CHICKEN KIEV MEETS COLD TURKEY: BLACK SEA AXIS EMERGES?

South Front

Chicken Kiev Meets Cold Turkey: Black Sea Axis Emerges?

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

Kiev’s Unrequited Love

On the face of it, an alliance between Turkey and Ukraine seems like a rather odd creation, yet one that may surprisingly durable simply because neither country has anywhere else to turn. What practically dooms them to a partnership if not an outright alliance is their unenviable geographic and geopolitical position of occupying the strange “no man’s land” between Russia, NATO, and the Middle East. It is, of course, largely a predicament of their own making. Ukraine, with considerable Western backing and encouragement but nevertheless mostly through efforts of a faction of its own oligarchy, opted out of the Russia-centered network of loose alliances, trade partnerships, and other forms of cooperation that were mutually beneficial to the two in the previous two decades. But that defection was not rewarded by the West in a way the likes of Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk, Avakov, Parubiy, and other architects of the Maidan coup expected. Merely being stridently anti-Russian did not prove enough to warrant a shower of US and European cash, only onerous IMF loans which moreover come with conditions Kiev elites are in no hurry to abide by. EU foreign policy chief Josef Borrel lecturing Kiev that the European Union is not an “ATM machine” delivered that point loud and clear: Kiev is supposed to privatize whatever crown jewels its economy still has (at this point, mainly agricultural land), fight corruption of its own elites and facilitate the corruption of Western elites. Joseph Robinette Biden Junior is hardly the only Western politician with a talentless son in need of a lucrative sinecure. There are entire Western companies eager to participate in the thinly disguised plunder that the privatization of Ukraine’s economy will inevitably turn into. A Kiev court’s recent decision to declare the country’s anti-corruption institutions that were painstakingly stood up with considerable aid and tutelage from Western governments, down to screening appropriately-minded individuals for the job, looks as if it were calculated to send a middle-finger gesture to Borrel in terms even dense EU bureaucratic hacks will comprehend. Pro-EU newspapers like Kiev Post were quick to label this a “death of democracy”, presumably with the intent of interesting EU and NATO in sponsoring yet another Maidan since last one seems not to be delivering the goods. The expected shower of Western weaponry has not materialized, probably because NATO is afraid to give Ukraine so much aid that it will risk a full-blown war with Russia.

Ankara’s Burning Hate

Chicken Kiev Meets Cold Turkey: Black Sea Axis Emerges?

Erdogan’s Turkey, by contrast, is in process of de-facto opting out of NATO, though neither Turkey nor the alliance itself want to take the final step of severing ties completely. NATO membership is still beneficial to Turkey. While the procurement of Russian S-400 air defense systems angered NATO and US in particular, resulting in the expulsion of Turkey from the F-35 program and the cancellation of F-35 sale to the country, evidently Ankara hopes that by nominally remaining in the alliance it limits NATO and EU sanctions that would no doubt be far harsher if it were totally out of the alliance. The hope that Turkey, possibly post-Erdogan, will yet see the error of its ways and return to the fold, prevents NATO from adopting harsher stances that would definitely push Ankara away. Yet the drifting apart is unmistakable, and the animosity between Turkey’s leaders and their Western European counterparts is so intense as to beggar belief. While Germany’s Merkel is careful to tip-toe around the issue due to fear of another wave of refugees as well as unrest among the large Turkish diaspora in Germany, France’s Macron seems to have taken a personal affront to Erdogan’s suggestion he might need a mental evaluation and will press the issue of EU sanctions against Turkey at future Union summits.

But from Turkey’s perspective, getting a cold shoulder from the EU is par for the course. Its own migration to the geopolitical gray zone of Eurasia was motivated by EU’s failure to admit Turkey as a member after decades of leading it by the nose and promising neighborhood in some nebulously distant future right after Hell froze over. Like Ukraine, Turkey was not seeking EU membership because of some mythical “shared values”. It, too, saw EU as an ATM machine that would shower Turkey, one of the poorest countries on the continent, with development assistance and moreover allow Turks to freely travel and work throughout the Union. Needless to say, neither of these prospects appealed to pretty much any European country, no matter how close or distant it was geographically. So after decades of leading Turkey by the nose, EU politely put an end to the charade citing problems with Turkey’s democracy. Thus snubbed, Erdogan opted to chart an independent course and appears to be finding a similarly snubbed oligarch clique in Kiev looking for ways the two countries could extract mutual benefit from their isolated status.

Quid pro Quos

There are plenty of those to be had, as limited as Ukraine’s and Turkey’s resources are, compared to such patrons as EU, NATO, US. Faced with isolation and even a potential ban on arms exports, Turkey has a strong incentive to exploit the resources of the Ukrainian defense industry and engage in some export substitution in case vital supplies are no longer available from the West. Canada’s and Austria’s ban on exports of optronics and engines needed for the Bayraktar TB2 combat drones means Ukraine’s ability to provide substitutes would be most welcome. Ukraine, for its part, would not be against deploying a huge attack drone fleet of its own in the hopes of replicating Azerbaijan’s successful offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh on the Donbass, though there Ukraine’s drones would probably run afoul of Novorossiya’s air defenses in the same way Turkish drones were brought to heel over Idlib. Turkey’s Altay main battle tank is likewise little more than an assembly of components imported from other countries, particularly Germany. Since Germany has already placed a ban on export of powerpacks and transmissions for the Altay, Turkey has been casting about for replacements, looking as far as China. Whether Ukraine’s developments in this realm can be adopted to rescue the Altay project remain to be seen. However, the Oplot powerpacks and transmissions can probably be adapted to Altay use, resulting in Turkey realizing its goal of a home-grown MBT. Ultimately, the greater the contribution of Ukrainian defense industry to Turkey’s military modernization, the more freedom of action it would bestow on Turkey and make it less dependent on other foreign sources of military hardware who can exert influence over Turkey simply by withholding future technical support. If the United States were to follow up on the F-35 expulsion with a ban on servicing Turkish F-16s which form the mainstay of its airpower, the result would be crippling of the country’s air combat capabilities that drones cannot compensate for and which would be sorely missed in any confrontation with another comparable power like Greece. Turkey’s efforts to develop an indigenous fighter aircraft would benefit from Ukraine’s technological contributions and its own interest in indigenous aircraft designs. For Ukraine, the relationship would be an opportunity to acquire NATO-compatible weaponry with the caveat that it would have to pay in full for every last drone, either with cash or in kind. Turkey’s economic situation is not so strong as to allow largesse in the form of free military aid to anyone.

Chicken Kiev Meets Cold Turkey: Black Sea Axis Emerges?

Match Made in Hell

Mitigating against the long-term development of what Zelensky referred to as “strategic partnership” with Turkey is the erratic behavior of Erdogan who seeks to dominate any and all partners and tries to see how far he can push before the partners push back. This practice has led to the confrontations in Syria, Libya, and eastern Mediterranean. Ukraine, in contrast to Russia, France, and even Greece, is hardly in a position to push back. The most dangerous aspect of Turkish politics, from Ukraine’s perspective, is the ideology of Pan-Turkism that just might transform Ukraine’s Tatar community into a proxy force for Turkey right inside Ukraine, adding yet another fissure to the already fractured political picture. On the plus side, Erdogan does not appear interested in “combating corruption” in Ukraine, though that does not preclude the possibility Turkey’s military collaboration with Ukraine might not cost Ukraine dearly, though not to the same extent as EU-promoted privatization efforts.

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لماذا إيران ليست مع أذربيجان…!؟

محمد صادق الحسيني

بصراحة واختصار لأنّ أذربيجان مع الشيطان…!

هذا هو جواب الذين يتساءلون، لماذا لا تقف إيران الى جانب أذربيجان، بما انّ أذربيجان دولة مسلمة وشيعية ولديها أراض محتلة لدى أرمينيا (غير قره باغ التي هي إقليم حكم ذاتي مستقل، فهناك أراض سيطرت عليها أرمينيا خلال حرب ١٩٩٤، منها بلدة جبرائيل التي زعمت أذربيجان انها استرجعتها اخيراً) فلماذا إذن إيران لا تقف معها وتساندها…!؟

سؤال مهمّ نحاول الإجابة عنه هنا بكلّ موضوعية ومسؤولية وإليكم البراهين:

١– انّ إيران تقف بقوّة مثلها مثل كثير من الدول الى جانب هذا الحق للشعب الأذربيجاني، والذي ضمنه لها أيضاً قرار أممي اعترفت به معظم دول العالم.

٢– انّ جمهورية أذربيجان الحالية تعتبر واحدة من الدول الغارقة في الفساد والمتحالفة تحالفاً عميقاً مع الكيان الصهيوني قلباً وقالباً منذ إعلانها دولة مستقلة بعد انهيار الاتحاد السوفياتي السابق، ويتحكم في قرارها نحو ٤٠ مليونير يهودي من الأقلية القليلة جداً الأذربيجانية لكنها التي تحيط بالرئيس الحالي الهام علييف، وهي التي توفر له حالياً الجسر الجوي الصهيوني من مسيّرات وتسليح متعدّد الأهداف، بالإضافة إلى تدريب مرتزقة أجانب وإرسالهم إلى باكو..!

٣– انّ جمهورية أذربيجان الحالية تلعب دوراً قذراً وخطيراً جداً تجاه الجمهورية الإسلامية حيث تحتضن ومعها تركيا مجموعات من الانفصاليين الأذربيجانيين الإيرانيين (من القسم الأصلي لأذربيجان الذي لا يزال في حضن الدولة الأمّ بعد انفصال جمهورية أذربيجان الحالية مع أرمينيا وجورجيا التي كانت أراضي إيرانية تمّ سلخها عن الوطن الأمّ في نهاية الحرب الثانية بين روسيا القيصرية وإيران القاجارية عام ١٨٢٨).

وهم الذين تحضّرهم الآن حكومتا أنقرة وباكو ليلعبوا دوراً تخريبياً على الحدود الإيرانية، بهدف تمزيق وتجزئة إيران وإشعال حرب قوميات فيها، في حال نجحتا في توسيع نطاق حرب القوقاز الحالية واستدراج إيران إليها…!

٤– انّ أذربيجان دولة قرارها ليس بيدها، والحرب الحالية التي يتمّ تسعيرها تحت غطاء حق قره باغ في الحكم الذاتي ضمن نطاق جمهورية أذربيجان كما تنصّ المقررات الدولية واسترجاع أراض محتلة لها، إنما تمّ شنّها بأمر عمليات أميركي ودعم جزء من الأطلسي وبرأس حربة أردوغانية خبيثة هدفها التحشيد ضدّ روسيا وإيران والصين، ومحاولة استنساخ سيناريو سوري من خلال عمليات نقل وتثبيت عصابات إرهابية تكفيرية من جنسيات ذات أصول سوفياتية وصينية وقوقازية في كلّ جمهوريات القوقاز وفي مقدّمها أذربيجان، بهدف السيطرة على منابع النفط والغاز والطرق الاستراتيجية التي تعيق عمليات الدفاع لثلاثي القوة الصاعد المناهض للأحادية والهيمنة الأميركية أيّ روسيا والصين وإيران في أيّ مواجهة مرتقبة.

وهي عملية هيّأت لها تركيا بنقل مستشاريها الى باكو قبل اندلاع النزاع الحالي تحت عنوان مناورات مشتركة وأبقتهم هناك، بالإضافة الى القيام بعمليات نقل واسعة لمجموعات إرهابية من سورية بتمويل قطري.

٥– انّ حكومة باكو تلعب دور المطية والأداة الطيعة بيد أردوغان الذي سيستخدمها في أيّ مقايضات مستقبلية دولية بين القوى المتصارعة في البحرين الأسود والخزر وكذلك شرق المتوسط حيث تحاول أنقرة أخذ موقع لها مستجدّ هناك، في ظلّ تحشيدات الناتو والأميركي اللذين يقاتلان قتالاً تراجعياً بعد هزائمهما المتكرّرة أمام أسوار وبوابات عواصم محور المقاومة تاركين المجال لأدواتهم الصغار ليملأوا الفراغ…!

٦– انّ سياسة الجمهورية الإسلامية الخارجية لا تقوم مطلقاً على قواعد طائفية او مذهبية في كافة الملفات الدولية والإقليمية، وإنما على قواعد العدالة والقانون الدولي ونصرة المستضعفين أينما كانوا، ومقاومة الظلم والهيمنة والتسلط من اي طرف جاؤوا…

اخيراً لا بدّ من القول بأنّ الطغمة الحاكمة حالياً في أذربيجان هي من بقايا الحزب الشيوعي السوفياتي السابق والتي باتت الآن منقسمة على نفسها بين الرئيس الهام علييف المشهور بالفساد والذي ربط مصالحه الشخصية بأنقرة واستلحاقاً بالغرب من بوابة تل ابيب، فيما زوجته مهربان التي تشغل موقع نائب الرئيس في الجمهورية والتي تترأس جمعية الصداقة الأذربيجانية الروسية وهي التي قلدها الرئيس بوتين أعلى وسام للصداقة في موسكو قبل أشهر، تتمايز عنه بعض الشيء في ميلها نحو موسكو، وهي التي أطاحت بوزير خارجية بلادها ورئيس هيئة الأركان قبل مدة بعد اتهامهما بتغليب مصالح الخارج على مصالح الداخل، ما اعتبر زعزعة للأمن القومي الأذربيجاني!

أما حكاية دعم إيران لجمهورية أرمينيا المسيحية في المقابل فهي حكاية منقوصة التداول…

فإيران لا تصطفّ مع أرمينيا ضدّ أذربيجان في الصراع حول قره باغ، وإنما تحترم وتقدّر دور جمهورية أرمينيا باعتبارها دولة مستقلة تمارس سياسة متوازنة في القوقاز، ولا تساهم مطلقاً في زعزعة استقرار المنطقة، تماماً كما هو دور المواطنين الأرمن الإيرانيين الشرفاء الذين كانوا ولا يزالون يلعبون دوراً ايجابياً في الدفاع عن سلامة واستقرار واستقلال ووحدة أراضي بلدهم ووطنهم إيران، رغم حمايتهم وحبهم وعشقهم لوطنهم الأمّ أرمينيا.

لتجدنّ أشدّ الناس عداوة للذين آمنوا اليهود…

ولتجدنّ أقرب الناس مودة للذين آمنوا الذين قالوا انا نصارى… وانهم لا يستكبرون…

المعيار إذن هو الموقف من مقولة الاستكبار والمستكبرين.

سئل الإمام علي: كيف تعرف أهل الحق في زمن الفتن، فقال: اتبعوا سهام العدو، فإنها ترشدكم إلى أهل الحق.

بعدنا طيّبين قولوا الله…

NYT Report: Trump Paid No Income Taxes In 10 Out Of 15 Years Beginning In 2000

NYT Report: Trump Paid No Income Taxes In 10 Out Of 15 Years Beginning In 2000

By Staff, Agencies

US President Donald Trump paid no federal income taxes whatsoever in 10 out of 15 years beginning in 2000 because he reported losing significantly more than he made, according to an explosive report released Sunday by the New York Times.

In both the year he won the presidency and his first year in the White House, Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes, the NYT reported.

Detailing payments gleaned from more than two decades of tax information, the NYT report outlined extensive financial losses and years of tax avoidance that deal a blow to the business-tycoon brand Trump has built his political career on.

At a White House briefing Sunday, Trump denied the New York Times story and claimed that he pays “a lot” in federal income taxes.

“I pay a lot, and I pay a lot in state income taxes,” Trump claimed.

He also added that he is willing to release his tax returns once he is no longer under audit by the Internal Revenue Service, which he said “treats me badly.”

Trump, however, is under no obligation to hold his tax returns while under audit, despite his repeated claims otherwise.

The US President also refused to answer how much he has paid in federal taxes in the briefing and walked out to shouted questions from CNN’s Jeremy Diamond on the topic.

The expansive NYT report paints a picture of businessman who was struggling to keep his businesses afloat and was reporting millions in losses even as he was campaigning for President and boasting about his financial success.

According to the newspaper, Trump used the $427.4 million he was paid for “The Apprentice” to fund his other businesses, mostly his golf courses, and was putting more cash into his businesses than he was taking out.

The tax information obtained by the NYT also revealed that Trump has been fighting the IRS for years over whether losses he claimed should have resulted in a nearly $73 million refund.

In response to a letter summarizing the newspaper’s findings, Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten told the Times that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” and requested the documents.

The New York Times said it will not make Trump’s tax-return data public so as not to jeopardize its sources “who have taken enormous personal risks to help inform the public.”

The tax-return data obtained by the newspaper does not include his personal returns for 2018 or 2019.

Trump’s taxes have been largely a mystery since he first ran for office.

During the 2016 campaign, the then-candidate broke with presidential election norms and refused to produce his tax returns for public review. They have remained private since he took office.

The NYT reported Sunday that Trump’s tax information reveals specific examples of the potential conflicts of interests between the President’s business with his position.

Trump has collected an additional $5 million a year at Mar-a-Lago since 2015 from new members. A roofing material manufacturer GAF spent at least $1.5 million in 2018 at Trump’s Doral golf course near Miami while its industry was lobbying the government to roll back federal regulations, according to the Times.

Trump has denied the accusations, labelling the report as ‘fake news’ but the NYT said all of the information obtained was “provided by sources with legal access to it.”

Canada today slipped beneath the waves, like the Titanic, but into deep dictatorship.

Canada today slipped beneath the waves, like the Titanic, but into deep dictatorship.

August 18, 2020

By Marcel Woland for The Saker Blog

Today, the Minister of Finance, Morneau, was forced by Trudeau to resign, after he and Trudeau were caught (*see below) diverting one billion dollars to personal, non-governmental, associates. George Soros, through an Ukrainian agent/mole, is now the de facto head of Canada.

George Soros’s designated ‘biographer’ (hagiographer) Ukrainian-Canadian Fascist, Chrystia Freeland, becomes Minister of Finance, (presumably de facto keeping her duties as Minister of InterGovernmental Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister) as parliament is dissolved amidst the cover-up of a billion dollar scandal.

With Canada rudderless, in a time of alleged pandemic and economic collapse, the new Minister of Finance, DPM and Intergovernmental Affairs-in-one, has already promised to “help women” using money-printing and the almost empty Treasury of Canada. Women voters are likely the last hope for the oligarch playboy, thrice found guilty of ethics violations, minority PM Trudeau. His support at the last election was 30%. By now it is likely down to 20% of die-hard, mostly female, fans.

Shutting down Parliament completely, which he has partially done for months under cover of the alleged pandemic, will prevent a motion of non-confidence being brought, even if the Sikh leader of the NDP, who keeps Trudeau in power, remembers suddenly that his allegiance is to the country and not to the ‘white Sahib’ PM.

* Our Prime Minister and his ex-Finance Minister were caught recently attempting to siphon one billion dollars to an alleged pedophile cult and real estate assembly crime family(the Kielburgers), with which both their families had business dealings, called The WE Foundation. So far we know that the WE Foundation, or its subsidiaries, had paid the PM  and the former Finance Minister and their families over 500 thousand dollars in ‘free vacations’ and ‘speaker fees’. 

Here ​(below) ​is the new de facto Queen of Canada, Chrystia Freeland who concealed her family’s Nazi past.  “Look upon her​ works​, ye ​M​ighty, and despair.”​ (apology to Percy Shelley) ​ She was instrumental in the coup d’etat in the former The Ukraine, working with various Soros NGOs and the USSD as well as other quasi-criminal organizations. In this time of collapsing trade, and nuclear proliferation, she has long been banned from Russia in any capacity for Russophobia and crazed antagonism towards one of the world’s three “superpowers”. She of course makes no apology for this and the Canadian press dares not pressure her, even if they wanted to. She has also accelerated the destruction of the Canadian economy by the arrest, requested by the USA, of Meng Wan Zhou, CFO of Huawei, in the West’s il-thought out and failing trade war with China.

Meet the new Queen of Canada

And here, for some comic relief, on this bleak day for Canada indeed, is the eternal inspiration of crooked, low-potential, high-achievers (though a bit taller than the micro-Mini-Me Freeland) Pooh-Bah from The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan  https://youtu.be/jbpUzCFCy_8?t=889  (to 18:13) …but the whole of The Mikado in this Stratford Ontario Canadian production is often delightful and yet quite a dark and timely tale of misrule. Perfect viewing for a luxurious solitary confinement.

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Meanwhile, under cover of press silence and collusion, as in Russia, in 1917, the attack on the Church is  advancing at full speed:

VIDEO: Holy Communion BANNED at Churches in Toronto Canada

Is the Russian Ministry of Finance Sabotaging Putin’s Decision? (Ruslan Ostashko)

Is the Russian Ministry of Finance Sabotaging Putin’s Decision? (Ruslan Ostashko)

August 12, 2020

Translated and captioned by Leo.

The attempt to sabotage the [Russian] President’s decision to pull the tail of offshore optimizers seems to be the work of the Ministry of Finance. The profile of the ministry, with the head of Anton Siluanov, has set back the actions of preventing withdrawal of dividends without taxation until the beginning of 2024. Which once again brings up the question about, “who do the Russian liberals in power work for?”

A very controversial decision was made at the end of July by the Ministry of Finance. I’ll remind you. Earlier, Vladimir Putin proposed to introduce a 15% tax on the output of dividends into offshore zones. And the government quickly went into a decisive action. For example, with the laws of the Republic of Cyprus, there was a letter about the change in their agreement for taxation. A few months went by with negotiations. Cypriots didn’t agree with terms, so as a result of this, Russia recently tore up the agreement in a one-sided manner. It would seem that everything is going according to the plan proposed by the President. But in light of the actions by the Ministry of Finance, it puts the question on the refusal of actually attaining the proposed goals for upcoming years.

