did… and yet Han reports zero deaths?

Considering this was both a revolution and a civil war, should such a deal toll stand as proof of the CR’s inherent immorality? Does anybody do that for the US Civil War, which cost 600,000 lives? Of course not. The big difference between the two is: nobody in the West does the work Han did and proves that the CR led to huge increases in economic, political, medical, educational, social and democratic empowerment. Time will show that the CR freed the Chinese rural slaves, in a very genuine sense. Maybe they weren’t freed enough, but neither were US Blacks, who went from slaves to Jim Crow… but these are undoubtedly two civil wars with positive overall results.

By the time local party organizations began to function again in late 1969, after almost three years of dormancy, the political culture had already changed.

Han recounts their characteristics and practices, and how they replaced the old structures, and my margin notes read “democracy” over and over and over and over.

The number of party members doubled in Jimo County from 1965-1978 (the year Deng took office), but this was not the error of Krushchev, who let in a bunch of ideologically-suspect Soviets in order to dilute the power of the Stalinist wing – China opened its doors to their true revolutionaries who made their bones during the CR decade.

In a very important sense, even if Deng’s more right-wing socialist line came to the fore in the 1980s, and even if there would be a purge of Rebel Faction leaders during the Deng era, the cadres and citizens pushed to the left during the CR (as Dongping Han seems to have been) have helped ensure that China has not at all fully switched to the capitalist road.

The CR undoubtedly brought untold wealth, progress and empowerment for rural areas (as I briefly related in Part 1). Trumpeting these achievements is verboten in the West, but is the focus of the next part in this series.

**********************************

This is the 5th article in an 8-part series which examines Dongping Han’s book The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village in order to drastically redefine a decade which has proven to be not just the basis of China’s current success, but also a beacon of hope for developing countries worldwide. Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Part 1 – A much-needed revolution in discussing China’s Cultural Revolution: an 8-part series

Part 2 – The story of a martyr FOR, and not BY, China’s Cultural Revolution

Part 3 – Why was a Cultural Revolution needed in already-Red China?

Part 4 – How the Little Red Book created a cult ‘of socialism’ and not ‘of Mao’

Part 5 – Red Guards ain’t all red: Who fought whom in China’s Cultural Revolution?

Part 6 – How the socioeconomic gains of China’s Cultural Revolution fuelled their 1980s boom

Part 7 – Ending a Cultural Revolution can only be counter-revolutionary

Part 8 – What the West can learn: Yellow Vests are demanding a Cultural Revolution

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of Ill Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

SYRIAN WAR REPORT – APR. 22, 2019: CHEMICAL WEAPONS WAREHOUSE EXPLODED IN WESTERN ALEPPO

South Front

A supposed chemical weapons warehouse of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nursa) near city of al-Atarib in western Aleppo exploded on April 20. According to pro-government sources, the warehouse was one of the sites where militants were arming rockets and shells with toxic materials.

Members of the notorious propaganda organization “White Helmets” reportedly recovered the bodies of at least six people killed in the explosion. Three injured persons were evacuated to nearby hospitals.

The version of the events provided by pro-militant media outlets argues that the targeted facility was belonging to a local pharmaceutical company known as “al-Khalil” and stored “baby milk” only. Pro-opposition media added that the explosion was likely caused by an improvised explosive device. Nonetheless, it remains unclear who would need to blow up a baby milk storage facility.

Over the past few months, Russia and Syria have repeatedly warned that members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the White Helmets, with assistance from Western intelligences, are making preparations for staging chemical attacks that would be blamed on the Assad government.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Horas al-Din and several other radical groups have carried out a series of attacks on positions of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) near the so-called Idlib de-escalation zone. The most successful attacks took place in al-Saraya, northern Lattakia, where 5 SAA troops were killed and in western Aleppo, where over 15 SAA soldiers died.

Additionally, pro-militant sources as well as several Kurdish outlets, linked with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), came with a new round of speculations about supposed clashes between “Russian” and “Iranian” forces in the provinces of Aleppo and Deir Ezzor. The SAA denounced these claims as fake news.

These claims appear to be a part of a well-coordinated military psychological operation that’s aimed to undermine the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance. Similar reports repeatedly appeared over the past few years, but every time they were not supported by any evidence.

The situation remains tense in the desert area between the cities of Palmyra and Deir Ezzor. The ISIS news agency Amaq claimed on April 19 that ISIS members had ambushed an SAA convoy near the al-Bishri mount killing at least 20 soldiers and destroying 4 vehicles.

SDF-linked Kurdish insurgents continued their attacks on Turkish forces in the region of Afrin. On April 19, Kurdish fighters targeted alleged Turkish positions near Maryamayn and Villat al-Qadi with anti-tank guided missiles. Pro-Kurdish sources claim that 6 Turkish soldiers were killed. However, the Turkish military released no statements regarding its casualties. Therefore, most likely the attacked positions belonged to Turkish-backed militants.

Syria’s naval port of Tartus will be given for lease to Russia for 49 years, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told journalists on April 20 after meeting with Syria’s President Bashar Assad. Moscow will use the port for economic and logistical purposes.

Russia already has a naval facility in Tartus, which was set up at the second largest port. This military facility is currently undergoing modernization.

These developments took place amid the growing economic cooperation between Russia’s Republic of Crimea and Syria. According to official estimates, the cargo turnover between Crimea and Syria may reach 150,000t by the end of 2019. During the recent Yalta economic conference in Crimea, Syria and the local authorities reached even more agreements on the economic cooperation.

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Lavrov’s interview for Zvezda network

April 22, 2019

Lavrov’s interview for Zvezda network

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview for Glavnoye with Olga Belova programme on Zvezda network, Moscow, April 21, 2019

http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3622162?p_p_id=101_INSTANCE_cKNonkJE02Bw&_101_INSTANCE_cKNonkJE02Bw_languageId=en_GB

Olga Belova: Mr Lavrov, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview today. Thank you for your time. We are recording this interview on the eve of the second round of Ukraine’s presidential election, so if you would allow me, we will begin with this subject, since it is currently making headlines. Against this backdrop we cannot fail but to recall the events that took place five years ago during the 2014 election in Ukraine. Since then the question of whether Russia had to recognise the outcome of the 2014 election resurfaces from time to time in the public space. What will happen this time around? Does recognising this election make any sense? We understand all too well that Russia has many formal and moral reasons to break up all contacts with the Ukrainian authorities.

