US, Britain Push Yemen Ceasefire as Tactic to Defeat Houthis

US, Britain Push Yemen Ceasefire as Tactic to Defeat Houthis

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 16.11.2018 |

US, Britain Push Yemen Ceasefire as Tactic to Defeat Houthis

At first glance, it may seem like a positive move. The Trump administration and London are both putting pressure on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to implement a ceasefire in Yemen’s atrocious war. Washington and London are also calling for warring sides to enter into peace negotiations within a month.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask? Well, as Houthi rebels who took over Yemen at the end of 2014 are saying, the country has been under aggression for the past three years from a Saudi-led coalition supported militarily by the US, Britain and France. The unrelenting war on the poorest country in the Middle East has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in decades, with over half of the population – some 14 million people – at risk of starvation, according to the UN.

Therefore, the appropriate legal and moral course of action now is not merely a ceasefire or talks. It is for the Western-backed Saudi, Emirati coalition to immediately halt its criminal aggression against Yemen. In short, stop the foreign interference in Yemen’s sovereign affairs.

US Secretary of State James Mattis and Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt appear to be impelled by humanitarian concern for the massive human suffering in Yemen with their recent calls for cessation of hostilities.

But a more nuanced reading of their exhortations suggest that the real concern is to burnish the blood-soaked image of the Saudi coalition that their governments support, and, secondly, to inveigle the Houthis into a negotiations framework that will result in undue foreign influence over Yemen’s politics.

Last week, Washington announced that it was suspending mid-air refueling flights for Saudi and Emirati warplanes that have been pounding Yemen since March 2015, which has resulted in a horrendous death toll among civilians. The indiscriminate killing of the Saudis and Emirati air strikes has been amply documented, albeit downplayed by Western media. The latter keep repeating a figure of 10,000 dead in Yemen – a figure which has bizarrely remained unchanged for at least the past two years. The real death toll from air strikes is unknown but likely to be near 50,000.

American, British and French military support for the murderous operations in Yemen should have stopped months, even years ago, if official humanitarian concerns were genuine.

The question is: why the sudden effort by Washington and London, as well as Paris, to call for a ceasefire and follow-on political talks?

One factor, no doubt, is the barbaric murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by assassins linked to the House of Saud. Turkish authorities believe that Khashoggi was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, his body hacked to pieces and dissolved in industrial-strength acid. Audiotapes obtained by the Turkish authorities have implicated the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder plot against the dissident journalist.

The gruesome details of Khashoggi’s killing and the blatant lies that the Saudi rulers have issued to cover up their barbarity have heaped immense pressure on Washington, London and Paris over their close ties with the House of Saud. Public outrage has demanded that sanctions be imposed on Riyadh, such as cancelling multi-billion-dollar arms deals.

It seems significant that the acute disgrace over the appalling Khashoggi affair and the association of the US, British and French governments with such a despotic Saudi regime has in turn prompted these Western powers to mount a damage-limitation exercise in public relations.

This is where the Yemen war provides an opportunity for the Western powers and their Saudi clients to salvage their tarnished public image.

By pushing for a ceasefire in Yemen, Washington, London and Paris can claim to be “getting tough” with the Saudis for the sake of alleviating “humanitarian suffering”. By appearing to respond to the Western calls for a ceasefire, the Saudis can then also claim they are relenting out of humane concern.

However, such pleas have not stopped Saudi and Emirati-backed militia on the ground besieging the Yemeni port city of Hodeida on the Red Sea, for which 80-90 per cent of the entire population in the country rely on for food and other vital supplies. In other words, the Western-backed Saudi coalition is using starvation tactics to bring the Houthi rebels and the wider Yemeni population to their knees. That is a monstrous war crime.

What Mattis is calling for in terms of ceasefire is for all heavy weapons in Yemen to be put under the control of United Nations peacekeepers. Washington is also demanding that the Houthis rebels withdraw from the country’s border with Saudi Arabia, from where the rebels have mounted missile attacks which have gravely harassed the Saudis, including in the capital Riyadh. The Houthis have struck Saudi territory in response to the air strikes.

So, what the Americans, British and French are striving for is, firstly, a respite from the sordid publicity over the Khashoggi killing. If the “humanitarian appeal” over Yemen succeeds to placate Western public outrage, then these governments will be able to continue business-as-usual selling the Saudi regime lucrative weapons contracts.

Secondly, by drawing the Houthi rebels into “peace negotiations” that will also burnish the Western and Saudi public image, as well as – equally importantly – forcing the rebels into accepting a compromise on their revolutionary government. By entering negotiations with the Saudi-backed remnants of the exiled Yemeni leader Mansour Hadi, the Houthis will inevitably have to accept making concessions and allowing an accommodation with the ousted, discredited regime.

Mansour Hadi, who has been living in exile in Saudi Arabia since the Houthis seized power, was reviled by most Yemenis for his corruption and being a puppet of the Saudis and Americans. His exiled clique is routinely and mendaciously referred to by Western media as the “internationally recognized government of Yemen”.

When he fled the country in ignominy in early 2015, the Houthi rebels had succeeded in spearheading a popular revolt. The rebels profess a branch of Shia Islam, but there was every indication that they had a relatively democratic program for pluralist governance.

