Terrorism Industry : America is preparing Adel Abdel Bari to succeed Al-Zawahiri صناعة الإرهاب: أميركا تحضّر عادل عبد الباري خلفاً للظواهري!؟

*Please scroll down for the English Machine translation**

صناعة الإرهاب: أميركا تحضّر عادل عبد الباري خلفاً للظواهري!؟

باريس – نضال حمادة

عادل عبد الباري أحد أقرب مساعدي زعيم تنظيم القاعدة أسامة بن لادن والمتهم بتفجير سفارتي الولايات المتحدة في نيروبي ودار السلام والذي كان مسجوناً في الولايات المتحدة، حرّ طليق منذ يومين، بعد أن أطلقت السلطات الأميركية سراحه وغادر الى بريطانيا التي يحمل جنسيتها حيث التحق بعائلته هناك من دون أية مشاكل. وقد فرزت السلطات البريطانية دورية من الشرطة للسهر على أمنه وحراسته.

حجة أميركا التي برّرت بها إطلاق سراح المتحدث باسم تنظيم القاعدة أنه زاد في السمنة وقد يُصاب بوباء كورونا، وبالتالي حفاظاً على صحته وحياته تمّ إطلاق سراحه.

أميركا التي دمّرت نصف العالم العربي والإسلامي وقتلت ملايين البشر حول العالم، خصوصاً من العرب والمسلمين بحجة الإرهاب، واحتلت أفغانستان والعراق ودمّرت ليبيا وتشنّ حرباً ضروساً على سورية بحجة ملاحقة التنظيمات والعناصر الإرهابية، خصوصاً عناصر تنظيم القاعدة ، تفرج عن المتحدث باسم تنظيم القاعدة في وقت تظهر فيه إشارات وعلامات تشبه ما حصل بعد مقتل أسامة بن لادن قبل 11 عاماً، حيث حصل ظهور تنظيم الدولة داعش وبرزت عشرات التنظيمات والأمراء الجهاديون على جثة بن لادن، وهؤلاء كانوا أكثر من خدم السياسة الأميركيّة في المنطقة منذ الجهاد الأفغاني في ثمانينيّات القرن الماضي.

أميركا هذه تعيد الكرة الآن بعد اختفاء الظواهري، واختفاء تنظيم داعش بنسخته الأولى، وبدء ظهور النسخة الجديدة في مناطق البادية السورية الممتدّة نحو قاعدة التنف المحتلة من قبل أميركا في تلك البادية فضلاً عن عودة خلايا داعش الى الحدود العراقية السورية بعدما أمّنت لها الطائرات الأميركية الأرض بعمليات القصف المتواصل والدوري على مواقع ودوريات ومراكز الحشد الشعبي غرب العراق.

من هنا يمكن ملاحظة خروج عادل عبد الباري بعدما تأكد الأميركيون من موت الظواهري على ما يبدو، وكان موقع تابع لتنظيم حراس الدين في الشمال السوري قد أعلن قبل أيام عدة عن انقطاع الاتصال بين حراس الدين والظواهري قبل أن يحذف التغريدة، فهل تمّ إطلاق سراح القيادي المصري في تنظيم القاعدة ليحلّ مكان القيادي المصري الذي توفي…؟

علّمتنا التجارب أنّ الأميركي خبر هذا الجماعات التكفيرية المحاربة التي ما زالت في خدمته منذ حرب السوفيات في أفغانستان حتى الحرب في الشرق السوري حالياً…

Terrorism Industry : America is preparing Adel Abdel Bari to succeed Al-Zawahiri


Paris – Nidal Hamada

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Untitled-520.png

Adel Abdul-Bari, one of the closest aides to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who is accused of bombing the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, who was imprisoned in the United States, was free two days ago, where left for Britain and joined his family without any problems. British authorities have sorted out a police patrol to ensure his security and security.

America’s argument that justified the release of the Al-Qaeda spokesman is that he has become more obese and may be infected with the Corona epidemic, and thus, in order to preserve his health and life, he was released.

America, which destroyed half of the Arab and Muslim world and killed millions of people around the world, especially Arabs and Muslims under the pretext of terrorism, occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, destroyed Libya and waged a fierce war on Syria under the pretext of pursuing terrorist organizations and elements, especially Al-Qaeda elements. The release of the spokesman of Al Qaeda spokesman is similar to what happened after the killing of Osama bin Laden 11 years ago, after serving U.S. policy in the region since the Afghan Jihad in the 1980s, when ISIS emerged, and dozens of jihadist organizations and princes emerged on bin Laden’s body,

The United States is now returning the ball after the disappearance of al-Zawahiri, and ISIS in its first version, and the emergence of the new version in the Syrian desert extending towards al-Tanf occupied by America , as well as the return of ISIS cells to the Iraqi-Syrian border after U.S. aircraft supported by periodic American bombarding the positions of popular Mobilisation Popular force in western Iraq.

The release of Adel Abdel Bari, after the American’s confirmation the death of al-Zawahiri’s, can be seen as replacement al-Zawahiri, a site affiliated with the Guardians of Religion Organization in northern Syria announcing several days ago that communication between Hurras al-Din and Al-Zawahiri had been cut off, before the tweet was deleted.

Experience has taught us that takfirist fighting groups have been at US service since the Soviet war in Afghanistan until the war in eastern Syria today…

أوروبا تطالب لبنان بالتحقيق حول رياض سلامة

مراسلة رسمية في عهدة النيابة العامة للتدقيق في مبلغ 400 مليون دولار

الأخبار 

مراسلة رسمية في عهدة النيابة العامة للتدقيق في مبلغ 400 مليون دولار
(مروان طحطح)

الثلاثاء 19 كانون الثاني 2021

في تطور مفاجئ على الصعيد القضائي، تبلغ لبنان رسمياً طلباً من جهات عليا في الاتحاد الأوروبي وسويسرا لتقديم مساعدة قضائية في تحقيق جار حول ملف تحويلات مالية تخص حاكم مصرف لبنان رياض سلامة.

وعلمت «الأخبار» أن النائب العام التمييزي القاضي غسان عويدات وصلته مراسلة مباشرة (لم تُعرف بعد الطريقة الدبلوماسية، وإذا ما تمت عبر وزارة الخارجية أو عبر السفارة السويسرية في بيروت أو عبر القضاء السويسري) تطلب منه العمل مع الجهات القضائية المعنية، ولا سيما النائب العام المالي، من أجل الحصول على تفاصيل معلومات حول حوالات مصرفية تخص الحاكم وشقيقه رجا سلامة ومساعدته ماريان حويك، يصل مجموعها الى نحو 400 مليون دولار.


وبحسب المعلومات، فإن التحقيق الجاري له طابع جنائيّ ولا يخص سلامة وحده، بل سيكون له متعلقات بمصرف لبنان والمؤسسات التابعة له، ولا سيما بنك التمويل وشركة طيران الشرق الأوسط «ميدل إيست»، وبنك انترا وكازينو لبنان.

وقالت المعلومات إن الجهات الرسمية العليا في البلاد، ولا سيما الرئيسين ميشال عون وحسان دياب، وُضعت في أجواء الملف، ولكن لم يتضح بعد سبب عدم التفاعل والتجاوب مع الطلب، مع الإشارة الى أن مسؤولاً قضائياً بارزاً قال إن المسألة قد تكون مرتبطة بالإغلاق الناجم عن مواجهة جائحة كورونا. لكنّ مسؤولاً آخر قال إن السلطات اللبنانية تحاول التدقيق في إذا ما كان الطلب الأوروبي صحيحاً.

وأوضحت المصادر أن السلطات الاوروبية تدرس ملف سلامة من ضمن ملف يشمل عدداً كبيراً من الشخصيات اللبنانية وفق «لائحة شبهة» أعدت بالتعاون بين فرنسا وبريطانيا والولايات المتحدة التي طلبت من الاتحاد الأوروبي المشاركة في متابعة الملف وعدم حصر العقوبات بوزارة الخزانة الاميركية، وأن لا يبقى الأمر مرتبطاً فقط بما تسمّيه واشنطن «مكافحة تمويل الإرهاب».

مسؤول فرنسي لـ«الأخبار»: باريس لم تُخفِ رغبتها في تغييرات كبيرة تشمل مصرف لبنان بعد التدقيق في أعماله


وبحسب المصادر، فإن فرنسا وبريطانيا قررتا بشكل منفرد التحقيق في الأمر، وتم البحث خلال الاسبوع الأخير من شهر كانون الاول من العام الماضي، في ترتيب اجتماعات غير رسمية تشتمل على تحقيق مع سلامة، أو الاستماع اليه، وقد سافر الحاكم أكثر من مرة الى باريس من دون أن تتوضح الصورة، خصوصاً أن الجانب الفرنسي يمتلك ملفاً خاصاً يستند الى تحقيقات أجرتها مؤسسة فرنسية تعمل على تقصّي الملفات المالية للشخصيات العاملة في الحقل العام أو لمؤسسات رسمية كبيرة، منها المصارف.

وأفادت المصادر أن الاتصالات الجانبية التي جرت مع الجهات الفرنسية المعنية حول ملف مصرف لبنان، اشتملت في فترة معينة على فكرة التسوية التي تقضي باستقالة سلامة من منصبه ضمن صفقة تمنع ملاحقته قضائياً. وقال مسؤول فرنسي لـ«الأخبار» إن باريس لم تُخفِ رغبتها في تغييرات كبيرة تشمل مصرف لبنان بعد التدقيق في أعماله، لكنها لم تقدم أي ضمانات. وأضاف أن فرنسا «لا يمكنها تقديم ضمانات لأحد، لا في بلاده ولا في الخارج، وأن أوروبا شهدت عدة قضايا جرت خلالها ملاحقة رؤساء سابقين وقادة دول وأحزاب، ولم تنفع كل الضغوط لوقف الملاحقة».

من جهة أخرى، لفتت المصادر الى أن جهات لبنانية سألت عن سبب عدم صدور لائحة عقوبات كانت منتظرة من العاصمة الاميركية مطلع هذه السنة. وقالت إن أحداً لم يقدم توضيحات في هذا الشأن. لكن الأميركيين قالوا إن ملف العقوبات بذريعة الفساد يجب أن لا يقتصر على ما يصدر عن وزارة الخزانة فيها، وإن فرنسا وعدت بأن أوروبا ستقوم بدورها في هذا السياق. ولكن هناك تعقيدات في الآلية القضائية الأوروبية لا تشبه ما يجري في الولايات المتحدة.

ماذا حصل ليل الخميس الجمعة في البادية السوريّة؟

باريس – نضال حمادة

تشير معلومات حصلت عليها في العاصمة الفرنسية الى فشل عملية إنزال وقصف لأحد المواقع التي يتمركز داخلها إيرانيون وحلفاء لهم في بادية دير الزور، وأشارت إلى عمل عسكري مشترك أميركي – بريطاني – الماني – «إسرائيلي» على الحدود بين العراق وسورية.

حسب المعلومات التي حصلت عليها «البناء» استنفرت مطارات عدة لهذه العملية منها مطار قبرص، حيث تتمركز قاعدة عسكرية بريطانية.

كان هناك جنود «إسرائيليون» على الأرض، وجنود بريطانيون وألمان أيضاً، يبدو أنهم نقلوا بمروحيات من قاعدة التنف الى مسافة كيلومترات عدة من الهدف، وحسب المصدر تفاجأ المهاجمون بأوامر توقف العملية وتأمر من هم على الأرض بالانسحاب، لقد اكتشف المهاجمون أنّ الإيرانيين كانت لديهم معطيات او شكوك بعد غارات يوم الثلاثاء وفي لحظة ما لم تقصف الطائرات أيّ هدف. كان الهدف المحدّد قد أُخلي.

لا تؤكد المعلومات إطلاق صواريخ أرض جو، لكن حصل إطلاق نار أفشل العملية ويبدو أنهم كانوا محتاطين ويعلمون مسبقاً بالهدف ولم يكونوا هناك.

في النهاية، وحسب المصادر الفرنسية جميع الغارات التي حصلت خلال الأسبوعين الماضيين كانت مقدّمة وتغطية لغارة ليل الخميس الجمعة التي توقفت بعد اكتشافها.

المصدر يقول إن لا إصابات في صفوف «الإسرائيليين»، ويشير الى أنّ القوة الألمانية والبريطانية كانت مع «الإسرائيلي» في المكان نفسه، ويبدو أنّ هناك إصابات قد وقعت، وتشير المعلومات إلى أن الغارات سوف تستمرّ بوتيرة أعنف حتى نهاية ولاية ترامب من حيث المبدأ…

How the Left is being Manipulated into Colluding in its own Character Assassination

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research

By Jonathan Cook

Global Research, January 09, 2021

There was a fascinating online panel discussion on Wednesday night on the Julian Assange case that I recommend everyone watch. The video is at the bottom of the page.  

But from all the outstanding contributions, I want to highlight a very important point made by Yanis Varoufakis that has significance for understanding current events well beyond the Assange case. 

Varoufakis is an academic who was savaged by the western political and media establishments when he served as Greece’s finance minister. Back in 2015 a popular leftwing Greek government was trying to oppose the imposition of severe loan conditions on Greece by European and international financial institutions that risked tipping the Greek economy into deeper bankruptcy and seemed chiefly intended to upend its socialist programme. The government Varoufakis served was effectively crushed into obedience through a campaign of economic intimidation by these institutions.

 Varoufakis describes here the way that leftwing dissidents who challenge or disrupt western establishment narratives – whether it be himself, Assange or Jeremy Corbyn – end up not only being subjected to character assassination, as was always the case, but nowadays find themselves being manipulated into colluding in their own character assassination.

 Here is a short transcript of Varoufakis’ much fuller comments – about 48 minutes in – highlighting his point about co-option:

 “The establishment, the Deep State, call it whatever you want, the oligarchy, they’ve become much, much better at it [character assassination] than they used to be. Because back in the 1960s and 1970s, you know, they would accuse you of being a Communist. They would accuse me of being a Marxist. Well, I am a Marxist. I’m really not going to suffer that much if you accuse me of being a left-winger. I am a left-winger!

 “Now what they do is something far worse. They accuse you of something that really hurts you. Calling somebody like us a racist, a bigot, an antisemite, a rapist. This is what really hurts because if anybody calls me a rapist today, right, even if it’s complete baloney, I feel as a feminist I have the need to give the woman, implied or involved somehow in this accusation, the opportunity to speak against me. Because that is what we left-wingers do.”

Varoufakis’ point is that when Assange was accused of being a rapist, as he was before the US made clear the real case against him – by trying to extradite him from the UK for exposing its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan – he could not defend himself without alienating a significant constituency of his natural supporters, those on the left who identify as feminists. Which is exactly what happened.

 Similarly, as Varoufakis notes from earlier conversations he had with Assange, the Wikileaks founder was in no position to properly defend himself against accusations that he colluded with Russia and Donald Trump to help Trump win the 2016 US presidential election against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

 At the time, Assange’s supporters were able to point out that the leaked emails were true and that they were in the public interest because they showed deep corruption in the Democratic party establishment. But those arguments were drowned out by a narrative confected by the US media and security establishments that Wikileaks’ publication of the emails was political interference because the emails had supposedly been hacked by Russia to sway the election result.

 Because Assange was absolutely committed to the principle of non-disclosure of sources, he refused to defend himself in public by confirming that the emails had been leaked to him by a Democratic party insider, not the “Russians”. His silence allowed his vilification to go largely unchallenged. Having already been stripped of support from much of the feminist left, particularly in Europe, Assange now lost the support of a sizeable chunk of the left in the US too.

In these cases, the one who stands accused has to defend themselves with one hand tied behind their back. They cannot hit back without further antagonising a substantial section of their supporters, deepening divisions within the left’s ranks. The victim of this kind of character assassination is caught in the equivalent of reputational quicksand. The more they fight, the deeper they sink.

Which is, of course, exactly what happened to the UK’s former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn when he was accused of being a racist. If he or his supporters tried to challenge the claim that the party had become antisemitic overnight under his leadership – even if only by citing statistics that showed the party hadn’t – they were immediately denounced for supposed “antisemitism denial”, posited as the modern equivalent of Holocaust denial.

Notice Ken Loach, who was also on the panel, nodding in agreement as Varoufakis speaks. Because Loach, the noted leftwing, anti-racist film-maker who came to Corbyn’s defence against the confected media campaign smearing him as an antisemite, soon found himself similarly accused.

Jonathan Freedland, a senior columnist at the liberal Guardian, was among those using precisely the tactic described by Varoufakis. He tried to discredit Loach by accusing him of denying Jews the right to define their own experience of antisemitism.   

Freedland sought to manipulate Loach’s anti-racist credentials against him. Either agree with us that Corbyn is an antisemite, and that most of his supporters are too, or you are a hypocrite, disowning your own anti-racist principles – and solely in the case of antisemitism. And that, QED, would prove you too are motivated by antisemitism.

Loach found himself with a terrible binary choice: either he must collude with Freedland and the corporate media in smearing Corbyn, a long-standing political ally, or else he would be forced to collude in his own smearing as an antisemite.

It’s a deeply ugly, deeply illiberal, deeply manipulative, deeply dishonest tactic. But it is also brilliantly effective. Which is why nowadays rightists and centrists use it at every opportunity. The left, given its principles, rarely resorts to this kind of deceit. Which means it can only bring a peashooter to a gun fight.

https://twitter.com/Jonathan_K_Cook/status/131348440736224870

This is the left’s dilemma. It’s why we struggle to win the argument in a corporate media environment that not only denies us a hearing but also promotes the voices of those like Freedland trying to destroy us from the centre and those supposedly on the left like George Monbiot and Owen Jones who are too often destroying us from within.

As Varoufakis also says, the left needs urgently to go on the offensive.

We need to find ways to turn the tables on the war criminals who have been gaslighting us in demanding that Assange, who exposed their crimes, is the one who needs to be locked up.

We need to make clear that it is those who are so ready to smear anti-racists as antisemites – as Corbyn’s successor, Sir Keir Starmer, has done to swaths of Labour party members – who are the real racists.

And we need to unmask as war hawks those who accuse the anti-war left of serving as apologists for dictators when we try to stop western states conducting more illegal, resource-grab wars with such devastating results for local populations.

We must get much more sophisticated in our thinking and our strategies. There is no time to lose.

This essay first appeared on Jonathan Cook’s blog: https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/ 

For Years, Journalists Cheered Assange’s Abuse. Now They’ve Paved His Path to a US Gulag

Richard Medhurst: “BBC ATTACKS JOURNALISTS CHALLENGING NARRATIVE ON SYRIA AND WHITE HELMETS”

Richard Medhurst 🇸🇾🇵🇸 (@richimedhurst) | Twitter

By Richard Medhurst 

December 4, 2020

The BBC has released a new radio podcast titled Mayday: Investigating The Life And Death Of James LeMesurier. It attempts to tell the story behind former British army and intelligence officer James LeMesurier, co-founder of the “White Helmets” in Syria. While the BBC claims that its new Radio 4 series seeks to “explore the true story” behind the so called “Syria Civil Defence”, its correspondence with journalists critical of the group shows this wasn’t the case.

The BBC contacted Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett and British journalist Vanessa Beeley. In emails provided to me last month, we can see how the BBC in its attempt to reach out to them, prepared a list of smears and allegations. The state funded broadcaster accused them of being conspiracy theorists, called them “tools” of the Syrian and Russian governments and refuted their reporting which implicates the White Helmets and its founder James LeMesurier as working on behalf of Western governments seeking regime change in Syria.

BBC's Chloe Hadjimatheou writes to Eva Bartlett about the White Helmets.

The e-mail sent to Beeley even included a chilling, veiled threat of legal action by the British government.

BBC's veiled threat of legal action towards Vanessa Beeley and her comments on the White Helmets.

Following this correspondence, I interviewed Vanessa Beeley. You can watch the interview here on YouTube. I also spoke with Eva Bartlett via e-mail. You can read her answers to my questions below.

Because their reporting differs so drastically from the official Western narrative– exposing a grim and dark reality about the White Helmets—Bartlett and Beeley have been the targets of various hit pieces, smears and accusations. Both journalists spent time living in Syria, reporting extensively on the group’s activities. Owing to their expertise on the matter, they have also given testimony at the United Nations on several occasions.
Chloe Hadjimatheou, the BBC journalist who contacted Bartlett and Beeley, has never been to Syria.

The White Helmets claim to be an impartial civil defense organization, manned by volunteers who film themselves rescuing victims from the rubble. The group has played a substantial role in shaping the Western media’s narrative on the war in Syria, accusing the Syrian and Russian governments of indiscriminately bombing civilians and hospitals, as well as chemical gas attacks like the one in Douma in 2018 – which was later proven to be staged and part of a cover up by the OPCW.

The White Helmets have received international praise and accolades. The group was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Netflix produced an Oscar-winning documentary about them and the organization has received millions in funding from Western governments, including the United States and United Kingdom.

While the above makes the organization sound like an accomplished and noble endeavor, the reality on the ground is quite different. The White Helmets have been found to operate in areas controlled by Al Qaeda and other jihadist elements, sharing offices in the same building, and videos implicating its members in executions and war crimes.

Leaked documents in September reveal how the White Helmets and its contractor ARK, founded by Alistair Harris, a former British diplomat, were part of an elaborate slush fund and propaganda network run by Western governments. Not only were these contractors bankrolled by nations openly seeking regime change in Syria and working closely with mainstream media to paint the Syrian and Russian governments as evil— but also to rebrand the Syrian opposition as more “moderate” and the White Helmets as impartial, humanitarian actors, while whitewashing their close collaboration with ISIS and Al Qaeda groups in opposition-held territory.