Sergey Lavrov: Five years ago when the presidential election was called in Ukraine, it happened in the aftermath of an armed and anti-constitutional government coup that, for some reason, was carried out within a day after the signing of an agreement between the opposition and President Viktor Yanukovich. Moreover, foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France assumed the role of guarantors under this agreement that was also proactively backed by the US. But the next morning the opposition announced on Maidan Square that they had seized power and had formed a government of victors. This is when they began splitting their people apart. This agreement was signed on February 21, 2014, and if we recall its text, the first paragraph sets forth the need to form a “national unity government.” Instead, they established a government of victors, and started treating everyone else like losers. They put forward multiple requirements that ran counter to the interests of a significant part of people in Ukraine, including minorities such as Russians and Russian speakers. All this brought about serious problems and triggered a referendum in Crimea as a response to the threats made by nationalists to expel Russians from the peninsula and attempts to take over the Supreme Council building by force.

Let me mention one more event. In mid-April, that is before the election was called, but after the referendum in Crimea, Geneva hosted a meeting attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry, yours truly, EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, and then acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine Andrey Deshitsa. At this meeting we agreed on a one-page declaration, and its key provision consisted of supporting the intention of the Ukrainian authorities to implement federalisation, that is to decentralise the country with the involvement of all regions. A representative of the new Ukrainian government that came to power in Kiev following a coup signed this document, guaranteeing federalisation with the involvement of all regions of the country.

But this commitment was instantly forgotten. Against this backdrop, when people started to state their intention to run for president, President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko was saying on every street corner that he was a “president of peace” and would settle the conflict in a matter of two or three weeks. It is for this reason that Western capitals, Paris and Berlin, urged Russia to refrain from making a statement rejecting the election outcome. We did refrain in order to give them a chance.

In early June 2014, President-elect Petr Poroshenko met with President of France Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of Russia Vladimir Putin, when they all attended celebrations of the allied Normandy landings. The very fact that Vladimir Putin took part in this meeting, proposed by France and Germany, attested to Russia’s commitment to peace in Donbass and protecting the rights of those who were firm in their refusal to accept an armed coup. We proceeded from the premise that Petro Poroshenko was primarily elected for this promise to resolve the problem peacefully. With this in mind, I would refrain from stirring up the past on this particular matter.

By the way, during the Normandy format meetings that followed, Petr Poroshenko proved that he was not a “president of the peace,” and was forced by the developments on the ground to sign the Minsk Agreements. Russia also believed that it was unacceptable for him to consistently fool his people, while also lying to his curators abroad, since they were irritated by Poroshenko “getting out of hand.” I am talking about the Europeans represented within the Normandy Format, namely France and Germany. When the Minsk Agreements were signed everyone let out a sigh of relief, considering that this created a clear path to peace, especially since the UN Security Council approved the Minsk Agreements, thus implementing them into international law. However, in this sphere as well Petr Poroshenko proved to be very apt in dodging responsibility, turning for protection to the US administration which does not encourage Ukraine to abide by the Minsk Agreements. The Europeans found themselves in an awkward situation.

This was a look at the past, but coming back to your question, we have seen electoral programmes released by Petr Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky. We see how they approached the run-off. I have the impression that what matters the most for them at this point is to attract voters by some kind of a constructive agenda in order to secure victory. This is what their efforts are all about. I would rather not draw any final conclusions on what Vladimir Zelensky’s policy will look like if he is elected president, which is a done deal as far as observers are concerned. I would refrain from paying too much attention to declarations coming from his campaign. We have to wait for the second round results when they will have to deal with real things instead of campaign slogans and propaganda. Only then will we understand what this person as president thinks about the millions of his compatriots who speak Russian, love the Russian language and culture and want to live according to their values and the values of the winners in the Great Patriotic War, instead of being guided by values that extoll Roman Shukhevich, Stepan Bandera and other Petlyuras.

Olga Belova: You said we need to wait for the president-elect to take actual steps. Everyone realises that it is imperative to sit down and talk no matter what happens. What should Kiev’s first actions, statements and steps be so that, to use your words, Moscow “gives them another chance” to a peaceful resolution of the situation?

Sergey Lavrov: Most importantly, the new or old government should be able to talk and reach agreements and to respect international law and Ukraine’s international obligations. Such obligations include an international legal instrument which is the UN Security Council resolution, which approved the Minsk Agreements. A direct dialogue between Kiev, on the one hand, and Donetsk and Lugansk, on the other hand, lies at the core of these agreements. This will be the key to success. To reiterate, we heard about the plans to continue the settlement in the election statements, in particular, on the part of Mr Zelensky and his staff, but this time with the involvement of the United States and Great Britain and without direct dialogue with the proclaimed republics − DPR and LPR.

When contenders for a post make such statements, they will then be somehow tied in with such a position in the future. I hope that life will make them realise that there’s no alternative to implementing the Minsk Agreements and, in any case, that there’s no alternative to direct dialogue with the people who represent an enormous part of your nation, if you still consider them to be such, of course.

Olga Belova: We see that so far no one has been talking to them, and there’s no direct dialogue with the republics. Recently, the DPR published the foreign policy concept which shows a certain dualism: on the one hand, there’s a commitment to the Minsk Agreements and, on the other hand, the Republic of Donbass recognises itself as an independent state. What does Moscow think about the dualism of this document? What is your vision of the future of that region following the elections?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t see anything unusual here, because these republics proclaimed sovereignty five years ago, in May 2014, responding to what we just talked about, namely, radical nationalists who came out with strong anti-Russian statements and launched an attack on the language, cultural and religious rights of ethnic minorities. It started a long time ago. These republics responded by declaring independence. Let’s remind our Western colleagues, if they ever take any interest in these unpleasant facts from recent history, that these republics did not attack the rest of Ukraine. The rest of Ukraine declared them terrorists. This, of course, is a stunning phenomenon in modern diplomacy and politics.

The rest of Ukraine was represented by the putschists who seized power in Kiev and launched an attack on millions of their fellow citizens demanding that they submit to illegal authorities. So, as I understand it, independence was simply reaffirmed in these doctrinal documents adopted in Donbass. But after this independence was declared five years ago in May − returning to what we think about the then elections and the election of Poroshenko solely because he proclaimed that his goal was immediate peace and an immediate agreement on resolving the Donbass problem by way of talks, Russia talked these republics into agreeing to a political process.