The Saudi and American sponsors of the ousted Mansour Hadi reacted to the overthrow of their puppet by launching an air war on Yemen in late March 2015 – a war which has continued unremittingly ever since, with Britain and France also joining the profitable slaughter by suppling warplanes and missiles.

Another lie told by Western media is that the rebels are proxies of Iran, a lie which is used to “justify” the Western-backed criminal war against the country. Iran supports the Houthis diplomatically, but there is no evidence of arms supplies. Even if there was, so what? That wouldn’t justify aerial bombardment of the country and its people.

The devastation inflicted on Yemen and its people has largely been ignored by Western news media. Despite the lack of coverage, the Western public have nevertheless become aware of the horror and their governments’ complicity. Harrowing images of skeletal children dying from starvation and lack of basic medicines have shamed Washington, London and Paris into taking some action, however despicably inadequate and long overdue.

The recent impetus for a ceasefire and talks in Yemen coming from the US and its Western allies is not due to humanitarianism. It’s a cynical PR exercise to whitewash bloodied images – both theirs and that of their Saudi client regime. The Yemen war has been shown to be a sickening charnel house in a futile bid for Western regime change against the Houthi revolution. By forcing the Houthis into negotiations, the Western powers hope to achieve their regime change objective by another tactic – and gain PR capital at the same time.

If Washington, London and Paris were really serious about ending the suffering in Yemen, they would simply demand that the aggression stops immediately, so that the Yemenis are allowed to determine their own political future without foreign interference. But the Western powers will not do that because their interference in Yemen, along with the Saudis, is the very reason why this criminal war of aggression started and grinds on.

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Western Media Make One Death a Tragedy, Millions a Statistic

By Finian Cunningham
Source

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The Western media coverage devoted to the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi proves the cynical adage that one person’s death is a tragedy, while millions of deaths are a mere statistic.

During the past four weeks since Khashoggi went missing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the case has been constantly in the news cycle. Contrast that with the sparse coverage in Western news media of the horrific Saudi war in Yemen during the past four years.

The United Nations has again recently warned that 16 million in Yemen were facing death from starvation as a result of the war waged on that country by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab partners, with the crucial military support of the US, Britain and France. That imminent death toll hardly registered a response from Western media or governments.

Last week, some 21 Yemeni workers at a vegetable packing plant near the Red Sea port of Hodeida were killed after US-backed Saudi warplanes launched air strikes. Again, hardly any condemnation was registered by Western governments and media pundits.

Admittedly, some politicians in the US and Europe are lately expressing disdain over the Saudi-led war and the possible culpability of Western governments in crimes against humanity.

Nevertheless, in proportion to the public concern devoted to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi there is a staggering indifference in relation to Yemen. How is possible that the fate of one man can provoke so much emotion and angst, while millions of children in Yemen appear to be shrugged off as “collateral damage”.

Partly, the circumstances of Khashoggi’s murder by a Saudi death squad are more easily visualized. His connections as a journalist working for the Washington Post also ensures ample interest from other media outlets. Photos of the 59-year-old Saudi dissident and his personal story of going to the consulate in Istanbul to obtain official papers for an upcoming wedding to his Turkish fiancée also provided a human identity, which then garners public empathy.

Another factor is the macabre plot to trap him, torture and dismember his body by a Saudi hit team who appear to have been acting on orders from senior Saudi regime officials. Khashoggi’s bodily remains have yet to be recovered which adds to the interest in the grisly story.

Regrettably, these human dimensions are all-too often missing in the massive suffering inflicted on Yemen. Thousands of children killed in air strikes and millions perishing from disease and starvation have an abstract reality.

When Western media do carry rare reports on children being killed, as in the Saudi air strike on a school bus on August 9, which massacred over 50, the public is still relatively insensate. We are not told the victims’ names nor shown photographs of happy children before their heinous fate.

However, the contrast between one man’s death and millions of abstract deaths – all the more salient because the culprits are the same in both cases – is not due simply to human callousness. It is due to the way Western media have desensitized the Western public from their appalling lack of coverage on Yemen.

The Western media have an urgent obligation because their governments are directly involved in the suffering of Yemen. If the Western media gave appropriately more coverage with human details of victims then it is fair to assume that there would be much greater public outrage over Yemen and an outcry for justice – at least in the form of halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Such calls are being made over the Khashoggi case. Surely, the same calls for economic and diplomatic sanctions should therefore be made with regard to Yemen – indeed orders of magnitude greater given the much greater scale of human suffering.

The Western news media have been shamefully derelict in reporting on Yemen’s horror over the past four years. One of the most despicable headlines was from the BBC which described it as a “forgotten war”. The conflict is only “forgotten” because the BBC and other Western news outlets have chosen to routinely drop it from their coverage. That omission is without doubt a “political” decision taken in order to not discomfit Washington, London or Paris in their lucrative arms trade with the Saudi regime.

Another way at looking at the paradox of “one death a tragedy, a million a statistic” and the Western media’s nefarious role in creating that paradox is to consider the fate of individuals facing death sentences in Saudi Arabia.