White Helmets founder James LeMesurier is himself a former British army and intelligence officer. Through a non-profit that he established called Mayday Rescue, he secured funding for the White Helmets funneling millions from international donors. In 2016, LeMesurier was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Queen. Despite the widespread coverage and portrayal of the White Helmets as a grassroots volunteer group—the fact it was created, run and funded by the same countries bombing Syria and seeking to overthrow its government is rarely reported, if ever, in mainstream media.

In November 2019, LeMesurier was found dead in Istanbul after apparently falling out of a window, which Turkish authorities ruled a suicide. This came just a few days after LeMesurier admitted to donors via email that he had defrauded them and was scared of further audits—after a Dutch auditor was flown in to examine financial records. LeMesurier was paying himself and his wife (also a British diplomat) enormous cash bonuses on top of their monthly salary of €24,000 each. LeMesurier even used money from the organization to pay for his own wedding. Following these revelations and his death, the Guardian and other Western outlets blamed a “war of disinformation” as having contributed to his apparent suicide.

When one realizes how much money and effort has gone towards promoting the White Helmets, it becomes apparent why Western governments, and their media outlets are so protective of their propaganda tool – viciously attacking anyone who counters their narrative or exposes their inner workings.

The BBC’s claims about Beeley and Bartlett are laden with smears, wild accusations and personal attacks. The majority of the questions do not even reference their reporting or make any attempt to verify and scrutinize their coverage. The veiled threat of legal action is of particular concern, especially when the United Kingdom is detaining journalist Julian Assange for publishing documents revealing major war crimes by the United States.


Interview with Eva Bartlett

Richard Medhurst: What’s the first thing that went through your mind when you read this e-mail from the BBC?

Eva Bartlett: Oh how original, British state-owned media want to repeat character assassination smears which other corporate media already did years ago.

It also occurred to me that the BBC has the time/resources to re-hash an old slander theme, but not to cover the Julian Assange hearings, and that this new slander is a new and dangerous attack on press freedom.
The timing of this pending smear coincides with continued backlash against the whistleblower experts of the OPCW who spoke out against the OPCW report on whether a chemical attack occurred in Douma in 2018. I suspect that this is one reason for the new smear on those of us who reported from on the ground in Douma, collecting testimonies from medical professionals and from civilians. These testimonies contradict the claims of the West about a chemical attack being perpetrated by the Syrian government.

RM: Is this the first time Chloe Hadjimatheou contacts you?

EB: Yes.

RM: Did you reply directly to her e-mail or any of the allegations she presented?

EB: Initially I didn’t replay to her email, as experience has taught me these sorts of predetermined character assault email queries don’t intend to fairly air my side of the argument, but are more about being able to say they reached out to me before publishing their smear. In late 2016, I was targeted by a number of Western media and “fact-checking” type sites at a time when I was doing a speaking tour in the US and had very limited access to net. At the same time, my email and messenger inboxes were flooded with around 1000 messages (most of them supportive), including some from Channel 4 News and Snopes, which I didn’t see until some weeks after the fact. However, given the nature of how these corporate entities run their smear campaigns, I believe that even had I seen their messages/emails and replied, they would not have fairly published my replies.

That belief is based on the nature of the smears that ensued, which frequently made use of logical fallacies/strawmen argument to incriminate me in whatever slurs they were making. You can find examples which I pointed out when making a collective rebuttal to Snopes, Channel 4 and Canadian media.
Based on the knowledge that these state-funded entities don’t play fair, I didn’t intend on replying. However, prior to the Monday deadline for Chloe’s story I will send the following:

Chloe,

You asked for a clarification or comment to your hostile email to me, yet you did not make clear whether you would publish in full my reply. Will you? If you do not do this as requested, I will say I attempted to meet your request for replies but you declined to publish in full. Kindly let me know whether you intend to follow professional standards and include my full reply, which I will send depending on your reply.

For the record: my travels to and around Syria, and elsewhere, are at my expense and supported by those who have followed my journalism for years, or even more than a decade. I am not funded by any government (but you are, aren’t you, working for British state-funded media). If you or the BBC publish anything insinuating that I receive funding from any government, I will seek legal counsel.

My writings for RT are mine alone: I pitch opinion articles to them on a per piece basis as an independent freelancer.However, you seem to be unaware that I, as a freelancer, contribute to/have contributed to a number of other platforms, including Mint Press News, Oriental Review, Dissident Voice, Inter Press Services, and a host of others all detailed on my blog.

It is completely disingenuous of you to imply my writing is anything other than my own views, and it is libellous of you.

In the mean time, feel free to peruse my bio, it is quite extensive, with on the ground experience from Palestine to Syria, to eastern Ukraine. And in fact, my journalism has not only won the support of countless readers online, but also merited being awarded by the Mexican Press Club in 2017 and being shortlisted for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism that same year.

By the way, my support has increased exponentially even prior to you/the BBC running a character assassination piece on me, as people became aware of your intentions.

I have my own questions for you: Have you ever entered Syria illegally? If so, how many times? Who did you pay for protection from terrorist factions while in Syria (it is well known, well-admitted, by corporate journalists who have entered Syria illegally that they must pay a protection fee in order to avoid abduction by one of the terrorist factions)?

How can you justify turning a blind eye to the fact that countless White Helmets members have openly expressed support to terrorist groups in Syria, let alone been members of said groups, holding weapons, standing on the bodies of dead Syrians? Can you honestly claim you were unaware of these facts?

How do you explain the presence, throughout Syria, of White Helmets headquarters next to or in close proximity to headquarters of al-Qaeda in Syria, Faylaq al-Rahman, Nour al-Din al-Zenki, and other terrorist groups? How can the White Helmets be deemed as neutral when working side by side these terrorist factions?

P.S. Why does a prominent and published journalist with the BBC feel the need to hide her tweets? What are you afraid of the public seeing? Do you feel this is professional of a journalist to hide their Twitter output, and indeed much of their identity?

Regards,Eva

RM: Do you know of anyone else besides you and Vanessa who were contacted by BBC?

EB: The Working Group on Syria have had a series of exchanges with Chloe/the BBC.

RM: What do you make of this assertion that you and Vanessa are somehow not journalists? What’s the point of that statement?

EB: That is a clear attempt to discredit our work and credibility, which is ironic as it comes from one of the least credible media institutions existing.

My journalism has been crafted by going to the place in question and speaking with the people in question, something I began doing in occupied Palestine in 2007, where I stayed for 8 months (see my bio for more on that), then Gaza for 3 years (and two wars) collectively, from 2008-2013, Syria 14 times since 2014, Venezuela, Donbass, and elsewhere.

If journalist credentials are established by going to journalism school and joining one of the corporate owned institutions, then this speaks volumes as to just why the media these institutions produce is inevitably riddled with lies and war propaganda, or is copy-paste media.

My articles are as often as possible supported with videos, which I myself subtitle.

I don’t need to tell you, a journalist and researcher yourself, the difference between researching a subject intensively on your own (and also gathering information from primary sources on the ground) and the kind of journalism that these corporate hacks do. It’s night and day. I had just left Aleppo in late 2016, having already been there three times prior, at great personal risk and meeting Syrians bombarded and starved by terrorists occupying parts of their city, and returned to North America to see media reporting Aleppo had “fallen” to the “regime”.

The use of such lexicon like “fallen” for a city whose people that had known endless suffering, starvation, executions, imprisonment, and torture precisely due to and by the occupation of parts of the city by terrorist groups shows just how manipulative corporate media has been in their reporting on Syria.

I do not strive to be equated with the “credentials” of Western corporate and state funded media. My credentials lie in the years of on the ground reporting I’ve done from the places I mentioned.

I can give countless examples of how the media reported falsely that something had occurred in Syria, and how I reported honestly on what really transpired. One example is that of Omran Daqneesh, whose face was splashed across the front pages of international media in 2016, said to be the face of human suffering in Syria.

In June 2017, before any Western media reported the truth (not that many other than my colleague Vanessa did), I met Omran and interviewed his father on the allegations that his son had been injured by a Russian or Syrian airstrike. Mr. Daqneesh stated definitively there had been no airstrike and that the media had exploited his son.

A last point: while the BBC and others before them strive to imply Vanessa and myself are not journalists, the bulk of the work we have done over the years is to give voice to Syrians who the same corporate and state-backed Western media has rendered voiceless.

RM: Do you believe this is a targeted smear campaign against you, Vanessa and anyone who challenges the official narrative on the White Helmets? Why now in 2020?

EB: It is definitely a targeted smear. That much is evident from the tone of the questions the BBC hack sent to both Vanessa and myself, questions full of negative and misleading insinuations about our funding, affiliations and intentions.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence has periodically reported in recent years of having intelligence information that terrorist groups in Syria, and the White Helmets, are preparing to stage another fake chemical attack. The MOD did so anew, on October 14.

I believe this new round of smears against not only Vanessa and myself but against prominent and credible voices who have spoken out about the crimes of the White Helmets is intended to discredit us prior to a new staged chemical attack which will then predictably be blamed on the Syrian government.

RM: When the BBC writes that you are “pro-Assad” and “Russia state funded media promotes your conspiracy theories” they’re accusing you of essentially being in the pockets of these governments. Where is the proof for any this? Are you surprised at all that they are attacking you?

EB: I’ll answer that with a question: would the same media write “pro-Obama”, “pro-Clinton” about journalists? Unlikely? Would journalists be lambasted for noting that Obama was the president of the US, as Assad is of Syria? Unlikely, and in fact I’m sure you are aware that prior to 2011, there was positive media reporting on President Assad.

Using terms like “pro-Assad”, “Assadist”, “conspiracy theorist”, etc, are all old means of attempting to blanket discredit the person in question. I feel no need to defend my position which is that after 14 visits, some quite lengthy, to Syria since 2014, and speaking colloquial Arabic, I am confident in stating the president has considerable, if not massive, support.

That said, that recognition has absolutely nothing to do with my writing. My focuses have been on giving voice to Syrians disappeared by corporate media, highlighting the terrorism they endured by groups the West dubs “rebels”, and calling out war propaganda. Very little has focused on the president.

As for “Russian state-funded media”, whereas that is true of RT, it is also true of the BBC. But here’s a major difference: unlike BBC journalists who go to Syria, I pay all of my own expenses; I do not have a state-funded translator or research team at hand; I do my own video editing and subtitling. Vanessa and myself are one-women teams, self-funded.

Journalists of the BBC and other such corporate/state-funded media who bother going to Syria inevitably, in my experience, have a massive support team to do all of which Vanessa and I do ourselves. And yet their reports are factually incorrect and ignore civilians’ voices.

In April 2014, I was in Syria for my first time. Terrorists in eastern Ghouta shelled Damascus, as they did all of the time, for years. One child was killed and over 60 injured. I saw BBC journalist Lyse Doucet in the French Hospital just outside of old Damascus. She was asked whether she would convey the truth. She nodded yes (I filmed this conversation). In an article she later wrote, Doucet wrote, “the government is also accused of launching them into neighborhoods under its control.

As I noted in an article: On a recent social media post, I noted this deceitful journalism, and the BBC could have easily learned about the trajectory of mortars and from where the mortar in question could only have come: the “moderates” east of Damascus.

That’s just one example. If I go through my writings from Homs, Aleppo, Madaya, al-Waer, eastern Ghouta, Idlib…I could almost certainly find a BBC propaganda report stating the opposite of the realities I heard/experienced.

At the bottom of each RT opinion article there is a disclaimer that the opinions don’t represent those of RT. And it works both ways: not every article published on RT reflects my opinions. But RT remains one of the few platforms which will publish my views without censorship. Find me one example of Western corporate media which would do the same.

RM: Isn’t it ironic the BBC accuse you and Vanessa of partiality, refuting your research on the White Helmets, yet they can’t provide any evidence that the things you reported are false?

EB: This is unsurprising. Their mode of operation is clearly character assassinations, strawmen arguments, lexicon to denigrate, and an avoidance of the facts which are easily accessible.

Their interest isn’t in purveying truth, it is in burying it, and burying their own culpability, for they are guilty many time over of war propaganda, meaning they have the blood of Syrian civilians on their hands.

In 2019, I interviewed internally displaced Syrians who had languished in the Rukban camp for years and were being transported to a temporary shelter in Homs. When researching for my article, I came across numerous Western media reports relying on “unnamed activists” for their information on conditions in Rukban. Dig a little deeper and you find those activists had terrorist affiliations or were supportive of terrorists.

This is something I found time and time again. For example, when eastern Ghouta was being liberated, NY Times and other Western media relied on sources clearly supportive of Jaysh al-Islam and al-Nusra.
The BBC have had access to government-controlled areas of Syria, on many occasions. Yet they consistently choose not to report narratives that would counter the war propaganda. Talk about partiality.

RELATED:

On the British State-Funded BBC’s Pending Smear

Journalists, Activists Condemn UK Decision to Keep Assange Locked Up without Charge

By Alan Macleod

Source

AUnited Kingdom court has ruled that Wikileaks cofounder Julian Assange must remain in prison, despite an earlier ruling that he could not be extradited to the United States.

Explaining her decision, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that, “As far as Mr. Assange is concerned, this case has not been won,” adding that the United States must be allowed to appeal her earlier decision. Part of the ruling was based upon her assessment of the Australian publisher being a serious flight risk if released, noting he had “huge support networks” that could help him “should he again choose to go to ground.”

The court’s decision was immediately panned by journalists and press freedom organizations who had hoped to see Assange released today, after seven years in prison and hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. “To us, that is nothing more than a pretext to keep him detained. This seems unnecessarily punitive and adding insult to injury after the 10 years of hell that he has endured…We are deeply disappointed with today’s decision,” said Rebecca Vincent, Reporters Without Borders’ Director of International Campaigns, outside the courtroom.

Vincent had been denied entry to the courtroom today, as had some of Assange’s relatives. She had also faced questioning and harassment from police, who used their new powers under the U.K.’s lockdown law to break up pro-Assange demonstrations, even arresting a 92-year-old man.

Julian Assange
Police arrest an Assange supporter outside the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Jan. 6, 2021. Matt Dunham | AP

Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, expressed his disappointment at the news that his client would be heading back to Belmarsh prison in south London. “The logical outcome of the ruling would be he regains liberty at least conditionally,” he stated.

Assange’s colleagues in [alternative] media were also quick to condemn Baraitser’s ruling. “The judge’s decision against bailing Assange only fuels the theory that this prosecution is about keeping a publisher who the U.S. government despises tied up and in limbo so he cannot effectively challenge them ever again,” said Kevin Gosztola, “This is absolutely outrageous for the judge to deny Assange bail and to claim that Belmarsh is doing a fine job of handling COVID, even while London is on lockdown.”

“There are no charges pending against Julian Assange in the U.K. A U.K. judge denied the U.S.’s request to extradite him, the only place where charges are pending. Despite this, the judge just ruled he must remain imprisoned — in a COVID-ridden high-security prison — while the U.S. appeals,” added Glenn Greenwald. “This shows how authoritarian the British judiciary is. The only thing the U.S. cares about is keeping Assange in a cage, silenced and disappeared. This gives them the best of all worlds: he stays in prison, with no need to prove he’s guilty of anything. That’s despotic.”

A particularly high-security prison, H.M.P. Belmarsh is generally considered the U.K.’s most notorious jail, taking in prisoners from around the country that other prisons cannot handle. The government’s 2019 report on conditions inside the facility noted it was overrun with 120 violent gangs and that there were 161 recorded inmate assaults on staff. After a COVID-19 outbreak this year, inmates have been largely locked down in their cells, typically for 23 hours a day.

On Monday, Baraitser ruled that Assange would not be sent to the United States as she was not convinced that the U.S. prison system could guarantee he would not commit suicide while incarcerated. The publisher faced up to 175 years in prison for his alleged breach of the Espionage Act of 1917 while receiving classified information from U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning. However, she sided with the United States on both their assertions and the legality of their claims, setting a precedent that some called a “chilling” ruling for investigative journalism.

Wikileaks disseminated Manning’s information, which came to be known as the Iraq War Logs. Perhaps the most explosive revelation was a recording of a U.S. helicopter attack on central Baghdad in July 2007. The video shows American personnel massacring at least a dozen Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in cold blood. The images went viral on social media and showed a completely different side to the occupation than the carefully sanitized one the U.S. military had been fastidiously curating.

From 2013 to 2019, Assange was confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, unable to travel to the country that had offered him political asylum. However, keen to curry favor with Washington, new president Lenin Moreno allowed British authorities to enter the building and arrest him. Since then, he has been housed in Belmarsh. This new ruling prolongs his stay. But if the appeal is unsuccessful, the U.K. will no longer have any legal argument to keep him interned. Perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Australian.

The Assange saga: Practicing real journalism is criminally insane

The Assange saga: Practicing real journalism is criminally insane

January 07, 2021

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

Synchronicity is definitely fond of mirror wonderwalls. The Julian Assange saga seemed to have entered a new chapter as he was, in thesis, on his way to – conditional – freedom this past Monday, only one day after the first anniversary of the start of the Raging Twenties: the assassination of Maj Gen Qassem Soleimani.

The fate of the journalist the Empire seeks to terminate was just juxtaposed to the fate of the warrior/diplomat the empire already terminated.

Two days later, Julian Assange was de facto re-incarcerated exactly as the Empire was hit by an “insurrection” which, whenever instigated in that distant “Third World”, is celebrated in Exceptionalistan as “people power”.

The invaluable Craig Murray, from inside Westminster Magistrates Court No. 1 in London, meticulously presented the full contours  of the insanity this Wednesday.

Read it in conjunction with the positively terrifying judgment delivered on Monday in the United States government case against Julian Assange.

The defining issue, for all those who practice real journalism all across the world, is that the judgment affirms, conclusively, that any journalist can be prosecuted under the US Espionage Act. Since a 1961 amendment, the Espionage Act carries universal jurisdiction.

The great John Pilger memorably describes “judge” Vanessa Baraitser as “that Gothic woman”. She is in fact an obscure public servant, not a jurist. Her judgment walks and talks like it was written by a mediocre rookie hack. Or, better yet, entirely lifted from the US Department of Justice indictment.

Julian Assange was – at the last minute – discharged on theoretically humanitarian grounds. So the case had, in effect, ended. Not really. Two days later, he was sent back to Belmarsh, a squalid maximum security prison rife with Covid-19. So the case is ongoing.

WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnnson correctly noted, “It is unjust and unfair and illogical when you consider her ruling of two days ago about Julian’s health in large part because he is in Belmarsh prison (…) To send him back there doesn’t make any sense.”

It does when one considers the real role of Baraitser – at a loss to juggle between the imperatives of the imperial agenda and the necessity of saving the face of British justice.

Baraitser is a mere, lowly foot soldier punching way above her weight. The real power in the Assange case is Lady Emma Arbuthnot, forced out of a visible role because of very compromising, direct ties she and her husband Lord Arbuthnot maintain with British intelligence and military, first revealed by – who else – WikiLeaks.

It was Arbuthnot who picked up obscure Baraitser – who dutifully follows her road map. In court, as Murray has detailed in a series of searing reports, Baraitser essentially covers her incompetence with glaring vindictiveness.

Baraitser discharged Julian Assange, according to her own reasoning, because she was not convinced the appalling American gulag would prevent him from committing suicide.

But the key issue is that before reaching this conclusion, she agreed and reinforced virtually every point of the US indictment.

So at this point, on Monday, the “Gothic woman” was performing a contortion to save the US from the profound global embarrassment of prosecuting a de facto journalist and publisher for revealing imperial war crimes, not United States government secrets.

Two days later, the full picture became crystal clear. There was nothing “humanitarian” about that judgment. Political dissent was equaled with mental illness. Julian Assange was branded as criminally insane. Once again, practicing journalism was criminalized.

There are reasons to believe though, that a United States government appeal may fail. A British High Court would be reluctant to overturn a judgment where Baraitser actually established findings of fact: a direct correlation between the state of the American gulag, and the extreme danger to Assange’s health if he’s thrown inside this system.

As it stands, it didn’t even matter that Assange’s defense offered a full package to obtain bail, from home arrest to the use of an ankle bracelet. Baraitser’s notion that the British security state would not be able to prevent his “escape” wearing an ankle bracelet in the middle of a total, police state-style lockdown does not even qualify as a joke.

So Julian Assange is back to suffering a perverse, interminable rewrite of Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum.

The US government’s legal strategy before the High Court convenes in April is basically to try to prove its American gulag is competent enough to prevent a suicide – even though the ultimate aim of this post-truth Inquisition seems to be the termination of Julian Assange inside the penal system. That goal doesn’t even require a supermax prison in Colorado. Belmarsh will do.

This week in the US: The ‘model nation’ for no nation anymore

Thursday, 07 January 2021 7:57 AM  [ Last Update: Thursday, 07 January 2021 8:07 AM ]

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump walk on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, the US, on January 5, 2021, one day ahead of a joint session of the US Congress to certify the Electoral College vote that confirmed Joe Biden as the presidential winner. (Photo by AFP)
This week in the US: The ‘model nation’ for no nation anymore
Ramin Mazaheri is currently covering the US election. He 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 ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China,’ which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.

By Ramin Mazaheri and cross-posted with The Saker

As this article is on the verge of publication, the United States Capitol has been occupied by protesters on the day of Electoral College’s presidential vote. It’s very exciting stuff, certainly, but an insatiable craving for excitement seems to have long been a major flaw of Western culture.

Few people are as guilty of greedily loving the short-term sugar high of daily news as I am — being a longtime hack reporter — but whether the immediate outcomes of this historic election week in the United States give you rushes or drops, it’s important to remember that what’s really historic is just how far the US has truly fallen and will keep falling.

We all agree America on January 6, 2020 is certainly not at an apex, but it’s only via constant spin, rationalization, and deflection that one cannot see that the US has so very far to go — this is not the nadir.