Political and diplomatic efforts were interrupted by the military actions of Kiev, which did not respect the truce and ceasefire agreement. There was the August offensive which ended badly for the Ukrainian armed forces and, most importantly, claimed a huge number of human lives, followed by the January offensive in Debaltsevo. Only after receiving a rebuff, did Petr Poroshenko sit down at the negotiating table. That’s how the Minsk Agreements were signed.

I was in Minsk and saw how the leaders of the four countries spent 17 hours at the negotiating table taking short breaks, mostly talking between themselves, and sometimes inviting us as experts to clarify certain fine points. It took considerable effort to convince the leaders of the DPR and LPR who were present in Minsk to give the go-ahead to the Minsk Agreements. We did it. We convinced them to once again demonstrate their willingness, even determination, if you will, to achieve peace with the rest of Ukraine.

Unfortunately, the way the current Ukrainian authorities see our efforts is disappointing. Despite provocations, we will push for these agreements to be implemented. We are a country that is capable of reaching agreements.

Olga Belova: That is, if I understood you correctly, Moscow is still capable and willing to continue to influence the leadership of these republics? Are we going to push them to sit down and talk as best we can, or not? I’m asking this because the leaders of the republics have made it clear that they have parted ways with Kiev.

Sergey Lavrov: You said there was a dual decision to reaffirm independence and commitment to the Minsk Agreements. To a certain extent (I will not frame it in terms of a percentage), this is the result of our influence on them and our call for them not to follow the example of the Ukrainian authorities which break down and trample upon their own promises. We will continue to exert this influence. We have long been calling, above all, the Germans and the French, to realise their responsibility for Kiev’s behaviour, because the Minsk Agreements involve, above all, proactive steps on the part of the Ukrainian authorities. The Contact Group is the only format where Donetsk, Lugansk and Kiev sit down at one table with the representatives of the OSCE and Russia. It took an inordinate amount of effort to create it, primarily because Mr Poroshenko began to back pedal shortly after the Minsk Agreements had been signed, and refused to maintain direct dialogue with the republics. But we forced our Ukrainian colleagues do that. Although in practical work − the Contact Group meets every month −  and even more often than that the Ukrainian government outwardly sabotages everything that was agreed upon, be it security, separating forces and means, the political process, coordinating the formula for conducting elections or providing this region with a special status in accordance with the Minsk Agreements. There is an open and blatant sabotage. We need to understand how the election results will affect the Ukrainian delegation’s activities in the Contact Group, and what kind of people will be delegated there.

Olga Belova: Indeed, now everything depends on how the presidential election will end, including the situation in the Kerch Strait, which was endlessly brought up in the first part of the campaign, before the first round. How harshly are we ready to respond if another provocation is made, especially considering that NATO has declared its readiness to support Ukrainian warships if they undertake another breakthrough?

Sergey Lavrov: Morally and politically – maybe they will support it. But I do not see a situation where NATO ships will join these adventurers for a military provocation. I do not foresee such a situation, and, considering the information that we have, I have reason to believe that this has already been decided at NATO.

Olga Belova: So all the support they will be getting is just words?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably, as it was the last time, a condemnation, and once again they will come up with some new sanctions. As we have said many times, we have no problem with Ukrainian warships passing from the Black Sea to their ports in the Sea of ​​Azov. The only condition is to comply with the safety requirement for navigation along the Kerch Strait. It is a complex stretch of water, which is quite shallow and doesn’t go in a straight line and requires compulsory pilotage as well as coordination when it comes to the weather conditions. All ships — and there are thousands of them — stop at the entrance to the Kerch Strait, report to the channel operators, pilotage, recommendations, and, depending on the weather forecast, move on to the Sea of ​​Azov, as was done before Ukraine’s warships last November. They passed smoothly without any incidents.

In November 2018, Petr Poroshenko, obviously during the election heat, tried to create a scandal to have reason to appeal to the West again, complaining of Russia harassing him, and insisting on more sanctions. He is better at it than many others. So the warships tried to secretly pass through the Kerch Strait, trespassing into our territorial waters – the part that was Russia’s territorial waters even before the referendum in Crimea. What they did actually boiled down to probing the limits of those who ensure the security of the Kerch Strait and the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.

I must note that among the numerous arguments our opponents seem to forget is the fact that the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea actually implies a so-called unimpeded passage through the territorial waters of a foreign state, including military vessels, subject to several conditions. One of them is the mandatory fulfillment of security requirements, which in this case was grossly violated. The second is that a coastal state cannot allow military ships to maneuver through its territorial waters. That is, you either pass complying with the rules or you violate the Convention. What they did was military maneuvers, trying to hide from our border guards. This much is clear to all without exception. I have no doubt about it.

That we have nothing to hide can be confirmed by a very simple fact.

In mid-December, German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin to allow German specialists to observe the process to better understand what the hitch was and to study the conditions for passing through the Kerch Strait. Vladimir Putin immediately agreed. We reaffirmed the agreement and asked for their names and dates that would suit them. They made a pause, and then suddenly my colleague, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, said at a meeting in January when I reminded him of this that they wanted to bring French experts along.

I said that was new, but I was confident that our President would also agree to French specialists being on this study tour. But after some time, the Germans sent us the concept of their visit, which was not a single visit at all but involved establishing a kind of permanent observation mission, which would be associated with the OSCE mission in Donbass, and would also include Ukrainians. All of them would be staying in our territory doing I do not know what.

Olga Belova: You mean they actually wanted to come and stay there?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, they certainly wanted to stay. The Germans are usually very punctual and precise people. When Angela Merkel asked Vladimir Putin whether their experts could come and see, he said yes… Apparently, after that, they consulted with their big brothers.

Olga Belova: So they just thought it would be a good reason to enter and station their ships there?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, but this is an absolutely hopeless story. At the same time, I can assure with all responsibility that if the Germans and the French still have an interest in visiting and seeing it firsthand, so as not to rely on the gossip that the Ukrainian side spreads, they are very welcome.

Olga Belova: You believe that Russia will not directly clash with NATO ships in the Kerch Strait because NATO will not have the courage to sail there.