Take the case of female pro-democracy protester 29-year-old Israa al Ghomgham. Israa was arrested three years ago because she participated in peaceful protests against the Saudi monarchy. She and her husband Moussa al Hashem are facing execution any day by decapitation. Their only “crime” was to participate in non-violent street demonstrations in Saudi’s eastern provincial city of Qatif, calling for democratic rights for the Sunni kingdom’s oppressed Shia minority.

Another case is that of Mujtaba al Sweikat. He also is facing death by beheading, again because he was involved in pro-democracy protests against the absolute Saudi rulers. What makes his case even more deplorable is that he was arrested in 2012 at the age of 17 – legally a minor – when he was leaving the country to take up studies at Western Michigan University in the United States.

It is not clear if these individuals – and there are many more such cases on Saudi death row – will be spared by the Saudi monarchy in the light of the international condemnations over the Khashoggi killing. Any day, they could be hauled to a public square and their heads hacked off with a sword.

If we try to explain the disconnect in Western public reaction to the Khashoggi case, on one hand, and on the other, the massive misery of Yemen, one might invoke the cynical adage about a single death versus millions. But then how does that explain the apparent lack of public concern over the imminent death of individuals such as Israa al Ghomgham, her husband Moussa, or the student Mujtaba al Sweitat?

The tragedy of desensitized abstraction is not due to overwhelming numbers. It is primarily due to the willful omission – and worse, misinformation – by Western media on the barbarity of the Saudi regime and the crucially enabling support given to this regime by Western politics and economics.

The apparent disconnect is due to systematic Western media distortion. That’s not just a flaw. It is criminal complicity.

Khashoggi Cover-Up Underway

A policeman stands guard as an Indonesian journalist holds a placard during a protest over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in front of the Saudi Arabia embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia,
Finian Cunningham

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed this week to reveal the “naked truth” about the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi; however, in fact, he didn’t uncover anything extraordinary, but why?

It is significant that the day before Erdogan’s much-hyped speech to Turkish parliamentarians, President Donald Trump dispatched his CIA chief to Turkey to “investigate” the evidence of Khashoggi’s killing.

The involvement of the CIA at such a high level in an overseas criminal case is unprecedented. Surely, FBI crime investigators would have been more appropriate, if at all.

What was the real purpose of CIA director Gina Haspel going to Turkey? Haspel, or “Bloody Gina” as she is known, has an ignominious record of being personally involved in past CIA torture cases and destroying incriminating evidence. Was her trip to Turkey not so much about discovery of facts, and rather more about covering-up the truth of what really happened to Khashoggi?

It is subsequently reported by the Washington Post that Haspel listened to the secret Turkish audiotapes recording the moments of Khashoggi’s murder.For his part, President Erdogan’s speech this week provoked much disappointment among many international observers who had been expecting him to reveal hard evidence incriminating the Saudis in a murder plot. There was an expectation that Erdogan would finally release audio and video tapes, which Turk investigators claim to have, which would expose the grim way in which Khashoggi was allegedly disposed of.

The Turkish leader certainly laid out plainly the charge that Saudi Arabia had carried out “a premeditated murder” in its consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Erdogan called it a “brutal” killing which implies Khashoggi was tortured and dismembered, as Turkish officials have been leaking for the past three weeks to media.

But Erdogan did not name names of who the Turks believe was ultimately responsible for ordering the assassination.

The Saudis have stated that Khashoggi was killed in a “botched interrogation” carried out by a “rogue” team of state security agents. They have strenuously denied that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old heir to the throne, had any involvement in ordering the plot.

Prince Mohammed this week in his first public comments on the killing, called it a “heinous act” and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. Notably, in a conciliatory overture to Erdogan, the monarch also warned anyone trying to “drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey”.

Nonetheless, unnamed American and Turkish intelligence sources have separately told various media outlets they have telecoms intercepts implicating the crown prince in personally sanctioning the murderous operation.

The holding back of damning evidence by Erdogan this week suggests that the Turkish leader is trying to maximize his leverage over the Saudi rulers and President Trump to get a deal for his country. This may explain the real reason why CIA’s Haspel rushed to Turkey this week.

Erdogan is a renowned Machiavellian politician. He may have been personal friends with the doomed Khashoggi, but when Erdogan vows to “expose the full truth” while holding back purported damning evidence, what he is aiming to do is extract further concessions from the Saudis and the Americans.

Turkey needs the US to back off from its recent campaign of hostility and sanctions which have thrown the Turkish economy into turmoil. US-Turkish relations soured over the detention by Ankara of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, on charges of espionage. The return of the pastor earlier this month only days after the Khashoggi case emerged suggests the beginning of Erdogan’s gambit to appease the US for favors.

It can also be anticipated that Erdogan will extract eye-watering financial concessions from oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which reportedly has huge investments in Turkey. That could involve debt write-offs for Ankara or more soft loans into the future.

For the Saudis and Washington, they want the whole Khashoggi scandal to go away as fast as possible. President Trump has helped create the media narrative that the Khashoggi killing was a “horrible mistake” carried out by “rogue agents”. This week, ironically, Trump described the Saudi version of events as “the worst cover-up in history”. Cynically, what Trump means is that the alibi needs to be improved with a more sophisticated deception.