Article title: “The Ministry of Finance Will Extend the Possibility of Withdrawing Dividends Abroad Without Taxes”. Businesses have lobbied for the transition period until 2024 to pay for the dividends offshore with a 0% tax under certain conditions. The Ministry of Finance wanted to completely close this loophole by the beginning of next year.

As RBK Group media reported in the Ministry of Finance: “The proposed bill was discussed with the involvement of the business community to develop an optimal mechanism for applying the benefits as for the state, and the same way for business, in order to prevent a sharp increase in the tax burden, following the discussion, a compromise decision was made on a transition period (before December 31, 2023) for the application of this long process and the need to comply with certain conditions for its retrieval. The amendments were submitted for consideration to the government.”

Am I the only one who sees that with the phrasing of these words, businesses lobbied for actions of criminal offense? I’ll remind you that it’s in the USA where lobbyism is legalized. But here [in Russia] it’s in fact called ‘corruption’. Maybe the Ministry of Finance’s press service will sound out the name of the company which influenced the official on the question about delaying the term in introducing the 15% tax on outsourced dividends? Which would allow our comrades from the FSB to visit these companies.

It looks like Russia’s liberal Minister of Finance completely confused which side of the ocean he’s supposed to be on. We know very well what happens with the output of money from Russia into offshore accounts with no taxes. For those who don’t know, it won’t be that hard to find out after reading on the aftermath of the accident in the Arctic. (Article featured in video: https://www.forbes.ru/obshchestvo-photogallery/402193-krupneyshaya-katastrofa-v-arktike-chto-izvestno-o-razlive-topliva) Which was caused by the ‘I don’t care’ attitude by the company leadership of Nornickel. This corporation exploits Russian natural resources and shareholders move them into the offshore accounts without paying any taxes. But if they had paid it, then the government could have used this money to make decisions themselves, without expecting responsibility from light clothes-wearing talk-managers to answer those same questions related to ecology. But for the Minister of Finance, the opinions of entrepreneurial networks are more important.

When it comes to buying out recent proposals by turning up the heat on privatization, it is characterized by this very Minister of Finance like the lackeys of major businesses:

Source: Lenta.ru – “From the period until 2025, the number of companies with state participation should be reduced 1.5 times to 961 enterprises, such figures are contained in the plan of activities of the Ministry of Finance of Russia for 2020 until 2025. The department is gathered to consistently fight against state participation in the economy. In 2020, the number of state companies should fall to 1465, in 2021 – down to 1319, in 2022 – down to 1187, in 2023 – down to 1068.”

Has there been not enough privatization frauds in Russia with their consequences? There were only a little amount of ‘effective owners’ that harmed our fellow citizens, like that same owner of the shopping center ‘Winter Cherry’ in Kemerovo. While sitting abroad and regularly receiving his rent money, he hired ‘effective managers’ which didn’t care about fire safety. Do we really need more effective bloodsuckers to cause accidents and death? Or maybe we need to get rid of the rotten liberals in the Ministry of Finance who are clearly serving not the government of the Russian society, but instead those same ‘effective owners’. Otherwise it’s looking like the Prime Minister changed, but the liberal path of independent ministries has remained unchanged:

Source: Lenta.ru – “In January, even before the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev’s government, the Ministry of Finance published forecasts for a privatization plan for 2020-2022. It mentioned within three years the sale of 86 federal unitary enterprises, 186 joint-stock companies, 1168 facilities and 13 shares of state participation in limited liability companies.”

I am personally against a written path, and I express my lack of trust in the Minister who pushes these kind of politics. If you agree with me, then I suggest you to spread this information on social media, demanding that we remove Anton Siluanov from the post of Minister of Finance. Enough already, he’s ruled long enough. Let the post become available to someone who will carry out the orders of the President of Russia, instead of sabotaging them.

Lebanese government resigns: ‘Corruption is stronger than the State’


Date: 10 August 2020

Author: lecridespeuples

Statement by Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab announcing the resignation of his government, August 10, 2020.

This technocratic government formed in January 2020 was the first ever in which Hezbollah’s strongest opponents didn’t hold positions.

Source: http://www.pcm.gov.lb/arabic/subpg.aspx?pageid=18047

Translation: resistancenews.org

Transcript:

We are still in the throes of the tragedy that struck Lebanon. This disaster that struck the Lebanese people to the core occurred as a result of chronic corruption in politics, administration and the State.

I said previously that the system of corruption is rooted in all articulations of the State, but I have found that the system of corruption is bigger than the State, and the State is constrained by this system and can’t face it or get rid of it.

One of the examples of this endemic corruption has exploded in the port of Beirut, and this calamity has struck Lebanon, but such examples of corruption are widespread in the political and administrative geography of the country, and the danger is very great that other hidden woes (still threaten the people), very present in many minds and stored in other warehouses, with the protection of the class which controls the fate of the country and threatens the lives of the people, falsifies the facts and lives off the sedition, trading in the blood of the Lebanese people as soon as the opportunity arises, depending on fluctuating interests, whims, calculations and allegiances.

Today, we are facing a great tragedy, and all the forces concerned with preserving the country and the interests of the people were supposed to cooperate to overcome this ordeal, by imposing on themselves silence for several days, mourning for the souls of the martyrs, respecting the pain of the bereaved, parents, siblings and orphans, striving to help people, heal their wounds, and provide them with housing, and helping those who have lost their livelihood.

The scale of the tragedy is too great to describe, but some live in another era. They are not interested in everything that has happened except to the extent that it can allow them to score political points, launch populist electoral speeches and demolish what remains of the State.

They should have been ashamed of themselves, for their corruption has produced this calamity hidden for seven years, and God knows how many calamities they hide under the cloak of their corruption.

But these people have the habit of changing their position according to the circumstances, to falsify the facts, when what is needed is to change them (get rid of them permanently), because they are the real tragedy of Lebanese people. Yes, they are the real tragedy of the Lebanese people.

They have changed and evolved a lot in the past, (to neutralize) every opportunity to get rid of their corruption.

They did not correctly interpret the Lebanese revolution of October 17, 2019. This revolution was against them, but they did not understand it well. They continued with their practices and calculations, believing they could dilute the Lebanese people’s demands for change, for a just and strong State, for an independent judiciary, to end corruption, waste and theft, and the policies that have emptied the State treasury, squandered the savings of the people and placed the country under enormous debt burdens, causing this financial, economic and social collapse.

But the greatest paradox is that a few weeks (only) after the formation of this government, they tried to make it bear the responsibility for their infamies, and to hold it responsible for the collapse, the waste and the public debt.

Really, they should die of shame.

This government has gone to great lengths to chart a road map to save the country.

Each minister in this government has given his maximum because we are concerned about the country, and we care about its future and that of our children.

We have no personal interests, and all that matters to us is saving the country. Because we have taken on this mission, we have suffered many attacks and false accusations. But we refused to let ourselves be drawn into futile polemics, because we wanted to work. Nevertheless, the enraged trumpets did not stop their attempts to falsify the facts, to protect themselves and cover up their crimes.

We carried the Lebanese demand for change. But between us and change lies a very thick and very thorny wall, protected by a class which resists by all dirty methods, in order to preserve its privileges, its positions and its ability to control the state.

We fought fiercely and with honor, but this battle could not be won. We were alone and they were united against us. They have used all their weapons, distorted the truths, falsified the facts, spread rumors, lied to people, committed all mortal and venial sins. They knew that we were a threat to them, and that the success of this government would mean real change in this class which has always reigned until the country was suffocated by the smells of its corruption.

Today we have come to this, with the earthquake that struck the country, with all its humanitarian, social, economic and national repercussions. Our first concern is to deal with these repercussions, along with a swift investigation that defines responsibility and does not let the disaster be forgotten over time.

Today we appeal to the people, to their demand that those responsible for this hidden disaster for seven years be held to account, to their genuine desire to move from a state of corruption, waste, bribes and thefts to a rule of law, justice and transparency. To a State that respects its children.

Faced with this reality, we are taking a step backwards, in order to stand alongside the people, to lead the battle for change with them. We want to open the door to a national salvation that the Lebanese will help shape.

Therefore, today I am announcing the resignation of this government.

May God protect Lebanon. May God protect Lebanon. May God protect Lebanon.

Long live the Lebanese people. Long live Lebanon.

***

Hassan Nasrallah: our opponents have demonstrated their moral bankruptcy and lack of lucidity

Echoing extracts from the speech of Hezbollah Secretary General on August 7, 2020.

[…] In general, it is said that dignified peoples, who have a certain level of culture and ethics, a certain sense of responsibility and humanity, a sense of national interest, even when there are struggles and disputes among themselves, when a great national tragedy occurs, or a terrible event occurs, everyone temporarily freezes their struggles and disputes, as well as their personal calculations, to rise above all these (partisan) considerations, and to behave on a nobler ethical and human basis, and everyone helps each other to overcome this tragedy or this catastrophe. Once the crisis is over, things can resume their usual course. Things are like this (in general) all over the world.

Sometimes we have even seen that in the midst of war, when a tragic event such as a massacre occurs, the enemies conclude a truce, a ceasefire, even in the midst of war! It does happen and it is well known (even against Israel), but I will not waste time citing examples. But outside of war, within the same country, where there is a government, an opposition, rival political forces, when a catastrophe affects everyone, all regions, all families. What happened was not a tragedy that only targeted certain categories of the population, no. In general, in such situations (of national disaster), differences are temporarily put aside, and everyone helps and cooperates (even with their political opponents), and adopts more dignified language, with different sentiments, and different statements and political speeches. Likewise, the media behave differently, with humanity and ethics, each granting a respite (to their adversaries), if only for a few days, at least a few days (of truce)! I’m not talking about months or years, no, a few days, (one or) two weeks! To give people time to recover the remains of their martyrs, to heal their wounds, to visit the wounded, to assert the fate of the missing people, to put out the fires, to clear the debris, to find a way to relocate the displaced, etc. After that, we can reopen the accounts (and rekindle the rivalries), no problem.

But unfortunately what happened in Lebanon with this incident is that from the first hours of this tragedy and this cataclysm, and even from the first hour, not the first hours, when no one yet knew what was going on or had happened [our adversaries flooded the media with lies accusing Hezbollah of the explosion]. […] Even before anyone knew the answer to these questions, the Lebanese and Arab media, and certain political forces expressed through their official social networks, and even through some public statements by officials… These are not from obscure people running (Twitter or Facebook) accounts, but statements on television and in the media, made as soon as the explosion was known to the public, and while the fires in the port were not yet extinguished, and the destruction and amazement was the lot of all the Lebanese and the whole world. But these people spoke out in the media and announced their position before they knew anything. Their position was decided in advance: the cause of the explosion in hangar number so-and-so at the port of Beirut was a Hezbollah missile warehouse that exploded and caused this unprecedented terror and cataclysm. Or, they said it was stockpiles of Hezbollah ammunition, explosives, or weapons. The bottom line is that it must have belonged to Hezbollah, whether it was missiles, ammunition, explosives. […] Even before an investigation was launched, before anyone knew what happened, some media, some Lebanese and Arab TV channels, since the incident began and until now —they haven’t changed their tune— asserted that the hangar belonged to Hezbollah, that what exploded was Hezbollah missiles, Hezbollah explosives, Hezbollah nitrate, Hezbollah, Hezbollah, Hezbollah, Hezbollah… We heard nothing else from them, because there is no other (hypothesis) for them. It is a great crime committed against us. And their method has been to lie, lie, lie and lie and lie again, until people believe it. […]

I have seen yesterday and today that the majority of international media and journalists have abandoned the hypothesis (of a stockpile of Hezbollah weapons), except for a few voices in Lebanon and the Arab world. Thus, those who launched (this slander) are now all alone (to support it), because all the media and all the voices in the world are anxious to keep a minimum of credibility, even if they are our enemies engaged in a political war against us; but when it turns out that the accusation is clearly a lie as shiny as the sun at its zenith, they (have enough good sense to) back off and conjure up other possibilities.

Either way, investigations are ongoing, and the truths will emerge quickly, as this is not a question that will take time. I believe that the criminal, security, military and technical investigation will be able to quickly establish (with certainty) what was in the hangar, what was the nature of the explosives and how it was triggered, because at the technical level, this does not require much time, and the truths can be expected to come to light quickly.

When the truths come to light, I hope that the Lebanese public opinion, in all regions of Lebanon, because in our country there is a problem in terms of punishments and responsibilities, and in the name of freedom of opinion and expression, some (media and politicians) accuse, insult, abuse, oppress and lead the country to the brink of civil war, and (despite all this), ultimately, the Criminal Court imposes them a (mere) fine of 10 to 50 million Lebanese pounds (6,000 to 35,000 dollars), and it stops there. What I want to ask the Lebanese people is that they should themselves judge these media (and politicians) and condemn them. In what way? By ceasing to give them the least credit, the least importance, and by ceasing to consult them or to look at them. Because when we know that such media has no credibility, and that it is based on lies, manipulation and falsification, and that it participates in the battle that targets our country (to destroy it), then we must condemn them and turn our backs on them for good. And it is in my opinion the most important punishment (that can befall) these false and falsifying television stations which push to the civil war. This should not be taken lightly! This is not a (simple) political accusation. When somebody comes and tells hundreds of thousands of people that it is Hezbollah who is responsible for this carnage, all these deaths and injuries, all this destruction and all this displacement, what is it (if not pushing the country towards civil war)?

On the other hand, still concerning the political scene, on the other hand we saw the political instrumentalisation of the incident, and all those who had a problem with so and so reopened this problem (in this tragic context), whether it is the Lebanese National Pact, the government or other political forces, and of course those who have a problem with us. Today, I do not want to open an argument with anyone, and we are putting off (the settling of accounts) for later because we remain attached to avoid settling political or personal disputes, out of ethical, humanitarian and national considerations. This is the time for solidarity, compassion, mutual aid, to heal wounds, to clear debris, to determine the fate of the missing, to treat the wounded, to help people return home, which is a vital priority. The country needs this kind of attitude and calm for several days in order to overcome the crisis. Then we can talk politics and settle accounts. Our position will be firm. And as for certain analyzes which compare the current situation with previous experiences (assassination of Hariri in 2005, etc.) or build hopes (on capitalizing on this tragedy for political gains) like so many of their past illusions, (remember that) for a long time, some people (Hezbollah adversaries) chased after mirages, only to realize that they were all mirages, but I will talk about that later. At this point, I don’t want to get into these considerations, and I don’t want to attack anyone. I’ll put it off until later. The priority is compassion, cooperation and mutual aid, to overcome these days of pain, suffering and humanitarian crisis. Let’s put all the differences aside and get back to political (disputes) later.

My last point, which is most important, is investigation and retribution. A huge, terrible and dangerous event has happened. First, there must be an investigation. His Excellency the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister declared from the outset that there will be an impartial, resolute, firm, definitive and strong investigation, and that whoever will be identified as having a responsibility in this incident, by his actions or by negligence, corruption or insufficiency, will be held to account, whoever he is, big or small. Very well. It’s a good start. The Lebanese are now asking for action and effort (in this direction). I consider that faced with the shock of the event, there is national, popular and governmental unanimity, of all political parties and all deputies, etc., demanding that an exhaustive, frank, transparent, precise, fair and impartial investigation be carried out on this event, and that whoever bears any share of responsibility be judged and condemned in the most severe and exemplary manner —a fair punishment, of course (not a lynching). We are also among the voices that demand this loud and clear. We must not allow anyone to be covered or protected during the investigation, and truths to be withheld about anyone. It is not tolerable that the investigation and then the trial should be done in the “Lebanese fashion”, that is to say in this well-known way where one takes into account religious and sectarian calculations and balances. Anyone who was inadequate or negligent, instigated (this event) or engaged in corruption, has no religion or sect, as is the case with collaborators (of the Israeli enemy). They should be judged on the basis of what they have done, not on the basis of their sectarian, religious or political affiliation. Neither the investigation nor the trial should be conducted on a sectarian basis (requiring a precise ratio of Sunnis, Shiites or Christians). Whoever is in charge, whether they belong to several sects or are all from the same sect, whatever their political affiliation and group, whatever their family clan, truth and justice must prevail and determine the position, the investigation and the punishment. […]

In this regard, I would also like to add something very important. Just as the event is exceptional, today the attitude of the Lebanese State towards this event will be in our eyes decisive and fateful. This will determine the future of Lebanon. In what way? Today it is not about the President of the Republic, the National Pact or the government (which can come and go at the whim of elections and crises). It is about (the safeguard of) the Lebanese State, (which will depend) on the way in which the authorities will behave in this regard, be it the judicial body, the army, the security services, and even the Chamber of Deputies. It is about (the sustainability) of the (Lebanese) State and its institutions. Everyone has some responsibility for the trial and the punishment. The way to act in the face of such a catastrophe, which has affected all sects, all neighborhoods and all regions, and must in no way be tinged with sectarianism, religion or politicization, a national and humanitarian tragedy par excellence, the way State institutions will behave about it, as well as political leaders and the various political forces in the country, will have a fateful consequence for the whole country. What will this fateful consequence be? How this tragedy is dealt with will determine in the eyes of the Lebanese people —and in my eyes the verdict will be irrevocable— whether there is a (genuine) State in Lebanon or not. The second question (which will find an irrevocable answer) is about the hope of building a State (in Lebanon). Because I tell you quite frankly: if the Lebanese State and the Lebanese political forces —whether in power or in the opposition—, in such a case and such a cause, do not achieve a result in the investigation, and fail to punish (all those responsible), it means that the Lebanese people, political forces, State institutions (are bankrupt), and that there is no hope to build an (authentic) State. I don’t want anybody to despair, but I accurately describe the reality.

But we must (all) work so that this despair does not happen, in order to confirm, create and sow hope (to see a real State) among the Lebanese. Today, all the calls to fight against corruption that may have denounced a biased judge, a cowardly judge, a force that buried court files for such or such consideration, (are eclipsed by the magnitude of this case). We have to see a heavy punishment, because even if the investigation reveals that it was an intentional act or an aerial bombardment, the fact that this nitrate was stored in this way for 6 or 7 years clearly implies that there was a (criminal) negligence, inadequacy and corruption on the part of judges. This is where the war on corruption must (be a priority)! If in this case all those who call for a war on corruption, and we are part of it, if we are unable to do anything (to identify and punish all the culprits), it means that we are unable to do anything (forever). Game over. We will frankly declare to the Lebanese people that it is impossible to fight corruption, to fight neglect and insufficiency, and we will say, “O Lebanese people, you have no State and there is no hope of building an (authentic) State, so it’s up to you to see what you can do with yourselves”. To me, such is the magnitude of the question. So that people do not say later that it was a tragedy (without culprits) and forget about the matter, we make it clear that as far as we are concerned, it is impossible to forget this disaster, to move on and to allow let it be neglected. The whole truth must be revealed about this tragedy, and those responsible must be tried without any protection, whether political, sectarian or partisan. If that doesn’t happen, yes, I will consider that there is a crisis of the regime, a crisis of the State, maybe even a crisis of the (Lebanese) entity, some will be entitled to go this far. And some people try to ignore it, one way or another.

Therefore, I call on State officials, at all levels and in all authorities, to show the utmost seriousness and determination, whether to complete the investigation or to judge and blame, and chastise all those responsible for this tragedy. This is required so that the leaders and the political forces can give hope to the Lebanese people that there are authorities, a State and institutions, or at least that there is hope that a State be erected on the basis of truth, justice, transparency and the protection of the Lebanese, because sometimes the consequences of corruption, negligence and incompetence accumulate and become apparent after several years, and can be destructive, like what happened in this terrible event where in seconds, in a matter of seconds, tens of people were killed or missing, thousands were injured, hundreds of thousands of families were affected and had to leave their homes… And some people say that God prevented an even greater tragedy, and that if this hangar had not been so close to the sea, and without such and such peculiarities of the site, if this same amount of nitrate had exploded in a different geographic configuration, perhaps the whole city (of Beirut) would have been destroyed. All this in an instant, in a matter of seconds, because of corruption, neglect and incompetence, and no one should say it is simply because of the intricacies of the bureaucracy. Never. We are talking about stocks that could completely destroy the capital and certain suburbs (in an instant). The blame cannot be blamed on the intricacies of bureaucracy. […]

I declare to all those who, from the first moment, launched a campaign against us, against the Resistance and against the Axis of Resistance, trying to take advantage of this tragedy, you will get nowhere, and I tell you that frankly and sincerely. I also declare to the masses (who support) the Resistance, and some of whom are perhaps worried, scared, wonder what is the (underlying) atmosphere, if this is a big regional or international plot , (I reassure them by reminding them) that the regional situation is very different (from what it was before), as is the international situation (much more favorable to us than ever). We are very different from what we were, and so is the (Axis of) the Resistance (we are stronger than ever), so there is really nothing to worry about (for us). These people (our adversaries) run after mirages, as they have always run after mirages. All of their choices have always been doomed to failure and defeat.

And I say this to our adversaries: just as you have been disappointed and defeated (in all your past undertakings: Special Tribunal for Lebanon, 2006 war, war in Syria, etc.), you will once again be disappointed and defeated. You will not achieve anything. This Resistance, by its credibility, its sincerity, by the confidence of the Lebanese people in it, by its (victorious) battles, by its positions, by its attitude and its behavior, and by its strength, its place in the country and in the region, is too large, too strong and too noble for it to be tainted by (the slanders) of certain oppressors, liars and falsifiers of the truth, who (constantly) incite sectarian rivalry, and who encourage civil war. They have always worked at this and have always failed, and they will fail again. […]

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“Any amount counts, because a little money here and there, it’s like drops of water that can become rivers, seas or oceans…” Hassan Nasrallah

How Western Media Fabricate The “China Experts”

How Western Media Fabricate The “China Experts”

August 06, 2020

by Thorsten J. Pattberg for The Saker Blog

NEW YORK – A media professional from China asks: “Why do the Western media always promote the same ‘China experts’ who preach China doom, over and over again?” The answer is quite simple: The game of ‘expert testimonials’ is rigged.