But there is another place where Russian interests clash with those of its Western partners, which is Venezuela. Will Washington decide to stage a military intervention there? What do you think of this? If yes, how far is Russia ready to go in this region? Are we prepared for a direct and tough stand-off in the region that would culminate in a peace enforcement operation against those who don’t want this, provided that all legal formalities are complied with?

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t want to bring up this scenario. I am convinced that Washington does not yet completely understand that its line regarding Venezuela has become deadlocked. They believed that the people of Venezuela would rebel against the incumbent government from the very outset, that they would be disappointed with the government’s inability to ensure the normal operation of the socioeconomic sector. Our Western colleagues took care of this: The United States froze the Venezuelan oil company’s accounts, and the United Kingdom impounded the country’s gold reserves. They hoped to stifle Venezuela using economic methods. When the crisis was in its early stage, they also organised humanitarian relief aid deliveries and tried to cross the Venezuelan border. Obviously, that was a very cheap show. Yes, they said all the options were on the table, but they obviously expected a blitzkrieg. However, they admit that no blitzkrieg took place. Indeed, the country faces a very complicated economic situation which was complicated and continued to deteriorate even before all this began. We repeatedly advised the government of Venezuela, at its request, how to launch economic reforms. Quite possibly, someone did not like this, and they also decided to halt this process, so as to prevent the situation from working in favour of the Maduro government. They decided to further stifle Venezuela by economic and financial methods. When the blitzkrieg petered out, when it became clear that the people of Venezuela had their own pride and a feeling of national dignity, when they became obviously insulted by a situation when, speaking from abroad, US Vice President Mike Pence noted that he was appointing Juan Guaido as Acting President, one should be very far from historical experience while hoping that the people of Venezuela would “swallow” this.

Today, when the Americans continue to say that all options are on the table, I don’t doubt the fact that they are assessing the consequences of an audacious military undertaking. It is highly unlikely that anyone in Latin America will support them. To the best of my knowledge, they are counting on one or two countries. I have no doubts, and I know that the Latin Americans have a great feeling of personal dignity. This would pose a challenge to all of them, all the more so as a righteous rejection of such a dictate has been accumulating for several months already, especially when the Americans de-mothballed the Monroe Doctrine and said it was quite appropriate to use this doctrine in the current situation.

On April 17, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the United States was bringing its own version of freedom to the region. And what version of freedom does the region prefer? Would you like to ask them how they perceive their own freedom?

I hope very much that a line which stipulates talks and which is conducted by Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay and the Caribbean Community will prevail. President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro is ready for such talks, and he has repeatedly confirmed this in public. Juan Guaido emphatically and ostentatiously refuses, comprehending Washington’s support and counting on this support alone. It appears that he has copied the bad example of President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko who also behaved in the same way with regard to the need for conducting a national dialogue that would involve all political forces, and he hoped that Washington would shield him whatever the situation.

Olga Belova: Washington says it is bringing freedom to the region. But what is it that we are bringing to the region?

Sergey Lavrov: We want international law to be respected in the region as well as in the world at large. This means that states build their relations via dialogue and a balance of interests takes shape. This also means that we listen to each other and want to negotiate mutually beneficial security, economic and humanitarian projects as well as projects in any other spheres, where countries and peoples operate. Our relations with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) rest precisely on this basis. We are finalising talks with the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR). There is an agreement with the Central American Integration System (CAIS) and a number of other sub-regional organisations.

We have even-handed and good relations with practically all the Latin American countries. We don’t force anyone to do things we would like to get as unilateral advantages. The entire US policy towards Russia comes down to the US ambassador in any country visiting, with envious regularity, government agencies and demanding that they don’t receive Russian delegations, nor send delegations to Russia, nor trade with Russia, nor buy anything from Russia, particularly military products, and the like.

You can’t conceal information in today’s world. We learn this the moment these “visits” occur, the more so that the Americans are not particularly hiding the fact. They publicly say: Don’t communicate with Russia. It is Russia along with Iran and Cuba that are to blame for what is going on in Venezuela. They demand that not a single Russian soldier be found in Venezuela because the US wants it this way: no one located outside of the Western Hemisphere has the right to be there at all. Our explanation that the Russian military are performing contractual obligations servicing military equipment that was supplied on fully legitimate terms way back in the 2000s are simply disregarded. The fact that the US military and other NATO personnel – Britons and Canadians – have filled Ukraine is not mentioned. It looks like they proceed from logic suggested by the saying “What is allowed to Jupiter, is not allowed to the bull.” This is rotten logic, very much so, and it will not help our US colleagues. I am quite hopeful that they will come to understand this. Yes, within some historically very brief period preceding the next electoral cycles in the US, they are likely to reap certain benefits because they are brazenly putting pressure on countries that are unable to resist them. But in the long term, increasingly more countries will proceed from the assumption that America is just an unreliable and impolite partner that is abusing its influence in the world. The UN Charter insists on sovereign equality of states. We build our relations precisely in this way.

I cannot refrain from mentioning the fact that the United States has recently added a frontal attack on Orthodox Christianity to the arsenal of its policy towards Russia. Given that the Russian Orthodox Church was a world Orthodoxy leader, the crazy gamble involving the conferral of autocephality on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, known today as the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, a gamble undertaken by the Istanbul Patriarch Bartholomew, has been – we have enough facts to claim this – inspired and supported by Washington. Today Washington is engaged in tough diplomatic action as it works with other Orthodox Churches that have refused to support the Istanbul Patriarch’s self-willed decision. Its aim is to somehow make them recognise what has happened. This unceremonious and gross interference in church affairs is at odds with all diplomatic norms and international law in general. And this is deplorable.

We would like the United States to be a decent member of the world community. We are open to dialogue but their approach to relations is highly utilitarian and selfish.

They suggest that we and the Chinese cooperate with them when it comes to Afghanistan and North Korea because they are unable to operate successfully on their own there. And we accept this because a settlement in Afghanistan, on the Korean Peninsula and in Syria, on which we can communicate usefully, is also in our interests. We don’t dig in our heels and say that we will not negotiate on these issues if they don’t want to discuss other ones. Our position is more pragmatic. Russia is ready to work with all influential parties who see eye to eye with us and can help to achieve a settlement.

But generally their policy towards Russia is based solely on the wish to make us accept their unilateral domination and renounce international law. This is deplorable and cannot last ad infinitum. The Americans will be unable to sustain this course for long. They are antagonising a huge number of countries. So, it is in their best interests to come back to square one and start talking to all countries respectfully. Currently, they are doing this arrogantly, something that cannot help their interests.    