This US president has staked much of his Middle East plans on the Saudi crown prince, or “MbS” as he is known. Trump’s son-in-law and White House advisor on Middle East affairs Jared Kushner is personal friends with the young monarch. The White House is relying on Prince Mohammed to sell what amounts to a pro-Israeli peace deal to the Arab world, which Trump has bragged about as being “the deal of the century”.

The Saudi monarch is also crucial to Trump’s policy of aggression towards Iran. The US needs the Saudis to ramp up oil production in order to offset the expected decrease in Iranian crude supply if Trump’s anti-Iran sanctions due to kick in next month are to succeed.

Maintaining multi-billion-dollar arms sales to Saudi Arabia is, of course, another imperative reason why the White House does not want the truth about what happened Khashoggi to come out. It wants to whitewash the role played by senior House of Saud figures.

A bipartisan move by US congress members was launched this week to limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia if President Trump does not show that senior Saudi royals were not involved in the Khashoggi killing. Trump is therefore under pressure to absolve the Saudi authorities of culpability.

For the Saudi rulers they have been caught in a global public relations disaster. Their image, never too positive anyway, has been shattered over the foul murder of a journalist. Saudi’s oil economy is not as secure as one might think. The military operation in Yemen and ballooning social costs internally are making the kingdom heavily reliant on foreign capital. The “Davos in the Desert” conference this week has seen many top investors stay away due to the Khashoggi scandal.

The House of Saud desperately needs to find a cover-up that absolves its senior figures in Khashoggi’s murder.

For these reasons, Turkey, the US and Saudi Arabia are positioning for a sordid deal which will involve burying the truth about what happened to Khashoggi and who ordered his murder.

For ordinary people around the world one might expect justice and truth to prevail. But in the dirty business of politics – especially involving these three arch-practitioners of dirty politics – justice and truth are values more likely to be liquidated.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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The American Scream, There are no good guys in this squalid drama of American politics

By Finian Cunningham

There are no good guys in this squalid drama of American politics

Just like when the medieval executioners tortured their prisoners to scream out for “mercy”, so today two former aides of US President Donald Trump are put being on the rack to extract a begging response. If they finger the president, then maybe mercy will be shown to the prisoners.

Trump’s former lawyer and his campaign manager are facing lengthy prison sentences for financial fraud and political campaign irregularities. Michael Cohen could get five years in jail, while Paul Manafort faces a soul-crushing 80 years behind bars. A de facto death sentence, given his age.

The set-up here is so obvious and pathetic. Both men are being dangled by the feet ahead of their sentencing, with the blatant purpose of forcing them to incriminate Trump, and in that way, Trump’s political enemies finally get their long-held objective of impeaching the president.

This is how the “American Dream” really operates. It’s dirty, grim, and brutal, and has very little to do with democracy or rule of law. Forget the emblems of supposed American civility, the white-picket fences, apple pie in bourgeois comfort, old glory fluttering down at the courthouse, and all those other imaginary democratic virtues.

American politics has more in common with Francis Ford Coppola’s classic movie, The Godfather, illustrating how organized crime is intertwined with politicians and lawmakers. Mob practices are more the currency of American politics than dainty civic duties. In reality, it’s not the American Dream, it’s the American Scream.

The impossibly perfect American Dream is nevertheless so powerfully ingrained and inculcated in the popular psyche by Hollywood and national myth-making propaganda, it is hard to see the brutal reality.

When the American military obliterated Japanese civilians with atomic weapons, or incinerated children in Southeast Asia with napalm, or when it organized death squads to mutilate peasants in Central America, such practices can be easily obscured because of the opium that is the American Dream and its seductive, illusory vanity.

Even when an American president is hideously assassinated in broad daylight by his own security services, the people are not awakened from the impossible “dream”.

American politics is as dirty and as criminal as it gets. Assassinating foreign leaders, overthrowing governments, subverting and rigging elections, brainwashing the public with lying news media and think tanks, militarizing “allied” societies in the name of “protection”. These are some of the realities that define the US capitalist power system, at home and abroad.

One of America’s most celebrated presidents John F Kennedy began his term in the White House under sordid conditions. Talk about interference? It is well-documented Kennedy’s election was secured by the Chicago-based Mafia, under crime boss Sam Giancana, rigging the ballots in key states to give Kennedy the decisive vote over rival Richard Nixon in 1960.

Admittedly, JFK seemed to undergo a genuinely personal and political evolution during his brief presidency, when he subsequently desired to normalize Cold War relations with the Soviet Union. His perceived betrayal of the Mafia and the US military-security apparatus probably cost him his life when he was assassinated in Dallas in November 1963, three years into his presidency. It is claimed that the CIA and Mafia worked together to organize the killing involving teams of snipers. The hapless Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged shooter, was only a patsy, which the “great and good” American media have used as an odious cover-up ever since.

Anyway, let’s get back to Trump. It seems obvious that the prosecution of his former aides is all about a vendetta against Trump, to get him out of the White House. The US political establishment, or deep state, has never accepted this “outsider” as the president. His stated preference to normalize relations with Russia is a particular red line. The whole “Russiagate” saga has been concocted in order to delegitimize Trump’s election and to have him “taken out” as the figurehead for the deep state.