‘Expert testimonials’ is not a level playing field. Never was. It is no coincidence that you will always see the same China experts and the same Chinese dissidents paraded in the news. Our key media are collusive. It means they act in concert.

If they act in concert, they project power. Here’s a definition of power by Hannah Arendt: “Power corresponds to the human ability not just to act but to act in concert. Power is never the property of an individual; it belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together.”[i]

Yes, our media are corrupt beyond hope. And society is largely to blame: We often feel intimidated by the manipulative press, and powerless. We condemn cronyism, misconduct, and cheating in business, politics, and sports. But exposing the rampant corruption in the media and education? That remains a taboo.

Nobody knows exactly why they get away with it. Of course, they won’t report their own corruption. Also, journalism is inherently feminine (not the gender, the characteristics!); so manipulative journalism is always defensible, is always right, is always the victim.

Expert testimonials in journalism are witnesses that support the argument or mouth-piece what the journalist wants to say. For example, the New York Times will not directly call for violent riots in Hong Kong; instead it will offer expert testimonials that violence is indeed justified.[ii]

The expert testimonials in journalism are not the same as the ‘expert testimony’ used in the legal system. The press is illegitimate; it is not a governmental institution; it is not under oath, and it is absolutely not required to be neutral.

Most persuasive pieces of journalism have at least two testimonials. There are three kinds of testimonials. The first and most vital one is the ‘expert testimonial’. Without quoting a real expert, the journalist, who is by definition a non-expert on anything except journalism, is simply not credible. The second kind of testimonial is ‘plain folks’. That’s the taxi driver, the man from the corner shop, ordinary people. This creates sympathy. The third kind of testimonial is what this author calls a ‘negative-positive’. It means that someone with an opposing view, negative, is quoted, but in such an manipulative way, that it actually helps the journalist, hence the “positive.”

Plain folks are almost always made-up. Negative-positives are a manner of writing. But the expert testimonials shouldn’t be fake. That “expert” should ideally be consulted by the journalist.

Here’s an example (you may want to skip this exercise, if in hurry, and continue in the main text below) of three testimonials in one article. See, if you can guess which kind of testimonials they are. It’s from a British Guardian propaganda piece,[iii] by a certain Adam Gabbatt. The Guardian rushes to the defense of Chris Buckley from the New York Times, who’s a notorious propagandist. Since this is the global Western anti-China coalition, if one of their press soldiers gets into trouble in China, the others will naturally close ranks:

A: “I regret that Chris Buckley has been forced to relocate outside of China despite our repeated requests to renew his journalist visa,” Abramson said. [Ms. Abraham, a Harvard graduate, is the chief executive editor of the New York Times.]

B: Lawyers for Wen Jiabao’s family denied reports of their riches as untrue in October. “Some of Wen Jiabao’s family members have not engaged in business activities. Some were engaged in business activities, but they did not carry out any illegal business activity. They do not hold shares of any companies,” the statement said.

C: Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the piece “smears China’s name and has ulterior motives”, later insisting that the China’s critics were attempting to destabilize the country and were “doomed to failure”.

As a general rule, for every New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Guardian, The Diplomat, or Forbes piece (etc.) there should be at least one expert testimonial in it! [Other testimonials are optional.] That said, you can image that there must be, in theory, a huge market for expert testimonials out there. Right?

Now, think: Does it not make perfect strategic sense, since tens of thousands of China articles must be mass-produced every year in the West, for the Western media to have a ‘ready-made’ stall of loyal experts to ask for phony testimonials any time they want? Better still, how about jointly fabricating EXACTLY the experts (and dissidents) we later want to see at the top!

So they fabricate experts. It’s not illegal, see. And not just any experts: Their buddies and friends and mutual benefactors. Those are the David Shambaugh, Ezra Vogel, Minxin Pei, Orville Schell (now out of favor, it seems), and Roderick Macfarquhar, to name a few.

Now, of those five experts mentioned, all of them are associated with Harvard University, and all were prominently featured in the New York Times. So, understandably, many readers get very upset every time they spot such obscene, shameless favoritism. For example when Harvard man and New York Times journalist Michael Forsythe prominently features a fellow Harvard man, Minxin Pei.[iv] Or when Evan Osnos, a Harvard man from The New Yorker, prominently features all of them Harvard experts in his book. So that he can get “conversations”[v] with them. And his buddies promote his book in The New York Times.[vi] Or the Guardian.[vii] Or Mr. Forsythe’s spouse, also Harvard, also New York Times, miraculously gets to promote her own book in the New York Times.[viii] Yes, the New York Times people are not stupid: they try to disguise cronyism. So NY Times Kirsten Didi Tatlow gets to write about NY Times Mr. Forsythe’s wife’s book.[ix] And NY Times Christ Buckley gets to interview David Shambaugh, alright.[x] NY Times Javier C. Hernandez, also Harvard, gets the Ezra Vogel interview.[xi] And NY Times Austin Ramzy interviews Evan Osnos, right![xii]

Journalists are un-elected. They enjoy relative low status in society in exchange for the privilege of fools. Some hang around with politicians and pose as ‘political analysts’. Others pose as ‘intellectuals’ by collaborating, say, with enough “Harvard” scholars: The journalists get artificial respectability, the scholars gets gratuitous media coverage. For them, it’s a win-win situation. The big loser, of course, is the global audiences to whom – not even talking about US colonialism – the vanity and the arrogance of these few privileged men is sold as “correct” information and news about China.

Remember when back in the old days the media set out to expose the corruption of the elites? Well, they didn’t. They joined the corrupt elites.

It gets worse. Think about this: Why would the New York Times EVER change the status quo? They have absolutely no incentives to do so. They would be stupid to reform. In fact, upon reading this, they will probably even tighten the status quo. Out of pure spite.

This all reminds your author of the following story from the Mahabharata: There’s this great guru, Drona, who promised prince Arjuna to make him “the greatest archer in the world.” Then one day they go into the forest and meet Eklavya, who trained all by himself under the idol of Drona. Eklavya is clearly the better archer! But Drona cannot tolerate this, because it would completely ruin the royal narrative. So they politely ask Eklavya to cut off the thumb of his right hand. Which he reluctantly does. To preserve the status quo. Uninterruptedly, Drona now goes on to fulfill his promise and make Arjuna “the greatest archer in the world.”

This is exactly how it is: The New York Times & Co act in concert and are systematically empowering their own buddies and protégées from Harvard as “the greatest China experts in the world.” And to the rest of the world, especially to the 1.3 million Chinese: cut your talented limbs off, will you!

The author is a German cultural critic and frequent commentator on Sino-Western affairs.  He describes himself as “Thorsten J. Pattberg, Asia specialist, PhD comparative literature and linguistics, unbeknownst writer, polyglot, monster, idiot”.

[i] Hannah Arendt, On Violence (1970), Harcourt Brace & Company, New York

[ii] http://www.east-west-dichotomy.com/why-the-ny-times-promotes-violence-in-hong-kong/
[iii] The Guardian, China forces New York Times reporter Chris Buckley to leave country, Dec 31, 2012, London
[iv] The New York Times, Q. and A.: Minxin Pei on the Future of Communist Rule in China, Feb. 29, 2016, New York
[v] http://www.livestream.com/roosevelthouse/evan-osnos-chasing-fortune
[vi] The New York Times, Q & A: Evan Osnos on the ‘Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China’, May 13, 2014, New York
[vii] The Guardian, Age of Ambition; The New Emperors reviews – two studies on modern China, July 6, 2014, London
[viii] The New York Times, China’s ‘Leftover’ Women, Oct. 11, 2012, New York
[ix] The New York Times, Rejecting the ‘Leftover Women’ label, April 24, 2013, New York
[x] The New York Times, Q. and A.: David Shambaugh on the Risks to Chinese Communist Rule, March 15, 2015, New York
[xi] The New York Times, Q. and A.: Ezra F. Vogel on China’s Shifting Relations With Japan and Taiwan, Nov 12, 2015, New York
[xii] The New York Times, Q & A: Evan Osnos on the ‘Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China’, May 13, 2014, New York

Russia and the next Presidential election in the USA

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Intro: not a pretty picture

Let’s begin with a disclaimer: in this article, I will assume that there will be a US Presidential election in the Fall. Right now, it appears to be likely that this election will take place (there appear to be no legal way to cancel or delay it), but this is by no means certain (see here for a machine translated and very interesting article by one Russian analyst, who predicts a diarchy after the election). Right now, the state of the US society is both extremely worried (and for good reason) and potentially explosive. It is impossible to predict what a well-executed false flag attack could do to the US. There is also the possibility of either a natural disaster (hurricane, earthquake, etc.) or even an unnatural one (considering the condition of the US infrastructure, this is almost inevitable) which could precipitate some kind of state of emergency or martial law to “protect” the people. Finally, though at this point in time I don’t see this as very likely, there is always the possibility of a coup of some kind, maybe a “government of national unity” with the participation of both parties which, as Noam Chomsky correctly points out, are basically only two factions of what could be called the Business Party. There might come a point when they decide to drop this pretense too (just look at how many other pretenses the US ruling elites have dropped in the last decade or so).

Alexander Solzhenitsyn used to explain that all governments can be placed on a continuum ranging from, on one end, “states whose power is based on their authority” to, on the other end, “states whose authority is based on their power“. In the real world, most states are somewhere between these two extremes. But it is quite obvious that the US polity currently has gone very far down the “states whose authority is based on their power” path and to speak of any kind of “moral authority” of US politicians is really a joke. The (probable) upcoming “choice” between Donald “grab them by the pussy” Trump and Joe “creepy uncle” Biden will make this joke even more laughable.

Right now, the most powerful force in the US political system must be the financial sector. And, of course, there are many other powerful interest groups (MIC, Israel Lobby, the CIA and the ridiculously bloated Intel community, Big Pharma, the US Gulag, the corporate media, Oil, etc.) who all combine their efforts (just like a vector does in mathematics) to produce a “resulting vector” which we call “US policies”. That is in theory. In practice, you have several competing “policies” vying for power and influence, both on the domestic and on international front. Often these policies are mutually exclusive.

Last, but certainly not least, the level of corruption in the US is at least as bad as, say, in the Ukraine or in Liberia, but rather than being on the street and petty cash level, the corruption in the US is counted in billions of dollars.

All in all, not a pretty sight (see here for a good analysis of the decline of US power).

Yet the US remains a nuclear power and still has a lot of political influence worldwide and thus this is not a country anyone can ignore. Including Russia.

A quick look at Russia

Before looking into Russian options in relation to the US, we need to take a quick look at how Russia has been faring this year. The short of it would be: not too well. The Russian economy has shrunk by about 10% and the small businesses have been devastated by the combined effects of 1) the economic policies of the Russian government and Central Bank, and 2) the devastating economic impact of the COVID19 pandemic, and 3) the full-spectrum efforts of the West, mostly by the Anglosphere, to strangle Russia economically. Politically, the “Putin regime” is still popular, but there is a sense that it is getting stale and that most Russians would prefer to see more dynamic and proactive policies aimed, not only to help the Russian mega-corporations, but also to help the regular people. Many Russians definitely have a sense that the “little guy” is being completely ignored by fat cats in power and this resentment will probably grow until and unless Putin decides to finally get rid of all the Atlantic Integrationists aka the “Washington consensus” types which are still well represented in the Russian ruling circles, including the government. So far, Putin has remained faithful to his policy of compromises and small steps, but this might change in the future as the level of frustration in the general population is likely to only grow with time.

That is not to say that the Kremlin is not trying. Several of the recent constitutional amendments adopted in a national vote had a strongly expressed “social” and “patriotic” character and they absolutely horrified the “liberal” 5th columnists who tried their best two 1) call for a boycott, and 2) denounce thousands of (almost entirely) imaginary violations of the proper voting procedures, and to 3) de-legitimize the outcome by declaring the election a “fraud”. None of that worked: the participation was high, very few actual violations were established (and those that were, had no impact on the outcome anyway) and most Russians accepted that this outcome was the result of the will of the people. Furthermore, Putin has made public the Russian strategic goals for 2030,which are heavily focused on improving the living and life conditions of average Russians (for details, see here). It is impossible to predict what will happen next, but the most likely scenario is that Russia has several, shall we say, “bumpy” years ahead, both on the domestic and on the international front.

What can Russia reasonably hope for?

This is really the key question: in the best of situations, what can Russia really hope for in the next elections? I would argue that there is really very little which Russia can hope for, if only because the russophobic hysteria started by the Democrats to defeat Trump has now apparently been completely endorsed by the Trump administration and the all the members of Congress. As for the imperial propaganda machine, it now manages to simultaneously declare that Russia tried to “steal” COVID vaccine secrets from the West AND that Russian elites were given a secret COVID vaccine this Spring. As for the US Dems, they are already announcing that the Russians are spreading “disinformation” about Biden. Talk about PRE-traumatic stress disorder (to use the phrase coined by my friend Gilad Atzmon)…

Although I have no way of knowing what is really taking place in the delusional minds of US politicians, I am strongly suspecting that the latest hysteria about “Russia stealing COV19 vaccine secrets” is probably triggered by the conclusion of the US intel community that Russia will have a vaccine ready before the US does. This is, of course, something absolutely unthinkable for US politicians who, (sort of) logically conclude that “if these Russkies got a vaccine first, they *must* have stolen it from us” or something similar (see here for a good analysis of this). And if the Chinese get there first, same response. After all, who in the US legacy media would ever even mention that Russian or Chinese researchers might be ahead of their US colleagues? Nobody, of course.

I would argue that this mantric Russia-bashing is something which will not change in the foreseeable future. For one thing, since the imperial ruling elites have clearly lost control of the situation, they really have no other option left than to blame it all on some external agent. The “terrorist threat” has lost a lot of traction over the past years, the “Muslim threat” is too politically incorrect to openly blame it all on Islam, as for the other boogeymen which US Americans like to scare themselves at night with (immigrants, drug dealers, sex offenders, “domestic terrorists”, etc.) they simply cannot be blamed for stuff like a crashing economy. But Russia, and China, can.

In fact, ever since the (self-evidently ridiculous) “Skripal case” the collective West has proven that it simply does not have the spine to say “no”, or even “maybe”, to any thesis energetically pushed forward by the AngloZionist propaganda machine. Thus no matter how self-evidently silly the imperial propaganda is, the people in the West have been conditioned (literally) to accept any nonsense as “highly likely” as long as it is proclaimed with enough gravitas by politicians and their legacy ziomedia. As for the leaders of the EU, we already know that they will endorse any idiocy coming out of Washington or London in the name of “solidarity”.

Truth be told, most Russian politicians (with the notable exception of the official Kremlin court jester, Zhirinovskii) and analysts never saw Trump as a potential ally or friend. The Kremlin was especially cautious, which leads me to believe that the Russian intelligence analysts did a very good job evaluating Trump’s psyche and they quickly figured out that he was no better than any other US politician. Right now, I know of no Russian analyst who would predict that relations between the US and Russia will improve in the foreseeable future. If anything, most are clearly saying that “guys, we better get used to this” (accusations, sanctions, accusations, sanctions, etc. etc. etc.). Furthermore, it is pretty obvious to the Russians that while Crimea and MH17 were the pretexts for western sanctions against Russia, they were not the real cause. The real cause of the West’s hatred for Russia is as simple as it is old: Russia cannot be conquered, subdued, subverted or destroyed. They’ve been at it for close to 1,000 years and they still are at it. In fact, each time they fail to crush Russia, their russophobia increases to even higher levels (phobia both in the sense of “fear” and in the sense of “hatred”).

Simply put – there is nothing which Russia can expect from the upcoming election. Nothing at all. Still, that does not mean that things are not better than 4 or 8 years ago. Let’s look at what changed.

The big difference between now and then

What did Trump’s election give to the world?

I would say four years for Russia to fully prepare for what might be coming next.

I would argue that since at least Russia and the AngloZionist Empire have been at war since at least 2013, when Russia foiled the US plan to attack Syria under the pretext that it was “highly likely” that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against civilians (in reality, a textbook case of a false flag organized by the Brits), This means that Russia and the Empire have been at war since at least 2013, for no less than seven years (something which Russian 6th columnists and Neo-Marxists try very hard to ignore).

True, at least until now, this was has been 80% informational, 15% economic and only 5% kinetic, but this is a real existential war of survival for both sides: only one side will walk away from this struggle. The other one will simply disappear (not as a nation or a people, but as a polity; a regime). The Kremlin fully understood that and it embarked on a huge reform and modernization of the Russian armed forces in three distinct ways:

  1. A “general” reform of the Russian armed forces which had to be modernized by about 80%. This part of the reform is now practically complete.
  2. A specific reform to prepare the western and southern military districts for a major conventional war against the united West (as always in Russian history) which would involve the First Guards Tank Army and the Russian Airborne Forces.
  3. The development of bleeding-edge weapons systems with no equivalent in the West and which cannot be countered or defeated; these weapons have had an especially dramatic impact upon First Strike Stability and upon naval operations.

While some US politicians understood what was going on (I think of Ron Paul, see here), most did not. They were so brainwashed by the US propaganda that they were sure that no matter what, “USA! USA! USA!”. Alas for them, the reality was quite different.

Russian officials, by the way, have confirmed that Russia was preparing for war. Heck, the reforms were so profound and far reaching, that it would have been impossible for the Russians to hide what they were doing (see here for details; also please see Andrei Martyanov’s excellent primer on the new Russian Navy here).

While no country is ever truly prepared for war, I would argue that by 2020 the Russians had reached their goals and that now Russia is fully prepared to handle any conflict the West might throw at her, ranging from a small border incident somewhere in Central Asia to a full-scaled war against the US/NATO in Europe.

Folks in the West are now slowly waking up to this new reality (I mentioned some of that here), but it is too late. In purely military terms, Russia has now created such a qualitative gap with the West that the still existing quantitative gap is not sufficient to guarantee a US/NATO victory. Now some western politicians are starting to seriously freak out (see this lady, for example), but most Europeans are coming to terms with two truly horrible realities:

  1. Russia is much stronger than Europe and, even much worse,
  2. Russia will never attack first (which is a major cause of frustration for western russophobes)

As for the obvious solution to this problem, having friendly relations with Russia is simply unthinkable for those who made their entire careers peddling the Soviet (and now Russian) threat to the world.

But Russia is changing, albeit maybe too slowly (at least for my taste). As I mentioned last week, a number of Polish, Ukrainian and Baltic politicians have declared that the Zapad2020 military maneuvers which are supposed to take place in southern Russia and the Caucasus could be used to prepare an attack on the West (see here for a rather typical example of this nonsense). In the past, the Kremlin would only have made a public statement ridiculing this nonsense, but this time around Putin did something different. Right after he saw the reaction of these politicians, Putin ordered a major and UNSCHEDULED military readiness exercise which involved no less than 150,000 troops, 400 aircraft & 100 ships! The message here was clear:

  1. Yes, we are much more powerful than you are and
  2. No, we are not apologizing for our strength anymore

And, just to make sure that the message is clear, the Russians also tested the readiness of the Russian Airborne Forces units near the city of Riazan, see for yourself:

This response is, I think, the correct one. Frankly, nobody in the West is listening to what the Kremlin has to say, so what is the point of making more statements which in the future will be ignored equally as they have been in the past.

If anything, the slow realization that Russia is more powerful than NATO would be most helpful in gently prodding EU politicians to change their tune and return back to reality. Check out this recent video of Sarah Wagenknecht, a leading politician of the German Left and see for yourself:

The example of Sahra Wagenknecht is interesting, because she is from Germany, one of the countries of northern Europe; traditionally, northern European powers have been much more anti-Russian than southern Europeans, so it is encouraging to see that the anti-Putin and anti-Russia hysteria is not always being endorsed by everybody.

But if things are very slowly getting better in the EU, in the bad old US of A things are only getting worse. Even the Republicans are now fully on board the Russia-hating float (right behind a “gay pride” one I suppose) and they are now contributing their own insanity to the cause, as this article entitled “Congressional Republicans: Russia should be designated state sponsor of terror” shows (designating Russia as a terrorist state is an old idea of the Dems, by the way).

Russian options for the Fall

In truth, Russia does not have any particularly good options towards the US. Both parties are now fully united in their rabid hatred of Russia (and China too, of course). Furthermore, while there are many well-funded and virulently anti-Russian organizations in the US (Neo-cons, Papists, Poles, Masons, Ukrainians, Balts, Ashkenazi Jews, etc.), Russian organizations in the US like this one, have very little influence or even relevance.

Banderites marching in the US

Banderites marching in the US

However, as the chaos continues to worsen inside the US and as US politicians continue to alienate pretty much the entire planet, Russia does have a perfect opportunity to weaken the US grip on Europe. The beauty in the current dynamic is that Russia does not have to do anything at all (nevermind anything covert or illegal) to help the anti-EU and anti-US forces in Europe: All she needs to do is to continuously hammer in the following simple message: “the US is sinking – do you really want to go down with it?”.

There are many opportunities to deliver that message. The current US/Polish efforts to prevent the EU from enjoying cheap Russian gas might well be the best example of what we could call “European suicide politics”, but there are many, many more.

Truth be told, neither the US nor the EU are a top priority for Russia, at least not in economic terms. The moral credibility of the West in general can certainly be described as dead and long gone. As for the West military might, it is only a concern to the degree that western politicians might be tempted to believe their own propaganda about their military forces being the best in the history of the galaxy. This is why Russia regularly engages in large surprise exercises: to prove to the West that the Russian military is fully ready for anything the West might try. As for the constant move of more and more US/NATO forces closer to the borders of Russia, they are offensive in political terms, but in military terms, getting closer to Russia only means that Russia will have more options to destroy you. “Forward deployment” is really a thing of the past, at least against Russia.