Olga Belova: We do need to talk, but so far talking to these Western partners of ours has been quite challenging. There is a saying: Those who do not want to talk with Sergey Lavrov will have to deal with Sergey Shoigu. This echoes what you have been saying. In your opinion, who is the main guardian of peace now, the military or the diplomats? What enables Russia to maintain parity: state-of-the-art armaments or the power of words? Who has priority at present?

Sergey Lavrov: When the Soviet Union was being dissolved, pro-democracy forces both here in Russia and in the West were ecstatic. There was a theory whereby the factor of strength in international relations was no longer relevant now that the bipolar world order was no more, the Cold War became a thing of the past, ideological differences faded away and we all came together on a strong democratic footing. This euphoric state persisted for several years. The situation was far from rosy of course, but as you may remember, in the 1990s Russia was young and proactive in its commitment to working with the US and NATO, all but deciding to join the alliance. However, disillusionment came very quickly. It dawned on everyone that behind the veil of these beautiful words the West meant only one thing: Russia was to give up on using the factor of strength in its policy, while the West would continue relying on it. Why was NATO still around after the Warsaw Pact was dissolved? How come we did not come together within the OSCE to transform it into a pan-European, Euro-Atlantic organisation without any western or eastern variants in order to address all questions without exception based on consensus? It did not happen. Of course, the plan they nurtured was to use Russia’s weakness in the first years after the collapse of the Soviet Union in order to achieve an overwhelming military and strategic advantage.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin has talked about this on numerous occasions. It became clear to us that our positive attitude towards the West was not reciprocal. The West continued to push NATO further east in violation of all possible promises, moving its military infrastructure to our borders, and there was no end in sight, especially when the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty. At this point, everything was clear. Decisions were taken, paving the way to the development of the weapons the President presented during his address last year to the Federal Assembly. Of course, it is highly regrettable that in today’s world no one will talk to you, unless you have a strong army and cutting-edge weapons.

Olga Belova: Has it become easier to talk?

Sergey Lavrov: When I was appointed to this post, the situation was already beginning to change. However, I would not say that talking was a challenge before, and that now things are easier. Unfortunately, the US, as our main partner, labelled Russia its “high-priority adversary,” as you have said. Later the US backtracked, and propelled China to this position. Later Russia was again on the list, and after that we were accompanied by China and Iran. They want to set their policy straight. They want to be in total control, but have yet to understand how this can be done. Sanctions work in some cases, but definitely not with Russia. They will not work with other countries that respect their history and identity.

We have no problems talking with the Europeans when it comes to relations with each specific country. There are challenges in our dialogue with NATO, since the US decided to convene meetings of the Russia-NATO Council with the sole purpose of lecturing us on Ukraine and other matters or criticising us for allegedly violating and dismantling the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. We do not intend to attend any meetings of this kind in the future. If they want to have a serious conversation, they have to convene a Russia-NATO Council meeting at the military level. The outgoing Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations, General Curtis Scaparrotti, recently voiced regret over the lack of military-to-military interaction with Russia that existed even during the Cold War. Better late than never. Let us hope that his successor in this position is receptive to this advice. This is what we hope for.

We have a very good dialogue with each country of the European Union. Yes, we sometimes happen to disagree. We have problems with the Baltic countries, with Poland, but we are ready to talk about them. Especially because the Baltic states are our neighbours, and we have good trade and investment cooperation in business. There are also security issues, because NATO is pushing its units into Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. It is too close to our borders. At the same time, NATO is moving away from implementing the understandings we reached following the initiative of President of Finland Sauli Niinisto concerning flight safety over the Baltic. We responded to it; our military proposed ideas that would help allay concerns. It is possible to talk with everyone. On a bilateral basis, even the Baltic countries show interest: President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid has visited Moscow. We are talking in a neighbourly way about what we can do so that people can live comfortably and there would be no security concerns. But the collective platforms – NATO and the EU – are dominated by mutual responsibility: the Russophobic minority in the EU imposed sanctions on Russia, punishing us for supporting the will of the people of Crimea. This position of the European Union is now extended every six months, and no one can do anything, although individually, they assure us that the majority already understands that this is a dead end and something needs to be done. We are patient people, but as long as the EU as an organisation is not ready to restore all the mechanisms of our strategic partnership – we used to have summits twice a year, a ministerial council that oversaw more than 20 sectoral dialogues, four common spaces … All that was frozen because someone decided to try to “punish” us. Funny, honestly.

We are always open to honest, equal and respectful dialogue both through the military and through diplomatic channels. We have a very good tradition with a number of countries, in particular, with Italy and Japan, the 2 + 2 format, when Sergey Shoigu and I meet with our colleagues, the four of us. This is a very interesting format. It enables us to consider security issues through the prism of diplomacy and vice versa – purely military issues in foreign policy. We had such formats with the Americans and the British – but they froze them on their own initiative. But with the Italians and the Japanese, we continue these processes.

Olga Belova: I seem to understand why they froze them. Because when you two come to the negotiations, it’s simply impossible to resist you in such a duo.

Sergey Lavrov: Oh, don’t say that. We are modest people. Modest and polite.

Olga Belova: You’re modest and polite – but are you ready to give everyone a second chance, as with Ukraine?

Sergey Lavrov: Some do not need to be given a chance – they already rely on their national interests, not on what some foreign brother tells them. But if someone digs in their heels and expects an apology from us – well, we have nothing to apologise for. Our actions are guided by international law, and the UN Charter. We respect the right of any nation to determine its own future. This also applies to the rights of national minorities, in Crimea or anywhere else. We are always ready for dialogue.

الحصار يشتدّ على أطراف محور المقاومة… ما الردّ؟

أبريل 23, 2019

د. عصام نعمان

لكلّ رئيس أميركي حربه الخاصة. جورج بوش الابن شنّ حرباً ضارية على أفغانستان وأخرى أشدّ هولاً على العراق. باراك أوباما شنّ حرباً ديبلوماسية طويلة أنجز خلالها الاتفاق النووي مع إيران، واتفاق باريس حول المناخ، والتطبيع مع كوبا. دونالد ترامب يشنّ، بلا هوادة، حرباً اقتصادية على العالم، تستهدف دولاً كبرى منافِسة كالصين وروسيا والاتحاد الأوروبي، وأخرى متوسطة وصغرى كإيران وسورية والمكسيك وفنزويلا وكوبا ونيكارغوا، وقبلها كوريا الشمالية التي كان أسلافه قد فرضوا عليها عقوبات اقتصادية لإكراهها على وقف تصنيع الأسلحة النووية.