Prosecuting two of Trump’s former associates was bound to dig up plenty of dirt. Because dirt is endemic to how American big business and politics operate. It should not be surprising that Trump and his former friends are inculpated for bank and tax fraud and paying off hookers. That’s how the system pretty much works, and those transgressions are only the surface.

Look at how Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton was involved in political bribery and vote rigging, as well as soliciting foreign interference from trying to get “Russian dirt” on Trump. Not just Clinton, but the senior law enforcement and intelligence services under the Obama presidency were also involved in this massive subversion of American democracy.

What’s going on with Trump’s two associates facing jail time is the Mob’s equivalent of threatening to cut ears off a hostage unless the hostage squeals to betray another, more important target.

Already, it seems the coercion is working. Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen is reportedly “ready to cooperating” with the so-called Russia probe led by former FBI chief Robert Mueller. Mueller is a long-time operator for the deep state with his own baggage of criminal skeletons, such as lying over the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction ruse to wage a genocidal war on that country. His appointment as the chief inquisitor to entrap Trump is therefore apt.

Cohen is said to have “interesting things” to tell the Mueller inquisition concerning Trump and allegations of collusion with Russia to get him elected. Those allegations are, for any sane person, a risible farrago of lies and fantasies. No evidence has ever been produced despite two years of investigation and prosecutions. The only crimes uncovered so far are financial fraud, American-style.

But, we can be sure, that Cohen, a sniveling, greasy attorney, will deliver “information” to hang Trump in order to save his own skin from five years in the clanger. Expect more and bigger lies about Russia.

By the way, there are no good guys in this squalid drama of American politics. Trump and his gang are as rotten as the rest of the barrel.

The former New York real-estate hustler may deserve some credit in that he at least is not psychotically anti-Russia. Another indirect credit to Trump is that the whole debacle he has provoked with the deep state goes to expose the profound decay and corruption in American politics.

Just to show how Trump is no better than the rest. This week he told media that he would consider lifting economic sanctions off Russia if Moscow made “concessions” on Syria and Ukraine. On Syria, the Trump administration wants Russia to use its leverage to get Iran out of the country in order to pander to Israeli concerns.

So there you have it. Just like the gangsters at home are leveraging Trump’s associates with pain in order to get them to squeal and betray the president, we see the same sordid mentality and methods being played by Trump himself with regard to Russia. The sanctions he has slapped Russia with could be removed, he says, if Moscow does Trump’s bidding on Iran.

The American Dream? It’s a nightmare that screams with crimes and corruption. When will the people awake?

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

This article was originally published by “Sputnik

US Sanctions Are Pushing Russia to War

US Sanctions Are Pushing Russia to War

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 11.08.2018 | WORLD / AMERICASEUROPE

US Sanctions Are Pushing Russia to War

The new round of sanctions this week unleashed by the United States on Russia has only one meaning: the US rulers want to crush Russia’s economy. By any definition, Washington is, in effect, declaring war on Russia.

The implemented economic measures may have a seemingly abstract or sterile quality about them: banning electronic exports to Russia, rattling financial markets, stock prices falling. But the material consequence is that American officials are intending to inflict physical damage on Russian society and Russian people.

It’s economic warfare on a sliding scale to military warfare, as the Prussian General Karl von Clausewitz would no doubt appreciate.

It seems all the more significant that this week also saw US internet services launching a major clampdown on anti-war websites, suggesting that the powers-that-be want to shut down any criticism or public awareness of their reckless warmongering.

What’s more, the latest round of US sanctions – there have been several previous rounds since the contrived Ukrainian conflict in 2014 – is based on nothing but wild, ridiculous speculation. That only adds insult upon injury.

Washington said the new proposed sanctions are due to its “determination” that the Russian state was responsible for an alleged chemical-weapon attack on a former double agent in England earlier this year.

The so-called Skripal affair involving Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia allegedly being poisoned by Russian agents using a deadly nerve agent is as yet an unproven conundrum. Some might even say “farce”.

No evidence has ever been presented by the British government to substantiate its sensational allegations against Moscow. Its claims that Russia was responsible for poisoning the Skripals rests entirely on dubious assertion and innuendo.

Now Washington is proposing sanctions based on a wholly unverified “determination” by the British – sanctions that are intended to crush the Russian economy. The proposed punitive measures go way beyond the usual freezing of assets pertaining to individuals. What Washington is moving to do is attack the core financial operation of the Russian economy.

No wonder that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued a grave response to the latest American sanctions. He said they were comparable to “economic warfare”. Medvedev warned that Moscow would have to retaliate either “politically, economically or in some other way”. Medvedev’s tone was unmistakably one of alarm at the draconian, gratuitous and irrational nature of the US actions.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also expressed incredulity and apprehension over Washington’s conduct. He said that following the seemingly constructive summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month, this latest provocation from Washington makes the American side completely unpredictable.

The immediate sanctions coming into force are limited to banning exports of US electronics to Russia. But it’s what comes next that is perplexing. Washington is saying that if Russia does not give a “guarantee” on halting the future use of chemical weapons, and if Moscow does not allow international inspectors into its country to monitor alleged chemical weapons – then the second wave of sanctions will be applied within 90 days.