No matter what happens, this is not even really over.

In my reporting from here, it turns out the wisest and most pleasant of the “never Trumpers” — normally a very disagreeable lot — were right to say that they are not assuming anything about Joe Biden’s projected victory until after inauguration day, January 20. Maybe the Proud Boys are going to blow up the Washington Monument next week — who really knows what will happen over here?

I have to add a last-minute modification to that hyperbolic exaggeration: Maybe a peaceful “Occupy Capitol Hill” is a real thing?

If you want to read more Trump-obsessed hysteria, you can always go to Politico’s “Trumpology” section, where everything before 2016 never was, but this column is trying to establish exactly where America as a whole really is: What should the globe’s global assessment be of the country which in 1991 seemed poised for a century of global superiority?

There is no doubt that there was a time when the US was really at the forefront of global political thought; when they were successfully enjoining many people to do good and forbidding a lot of bad — I am referring to 1776, the birth year of modern anti-imperialism.

The calendar has just turned to 2021. You would have to be so jacked up on Western Mainstream Media sugar spin to believe that — whatever happens this week — the US is somehow doing well, or looking well, or acting well, or was anything else but a society in decline, dispute, degradation, and maybe even dissolution.

I think the latter goes too far, but I include it to point out: this is not a country like France or Iran or China in that it’s still debatable whether the US has enough years under its belt to really consider that they have a unified sense of nationhood/culture given that this was never really a country but a unity of separate, self-involved, self-serving states inside America (which used to be the term used for the entire Western Hemisphere). This is the United States of America, after all, and Scotland is awfully close to breaking up the United Kingdom — so why couldn’t their over-the-sea brethren go in the same direction?

A short but exciting list of things US media would like you to ignore this week.

Their United Kingdom brethren/clients finally admitted they cannot hand over Julian Assange, the greatest journalist of my generation, not because the US will execute him but because they essentially fear that American prisons are so atrocious that he won’t be killed but that he will be tortured without end.

(Things like this are, of course, why the US and UK are the unquestionable arbiters of what “human rights” and “political prisoners” are.)

Have money, join the duopoly, you will get elected: The Georgia elections were the most expensive congressional seats in history — they spent an estimated 900 million dollars, say the early returns. The only presidential candidate who ever exceeded that in their campaign was brand change golden boy Barack Obama, in a testament to what a huge role the rich, the 1% and corporations play in manipulating American elections.

(You have to have rocks in your head the size of Gibraltar if you are an average American and you give a single greenback to either of the duopoly — just so people Kamala Harris and the Clintons can fund their lavish lifestyles.)

The Electoral College emphatically does not have majority democratic support, as years of polls have shown that 60% of the US wants it abolished. Is it so shocking that as I type this, the voting of this body has been stopped by upset Americans?

Pro-Trump protesters breach US Capitol as Congress holds session to certify Biden victory
Pro-Trump protesters breach US Capitol as Congress holds session to certify Biden victoryProtesters supporting
US President Donald Trump have stormed the US Capitol where the lawmakers were engaged in the process to certify the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.

The American intelligentsia is so unpersuasive, so ineffective, so overpaid and so distrusted that even if Democrats do capture both Georgia Senate seats — and thus the Senate — the anti-Trump “Blue Wave” they almost universally rammed down American throats for four years merely goes from a total failure to a major failure: In this decentralized country local states control local matters and conservatives captured the local legislative, executive, and judicial branches. In a redistricting year, no less. The reason it was rejected, of course: the “Blue Wave” was fake-leftism and not real leftism — why would American lower classes get excited about that?

(And how many Congressional Democrats are so right-leaning and so desirous only of winning their own re-election that Republicans won’t be able to swing this very definition of “tenuous majority” by buying Democrat Congressmen off on countless key votes via things like promising to build more B-2 bombers in their home state?)

The (apparent) demise of Trump actually does not totally destroy Trumpism, even though the chattering classes promised that voting him out for president is all it would take to end what they insisted was merely a Russian-orchestrated cult of personality.

(Four years ago, the US chattering classes certainly didn’t have to accept Trumpism, but they could have at least taken Trumpism seriously. By refusing to have that honest and open conversation, the US has wasted four years. The US has not progressed in this sense since 2016’s inauguration day — and now Capitol Hill is occupied by angry citizens who likely feel they have been unfairly ignored and demonized.)

It was just announced that the cops who shockingly shot Jacob Blake in Wisconsin in the back seven times will not even face a trial. Last night, protests in Kenosha were calm, but what about tonight?

(My bosses have a tough decision to make soon, perhaps: Do I cover the political rebellion in Washington or the possible racial rebellions if they break out again?)

A short, healthy conclusion to balance out this sugar high.

That was not a difficult list to compile, nor an exhaustive one. I’m sure everyone wants to read about Capitol Hill but the short-term question (how much violence will they use to clear out this protest?) is not as vital as the long-term questions (how did we get here, how does the US heal from this), nor is it as vital for the world as the global question of America’s longstanding claim to global leadership.

Both sides of America have disgraced themselves in the eyes of the world since 2016, with their only-low-blows cultural civil war, and it’s not as if the world wasn’t already quite, quite appalled at American behavior since 2003.

2020 was indeed a woeful and unfortunate low point, but the consequences of 2020 are so very, very bad that who can say that it is over? Things were so bad a brand change or calendar change can’t fix things.

Who would say that America’s political cultural civil war is over? Who can say the dispute over electoral integrity is over? Who can say that 1%-rewarding, inequality-creating Quantitive Easing/Austerity is over? Who can say the endless foreign wars are over? Who can say the healthcare crisis is over? Or the unemployment crisis, or the famine crisis, or the housing crisis, etc., etc.?

Who is the nation which is modeling themselves on the United States and why on earth are they doing that?

Gerald Ford famously said as Richard Nixon left that, “America’s long national nightmare is over.” Less than a week into 2021 it should be dawning on the world that the American model produces an endless bad dream not only for their colonies and their clients but even for their own people. That makes sense because that is precisely the goal of Western neo-imperialism and neo-liberalism.

Whoever is the accepted winner of the Electoral College — assuming they ever meet again — is not likely to change that trajectory because American problems were not caused, and cannot be fixed, by just one man.

(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)


Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

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Britain’s Colonial Past and Brexit. The Real Link Which Remainers Can’t Deal With

Britain's Colonial Past and Brexit. The Real Link Which Remainers Can't  Deal With
Martin Jay is an award-winning British journalist based in Morocco where he is a correspondent for The Daily Mail (UK) who previously reported on the Arab Spring there for CNN, as well as Euronews. From 2012 to 2019 he was based in Beirut where he worked for a number of international media titles including BBC, Al Jazeera, RT, DW, as well as reporting on a freelance basis for the UK’s Daily Mail, The Sunday Times plus TRT World. His career has led him to work in almost 50 countries in Africa, The Middle East and Europe for a host of major media titles. He has lived and worked in Morocco, Belgium, Kenya and Lebanon.

Martin Jay

January 6, 2021

The Brexit deal snatched at the last minute by Boris Johnson is not the amazing coup, trumped by his media officials or the conservative press. But it is a good deal for the UK and a pretty good escape plan for the EU which was faced with a new battle in 2021: to deal with the political turmoil of Britain ‘going alone’. Given that the EU already has enough political tumult with Poland and Hungary blocking a 2 trillion dollar rescue package for countries hit hard by Covid, the last thing the EU needed was a new crisis of its own making.

Yet the deal is still controversial both in the UK and in Brussels as in many ways the real test will be in the coming years, whether EU giants like Germany and France chose to allow the UK to grow – thus becoming a bigger and bigger customer to the EU 27 – or for it to become a pariah which the EU punishes through its arbitration system, agreed in the fine print of the final draft. Some sceptics will argue that when Britain starts to grow in certain sectors, it will have its wings clipped by an overzealous EU which will cry foul play every time one EU member state complains that it can’t compete with British goods or services. This is the real heart of the deal: whether this part of the agreement will be exercised fairly.

But does the EU really do “fair”? One look at how it treats Iran within a human rights prism while not condemning Saudi Arabia’s appalling war in Yemen should tell you much. Or how it supports the repressive regimes of many North African countries who acknowledge its fake hegemony while signing up to training courses for its police forces in how to effectively spread fake news through social media platforms and carry out better “surveillance”. Or just the number of human rights scandals on home soil which dog the EU, as more and more debating chambers in the European Parliament are named after journalists murdered while uncovering graft – while the perpetrators remain free.

The EU doesn’t really do well when we examine it in this light. Fairness and equality are not really its traits. In fact, the quip from Vladimir Putin that the EU “can’t even create a single market in its energy sector” when complaining about market access in Germany is very true. The “level playing field” is very much just a buzz phrase in Brussels to distract the embedded journalist to not look too hard at how ineffective the EU is at playing on it. A sort of reverse theory of logic which dictates the more you talk about something the less likely you are to do anything about it. And there are too many examples of this doctrine. SMEs is another. “Small and medium-sized business” which we are told in tomes of EU reports provide the solution to unemployment as studies show that they are the ones who employ workers quickly. And yet, the EU does almost everything it can to destroy them in reality through allowing the European parliament to be an orgy scene of multinational companies – invariably non-EU ones – who use the lobbying system to ensure than new EU directives push them out of the market altogether.

There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in Brussels and for remainers in the UK, who are still angry over Brexit now going though, much of their grief is really based on ideals built on the foundations supporting a pantheon of ignorance and mythology.

The EU doesn’t do fairness. It doesn’t even do democracy and in fact doesn’t even faintly pretend to. Yet it remains quiet when its millions of supporters harp on about how democratic it is, chiefly sighting the most useless and futile institution ever created: the European parliament. “Look, the EU is democratic. It has its own parliament!” people often say without taking stock of how the European parliament is probably the only assembly in the world which has no power whatsoever to propose draft legislation and is more or less run by powerful lobbying firms. For the EU itself, it is a farcical, last minute idea bolted on to allude to the idea of being democratic. But most portly MEPs who blow hundreds of millions of dollars each year travelling to Strasbourg every three weeks – burning a hole in the ozone layer the size of London – will tell you after two glasses of Chilean house red that they are nothing more than EU civil servants rubber stamping the important stuff that the adults do down the road in the European Commission. And that’s on a good day.

Yet fairness and its opaque interpretations is a big part of what Brexit is really all about. Certainly, the feral remainers in the UK who still dream of the deal being scuppered. Many are left-wing and believe naively that to belong to the EU assures Britain stays multicultural and will never fall victim to a rise of the far right – a desperate, yet equally hilarious notion, given that the EU itself is a white supremacist organisation essentially ran by white, middle aged men, many of whom are European freemasons whose delusion views about taking more power in Brussels is actually feeding the far right movement in Europe. The more the political crisis the EU finds itself in, the higher the number of far right seats in the European Parliament. It’s no longer a mystery or an enigma. Many top EU officials now admit that the EU has a real identity problem and are dumbfounded to see that its power grab is part of the solution.

But it’s also about how British people see themselves and how they cope with achievement. Winners and losers, if you like. Many remainers believe that any excursion to win in any given field should be discouraged and that being an EU member state was a perfect way of instilling this assiduous virtue which comes from the same loins as “it’s not the winning that matters, but the taking part”.

For 11 years I worked in Brussels as a journalist pouring over the texts of financial services directives, many hundreds of pages. A theme always became clear though in all of them which was that the City of London needed to “harmonize” its rules more in line with new rules which France and Germany wanted to introduce. The effect of this each and every time was to take away the business from London. And this is really the crux of Brexit. The EU has been trying to diminish the UK’s lead in many sectors through a disingenuous ruse which led Britain to believe that its membership was a genuinely fair and decent one. In reality it was entirely indecent and in the end enough people woke up and realised that EU membership really wasn’t worth much, given that it meant Britain handing over much of its gains from being a leader.

And what in God’s name is so wrong with leading? Remainers who pen clever op-eds now in the left-wing press are the real conservatives obsessed with Britain’s colonial past when they make the erroneous link with Britain’s pink history. It is just plain wrong to assume that British leadership at anything is colonial. Those same journalists fail to see that Britain’s colonial past was a failed venture and ended up almost bankrupting the country. Many, by contrast, who voted for Brexit see the UK embracing new relationships all over the world and signing trade deals with countries like Turkey, free now of the “colonialism” of old white men in Brussels who probably dance naked around trees once a year and have funny handshakes. Brexit is very much about an anticolonialism and yet many remainers are still joined at the hip with their khaki pasts. They are, by definition, conservative and racist as they equate anything to do with coming first with Britain’s war with the Mau Mau in the 1950s. They want Britain to be an “also ran” and dependent on Brussels for help tied to a colonial and abusive master who can’t look forward, is out of touch with reality and is racist to the core. If anything, Brexit is an end to colonialism and the embrace of a new set of economic ideals which places Britain as equal partners in trade with countries like India. If India can put aside its colonial past and wrongs by Britain, then why can’t remainers? The real link between Britain’s imperial past and Brexit is that the European Commission is still stuck with this model of governance itself, complete with the Brylcreem, the Sten and the khaki shorts. Remainers are not anti-imperialists at all. They are just anti-British imperialists who much prefer to be enslaved by Jean-Christophe, Luc or Hans in Brussels.

On Revolution and Counter-Revolution

On Revolution and Counter-Revolution

January 03, 2021

by Francis Lee for The Saker Blog

‘‘A party of order or stability, and a party of progress and reform, are both the necessary elements of a healthy state of political life’’. Wise words – John Stuart Mill. But unfortunately not the reality in the present political dispensation. (1)

It is interesting to note that the current global political and social turbulence has been both cause and effect of deep social and political shifts in the body politic. In addition, these subterranean disturbances have also been accompanied by a strange melange of rank stupidity and quasi-religious fanaticism. The nouveau regime of monied interests consisting of the alliance of financial, political and corporate power is now mobilising to impose a radical new global order. These political/economic centres of power have also been given the imprimatur of legitimation by the controllers of the propaganda apparatus – the mass media and its priesthood.

However, there seems to be a general lack of understanding with regard to the nature of the perpetrators of this ongoing political project and its (reactionary) set of end-goals. This distinctive feature of the present crisis has not received much in the way of a characterisation as a political phenomenon and is in need of serious analysis. Strange to say that what appears to be a revolutionary movement, that is, a political upheaval from below with the object of overthrowing tyranny, is, in the present instance, a movement (coup-putsch) from above whose object is to establish it. It is this new order which is being foisted on society from above by those who have used their social and economic power and position to break apart the old order which was established during the Bretton Woods Conference (1944) and consolidated after WW2.

The Great Reset – as it is now called – is a de facto class-based counter-revolutionary movement which involves the political and economic apparatus and its overseers and is directed toward the expropriation of the masses and an imposition of naked class rule. However, what is notable is that many of the opponents of the above reactionary movement who tend to be conservative (small c) intellectuals seem disposed to conflate the Great Reset with the French, Russian, English, and American Revolutions – in short between revolutions and counter-revolutions. Granted, theirs is a well-argued position but it seems to miss the obvious political nature of elite rule by, and composed of, privileged class forces. The conservative analysis also tends to identify what we have been, where we are, and how we got here, but doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of where we might be going. There appears to be an almost religious impulse at the bottom of most conservative philosophy: to wit, man is a fallen angel, imperfect and always will be from being guilty of original sin. Even Sigmund Freud weighed in with this dual aspect to human nature, i.e., Eros and Thanatos (see Civilization and its Discontents).

The Conservative Ideology

Without wishing to seem cavalier I think that the conservative position can be briefly stated as follows: According to this outlook the French revolution, indeed all revolutions, lead to bloodshed, anarchy, and mayhem as well as the many other evils which were brought about by lifting the lid of a political Pandora’s Box. In one sense this certainly is the case. But then comes the great conservative non-sequitur: namely, that all revolutions must fail due to the imperfections of human nature. And apparently the world should stand still at contemplate their collective navels at this political juncture! But there is no reason to believe this will always be the case, and in addition that it is more of a political assertion than a matter of fact. Furthermore it doesn’t leave much room to engage in political change from those who have most to gain from it and who are, by hook or by crook, involuntarily disengaged from any genuine peaceful road to change by the existing swindle mechanisms which are managed and controlled by a decadent ruling elite.

Edmund Burke – 1729-1797 – The Conservative:

The archetype of conservative political philosophy in this respect was Edmund Burke. In his Reflections of the Revolution in France, Burke, the Irish Whig politician was to put forward the most widely read summation as to why revolutions fail. Published in 1790 the Reflections, Burke argued that the French Revolution would end disastrously because its abstract foundations, purportedly rational, ignored the complexities of human nature and society. Further, he focused on the practicality of solutions instead of the metaphysics, writing: “What is the use of discussing a man’s abstract right to food or to medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them. In this deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician, rather than the professor”.  Following St. Augustine and Cicero, he believed in “human heart”-based government.’’

Nevertheless, and in somewhat way strange manner, he was contemptuous and afraid of the Enlightenment, inspired by the writings of such intellectuals as Jean-Jacques RousseauVoltaire and Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, who disbelieved in divine moral order and original sin. Burke’s view was that society should be handled like a living organism and that people and society are limitlessly complicated, leading him to conflict with Thomas Hobbes‘ assertion that politics might be reducible to a deductive system akin to mathematics.

As a Whig, Burke advocated central roles for private property, tradition, and prejudice (i.e. adherence to values regardless of their rational basis) and to give citizens a stake in their nation’s social order. He argued for gradual, constitutional reform, not revolution (in every case, except the most qualified case), emphasizing that a political doctrine founded upon abstractions such as liberty and the rights of man could be easily abused to justify tyranny (sic) … and so on and so forth.

Other conservatives have argued in much the same vein. One such, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten – I think it might have been Thomas Carlyle – sums up the conservative philosophy in simple terms: ‘What is, is right.’ For the orthodox conservative, therefore, we must prostrate ourselves before the spirit of the ages, for therein lies true wisdom and good conscience. Hmmm?

Thomas Paine (1736-1809) – The Radical

Mr Paine came from a more radical political tradition. He argued that the current generation needs to be in control of their society, and not under the control and tutelage of a society formed by the past generation, most of which is dead. He argues,

“The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave, is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies. Man has no property in any man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.” He attacks Burke’s motive, saying Burke never believed there would even be a revolution because the French lacked the spirit and the fortitude, “but now that there is one, he seeks an escape by condemning it … Every act and every generation must be free to act for itself, in all cases as did the ages and generations which preceded it.’’ (2)

He continues.

‘’Whether a man reflects on the condition which France was in from the nature of her government he will see other causes for revolt than those which immediately connect themselves with the person or character of Louis XVI. There were, if I may say so express it, a thousand despotisms to be reformed in France, which had grown up under the despotism of monarchy, and became so rooted as to be in great measure independent of it. Between the monarchy and the parliament, and the church, there was a rivalship of despotism, besides the feudal despotism operating locally, and the ministerial despotism operating everywhere. But Mr Burke, by considering the King as the only possible object of revolt, speaks as if France were a village, in which everything which passed must be known to its commanding officer, and no oppression could be acted but what he could immediately control. Mr Burke might have been in the Bastille his whole life, as well as under Louis XVI and Louis XIV and neither one nor the other had known that such a man as Mr Burke existed. The despotic principles of the government were the same in both reigns, though the dispositions of the men were as remote as tyranny and benevolence. (3)

Paine is arguing that these revolutions from below – taking The French Revolution as a prototype – had to be understood in the social and political context that gave rise to such an explosive rebellion. The masses do not make revolutions at the drop of a hat or as if they had nothing better to do. When the steam cooker blows its top it is because the valve had been screwed down too tight for too long. Such is the logic of all revolutions in recent years (other than the fake colour variety). The Iranian revolution of 1979 was, like it or not, another peoples’ revolutionary upsurge which fundamentally changed the existing order – i.e., the western controlled Shah and his SAVAK murderers – for good. And why shouldn’t the Iranian people throw off the yoke of imperialist rule – a despotic regime whose power was mediated through western imperialism’s local vassals?

The Royalist/Aristocratic class rule in France, summed up by the ‘Let them eat cake’ ancien regime, typified the disposition of the old order, and was overthrown in a peoples revolution, and the fact that Edmund Burke wasn’t too keen on it, it was nonetheless a genuine revolution from below; an expropriation of the power and position of the aristocratic ascendency.

In England in the 17th century a conflict arose between who should rule: Parliament or the King. A revolution and civil war between Parliament and Charles 1 began in 1642 which Charles lost as a result of the military victories of the Parliamentary New Model Army led jointly by Oliver Cromwell and Sir Thomas Fairfax at crucial battles – Marston Moor in 1644, and Naseby in 1645 – this was also a revolution. King Charles then lost his head – quite literally – in 1649, for Treason. The war raged on as a Scottish army was defeated at the battle of Dunbar and until 1651 with the final battle of Worcester – when the Royalists effectively threw in the towel – which was another (final) victory for the Parliamentary forces. In passing Thomas Fairfax’s descendants migrated to America and settled in Virginia, there is a suburb in Washington which bears their name – Fairfax.

It is also worth mentioning in this respect that a great number of millenarian, political, religious, and quasi-religious movements were quite common in this period. These were comprised of inter alia Baptists, early anarchist groups, the Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, Quakers. There was much radicalism in the land, and although a period of Reformation followed, Parliamentary sovereignty was eventually established and represented a massive step forward for democracy and ordinary folk.

One would have to ask the question of which of to-day’s conservatives among us whose side would they be on during these upheavals? Cromwell, Fairfax, Parliament and the New Model Army, or the King sitting on his throne, immovable, and granted godly rights to remain there forever by the deity?