الحصار والعقوبات الإقتصادية أبرزُ أسلحة ترامب في حربه المتصاعدة، وهي أسلحة مؤذية ومرهقة لأنّ استعمالها يتمّ عبر النظام المصرفي العالمي حيث للدولار الأميركي دور كبير ومهيمن، كما عبر شركات التأمين الكبرى، وامتثال معظم الدول المتحالفة مع الولايات المتحدة الى إملاءاتها.

إيران استطاعت تجاوز مفاعيل العقوبات المفروضة عليها منذ العام 1979. لولا نجاحها في ذلك لما اضطر أوباما الى التراجع عنها وتوقيع الاتفاق النووي معها. ترامب أدرك هذه الحصيلة، فقام بإخراج الولايات المتحدة من الاتفاق المذكور وعاود فرض عقوبات جائرة ومتصاعدة في قسوتها عليها.

سورية نالت هي الأخرى «نصيبها» من العقوبات الاقتصاديــة كُرمى لـِ «إسرائيل» من جهة وكُرهاً بإيران من جهة أخرى. هذه العقوبات فعلت فعلها، على ما يبدو، في الاقتصاد السوري، لا سيما في سوق الوقود، بدليل طوابير الأفراد والسيارات التي تحتشد لساعات قرب محطات البنزين والمازوت والغاز.

ما العمل؟

قيل إنّ دمشق طالبت موسكو أواخرَ العام الماضي بتسيير قوافل من ناقلات نفطها الى الموانئ السورية لمواجهة الضائقة. موسكو استمهلت لدرس الموضوع… وما زالت تدرس.

طهران سارعت الى محاولة سدّ النقص بتوجيه ناقلات نفطها، عبر قناة السويس، شطرَ الموانئ السورية. لكن السلطات المصرية رفضت الترخيص لها بالعبور.

ثمة من يعتقد في دمشق وطهران انّ تشديد الحصار الاقتصادي على سورية مؤشر الى تفاهم ضمني بين واشنطن وموسكو على ليّ ذراع دمشق لحملها على تليين مواقفها الصلّبة بشأن تطوير نظامها السياسي خلال محادثات أستانة المرتقبة أواخرَ الشهر الحالي.

بعض أصدقاء دمشق في بيروت كشفوا ما وصل إلى مسامعهم من معلومات وتسريبات. قالوا إنّ موسكو طلبت من دمشق الموافقة على إخلاء «الوجود الإيراني» من البلاد، وكذلك وجود حزب الله. دمشق رفضت، طبعاً، بدليل مسارعة الرئيس بشار الاسد إلى زيارة طهران وعقد محادثات ذات طابع استراتيجي مع قادتها السياسيين والعسكريين، وانّ زيارة وزير الخارجية الإيراني محمد جواد ظريف الأخيرة الى دمشق كانت لاستكمال تلك المحادثات.

ما من أمر لافت تكشّفت عنه محادثات طهران ودمشق الاستراتيجية سوى ما صدر عن قائد القوات البرية الإيرانية من تصريحات هجومية ضدّ الولايات المتحدة و»إسرائيل». غير انّ ظاهر الحال، كما المواقف الإيرانية والسورية المتشدّدة من سياسة أميركا المتواطئة مع الكيان الصهيوني، ماضياً وحاضراً، توحي كلها بأنّ أطراف محور المقاومة لن تكتفي بموقف الرفض للضغوط الأميركية والروسية؟ الاقتصادية والسياسية بل ستبادر الى إجراء ما هو أشدّ وأقسى. في هذا المنظور يستطيع المراقب المتابع ان يستشرف ويستنتج الآتي:

لا شك في انّ للقيادة العليا المشتركة لأطراف محور المقاومة أولويات للمدى القصير وأخرى للمدى الطويل في شتى ميادين المواجهة مع الولايات المتحدة و»إسرائيل». لعلّ أولى الأولويات تأمين استمرار إيران في إنتاج نفطها وتصديره. ذلك لأنّ واشنطن أعلنت اعتزامها فرض وجبة جديدة قاسية من العقوبات في مطلع شهر أيار/ مايو المقبل يكون من شأنها منع إيران من تصدير نفطها، وهو مصدر دخلها الرئيس، وذلك بقصد ضرب قدراتها وإحباط دعمها لحلفائها. طهران تحسّبت لهذا التحدي الخطير بمواقف خمسة:

التفاهم مع روسيا على نقل نفطها عبر بحر قزوين الى شتى أنحاء العالم.

التفاهم مع الصين، وهي أكبر مستوردي النفط الإيراني، على نقله بواسطة ناقلات صينية من موانئ التصدير الإيرانية على شاطئ الخليج الشرقي.

التفاهم مع مستوردي النفط الإيراني على تقاضي ثمنه بعملة غير الدولار الأميركي أو مقايضته بسلع وبضائع شتى.

تأمين حاجات سورية من الوقود بتسيير أسطول من صهاريج النفط والغاز من إيران إليها عبر العراق، والضغط على مصر لإعادة النظر بقرار منع مرور الناقلات الإيرانية المتجهة إلى سورية عبر قناة السويس كونه منافياً للقانون الدولي ولأحكام المعاهدة التي تنظّم الملاحة عبر القناة المذكورة.

الضغط على روسيا لاستجابة طلب سورية تسيير ناقلات نفط من موانئها على البحر الأسود الى الموانئ السورية على البحر المتوسط بغية تأمين حاجاتها النفطية والغازية.

ثانية الأولويات مواجهةُ التهديد الصهيوأميركي لأمن إيران وسورية القومي وللحصانة الأمنية لحزب الله كونه القوة الرادعة لـِ «اسرائيل» والمشارك في حماية كلٍّ من لبنان وسورية على حدودهما الجنوبية مع فلسطين المحتلة. ذلك كله يستوجب توسيع دائرة الاشتباك مع العدو الصهيوأميركي بمشاغلة القوات الأميركية في منطقة التنف على الحدود السورية – العراقية، وفي محافظتيّ الرقة والحسكة، وربما القوات «الإسرائيلية» في الجولان المحتلّ.