With time, however, and as the US federal center loses even more of its control of the country, the Kremlin might be well-advised to try to open some venues for “popular diplomacy”, especially with less hostile US states. The weakening of the Executive Branch has already resulted in US governors playing an increasingly important international role and while this is not, strictly speaking, legal (only the federal government has the right to engage in foreign policy), the fact is that this has been going on for years already.

The example of Sahra Wagenknecht is interesting, because she is from Germany, one of the countries of northern Europe; traditionally, northern European powers have been much more anti-Russian than southern Europeans, so it is encouraging to see that the anti-Putin and anti-Russia hysteria is not always being endorsed by everybody.

But if things are very slowly getting better in the EU, in the bad old US of A things are only getting worse. Even the Republicans are now fully on board the Russia-hating float (right behind a “gay pride” one I suppose) and they are now contributing their own insanity to the cause, as this article entitled “Congressional Republicans: Russia should be designated state sponsor of terror” shows (designating Russia as a terrorist state is an old idea of the Dems, by the way).

Russian options for the Fall

In truth, Russia does not have any particularly good options towards the US. Both parties are now fully united in their rabid hatred of Russia (and China too, of course). Furthermore, while there are many well-funded and virulently anti-Russian organizations in the US (Neo-cons, Papists, Poles, Masons, Ukrainians, Balts, Ashkenazi Jews, etc.), Russian organizations in the US like this one, have very little influence or even relevance.

Banderites marching in the US

Banderites marching in the US

However, as the chaos continues to worsen inside the US and as US politicians continue to alienate pretty much the entire planet, Russia does have a perfect opportunity to weaken the US grip on Europe. The beauty in the current dynamic is that Russia does not have to do anything at all (nevermind anything covert or illegal) to help the anti-EU and anti-US forces in Europe: All she needs to do is to continuously hammer in the following simple message: “the US is sinking – do you really want to go down with it?”.

There are many opportunities to deliver that message. The current US/Polish efforts to prevent the EU from enjoying cheap Russian gas might well be the best example of what we could call “European suicide politics”, but there are many, many more.

Truth be told, neither the US nor the EU are a top priority for Russia, at least not in economic terms. The moral credibility of the West in general can certainly be described as dead and long gone. As for the West military might, it is only a concern to the degree that western politicians might be tempted to believe their own propaganda about their military forces being the best in the history of the galaxy. This is why Russia regularly engages in large surprise exercises: to prove to the West that the Russian military is fully ready for anything the West might try. As for the constant move of more and more US/NATO forces closer to the borders of Russia, they are offensive in political terms, but in military terms, getting closer to Russia only means that Russia will have more options to destroy you. “Forward deployment” is really a thing of the past, at least against Russia.

With time, however, and as the US federal center loses even more of its control of the country, the Kremlin might be well-advised to try to open some venues for “popular diplomacy”, especially with less hostile US states. The weakening of the Executive Branch has already resulted in US governors playing an increasingly important international role and while this is not, strictly speaking, legal (only the federal government has the right to engage in foreign policy), the fact is that this has been going on for years already. Another possible partner inside the US for Russian firms would be US corporations (especially now that they are hurting badly). Finally, I think that the Kremlin ought to try to open channels of communication with the various small political forces in the US which are clearly not buying into the official propaganda: libertarians, (true) liberals and progressives, paleo-conservatives.

What we are witnessing before our eyes is the collapse of the US federal center. This is a dangerous and highly unstable moment in our history. But from this crisis opportunities will arise. The best thing Russia can do now is to simply remain very careful and vigilant and wait for new forces to appear on the US political scene.

Another possible partner inside the US for Russian firms would be US corporations (especially now that they are hurting badly). Finally, I think that the Kremlin ought to try to open channels of communication with the various small political forces in the US which are clearly not buying into the official propaganda: libertarians, (true) liberals and progressives, paleo-conservatives.

What we are witnessing before our eyes is the collapse of the US federal center. This is a dangerous and highly unstable moment in our history. But from this crisis opportunities will arise. The best thing Russia can do now is to simply remain very careful and vigilant and wait for new forces to appear on the US political scene.

‘Israel’ Stumble over Coronavirus: Looking More like Sayyed Nasrallah’s Spider Web

‘Israel’ Stumble over Coronavirus: Looking More like Sayyed Nasrallah’s Spider Web

By Staff, Agencies

Months after the ‘Israeli’ entity became in trouble dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, former head of the ‘Israeli’ Military’s Operations Directorate, Maj.-Gen ‘Israel’ Ziv [ret.] told Kan Bet on Monday that ‘Israel’ looks confused, as if it is not being managed, looking like Hezbollah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s “spider web.”

This was a reference to Sayyed Nasrallah’s famous speech celebrating the Islamic Resistance’s victory and forcing ‘Israel’ to withdraw from Lebanon in 2000 when he stressed that with all its might and weaponry, ‘Israel’ is as feeble as a spider web.

The former military official’s comments were made amid angry protests engulfing the Zionist entity over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s weak handling of the Coronavirus crisis, as well as cases of corruption he is tried for.

Confessing the joy the ‘Israeli’ enemy felt when watching what was happening in the Arab world during the ‘Arab Spring’, Ziv said “we felt a degree of satisfaction – look, they are unstable; look, they are failing.”

As for now, he lamented: “How do we now look in the eyes of the Arabs? We have a managerial crisis, a mess on the street – they are certainly hoping that it will go from demonstrations to anarchy – there is no budget…”

And the government can’t even make a decision to give the ‘War’ Ministry, which is supposed to always keep its eyes above water, [budgetary] exemptions. And if I’m Iran, I’m thinking this is an extraordinary opportunity, the former military official went on to regret.

‘Israel’s’ enemies, Ziv said, are closely watching what is happening here, and the conclusions they draw could have long-lasting ramifications. We must recover, he stressed, “take matters into our hands, change the framework for dealing with the crisis, and show the strong ‘Israel’.”

Ziv considered that the ‘Israeli’ entity’s foes are carefully watching to see, and perhaps exploit, its weaknesses that are on full display.

In the early days of the virus, Netanyahu boasted often that countries around the world were looking to learn from ‘Israel’ about how to deal with the virus.

But what will happen to this leverage if these countries look at how ‘Israel’ is dealing with the pandemic now, and conclude that it is doing no better – and perhaps even worse – than they themselves are?, Ziv wondered.

Netanyahu Lashes Out against Law Enforcement Before Entering Court

Source

May 24, 2020

Netanyahu

Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust has begun Sunday at the Jerusalem District Court. It is the first time in the country’s history that a sitting prime minister is facing a criminal trial.

The indictments have been read for the three separate cases the enemy’s prime minister has been charged in.

Israel Police reinforced their presence in advance of Sunday’s session, partly in anticipation of protests in front of the courthouse. Two main protests are planned: a motorcade to Jerusalem by the pro-democracy Black Flag group, whose members will then demonstrate in front of the courthouse alongside a group of pro-Netanyahu demonstrators.

The judges will announce the next steps in the trial in the coming days.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is innocent until proven guilty, just like every citizen, adding that he is “sure that the justice system will hold a just trial for him. I reiterate that my colleagues and I have complete confidence in the justice system and law enforcement. At this time, perhaps more than ever, we must act as a state and society for unity and reconciliation, for the State of Israel and for all Israeli citizens.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told the panel of judges he has read and understands the three indictments against him.

Speaking to the press before entering the Jerusalem District Court,  Netanyahu told reporters the investigations against him “were tainted from day one,” and called the three indictments against him “ludicrous.” Netanyahu called to allow a live broadcast of his his entire trial.

Source: Israeli media

أكثر من 5 آلاف مُوقّع تونسيّ.. عريضة تسأل عن ثروة الغنوشيّ؟

البناء

تجاوزت حملة توقيعات تطالب بالتحقيق في ثروة زعيم حركة النهضة الإخوانية في تونس راشد الغنوشي، حاجز الـ5 آلاف مُوقّع، وتسعى الحملة في هدفها المقبل إلى رفع العدد إلى 7500 توقيع.

ويرتاب الناشطون في ثروة الغنوشي، لكونه لم يمارس أي نشاط مهني أو اقتصادي منذ قدومه إلى تونس قبل 9 سنوات آتياً من لندن.

وتقول العريضة إن الغنوشي أصبح من «من أغنى أغنياء تونس»، بثروة تقدر بأكثر من مليار دولار.

ودعا الموقعون على العريضة، وهم عدد من الأكاديميين والنشطاء والفنانين والمواطنين، إلى ضرورة «ﺍﻟﺘﺤﻘﻴﻖ ﺑﻜﻞ ﺟﺪﻳﺔ ﻭﺷﻔﺎﻓﻴﺔ ﻓﻲ ﺛﺮﻭﺓ ﺍﻟﻐﻨﻮﺷﻲ وﻣﺼﺎﺩﺭﻫﺎ».

كما دعوا إلى تشكيل ﻟﺠﻨﺔ ﻣﺴﺘﻘﻠﺔ للتحقيق في مصادر هذه الثروة التي تقول تقارير إنها تجاوزت المليار دولار، تتكون من الاتحاد العام التونسي للشغل ونقابة المحامين والرابطة التونسية للدفاع عن حقوق الإنسان.

وقالوا إنه «باعتبار أن السيد راشد الغنوشي هو زعيم واحد من أكبر الأحزاب تمثيلاً في البرلمان، وباعتبار أنه رئيس مجلس النواب، وباعتبار تفشي الفساد في الدولة والمجتمع، وباعتبار كثرة التمويلات الأجنبية المشبوهة التي تفد على البلاد التونسية بعنوان العمل الخيري والجمعياتي، وباعتبار تقاطع هذه التمويلات غالباً مع التنظيمات الإرهابية والأجندات السياسية المشبوهة، فإنه قد بات من الضروري أن يتم التحقيق بكل جدية وشفافية في ثروة الغنوشي وفي مصادرها».

دروس عراقيّة للبنان

ناصر قنديل

مهما تحدثنا عن حجم الحضور الأميركي في لبنان فهو أقلّ منه بالقياس للعراق، حيث ولد العراق السياسي الجديد من رحم الاحتلال الأميركي، وحيث قوات أميركية بالآلاف مقيمة في العراق. وبالتوازي مهما تحدّث الكثيرون عن نفوذ إيراني في لبنان فهو مجرد استنتاج منسوب لعلاقة مميزة تربط إيران بشريحة لبنانية واسعة لها تاريخ مشرّف في تحرير لبنان من الاحتلال، مقارنة بحضور إيراني مباشر تجسد بحضور عسكري في مرحلة المواجهة مع داعش، وجوار جغرافي إيراني للعراق يلقي بظلاله وحضوره الديمغرافي والديني والاقتصادي والأمني، منذ قرون. ومهما تحدثنا عن مواجهة أميركية إيرانية في لبنان فهي دون مستوى التوتر والاشتباك الذي مثلته مرحلة اغتيال الأميركيين لقائد فيلق القدس الإيراني في العاصمة العراقية، وقصف إيران الصاروخي لمواقع أميركية في قاعدة عين الأسد العراقية. وعندما ينجح العراقيون بتحقيق تضامن سياسي من خلال الوقوف خلف حكومة يعرف الجميع، أن ليس فيها فرص ربح سياسي ومصلحي، بل محاولة عبور بالعراق من النفق المظلم، ونفشل في لبنان بمجرد عقد لقاء حوار وطني، فالسبب ليس قطعاً الدور الأميركي ولا الحضور الإيراني، ولا الاشتباك الأميركي الإيراني.

كذلك مهما تحدثنا عن عناصر الخلاف والانقسام اللبنانية، وأعدناها لتكوين طائفي ومذهبي للقوى السياسية، ومحاصصة طائفية في النظام السياسي، ومرجعيات إقليمية ودولية لهذا الانقسام، فسيكون من السهل اكتشاف أن الحال في العراق أشدّ تشظياً في الداخل وتبعية للخارج. ففي العراق صيغة حكم بلغ حد تشريع الانقسام في الدستور عبر الفدرالية، ومكوّن رئيسي يمثله الأكراد لا تربطه اليوم بالصيغة المركزية للدولة إلا شعرة، وتجاذب مذهبي بين المكونين الإسلاميين الرئيسيين، بلغ حد مواجهات شعبية وسياسية شكلت لاحقاً بيئة مباشرة لسيطرة تنظيم داعش، تحت عنوان غبن طائفي وحقوق طائفية، وتكفي نظرة على المواقف المعلنة للقوى العراقية حول العلاقات الخارجيّة، والمجاهرة بمرجعيات الخارج، ومقارنتها بلبنان، لنعرف أن عمق الانقسام الداخلي وحجم ارتباطه بالخارج الإقليمي والدولي، لا يفسّر الفشل اللبناني حيث نجح العراقيون.

إذا انتقلنا للجانب الاقتصاديّ، فمهما تحدّثنا عن الهدر والفساد في لبنان، وعائدات المحاصصات السياسية والاقتصادية وتقاسم المنافع، فلن تفسّر لنا حال الفشل في ملاقاة الحاجة لحد أدنى من التضامن يفصل بين الوطني والسياسي، قياساً بحال العراق حيث موارد نفطية تعادل تريليون دولار جرى إهدارها، وتقاسمها، مع فقر مدقع يطال ملايين العراقيين، ومئات آلاف المهجرين بلا مأوى، وبنية تحتية لا تشبه أشد أرياف لبنان حرماناً، وفي الكهرباء والمياه حدث ولا حرج. فلولا الكهرباء المستجرّة من إيران بموافقة أميركية، لكان العراق في الظلمة، ورغم ذلك تفوق العراقيون على أنفسهم وجمدوا صراعاتهم، وانقساماتهم، ولو إلى حين، ولو بتهدئة مؤقتة، بينما نحن فشلنا.

دروس العراق تقول للبنان واللبنانيين كفى، عبر مثال الاستثناء الأميركي للعراق من العقوبات في استجرار الغاز والكهرباء من إيران، وهو ما يمكن للبنان الحصول على مثله لتشغيل أنبوب النفط الآتي من كركوك إلى طرابلس عبر سورية، وتقول الدروس إن تذرعنا بالعوامل الخارجية مبالغة رغم ثقل حضورها، وتقول إن تذرعنا بالأسباب الطائفية للانقسام هروب من المسؤولية رغم بشاعة نظامها وإفلاسه، وتقول إن وطأة الفساد وشبكة منافع المحاصصة رغم الاشمئزاز الذي يثيره مجرد الحديث عنها، لا تكفي لتفسير الإفلاس السياسي الذي نعيشه على مستوى القدرة في إدراك أننا نغرق وأن لا مكان لفرقة ناجية بيننا، ما لم نتضامن ونوحّد جهودنا لعبور العاصفة، وأننا نعلم بأن ما أمامنا من أهوال اليوم ليس إلا مجرد بداية لما هو آتٍ من ويلات.

German Government Bails Out Owners of German Corporations

German Government Bails Out Owners of German Corporations

May 06, 2020

by Eric Zeusse for the Saker Blog

Just as the corrupt U.S. Government is bailing out owners of U.S. corporations while the American public experiences a recession that is heading into a depression, the corrupt German Government likewise is bailing out investors. It’s not illegal for the Government to do that — not even when the corporation that they might bail out next is the nation’s flag-carrying airline, which already receives unfair advantages in competing against other airlines in that country.

The German Government has offered to bail out even the wealthy investors who control the already governmentally favored but privately investor-owned airline Lufthansa, but those super-rich investors demand that it be an unconditional bailout, and negotiations are continuing. On May 5th, the “Flight Global” site bannered “Lufthansa reluctant to accept state aid with conditions attached”, and reported that “Lufthansa Group is holding ‘intensive talks’ with governments in Germany, Austria and Belgium about the provision of state aid.”

The very idea that the general public, the nation’s taxpayers, should ever absorb any losses of any private stock-investors, constitutes the very essence of “socialism for the rich, and capitalism for everybody else.” That is the essential core of fascism, or as Benito Mussolini sometimes called his economic and political system, “corporationism” (control of the government by the owners of corporations), but it is antithetical to any democracy, which is ruled only by its public, not by only the richest of them, who, in any country, own almost all of the corporate stock.

Any corporation that (like Lufthansa is now doing) threatens the government with going out of business or otherwise laying off employees en-masse during what has become a general financial collapse, should instead be promptly and automatically nationalized — taken over completely, at its then-prevailing stock-value — and the stock in it subsequently become sold by the government after the crisis is over, but, at first, then, made available only to its employees (and with low-interest loans being made available to them by the government, in order to enable any and all of them to participate in owning the corporation that employs them), and only subsequently made available to the general public, as a mere investment-gamble.

The only justification for anyone’s owning corporate stock, ever, is that the stockholders agree to take on all of the financial risk that the corporation’s bondholders have not taken on. (Bondholders get paid interest before stockholders get paid dividends.) If, instead, the general public, including all of the taxpayers, are taking on this financial risk, then it is only fair that the public (as represented by the government) will also be appointing, during the economic crisis, all of the corporation’s directors: the corporation will be promptly nationalized. After the economic emergency is over, the corporation will then be re-privatized, first to its employees, and then to the public. No corporation ever should be bailed-out by the government, on any other terms than to nationalize it, on this temporary basis. Either a corporation’s stockholders will fulfill the function that stockholders are supposed to fulfill (as being a sump for the corporation’s financial losses), or else their corporation will be promptly but temporarily nationalized, on this basis. Then, the stockholders will get paid fair market value for their stock, which is far more than they will receive if the corporation simply goes bankrupt — declares itself unable to fulfill its contractual obligations to its bondholders.

That is the way things would function in any democracy.

On April 9th, the Zero Hedge financial site explained in detail why even bailing out the airlines would hurt the economy more than help the economy. It quoted an extraordinarily honest investor, Chalmath Palihaptiya,

“This is a lie that’s been propagated by Wall Street. When a company fails, it does not fire its employees…it goes through a packaged bankruptcy…if anything, what happens is the employees end up owning more of the company. The people who get wiped out are the people who own the unsecured debt and the equity…but the employees don’t get wiped out and the pensions don’t get wiped out.”

[…]

“And if a bunch of hedge funds get wiped out — what’s the big deal? Let them fail. So they don’t get the summer in the Hamptons — who cares.”

But do we have a democracy?

Bailing out the public (workers and consumers) so that they can afford to continue living — and buying, and working — is the right thing to do in an economic crash, but not bailing out investors. What do investors get their incomes from? It’s not from their work, it’s only from the investment risks that they take on, the financial risks that they have agreed to accept. If the government transfers any of those risks onto the public, then the government must nationalize the corporation, because the ONLY value that investors provide in the economy is as a sump for financial risks. That’s it, and that’s all.

Any nation which transfers any of those risks onto the public is criminal — it is taking from the poor and middle class in order to keep the rich rich. It is retroactively dictating to the public: Here is now the deal: heads the investors win, tails you the public lose. That wasn’t supposed to have been the deal. If it retroactively becomes the deal when investors overall are losing money instead of making money, then the government is simply crooked; it is just a bunch of con-artists.

Apparently, the German Government (like many others) is corrupt — it’s transferring risks off of investors and onto consumers and workers. That’s Robin Hood in reverse — exactly the type of situation that governments are supposed to outlaw, and to label as being “theft.” Is it not “theft” when the richest do it? It is transferring onto workers and consumers the ONLY value-added, the only real service, that investors are supposed to be supplying, which is their serving as a sump for risks. If any of that risk-burden is removed from investors and transferred onto the public, then all of their property should automatically become property of the state. No decent government bails out investors — ever. Only criminal ones do, such as the U.S. Government.

If a government legalizes what is authentically (one might even say “in natural law”) criminal to do — such as to take from workers and consumers and give that to investors (and this is what is now commonly but deceptively called ‘democracy’) — then the ultimate criminal has become the state itself, and a revolution is needed. That’s practically the definition of what a revolution is for. Things are that bad in the United States, but in how many other countries is it likewise the case?

Perhaps we are about to find out.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Court Rejects Israeli PM Netanyahu's Request to Delay His Corruption Trial

Sputnic

10.03.2020

The prime minister’s lawyers had asked for a delay, saying that more time was needed to study evidence.

An Israeli court has rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to delay the beginning of his corruption trial, paving the way for it to begin next week as it was planned. 

According to the presiding judge, there is no need for a delay since the first session that will take place on 17 March is a procedural reading of the charges, which means that Mr Netanyahu’s response is not required.  

The prime minister’s lawyers had requested a 45-day delay, citing the need to spend more time reviewing evidence. 

Mr Netanyahu is facing fraud, bribery and breach of trust charges following a series of scandals that focused on him allegedly accepting luxury gifts from wealthy friends and offering mutually favourable collaboration with media moguls. He denies all the charges, describing them as a media-orchestrated witch-hunt. In early January, Netanyahu requested parliamentary immunity from prosecution but later withdrew the request, saying he would not let his political rivals use the issue against him. 

Corruption charges against the prime minister were at the centre of last week’s parliamentary election.   

Iraq: The October Revolution of 2019 and the Iran-US Conflict

Iraq is home to thousands of US troops and is also home to powerful Iranian-backed militias. The fear is that Iraq could become the battleground of a war between the United States and Iran.

By Dirk Adriaensens

Global Research, January 03, 2020

The revolts that have swept over Iraq since 1 October 2019 come at a critical moment of increasing tensions between Iran and the United States, both allies of the Iraqi government.

Rivalry between the US and Iran increases

On August 29, 2019, the International Crisis Group published a report calling for the US-Iran conflict not to be settled in Iraq.