The subsequent round of sanctions include banning Russian state-owned airline, Aeroflot, from operating flights to the US. The impossibility of Russia meeting Washington’s absurd demands make the further application of sanctions inevitable.

A separate bill is passing through Congress which is planning to hit the Russian banking system, aimed at preventing international transactions.

Senators sponsoring that bill have labelled it “the sanctions bill from hell”. The title of the proposed legislation says it all: “Defending American Society From Russian Aggression Act”. Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Robert Menendez and Ben Cardin, among other Russophobes who are pushing the bill, are explicit about the objective. They say the measures implemented will “crush the Kremlin”.

Tragically, the American people are being led to the abyss by politicians who are either ignorant, insane or prostitutes for war profits. Maybe even all of the above. Perversely, these politicians and their media clients accuse Russia of “acts of war” over fantastical claims about “election interference” when in reality it is they who are the ones committing acts of war against Russia.

The chances are paltry that President Trump will use his executive power to block the forthcoming sanctions. The political climate in the US among the intelligence agencies, lawmakers and the mainstream media has become saturated with anti-Russian hysteria. The US is an oligarchy in throes of insanity beyond democratic accountable to its people.

Already this week’s announcement of more offensive economic incursions on Russia sent the Russian economy plummeting. The ruble, bonds and stocks all nosedived. This is an attack on Russia’s vital interests. An economic Barbarossa.

No doubt part of the American calculation is to foment social discontent and discord towards the Putin government. It’s the same illegal playbook that the Americans are using with Iran, whose economy this week was also hit with draconian US sanctions.

If Russia’s economy has been thrown into turmoil already over the latest announced sanctions one can only imagine the damage inflicted when further American attacks are mounted on the fundamentals of Russia’s banking system and its freedom to trade with the rest of the world.

For Washington this seems to be open season for sanctions. It’s not just Russia and Iran on the receiving end. China, Canada, the European Union, Turkey, Venezuela, North Korea, among others, are also being battered with American economic warfare, either under the name of “sanctions” or indirectly using the rhetoric of “tariffs”.

For Russia’s part, it has shown immense forbearance up to now in tolerating Washington’s provocations and indeed aggression over numerous pretexts. From the conflict in Ukraine, to the alleged annexation of Crimea, to Moscow’s principled support for Syria being traduced as “supporting a dictator”, to alleged “meddling in US elections”, and much more, Russia has shown huge reserves of stoicism and self-discipline in tolerating what can only be called gratuitous American aggression.

At all times, Russia has maintained a dignified, unflappable posture in the face of American taunting and irrationality. Moscow perhaps thought that President Trump could bring some normality to bilateral relations. That’s turned out illusory.

But what happens now? When Washington has really gone too far. The US has taken its churlish conduct to a whole new dangerous level, by preparing to launch a full-on economic war on Russia’s vital interests.

The crazed American rulers are pushing the world to the brink by their belligerence.

Washington has heretofore given notice that it is not interested in diplomacy, dialogue, or negotiation. It only has one mode of conduct – war, war, war.

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Trump’s Talk of Isolating Iran Speaks More to US Global Isolation

Trump’s Talk of Isolating Iran Speaks More to US Global Isolation

Trump’s Talk of Isolating Iran Speaks More to US Global Isolation

The Trump administration re-imposed tough sanctions on Iran this week, but the move risks further isolating Washington, not Tehran, in the eyes of the world.

President Donald Trump issued a statement to accompany the sweeping sanctions reinstated by Washington. “The Iranian regime faces a choice,” he said. “Either change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation.”

Ironically, the same words uttered by Trump could apply more so to the United States.

This increasingly unhinged US regime needs to back off its “threatening, destabilizing behavior” and begin to respect multilateral rules like other nations. Otherwise, the US and its unilateral bullying is leading to its “continuing down the path of economic isolation”.

Trump also warned this week that, “Anybody doing business with Iran won’t be doing business with the US”. Careful what you wish for Donald! That very warning over Iran could end up much worse for your country.

The American president is in danger of recklessly overplaying his hand. His truculent demands that the rest of the world join in US efforts to isolate Iran economically are likely to backfire badly.

In particular, Trump is reinforcing the historic direction underway by Russia, China and others to shift their international trading relations away from relying on the US dollar as reserve currency. Without that privileged status as reserve currency, the US dollar would tank, and so would the entire American economy, based as it is on endless, unaccountable printing of greenbacks.

Russia, China and India are understood to be not willing to comply with Washington’s high-handed demands that they cut business ties with Iran.

Both China and India – Iran’s biggest export markets for its oil industry – have said they are not going to defer to Trump’s sanctions.

The resistance to American diktat is inevitably leading to the rest of the world coming up with new financing mechanisms for conducting trade. That, in turn, is hastening the demise of the US dollar’s international status.

Even the European Union this week pushed back against Trump’s policy to unduly antagonize Iran by trashing the international nuclear accord.

“We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran,” said the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, in a statement co-signed by the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany.

The 28-member EU is introducing a Blocking Statute which will afford legal protection to its commercial ties with Iran from so-called “secondary sanctions” planned by the Trump administration to hit nations continuing to do business with Tehran.