ثالثة الأولويات مواجهةُ ردود فعل أميركا و»إسرائيل» المحتملة على قيام أطراف محور المقاومة بتوسيع دائرة الإشتباك معهما وذلك باعتماد تحركات أمنية محسوبة، بعضها منظور وبعضها مستور، لإفهام العدو الصهيوأميركي بأنّ أيّ استهداف مباشر لإيران أو لسورية سيؤدّي إلى ردٍّ صاعق وشامل من أطراف محور المقاومة ضدّ قواعد أميركا العسكرية في غرب آسيا وللكيان الصهيوني بشكل مباشر وبالغ الشدّة.

رابعة الأولويات تعاونُ روسيا وإيران في مقاربة سياسية ضاغطة على تركيا لتجاوز حال الخصام الى حال الوئام مع سورية كونهما يواجهان تحدياً ومخططاً صهيوأميركياً يرمي الى إضعافهما وصولاً الى تفكيكهما عبر تمويل وتسليح جماعات اثنية متمرّدة على الحكم المركزي في دمشق وأنقرة، ناهيك عن وجود دول وشركات أميركية وأوروبية طامعة بمشاركة وحصة وازنتين في ثروات العراق النفطية، كما في فرص استثمار مكامن النفط والغاز البرية والبحرية في سورية.

خامسة الأولويات قيامُ الصين وروسيا وإيران و»مجموعة شنغهاي» بتنفيذ مشروع اعتماد عملة ثقيلة بديلة من الدولار الأميركي لأغراض التجارة الدولية، وإقامة مصرف عالمي للتمويل الإنمائي.

أخيراً وليس آخراً: لا داعي للخوف من ترامب وتهويلاته، لكن حذار الإستهانة به…

وزير سابق

Imam Khamenei Receives Pakistan’s PM: Terror Groups Seek to ‘Contaminate’ Bilateral Ties

By Staff, Agencies

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei said terrorist groups backed by enemies of Iran and Pakistan seek to cause tension in the two countries’ relations, adding that mutual relations must be bolstered in spite of the enemies’ will.

Imam Khamenei made the remarks in a Monday meeting with the visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his accompanying delegation in Tehran.

“Terrorist groups, which sow insecurity along borders, are fed with the enemies’ money and weapons and one of the goals sought through anti-security measures along Iran’s border with Pakistan is to contaminate the two countries’ relations,” Imam Khamenei noted.

His Eminence further emphasized that good relations between Tehran and Islamabad are beneficial to both sides, “but these relations have serious enemies, which despite their will, cooperation and contacts [between Iran and Pakistan] must be strengthening in various sectors.”

Explaining about the historical backdrop of the two countries’ relations, Imam Khamenei noted that the Indian subcontinent reached the acme of its progress and dignity under the rule of Muslims.

“The biggest blow dealt to this important region by the British colonialists was to annihilate the prominent Islamic civilization that existed there,” Imam Khamenei stated.

During the meeting, which was attended by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Khan explained about his negotiations in Tehran, saying, “Many problems were solved through these negotiations and Pakistani ministers held good talks with their Iranian counterparts.”

The Pakistani PM stated that there are certain hands at work to prevent Tehran and Islamabad from getting close, adding, “We try to make relations between the two countries stronger than before and we will maintain continuous contacts with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Confirming Imam Khamenei’s remarks on India, Khan said the British colonialists plundered all the wealth of India, destroyed its education system and made India the crown jewel of their colonial rule.

Earlier in the day, Khan held talks and attended a joint press conference with the Iranian President.

Speaking after talks with Khan, Rouhani announced that Iran and Pakistan agreed to form a joint force to eliminate terrorist groups.

Rouhani: Iran, Pakistan to Form Joint Anti-Terror Force

By Staff, Press TV

Iran and Pakistan have agreed to form a joint force to eliminate terrorist groups as Prime Minister Imran Khan began his first visit to Tehran with a pledge not to join any coalition against the Islamic Republic. 

Rouhani announced the agreement on Monday after talks with Prime Minister Khan whose first visit to Tehran is hoped to start a new chapter in historic relations between the neighbors.

“We agreed to step up security cooperation between the two countries and their respective border security and intelligence forces while also forming a joint rapid reaction force on the shared borders to fight terrorism,” Rouhani said after a closed-door meeting with Khan.

The sensitive issue of border security was expected to dominate the conversation between Iranian and Pakistani officials.

Ahead of Khan’s visit, families of several Iranian border guards killed by terror groups wrote to the Pakistani leader and asked him to take swift action against groups freely crossing into Iran from Pakistan.

Iran had in the past urged Pakistan to address the issue, even offering to launch a joint military and intelligence operation to locate and eliminate terrorists in Pakistani territories.

In their latest attack, Pakistan-based terrorists martyred over 40 members of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps [IRGC] by ramming an explosive-laden car to their bus in southeastern Iran in February.

“Unfortunately, over the past few months we had witnessed some tensions caused by some terrorists who acted savagely,” Rouhani said at a joint news conference in PM Khan on Monday.

“We are glad that the Pakistani side now recognizes groups with such inhumane conduct as terrorist and treats them as such.”

Rouhani said his meeting with Prime Minister Khan marked a new milestone in mutual ties, adding Iran and Pakistan would continue to maintain their close ties despite outside pressures.

“Both sides agree that no third country whatsoever can affect the friendly and brotherly ties that exist between Iran and Pakistan,” he said, adding that Khan had officially invited him for a visit to Islamabad.

According to Rouhani, they also agreed on the need for both sides to expand joint efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.

Other security issues discussed in the meeting included US President Donald Trump’s recent designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization and his recognition of Syria’s occupied Golan Heights as “sraeli” territory, Rouhani noted.

Addressing reports about Saudi and US pressure on Islamabad to join an Arab-“Israeli” front against Iran in the region, Rouhani said PM Khan assured him that Pakistan “has never joined and will never join any coalition.”

Rouhani said Iran was ready to supply oil and gas to Pakistan and increase electricity exports to the country by ten-fold the current level.

He also said Tehran was interested in expanding trade between Iran’s Chabahar and Pakistan’s Gawader ports by connecting them with a railway.