Revolution and Consolidation

However, as was the normal historical pattern the usual explosive period of revolutionary fervour was followed by a partial reformation to the earlier status quo. But the push back was never as far back as from its original starting point. The great German social theorist, Max Weber (1864-1920) put it very succinctly when he noted that charismatic authority was over time replaced by legal-rational authority. Most of the gains of the revolution which had now lost its momentum were nonetheless embedded in the new social order. So Charles 1 was replaced by Cromwell who in turn was replaced by Charles 2 but the divine right of Kings was gone, and was ultimately replaced by Parliamentary democracy, Mao Tse Tung was replaced by Chou En Lai, Trotsky was replaced by Stalin. (4)and on and on.

Which brings us to the American revolution. This anti-imperialist Revolution was both an ideological and political event which occurred in colonial North America between 1765 and 1783. The American settlers, with help from England’s arch-enemy the French, whose fleet had bottled up the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.* In the Thirteen Colonies the American militias defeated the British in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), and by so doing gained independence from the British Crown and establishing the United States of America, the first modern constitutional liberal democracy.  The Continental Congress declared King George III a tyrant who trampled the colonists’ rights as Englishmen, and they declared the colonies free and independent states on July 2, 1776. The Patriot leadership professed the political philosophies of liberalism and republicanism to reject monarchy and aristocracy, and they proclaimed that all men are created equal.

Unfortunately in contemporary America, the money-changers – who were the bête noir for FDR – have not only gained access to the temple but have actually taken it over, lock stock and barrel. Worse still the anti-imperialism of a prior era has given way to a dangerous, rampaging, rogue elephant of contemporary American imperialism. But this is not necessarily the end of the story. For good or ill the great wheel of history turns. The last 2 centuries have been tumultuous and uncoordinated affairs and unkind to any of those who wished to lead a quiet life. But like the man said.

‘’Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given, and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.  And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honoured disguise and borrowed language.” (5)

Conservative disengagement

Men make history, history makes men, as Marx noted. But it would appear that present-day conservative thinkers apparently prefer to abstain from history making – a dirty, shoddy business – and retire into an aloof detachment, and taking Voltaire’s advice to cultivate their gardens. This is of course the position of all conservative elites and their paid-up servant polemicists. In the case of the British Empire such elites consisted of Cecil Rhodes, George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Balfour, Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Alfred Milner, Lord Nathaniel Rothschild et al, (see Mathew Ehret – works, in this respect.)

Their apologists were the tribe of conservative scribes past and present including Burke, Hobbes, Ortega Y Gasset, De Maistre, who basically made a living by the simple proclamation that ‘‘All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.’’ This as enunciated in Voltaire’s novel Candide. But such a view is now associated principally with the satire, and so is almost never used sincerely. However it is used to describe this kind of all to common complacent self-assurance that apparent injustice or other evil could not be avoided or was somehow necessary in the grand scheme of things. And that seems to be the essence of conservatism, ancient and modern.

Contemporary spokespersons include (deceased and current) inter alia Michael Oakshott, Peter Hitchens, Peter Lavelle, Roger Scruton, Robert Nozick, Ayn Rand (a particularly toxic specimen) and so forth, the list is extensive. These are often intelligent and literate people, but alas, they seem to spend most of their time agonising about the state of the world and then advocate doing nothing about it. But this is wholly consistent with the entire conservative philosophy. It seems to be an almost monastic calling among conservative thinkers and intellectuals. But history won’t let them rest. The West’s decaying and decadent elites are determined to enforce their will on their respective societies by an all-encompassing and total putsch from above – the Great Reset no less. Yet the conservatives still contend that the world is in the process of being over-run by a revolution carried out by the sans-culottes and énrages of George Soros and his Open Society FoundationThe Atlantic Council the Council For Foreign Relations, The Silicon Valley giants, Google, Apple, Facebook, Visa, The Federal Reserve, The IMF/World Bank The Financial TimesThe New York Times Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Uncle Tom Cobley and All. I have even heard Soros described as a ‘Cultural Marxist’ (sic!) – words fail one! But this is the level of political illiteracy to which we have unfortunately descended. Revolutions are no easy option and,

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.’’ (6)

NOTES

(1) John Stuart Mill – On Liberty, Chapter 2 Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion.

(2) Thomas Paine – The Rights of Man.

(3) Paine – Ibid.

(4) Max Weber – Economy and Society – Ibid.

(5) Karl Marx -The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

*On this day in history, August 30, 1781, the French fleet arrives at the Chesapeake Bay to assist the Americans in their assault on British General Charles Cornwallis and his 9,000 troops at Yorktown, Virginia. The arrival of the fleet under Admiral Francois-Joseph Paul, the Comte de Grasse, played a decisive role in the British defeat at Yorktown.

(6) Thomas Paine – December 1776.

Who is Destroying Lebanon and Why?

December 27, 2020

By Thierry Meyssan
Source: Voltaire Network

Within a few months, Lebanon, often misrepresented as “the only Arab democratic state” or even as the “Switzerland of the Middle East,” has collapsed. Successively, popular demonstrations against the political class (October 2019), a banking crisis (November 2019), a health crisis (July 2020), an explosion at the port of Beirut (August 2020) caused a sudden disappearance of the middle classes and a general decline in living standards of around 200%.

From the Lebanese point of view, this horror would be due to the catastrophic management of the country by the political class, whose leaders would be corrupted except for the leader of the religious community to which the person being questioned belongs. This absurd prejudice reveals an intolerant population and masks the reality.

Since the Ottoman occupation [1], especially since independence in 1942, and even more so since the civil war (1975-90), the Lebanese population has not formed a nation [2], but an aggregate of confessional communities. The Constitution and the Taif Accords allocate all political functions and henceforth all public jobs, not according to the capacities of citizens, but according to community quotas. Each community has chosen its leaders, usually former civil warlords, who have been recognized by the international community. They managed in their own name the subsidies that the former colonial powers offered for their community. They have taken a huge amount of royalties, which they have long since transferred abroad, but they have also distributed very large sums of money to maintain their “clientele” in the image of the ancient Roman senators. It is therefore perfectly stupid to accuse them today of corruption when they have been celebrated for decades for the same work.

This system was maintained by the United States and the European Union. Thus the President of the Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salame, was celebrated as the best money manager in the Western world before being accused of hiding a hundred million dollars in personal accounts in the United Kingdom. Or, the European Union’s High Representative, Federica Mogherini, claimed to be helping Lebanon solve its waste crisis while helping the two former prime ministers, Saad Hariri and Najib Mikati, to embezzle a hundred million dollars of this sum. [3]

Only the Lebanese, who have been kept in a state of political unconsciousness for eighty years and still have not understood what they experienced during the civil war, do not realize this.

How can we fail to notice that the collapse of Lebanon follows those of Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan? How can we fail to notice that in 2001, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his advisor, Admiral Arthur Cebrowski, advocated adapting the mission of the US armed forces to emerging financial capitalism? According to them, it was necessary to destroy all the state structures of all the states of the “Broader Middle East” so that no one – enemy or friend – could prevent the exploitation of the region by US multinationals.

If we admit that this “Endless War” (sic), proclaimed by President George W. Bush, is indeed going on, we must note that the destruction of the state structures of Lebanon was achieved at a lower cost.

However, given the effectiveness of the Lebanese resistance, it was necessary to achieve this objective by non-military means that escaped the vigilance of Hezbollah. Everything had already been decided in April 2019, as attested by the US response to the Lebanese delegation visiting the US State Department [4].

Four coalition powers, the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and France, played a decisive role in this plan.

  • The Pentagon set the objective: to destroy Lebanon and exploit the gas and oil fields (plan of Ambassador Frederic C. Hof).
  • Whitehall set out the method [5]: manipulate the post-Civil War generation in order to liberate the current system without replacing it. Its propaganda specialists thus organized the so-called “October Revolution” which, contrary to what was sometimes believed, was not at all spontaneous. [6]
  • Israel destroyed the economy thanks to its control of all telephone communications (except Hezbollah’s private network) and its presence in the world banking system. It provoked the banking rout by convincing South American drug cartels that had placed their assets in Lebanon to brutally withdraw them. It deprived the country of its economic lung, the port, by bombarding it with a new weapon. [7]
  • France, for its part, proposed to privatize everything that could be privatized and put Saad Hariri back on stage to carry it out. It has applied itself to pouring out fine words while marginalizing Hezbollah [8].

Ultimately, the next twenty years should be devoted to plundering the country, especially its hydrocarbons, while the Lebanese will continue to blame scapegoats and ignore their real enemies. Already, the Israeli port of Haifa has partially replaced that of Beirut. Eventually, the country itself should be divided and the part south of the Litani River attached to Israel. [9]

It should be kept in mind, however, that the USA-UK-Israel-France coalition is not composed of equal states, but is commanded exclusively by the United States. In Libya, the USA alone pocketed the oil pact. Despite the promises made to them, their allies got only crumbs. The same scenario can be repeated in Lebanon. None of their allies could profit from their common crime.

Notes:

[1] Les Libanais ne reconnaissent pas l’Empire ottoman comme une puissance coloniale, ce qu’elle était pourtant. NdA.

[2] Par définition, le Liban n’étant pas une nation ne peut être ni une démocratie, ni une république. NdA.

[3] “EU funds embezzled by Mogherini, Hariri and Mikati”, Voltaire Network, 24 January 2020.

[4] « L’administration Trump contre le Liban », Réseau Voltaire, 2 mai 2019.

[5] Une fuite de documents officiels britannique atteste de ce rôle. Lire Complete infiltrating Lebanon (65,11 Mo). Les résultats ambitionnés ont manifestement été tenus : les Libanais souffrent tellement qu’ils ne voient plus ni l’origine de leurs problèmes, ni les solutions à portée de main, cf. “Taking Lebanon’s Pulse after the Beirut Explosion”, Michael Robbins, Arab barometer, December 15, 2020.

[6] « Les Libanais, prisonniers de leur Constitution », par Thierry Meyssan, Réseau Voltaire, 21 octobre 2019.

[7] “Israel playing with Lebanese people’s nerves”, Voltaire Network, 30 September 2020.

[8] “President Macron’s bad play in Lebanon”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Roger Lagassé, Voltaire Network, 29 September 2020.

[9] “Towards a partition of Lebanon?”, Voltaire Network, 8 October 2020.


Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads

Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads

December 22, 2020

By Francis Lee for the Saker Blog

The referendum on Britain’s vote to Remain or Leave the EU – Brexit – has raised deeper issues than simply whether or not the UK retains its European membership. The real issue is that of the whole Transatlantic bloc from Seattle to Warsaw, its, culture, institutions, politics, and economics has also been undergoing deep structural changes – not necessarily for the good.

The victory of the Leave majority in the first UK Brexit referendum in 2018 and a rerun, which should never have been allowed, of the Remain campaign in the general election of 2019 – both in the face of a massive establishment propaganda blitzkrieg was quite remarkable. The centrist coalition of the centre-right Conservative business class and the still deeply Blairite and third-wayist faction of the overwhelming majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the Trades Union Congress (TUC and most of its affiliated unions) and tens of thousands of rank-and-file woke militants, threw everything but the kitchen sink into their campaign but lost. But even then, the issues had not been settled – that is for the self-appointed, London based, middle-class, parvenues who imagined themselves as carrying the torch for civilization. After what was a definitive verdict – which in both instances was a ‘NO’ to the continued membership of Britain in the EU – there was a vicious counter-attack. It started from the premise that EU membership is an absolute good, the absolute truth, and that any opposition is racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist … and so on and so forth. The fuddy-duddy notion of national sovereignty was of course considered completely de rigueur. Therefore, there is not, nor can there be any legitimate critique of the EU. Argument closed: no engagement or discourse on the subject, just hysterical ranting, and mass cancellation. Sound familiar?

In fact the EU before, during, and after the referendum was hardly the Shangri La imagined by the ‘Remainer’ constituency. At that time, their political and cultural love object was the EU of Manuel Barroso, ex-Maoist, ex-President of the European Commission, now working for Goldman Sachs, Merkel’s pet Russophobe, Donald Tusk, and not forgetting Jean-Claude Juncker, at that time President of the European Commission, who was incidentally involved in a tax avoidance scandal in Luxembourg where he was one-time Prime Minister, and then a litany of other self-serving political mediocrities on the make. The EU is also an economic dead zone (particularly in the peripheral areas of Eastern and Southern Europe) with unemployment rates higher than the UK and growth rates lower.

A veritable economic and political Shangri-la? Yeah, right. Like Lord Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen* the Remainers are putting the telescope to their blind eye: I see no economic and political dead-zone! Maybe they should have gone to Specsavers!

These sentiments are not just conservative, they are downright reactionary and anti-democratic. And the ex-centre-left has played an insidious part in this development. The glaring contrast between the people’s vote for leaving and the vote of the PLP and TUC institutions which supposedly represent them, for remaining, prompted even left observers to conclude that the people, like sheep, had gone astray and handed racist xenophobes a shameful victory. This was the liberal centre-left’s great Brechtian moment when ‘the people should be dissolved and a new one elected.’ The famous German playwright, Bertolt Brecht, was of course making a sardonic comment on the actions of the East German Communist regime in 1953 when it suppressed the workers uprising. It bears a striking similarity to the response by our own neo-totalitarians in 2016. Additionally, the procrastination of the establishment Remainers, which was slowing down the whole exit project, can be thought of as the establishment’s Augustinian moment. St. Augustine ‘’God give me chastity and celibacy, but not yet.’’ the Remainer-speak version being God give me Article 50 but not yet.

In sociological terms the upper-echelons of the liberal class who think that they have the divine right to set the political agenda, represent a sub-hierarchy below the real policy makers and shakers. The 20% beneath the 1%. They tend to be ensconced in the media, academia, professions such as law and medicine, middle-management, financial planners, economists, computer programmers, aerospace designers, and the entertainment business. Quite a number, particularly in business, government, both local and central, advertising, telemarketing, public relations, could be considered to be ‘bullshit jobs’ (in the late) David Graeber’s insightful observation. As a whole this particular social and occupational stratum, look up rather than look down, they serve power not the people. They are Orwell’s Outer party in his 1984 novel, sandwiched between the Inner party and the Proles. Knowing which side their bread is buttered on they identify with and support the Power Elite.

An avant garde leading from the rear, yes. Trahison des Clercs, most certainly but more politically and culturally homogeneous today than as was once the case.

This shell of a once fighting left (now unrecognisable from their previous political and ideological moorings) now embraces the culture of identity but excludes the entity of class. As a result poverty has become the P-word, and the poor the pariahs of neoliberal dystopic utopia. When we talk about class in a Marxist, materialist sense, we are talking about a relation of power, specifically about who does and who doesn’t have power to shape society. Identity politics makes this conflict of interests in society invisible. Neoliberal economics, however, is quite simply class war. It has advanced in part because identity politics depoliticized the public. Is it mere coincidence that the melange of post-Marxism, identity politics, and neoliberal economics saw the light in the same post-sixties decades? Together, they form the heart of the reaction, which is the take-back by the economic elite in the last four decades of every gain the fighting left loosed from the fist of capital before and since World War II. The rapacity of contemporary capitalism is enabled by the weakness, dishonesty, and cowardice of the flaccid and collaborationist left.

On the American side of the pond the same (albeit worse) diseased and morbid social tendencies began to emerge from a decaying body-politic circa 2001 and maybe even before, but the 9/11 was the pinnacle, which was of course no accident. For one of the persistent strands in American political life is a cultish extremism that approaches fascism. This was given expression and  reinforced during the two terms of Barack Obama. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being.” said Obama, who expanded America’s favourite military pastime, bombing, and death squads (“special operations”) as no other president has done since the Cold War.

The American political and social-theorist, Christopher Lasch, now unfortunately no longer with us, succinctly identified the political/cultural shifts in the American polity in the late twentieth-century. (1) America has undergone a profound structural, cultural, and political transmutation: it is not the masses or working class, so much as an emerging sub-elite of professional and managerial types who constitute the greatest threat to democracy, according to Lasch. The new cognitive sub-elite is made up of what Robert Reich called “symbolic analysts’. This middle-class occupational stratum – in the British rather than the American sense – traffics in information and manipulates words and numbers for a living. They live in an abstract world in which information and expertise are the most valuable commodities. Since the market for these assets is international, the privileged class is more concerned with the global system than with regional, national, or even local communities. In fact, members of the new sub-elite tend to be estranged from their communities and their fellow citizens. “They send their children to private schools, insure themselves against medical emergencies … and hire private security guards to protect themselves against the mounting violence against them,” Lasch writes. In effect, they have removed themselves from the common life and have moved offshore.

These tendencies, however, have been observable even before Lasch’s observations. Way back in the middle to late 1950s, the great American theorist C Wright Mills, produced powerful polemics concerning the structure and direction in which the Republic was headed. These tendencies were recognised as early as the 1950s. (2)

He argued:

‘’We cannot assume today that men (sic) must in the last resort be governed by their own consent. Among the means of power that now prevail is the power to manage and manipulate the consent of men … and many people are neither radical nor reactionary, they are simply inactionary. If we accept the Greeks definition of an idiot as an altogether private man then we must conclude that many citizens of mass societies are indeed idiots … History making may well go by default, men may well abdicate its continual making and so merely float along as corks in a bottle of an Ocean drift. The implication of this, however, is that history will indeed be made – but by narrow elite circles without effective responsibility to those who must try to survive the consequences of their decisions and of their defaults.’ (3)

A more recent American social critic, Morris Berman, has also been cognisant of the cultural decline and disintegration of America; indeed it would have been difficult to miss. His caustic analysis on the current state of American Culture – The Twilight of American Culture (4) – makes particularly compelling reading for the English-speaking world. Mr. Berman argues provocatively and incisively that the direction of American civilization is locked into a path which will lead nowhere except into its own demise. The American empire has now borne witness to the passage of its most fruitful and triumphant years and its approaching the future – if it hasn’t already got there – and a period of social and political chaos from which there doesn’t appear to be an exit, or at least a controlled exit. So the controlled exit is about the best route on offer, though only 50/50 at best.

‘’For when a population becomes distracted by trivia, and when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of ‘baby-talk’, when in short, a people become an audience and their public business becomes a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture death is a near (extremely near) possibility.’’(5)

CONCLUSIONS:

The fault-lines, stresses and cleavages in the Transatlantic bloc are becoming increasingly clear both within nations and between nations. In Europe the exit of Britain from the EU and Europe, and the possible defections of Hungary, Poland and Italy. In the United States the strain on the Republic with an increasing and assertive emergence of the South and possible mid-west as well as the drift of coastal America away from flyover America. It could be said that these are simply speculative guesses, but these future possibilities are a little more than simply straws in the wind. For better or worse, big changes are on the way.

Interesting times.

NOTES

(1) Christopher Lasch – The Revolt of the Elites – published posthumously in 1994. The title of the book was taken from the name of a book “the Revolt of the Masses” by the elite theorist Jose Ortega Y Gasset in 1930.

(2) The Power Elite, 1959 and The Sociological Imagination 1956.

(3) C Wright Mills – The Sociological Imagination – Ibid – pps. 51, 195

* The naval Battle of Copenhagen (1801) occurred during the War of the Second Coalition when a British naval fleet commanded by Admiral Sir Hyde Parker defeated a Danish fleet anchored just off Copenhagen. Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson led the main attack. During the battle, he famously is reputed to have disobeyed his senior officer, Sir Hyde Parker’s, order to withdraw by holding the telescope to his blind eye to look at the signals from Parker. The signals had given Nelson permission to withdraw at his discretion. Nelson then turned to his flag captain, Thomas Foley, and said ‘You know, Foley, I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes.’ He raised the telescope to his blind eye saying, ‘I really do not see the signal.’ Copenhagen is often considered to be Nelson’s hardest-fought victory.

(4) Morris Berman – The Twilight of American Culture – published in 2000.

(5) Berman – Ibid., -Introduction.

Leaked files show how UK govt spent millions exploiting Syrian women in cynical PR offensive

RT

18 Dec, 2020 15:17 

Leaked files show how UK govt spent millions exploiting Syrian women in cynical PR offensive
FILE PHOTO: Women stand as they wait their turn to cast the votes inside a polling station during the parliamentary elections in Douma, in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, Syria July 19, 2020 ©  REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow Kit on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

A swath of leaked documents reveals the lengths to which the British government went to paint the Syrian opposition in a flattering light. They also confirm that women unknowingly formed part of this effort.

The leaked UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) documents reveal a variety of covert ways in which London sought to not only propagandize women in Syria, but to exploit them as weapons in a vast information warfare campaign waged at home and abroad.

The papers are among bombshell files released by hacktivist collective Anonymous, which expose a number of cloak-and-dagger actions undertaken by Whitehall against Damascus. Women figured prominently in a number of the plans, which cost the FCO millions of pounds over many years.

‘Outreach initiatives’

The propaganda value of women in conflicts has long-been well understood and cynically exploited by governments.

A leaked US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) memorandum from March 2010 on covert means of increasing flagging support for NATO’s Afghanistan mission noted women in the country “could serve as ideal messengers” in “humanizing” the military occupation, due to their “ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory.”

“Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women…could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the mission,” the document noted. “Media events that feature testimonials by Afghan women would probably be most effective if broadcast on programs that have large and disproportionately female audiences.”

Over a decade later, Afghanistan remains one of the worst countries in the world to be a woman, by some margin.

Roughly a year after that CIA memo was authored, A Gay Girl in Damascus, a blog purportedly written by Syrian-American lesbian Amina Arraf, garnered significant mainstream attention. Widely hailed for her “fearless” and “inspiring” eyewitness reporting, the author was lauded as a symbol of the “progressive” revolution erupting in the country.