Washington’s sanctions reimposed this week are aimed at cutting off Iran’s ability to conduct international trade using US dollar payments. But if other nations hold firm to commercial ties with Iran, they will circumvent the American restrictions by necessarily using bilateral currency deals transacted with euro, renminbi, rupee or ruble.

This is a transition already underway due to several overlapping factors, including the growing strategic importance of Russia-China bilateral relations, China’s global economic vision of its One Belt One Road initiative, Eurasian economic integration, and the increasing importance of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) in shaping a multipolar world.

The BRICS represent some 40 per cent of the world economy, and the grouping is signing up new associate nations, such as Turkey and Iran.

That inevitably means the once mighty dominance of the US dollar governing international trade is waning. Its days are numbered. Trump’s bullying towards Iran, and towards others through unilateral wielding of sanctions, is only hastening the global direction of dropping the American dollar as the world reserve currency.

A nation’s currency is all about its ability to command respect or trust from other nations. Washington, under Trump, is fast squandering those values.

President Trump’s policy towards Iran has no legitimate foundation. It is a blatant attempt to destabilize that nation for regime change in contravention of international law and the UN Charter. The rest of the world can see through Washington’s vile mask and its pompous rhetoric. What they see is a thuggish regime that selfishly and arbitrarily makes up its own rules as it goes along.

American power is as unscrupulous as it is riven with hypocrisy. Accusing Iran of “malign behavior” in the Middle East makes Washington sound ridiculous given its record in recent years of destroying whole nations and millions of innocent lives from illegal wars. As well as sponsoring terrorist jihadists to do its dirty work.

Trump’s walking away from the UN-backed international nuclear accord with Iran back in May, which has paved the way for the reimposition of US sanctions, is typical of Washington’s repudiation of multilateral norms for its own unilateral gratification. All signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord, including the EU, Russia and China, have expressed their support for the deal.

UN monitors have confirmed in nearly a dozen reports that Iran has complied fully with the terms of the agreement to restrict its development of nuclear weapons. Honoring its side of the bargain, Iran is fully entitled to sanctions relief mandated by the nuclear accord.

American dishonoring of the deal is solely based on its baseless and pejorative claims alleging Iranian “malign activity”. This is the same faulty American propagandistic mentality that accuses Russia of “election meddling” or China of “military expansionism”.

But what’s even more contemptible is the utter lack of principle even in the Trump administration’s own flawed claims about Iran. While denouncing Iran as an international pariah, Trump has also incongruously offered to negotiate with the Iranian leadership.

Speaking just as the renewed sanctions were coming into force, Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, told Fox News: “They [Iran’s leaders] could take up the president’s offer to negotiate with them, to give up their ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs fully and really verifiably.”

Where’s the principle in Trump’s logic? If the “Iranian regime” is the “world biggest sponsor of terrorism”, as the Trump administration dubiously claims, thereby justifying its abrogation of the nuclear accord, then how is it ethically acceptable to offer talks to such a supposed pariah?

Clearly, the Trump administration has no principled objection to talking with the Iranians. Just like it has no principled objection to the nuclear agreement itself. Bolton’s assertion that Iran must “give up its ballistic missile program” is an add-on demand that was never covered by the original nuclear negotiations. Bolton’s second claim that Iran “must give up its nuclear weapons program fully and verifiably” is simply a baseless assertion, that is, American propaganda.

Every other party to the nuclear accord, and the competent UN technical monitors, have confirmed that Iran has been in full compliance for the past three years.

Trump’s evident bad faith and lies towards Iran and his outrageous dictate to the international community on how it conducts sovereign business are ensuring that Washington will become further isolated as a rogue state, which is viewed as being beyond the pale of international norms and diplomacy. US global standing is in free fall, soon to be followed by the status of the dollar.

The Trump administration’s attempt at playing hardball over Iran is like the spoilt brat picking up the ball, stomping his feet and threatening the others that he is going away. In the case of the US, the others are saying, “Go ahead, good riddance.”

Britain’s Presumption of Guilt Towards Russia Invites Conflict and Chaos

Britain’s Presumption of Guilt Towards Russia

By 

RT News

March 16, 2018

Britain’s abandonment of due process has taken a dangerous and reckless leap, with Theresa May declaring economic sanctions and diplomatic expulsions for Russia’s “failure” to respond to allegations over the Skripal poisoning.

Provocatively, Moscow was given a 24-hour deadline to “answer” charges leveled by the British government that it was responsible for the attempted murder of a Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, who had been living in England since 2010 after a spy-swap deal.

Skripal (66) and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were apparently stricken with a deadly nerve agent in his adopted hometown of Salisbury on March 4 while strolling through a public park. The pair have been receiving treatment in intensive care ever since.

Earlier this week, the British prime minister asserted that the chemical weapon used was a Soviet-era nerve agent, Novichok, and – on that basis – the Russian state was implicated in the attempted murder of the former spy. Skripal had been exiled from Russia in 2010 after he was convicted of treason as a double agent for British intelligence MI6.

The new economic and diplomatic sanctions against Moscow, which were announced by May in the House of Commons on Wednesday, constitute a reckless escalation towards conflict between Britain, its NATO allies, and Russia.