The president noted that Iran, Turkey and Pakistan as co-founders of the Economic Cooperation Organization [ECO] could increase economic cooperation by connecting their railway systems. This, he said, would open a corridor from Europe to China.

Earlier in the day, Rouhani extended a formal welcome to Khan, whose historic visit to Tehran has been viewed as a major step towards opening a new era in relations between the two neighbors.

Khan and his high-profile delegation touched down in Tehran on Sunday night after a brief stop in the northeastern city of Mashhad, where the premier paid a visit to the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS).

Rouhani led the welcome ceremony for Khan at the at Sa’adabad Complex, which was also attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister of Road and Industry Mohammad Eslami and a few other high-ranking members of the cabinet.

Khan is expected to meet later with Leader of Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei.

 

Sayyed Nasrallah: ‘Israel’ Can No Longer Wage Any War on Lebanon, Neither Air Force Nor Infantry Can Settle Battle

April 22, 2019

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah on Monday condemned the series of blasts which stormed Sri Lanka, stressing that culprits lack innate humane nature and calling for a comprehensive confrontation with terrorism and its supporters.

In his speech during Hezbollah ceremony, marking Imam Mahdi (P) Birthday and the 34th anniversary of establishing Imam Mahdi Scouts, Sayyed Nasrallah congratulated the Muslims and Christians on the holidays, stressing the importance of preserving those holidays despite the terrorist attacks which are moving from one country to another, including Yemen and occupied Palestine.

His eminence clarified that the followers of all the heavenly religions agree on the concept of the emergence of a savior, despite the differences over his identity, adding that this concept gives people hope to confront oppression.

“However, despair leads to surrender and loss.”

Sayyed Nasrallah pointed out that if the Palestinians did not remain hopeful, Trump would impose the ‘Deal of the Century’ on them, adding that hope and trust in God have enabled them to challenge all the world’s tyrants.

Lebanon had a clear experience in the resistance field, according to Sayyed Nasrallah who pointed out that when Hezbollah started its military operations against the Israeli occupation army, some Lebanese doubted and questioned the feasibility of this track.

“Had the Lebanese given up hope in Holy God surrendered in face of the Zionist enemy, Trump would have offered Lebanon to the Israeli entity.”

Hezbollah Leader hailed the Imam Al-Mahdi Scouts Association for its augmenting efforts in the various educational and social domains despite the hard circumstances, calling on parents and municipalities to encourage the children to join scouts, in general, and Al-Madi Scouts, in particular.

Lebanon’s economic crisis

Sayyed Nasrallah said all the Lebanese political parties have agreed that the country is suffering from a deep economic crisis and that a consensual solution must be reached.

“All the parties must hold a national responsibility and approve the needed austerity measures, away from the personal, regional and sectarian interests. All suggestions must be mulled carefully before taking the necessary decisions.”

Sayyed Nasrallah stressed that Hezbollah would join all the other parties in holding the national responsibility of taking the necessary measures needed to cope with the economic crisis, revealing that the party’s specialized committees (formed of ministers, parliament members and experts) have mulled the possible solutions which require patience and sagacity.

“Hezbollah is ready its draft solutions in the cabinet sessions, not via the media outlets. However, we reiterate our rejection of tampering with the incomes of the poor.”

Israeli war on Lebanon

Sayyed Nasrallah denied categorically the report published by one of the Kuwaiti newspapers which attributed to his eminence statements about an imminent war expected to be launched by the Israeli enemy on Lebanon next summer.

“I have never said that neither in a public meeting, nor in a closed session.”

His eminence also denied that he had said that during the upcoming war the Resistance leadership and senior commanders would be killed, stressing that death depends on the divine will and hoping that he himself will participate in liberating occupied Palestine and pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“Although the Resistance always prepares for the worst possibilities, I personally tend to rule out the possibility of witnessing an Israeli war on Lebanon because the enemy’s ‘home’ front is not ready for that.”

Sayyed Nasrallah also stressed that all the Israeli claims about their ability to intercept missiles are false, adding all their measures will fail to achieve that purpose.

Neither the air force nor the ground forces can settle the battle in favor of the Israeli enemy, according to Sayyed Nasrallah who added that the Zionists themselves acknowledge that their infantry troops are unable to wage any war.

Sayyed Nasrallah underlined that the Zionist enemy is deceptive by nature, adding this imposes on the Resistance to be ready to confront any Israeli military escalation.

His eminence also said that some think that the financial pressure on Hezbollah would lead the party to surrender and that there is no need for any Israeli war on the Resistance

Sayyed Nasrallah warned against the negative economic consequences of such rumors on Lebanon ahead of the summer season, calling on the media outlets to check their veracity before circulating them.

Sayyed Nasrallah noted that a lot of media outlets are involved in circulating false news reports, citing two examples:

“Al-Arabiya news network circulated false rumors about clashes between Iranian and Russian troops in Syria’s Aleppo and Deir Ezzor. Actually cooperation among the allies in Syria is still ongoing.”

“News websites falsely quoted the Israeli ‘justice’ minister as saying that ‘Israel’ would eradicate all the Arabs in northern Africa.”

Saudi & Emirates Shameful Role in Region

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah on Monday highlighted the shameful role of Saudi and Emirates in the Middle East, stressing that they both have contributed to the terrorist instability and chaos in the region.

The thought of the terrorist groups has been based on the Saudi Wahhabism, according to Sayyed Nasrallah who added that KSA will price of supporting and fostering those groups, citing ISIL attack on a police station in northern Riyadh on Sunday (April 21).

In his speech during Hezbollah ceremony, marking Imam Mahdi (P) Birthday and the 34th anniversary of establishing Imam Mahdi Scouts, Sayyed Nasrallah stressed that the terrorist groups which stormed many of the regional countries have been backed and reinforced by Saudi and Emirates, highlighting their brutal war on Yemen.

Sayyed Nasrallah added that after the US president Donald Trump decided to end the waivers on Iran oil imports, Saudi and Emirates pledged to increase their oil production in order to maintain the international prices, describing this move as shameful.

Hezbollah Secretary General considered that the US act against Iran endangers the world’s countries and violates all the international laws and treaties, calling for confronting this hostile trend.

Sayyed Nasrallah finally noted that “we belong to a folk who has always defeated the occupiers and usurpers,” reiterating that “we will emerge victorious from all the upcoming challenges, depending on our power, sagacity and hope in God”.

 

Source: Al-Manar English Website

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