“In June, various rockets were fired at American installations in Iraq, and in July-August, explosions destroyed the storage sites for weapons and a convoy of Iraqi paramilitary groups associated with Iran. These incidents helped push US-Iranian tensions to the brink of confrontation and underlined the danger of the situation in Iraq and the Gulf.

Although the US and Iran have not so far collided directly with each other, they are forcing the Iraqi government to take sides. Iraqi leaders are working hard to maintain the country’s neutrality. But increasing external pressure and internal polarization threaten the survival of the government.

What needs to be done? The US and Iran must refrain from engaging Iraq in their rivalry, as this would undermine Iraq’s weak stability after the fight against ISIS. With the help of international actors, Iraq should maintain its diplomatic and domestic political efforts to remain neutral. ”

For geographical and historical reasons, Iraq is in the eye of the storm. Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran and Tehran’s response put heavy pressure on the Iraqi government, a partner for both. The US expects Baghdad to resist Iran, and Iran expects Baghdad to resist the US. An almost impossible position.

Relations between the US and Iran have always had a dual character in Iraq. There has been cooperation between the two countries since the 2003 invasion to pacify Iraq, and at the same time, relations are very conflicting. The two countries are fighting each other for influence in the Middle East. The withdrawal of the Trump government in May 2018 from the nuclear deal and the reintroduction of US economic sanctions against Iran in November 2018 have created an explosive situation. Halfway through 2019, following Washington’s decision to tighten sanctions, a series of incidents opened the door to a new war that could engulf the entire Middle East.

Iran has used the power vacuum after 2003 to invest heavily in Iraq’s political system, economy and security system. Several Shiite militias and notorious death squads, allied to Iran, such as the Badr Brigades, were integrated into the brutal and sectarian National Police, created by the US. Together with the US, they fought the National resistance movement, while also resisting the presence of the US. The US and Iran also worked closely together during the four-year battle to defeat ISIS (2014-2017). Iranian-affiliated Iraqi Shiite militias formed the core of the Hashd al-Shaabi (popular mobilization forces – PMF), an amalgam of paramilitary forces that responded to Great Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s 2014 call to fight ISIS.

In the aftermath of the 2003 US invasion and the subsequent fight against ISIS, Baghdad has the largest US embassy in the Middle East and the largest number of US troops (more than 5,000) in six currently operating military bases:

  • Forward Operating Base Abu Ghraib is one of the first military bases to be established in Iraq by the United States of America. The base is in Abu Ghraib, in the province of Anbar. It is just 32 km from the center of Baghdad and only 15 km from the international airport of the Iraqi capital.
  • Justice Camp Base Base in Kadhimiya, Iraq. Camp Justice, formerly known as Camp Banzai.
  • Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sykes is located in the northern Iraqi province of Nineve, a few miles outside of Tal Afar. The base was used as an established outpost for combat and tactical operations of the United States during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
  • Camp Taji, Iraq – also known as Camp Cooke – is in the immediate vicinity, just 30 km from Baghdad. The base is used by coalition forces in Iraq and not just by the United States.
  • Joint Base Balad was one of the many military installations that are maintained and used by the US in Iraq. It was known by multiple names, including Balad Air Base, Al Bakr Air Base, Camp Anaconda or LSA Anaconda. The base is one of the largest of the Americans.
  • Victory Base Complex – also called VBC – is a combination of military installations around Baghdad International Airport. The complex includes 10 bases – Victory Fuel Point, Slayer, Striker, Cropper, Liberty, Radwaniyah Palace, Dublin, Sather Air Base, Logistics Base Seitz and Victory. The most important is Camp Victory. It houses the headquarters for all American operations in Iraq. The camp also includes the Al Faw Palace.

The end of US-Iran detente

The defeat of ISIS and the inauguration of President Donald Trump have put an end to the silent American-Iranian detente in Iraq and this has led to a period of escalating rivalry. In the aftermath of the Iraqi parliamentary elections of May 2018, that rivalry became very clear. Both Washington and Tehran tried to exert influence through their favorite actors. Their disputes over the formation of the government lasted thirteen months and yielded a list of acceptable, but weak figures, who, even within the political parties to which they belong, lack strong support. Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and President Barham Salih, two somewhat isolated politicians, were appointed in October 2018.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi (image on the right) is the personification of the bankrupt and corrupt political regime imposed by US imperialism. He started his career as a member of the Ba’ath party, then became a leading member of the Iraqi Communist Party and then went into exile in Iran as a loyalist to Ayatollah Khomeini. He returned to Iraq on the back of American tanks and joined the puppet government in 2004 as finance minister. He was described by the US Council on Foreign Relations as “a moderate technocrat who is helpful to American interests.” Like his predecessors since 2004, he helped organize the looting of Iraq’s oil wealth to enrich foreign companies, the local ruling oligarchy, and corrupt politicians and their supporters.

The function of the Minister of the Interior, Defense and Justice remained open for eight months, largely as a result of constant rivalry between Iran and the US. The tug-of-war between the two countries has been going on since 2003, because both the US and Iran must approve the composition of a government after every election. This shows that sovereignty for Iraq is still a distant dream.

US policy towards Iran has put strong pressure on the Abdul-Mahdi government. When Washington reactivated the sanctions against Iran in November 2018, the US called on the Iraqi government to stop payments to Tehran for natural gas and electricity and to diversify its energy imports, including through contracts with US companies. Baghdad asked Washington for more time to pursue alternatives for fear of reprisals from Iran and electricity shortages. Temporary respite from the Trump government allowed Baghdad to continue importing gas and electricity from Iran, but the US continued to urge Baghdad to sign energy infrastructure contracts with US companies.

However, Abdel Mahdi concluded a $ 284 million electricity deal with a German rather than an American company. The Iraqi prime minister refuses to abide by US sanctions and still buys electricity from Iran and allows extensive trade between the two countries. This trade produces large amounts of foreign currency that stimulates the Iranian economy. Abdel Mahdi is willing to buy the S-400 and other military hardware from Russia. He has signed an agreement with China to rebuild essential infrastructure in exchange for oil. And finally he tried to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia and showed his intention to distance himself from US policies in the Middle East. All these decisions made Abdul Mahdi extremely unpopular with the US.

Israel also interferes openly in Iraq. The country used its F-35i stealth fighter jets to attack Iranian targets in Iraq in July and August, seriously damaging four Iraqi bases used by Iranian troops and proxies as a supposed repository of Iranian ballistic missiles. The Iraqi government minimized this issue, first attempted to ignore it, and even attempted to let Israel off the hook. It took weeks before Abdul Mahdi announced in a television interview that there were “references” to Israel’s responsibility.

This reluctant position of the regime in Iraq is evidence of the loyalty to the US. There was not even a trace of indignation from the Iraqi government when Netanyahu bragged about bombing Iraq during his election campaign. The US denied any involvement in these attacks, but it is very doubtful that Israel would hit Iraqi targets without at least the consent of Washington. As a result, US military and coalition forces in Iraq must now request official approval before launching air operations, including in the campaign against ISIS.

Another requirement of the Trump administration is for the Iraqi government to dissolve the Iranian-related militias (PMF). Since the defeat of ISIS, these militias have taken control of various regions in Iraq and have also participated in the recent elections. No unit of the public militias was dissolved, on the contrary: In 2016, the government formally integrated the PMF into the security forces and has no effective control over their actions. The Fatah front, a collection of various militias from the PMF, became the second largest formation after the recent elections.

Endemic corruption

Despite the enormous oil wealth in Iraq, 32,9% or 13 million Iraqis live below the poverty line and youth unemployment is 40 percent according to recent figures from the IMF, while young people under 25 make up 60 percent of Iraq’s 40 million inhabitants. Half of all Iraqis are under the age of 18. The overall unemployment rate is estimated at around 23 percent, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics in Baghdad. The Iraqi organization “Al-Nama” estimates the percentage of unemployed women at more than 80%. Employment Rate in Iraq decreased to 28,20 percent in 2018 from 43,20 percent in 2016. Electricity is supplied for 5 to 8 hours a day, water is polluted, there is a failing medical system, education levels are very low, corruption is endemic. These are just a few of the problems that frustrate Iraqis. Politicians never keep their promises. Restoration and improvement projects are promised, but scrapped before the ink has dried up and the money being allocated disappears into corrupt pockets. The oil, which accounts for more than 90% of government revenues, is also the most important commodity on the black market. Criminal networks, including oil ministry staff, senior political and religious figures, are allegedly involved in corruption, in collaboration with Mafia networks and criminal gangs that smuggle oil and generate large profits. The three most disturbing problems for Iraqis are corruption (47%), unemployment (32%) and safety (21%).

Iraq is one of the most corrupt countries in the Arab world, according to Transparency International reports. The country occupies the 168th of the 180 countries in the corruption index. Deep-rooted corruption in Iraq is one of the factors that has been hampering reconstruction efforts for more than a decade. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has “lost” $ 500 billion during his term of office (2006-2014), according to the Iraqi Integrity Committee (CPI). “Nearly half of the government’s revenues during the eight-year period were “stolen” or “disappeared”, said Adil Nouri, spokesperson for the CPl in October 2015. He called this “the biggest political corruption scandal in the history”. Iraq’s oil revenues amounted to 800 billion dollars between 2006 and 2014, and the Maliki government also received support of 250 billion dollars from various countries, including the US, during that period.

The World Bank ranks Iraq as one of the worst-governed states in the world, and the Iraqi government remains one of the most corrupt regimes in the world. The Iraqi government has so far made little effort to restoring the destroyed cities of its largely Sunni population after the fight against ISIS. It has done little to establish any form of ethnic or sectarian conciliation, and far too much of  the ‘oil wealth’ is consumed by its politicians, officials and a government sector that is one of the best paid and least productive in developing countries.

Corruption, waste of government resources and the purchase of military equipment have increased Iraq’s budget deficit from $ 16.7 billion in 2013, $ 20 billion in 2016 to $ 23 billion for fiscal year 2019. MiddleEastMonitor quoted the head of the parliamentary finance committee Haitham Al-Jubouri on 18 December: “Iraq’s foreign debt amounted to more than $50 billion. More than $20 billion was paid back over the last period”. According to the official, Iraq still owes $27 billion to foreign countries, in addition to $41 billion to Saudi Arabia given as a grant to the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Iraqi lawmaker Majida Al-Tamimi confirmed that Iraq borrowed $1.2 billion in 2005 and $1.4 billion in 2006 from the World Bank and external parties to support investment and bridge the budget deficit. Also the IMF came to the rescue with billion dollar loans that make the country even more dependent on the US and other foreign creditors. It’s not surprising that 78% of the Iraqi people consider the Iraqi economy as “bad” or “very bad”, according to IIACSS polling firm.

The constitution allows Iraqis to have two nationalities, but stipulates that the person appointed to a higher or security position must renounce the other nationality (Article 18, 4). However, no Iraqi official has complied with this Regulation.

Many senior Iraqi officials have dual nationality, including Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi (France), former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and former Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (UK) and Parliament President Saleem al-Jibouri (Qatar). Of the 66 Iraqi ambassadors, 32 have dual nationality, as well as an estimated 70 to 100 MPs.

Then there are the ministers in the current Iraqi government with a Western background: Mohamed Ali Al hakim – Minister of Foreign Affairs (UK and US), Fuad Hussein – Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister (the Netherlands and France), Thamir Ghadhban – Minister of Oil and Deputy Prime Minister (UK).

Many officials accused of corruption by the Iraqi authorities have fled the country to escape persecution thanks to their foreign passport, including former ministers Abdul Falah al-Sudani (trade), Hazim Shaalan (national defense) and Ayham al-Samarrai (electricity).

Najah al-Shammari serves as the current defense minister from 2019 onwards in the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi. He is a Swedish citizen who is part of the Mahdi cabinet. The minister is under investigation for benefit fraud for claiming housing and child benefits from Sweden, according to the online news site Nyheter Idag and the Swedish newspaper Expressen. He is charged with “crimes against humanity” in Sweden.

President Barham Salih is a British citizen. A complaint was made against him by “Defending Christian Arabs”, who asked the Advocate General in Scotland to open an investigation against him for “crimes against humanity by giving permission or being complicit in the widespread attack on civilian demonstrations in Iraq that resulted in mass killings, injuries, illegal arrests and kidnapping of people. ”

Civil servants are known to demand bribes up to tens of thousands of dollars to give government contracts or even only to put a signature on a public document; also to arrange a lucrative function for a friend or family member. “Political parties are refusing to leave the cabinet because they will no longer be able to grab hold of the treasury”, a senior member of the ruling coalition told AFP.

Many appointments in the Cabinet, Directors General in Ministries and embassy staff are family members of Moqtada Sadr and Hadi Al-Ameri, the head of the Badr organization, the military wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the two largest parties in the Iraqi Parliament.

Amid the expected rescheduling of the cabinet, positions are already ‘bought’, according to a senior Iraqi official. “A political party is assigned a certain ministry and then sells that ministerial position to the highest bidder”. He described a transaction worth $ 20 million. It is a well-known script: the candidate pays the party for the position and then tries to appropriate as much public money as possible, with which the debt can be paid off. The system is so deeply rooted, observers say, that there is little that Abdel Mahdi can do to stop it.

Iraqi Prime Minister receives many visitors

Donald Trump said in February 2019 that US soldiers must remain in Iraq “to guard Iran.” Two months later, on April 7, Iran’s chief, Ali Khamenei (image on the left), called on Iraqi leaders to ensure that the US military leaves “as quickly as possible.” Meanwhile, a procession of US and Iranian officials came to Iraq to defend their respective interests, including Trump himself during an unannounced visit in December 2018 and, four months later, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with the Iraqi Prime Minister on 17 September to discuss a new military training mission to Iraq. Amid the current uprising, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also arrived in Baghdad on 8 October to discuss escalating tensions between the United States and Iran in the Gulf region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran on December 13 for a “decisive” reaction if US interests are endangered in Iraq, following a series of rocket attacks on bases where US forces are housed. The military base at Baghdad International Airport became the target of two missiles on December 12. It was already the 10th attack on that basis since October. “We use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attack by them or their proxies, which harm Americans, our allies or our interests, will be answered with a decisive response from the US,” Pompeo said in his statement.

The US military leadership has also made it clear that the death or injury of an American citizen is a red line that will lead to retaliation. “My fear is that the Iraqi government is not willing to take action, and if there is no willingness to stop this, then we will come to a point where we are pushed into a corner,” said a US military official. “We will not eat rockets all day and keep quietly watching when some of us are killed.” The US has sent between 5,000 and 7,000 extra troops to Iraq.

ISIS is no longer a big problem for Iraq

Iraq has changed so much because of the protest movement, that ISIS may no longer be an important challenge. The sectarian polarization from which ISIS benefited has faded. Moreover, now that many Sunnis have experienced a double trauma due to the draconian control of ISIS and the subsequent military campaign to recapture their territories, most of them no longer want to have anything to do with the terror group. The Iraqi security forces, in turn, have somewhat curtailed their sectarian excesses and forged a better relationship with the Sunnis.

Despite these reasons for optimism, securing peripheral areas where ISIS is still active remains necessary. But that is a task that should be entrusted to the Iraqi armed forces. The government still needs to rebuild the economies and public services of the areas devastated by the war against ISIS so that displaced persons can return. Healing the wounds of this conflict remains difficult. The judicial approach of the Iraqi government after ISIS threatens to deepen the contradictions in the country. “ISIS Families”: Citizens with alleged family ties to ISIS militants, who have been expelled from their homes, are in danger of becoming a permanently stigmatized underclass.

And as if there are not enough problems already, the Iraqi government must also provide an answer to reports that predict bleak economic prospects and a financial crisis in 2020. The military fight against ISIS was expensive and has exhausted the state treasury. The reconstruction of affected areas such as Nineve, Anbar and Salahaddin and the housing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced by the fighting will be even more expensive.

The “lost youth” of Iraq take the future into their own hands

On October 1, young protesters appeared on Tahrir Square in Baghdad to express their dissatisfaction with the unlivable situation in their country. “No future”, “Iraq is done”, “Iraq is finished”, were often heard statements by young Iraqi people, who fled en masse from the country in search of a safe haven where they could build a meaningful future. According to a recent poll, the number of young people who absolutely wanted to leave the country had risen from 17% to 33% between 2012 and 2019. Since the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2011, there have been continuous peaceful protests against what the Iraqi anti-occupation movement calls “the second face of the occupation”: the neoliberal economic structures and the sectarian corrupt political structures, a country which remained under control of imperialism. Those protest actions have had no effect so far. But that could soon change.

In the months prior to the October mass demonstrations, university graduates organized sit-ins at various ministries in Baghdad, often together with graduates from other cities. Security forces unleashed hot-water cannons on the sit-ins that were held from June to September.

Instead of giving in to the demands of the young people, the authorities launched a campaign to demolish homes and shops of unemployed and poor workers built on state-owned property in the southern cities of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes, including some who had bought their land from militias or corrupt government officials. Most of them had used up all their savings, had incurred debts or relied on the help of their social network.

On 22 September, a small group of civilian activists in Iraq called to demonstrate on 1 October. They had no idea that their call would result in a general uprising.

The call, which insisted on the need to get out on the street against “the poorly functioning government”, was spread through various social media and was supported by the Al-Hikma Islamic Current, an Islamic Shiite political organization.

The established parties responded differently to the call. The Ba’athists announced that they could seize the opportunity to regain power. Muqtada al-Sadr noted that the end of the current government was near. The Workers Communist Party of Iraq (WCPI) warned the masses against participation in what they saw as protests organized by the Islamic parties. On the eve of October 1, there was a lot of confusion about who exactly was behind the call.

The protest would take place on Tuesday at 10 a.m. – a deliberate choice to distinguish the action from the Friday meetings organized by the Sadrists as well as to disrupt a working day (Friday is Iraq’s closing day). In the first hours of the demonstration on Tahrir Square in Baghdad, there were only a few hundred demonstrators. Most were supporters of the popular former commander of counterterrorism forces, General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, who were angry with the government’s decision to degrade him.

Soon other demonstrators filled the square. Around noon, the government started using violence against the protesters, first in the form of water cannons and tear gas, and later they used live ammunition. When at least 10 protesters were killed after the first day of protest, the uprising spread to all southern Shiite provinces, including the important oil port of Umm Qasr near Basra, reducing economic activity by more than 50 percent. Since the uprising in October, protesters have blocked access to oil fields in the southern cities of Basra, Nasiriyah and Missan and closed the main roads to ports to paralyze the oil trade. On November 2, the blockade of the Umm Qasr port, the most important access to Iraq, had already cost the government nearly $ 6 billion.

Iranian-sponsored Arab Shiite militias joined the government’s security forces and shot the protesters at random. Death squads faced unarmed demonstrators and every day protesters were shot. The government blacked out social media, shut down the internet, and announced a curfew in various cities. The demonstrators erected barricades and burned tires to prevent militia and government forces from entering their neighborhoods. The fight went on. An Iranian-sponsored militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, controlled the main access to Tahrir Square, the central square in Baghdad, and shot at demonstrators who were trying to reach the square. A new militia supported by Iran, Saraya al-Khorasani, attacked the al-Ghazaliya district in Baghdad, bombed a hospital and killed people in their homes.

On October 6, dozens of women and children were killed in Sadr City, the poorest district of Baghdad. Other cities also turned into a battlefield. Protesters set fire to the Islamic Shiite party offices in Nasiriyah and Missan and proclaimed Nasiriyah a city free of government parties. The deterrent effect of the government’s violent repression – along with its allegations of foreign influence – could not stop the protests, on the contrary, more and more people came to the streets. Protesters decided on October 25 to launch a new wave of demonstrations to honor the victims.

In Baghdad, the mobilization was initially motivated by socio-economic motives. The first demonstrators were unemployed youth from the Shiite east side of the city. Many have gone on a general strike to support the protesters and Iraqi unions are organizing events on Tahrir Square to support the protests. In southern Shiite Iraq, teachers’ unions have led a general strike movement in most schools and universities. Civil society students and organizations have also joined the second wave of protest that began on 25 October. Resistance to the political elite includes all social classes. It has become the largest grassroots movement in the modern history of Iraq. Millions of demonstrators take part in the daily actions and demonstrations.

On October 25, protesters and government forces faced each other on the Al-Jumhuriya bridge in Baghdad and two other bridges over the Tigris River that lead to the Green Zone. The demonstrators succeeded in occupying these strategic bridges, where government buildings, villas of top officials, embassies and offices of military mercenaries and other foreign agencies are located. Protesters attempting to move from Tahrir Square to the Green Zone were confronted with extreme violence: government forces used skull-piercing tear gas canisters, sound bombs and live ammunition. The Green Zone covers an area of ​​142 hectares and houses the US embassy of 750 million dollars, which was formally opened in January 2009 with a staff of over 16,000 people, mostly contractors, but including 2,000 diplomats.

The courage and creativity of the mass demonstrators are remarkable. Drivers of tuk-tuks – motorized three-wheeled rickshaws – have transported injured people from Tahrir Square to nearby hospitals. Civil society organizations, trade unions and political groups have set up tents on the square to provide logistical support, medical services, food and water supplies, helmet distribution, educational sessions and more. Doctors, nurses and medical students offer treatment to wounded and sick people on the square day and night. When protesters made a call to bring food to the square, families, restaurant owners, shopkeepers and others outside the camp flooded the protesters with food. The unemployed, the handicapped, members of Baghdad tribes and surrounding areas, academics, the Workers Communist Party of Iraq, the current Al-Sadr party, women’s organizations, opposition members of Parliament, the Iraqi Communist Party – all are involved in the mass demonstrations.