In June  2011, Amina’s cousin announced on the blog she (Amina) had been kidnapped by three armed men in the Syrian capital. In response, numerous Facebook pages were set up calling for Amina’s release and ‘liked’ by tens of thousands, #FreeAmina trended widely on Twitter, journalists and rights groups begged Western governments to demand her release, and the US State Department announced it was investigating her disappearance.

Six days later, it was revealed ‘Amina’ was in fact Tom MacMaster, a US citizen residing in Scotland. While corporate news outlets hurriedly rushed to forget all about the hoax they’d so comprehensively fallen for, their appetite for dubious ‘human interest’ stories emanating from the crisis evidently wasn’t diminished.

‘Huge global coverage’

In July 2019, an image of two young Syrian girls trapped in rubble in opposition-occupied Idlib attempting to haul their sister to safety as she dangled off the precipice of a dilapidated building, their father looking on in horror above, spread far and wide on social media.

The photo, snapped by a photographer for Syrian news service SY24, went viral the world over. Unbeknownst to the overwhelming majority of observers, though, SY24 was created and funded by The Global Strategy Network (TGSN), founded by Richard Barrett, a former MI6 counter-terrorism director.

In a file submitted to the FCO, TGSN boasted of how “campaigns” it broadcast via SY24 generated “huge global coverage,” having been seen by “many hundreds of millions of people,” and “attracting comment as far as the UN Security Council.”

SY24 content was produced by a network of ‘stringers’ in Syria that TGSN trained and provided with equipment, including “cameras and video editing software.” The firm drew particular attention to a team of female journalists it had tutored, “who provide about 40 percent of all SY content,” and were part of “a broad ‘network of networks’” enabling TGSN “to drive stories into the mainstream.”

TGSN also established a dedicated centre for training female journalists to produce content for SY24 in Idlib, “accessing stories that male journalists cannot,” which were then shared on social media. It boasted that almost half of SY24’s followers were women, “a remarkably high ratio for Syria-focused platforms.

‘Communications surges’

Carefully cultivating an entirely misleading image of an inclusive, credible ‘moderate’ Syrian opposition was of paramount importance to the FCO – it helped whitewash the barbarous nature of the various ‘rebel’ factions London was backing in the region, while simultaneously engendering support among Western publics for regime change.

In order to engage the “international community” to this end, TGSN, in conjunction with ARK – a shadowy “conflict transformation and stabilization consultancy” headed by veteran FCO operative Alistair Harris – planned“communication surges” around “key dates” such as International Women’s Day.

In a particularly elaborate example of such a “surge,” the pair collaborated on a campaign, ‘Back to School,’ in which young Syrians returned to education while Idlib City Council, opposition commanders, and other elements on the ground concurrently engaged in a “unified” communications blitz, using “shared slogans, hashtags and branding.”

Rebel fighters were sent to “clear roads” and “enable children and teachers to get to schools,” all the while filmed by the pair’s voluminous local journalist network, footage of which was then “disseminated online and on broadcast channels.” Ensuring “female teachers” received sizable coverage in the Western media was a key objective of the campaign.

In many of the leaked files, ARK boasts of the huge network of journalists it trained and funded in Syria, who would cover such PR stunts; their reports in turn fed to the firm’s “well-established contacts” at major news outlets including Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, The Guardian, New York Times, and Reuters, “further amplifying their effect.”

‘Thrust by tragedy’

However, other documents make clear ARK well-understood the immense difficulties inherent in promoting the role of women internally and externally during the crisis.

One file on “[incorporating] the role of women in the moderate opposition” notes Syrian women in rebel-occupied areas faced “an almost overwhelming variety of problems,” and “the space for women to participate in public life has contracted significantly as the conflict has progressed.”

As a result, ARK said it was “extremely aware of the risks of promoting women’s participation beyond currently accepted social norms…given the potential to hinder message resonance or result in a backlash against female participation.” It therefore proposed to “subtly reframe the narrative of women…increasing the amount of coverage of their initiatives and opinions as the context allows.”

One such means of “subtle reframing” was Moubader (which translates to “a person who takes initiative”), a media asset comprising a “high-quality hard copy monthly magazine with widespread distribution across opposition-held areas of Syria,” with a website and Facebook page boasting over 200,000 likes as of December 2020.

Moubader was established by ARK in 2015 specifically to achieve “behavioural change” in readers, at Whitehall’s request. “Given the importance of broadcast television as a trusted source” in Syria, ARK also sought FCO funding to develop a Moubader TV programme to “leverage stories and values to maximum effect and reach an even wider audience.”

Documents submitted to the FCO by another psyops contractor, Albany, similarly noted women’s access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity had “been debilitated” during the crisis, with issues such as early marriage, child military recruitment, and “transactional sex” exacerbated. The UN defines the latter as “non-commercial sexual relationships motivated by an implicit assumption that sex will be exchanged for material support or other benefits.”

Still, Albany considered so many Syrian women having been “thrust by tragedy into head of household and breadwinner positions” over the course of the crisis as a golden opportunity to propagandize them and, in turn, their families, while promoting the ‘inclusive’ nature of the opposition, by creating and partnering with female civil society organizations and journalists.

ARK likewise believed women to be a “critical audience” given the number of Syrian households headed by women –“up to 70 percent”– so sought to ensure they were well-represented in all its domestic and international “broadcast products,” as well as on social media.

‘Jihadis You Pay For’

Unsurprisingly, the files make no acknowledgement of the fact this increasingly hostile environment for women in Syria directly resulted from foreign efforts to destabilise and depose its government.

Islamic State, (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and al-Nusra are rightly notorious for their monstrous treatment of women in the areas which they occupied, which included widespread rape, sexual violence and abduction.

However, many armed opposition groups, backed by foreign powers, whether openly Salafist or not, imposed stringent restrictions on women in the areas they occupied, requiring them to wear hijabs and abayas, doling out extreme punishments for failing to comply, imposing discriminatory measures prohibiting them from moving freely, working, attending school, and more.

There are indications FCO contractors were in close quarters with such activities. For instance, in December 2017 BBC Panorama documentary Jihadis You Pay For alleged FCO cash distributed on its behalf by Adam Smith International (ASI) in Syria ended up in the pockets of Free Syrian Police (FSP) officers who’d stood by passively while women were stoned to death.

The program focused on the Access to Justice and Community Security (AJACS) program, under which ASI funded and trained FSP, an unarmed civilian force set up to reestablish law and order in opposition-controlled areas.

In a perverse irony, leaked ASI files relating to the project indicate it, too, sought to exploit women for propaganda purposes, applying a gender policy to AJACS “which [aimed] to encourage female participation in justice and policing,” and boasting of how, of the 1,868 police officers it trained under the scheme, six – 0.32 percent ­­– were female.

Quite some revolution. As Human Rights Watch notes, prior to 2011, women and girls across the country were “largely able to participate in public life, including work and school, and exercise freedom of movement, religion, and conscience.” While the Syrian penal code and laws governing issues such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance, contains provisions discriminatory to women, the country’s constitution guarantees gender equality.

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ALSO ON RT.COM

Russian President Vladimir Putin Holds Annual Press Conference

Source

December 17, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin Holds Annual Press Conference

Mr Putin answers questions by press representatives and the general public in his annual press conference.  This video is the live stream and we are already 3 hours into the meeting.  I find the translators better than in previous years, but kindly refrain from complaining about quality.  This is what we have currently.  A transcript will be available but will probably take some days.  The video starts at the current time in the conference, so, to listen from the start, move your video back to the start.

Update : a partial transcript is available earlier than usual.  It will be posted here, as the sections become available.

The news conference is being broadcast live by Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, Channel One, NTV and MIR television channels, as well as Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations. Public Television of Russia (OTR) and its site (http://www.otr-online.ru/online/) provide live sign language interpretation of the event.

Representatives of federal and foreign media are working at the World Trade Centre in Moscow. In addition, special platforms have been set up in all federal districts, where representatives of regional media can participate and ask their questions.

The call centre continues to accept questions from individuals. You can ask your question on the website https://moskva-putinu.ru or using the Moskva-Putinu mobile app.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

My greetings to all of you, here in Novo-Ogaryovo, in the call centre and across the regions of the Russian Federation, in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Today we are holding the traditional news conference to wind up this year’s results. Since COVID-19 prevented us from holding the Direct Line live, my colleagues have tried to merge these two events into a single one by introducing elements inspired by the Direct Line format into this news conference so that I can interact directly with people, hear what they have to say, what is going on in the country, and listen to their proposals on what more can be done in order to address matters in the best possible way and find effective solutions to the issues we face and deliver on our objectives.

Allow me to mention that over the past years it has become a good tradition for us to ensure that all the questions we get, and there are hundreds of thousands of them, are answered in one way or another. For that, I would like to thank my colleagues from the Presidential Executive Office, the Government, but first and foremost from non-governmental organisations: the Civic Chamber and the Russian Popular Front, the volunteers who contacted the people who took part in previous Direct Lines, talked to them, discussed the challenges pinpointed by these people, and quite often succeeded in resolving various matters that people were concerned with, and which probably remain relevant to this day.

I very much hope that we will do the same this year. I would like to ask volunteers, the Russian Popular Front to continue this wonderful practice, very useful for the country.

For me, I would like to emphasise, such events are not formal; I highly value them. Even though I have a vast flow of information about what is happening in the country reaching me through various channels, still, there is nothing more valuable than direct communication with the people, with Russian citizens, there is nothing more valuable than hearing their opinions about their lives and concerns, and again, what we need to do in order to have a better life.

You know, I would rather finish my opening remarks here. It would be a good idea to start the Q&A without wasting any more time. I would like to give the floor to Mr Peskov, who is at the call centre now. He will continue to moderate our meeting.

Mr Peskov, please.

Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov: Good afternoon, Mr President. Hello everyone.

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

Dmitry Peskov: We have our participants scattered widely across our vast country, and I suggest we start from the easternmost point.

Vladivostok, please.

Once again, I urge everyone to be brief and dynamic so that as many journalists as possible have time to ask their questions.

Please, Vladivostok, help me out, for a start.

Dmitry Kaistro: Good evening. It is evening here already.

So this is Vladivostok, the capital of the country’s largest federal district, the Far East. There are 50 correspondents here, and you can see how active they are. Each of them has their own established audience and their own questions for the head of state.

I suggest we begin now. We seem to have people here who really have something to say.

Mr Peskov, would you choose who will go first?

Dmitry Peskov: Could you show me the audience, please? Did I see Magadan there?

Dmitry Kaistro: Yes, the young lady in blue.

Lyudmila Shcherbakova: Good afternoon.

Magadan State Television and Radio Company. My name is Lyudmila Shcherbakova.

First of all, I would like to greet you Mr President, and all the spectators and the audience on behalf of Russia’s Far East and Magadan Region in particular.

I have the following question. We all know that this was a challenging year, to an extent that I can hardly find the right words to describe. Still, in your opinion, was this year all bad, or was there something positive as well?

Vladimir Putin: The year was… What do you mean by calling this a bad year? This is like the weather: is it good or bad? Weather is just the way it is. The same goes for the year: it had its ups and downs, as it always happens in life.

Of course, this year brought us a problem that is on everyone’s lips, and is a matter of concern for all of us: the coronavirus pandemic. However, not only Russia, the entire world has been hit by this scourge. We are fully aware of this, since over 70 million people have already been infected by the coronavirus, according to WHO data. This problem has affected all aspects of our lives.

What is a pandemic? It means lockdowns, curbed production, declining passenger and cargo traffic and all that goes with it. Unfortunately, it also means fewer jobs, and lower incomes. This has all become a reality.

At the same time, here is what I wanted to point out. First (and I will try to provide figures to back this up), despite the plethora of challenges we have been facing, and there has been plenty of problems, and we will discuss them today, since this is why we are here, the whole world has been submerged in this ocean of problems. Still, we can affirm in all confidence that we faced up to these problems with dignity and in some ways maybe even better than other countries of the world that have every right to be proud of their economies, social services and healthcare systems.

I have some prompts here (it is not my intention to delve deep into numbers since it sounds boring) to show you where we are right now. At this point in time, Russia’s GDP has fallen by 3.6 percent, which is less than in the leading European, EU countries, and less than in the United States. In some EU countries GDP has so far dropped by as much as 9 percent (I think this is the case in Great Britain).

We have industrial production down 3 percent now – mainly due to oil, because we have made the OPEC Plus deal and began to cut production, and this affected our overall performance. But there is also good news (better in some areas, worse in others, but we do have some improvements): yesterday, my colleagues from the Government reported to me that processing industries (manufacturing) showed 1.1 percent growth in November. This gives us reason to hope that this trend will continue, that we will move forward in this direction.

Over the past few years, our agricultural industry has posted good figures, and now, at the moment, it is somewhere around up 1.8. The Minister said agriculture might not even show a decline for the year, but an increase of up to 2 percent. I hope this will be the case.

Our banking sector is in a very satisfactory condition, with profits estimated at about 1.3 trillion rubles for the year. This definitely testifies to the financial system’s stability.

Real wages. I ask the country’s citizens, try not to be angry with me because what I will say now might not correspond to how people feel in real life; nevertheless, I am going to cite an averaged figure, and it also needs to be taken into account. I hope real wages will grow by about 1.5 percent by the end of the year across Russia, although unfortunately, there will be a decline in real disposable incomes. Why is this happening? What does it mean? Where does this difference come from? This has to do with the declining incomes of individual entrepreneurs, and the resulting changes. Overall, real incomes, unfortunately, will fall by around 3 percent.

Unemployment rate in Russian was 4.7 percent at the beginning of 2020; now, as you know, it has grown to 6.3 percent. We will certainly talk about this later.

Everything we do to support the economy, to support the affected industries, is aimed at maintaining employment. We have [unemployment at] 6.3 percent now, but I hope that over the next year, we will be able to bring it down to the earlier figures.

A positive trade balance can be considered a good indicator. It creates conditions for good macroeconomic development.

Our national debt had been at its lowest at $70 billion, in dollar terms. It shrank by another 10 billion since. We borrow less in foreign markets, while regularly servicing all our loan obligations. Our international reserves have grown. At the beginning of this year, they amounted to 554.4 billion; now, as of December 4, they are already about 587.7 billion. The same holds true for the National Wealth Fund. In ruble terms, it was 7.7 trillion, now it is almost 13.5 trillion. This is significant growth.

There is something I need to draw your attention to. What is an obviously positive part of our economic growth? As much as 70 percent of the Russian federal budget comes from non-oil and gas revenues now. This means, well, we are not entirely off the so-called oil and gas needle, but we are starting to get away from it. Even if someone still likes to think of Russia as a petrol station, they no longer have real grounds for that. Even though the dependence is still strong enough, and we have to bear this in mind.

Finally, this outgoing year is also associated with major national events, such as the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Despite all the difficulties caused by the pandemic, we nevertheless celebrated it properly, with the Victory Parade on Red Square; and the Immortal Regiment march also took place, albeit online. These are all positive aspects.

But most importantly, there is something else I definitely need to mention now, and I would like to thank the citizens of our country for it: even in the most difficult circumstances, we have once again reaffirmed what underlies the Russian identity – people rallying together in the face of a threat. We have seen it all, the work of volunteers, the work of doctors – we bow down before them again as a sign of deepest gratitude – the prevailing attitude in society, people are ready to help and support their neighbours, those especially in need of help and support. That showed a nationwide unity – let alone the We Are Together volunteer campaign, which is just an external manifestation of the internal attitude in society – this, in my opinion, is something that determines our country and is a decisive factor. Once again, I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who took part in those major campaigns.

Thank you.

Dmitry Peskov: I would like to remind everyone that after asking your questions you should change the mike cover for a new one. After all, we must comply with the sanitary rules.

Let us proceed. The Kremlin pool, please, show us Novo-Ogaryovo.

We will give the floor to our largest holding, the VGTRK, Rossiya channel.

Alexei Petrov: Thank you. Alexei Petrov, Vesti news programme, Rossiya TV channel.

Mr President, face masks have become an unpleasant symbol of the times. It is obvious that the pandemic is the main event of the year. My question concerns the situation in the Russian healthcare system. How would you describe its state of readiness? How well has it responded and how well is it responding to the current challenges?

There is an important nuance here. Do you think the situation is being analysed? Are the shortcomings and drawbacks being considered? This includes the shortage and labelling of medications, something that has been spoken about many times, and our social activists have reported about this to you. What is the net result?

Another thing has to do with the primary care system reform. A lot of money has been invested in it. How will it proceed now in the light of the lessons of the pandemic?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding the readiness of our healthcare system. Of course, not a single healthcare system in the world was ready for the scale of the problem we faced. There are simply no such systems. We are analysing everything that is taking place across the world, and we see that there are no such systems. But there are examples of how the pandemic response was organised in Russia. Compared to other countries, although we do have a great number, an ocean of problems, some of which you have mentioned, but compared to what was happening in the world our healthcare system has proved to be more effective.

I will now talk about medicine shortages and other problems – it goes without saying that the problems are still there, and we can see them all. It is evident from the incoming questions, and I can hear it in your question, it suggests that not everything has been resolved. But look, when the pandemic was only just starting, when the very first signals came from our friends in the People’s Republic of China that there was a problem, we reacted immediately at the border, and – I have already said this many times – it bought us time to get prepared, so that when it all hit us on a large scale, we were ready.

It bought us time, we began to quickly deploy the healthcare system proper, as well as other measures to prevent a pandemic, and we did not waste any of that time. The required number of beds for coronavirus patients was 95, we are counting in millions, and the availability was only 50 percent; now we have 125 – sorry, I meant thousands – 125,000, and now we have 177,000 deployed, even 277,000 – a total of 277,000 beds deployed in a fairly short time. During that time, we have built 40 coronavirus centres: 30 of them were built quickly by the Ministry of Defence, and 10 by the regions. Overall, we will have 40, as the last one should be completed in the final days of 2020. This shows our ability to quickly respond to a problem.

Yesterday, when I was inspecting equipment, I spoke to a young woman working as a volunteer: at the time the pandemic began, we had very few doctors or specialists – 8,300, and now, there are 150,000 doctors working with this infection, and total medical staff numbers are more than half a million, some 520,000–530,000, I think.

What happened? We were able to quickly convert some of the medical institutions available for dealing with COVID and set up a retraining system for medical personnel. We introduced bonuses for people working in the ‘red zones’ in order to support our doctors, also 10,000 for senior students of medical universities, and 7,000 each for college students, as you know. We quickly expanded the production of personal protective equipment and suits, and disinfectants to sanitise premises. In some cases, the expansion was dramatic: for example, with the facemasks everyone is sick and tired of by now, we increased production 20 times, and this rarely happens.

Our healthcare system and state governance system in this area have shown that they can quickly mobilise resources, and they have done this. Incidentally, the required amount of medications has doubled. It is true that some regions have problems – I am aware of this and have just received information from the call centre based on what people say. There is a shortage of medications at hospitals, not to mention pharmacies, and free medications are not provided – I will say a few words about this as well. But these are not the same problems that we faced at the beginning. These problems have to do with logistics and purchase and delivery delays, but on the whole our industry has responded well enough.

At the beginning of the pandemic we did not know what we were facing, how to identify or test the disease, what treatment to use, and whether there would ever be an antidote, that is, a vaccine against it.

Just look now: we have moved forward a great deal in all of these areas. Russia is one of the world’s top three countries for COVID testing, and the WHO believes that mass testing is a way to deal with the problems created by the spreading infection. Take medications: we are now producing domestic medications in the necessary amount. And lastly, vaccination: Russia is the first country in the world to create and produce a vaccine, or vaccines created at the Gamaleya National Research Centre and at the Novosibirsk-based Vektor Centre. These are good vaccines, as I have said on numerous occasions, safe and effective: their efficacy rate is over 95 percent, approaching 96 or 97 percent, according to experts, and not a single case of serious side effects has been reported.

Thankfully, our foreign colleagues have changed their attitude towards us and are ready to collaborate in the areas where it is not working out for them. The Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca is ready to work with us, and is in the process of signing a corresponding agreement. This is very good; I am really glad when top-notch specialists – this is a large and good company with a global reputation – join forces, including with their Russian partners. I have no doubt that this will have a very good result not just for our citizens, but for the world as a whole.

Everything I have said just now shows that although there are quite a few problems, our healthcare system has responded appropriately to the threats our citizens faced.

Turning to the question on primary healthcare, it is true, of course, that we had to channel the necessary resources into what I have just mentioned, fighting the coronavirus, helping doctors, volunteers, students, etc., and acquiring the required manufacturing capability as soon as possible. We have postponed the effort to upgrade primary healthcare, without forgetting about it or placing it on the back burner. Instead of launching this undertaking on July 1, we will begin on January 1, and all the resources that were to be spent on this programme will be engaged within the timeframe set out in the programme. This is 500 billion rubles from the federal budget and another 50 billion from regional budgets. Over the next three years or so, some 300 billion rubles will have been made available and used.

We have started improving some aspects of primary healthcare. This includes buying motor vehicles, for example. We need these vehicles right now, as I can see from the questions we have been receiving, but this is also part of the programme to develop primary healthcare.

Since we are on this topic, I would like to say that ensuring that all people enjoy access to medical services is what the efforts to develop primary healthcare are all about. I know that there are many issues here that need to be resolved without delay. This will be our priority. Of course, this is also about personnel training, infrastructure, etc.

As for your question on how to respond to challenges that arose in the course of the fight against the pandemic and have yet to be resolved, of course, we are looking into these issues. In this context, let me reiterate that our event today is essential since it provides us with massive feedback from all regions across the country, giving us a picture of what is being done in specific regions of the Russian Federation, and allowing us to respond to these developments and fine-tune our actions.

We can draw the obvious conclusion that we need to move towards building a better sanitary and epidemiological service and reforming it. We need to understand how many specialised hospital beds we need and in what regions, and how many specialists are required. This programme is ready by all accounts, and we will make it a reality.