Moscow has said it will not stand for British punitive measures and is vowing to take reciprocal actions.

Washington and European states have quickly followed Britain’s lead in ramping up hostile rhetoric towards Russia, and issuing statements of “solidarity.” Relations between Russia and NATO states had already plummeted to Cold War depths before the latest row.

The invitation for more chaos and conflict comes with the abandonment of any pretense at upholding legal principles and standards.

Britain and its allies are relying on the inverted principle of “presumption of guilt” as opposed to “innocence.” Within days of the apparent poison attack on the Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the British authorities and media had rushed to judgement that the alleged attack was the work of the Russian state in an act of revenge for past betrayal. That motive does not stand up to scrutiny, noted former British ambassador Craig Murray.

Furthermore, the hypothetical Soviet-era nerve agent identified by the British authorities has not been independently verified. We are relying on official British claims. The alleged chemical may or may not have been used in the attack.

As Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed, all requests from Moscow for access to the alleged poison as evidence have been refused by London. Such a refusal is a violation of the Convention on Chemical Weapons treaty, which mandates joint inspection of alleged incidents.

So, the British government imposed an ultimatum on Russia to provide “answers” to provocative charges without Moscow being given a fair chance to ascertain those charges. On the basis of that contemptible lack of due process, the British are calling on its NATO allies to escalate punitive measures against Russia.

There are even British media reports of Britain invoking NATO’s Article Five clause, which mandates the military pact to come to the defense of another member deemed to be under attack.

One senior British cabinet minister was quoted anonymously by The Independent as saying: “What happens will be an economic war, these will be economic measures. Russia’s economy is only half that of the UK… That doesn’t give us any pleasure at all, but we need the nations of Europe to behave within the rule of law and not like gangsters.

The logic is unhinged. British authorities are claiming to be acting within the rule of law against Russian “gangsters,” when in fact it is the British who are bludgeoning any legal standard of due process.

Paramount to due process is the presumption of innocence, which is the bedrock of international law and the United Nations’ Charter of Human Rights.

Canadian-based war crimes defense attorney Christopher Black says: “The presumption of innocence is the foundation stone of modern criminal justice. It is the pre-eminent factor in every trial. The accused is deemed to be innocent unless and until evidence that cannot be doubted establishes that the crime took place as claimed, and the accused is the person who committed it and had the intent to commit it.”

Black says that this is the exact opposite of what is taking place with regard to British claims over the latest alleged poisoning incident in Britain. The lawyer adds that the erosion of standard legal principle has been underway for several years due to political expedience by Western states. He points to the various ad-hoc war-crimes trials pushed by the United States and its NATO allies to convict political enemies in former Yugoslavia and Africa.

With regard to Russia and, in particular, the demonization of the government under President Vladimir Putin, the Western states have used the principle of “presumption of guilt” on numerous occasions, including the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014; implicating Russia in Ukraine’s conflict; smearing Russia over sports doping and banning it from the Olympics; allegations of Russian “interference” in US and European elections; and blackening Moscow for “war crimes” in Syria.

In all cases, allegations are simply leveled and repeated ad nauseam without evidence ever being presented. Indeed, sometimes in spite of plausible counter-evidence.

Christopher Black continues: “The accusations against Russia from the MH-17 Malaysian airliner, Crimea, Ukraine, electoral interference, and so on, are all part of carefully orchestrated propaganda warfare aimed at reducing Russia’s prestige in the world, its range of friends and allies, and to paint it as the ‘evil other’ for the Western public, who are having their minds conditioned to prepare them for war.

The presumption of guilt towards Russia has now converged over chemical weapons and Syria.

In rallying Washington and European allies to back Britain’s “economic war” against Russia, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson this week said of conversations with his French counterpart: “The French government stressed particular concerns about Russia’s use of chemical weapons elsewhere, as is evident with their support to Assad’s murderous regime in Syria.”

On the basis of no evidence, dubious hearsay from terrorist-affiliated groups like the White Helmets, and the expedient presumption of guilt, Britain and its NATO allies are willing to go to war in Syria.

This week, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accused Syria and its Russian ally of carrying out chemical-weapons attacks, for which the “US is prepared to take military actions.

All this should be a lesson on why there is such a thing as legal standards and due process as a safeguard for international order. Once certain states start to assert “presumption of guilt” towards others, then all pretense of upholding law and order collapses into a descent of chaos and conflict.

Attorney Christopher Black goes further. He says that Britain and its NATO allies are not just derelict in their duty to abide by law. “As in the latest reckless statements concerning Russia and the alleged poisoning in Britain, the case can be made that the British and their allies are in fact guilty of war crimes by inciting the conditions for war.

Finally, there is one very obvious question that nobody seems to be asking, and that relates to the timing of Skripal’s alleged poisoning. Why would Russia do it now, just a week before the presidential election and three months before the World Cup?

It suggests total insanity on Moscow’s part. How could Russia possibly benefit from such an act? Skripal was previously in Russian custody and has lived in the UK for years. If Russia did want to poison him, as the UK has imagined, could it not have waited for a few more months?

It is not clear who benefitted from the inopportune timing of the incident, but certainly wasn’t Russia.

Reprinted from RT News.

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