The majority of demonstrators grew up during the US invasion and occupation and the ongoing violence that followed. A banner from a young demonstrator reads: “We are a generation born in your wars, we spent our youth in your terrorism, our adolescence in your sectarianism and our youth in your corruption. We are the generation of stolen dreams and premature aging”. To the question: “How often have you felt so depressed in the past six months that nothing could encourage you?”, 43.7% of Iraqi respondents in the 2019 poll answered: “often” and 39.3% “sometimes” . This says something about the desperation of the Iraqi youth.

Absent in the current protests are the established political parties. These youth protests came as a surprise for them. The influence of well-known clergymen on the course of the protests, such as Great Ayatollah al Sistani and Moqtada al Sadr, has decreased considerably.

Moqtada al Sadr’s attempt to calm down the protesters by announcing that his followers would leave the parliament in solidarity with the protesters did not change the situation much. Protesters criticized the lack of solidarity by the two most important religious institutions in Iraq. They asked: “where is your duty to the Iraqi people, your dedication to piety and faith? Is the anthem played by a lady on the violin worse than killing hundreds of Iraqis?” They referred to an event a few months ago in which both Sunni and Shiite institutions protested against a woman playing the violin during the opening of a sports event in Najaf, because they felt that this was against the “true faith.”Iraq Gives the US Its Marching Orders. What Part of “Go Home” Don’t You Understand?

Repression

The protest escalated within a few days with hundreds of deaths and thousands wounded. Party and government offices were set on fire in various cities.

General Qasem Soleimani (image on the right), commander of the forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and architect of the Iranian regional policy visited Baghdad several times since 1 October to discuss the strategy against the uprising with the Iraqi leaders, including Haidi Al Amiri, who heads one of the largest parliamentary blocs in Iraq and the Badr organization supported by Iran.

Most of the deaths are caused by machine gun fire and snipers, randomly in the crowd and on identified protest leaders. Amnesty International stated that security forces in Baghdad had deployed military-grade tear gas shells “to kill demonstrators instead of dispersing them.” These 40 mm shells are, according to Amnesty’s analysis, Serbian Sloboda Ĉaĉak M99 shells, but also M651- tear gas shells and M713 smoke shells produced by the Defense Industries Organization (DIO) of Iran Commissioner Yousra Rajab of the Iraqi parliamentary human rights commission said government forces used CF gas bombs containing poisons that cause blindness, miscarriages in pregnant women, strokes and burns that can lead to death.

The Iraqi army admitted on Monday 7 October that it had shot at demonstrators in Baghdad. “Excessive violence was used and we have begun to hold the commanding officers who have committed these crimes responsible,” the statement said. It was the first time since the outbreak of protests that security forces acknowledged that they had used excessive force.

The government sent the military anti-terrorism troops to Nasiriyah and the situation was initially resolved without further violence. But then came November 28. The security forces raided the demonstrators in Nasiriyah at night, killing at least 46 people and injuring many more.

An eyewitness: “They opened fire non-stop. They recaptured the bridge within five minutes … because they didn’t stop shooting, people ran away. I saw at least five people die before me. Everyone who was shot and killed was left on the street and the troops beat everyone they had captured. I saw them beating people as if they wanted to kill them. It was a catastrophe.

“We ran into houses to hide. The armed forces said through their loudspeakers: “If someone is hiding in a house, come outside or we will blow up the houses”. We had to come out. They were still shooting. They arrested and chased the remaining protesters to al-Habboobi square, the traditional place for the protests. But many residents of the city had gathered there to protect the protesters: men, women and children. The shooting went on until 7 a.m. ”

“The scenes from Nasiriyah this morning look more like a war zone than a city with streets and bridges. This brutal attack is only the last in a long series of fatal events in which Iraqi security forces have acted terribly violently against largely peaceful demonstrators,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East director at Amnesty International.

Security forces have launched a widespread campaign of night-time raids, arresting protesters. While some have vanished without a trace, others were subjected to torture and only released after being forced to sign pledges promising to stop participating in protests.

The security forces also resort to enforced disappearances as a way of creating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia among demonstrators. They have targeted medics, lawyers and journalists in particular. In addition, activists and journalists have received warnings that their names would be added to blacklists if they did not stop criticizing the authorities. Security forces have also infiltrated demonstrations, deliberately inciting violence and surveilling activists.

The authorities have systematically prevented information about human rights violations in the context of protests from getting out, including through sustained internet blackouts and the muzzling of government institutions. Paramilitary groups sent their militants to television channels that reported on the protests to destroy their equipment and studios. They attacked wounded protesters in hospitals and kidnapped and threatened journalists, doctors and everyone who supported the demonstrations. The Iraqi Communications and Media Commission issued warnings to five TV channels and decided to close nine others, as a direct result of their coverage of demonstrations. Despite constant reports of kidnappings, arrests and killings, definitive figures and exact information are not available.

Iraqi professor Kamel Abdul Rahim:

“I have never been convinced that Iranian General Qasim Soleimani played a major role in Iraqi politics, but the slaughter committed yesterday (November 28) in al-Nasiriya and Najaf (where at least 69 people were killed) ), a massacre that will no doubt spread to Tahrir Square in Baghdad, is a blatant expression of the way Soleimani views Iraq as an Iranian province. The Iranian ruling administration will never accept its loss in Iraq. They could possibly accept the loss of Yemen or Lebanon and even Syria … but Iraq is the red line.”

“Adel Abdul Mahdi, the generals and the other warlords, the entire political class … they all chose the deadly recipe of Soleimani. We are on the threshold of a bloody phase. The Trump government opted for silence and perhaps approved Soleimani’s plan. After all, there is a great consensus between the two “enemies” America and Iran. The theater for their conflict is Iraq ”.

“Iraqi citizens are the new threat to their common agenda because they oppose this imposed system. The Iraqi citizen has become a burden and the Iraqi people can only count on themselves to bring about change.”

Washington’s silence

Ironically, both Washington and Tehran oppose the protesters’ demand for the abolition of the regime. The position of the US is clear in support of the regime, as evidenced by the telephone conversation that US Foreign Minister Pompeo had with Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi, on the sixth day of the protests, in which he spoke about “the power and depth of the strategic relations between the two countries”, while the blood of the killed protesters had not yet dried up.

The US Department of Foreign Affairs, which is largely concerned with securing the US bases, had initially not commented on the bloody repression of the demonstrators. However, at the end of October, after it was reported that Iran had concluded an agreement with the major Iraqi political parties to keep Mahdi in power and suppress the protests even harder, Washington began to talk about “respecting the demands of the protesters.”

The Atlantic Council, a pro-American think tank on international relations, explains precisely why the US remains so silent about the uprisings in Iraq: “Should the government decide to undertake real reform, it will need support from the international community. On this point, the United States needs to be careful. While calls from the US Embassy to avoid violence are certainly appropriate, it is important to remember that Iraqis are not just tired of Iranian meddling, but anyone’s. While the United States, so far, does not seem to be the focus of the protests, a recent Iraqi opinion poll showed a favorability rating for the United States at 22 percent, which at least was higher than the Iranians, who were at 16 percent. The poll also noted, however, that nearly 43 percent of Iraqis believe the United States influences Iraq in a significant way and that 53 percent believe the 2003 invasion’s purpose was to “occupy Iraq and plunder its wealth.” These numbers suggest that a strong, visible response from the United States could just make things worse.”

An Iraqi uprising initiated by the Shia population

Protests against the Shiite-led government originated in the central and southern provinces of Iraq, which have traditionally been the backbone of Iranian influence in the country. But this is not a Shiite uprising. This is an Iraqi uprising. The Sunni Arabs in Iraq tried to put an end to this system, but failed. Their protests in 2013 led to the emergence of ISIS and the destruction of their cities.

In the capital, sit-ins and strikes by students symbolizes the hope of a young generation that yearns for a non-sectarian policy. But in the south, where militia-backed militias are stronger than the state or the state itself, and where a party or militia can dominate the security apparatus, the anger of the people is even greater.

In Amara, for example, a crowd burned the headquarters of a powerful Iranian-backed militia. Guards opened fire, and during subsequent collisions, demonstrators pulled the wounded commander of the militia out of an ambulance and killed him.

Protesters stormed the Iranian consulate in Najaf, the seat of the powerful Shiite clergy of Iraq. They accused the Iraqi authorities of turning against their own people to defend Iran.

The Guardian reported on 29 November: “In the beginning, only a few dozen people protested,” says a 22-year-old demonstrator in al-Shatrah. “But when the locals heard the bullets and saw that their boys were killed, they left their homes. It became a matter of honor. We decided to free our cities from these parties.”

Many of the most powerful Iraqi politicians and militia commanders come from the south. The youth in the region formed the backbone of the Shiite militias who fought against the Islamic State (ISIS). Anger towards the militias and political parties began, activists say, with the defeat of ISIS, when young men returned from the front lines and discovered that their commanders had become warlords and had accumulated wealth and business contracts.

“So many politicians and officials come from this region, and yet this is a very poor province,” said Mohamed, a human rights activist and anti-corruption campaigner. “During the elections, politicians give people blankets and a few phone cards, give a few men a job with the police, repair a road … that’s how they win votes. After 16 years of Shiite rule, the children now say it was better under Saddam. ”

“Who are the Hashd al Shaabi? Our children were the Hashd. These politicians and commanders climbed on their backs to achieve their goal and gain power and wealth. ”

For Mohamed, “the status of the Shiite clergy has collapsed. If a militia commander now would come to the square, he would be beaten with shoes.” In the south, some of the most bloody incidents have occurred since the uprising began.

Iraq is governed by power sharing between religious and ethnic parties. Each party has their own militias, which are also internally divided and who want to obtain as much economic and political power as possible. Militia leaders who belong to these groups sit on administrative boards and control the ports, borders, oil fields, trade, etc.

The city of Basra is a good example, where the Shi’a Muslim Al-Dawa party controls the Al-Burjisiya oil field, the Sheeba and Al-Muthanna gas fields, the Basra International Airport and the Umm Qasr seaport. Another group, consisting of Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr militia, controls the port of Abu Flous and the railway line. The Sadrist militia controls the stadium of the city and the Al-Shalamcheh border crossing with Iran. Al-Hikma, a Shiite Islamic block, guards the North Al-Rumaila oil field, the port of Al-Maqal and the border crossing with Safwan with Kuwait. Other areas such as the port of Khor Al-Zubair and the rectorate of Basra University are controlled by clans such as the Al-Battat.

Business contracts only go to people or companies that are affiliated with the ruling parties and their militias. Corruption is widespread, law enforcement is completely absent. Political parties and their militias flourish by using state revenues to enrich themselves, ranging from factories and agriculture to tourism, Islamic banking and private schools. Bribes for state contracts with foreign companies are channeled through the parties and militias that control the ministries.

In the predominantly northern Sunni areas of the province of Anbar and Mosul, which were bombed during the war against ISIS, people are not yet en masse on the streets. This is not because of a lack of support, but because of the repressive action against any sign of opposition. Even those in the region who have expressed their solidarity on Facebook are being arrested by security forces, while the authorities have made it clear that anyone who opposes the government will be treated as “terrorist” and ISIS sympathizer.

Regarding the position of the Kurds, the Kurdish leaders fear that they will be on the losing side if any change would occur in the current political system because an amendment to the Iraqi constitution would affect their guaranteed rights. They are therefore not opposed to the Iraqi government and Prime Minister Mahdi.

An uprising of the Iraqi youth

The current uprising was initially dominated by young people between the ages of 17 and 23. The younger generations no longer believe in political parties and the country’s leaders. At Tahrir Square in Baghdad, protesters have set up a “wall of wishes”, Reuters reported on 26 November. “I hated Iraq before October 25, now I am proud of it,” said 16-year-old Fatima Awad. “We used to have no future and no one would protest because everyone was scared. Now we are all gathered in Tahrir Square,” she added.

Unemployment is particularly high among graduates, the vast majority of whom are looking for work in the public sector because the private sector is so weak. Pathogenic factors associated with unemployment are increasing, including suicide, drug addiction and depression. Unemployment has boosted organized crime and has encouraged many young men to join militias.

In addition to the economic slump, the social fabric of Iraq has crumbled since the US-led invasion in 2003. The occupation exacerbated the destruction Iraq had already suffered as a result of the Gulf War of 1991, the bombing campaigns of the 1990s by the United States and the UK , and the murderous economic embargo since 1990. But despite this bleak reality, it is the youth of Iraq who are the driving force behind the ongoing protests.

The hope for a better future not only lives within Iraq, but also among the Iraqis in the diaspora. From Sydney to Toronto and also in Belgium, solidarity campaigns are being organized with the revolts. Sundus Abdul Hadi, an Iraqi-Canadian artist and author wrote in Medium.com on 1 November: “I would say that most of us in the diaspora have been completely seized or even obsessed with what is happening in our motherland. We are with heart and soul with the people in Iraq. Without social media I don’t know what I would do. It gives us the opportunity to make direct contact with people in Iraq, to ​​share their vision and experiences. This I’d say that most of us in the diaspora have been completely absorbed, if not obsessed, with what is going on in our motherland. We are living it, body and soul, with the people in Iraq. If it wasn’t for social media, I don’t know what I’d do. It is giving us an opportunity to connect directly with people in Iraq, to share their vision and experiences. This is in complete contrast to the one-dimensional and one-sided images that came out of the Iraq war in 2003 from embedded journalists. (…) This revolution is also for those of us outside of Iraq, who are displaced or exiled, always longing to return, living in our nostalgias and traumas. It is for the Iraqis that have been robbed of a land to return to, of a homebound future to lay claim to. It is for the Iraqis, like me, who gave birth to children in faraway countries, whispering into their ears that they are Iraqi despite the fact that Iraq is an illusory, mythical place plagued by war and instability.”

At the front of the square, on the edge of the Jumhuriya Bridge, is the 14-storey “Turkish restaurant building” that overlooks Tahrir Square and the Jumhuriya Bridge (which leads to the Green Zone) and is the beating heart of the revolution. It has now been taken over by the young demonstrators who vowed not to leave the building. There are checkpoints at all entrances to the building and Tahrir Square where young volunteers check the possession of weapons that are prohibited at all times on the square. Each floor has a different function: one for the artists and the painters, one for the musicians, one for a library, one for security, etc. The building has been abandoned since 2003 after it was bombed in 2003 and never rebuilt. On all floors there are sleeping places, toilets are built and there is a cleaning service.

A demand for system change and restoration of national identity

Iraq suffers under the capitalist privatization process that pro-consul Bremer introduced after 2003 and was not abolished by successive Iraqi governments. The demonstrators demand – perhaps unknowingly – a return to the welfare state created by the Ba’ath regime, where the Iraqi population had a much higher standard of living than today. The polarization between the elite and the people is caused by the neoliberal economic policy (privatization, job crisis, etc.) and the militarization of the economy.

The most radical demand on Tahrir Square is the dismantling of this entire sectarian, political, Islamic system and an end to the country’s foreign control. This is the first and most important demand. The people want to change the constitution, expel the ruling political parties, abolish sectarian election rules, cancel all treaties with the World Bank. The people want to regain their sovereignty, expel the US army and its bases, expel the Iranian presence, expel the Turkish army, internationalize the issue of the Tigris and the Euphrates. The protesters want a separation of religion and politics. The young Iraqis use words such as citizenship, social justice, as opposed to the religious or ethnic identity that the influential clergy and rulers have imposed on the Iraqi people. The US occupation has done everything to erase the national Iraqi identity and to keep the country ethnically and religiously divided, which has given rise to bloody sectarian conflicts. But that tactic no longer works.

In a piece originally published in German by Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation, Ansar Jasim and Schluwa Sama reported from Tahrir Square. “This is a movement of all of us, your origin does not play a role here, we are all suppressed by one political class,” an activist explains. Posters that prohibit any sectarian language are everywhere. Instead, people make references to elements that have played a unifying role in history, and Islamic and Christian symbols and drawings adorn Tahrir square.

Cuneiform script and figures from the Mesopotamian heritage of the region are also visible. Protesters do not have an exclusive Arab-Islamic identity as before, but want an identity that reflects the diversity of the country. Time and again they talk about all the different social, ethnic and religious groups that are present on the Square.

The demonstrations are supported by all religious and ethnic groups. The Mandaeans support the demands of the protesters and hand out food, the Chaldean Catholic church patriarch of Babylon Louis Raphael I Sako canceled a planned interview in Hungary and chose to “stay in Baghdad during this difficult time.” In a joint statement, Sako and other leaders of Christian communities thanked “the young men and women, the future of Iraq, for their peaceful protests and for breaking the country’s sectarian barriers and emphasizing the Iraqi national identity.”

Arabic next to Kurdish slogans are everywhere on the square. A Kurdish-Arabic tent invites demonstrators for free tea. There is also great solidarity from the Yezidi community, which sends money, but also brings food and water to the square. Even if they do not have a direct, visible presence on the square, they express their support for change that could lead to a renewed Iraqi identity.

But the religious leaders who run the country are not welcome in the square, with some even denouncing Moqtada al Sadr and others who are held co-responsible for the looting of the country. “Don’t ride the wave, Moqtada” is therefore a popular slogan, as well as “In the name of religion, politicians act like thieves!”

the resignation of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, an apparent concession to the demonstrators, has not paralyzed the movement. It was too little and too late, they claim. Their demand is an entirely new political system, not the removal of one person.

No to “Muhasasa”

The Iraqi constitution has caused anger among the Iraqi people since 2005 and has given rise to continuous protests. “No to Muhasasa, no to political sectarianism,” protesters in Tahrir Square sang after the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi at the end of November 2019. The divisive constitution has anchored “Muhasasa” in Iraqi society. Muhasasa is the system for distributing public offices, political positions and state resources along ethnic-sectarian lines between parties that are part of the ruling elite of the country.

One of the biggest ailments of the Muhasasa, according to Iraqi demonstrators and experts, is that it has driven the sectarian tensions and broke down the social fabric by putting ethnic-sectarian identities in the foreground.

Although the muhasasa was introduced by the United States after the 2003 invasion, the foundations of the system were laid in the early 1990s by Iraqi opposition groups, which worked out a system for proportionate representation of Sunni, Shiites, Kurds and other ethnic sectarian groups in Iraq.

Prof. Saad Naji Jawad has written extensively about the disastrous Iraqi Constitution. I draw from his analysis. When US pro-consul Paul Bremer ​​arrived in Baghdad in May 2003, he had no prior knowledge of Iraqi politics, but immediately began issuing his 100 orders, many of which are still in force today. Bremer also formed a governing body, the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), consisting of people selected on the basis of sect, ethnic background and, most importantly, their loyalty to the US. It was the first time in Iraq’s history that agreements were made on a sectarian and ethnic basis. 65% of the IGC members had dual nationality.

The IGC appointed a committee to review the draft for a new constitution. This draft was strongly influenced by American political interests and written by American advisers, in particular the Jewish professor Noah Feldman and Peter Galbraith, assisted by two emigrated Iraqis who had the American and British nationality and had not lived in Iraq since childhood. None of the authors was an expert in constitutional law. The document itself was written in English and was poorly translated into Arabic.

The committee lacked representatives of civil society organizations and the committee’s discussions were not made public. The committee appointed advisers, mostly foreigners, whose names were never disclosed. A few days after their appointment, two Sunni members of the editorial committee and an adviser who objected to the proposed draft were murdered. A few days later, another Sunni committee member was kidnapped and killed. The result was that the Sunni representatives stopped their participation and demanded an investigation into the murder of their colleagues.

The important items in the document were not even discussed. However, the Kurdish members had clear ideas about what they wanted and had a team of American and European experts who advised them.

The IGC was asked to approve the constitution and did so with only minor changes. The Council’s main objection was that the new law did not refer to Islam as the state’s official religion, and Article 7 was included at their insistence.

“Sect” is mentioned a number of times in the Constitution (for example, Articles 12 and 20). This divisive word was never included in earlier Iraqi constitutions and its use was rejected by a large number of Iraqis. The only Iraqis who agreed to use the term were those who participated in the political process.

Iraqis were not aware of the details of the document because no public version was available. Some Iraqi constitutional law experts and academics pointed out the dangers of divisive clauses, based on the very few press releases, but these critics were threatened by police and unknown militias.

The constitution stipulates that in the event of inconsistencies between central laws and laws of a regional government, priority is given to the laws of the local government. This is perhaps the only time in modern constitutional history that such a hierarchy has been established. Immediately after the adoption of the constitution, the Kurdish federal region issued its own local constitution, which contained many clauses that contradicted those of the central government, especially regarding the exploitation of national and regional wealth, such as the oil.

Iraqi women were dissatisfied with the Constitution because the 1959 Progressive Personal Status with all its advanced amendments was canceled (Article 41).

In October 2005, Iraqis voted on a permanent constitution that they had not seen, read, studied, discussed or drafted. Even worse is that they voted for an incomplete document. They followed the instructions of their political and religious leaders and the majority did not realize that this document would become a major source of misery.

The provision in the Constitution to keep the central government weaker than the regional authorities has caused a chronic problem for the state. The Iraqi political discourse has centered on ethnicity and religion instead of Iraqi citizenship. The various components within Iraq have great autonomy and pursue an independent foreign policy. For example, there is no objection to the declared alliance policy between the leaders of the Barzani tribes and Israel. An Iraqi politician, such as Al-Alusi, can visit occupied Palestine – at the invitation of the occupying government – and speak and openly call for an alliance with Israel. Al-Alusi was himself one of those responsible for the de-Ba’athification, a decision that blew up the Iraqi state.

No wonder that for the Iraqis this constitution remains controversial. The debate continues about the ambiguity of most articles. The constitution has undermined the unity and survival of the Iraqi state.