Dmitry Peskov: Let’s move on. Ura.Ru.

Anton Olshannikov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

My name is Anton Olshannikov, from the Ura.Ru news agency.

The epidemic is a problem indeed, but life goes on, and in this regard, I have this compound question about life, concerning elections, the big campaign we are going to have next year.

How do you think this upcoming political campaign will differ from the last one? What will the political landscape be like in the country?

The second part of my question is about the old mainstream opposition parties. Isn’t it time for them to make way for young parties, and do these young parties even have a chance, given how they have shown themselves at the municipal elections?

And the last part of my question is about external interference. It is obviously quite possible, especially since this campaign is so important. How do you intend to block this interference?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: As for the 2021 parliamentary elections, there will be a few differences, of course, mainly because we have adopted amendments to the Constitution – this is my first point. This means that the parliament now has more powers in a number of areas, including in forming the Government of the Russian Federation. You know, I would like to repeat this again, the State Duma now in fact makes the final decision not only regarding the Prime Minister, but also on cabinet ministers and deputy prime ministers.

The President must sign the personnel decisions adopted by parliament. And this – I do not think everyone has fully realised this yet – this greatly augments the importance of the deputy corps’ work, of their responsibility to the country, including for the work of the Government. This link between parliament and the Government is extremely important, I think. This is the first point.

Second, about the new parties and whether the old political heavyweights should cede their places to them. This is not for the new parties or for the political heavyweights, that is, the traditional parties, but for our citizens, the voters to decide. They will decide at the elections which parties to support. But does our political system, which continues developing, offer an opportunity for more political forces and parties to participate in the general election campaigns? Yes, it does. I think, no, I am sure that next year up to 16 parties will be taking part in the elections without collecting signatures, as far as I am aware. This is because in accordance with our legislation they have won seats in several Russian regions and therefore have the right to try their hand on the national political stage.

I wish them every success, but I would like to repeat that it is for the voters to decide whom to elect. I would like to note in this connection that the traditional parties are well known and have been represented in parliament for many years. It should be said that different, sometimes widely different views are expressed in parliament, where heated debates are held on a number of priority matters facing the country. At the same time, nearly all these parties act patriotically in the interests of the nation while offering their own solutions to the problems the country is facing. Approaches and ways to address problems may differ, but the goal of all our traditional political parties is the same – the welfare and development of the country.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us move from Moscow to Siberia now. Novosibirsk, you have an opportunity to ask your question.

Anton Vernitsky: Mr President, you have mentioned Novosibirsk as a centre where one of our vaccines has been created. Allow me to take Mr Peskov’s place now and act as a moderator. Can I choose who will ask the question? The thing is that I have seen a poster with the word “vaccine” on it. Go ahead, please, but first introduce yourself.

Lyudmila Keibol: Lyudmila Keibol, Altai Territory.

Mr President, I would like to ask if you have been vaccinated. What do you think about compulsory vaccination if there are not enough pilot vaccine doses in the regions? The epidemiological situation is quite complicated in Altai Territory.

And one more question: will we have enough vaccine doses in Russia if we help out other countries?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Look here. I urge everyone to pay close attention to specialists’ recommendations. I see, Lyudmila, that you have put on a mask. This is great. And you have gloves as well.

Specialists are telling us that the vaccines that are now coming into civil circulation are designed for people in a certain age group. So vaccines have not yet reached people like me. Let me repeat that I am a law-abiding person in this sense, I follow the recommendations of our specialists, therefore I have not been vaccinated yet. But I will do it as soon as it becomes possible. This is the first point.

Now the second one: I hear from specialists that it is necessary to have an interval between, say a flu shot and the coronavirus vaccine. Some of them say it should be two weeks whereas others insist it should be at least four weeks. I am referring to the coronavirus vaccine.

The third point is about the need for a large-scale or universal vaccination campaign. I think it must be done. It is not only Russian virologists who say this but also their colleagues practically throughout the world. Mass vaccination is one of the few ways of dealing with all pandemic-related issues. It is this vaccination that will create nationwide, community immunity. And let me repeat once again: our vaccine is effective and safe. Therefore, I do not see any reasons for rejecting it.

Finally, the next issue that is related to aid to other countries, as you put it. First of all, as I have always said and will say it again because I want all people in this country to hear me, our task is to carry out vaccination inside the Russian Federation. There are some issues in this respect.

What are they? The vaccine itself and its components are good. But we are still short of the hardware, the equipment for producing the amount of the vaccine we need. I believe 70 million people have already got flu shots. This is large-scale vaccination all over the country. This is what we must also do to counter COVID-19. But to produce this vaccine, we need corresponding plants, companies and equipment. We will build them. I assume that all plans in this respect will be carried out. Next year, in the very beginning, we will already have millions of vaccine doses and we will keep increasing its production on and on.

With regard to cooperation with other countries, since we need time in order to boost the technological capabilities of our enterprises to produce the vaccine, nothing is preventing us from producing the components of this vaccine in other countries, which will invest their own money into expanding their production capacities and purchasing the corresponding equipment. This is what I am talking about. In no way does this interfere with vaccinating the public in Russia. On the contrary, it will even improve the final quality of the product, since increasingly it will be mass produced.

Anton Vernitsky: Mr President, let us continue the tradition Mr Peskov started here. (Addressing Lyudmila Keibol) We would like to present you with a microphone windscreen. The fact is that you used the microphone without wearing a mask. Now you have it, so go ahead and use it.

Vladimir Putin: You are a perfectionist, I would say. But never mind.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us visit the call centre.

Nailya Asker-Zade: The call centre has received many pandemic-related questions, as well as questions about the doctors’ work during this challenging period. These questions were handled by a medical worker and volunteer Alevtina Kiselyova. She worked five months as a general practitioner at an outpatient clinic and saw COVID-19 patients.

Good afternoon, Alevtina,

Tell us what Russia’s citizens are complaining about.

Alevtina Kiselyova: Good afternoon,

We received many complaints about serious problems, including testing, getting a home visit by a doctor, and a lack of medications in both pharmacies and hospitals. At times, people waited over a week for an ambulance to arrive.

I also handled messages from the “red zone” doctors, which I would like to focus on.

Doctors from the town of Kola, Murmansk Region, and the town of Kachkanar, Sverdlovsk Region, have not once been paid a bonus for working with COVID-19 patients. The last time the bonus was paid to the military hospital personnel in Nizhny Novgorod and the doctors at an infectious disease hospital in the city of Tver was September.

We have received many requests from those who are risking their lives just as doctors but do not receive any additional payments for this. These are the support personnel – lift operators, cleaning staff and canteen workers. They are working in the risk zone, and the operation of the “red zone” would be impossible without them. I feel sorry for those who are at the forefront of the war against the pandemic but do not feel appreciated.

Mr President, we have a large number of questions regarding this, and we can give them to you so that you would issue instructions on dealing with every one of them. Mr President, is it possible to settle this problem?

Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Alevtina, was it you I talked with yesterday?

Alevtina Kiseleva: Yes, I talked with you yesterday.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

I have a question from the call centre, possibly from you, from the Ryazan Region: “We live in a small town, and we never have access to medications, free medications. Why do coronavirus patients have to pay for their medications? They said that confirmed cases would receive free medications, but we do not. Everyone I know is buying their own medications. Where is the money?” I would like to know this too. It is from Vladimir Korshunov, Ryazan Region.

Alevtina, this is what I would like to tell you and all those who have sent in their questions, including Mr Korshunov. We have indeed allocated 10 billion rubles to the regions for a prompt response to arising problems connected with the purchase of PPE and the preparation of medical centres and facilities for dealing with COVID. We have also allocated 5 billion rubles, or even slightly more, for the provision of free medications to those who receive treatment at home.

As for the Ryazan Region, I know for sure that all the approved allocations have been transferred from the federal budget to the region. It is not clear why these medications are not provided to the people; we will definitely look into the matter. Here is the procedure for receiving free medications: notify your outpatient clinic, which should confirm the diagnosis and provide the necessary medications.

Alevtina, we will systematise the complaints that you received, and respond to other similar complaints and requests. To reiterate, we gave 10 billion to the regions for institutions and personal protective equipment, and 5 billion to help people directly. Of course, we will investigate where this money went. All the money from the federal budget was made available to the regions. Some governors – I am in constant contact with all of them – are reporting back to me that the money is being disbursed. There may be, of course, isolated irregularities, I hope that this is the case. Judging by the number of complaints, though, these are not isolated instances, but a widespread problem. We will definitely take a closer look at it.

Alevtina Kiselyova: Thank you very much.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us go back to the World Trade Centre.

Introduce yourself, please.

Pyotr Marchenko: MIC Izvestia, REN TV channel.

Good afternoon, Mr President,

Thank you for the vaccine. Above all, thanks go to the researchers. However, talk about fighting the pandemic has overshadowed the issue of the origin of that scourge. The debate continues until now, with the United States accusing China, and China accusing the United States of the virus being man-made or non-man-made. What do we know about it? Perhaps you ordered the special services to get on it and find out the source of the problem?

Vladimir Putin: There are many rumours regarding its origin. I do not feel like discussing this in front of the entire country and the whole world, especially since we do not have any evidence to back up these accusations. I think we need to join our efforts in combating the problem rather than look for the culprits. Cooperation will be the right thing to do. This is my first point.

Secondly, some of our Western partners never stop emphasising that they adhere to humanistic principles in their domestic and foreign policies. So, we should think about how to help the people in particularly difficult circumstances and lift trade restrictions and sanctions for the countries and areas of cooperation that are critical for overcoming the pandemic fallout. Perhaps restrictions on supplying medications, medical equipment and doctor training should be lifted in the first place. This is what everyone should be thinking about rather than looking for the culprits.

I have to note that, fortunately, we are developing cooperation with many countries, including the People’s Republic of China, at the level of specialists, regional heads and at the federal level.

As for the tasks assigned to the special services: there are many various tasks, of course, but I believe this is not the right place to discuss how these tasks are fulfilled.

One of the earlier questions was about possible interference in our elections. I am sorry, I did not respond to it, but not because I do not want to answer it. I just thought there are other issues that are more important, and focused on them. But this is a general question. Of course, they will try to interfere, they always do, and not only in our elections, but almost all over the world. This is global policy. Just like there are bases all over the world, there is interference on a worldwide scale. We know about it and are getting ready for it. But we will be able to efficiently block it only if the overwhelming majority of our citizens understand that a) it is interference, b) we must counteract it, and c) it is unacceptable and we must determine our destiny ourselves.

It is very important that our society feels this. Therefore, the sentiments of internet bloggers, the sentiments of the media and their intention to protect themselves is a crucial thing, the protection of our sovereignty. At the same time, of course, we are open to cooperation with our partners and international observers.

I think there is no such transparency anywhere else in the world. In some US states, you know, there are over a dozen states where it is prohibited for any foreign observers to attend the elections. We are nothing like that. On the contrary, we are open, we will work, and observers inside the country are working actively, including public organisations, the Civic Chamber, and others, and they are allowed to take part as observers. There are more opportunities for political parties and the media to observe the political processes inside the country, as it was before. We will definitely boost this activity to make our citizens confident that the elections are open and transparent and that their results should be respected.

Dmitry Peskov: We will stay at the World Trade Centre. Alexander Gamov, one of the most prominent members of the presidential pool, go ahead, please.

Alexander Gamov: Mr President, first, thank you very much for holding this countrywide gathering, I almost called it a Union-wide one, since it is so great for us to come together at this time and get an opportunity to tell you the truth.

In general, you know that the coronavirus has dealt a heavy blow to the standard of living of many people. I come from the regions, and I get a lot of phone calls from there with people saying that they find it extremely difficult to get by, worse than ever before: poverty is on the rise, and poor people are getting even poorer, with unemployment, the falling ruble, growing prices and higher mortality. Also, I wanted to tell you that prices have been gradually increasing since about September or August. Why did it take until December to start talking about it? A minister would not sweat until cornered by the President, it seems.

Could you tell us, please, whether there is a programme for resolving the issue with growing prices within a week, as you have said? Does the President or the Government have a programme to help Russia in the coming weeks?

Thank you very much. I represent the Komsomolskaya Pravda website, radio station and newspaper. Alexander Gamov.

Vladimir Putin: As I have said at the outset, this is a challenging situation. When I said that the pandemic caused the shutdown of several manufacturers, rising unemployment and a decline in disposable incomes, these were not empty words, and not something that can be overlooked. This means that we see and understand what is going on.

You said that things have never been as hard as they are today. This is not so. In 2000, 29 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Almost one third of the country earned less than the subsistence level. One person out of three lived below the poverty line earning less than the subsistence level.

In 2017, we had 12.3 percent of the population below the poverty line. Unfortunately, today this level increased to 13.5 percent, due to all these problems. Of course, 20 million people is still too many.

You asked me whether there is a plan. Of course, there is a plan. Reducing the number of people below the poverty line is one of our key priorities. Let me elaborate on this subject.

First, here is the plan: by 2030, we need to bring down the share of the population living in poverty from the current 13.5 percent to 6.5 percent. Having 6.5 percent of the population earning less than the subsistence level is still not good, but we need to be realistic. This is a far-reaching, but feasible goal. This is the first point I wanted to make.

Now about prices. It is true that some prices are growing for objective reasons, for example, because the cost of their component parts has increased due to changes in the exchange rate. This is inevitable. Some products are only assembled in Russia, and we are now paying more for a large share of component parts, which have become more expensive because the ruble has slumped a bit.

But when the price hike is not related to objective reasons, this provokes a painful reaction. This is what made me angry, frankly speaking. For example, although we had a record large harvest this year, the largest harvest in the past six years – it will be 131 million tonnes and possibly even 134 million tonnes this year, yet bread and pasta prices are growing. How is that? Why? This is the first thing I wanted to say.

Second, sugar. I was told in the past that we should do something about cane sugar so as to support our own producers. We did so, in a number of ways, but not because we wanted to create a shortage on the domestic market. The minister has told me that we produce enough sugar for domestic consumption. But how can it be enough if sugar prices have soared by 75 percent?

Or take sunflower oil: prices have grown by 17 percent. Is there a shortage of sunflower seeds? No. There is also plenty of that. Why did it happen then? Because prices have grown on the global market, and so our producers increased exports and started adjusting domestic prices to global ones, which is absolutely unacceptable.

This is why we had such a tough discussion. The Government has responded. The main thing now is not to go too far with disciplinary action. This should have been done before with market measures; we should have adjusted the import duty, and this would have solved the problem. These are well known instruments, but they should be used on time. I hope we will do this now.

Contracts have been signed or will be signed – I think they have already been signed – between producers and retail chains: producers will bring down their prices to a certain level, and the retail chains should do the same for basic foods.

Of course, prices need to be monitored, and we will certainly do this. I hope to see the required changes within days, or weeks at the most.

Now about what can and must be done and what we are doing to help the people in this difficult period.

To begin with, we have substantially increased unemployment benefits since the unemployment rate has grown from 4.7 percent to 6.3 percent. This is common knowledge.

But the most difficult situation is taking shape in families with children, and we have created a whole programme to support families with children: from zero to 1.5 years, from 1.5 to three years and from three to seven years old. We have introduced an allowance for toddlers from zero to 1.5 years, and the rules are as follows: if every family member receives less than two subsistence minimums (at first, it was was 1.5, but later we expanded this programme and now it covers more people), such families are entitled to receive one child subsistence minimum for every child. As for children from 1.5 to three years of age, if their parents’ incomes are below these levels, they can receive the same payments but from the maternity capital: we have given them the right to receive these funds from the maternity capital. And, finally, for children aged between three and seven years we have introduced the following rule: if the income of each family member is below the subsistence minimum, they will start getting half of the subsistence minimum per each child. However, we decided from the very start to analyse this situation and see how it will affect the incomes of families. If not all families reach one subsistence minimum per member, starting January 1, that is, in two weeks from now, we will be already paying them one subsistence minimum for every child.

These are, so to speak, urgent measures to support Russian families. I did not mention lump sum payments for all children under 16.

And then there is support for the labour market. We will probably talk about it later on, and I will speak about it separately, so as not to drag out the answer to your question. However, this is certainly one of the key issues, therefore I allow myself to devote more time to it.

But the main point, of course, is that we need to develop the economy, reach the national development goals and implement national projects that contain these goals, create new jobs, raise the economy to a new level meeting the latest requirements, as well as develop artificial intelligence, digitisation and modern production lines that would allow people to have interesting jobs and receive decent incomes. The entire package of our measures envisaged by the national projects is aimed at reaching these goals.

Dmitry Peskov: Let’s not forget about the regions.

Yekaterinburg, please. We have not had any questions from Yekaterinburg yet.

Olga Armyakova: Colleagues, good afternoon. This is Yekaterinburg, the capital of the Urals.

We are broadcasting from the office of the presidential envoy, where journalists from all over the Ural Federal District have gathered. Accreditation has been approved for 70 journalists, but only 69 are present now. We learned why just a minute ago. Colleagues, I must share this with you: a journalist from a local news agency could not come to the news conference because she had a son yesterday. I think that is a good reason, and that you, Mr President, will accept it. As for the others, you can see that they are all ready to leap into action, to ask their questions.

Mr Peskov, what will we do? Will you choose the questions yourself?

Dmitry Peskov: Can you show me the room?

Olga Armyakova: Yes, of course.

Dmitry Peskov: Show me the room, please.

Right there, in the front row, with the “Waste” poster. Let’s have your question.

Olga Armyakova: The front row, please, go ahead.

You can remove the face mask, and don’t forget to introduce yourself. And then ask your question.

Olga Balabanova: Good afternoon, Mr President. Olga Balabanova from Magnitogorsky Metall newspaper, Magnitogorsk.

I have an environmental question, about waste management reform. As everyone is aware, it was officially launched in January 2019, but in fact it began long before that, five years ago. At any rate, a concession agreement was signed and a project was drafted in my city in 2015, but it came to a halt at the government expert review level. It looks as if they have started building [the recycling plant] now.

Why is the reform, which is vitally important for the whole country, dragging on in all regions, and what can be done about this?

Vladimir Putin: I do not think it is dragging on, this reform. There are many problems with organising production but the reform itself is proceeding.

There are several large objectives.

First, we must create a new industry, full-cycle production, when waste is not taken to landfills but recycled for use in other sectors. This is the first objective.

Second, we must ensure proper waste sorting so that by 2030 waste can be separated into different groups for subsequent recycling.

Currently, one of the tasks for the organisers of all this work is to ensure that manufacturers and packaging companies carry more responsibility so that the burden of waste disposal could shift from customers to packaging producers.

Overall, this is a practice typical almost everywhere in the world, and we will adhere to this very practice. For example, in car manufacturing, we charge a recycling fee. It works in our country and in the rest of the world. The same needs to be done in these areas.

I assure you that the Government is dealing with this, as are regional authorities. And they will continue to work on this, no question about that. We allocate substantial resources for these efforts, and there is a solid plan. This money will not be reassigned to any other purpose, and this work will be completed according to plan.

Since you are from Magnitogorsk, you know, one of the questions I have here has to do with Magnitogorsk and atmospheric emissions. The person asking the question wrote about what is happening in Magnitogorsk in relation to atmospheric emissions. Frankly speaking, I was a bit surprised because I know that over the past few years, the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works has invested significant resources into upgrading its production facilities with the specific intention of reducing emissions and, according to the reports I received, the emissions have indeed decreased. And then I read this.

Olga, what do you think? What is happening in Magnitogorsk in terms of atmospheric emissions?

Olga Balabanova: Perhaps, as a patriot (I work for a newspaper associated with this plant), I believe that if waste treatment facilities were built, it is not a window you can open or close, as one of my friends says. It is an entire complex of facilities. My fellow residents may tear me to pieces for my words, but I think that many people take the fog they can see over the left riverbank for smog. In fact, the tank was separated from the plant with a closed circuit system. The water there is warm and does not freeze, which often produces fog. People look at it from the right bank and think that they see smog over the left bank. There are other production facilities in the city, such as a poultry factory, that may produce the smell that people often notice. But I do not think that the situation is as critical as they like to inflate it on social media.

Vladimir Putin: Right, but this inquiry did not come from social media but from a specific person in Magnitogorsk. It is not social media.

Olga Balabanova: We read about this on social media as well. Perhaps there is a problem, but the plant is dealing with it, and I do not think these are just idle promises.

Vladimir Putin: I asked because I know that the plant has invested heavily in reducing emissions, much more than other metallurgical production centres. And in fact emissions have gone down, when measuring in tonnes. So, this came as a surprise to me. It seems that this matter does deserve some attention in general.

Speaking about the environment, we are working on deploying a network of sensors across the country where polluters are especially active. Metallurgical production centres will be first on the list, and the system will be paid for by the companies themselves. I believe we will act accordingly in Magnitogorsk, and we will closely monitor, probably in a more objective manner what is happening there.

Thank you very much.

You know, there was a question earlier, if I may interrupt our presenters, on teachers’ salaries. “A top-category teacher in a rural area working 18 hours, which is full-time employment for a teacher, earns the same salary as a cleaning lady at the same school” – this is what Sergei Stepanchenko wrote us. This is a burning issue. This is why I picked it from this folder with many similar questions.

Do you see what has happened here? I will tell you what happened and what needs to be done.

Why did this happen? We took a decision that the minimum wage cannot be below the subsistence level, which led to an increase in salaries. This led to what you mentioned in your letter: the minimum wage cannot be less than the subsistence level, so the minimum wage went up, and a cleaning lady no longer earns less than minimum wage. She now has a higher salary. This had to be accompanied by an increase in salaries for other categories, but it was not done due to budget constraints. But the government will have to do this regardless. For this reason I would like to draw the Government’s attention to the fact that this state of affairs is far from normal.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us go back to the World Trade Centre. We gave the floor to the most seasoned journalist here, now I want to give the floor to an aspiring journalist. I saw Sergei Shnurov there. Please give him the microphone.