The role of the trade unions in the uprising

Trade unions are present in the protests, but not in the forefront. Months before the uprising broke out, public sector employees in Central and Southern Iraq, including textile workers in Diwaniyah, municipal workers in Muthanna and leather workers in Baghdad, formulated demands for better wages and safe working conditions, decent housing and permanent jobs. But these demands have faded into the background since the protests began.

At a meeting in Basra on October 28, trade unions of lawyers, teachers and employees formed a committee that urged other trade unions to support the demonstrator’s demands rather than their own sectoral demands. According to them, the role of the trade unions would be more effective if they would show their solidarity with the demonstrators instead of playing a leading role in the historical uprising.

Most, if not all, trade unions have issued press releases to support the protest movement. The General Federation of Iraqi Trade Unions (GFITU, the only official federation in present-day Iraq, dominated by the Sadrists) called for “solidarity” with the insurrection without asking the workers to participate in the demonstrations. The GFITU advised the demonstrators to “protect public property and maintain good contact with security forces”. The General Federation of Workers’ Unions in Iraq (GFWUI) condemned the government’s violent action and organized pickets outside oil companies and refineries in Basra, Nasiriyah, and Misan, and also held demonstrations in Baghdad and Babel. The GFWUI also set up tents in Nasiriyah and militants brought food and drink for the demonstrators.

In a mass meeting at the Basra Oil Company, the unions demanded an end to the repression. However, the local section promised to continue production and remove the demonstrators who blocked access. The most militant action is done by the unemployed and the poor workers, not by oilworkers, who are severely punished when they strike.

So far, the most precarious demonstrators have received the hardest blows. The poor, the unemployed, the people who have nothing to lose, are the ones who occupy the front lines and defy riot police, militias and even Iranian paramilitary forces. But to bring about real change, the organized working class will have to play a greater role in the movement if the Iraqi people want a state that actually defends their interests.

All social classes participate in demonstrations

On Tahrir Square, bakers, restaurateurs, doctors and nurses, hairdressers, etc., all offer their services free of charge. Families from all classes and neighborhoods are demonstrating together under the hashtag نازل_اخذ_حقي# (I am demonstrating to claim my rights). Hordes of students leave high schools and universities to participate in the protests. Trade unions have joined the uprising. According to a poll conducted last year, 77% of the Iraqi people supported the uprising of 2018 (in Iraqi Kurdistan it was 53%). The support for the current revolution will be probably higher.

But especially the Tuk Tuk drivers have become the symbol of the revolution par excellence. The Tuktuk is a three-wheeled vehicle that serves as a taxi for the poor, but is now a symbol of the revolution itself. Tuktuks are not only depicted on the walls around the square, songs are written about them and even the newspaper of the revolution, which reports on all activities in the square, is called Tuktuk. Tuktuk drivers were previously socially marginalized and discriminated against. They are mostly young, underage drivers who have no other choice than to do this job, given the high unemployment and widespread poverty.

Now they transport wounded demonstrators and also have a logistical function. They are the only vehicles that are allowed on Tahrir square. The increased social recognition is reflected in more and more donations from other protesters, mainly from other social classes. This is necessary, because these young drivers often offer their services free of charge.

Another group on which the Iraqis have changed their opinion since 1 October are the residents of the southern province of Dhi Qar. Some of the most aggressive protests have taken place here, where protesters have set fire to political party offices and have gained a degree of control over the provincial capital Nasiriyah. In the meantime, the demonstrators of Dhi Qar have gained heroic status among their countrymen. This is despite the fact that the inhabitants of the city have had a bad reputation for decades. They are often described as “bad” fruits that have fallen from the “cursed tree.” If someone did something bad somewhere, it was often said that the person “probably comes from Nasiriyah”.

Since the demonstrations started, the people of Nasiriyah were praised for their courage. “We, the Baghdad demonstrators, have been trying to cross the bridge to the Green Zone for weeks,” is a slogan in Tahrir Square. “We are now asking our fellow demonstrators in Nasiriyah to help us do that faster.”

Women are prominently present in the revolution

Women have long been marginalized and silenced by conservative Islamists and now they have decided to finally make themselves heard. They joined the protest movement en masse. In a society where sexes do not normally mix, protesting alongside men means that a taboo has been broken. This is also a revolution against outdated traditions and norms. Men and women walk hand in hand, hug each other and people even kiss. This is unseen. There is no doubt that the uprising is a turning point for women, but the road to their freedom and rights is still full of obstacles. Breaking the artificial barrier between men and women is one of the most beautiful and significant outcomes of this historic uprising. The women come from all sectors of society, with or without headscarves, Muslims, Christians, young people, the elderly, middle-class and working-class women, housewives … they all participate, in the front lines or as logistical supporters. This is a hopeful evolution and no power will be able to reverse it, despite all the efforts and money that political Islam has spent to impose its feudal culture.

The women who demonstrate, offer help and even spend the night on Tahrir Square also feel completely safe. The office of the Iraqi Human Rights Commissioner stated on November 6 that “since the beginning of demonstrations in the various Iraqi provinces, there has been no case of women being harassed despite the participation of thousands of women”.

Iran, the big enemy?

Although Iran itself is threatened by the US and Israel and suffers from a criminal sanctions regime, the country has worked with the US since 2003 to pacify the country and shape the sectarian system. Iranian and American ambassadors have very actively tried to stop any Iraqi attempt at independence. Both the US and Iran must approve the composition of a government after each election in the secure Green Zone. At the same time, the relationships are very conflicting. Both Washington and Tehran fight each other for complete control of Iraq.

It has also become clear that the American mission in Iraq, set up to create a pro-American model for the region and a stronghold against anti-American militantism, has achieved the exact opposite. The defeat of Iraq was intended to illustrate how much the US firepower could intimidate the region and scare off the so-called “rogue states”. Instead, the policy outlined by the neoconservatives, Israel and the oil companies has ironically strengthened Iran’s power, the only regional power to withstand all that pressure, and is now the new “rogue state.” Iran’s regional status has risen in a way that was impossible without this background of failed imperial politics. Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the Iranian Deputy Chairman for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs – at the Conference The Gulf and Future Challenges, held in Abu Dhabi, January 2004 by the Emirate Center for Strategic Research and Studies – clearly explained Iran’s role in the occupation of Iraq. “The fall of Kabul and Baghdad would not have been easy without the assistance of Iran,” Abtahi said about the role of Iranian militias and intelligence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iranian threat is now imminent and pro-American authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have helped to achieve this.

At the beginning of March 2015, several Arab newspapers reported that Ali Younesi, a senior adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, had declared that Baghdad is the capital of “a new Persian Empire”. “Iran has today become an empire as it has been throughout history and the capital is now Baghdad in Iraq, which reflects the center of our civilization and our culture and identity today, as it was in the past”.

The “ISNA” news agency reported on his intervention in a forum in Tehran entitled “The Iranian Identity”. Younesi said that “Iran and Iraq are geographically indivisible. Younesi, who was the minister of information in President Mohammad Khatami’s ‘reform’ government, denounced anyone opposed to Iranian influence in the Middle East :”We will defend all peoples of the region because we consider them to be part of Iran. We will fight Islamic extremism, fight Takfiri, atheists, neo-Ottomans, Wahhabists, the West and Zionism.”

He emphasized the continuation of Tehran’s support for the Iraqi government and sent a clear message to Turkey: “Our competitors, the historical heirs of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Ottomans, resent our support for Iraq.” Younesi also stated in his speech that his country is planning to establish an “Iranian Federation” in the region: “by Iranian Federation, we do not mean to remove borders but that all nations neighboring the Iranian plateau should be close. I do not mean that we want to conquer the world all over again, but that we must regain our historical position to globally think and act Iranian

To understand the ambiguous position of Iran, we must go back to the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1978-79, initially welcomed by the Iraqi government, because for the two countries the Shah was a common enemy. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, however, saw Saddam Hussein’s secular, Arab-nationalist Ba’ath regime as un-Islamic and “an envoy of Satan”. The call by Khomeini in June 1979 to the Iraqi Shiites to overthrow the Ba’ath regime was therefore badly received in Baghdad. In 1979-1980 there were anti-Ba’ath riots in the Shiite areas of Iraq, and the Iranian government provided extensive support to the Iraqi Shiite militants to unleash an Islamic revolution. The repeated calls for the overthrow of the Ba’ath regime and support for Iraqi Shiite groups by the new regime in Iran was increasingly seen as an existential threat in Baghdad. Iranian pan-Islamism and revolutionary Shia Islamism, against secular Iraqi Arab nationalism were therefore central to the conflict between the two countries. Many of the current rulers in Iraq, including former Prime Minister al-Maliki, returned from Iran to Iraq on the back of the American tanks. Revanchist motifs played a major role. Officers from the former Iraqi army were systematically killed on the basis of death lists. Militias like the BADR Brigades, supported by Iran, sometimes worked together with the US to combat armed resistance, in a particularly brutal way. At other times they turned against the US. The US had no choice but to accept this option so as not to sink further into the Iraqi quagmire.

The Iranian discourse reflects ignorance about the reality of the Arab national identity. It is more important to the Iraqi Shiites than their religious identity. For example, in 1980 Khomeini wrongly thought that the Shiites in the Iraqi army would not fight against Iran and that they would choose Iran’s side because of their religious affiliation. But that didn’t happen. Iran does not seem to realize that the socio-religious rules in Iran are incompatible with the less strict religious behavior of Arab Shiites. This is an element of alienation for Shiite Arabs. The various Iranian statements have also angered the Shiites. 24 “battalions” consisting of 7,500 special police units accompanied more than 3 million Iranians arriving in Karbala province in Iraq to participate in the Arbaeen pilgrimage. Most Iraqi Shiites didn’t like that either..

But the Saudi alternative cannot appeal to the Iraqi Shiites either. The expression of Arab identity or Iraqi identity is the opposite of the reactionary definition of Saudi Wahhabism.

The inhabitants of the Shiite provinces also suffered little from the Anglo/American military campaign that befell the Sunni provinces. No Shiite city has undergone the destruction of Falluja, Ramadi, Mosul, Tikrit and other cities.

Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, stated in October 2019 that the uprisings and demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon were fueled by foreign powers, a vision also adopted by the Iraqi government and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Khamenei described the demonstrations in a tweet as “a conspiracy that will have no effect!” According to him, this “conspiracy” was led by the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and remnants of the Ba’ath party, to overthrow the government and install a regime under Washington control. Even the highest Shiite religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, indicated a possible plot in a statement, although he also condemned the violence against the demonstrators.

For months there had been rumors of a US-initiated coup in Iraq. More than two months before the uprising, Qays Khaz’ali, leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), an Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia and political party operating in Iraq, said: “There are plans to change the Baghdad government in November, with protests that will break out in October. Protests will not be spontaneous, but organized by factions in Iraq. Pay attention to my words ”

Sharmine Narwani on October 5, 2019: “Al Akhbar newspaper says the Iraqi government heard 3 months ago about of a planned US-backed coup by military officers, followed by street action. Time to be skeptical about events in Iraq? ”

“Protesters confirm the use of snipers in buildings aimed at demonstrators approaching Tahrir Square. During the US coup in Ukraine in 2014, the same method was used to bring about regime change.” So it was insinuated that the snipers shooting at the demonstrators were allied to the US, while the Iraqi army leadership itself admitted that its armed forces are responsible for the death of the demonstrators.

The claim that some Iraqi officers planned a coup has not been proven. Similarly, there are claims that Iran is planning a takeover of power through its militias. That claim cannot be substantiated either.

The story goes that General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, commander of anti-terrorism forces, would have visited various embassies to receive support for large-scale demonstrations that would lead to a military coup. He was dismissed from office based on those rumors. However, this story lacks credibility.

General Al-Saadi, who became an Iraqi national symbol in 2015 after leading his troops to decisive victories in the fight against ISIS, received the respect of the Iraqi people for impartiality in the war between Iran and the United States in the military campaign against IS. While Iran was arming, financing, and training many of the militias that formed the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), al-Saadi had no problem refusing Iranian support during his successful attempt to recapture territories on ISIS. At the same time, the General did not hesitate to express his frustration with the American patrons of Iraq and openly stated in the media: “Sometimes they carried out airstrikes that I had never asked for, and at other times I begged them for airstrikes that never came”. In a country where loyalty to foreign powers could make or break military and political careers, al-Saadi’s refusal to take sides made him unique in the eyes of Iraqis. His resignation was one of the reasons for the current protests.

Moreover, al-Saadi was only the number two in the command structure of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), which is led by General Talib Shaghati. Organizations such as CTS form the core of American strategies in the Middle East to keep the region under control. American forces created and trained and armed CTS during the first years of occupation and General Talib Shaghati has been the head of the CTS since 2007. Shagati’s entire family is housed in the US “for security reasons.” The only possible explanation for the removal of al-Saadi from his position is not that he was planning a coup, but that he placed Iraqi interests above foreign interests.

According to some commentators, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are funding the protests in Iraq, because where else would the funds come from to distribute free food and drink daily to the thousands of men and women who permanently occupy Tahrir Square? This claim ignores the massive support of the people for the revolts and the enormous solidarity that this revolution generates.

PMF Militias in Iraq were created after the fatwa of the high Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani to fight ISIS terrorists, but after the fighting ended, they shifted their focus to politics and control various government institutions and major parts of the country. They became the second largest formation in the Iraqi government after the 2018 elections, the party of Moqtada al Sadr being the largest.

These “people’s militias” have violently imposed their rule all over Iraq in the areas they control. They enrich themselves in every possible way. Bribes are demanded at checkpoints, especially on roads to areas conquered by ISIS. According to a report from the London School of Economics, militias in only one city generated an estimated $ 300,000 a day in illegal taxes. There are also reports of militias organizing a scrap trade around Mosul and carrying material away to sell instead of supporting the reconstruction of the city.

The militias control the seaport of Umm Qasr and the oil industry has not been spared either. In 2015, militias plundered the Baiji oil refinery, formerly the largest in Iraq. More recently there have been allegations of organized smuggling from oil fields around Mosul and Kirkuk. Militias have been smuggling oil in Basra for a long time and some have signed lucrative contracts with international oil companies.

When asked: “Do you have a positive or negative image of the following countries?”, In a 2019 poll, only 38% of the Iraqi Shiite population had a positive perception of Iran, compared to 86% in 2014. It is impossible to blame US propaganda for this sharp fall in Iran’s perception. The same poll mentions the 3 main reasons for this negative perception: 1) Dumping Iraq with cheap products; 2) Dumping Iraq with Drugs; 3) Supporting different non efficient and corrupt governments.

Of course, the US is the main culprit for the current chaos in Iraq, but Tehran also bears a great responsibility for the damage done to the relations between the Iraqi and Iranian people. The current hostility to Iran does not come out of the blue, but is the result of years of discontent because of Iran’s cooperation with the US occupation forces who together helped to protect government leaders and protect the sectarian quota system, and directly intervened on various occasions to cancel parliamentary decisions. Now that IS has been defeated, the Shiites notice that their reward is a country where the population has fallen even deeper into poverty, while the political and religious elites are pampering themselves with dazzling mansions and spacious country houses abroad, a country where some militias are involved in lucrative smuggling of oil, drugs and human trafficking, where dress codes and religious fatwas are forcefully enforced, a population in poverty while the country floats on a sea of ​​oil.

The US and Saudi Arabia will naturally want to use the current uprising to try to push through their own agenda and insist on regime change. America and Israel are engaged in a total war in the region against all areas under Iranian influence. America does not really have control over the thousands of demonstrators, but it exploits every event and every political development when it serves its interests. However, what we do not read in the Western media is that the protests are also directed against the American presence and also against the interference of Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Adel Abdul Mahdi offered his resignation on November 29 after the massacre in Nassiriyah, Najaf and Baghdad.

Western media versus social media

The US and Saudi Arabia do naturally want to use the current revolution to try to push through their own agenda. America and Israel are engaged in a total war in the region against all areas under Iranian influence. America does not really have control over the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, but it exploits every event and every political development when it serves its interests. We only read anti-Iranian rhetoric in Western media. However, what we do not read in the press is that the protests are equally directed against the American presence and against the interference of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel.

Fortunately, there are social media that bring powerful stories and a human face to the struggle, in a way that has never been done before. There have been desperate attempts by the government to stop the spread of eyewitness accounts on social media by shutting down the internet. However, that did not work.

Banners on Tahrir Square read: “No to America, No to Erdogan, No to Iran, No to Barzani, No to Israeli NGOs”.

Iraqi poet, novelist, translator and scholar Sinan Antoon was born and raised in Baghdad and his most recent novel is entitled “The Book of Collateral Damage”. He said on November 26, “What is really important is the restoration of Iraqi identity and a new sense of Iraqi nationalism that transcends sectarian discourse institutionalized by the United States in 2003”.

“Iran has a lot of influence in Iraq and has infiltrated many of the institutions and supported many of the Iraqi militias, but all of that is a product of the US occupation and invasion of Iraq. While Iran is one of the targets of these demonstrators, it’s important to remember that many of the banners and posters on the Tahrir square say “no” to any foreign intervention. So they say no to Iran, no to Turkey, no to Israel, no to the United States.

But of course the mass media in the United States, because of their geopolitical interests and their continued interference in the region, write only about Iran, and no one denies that Iran supports many of the parties in Iraq financially and otherwise and infiltrates Iraqi society in so many ways. But there are all those other dimensions and, unfortunately, the regular media in the US and also in Europe are very short-sighted and only focus on the influence that Iran exerts on the Iraqi regime.

And that’s correct. But Iraqis want their country back and they want sovereignty and they are against all kinds of interventions. And the Iraqi state, since 2003, is very weak. We have Turkish troops in Iraq, in the north, we have American troops. The demonstrators are really aware of all this and they understand very well – at least based on what they say when they appear in the media – that the interests of Iraq and Iraqis come first and that sovereignty is very important. Of course it will not be taken back in one day, but they realize that the Iranian regime is not the only threat and not the only sponsor of certain forces in Iraq. ”

The Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who became famous after throwing two shoes at Bush while shouting, “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog”, told Euronews that protesters are calling for the fall of the political regime. He also said that they do not want other countries to interfere in Iraq. “The government of the American occupation is rejected. This government has brought disaster to the country … today we want the fall of this political regime and the end of this government”, he explained. “We don’t hate Iran, we don’t hate Saudi Arabia, we don’t hate Turkey. But our message is simple: they must stop interfering with our country. The Iraqi people are a free people”, he said.

“All these human losses, the robbery, the crimes of the Green Zone government are the total responsibility of the US government. They have been protecting that gang of thieves since 2003 with their mercenaries and military bases, just to allow multinational corporations to control Iraq’s oil and other resources”, Souad al-Azzawi, an Iraqi environmental scientist, wrote.

Another comment:” Dear Iraqi sisters and brothers, Americans are working very hard to hijack your demonstrations and use them as an excuse to install an American puppet regime in place of the current regime. Please be vigilant and do not allow Iraq to become a battlefield of world and regional powers.”

Following the revelations in the New York Times and the intercept on November 18, the so-called “control” of Iran over Iraq, an authoritative Iraqi opinion maker wrote:

Some questions …

what are those important secrets that America has unveiled and published in the New York Times, which are not known by the Iraqis ??

  • Is it not America that occupied Iraq and destroyed its national institutions, killed, arrested and displaced millions of people?
  • Is it not the US that created the corrupt sectarian political process and wants to protect and continue it?
  • Is it not the US that has worked for years with Iran and its criminal terrorist militias? The US knows exactly how these gangs came to power; after all they stole billions of dollars together, plundered the wealth of the country, kidnapped innocent people and killed them.
  • Is it not America that controls the space, land, air, security and communication with their spies and knows exactly what is going on, even in the living rooms ???
  • Yes, the US knows all the small and big crimes that Iran and its agents have committed against the people of Iraq since 2003 until now. After all, they were deeply involved and pulled Iran into the Iraqi quagmire.

The rebellious people of Iraq do not need such “revelations” because they rebelled for themselves, their homeland and humanity, after their patience was exhausted and they saw no light at the end of the dark tunnel created by America by its brutal occupation of this country.

Maybe these documents cause a scandal in America, and then they can keep silent about their own role in killing a people and the rape of the country over the years. So these documents should not only be a condemnation of Iran, because Iran is only a partner in the crimes against humanity committed by the US. ”

These are just a few examples to disprove the story of the mass media that the uprising would be aimed primarily at Iran, quod non. The US, but also the Iranian leadership, are terrified of an escalation of this conflict and a possible overthrow of the existing regime, from which they both benefit.

Conclusion

A revolt against the government does not require external conspiracy: all domestic factors for protest, revolt and revolution are present. The Iraqi people have a thousand reasons to revolt against the existing regime. The stigmatization of the uprisings in Iraq as a Zionist-American conspiracy or a Ba’athist uprising is unfair to the hundreds of thousands who want to take their future into their own hands and want to get rid of the political system.

The Iraqi people continue to be a pawn in the game of geopolitical power politics, victims of the hunger for profit of the oil companies and corrupt politicians in an occupied country. Iraqis continue to bear the full burden of 29 years of sanctions, wars, misery, death, destruction, chaos and extreme neoliberalism. The people, however, have always remained alert, have constantly opposed the inhumane situation in which they were forced and want a fairer redistribution of the available resources. The past and present protests also have repeatedly opposed the division of the country, foreign interference and the sectarian structures imposed on them.

There is a continuity in Iraq’s popular resistance since 2003. Iraq is not Ukraine, is not Hong Kong. This is yet another uprising against the Green Zone, the fortified castle where the US, but also Iran, determine the rules of the game through the puppet government they have appointed. Any attempt to turn Iraq into the arena of a US war against Iran must be resisted. The people of Iraq cannot cope with another war.