Sergei Shnurov: Good afternoon, Mr President,

Sergei Shnurov, RTVI international channel.

I will leave the high-profile questions about Navalny to my colleagues, I will be nicer this time. Since I work for an international channel, my question is as follows: why did Russian hackers not help Trump get reelected? Have they all gone to the Silicon Valley already? No one is left behind, as you like to say. What kind of job can Trump count on now? Will you provide him with shelter if he asks for political asylum, like Snowden? This was an open-ended question coming from the channel.

Now, a question from me: how can an ordinary Russian, someone representing the majority of the population in our country, describe this life without using profane language?

Vladimir Putin: I will start with the final part of your question. Just go back to the classics of Soviet cinema. Remember, when you have a radiator section land on your foot, you should say, “you dirty so-and-so?” instead of using curse words. Russian is rich enough to let anyone get his or her message across clearly and intelligibly, without resorting to the strong language you referred to.

I want to thank you for not using it now, as you sometimes do, as I understand, from stage, addressing large audiences. Thank you very much for being courteous today.

Why did Russian hackers not help Trump get reelected? I believe that this is not so much a question as a provocation. Russian hackers did not help the incumbent president of the United States to get elected the first time around and did not interfere in the domestic affairs of that great power. This is nothing but speculation and an excuse to degrade relations between Russia and the United States. This is an excuse to not recognise the incumbent US president’s legitimacy for domestic US considerations. In this sense, Russia-US relations have become hostage to domestic politics in the United States.

I believe that, primarily, this is bad for the United States, but it is up to them, let them do as they please. We believe that the president-elect will figure out what is going on. He is a seasoned politician both in domestic and foreign affairs. We look forward to the new administration resolving at least some of the existing problems.

I do not think Mr Trump will need to look for employment. Almost 50 percent of the people voted for him, if you count the number of registered voters, not electors. He relies on a fairly large base in the United States and, as far as I understand, is not going to leave his country’s political scene.

Dmitry Peskov: Let us now turn to Novo-Ogaryovo and the Kremlin pool reporters, who are in the same room with the President.

LIFE, go ahead please.

Alexander Yunashev: Good afternoon, Mr President.

I will take the advice from the young reporter. A number of interesting investigative reports have been released lately, for example, about your daughter, your former son-in-law Shamalov and other people who are allegedly close to you. This week the Alexei Navalny investigation also came out. Could you tell us why a criminal investigation into his poisoning and who did it has not been launched until now?

Vladimir Putin. I see.

It is no surprise that these fake news stories emerge. It has always been this way and always will. There is a battle unfolding in the media space. Nothing new here. Do you remember the terrible developments in the Caucasus and efforts to fight international terrorism? How was yours truly portrayed by the international media and, unfortunately, in Russia as well? Remember how they portrayed me with fangs? I remember all this very well. Still, I have invariably proceeded from the premise that I need to be doing what I believe to be right for our country. When I do something, I do it not for the sake of pleasing someone abroad. This is the first part of my answer.

The second part has to do with my close ones. This report is impossible to read. I flipped through it, since it talks about me, it seems, but it is such a cut-and-paste job, with so many things piling up, that I was unable to finish reading it. What did I want to point out in this regard? The report keeps repeating “the president’s son-in-law” over and over again. At the end, however, he is referred to as the former son-in-law. This is the first thing I wanted to say. Still, in the text they keep driving home the message that he is my son-in-law. So this goes for point one.

The second point is about “President Putin forbidding the elite to hold overseas assets.” There is no ban preventing the elite from holding assets abroad. Public servants cannot have financial assets abroad. This was the right thing to do. They cannot hold accounts or other financial assets abroad. The company in question is 100-percent private. The state does not own a single share in it.

The next question: who received shares in this company and how? It turns out that the company released a statement on this matter and what it thinks about these allegations. The company had a compensation scheme for its senior executives, and Mr Shamalov received stock just like all other senior executives. There are also other programmes for executives at a different level, and they received stock following a different scheme. Nothing special here.

But ultimately, in my opinion, the most important thing is this: just now, aspiring journalist Shnurov asked about our hackers. What is written in the beginning? Note that it says that an unknown, anonymous person is pursuing goals we do not understand and then, apparently, this anonymous person is tracked down. What do I mean? It is said that what happened is similar to the events in 2016 when outlawed Russian hackers associated with Russian military intelligence hacked US Democratic Party members’ emails. Here is your anonymous person. I think we know who that is. Who called these hackers outlaws associated with Russian military intelligence? It was the US Department of State and US intelligence agencies, which are in fact the authors. At any rate, it is completely obvious that it was done upon their instructions. This is the first thing.

The second is that the reference to the insinuation that our hackers, as they believe, interfered with US domestic policy in 2016 means that the purpose of this is clear. The purpose is to take revenge and try to influence public opinion in our country in order to interfere, of course, with our domestic politics. This is absolutely obvious. It is absolutely obvious to me and, I think, it will also become clear to the majority of readers if they pay attention to the things I have just mentioned.

But to this end, I would like to emphasise the following:

One should be driven by… now I want to address those who ordered these publications, not those who actually wrote them. I know that if they get an assignment from intelligence services they have to write it. But those who order these kinds of articles, should not be driven by revenge or act on the assumption of alleged exceptionalism; instead, they should develop relations with their international partners based on mutual respect and the fundamental standards of international law. Then we will be able to achieve shared success in the areas that are essential to all of us.

Now, with regard to the patient of a Berlin clinic. I have already mentioned it many times, and can repeat only certain things. Mr Peskov told me just yesterday about the latest speculations in this regard concerning our special service officers’ data and so on. Listen, we are perfectly aware of what this is all about. It is about legalisation the first time around and now. This is not about an investigation. This is about legalising the materials from the US special services.

Do you really think we are unaware of the fact that they are tracking locations? Our special services understand this well and are aware of it. Officers of the FSB and other special services are aware of it and use telephones whenever they believe they should not be hiding their location, etc. But if this is so – and rest assured that this is so – it means that this patient of a Berlin clinic has the support of the special services, those of the United States in this particular case. And if this is the case, then it gets interesting and the special services should, of course, be looking after him. However, this does not mean at all that he must be poisoned. Who cares about him? If they really wanted to, they would have, most likely, carried it through. His wife addressed me, and I gave the green light to have him treated in Germany that very second.

There is one important thing that the general public is not paying attention to. It is a trick to attack the people at the top. Those who perform it thus propel themselves up to a certain level where they can say: see who I am talking to? I am a person of the same calibre, so treat me as a person of nationwide importance. It is a well-known trick that is used in political dealings around the world.

I think, though, that something else, not these tricks, should be used to gain people’s respect and recognition. You need to prove your worth either by doing something important or by putting together a realistic programme with specific goals that can be implemented in a particular country, Russia, in this particular case.

I urge the opponents to the current government and all political forces in our country to be led not by personal ambitions, but by the interests of the people of the Russian Federation, and to come up with a positive agenda in order to overcome the challenges facing the country. And we have many of them.

Dmitry Peskov: Moving on to Rostov-on-Don.

Go ahead, please.

Aina Nikolayeva: Good afternoon, Mr President. Good afternoon, colleagues.

We are here at Don State Technical University. This is where the staff for the region’s major manufacturers like Rostselmash is educated. But today we have people with a humanities bent, mostly my colleagues, journalists. If you allow me, I will not waste your time anymore and pass the microphone to them.

Sofia Brykanova: Good afternoon.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to ask a question.

Mr President, I have what has become a traditional question for your news conferences, about Donbass. It is invariably relevant to our region.

Aina Nikolayeva: Please, introduce yourself.

Sofia Brykanova: I am sorry. Sofia Brykanova, Don-24 news agency.

I have the following question: what prospects do you see for settling the conflict in Donbass and what, in your opinion, does the future hold for Russian-Ukrainian relations?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding the future of Russian-Ukrainian relations, this largely depends on the Ukrainian government, rather than Ukraine itself, I would say. After all, all the preceding heads of state, just as the current one, Vladimir Zelensky, came to power with slogans on unifying the country, which, at the end of the day, included building a relationship with Russia. But they have not been able to deliver on this promise so far. In fact, on their way to power they garner support from a majority of the people and voters, but when they get there, they hesitate and start looking back at the extreme nationalist forces. I think they simply lack the political courage. And the process stalls.

This is what is happening right now, more or less. Thank goodness, when we met in Paris within the Normandy Format, we agreed on ending hostilities. This is holding, which is a major achievement. An exchange of detainees has taken place.

However, there has been no progress in removing economic and social restrictions. In fact, nothing has been done to advance a political settlement. Moreover, officials in Kiev have said time and again that they do not intend to abide by the Minsk agreements and have suggested revising their key provisions.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Minsk agreements have been confirmed by a UN Security Council resolution, which means that they are international law. As such, they cannot be subject to unilateral revision. They have to respect the other side that signed the agreements, namely Donbass representatives.

For these reasons, I believe a settlement is inevitable. It will happen sooner or later. The question is when. Let me reiterate that this largely depends on the current Ukrainian government.

Russia will keep supporting Donbass as it has been. We will even increase our support. This includes supporting manufacturing, resolving social and infrastructural issues, etc. We will calmly proceed in this direction. Make no mistake, we understand the complicated situation in Donbass. Again, we will remain proactively involved not only on the humanitarian front, but also through direct cooperation.

Dmitry Peskov: Now let’s take a question from Nizhny Novgorod. Nizhny Novgorod, please.

Yevgeny Khvan: Good afternoon, Mr President, Mr Peskov.

This is Nizhny Novgorod, the capital of the Volga Federal District. We have more than 70 journalists in our studio today. Of course, I can see everybody holding colourful posters. But allow me, as moderator, to choose a question based on the format of this news conference. Mr Peskov, will you allow me or will you choose yourself?

Dmitry Peskov: Of course, go ahead.

Yevgeny Khvan: Please, colleague with the poster saying “Online.” Since this is an online conference; don’t forget to introduce yourself.

Oleg Kashtanov: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Oleg Kashtanov. Izvestia Mordovii, Saransk.

My question is about online education. This is a widely discussed matter. Last spring, our schools and universities had to switch to distance learning. I would like to know your opinion: do you think our higher education system and our schools tackled this challenge successfully? And could you be very specific? Because people are asking if this online education system is here to stay. And in this difficult time, could it be that the quality of education is declining? And, as a result, are graduates less qualified?

Vladimir Putin: Oleg, look, there should be a distinction between online education in schools and online education in colleges and universities. We have 39,900 schools in the country and only 2 percent are teaching online while a small part are using a mixed format and a major part are operating as normal. As for universities, all of them were asked to consider switching to remote classes.

Regarding schools, I have plenty of notes here on their preparedness and technical capability to administer online learning, and I will talk about this in more detail later when I answer the written questions. But, of course, there are problems. There are problems with hardware because many people don’t have computer equipment. There are also problems with internet access and even access to phones. These difficulties exist, especially in small towns.

What are we going to do? In 2021, all schools in the Russian Federation will be provided with access to high-speed internet. Some schools already have the internet, but in 2021, all schools must have it. This is the first thing.

As for higher education, we have allocated support for universities twice this year, in July and in the autumn, with financial resources to support remote activity. And they are supposed to expand their capabilities in online learning, as independent economic entities, with the government support I just mentioned. This support has been provided twice this year.

Now, on the quality of education. Of course, the online format will never replace a direct face-to-face interaction between students and teachers. At any rate, it will not happen for a long time. I think I do not need to go into detail as everybody understands what I mean. Nevertheless, an online format of education will be used; it exists and, of course, will be developed further both at schools and at universities.

You know, just yesterday I spoke to some colleagues of mine. What can we project for the future? For example, it is not always possible for an expert in a very specific area to be present in several places at once, at several schools. Besides, this expert may be busy with his or her own research. But he or she can teach online. And we should certainly use this opportunity.

To be continued.

Ansarullah Official Mocks Riyadh: We May Help Protect Saudi Ports If Asked

Ansarullah Official Mocks Riyadh: We May Help Protect Saudi Ports If Asked

By Staff, Agencies

In the wake of an explosion at a Saudi fuel transport terminal, a senior Yemeni official has heaped heavy sarcasm on the kingdom over its failure to protect its ports, saying Yemen, if asked, may consider helping safeguard them.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, chairman of Yemen’s Supreme Revolutionary Committee, made the remarks in a post on his Twitter account on Monday after Saudi Arabia said that a fuel transport ship anchored at a Jeddah terminal had been hit by an explosive-laden boat.

The attack resulted in a small fire which was extinguished, but there was no damage to unloading facilities nor any effect on supplies, according to the Saudi Energy Ministry spokesman.

Jeddah — the second biggest Saudi city — is home to a key Red Sea port and distribution center for oil giant Saudi Aramco.

Reacting to the explosion, Houthi said what the Saudi regime has termed as a “terrorist” attack was proof of the failure of the US and the UK to perform their task of protecting the kingdom.

He said in a sarcastic tone that the Yemenis may consider helping protect the Saudi ports, if asked.

“The Yemeni security and military organization has a lot of experience in confronting American terrorism and its branches,” he added.

The Singapore-based shipping company Hafnia said on Monday that there was an explosion and a fire while its oil tanker, the BW Rhine, was discharging at Jeddah port.

The ship’s crew put out the fire and no one was injured, it said, adding that parts of the vessel’s hull had been damaged.

“BW Rhine has been hit from an external source whilst discharging at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at approximately 00:40 local time on 14 December 2020, causing an explosion and subsequent fire onboard,” Hafnia declared in a statement on its website.

Saudi Arabia launched a devastating military aggression against Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allied states, and with arms support from the US and several Western countries.

The aim was to return to power a Riyadh-backed former regime and defeat the Ansarullah movement that has taken control of state matters.

The war has failed to achieve its goals, but killed tens of thousands of innocent Yemenis and destroyed the impoverished country’s infrastructure. The UN refers to the situation in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

We Are The Terrorists

By Caitlin Johnstone

Source

Yemeni children 49c1e

The Trump administration is reportedly close to moving the Houthi rebels in Yemen onto its official list of designated terrorist organizations with the goal of choking them off from money and resources. The head of the UN’s World Food Program along with many other experts caution that this designation will prolong the horrific war which has claimed over a quarter million lives and create an impenetrable barrier of red tape stopping humanitarian aid from getting to the Yemeni people.

The United Nations conservatively estimates that some 233,000 Yemenis have been killed in the war between the Houthis and the US-backed Saudi-led coalition, mostly from what it calls “indirect causes”. Those indirect causes would be disease and starvation resulting from what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls “the worst famine the world has seen for decades”.

When people hear the word “famine” they usually think of mass hunger caused by droughts or other naturally occurring phenomena, but in reality the starvation deaths we are seeing in Yemen (a huge percentage of which are children under the age of five) are caused by something that is no more natural than the starvation deaths you’d see in a medieval siege. They are the result of the Saudi coalition’s use of blockades and its deliberate targeting of farms, fishing boats, marketplaces, food storage sites, and cholera treatment centers with airstrikes aimed at making the Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen so weak and miserable that they break.

In other words, the US and its allies have been helping Saudi Arabia deliberately kill children and other civilians on mass scale in order to achieve a political goal. Which would of course be a perfect example of any standard definition of terrorism.

We are the terrorists. Saudi Arabia, the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, France and every other nation which has facilitated the horrific mass atrocity in Yemen–this tight globe-spanning power alliance is a terrorist organization the likes of which the world has never seen before. The unfathomably savage and bloodthirsty US empire designating the Houthis as a terrorist organization is the least funny joke that has ever been told.

We are the terrorists. I say “we” instead of our governments because if we are honest with ourselves, we as a civilian population are complicit in this slaughter. The horrors in Yemen are without question the worst thing that is happening in the world right now, yet they comprise barely a blip in our social consciousness. The overwhelming majority of us have seen the pictures and videos of starving Yemeni children, thought something along the lines of “Oh a famine, that’s so sad” and gone back to thinking about sports or whatever other insipid nonsense occupies most of our attention.

We are the terrorists. Yes it is true that we have been propagandized into our complicity with this terrorism and if the news media were doing its purported job Yemen would be front and center in our attention, but we are still complicit. We are still participating in it, still living in a society that is woven of the fabric of slaughter and brutality without rising up and using the power of our numbers to force a change. Just because you are unaware that you sleep on a bed of butchered children doesn’t mean you’re not lying in it.

We are the terrorists. But we don’t need to be.

We can begin waking up together. Waking up our friends and neighbors, spreading consciousness of what’s going on, raising awareness of the horrors our governments are perpetrating in Yemen and in other nations in the name of imperialist domination, helping each other see through the veils of propaganda to how much life and how many resources are being spent on inflicting unspeakable acts of terror upon our world instead of benefiting humanity.

The US government could force an end to the horrors in Yemen almost immediately if it really wanted to. If maintaining unipolar hegemony were suddenly advanced by giving the Houthis victory in Yemen instead of fighting to ensure Washington-aligned rule, the Saudis would withdraw and the war would be over within days. We could make this happen if we could spread enough awareness of the reality of what’s happening in Yemen.

Break the silence on Yemen. Pressure Biden to fulfil his campaign pledge to end the war which was initiated under the Obama-Biden administration. Oppose US imperialism. Weaken public trust in the mass media which refuse to give us a clear picture of what’s going on in the world. Help people realize that their perception of reality is being continually warped and distorted by the powerful.

We end our role in the terrorism of the empire by awakening the citizens of that empire to its acts of terror.

China Uproots Hong Kong’s US-Backed Opposition

Source

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China finalised its campaign against protests in its Hong Kong territory when it expelled opposition politicians from Hong Kong’s government for endangering national security.

Following this move, opposition politicians still in office resigned in protest, leaving the territory’s government firmly pro-Beijing.This came after a sweeping security law was passed which focused heavily on cutting foreign backing to opposition groups rioting in Hong Kong’s streets and outlawing aspirations of “independence” as a form of sedition.

With the cutting off of foreign support and the effective removal of opposition political parties supporting and driving the protests from Hong Kong’s political landscape, the prospects for another round of disruptive and violent protests is highly unlikely.

And almost as if to vindicate Beijing’s policy decisions regarding Hong Kong, the US and UK insisted on one last round of interference regarding these most recent developments.

UK’s Sky News in an article titled, “UK summons Chinese ambassador after expulsion of Hong Kong MPs,” would claim:

The government has summoned China’s ambassador to register “deep concern” after Beijing ordered the expulsion of four opposition MPs from Hong Kong’s parliament.

Kwok Ka-ki, Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok and Kenneth Leung were banished from the territory’s assembly for allegedly endangering national security.

They were expelled under a new Chinese law banning supporters of Hong Kong independence from holding office.

The article also claimed:

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday declared China’s action a fresh breach of the Sino-British Declaration, the deal that saw Hong Kong pass back to China from Britain in 1997.

The agreement commits China to ensuring Hong Kong enjoys a “high degree of autonomy” and preserves the right to freedom of speech.

The London Guardian would also report in its article, “Hong Kong and China could face fresh US sanctions over ousting of lawmakers,” that:

Hong Kong and Chinese officials could face further sanctions from the United States over a new law that disqualified four pro-democracy legislators as “unpatriotic” and prompted a mass resignation by the pro-democracy caucus. 

The UK had violently seized the territory in 1841 and occupied it until its handover back to China in 1997. Before the handover, the British government demanded Beijing recognize a series of conditions including “democratic” procedures that ironically never existed under British rule.

More recently, the UK’s attempts to maintain influence over the territory has been aided by US interference in the form of financial, political and material support provided to opposition parties and street movements culminating in open support of protests in recent years and even featuring high-profile trips by opposition leaders to Washington D.C. to directly receive US aid.

Hong Kong was never the UK’s to legitimately determine the affairs of from the beginning and only through its own military and imperial aggression did it hold any power over the territory. It parting “demands,” while agreed to by Beijing who at the time was left little choice, have no relevance in an international order the US and UK both have regularly predicated on “might makes right.”

Currently, China has the “might” to determine what is right in Hong Kong, and Beijing has correctly decided that what is right is uprooting the remnants of Western influence and interference from its territory.

While the UK government and its much larger transatlantic partners in the US are far from giving up their collective ambitions to subordinate China and greater Asia to the West, it appears that Beijing has laid the groundwork to fully shut Hong Kong off as a vector for such efforts.

The irony is that had the US and UK not pushed as aggressively as they did in Hong Kong over the past several years it is likely their proxies would have been able to maintain some form of influence in the territory for many more years to come. But by rushing in a bid to pressure Beijing, they provided the perfect justification for Beijing swiftly and completely uproot these proxies once and for all.

What’s more is that while the US and UK’s interference in Hong Kong has led what’s being called the “Hong Kong model” by other Western-backed opposition movements across Asia targeting governments friendly to China, Beijing’s success could now provide a “Beijing model” for regional governments to likewise fully and permanently uproot Western interference from within their borders as well.

What the US in particularly had regularly referred to as “America’s Pacific Century” may yet turn out to be the eventual dusk of Washington’s hegemonic ambitions in the region.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Trump is Speeding Up the Creation of an Anti-Iranian Power Bloc

By Vladimir Platov
Source: New Eastern Outlook

In preparation for Joe Biden administration’s possible arrival entering the White House, Donald Trump took additional steps to complete the creation of a regional power bloc with the leading role of Israel and Saudi Arabia under full US control to complicate Biden’s actions in building a new policy in the Middle East. Undoubtedly, the urgency was motivated by leaked information that Joe Biden and his advisers have allegedly already prepared a future nuclear deal with Iran and intend to revise Trump’s previously promoted solution to the Middle East crisis based mainly on Israel.

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With these goals in mind, and also given Riyadh’s previous refusal to establish diplomatic relations with Israel on the instructions of Washington, the way the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain did, preparation was arranged to encourage  with these two Middle Eastern countries pivotal for the US in the region to converge under the auspices of the Trump administration. At the same time, Israel’s fears were actively used in possibly adjusting Joe Biden’s attitude towards the Jewish state’s stance regarding the Palestinian issue and the development of annexed Arab territories. The same goes for the concerns of several Saudi families, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Biden’s toughening of repression due to the “Khashoggi case”, since the President-elect called Saudi Arabia during the election campaign “an outcast” and promised that he would obstruct the Kingdom’s military campaign in Yemen.

Under these conditions, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by Yossi Cohen, current Director of Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel, made a secret visit to Saudi Arabia on November 22, where “under the supervision of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo” he met with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Netanyahu and Cohen flew to Saudi Arabia on businessman Ehud Angel’s private jet. The Israeli prime minister had previously used this jet for his secret visit to Oman to prepare the “Abraham Agreement”, which became the basis for the future of the Middle East according to Trump’s patterns, and a number of his other secret trips around the world.

Referring to this meeting, Mike Pompeo, without disclosing the details, indicated in his Twitter account that he had a “constructive” meeting with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The latter was heavily forced into negotiations with Netanyahu.

According to Kan, Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, the talks focused on Iran and the new US administration, led by Joe Biden, but no significant agreements have allegedly been reached yet. The Israeli media outlets do not hide that the main reason for the meeting was the consolidation of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the current US administration against Joe Biden’s restoration of Iran’s nuclear deal. They further recognize that Netanyahu’s meeting with bin Salman “brought countries one step closer to establishing official diplomatic relations even before the end of Donald Trump’s term in office.”

The Guardian draws attention to the particular importance of the meeting, emphasizing that it is “an infrequent meeting at a high level between longtime opponents.”

By mutual agreement, the parties agreed not to make the visit public. They behaved cautiously in Riyadh, especially since the Crown Prince’s line regarding rapprochement with Israel does not entirely coincide with his father and family’s line. Earlier, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud warned that the kingdom is ready to establish Israel’s relations in full only after a Palestinian-Israeli peace treaty. Simultaneously, based on Crown Prince bin Salman’s decision to go to such a meeting with Israeli officials, a correction of Riyadh’s position began to be seen. If earlier Saudi Arabia and all Sunni states unambiguously held a pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli position, now new conditions have been created to force Palestinians to agree to the peace process and negotiate with Israel. One definite confirmation of this concept can be, in particular, the recent return to their jobs of the ambassadors of Palestine who were recalled from the UAE and Bahrain after these countries established official relations with Israel.

There are no official statements from the Trump administration yet in avoiding a wave of protest for such actions preventing the White House’s future owner from pursuing an independent policy in the Middle East.

In this regard, it is clear that it is not yet in Riyadh’s interests to make its contacts with the Israelis public, unlike Benjamin Netanyahu. The latter needs bonuses on the internal platform. This meeting was leaked only in Israel, clearly showing Netanyahu’s supporter’s desire, due to recent intensified protests against the Israeli prime minister’s corruption policy, to “boast of his merits” hoping that the steps he has taken will bring the day closer when Tel -Aviv and Riyadh officially establish diplomatic relations. At the same time, the Israeli media are actively promoting the thesis that this secret visit only means the continuation of Israel’s policy of expanding the circle of participants in the Abraham Agreements, which is actively supported by Donald Trump. “This is not an action against Biden. It is about expanding the bloc of Israel-friendly countries in the Middle East. But the emerging pro-American bloc becomes anti-Iranian by definition. Of course, if Biden intends to change the course of the US in the region drastically, it will now be more difficult for him to do so,” said Zvi Magen, the former deputy head of Nativ.

On the night after the said meeting, several Iranian-backed Houthis missiles flew into Saudi Arabia from Yemen. Some social network sources note that the missile strike occurred 5 hours after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, which didn’t exclude negotiations that could have been held on Israel’s use of Saudi airspace for an airstrike on Iranian nuclear facilities at Natanz and Khondab. A particular reason for such fears could be a message, which appeared in Israel Defense, that the United States Central Command (CENTCOM, its area of responsibility in the Middle East) announced transferring a squadron of F-16 fighters from Germany to the United Arab Emirates to contain aggression and ensure security and stability in CENTCOM’s area of responsibility.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei

November 27, 2020

Source

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei

While this press conference contains a shorter Belarus update, it has a wider context and is posted to illustrate Foreign Minister Lavrov’s clear expression of irritation with the west, which he now covers in each of his routine press conferences.  In this one, he handles among other topics, protests across the world, Heiko Maas, Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE), International agencies, including the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner being silent and not doing their jobs, as well as strategic stability.

Joint session of the collegiums of the Russian and Belarusian Foreign Ministries, November 26, 2020

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have held a joint session of the collegiums of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Belarusian Foreign Ministry. By tradition, it took place in a confidential and truly friendly atmosphere.

Using this opportunity, I would like to thank again our Belarusian friends for their traditional hospitality and excellent organisation of work. We highly value these annual meetings in the format of members of the collegiums and other representatives of the two ministries’ top management. They allow us to discuss in detail the most urgent international issues that involve the interests of our countries and need to be addressed.

Despite the complicated epidemiological situation, we managed to meet offline and talk face to face. We had four items on our agenda: relations of our countries with the European Union, participation in UN peacekeeping missions (in part, in the context of the prospects of the CSTO’s involvement in the UN peacekeeping activities), cooperation in the EAEU on forming the Greater Eurasian Partnership and ways of ensuring international information security.

We achieved specific agreements on all of these issues. They are reflected in a resolution that we signed in addition to the plan of consultations between our foreign ministries in 2021. We also spoke about broader cooperation in international organisations, including the CIS, CSTO, EAEU, UN and OSCE.

We and our Belarusian colleagues had to state that unfortunately our US-led Western partners continue persistently promoting their narrow selfish interests in a bid to preserve their hegemony in the world arena. They are using the concept of the “rules-based” world order, setting it directly against universal, commonly recognised standards of international law, including the UN Charter.

We are concerned about the attempts by the Western countries to establish control over international organisations, up to and including privatisation of their secretariats. When this fails, they try to replace collective work in universal formats with private get-togethers where all those who agree with the Western policy make decisions that are later presented as multilateral and binding. It is hardly possible to make us follow these rules. The overwhelming majority of countries are firmly committed to the old, tried-and-tested principle – respect for international law, primarily the UN Charter.

We noted numerous facts of crude interference by the US and those who follow in its wake (I am referring to some European capitals) in the internal affairs of sovereign states. The dirty methods of colour revolutions continue to be used. These include manipulation of public opinion, instigation and support of overtly anti-government forces and contribution to their radicalisation. We are seeing how these methods are being applied to the Republic of Belarus. We spoke about this in detail today both with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who received us before this meeting.

We were informed in great detail about the current developments in Belarus. We are not indifferent to them. The Republic of Belarus is our ally and strategic partner and also a fraternal nation. We are interested in a calm and stable situation in that country. This will be facilitated by the Constitutional reform that was launched by the Belarusian leadership as a major transformation of the political, economic and legal systems.

We believe the Belarusian people are wise and always act in a balanced manner. They are capable of resolving their problems without any outside prompting or obtrusive proposals on unwanted mediation. It is obvious that attempts to jeopardise normalisation are being made. There are many examples of this: a desire to radicalise the protesters, encouraging people to engage in subversion and high treason, which are made, in part, from abroad.

Today we again reviewed in detail the entire range of our ties and ways of protecting the interests of each of our countries, as well as the interests of the Union State of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation.

I would like to emphasise again that we are content with our joint discussion. We will carry out everything we have agreed on today.

Question (addressed to both ministers): On November 18, 2020, your German counterpart Heiko Maas accused the authorities of Belarus of violently suppressing peaceful protests. Having said this, he urged the Council of Europe to use its instruments for monitoring the situation even in those European countries that do not want to join the organisation. Could you comment on this, please?

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Vladimir Makei):  We took note of how Germany took over the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE). German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas first made a speech at a closed CMCE meeting and then held a news conference. His speech was unconventional for the presidency of this pan-European body because the main goal of the Council of Europe, which is recorded in its statute, is to promote greater unity of all European countries. By definition, the President, all the more so in the Council of Europe, must focus on enhancing unity in his future work rather than stir up confrontation.

It is no secret that at the CMCE meeting prior to that news conference, Heiko Maas presented his programme for the next sixth months in a politicised vein and unacceptable tone, in a crude, undiplomatic manner. He made a number of Russophobic statements. He had grievances not only as regards the Republic of Belarus but also made groundless Russophobic accusations in respect of Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and southeastern Ukraine. His opinion on the Nagorno-Karabakh agreement also sounded rather strange.

At the news conference Mr Maas urged everyone “to respect the rules-based order.” Our Western colleagues are not going to respect international law as a matter of principle. He did say that the principles of the Council of Europe must be imposed by using relevant instruments, including on those countries that are not members of the Council of Europe. I consider this absolutely unacceptable.

It is indeed strange that of all countries it is Germany that has recently decided to act as a driver of aggressive approaches to the countries that are not NATO or EU members.

Those who are objective and pay attention to double standards will note that neither Mr Maas, nor other Western representatives or UN human rights agencies have said a word about rather serious incidents in France and Germany. There were protests by yellow vests in France, demonstrations against COVID restrictions in Germany and some other countries, and protests against a ban on abortions in Poland. They were dispersed in a very tough manner.

International agencies, including the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner, stayed silent. Human rights champions in France covered the yellow vests protests in a completely different manner than they cover events in Russia and Belarus. Only in the beginning did they cautiously urge the sides to overcome their differences. But later the yellow vests began to encounter a tough police response. In the estimate of French human rights activists, almost 15,000 rubber bullets were shot at the protesters; 2,500 people were wounded and 12,000 detained, including 2,000 who were sentenced, in part, to real prison terms. But nobody speaks about this. This is considered normal because these are their compatriots. It is necessary to get rid of this attitude, especially for those who head the Council of Europe.

About a month ago, Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric asked us in Moscow about our assessments of the events in the Republic of Belarus. She received our answers and inquired whether the Council of Europe can contribute to normalisation there in some way. We promised do convey her wish to those concerned. She emphasised that this will be possible only if the Republic of Belarus makes this request itself. But as you can see, the German Presidency has different plans in this respect. This is regrettable.

We will try to compel the Council of Europe, all the more so under the German Presidency, not to forget about the issues that the West is trying to hush up in many different ways. This applies to discrimination against Russian speakers in the Baltic states, the disgraceful lack of citizenship, and the so-called reforms in the field of education and language in Ukraine that are aimed only against the Russian language, as distinct from the languages of other national minorities because they are EU languages. We will not accept the efforts of the Council of Europe (or some of its members) to hush up the facts of the purposeful harassment of the Russian media, not to mention the glorification of Nazism. The German Presidency must remember all this and must not divert the Council of Europe to the discussion of issues that are more comfortable for the West and justify its positions, while ignoring the problems that have become chronic for our Western colleagues.

Question: What are the prospects for concluding new strategic stability treaties with the United States once the new administration is in office? Last year, President Trump mentioned a new trilateral document involving Russia, the United States and China. What will happen now?

Sergey Lavrov: This is a long-standing matter. True, the Trump administration was consumed (I can’t come up with any other word) by a desire to involve the People’s Republic of China in disarmament talks. Initially, they talked about the need to include the PRC in the START Treaty which is still in force, although this is impossible by definition. Then, they proposed creating a new treaty and not renewing the current one, because it’s outdated and bilateral, whereas they would like to take a step towards multilateral disarmament and arms control. Their position was erratic. As a result, they came up with a proposal to extend the treaty for another year, but on the condition that we recount each other’s warheads and put in overseers at the defence plants’ checkpoints. Counting warheads and ignoring carriers and innovative technologies that directly affect strategic stability is a frivolous and unprofessional approach.

Earlier this year, we made proposals to our US colleagues about structuring our future dialogue on arms control and non-proliferation. They stood their ground and insisted on warheads alone. They have long been interested in Russian tactical nuclear weapons, hence their interest in warheads at the expense of everything else. We say we will be ready to discuss non-strategic nuclear weapons, including warheads, when the Americans withdraw their tactical weapons from other countries. In Europe, these weapons are deployed in five NATO countries. Also, NATO structures conduct training in handling nuclear weapons for military personnel from non-nuclear countries in flagrant violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

With regard to the People’s Republic of China, President Putin has repeatedly stated that we have nothing against it, but the decision is up to the PRC. China has officially and publicly stated on several occasions that it is not going to join the talks with Russia and the United States, since its nuclear arsenal is an order of magnitude smaller than the corresponding arsenals of Moscow and Washington. We respect this position. If and when the Americans persuade China to join multilateral talks, we will have no objection to that. We will be willing to participate in them if the PRC agrees to this of its own accord. But we are not going to persuade Beijing to do so just at the whim of the Americans. But if and when a multilateral format in disarmament and arms control talks is created, we will push for France and the United Kingdom to join it as well.

When we told the Americans about this, they told us that these counties are their allies and they vouch for them. Precisely because they are allies of the United States, we would like to see them at the negotiating table, if the talks become multilateral. Washington’s absolutely hostile doctrine towards Russia cannot but raise questions about the motives of the US allies, whether in Europe or Asia. When they enter into a military alliance with a country that declares us a hostile state, we must draw our own conclusions regarding these allies.

I don’t see how we can seriously discuss anything related to the continuation of the arms control process with the Trump administration. We do not know yet what kind of administration will move into the White House or what kind of policy it will conduct. The voting results have not yet been announced officially, but there’s already an understanding that the change-of-command process is underway. Let’s wait and see what kind of assessments will eventually form in the minds of those who will shape the US strategic stability policy after January 21, 2021.

Question (addressed to both ministers): Popular protests have been growing around the world for various reasons, including political ones. The law enforcement reaction is the same everywhere, going as far as the use of force and special equipment. At the same time, such events in Belarus are receiving heightened attention from foreign politicians. What do you think is the reason?

Sergey Lavrov: I have already cited examples of protests being suppressed in France. Those drastic figures are rarely revealed to the general public. Human rights agencies in the UN system, as well as numerous human rights rapporteurs are trying their best to avoid any topics that are uncomfortable for Western representatives.

Speaking of the protests in Paris, there is a huge wave of protest against the global security bill, which includes a ban on photographing, filming or otherwise identifying law enforcement officers. I can imagine the kind of racket a bill like that would have sparked if it were proposed in Russia or Belarus. The French public and human rights groups are concerned, yet we can see no reaction from international bodies. The police used water cannons and noise grenades during rallies against the bill. The protesters, too, provoked the police, using stones and sticks. One police officer was injured. And yet, I repeat, this does not prevent the West from lecturing anyone who is not their ally.

Voting processes in Russia and Belarus have been scrutinised through a magnifying glass. When a similar story happens in the United States, it is declared “normal, it’s democracy, and everything is just fine.” Though, even respected and influential think tanks in the United States openly write about “the problems with the US electoral system.” To put it mildly, that system does not fully comply with the principles of democracy or the rule of law. They write these things themselves, but our international partners prefer to ignore them and concentrate on the countries whose “regimes” they find undesirable.

When UN rapporteurs, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, describe violent clashes in Western capitals, they urge everyone to find a solution through dialogue. When they criticise us or Belarus, they demand a change of the system. This difference is visible to the naked eye. We have long lost any illusions about what kind of standards the West is promoting and how they use double standards. We will fight, and will defend our position at the UN bodies, where these issues should be considered. We will not allow the vices that the Western community is demonstrating to be forgotten.

Question (addressed to both ministers): How can you comment on Pavel Latushko’s last interview, where he spoke about the possibility of unofficial contacts with Moscow?

Sergey Lavrov: Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has just shown me part of that interview. Not only did he mention the possibility of unofficial contacts with Moscow – he said such contacts were underway and were coordinated. He shamelessly declared he could not cite any names, but mentioned “contacts at a sufficiently high level.” He speculated whether I will be allowed to tell my Belarusian friends about it. I will answer briefly: this is a blatant lie, and it once again says something about those trying to make some kind of career with foreign handouts.

The China Moment

The China Moment

November 19, 2020

by Peter Koenig for The Saker Blog

China has achieved the almost impossible – a free trade agreement with 14 countries – the ten ASEAN, plus Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, altogether 15 countries, including China. The so-called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, was in negotiations during eight years – and achieved to pull together a group of countries for free trade, i.e. some 2.2 billion people, commanding some 30% of the world’s GDP. This is a never before reached agreement in size, value and tenor. The RCEP was signed during the 37th ASEAN Summit on 11 November in Vietnam.

On top of being the largest such trade agreement in human history, it also associates with and binds to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), or One Belt, One Road (OBOR), or also called the New Silk Road, which in itself comprises already more than 130 countries and more than 30 international organizations. In addition, China and Russia have a longstanding strategic partnership, containing bilateral agreements that also enter into this new trade fold – plus the countries of the Central Asia Economic Union (CAEU), consisting mostly of former Soviet Republics, are also integrated into this eastern trade block.

The conglomerate of agreements and sub-agreements between Asian-Pacific countries that will cooperate with RCEP, is bound together by for the west a little-understood Asian Pact, called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), founded on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai as an intergovernmental organization composed of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The SCO’s purpose is to ensure security and maintain stability across the vast Eurasian region, join forces to counteract emerging challenges and threats, and enhance trade, as well as cultural and humanitarian cooperation.

Much of the funding for RCEP and BRI projects will be in the form of low-cost loans from China’s Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) and other Chinese and participating countries’ national funding sources. In the hard times emerging from the covid crisis, many countries may need grant assistance to be able to recover as quickly as possible their huge socioeconomic losses created by the pandemic. In this sense, it is likely that the new Silk Road may enhance a special “Health Road” across the Asian Continent.

See map (Wikipedia).

The real beauty of this RCEP agreement is that it pursues a steady course forward, despite all the adversities imposed by the west, foremost the US of A. In fact, the RCEP may, as “byproduct”, integrate the huge Continent of Eurasia that spans all the way from western Europe to what is called Asia and covering the Middle East as well as North Africa, of some 55 million square kilometers (km2).

The crux of the RCEP agreement’s trade deals is that they will be carried out in local currencies and in yuan – no US dollars. The RCEP is a massive instrument for dedollarizing, primarily the Asia-Pacific Region, and gradually the rest of the world.

Much of the BRI infrastructure investments, or New Silk Road, may be funded by other currencies than the US dollar. China’s new digital Renminbi (RMB) or yuan soon being rolled out internationally as legal tender for international payments and transfers, will drastically reduce the use of the dollar. The new digital RMB will become attractive for many countries which are fed up with being subjected to US sanctions, because using the US-dollar, they automatically become vulnerable to being punished with dollar blockages, confiscations of resources, whenever their international “behavior” doesn’t conform with the mandates of Washington’s.

Even country reserves can be stolen, a crime perpetrated by Washington with impunity and with the help of the UK, in full sight of the world, stealing 1.2 billion dollars’ worth of Venezuelan gold deposited with the Bank of England. Only a cumbersome lengthy legal process in UK courts initiated by Venezuela could eventually free the funds to be returned to the jurisdiction of Caracas. This is a warning for many countries, who want to jump the fiat-dollar-ship and join an honest trading and reserve currency, offered by China’s solid and stable economy-backed RMB / yuan.

The dollar is already today in decline. When some 20-25 years ago about 90% of all worldwide held reserve-assets were denominated in US dollars, this proportion has shrunk by today to below 60% – and keeps declining. The emerging international RMB / yuan, together with a RCEP- and BRI-strengthened Chinese economy, may further contribute to a dedollarization, as well as dehegemonization of the United States in the world. Simultaneously and progressively the international digital RMB / yuan may also be replacing the US-dollar / euro reserves in countries’ coffers around the globe.

The US-dollar may eventually return to be just a local US-currency, as it should be. Under China’s philosophy, the unilateral word will transform into a multi-polar world. The RCEP and New Silk Road combination are rapidly pursuing this noble objective, a goal that will bring much more equilibrium into the world.

For the west adapting to this new reality may not be easy. Cooperation instead of competition has never been a western concept or philosophy. For hundreds if not thousands of years the western dominance has left a sad legacy of exploitation of the poor by the rich colonial masters and of bloody wars.

Cooperation instead of competition and warrying for power, is a concept not easily adhered to by the west. It is clearly visible by US-instigated trade wars, and possibly a currency war between the US and China may already be in the making. The FED has vaguely expressed its plans to also launch a digital, possibly cryptic, blockchain-based currency to counter the new RMB / yuan – not yet even launched internationally. Details of the FED’s plans are at the time of this writing not clear.

Having to adapt to the new RCEP, conforming to an agreement among equals, will not come easy for the west. The west will not let go and may use to the utmost possible, its creation and western biased World Trade Organization (WTO), to sabotage as much as possible the RCEP’s trade deals and BRI-infrastructure, as well as cross-border industrial development advances.

The west, led by the US – and always backed by the Pentagon and NATO, may not shy from threatening countries participating in China’s projects, but to no avail. Under Tao philosophy, China will move forward with her partners, like steadily flowing water, constantly creating, avoiding obstacles, in pursuit of her noble goal – a world in Peace with a bright common future.


Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for online journals such as Global Research; ICH; New Eastern Outlook (NEO) and more. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe.
Peter is also co-author of Cynthia McKinney’s book “When China Sneezes: From the Coronavirus Lockdown to the Global Politico-Economic Crisis” (Clarity Press – November 1, 2020)

Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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