A new Iraq may be coming, but that will not be welcomed by the American occupier, nor by Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Iraqi authorities, Europe and Iran. The people of Iraq will continue to oppose any foreign occupation and foreign interference and strive for a sovereign Iraq. The first condition is that all foreign troops, mercenaries and foreign counselors leave Iraq.

On a personal note: there is a strong “anti-organization” attitude, a general rejection of political structures and a focus on spontaneity. This attitude is understandable given the demonstrators’ fear of being co-opted by dominant political parties. The slogan “no to political parties” is very popular. The Left and trade unionists in the movement should emphasize that workers should organize themselves politically with a clear program to withstand the pressure of the neoliberal state, the economic elites and the dominant political parties and to remain independent. The lack of organization, the lack of clear alternatives, the political division among the demonstrators, have ensured that the protest movements since 2011 have not led to tangible results, with an absolute low point being the support that some Sunni groups have given to the terror group ISIS. Many demonstrators are young and inexperienced, reject everything, even early elections. They think that the political class will easily give up power, and that afterwards Iraqis will be able to rule themselves freely. Iraq is not a sovereign state, but is dominated by well-organized foreign powers, so the demonstrators should be even better organized if they want this revolution to succeed.

Victory for the demonstrators is not inevitable, perhaps not even likely. But it would be the only just outcome. What happens after a popular uprising is never a certainty, but that should not prevent the peace movement from giving its support to the just demands of the Iraqi people. If this rebellion does not produce the desired results, further rebellions will follow. The Iraqi people want to put an end to foreign interference and the corrupt system that has plunged millions into poverty. These protests are the only guarantee for a long-awaited peace in Iraq. Our solidarity with the justified demands of the Iraqi demonstrators is therefore more than necessary.

“Stay on the streets, never go home, because that is the secret of your success”.

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Dirk Adriaensens is a member of the executive committee of the BRussells Tribunal. Between 1992 and 2003 he led several delegations to Iraq to observe the devastating effects of  UN sanctions. He was a member of the International Organising Committee of the World Tribunal on Iraq (2003-2005). He is also co-coordinator of the Global Campaign Against the Assassination of Iraqi Academics. He is co-author of Rendez-Vous in Baghdad, EPO (1994), Cultural Cleansing in Iraq, Pluto Press, London (2010), Beyond Educide, Academia Press, Ghent (2012), Global Research’s Online Interactive I-Book ‘The Iraq War Reader, Global Research (2012), Het Midden Oosten, The Times They are a-changin ‘, EPO (2013) and is a frequent contributor to Global Research, Truthout, Al Araby, The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies and other media.

Featured image: Demonstrators are seen in Basra, Iraq, on July 19, 2019. During the protest, demonstrators assaulted journalist Ayman al-Sheikh. (Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani)The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Dirk Adriaensens, Global Research, 2020

Netanyahu Asks Israeli Parliament for Immunity

January 2, 2020

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday asked parliament for immunity, weeks after the embattled premier was indicted on a range of corruption charges.

Netanyahu, the Zionist entity’s longest-serving premier, is fighting for his political survival on two fronts — the corruption allegations and stiff opposition from a new centrist party.

The immunity request is expected to delay the start of court proceedings for months, as lawmakers are not due to vote on the matter until after March 2 elections.

The request is “in line with the law… (and) with the goal of continuing to serve you, for the future of Israel,” Netanyahu told reporters in Al-Quds (Jerusalem).

His spokesman Ofer Golan later confirmed the request had been submitted to the speaker of Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

Netanyahu was charged by the attorney general in November with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases.

The leader of the right-wing Likud party denies the allegations and accuses prosecutors and the media of a witch hunt.

Reacting to the premier’s announcement, his rival Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party, said “Netanyahu knows that he is guilty.”

Gantz said his own party will do everything it can to “prevent immunity”.

“In Israel, nobody is above the law”.

A sitting prime minister is only required to step down once convicted and after all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.

Source: AFP

حملة استباقية على الحكومة

ديسمبر 27, 2019

ناصرقنديل

يتصدّر الرئيس سعد الحريري وتيار المستقبل واجهة الحملة التي يشاركه فيها آخرون على الحكومة المرتقبة التي يشكلها الرئيس المكلف حسان دياب. وفي مفارقة غريبة تثير الريبة يتلاقى الحريري مع بعض جماعات تولّت السيطرة على إدارة الحراك الشعبي منذ أكثر من شهرين، وأوصلت شعار الاستقالة إلى صحن الحريري جاهزاً ليتلقفه وليتبادلا أخذ البلد إلى الفراغ والفوضى ويتقاسما قطع الطرقات ومنع ولادة حكومة جديدة، هو بالتلاعب بالترشجيات وصولاً لابتزاز الميثاقية في الامتناع، وهم في العبثية السوداء في التعامل مع الدعوة للاستشارات النيابية يوم كانت تمنح الحريري وضعاً تفاوضياً أفضل، وبرفضها يوم جاءت بغيره بعدما سحب اسمه من الترشيح، وصولاً لتنظيم حملات احتجاج امام منزل الرئيس المكلف يتناوبون عليها بدقة التوقيت والتنظيم والشعارات، ويهاجمون معاً مَن يلتقيه ويُشيطنون معاً من يمكن لأن يترشّح لحكومته، كل تحت عنوان، ومن خلفهما معاً ما بقي من قوى الرابع عشر من آذار.

الميثاقية ذريعة مردودة في حالتي التكليف والتأليف، لأن أحداً من الذين قاربوا التكليف ويقاربون اليوم التأليف لم يضع في حسابه أو يرغب باستبعاد المكوّن السياسي الأوسع تمثيلاً في طائفته، أو ينكر عليه هذه الصفة، أو يتنكّر لحق تيار المستقبل بأولويّة ملء مركز رئاسة الحكومة أو المقاعد الحكومية في الحكومة العتيدة، ولو كان الحاصل هو الاستبعاد لكان الحديث عن الميثاقية في مكانه، أما وأن الأمر هو اتخاذ هذه الصفة التمثيلية رهينة للإضراب، وإلغاء الحياة الدستورية، بمنع تسمية رئيس للحكومة ومنع تشكيل حكومة، فيصير الحال هو حال كل ما يصفه المشرّعون بالضرورات التي تبيح المحظورات، وما تقتضيه المصلحة العليا للدولة من منع وقوع الشغور في المرفق العام، فكيف عندما يكون المرفق العام هو الدولة نفسها.

السؤال عما يريده الحريري اليوم، بعدما امتنع عن رئاسة الحكومة بضربة قواتية، ويمتنع عن المشاركة مباشرة أو غير مباشرة في الحكومة، فواضح وهو السعي بعدما فشلت مساعي منع تسمية رئيس مكلف، منع مواصلة الرئيس المكلف لمسؤوليته بمحاولة العزل الطائفي، وصولاً لمنع مشاركة وزراء في الحكومة بقوة هذا التهديد نفسه، والضغط سيتواصل بعد تشكيل الحكومة لكن لأهداف أخرى، وما يجري يؤسس لها استباقياً بعدما توضحت صورة الرئيس المكلف وثباته بوجه التهديدات والحملات، ونجاحه بإيجاد وزراء يشبهونه في المواصفات وفي الثبات. والحرب الاستباقية تهدف إلى التفاوض غير المباشر مع الرئيس المكلف حول أمرين، الأول مصير المواقع الحساسة في الدولة التي يحتلها مناصرو الرئيس الحريري، والثاني هو محاولة رسم خطوط حمراء في أي مساءلة حول الفساد تبدو أولوية الحكومة بضغط الشارع، كي لا تطال المساءلة رموزاً أساسية من تيار المستقبل.

يعرف الرئيس الحريري أن الطلبين مخالفان للأصول الدستورية، فمن حق رئيس حكومة جديدة أن يأتي بطاقم عمل إداري يثق به في المواقع المفصلية المالية والإنمائية والأمنية، خصوصاً التي تتبع لرئاسة الحكومة دستورياً، أو تحسب عليها سياسياً، ومن واجب رئيس الحكومة الآتي في مرحلة انفجار شعبي قال الرئيس الحريري أنه يستجيب لمقتضياته في المساءلة، ألا يقبل أي حماية أو خطوط حمراء واستثناءات في أي مساءلة، وليس بالضرورة أن يتصرف الرئيس المكلف عندما يصير رئيساً لحكومة مكتملة دستورياً، كما تصرّف الرئيس السابق نجيب ميقاتي ووزير داخليته تجاه الوزير السابق أشرف ريفي يوم كان مديراً عاماً لقوى الأمن الداخلي. – السؤال الجانبي هو هل بعض الجماعات المحسوبة على الحراك الشعبي والتي تشارك بقيادة الحملة على الرئيس المكلف قلقة من ملفات المساءلة المالية لنفقات في وزارة الاتصالات والهيئة العليا للإغاثة وكشف التسهيلات والحمايات من بعض الأجهزة الأمنية، أو ماقد تظهره السجلات من رعاية مالية تلقتها هذه الجماعات بصورة مباشرة أوغير مباشرة كرعايات إعلانية لأنشطة بعض الجمعيات أوكحصرية توزيع بعضها للمساعدات الخاصة بالنازحين السوريين أوسواهم؟

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ماذا في خلفيات هجوم الحريري على العهد والوزير باسيل في هذا التوقيت بالذات؟

مواضيع متعلقة

PRESIDENT OF IRAQ: THE DECISION IS MINE

Posted on 26/12/2019 by Elijah J Magnier

Iraqi President Barham Salih has shown that he is in control of the country and has made a show of his contempt for the Iraqi constitution. In a dramatic gesture, Salih made a play for public support by declaring his willingness to resign. He then departed for Suleimaniya, after rejecting the decision of the largest Parliamentary coalition, in accordance with article 71 of the constitution, to nominate their chosen candidate. Only he will decide who can be nominated as the future Prime Minister of the country, notwithstanding the constitution’s provisions for respecting the will of the parliamentary majority.

The resignation of caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi and the struggle to nominate a new Prime Minister have shown the divisions between political parties and above all among the Shia majority in Parliament. It has also shown Iran’s handicap in attempting to unite these groups and bring them together to agree on a single Shia Iraqi personality! The limits of Iran’s influence in Iraq are evident. What does the future hold for Iraq?

The Iraqi constitution gives the largest parliamentary coalition the right to choose its candidate for prime minister, and then forward the name to the President, who is to announces it publicly. However, in this case, the constitution was not followed: President Barham Salih tried to delay the nomination of the largest coalition, Al-Bina’, asking the Parliament to confirm the identity of this coalition. He managed to gain some time by responding to al-Bina’ that “he would rather wait until the Friday sermon of the Marjaiya in Najaf, to make the announcement later”. 

Salih was aware that the Marjaiya had taken a clear decision not to intervene in favour of or against any candidate or parliamentary coalition. The Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Sistani has set the road map for any future candidate: an end to corruption, early elections with a new law, an independent judiciary system, together with the creation of job opportunities, listening to people’s requests, protecting protestors, and ending foreign intervention in the country’s internal affairs.

All politicians and heads of political coalitions have interpreted the Marjaiya’s guidelines by their own lights.

Hadi al-Ameri, the head of al-Bina’ coalition told others in Baghdad that “the Marjiaiya rejected Qusey al-Suheil as future Prime Minister”. But sources in Najaf described all politicians as “liars who are avid for power, and unwilling to listen to protestors’ requests”.  Hadi al-Ameri did propose himself as a candidate but the offer was spurned by his allies, who saw his candidacy as a provocation to the protestors.

President Barham Salih delayed the announcement of al-Suheil in the hope that protestors would reject him. Saleh saw in al-Suheil a threat to his own candidate, Mustafa al-Kazemi, and to his political agenda. Any candidate can be brought down in Iraq by running out the clock, since it is nearly impossible to select a candidate agreeable to all political parties, Sunni, Shia and Kurds.

Qusey al-Suheil, told political party leaders, as al Suheil told me, that he “rejected the distribution of power and ministerial positions among the political parties who had made this a pre-condition to supporting him”. His ploy is to claim, “I shall offer my resignation and leave with dignity. Political parties want to hold on to their corrupt style of governance, and that is unsuitable for me. I refuse to divide the cake among those who are unwilling to reconstruct the country”, as a rationalization for defying the constitution.

Al Bina’ letter asking the Parliament to adopt legal measures against President Barham Salih for violating the constitution

Well-informed sources in Baghdad told me that “President Salih repeatedly asked why Adel Abdil Mahdi doesn’t remain in power like Nouri al-Maliki who was a caretaker for 7 months? The country can wait”.

After Qusey al-Suheil withdrew his candidacy, the dominant al-Bina’ coalition decided to back the governor of Basra Asaad al-Idani as Prime Minister. However, President Salih wanted to wait for the Marjaiya’s Friday Sermon to decide but was told that Sayyed Sistani would take no position. Salih then again rejected the most significant parliamentary coalition’s choice and, in a letter to the Parliament, expressed his readiness to resign (but without resigning, of course).

President Salih has delayed announcing a new Prime Minister; this temporizing has led to protestors on the street to rejecting any candidate offered by the largest coalition. He is taking his time to announce the name of the new Prime Minister. The constitution seems irrelevant and each politician expounds on its articles as he wishes. Each coalition is asking for its share of power under the title of “agreement”, “balance’, “understanding” – and ignoring constitutional procedures. Even within the same coalition, great differences have been manifested. The impotence of the Iraqi judiciary to impose respect for the constitution is evident.

Another important aspect is the position of Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the largest single parliamentary group, which does not belong to the larger Parliamentary coalition. Moqtada said he was not willing to intervene and pulled out from the consultation to form a new Prime Minister. In reality, he reminded candidates and political leaders of the power of his share. He tweeted his refusal to Mohammad al-Sudani and to al-Suheil and reminded the Basra governor of his share in the new cabinet, and General Directors’ positions. Moqtada has not only the largest number of MPs but also the largest number of Ministers and General Directors.

Moqtada offered three names as candidates: Mustafa al-Kadhemi, Raheel al Ukeili and Fair al-Sheikh Ali. In reality, according to sources within Moqtada’s office, he supports the head of the intelligence service Mustafa al-Kadhemi. President Barham Salih followed Moqtada’s wish and supported al-Kadhemi.

‘Hezbollah Iraq’ harshly criticises the President Barham Salih ‘irresponsible behaviour violating the constitution”.

Iran failed to unite all coalitions or even the largest number of political groups under one candidate. Iraqi politicians showed how divided they really are, and that Iran’s effort to support a choice Iraqi candidate was doomed to failure. The current impasse recalls 2017, when Hadi al-Ameri opposed the Lebanese-Syrian decision to remove ISIS militants from Iraq’s common borders with Deir-Ezzour. On another occasion, al-Ameri rejected Qassem Soleimani’s suggestion that he combines forces with those of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi before the parliamentary elections.

Today al-Ameri wants to become Prime Minister again; he rejected Qusey al-Suheil secretly after initially promoting him, signed the document approving al-Suheil and now supports al-Idani.

The US has been somewhat distant from the political dynamic of choosing a Prime Minister for the first time since 2003 and did not intervene. This is an indication that President Donald Trump is not deeply engaged with events in the Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. He seems preoccupied with domestic affairs and the Chinese-Russian economic threat. Trump is busy imposing sanctions on his enemies and allies alike and seems unconcerned with Iraq.

Iraq is now in the hands of President Salih, who is using the demonstrations as a pretext for expanding his power: He openly tells parliament “the decision is mine or I resign.” President Salih has abused the constitution while hiding behind the protestors. His offer to resign is a ruse to ask for the support of the protestors; he means to show the public that he stands against political parties. Salih is aware that the Iraqi population is very emotional and will stand behind him.

The people can and will reject any political candidate for the position of Prime Minister. It is likely that Adil Abdel Mahdi will remain as the caretaker for some time, perhaps until a new military personality takes over. Iraq is heading towards an uncharted territory and an uncertain future in 2020.

Proofread by  Maurice Brasher and C.G.B.

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Unbreaking America: Divided We Fall

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What Really Happened in Iran? Wave of Protests in 100 Cities

A fuel tax hike set the country ablaze and triggered a social backlash

Global Research, December 09, 2019

On November 15, a wave of protests engulfed over 100 Iranian cities as the government resorted to an extremely unpopular measure: a fuel tax hike of as much as 300%, without a semblance of a PR campaign to explain the reasons.

Iranians, after all, have reflexively condemned subsidy removals for years now – especially related to cheap gasoline. If you are unemployed or underemployed in Iran, especially in big cities and towns, Plan A is always to pursue a second career as a taxi driver.

Protests started as overwhelmingly peaceful. But in some cases, especially in Tehran, Shiraz, Sirjan and Shahriar, a suburb of Tehran, they quickly degenerated into weaponized riots – complete with vandalizing public property, attacks on the police and torching of at least 700 bank outlets. Much like the confrontations in Hong Kong since June.

President Rouhani, aware of the social backlash, tactfully insisted that unarmed and innocent civilians arrested during the protests should be released. There are no conclusive figures, but Iranian diplomats admit, off the record, that as many as 7,000 people may have been arrested. Tehran’s judiciary system denies it.

According to Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, as many as 200,000 people took part in the protests nationwide. According to the Intelligence Ministry, 79 people were arrested in connection with the riots only in Khuzestan province – including three teams, supported by “a Persian Gulf state,” which supposedly coordinated attacks on government centers and security/police forces.

The Intelligence Ministry said it had arrested eight “CIA operatives,” accused of being instrumental in inciting the riots.

Now compare it with the official position by the IRGC. The chief commander of the IRGC, Major General Hossein Salami, stressed riots were conducted by “thugs” linked to the US-supported Mujahedin-e Khalq (MKO), which has less than zero support inside Iran, and with added interference by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Salami also framed the riots as directly linked to “psychological pressure” from the Trump administration’s relentless “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. He directly connected the protests degenerating into riots in Iran with foreign interference in protests in Lebanon and Iraq.

Elijah Magnier has shown how Moqtada al-Sadr denied responsibility for the burning down of the Iranian consulate in Najaf – which was set on fire three times in November during protests in southern Iraq.

Tehran, via government spokesman Ali Rabiei, is adamant:

“According to our information, the attack on the consulate was not perpetrated by the Iraqi people, it was an organized attack.”

Predictably, the American narrative framed Lebanon and Iraq – where protests were overwhelmingly against local government corruption and incompetence, high unemployment, and abysmal living standards – as a region-wide insurgency against Iranian power.

Soleimani for President?

Analyst Sharmine Narwani, based on the latest serious polls in Iran, completely debunked the American narrative.

It’s a complex picture. Fifty-five percent of Iranians do blame government corruption and mismanagement for the dire state of the economy, while 38% blame the illegal US sanctions. At the same time, 70% of Iranians favor national self-sufficiency – which is what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has been emphasizing – instead of more foreign trade.

On sanctions, no less than 83% agree they exerted a serious impact on their lives. Mostly because of sanctions, according to World Bank figures, Iranian GDP per capita has shrunk to roughly $6,000.

The bad news for the Rouhani administration is that 58% of Iranians blame his team for corruption and mismanagement – and they are essentially correct. Team Rouhani’s promises of a better life after the JCPOA obviously did not materialize. In the short term, the political winners are bound to be the principlists – which insist there’s no possible entente cordiale with Washington at any level.

The polls also reveal, significantly, massive popular support for Tehran’s foreign and military policy – especially on Syria and Iraq. The most popular leaders in Iran are legendary Quds Force commander Gen. Soleimani (a whopping 82%), followed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (67%) and the head of the Judiciary Ebrahim Raisi (64%).

The key takeaway is that at least half and on some issues two-thirds of Iran’s popular opinion essentially support the government in Tehran – not as much economically but certainly in political terms. As Narwani summarizes it, “so far Iranians have chosen security and stability over upheaval every time.”

‘Counter-pressure’

What’s certain is that Tehran won’t deviate from a strategy that may be defined as  “maximum counter-pressure” – on multiple fronts. Iranian banks have been cut off from SWIFT by the US since 2018. So efforts are intensifying to link Iran’s SEPAM system with the Russian SPFS and the Chinese CIPS – alternative interbank paying systems.

Tehran continues to sell oil – as Persian Gulf traders have repeatedly confirmed to me since last summer. Digital tracking agency Tankertrackers.com concurs. The top two destinations are China and Syria. Volumes hover around 700,000 barrels a day. Beijing has solemnly ignored every sanction threat from Washington regarding oil trading with Iran.

Khamenei, earlier this month, was adamant:

“The US policy of maximum pressure has failed. The Americans presumed that they can force Iran to make concessions and bring it to its knees by focusing on maximum pressure, especially in the area of economy, but they have troubled themselves.”

In fact “maximum counter-pressure” is reaching a whole new level.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi confirmed that Iran will hold joint naval drills with Russia and China in the Indian Ocean in late December.

That came out of quite a significant meeting in Tehran, between Khanzadi and the deputy chief of the Chinese Joint Staff Department, Major General Shao Yuanming.

So welcome to Maritime Security Belt. In effect from December 27th. Smack on the Indian Ocean – the alleged privileged territory of Washington’s Indo-Pacific policy. And uniting the three key nodes of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.

Khanzadi said that, “strategic goals have been defined at the level administrations, and at the level of armed forces, issues have been defined in the form of joint efforts.” General Yuanming praised Iran’s Navy as “an international and strategic force.”

But geopolitically, this packs a way more significant game-changing punch. Russia may have conducted naval joint drills with Iran on the Caspian Sea. But a complex drill, including China, in the Indian Ocean, is a whole new ball game.

Yuanming put it in a way that every student of Mahan, Spykman and Brzezinski easily understands: “Seas, which are used as a platform for conducting global commerce, cannot be exclusively beneficial to certain powers.”  So start paying attention to Russia, China and Iran being quite active not only across the Heartland but also across the Rimland.

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from OneWorld

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