Why Trump Scapegoats China

U.S. President Donald Trump answers a question from CNN's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta about hospitals and frontline health care workers reporting shortages of masks and coronavirus tests during the coronavirus response daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2020.

17.04.2020

by Finian Cunningham

President Trump this week said no-one believes China’s official figures on Covid-19 casualties. Along with his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump accused Beijing of a cover-up on the scale of the disease.

Almost in the same breath, the White House has also accused the World Health Organization of colluding with China in deceiving other nations about the pandemic danger. To supposedly prove his point, Trump cut off US funding to the WHO.

China has slammed claims of it conducting a cover-up, saying it provided early warning to the rest of the world about the deadly outbreak.

Part of Trump’s skepticism towards China’s data appears to stem from the country’s relatively low numbers of infection cases and deaths. This week, China’s infection cases were about 82,000 while its deaths numbered over 4,000. That was after an upward revision on earlier data concerning the city of Wuhan where the new coronavirus disease erupted in December. Beijing says such revision is normal practice by all countries as mortality information is gathered. In Britain, for example, it is reckoned that deaths have so far been greatly underestimated due to lack of counting deceased in elderly care homes. Is anyone accusing the British government of a cover-up?

In any case, what seems to be bothering The Donald and other Western leaders is just how low China’s pandemic figures are by comparison with their own.

In the US this week, the infection cases and death toll are upwards of 700,000 and 34,000, according to this global counter. That’s massively greater than figures in China. Likewise the casualty rates in Italy, Spain, France and Britain are way out ahead of what China has reported.

That huge disparity has led Western politicians to accuse China of a cover-up or at least not coming fully clean with evidence. Because to reflect on the enormously discrepant figures it otherwise makes the Western countries look extremely bad in their mishandling of the public health crisis. The exploding casualties indicate gross ineptitude and dereliction of public health services (which is correct). In which case, it is politically expedient, and indeed imperative, to find a scapegoat in order to cover-up for the monumental incompetence of Western leaders. Ironically, it’s not China which is doing the covering up. It is the West and their criminally incompetent governments and their slavish adherence to capitalist priorities. Private profit before people.

The US and President Trump are potentially most acutely exposed for their ineptitude in coping with the Covid-19 crisis. The pandemic ripping through American society is down to Trump’s callous complacency which was displayed for weeks after both China and the WHO explicitly warned of a public health crisis as far back as the end of January.

The American crisis is also down to the parlously insecure state of American workers living on the edge of financial ruin and an underfunded crumby health care system that puts corporate profit before human need.

Same goes for Britain and many other Western states. The fact is that the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed all their chronic failings to protect public health. That’s why it is imperative for the Western culprits to blame China for allegedly deceiving them into supposedly not being able to make adequate preparations.

The Western inference that China’s Covid-19 figures are unreliable are contradicted by data from South Korea. It was one of the first countries outside China to be put on alert over the epidemic. But it was early and rapid action by South Korea’s government that ensured the impact was kept relatively low. Out of a caseload of 106,000 infections, some 230 South Koreans have died from the disease. Compare that with Britain, where the caseload as of this week is similar, but the death toll stands at over 14,000, two orders of magnitude greater.

© REUTERS / KIM HONG-JIA couple takes a walk near a cherry blossom trees street, closed to avoid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Seoul, South Korea, April 1, 2020

South Korea’s effectiveness in containing the Covid-19 pandemic shows that the right government action of massive testing, tracking and quarantining can succeed. China’s record is apparently not as good as South Korea’s, but nevertheless is comparable in the scale of its success. Western governments and media are not accusing South Korea of a cover-up. And if South Korea can succeed in the way it did, then it is entirely feasible that China did also by the same proactive intervention of testing, tracking and lockdown. To claim China is lying about its figures is to willfully ignore the success of South Korea against Covid-19.

Trump and other Western leaders are scapegoating China over Covid-19 because they can’t allow the public to ponder on the shameful and awful truth: that their governments let them die unnecessarily.

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

Unmasked: NATO’s Dog-Eat-Dog Pandemic Reaction

Finian CunninghamApril 10, 2020

Unmasked: NATO's Dog-Eat-Dog Pandemic Reaction - Islam Times

Despite its charter proclaiming mutual defense and security, the NATO military alliance is showing a rather unbecoming dog-eat-dog individualistic reaction in coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States, the top dog in the 30-member pack of nations, is accused of “modern piracy” after it nabbed consignments of face masks which were bound for allies Canada, France and Germany to help those nations fight against soaring epidemics of the disease.

To think too that only last year, NATO celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding in 1949 with lots of fanfare and vain self-congratulations of how noble the alliance is. Skeptics, though, see the bloc as a Cold War relic whose security claims are but empty Orwellian excuses for warmongering and propping up obscenely wasteful corporate militarism.

The latest incident involved the alleged commandeering of 200,000 anti-infection surgical masks by the US which had been originally ordered by German authorities for police officers in Berlin. The shipment was intercepted in Thailand and directed to the US instead.

It appears that the US firm, 3M, which sources the facial masks in China, was mandated by the Trump administration to increase its exports to the US due to the emergency circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, thereby over-riding the transaction with Germany.

However, Berlin state minister Andreas Geisel condemned the US intervention as “modern day piracy”.

There have been similar reports of medical equipment bound for Canada and France also being intercepted by US authorities. Last week, a planeload of masks about to take off from Shanghai for France was bought up by American officials who turned up at the airport at the last minute wielding wads of cash.

Washington has denied the American actions are underhand. Well, maybe not underhand, but the Wild West-style capitalism of outbidding others with bigger bucks over life-saving medical material certainly seems unethical. And what about all that jive about mutual defense and security? Where’s the fraternal coordination in a crisis?

It’s not just the US which is seen as saving its own skin in a panic. Germany and France have also imposed export bans on their companies sending medical supplies to other European countries. That has led to grievances voiced by Serbian leader Alexander Vucic and others complaining that there is no European solidarity.

Even European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was obliged to rebuke EU states for not displaying sufficient solidarity and for closing off borders and supplies to others in need from the pandemic.

In Italy and Spain, where deaths have soared above 10,000 in recent weeks, there has been popular outrage over the lack of collective response from European and NATO allies.

Given the rapidly growing threat to public health from the Covid-19 pandemic it is understandable that nations are taking desperate measures. From an initial indifference towards the disease in the US, the authorities there are now increasingly fearful that the infections and death toll may spiral out of control.

Last week, the global infection number surpassed one million with more than a quarter of those being in the US. The American death toll may peak at multiples of what we have seen in China or Europe. This is especially because of the deprived social conditions of American workers and due to under-resourced for-profit public health services.

Coming in an election year, President Trump is seeing his reelection hopes potentially going up in smoke along with the economy hit by coronavirus. That no doubt compels his administration to pull out all the stops to contain the pandemic, which would explain the snatching of vital medical equipment from allies.

No doubt too that was why Trump gratefully accepted medical aid sent from Russia last week. The US has also received supplies from China. Which puts into perspective how tawdry are American sanctions on Moscow and Trump’s trade-war wrangling with Beijing is.

Russia and China have both despatched medical aid to Italy to help it cope with the crisis. The Italian government and public have acknowleged the show of solidarity with gratitude.

Ironically, and cheaply, some US media outlets and European parliamentarians have accused Russia and China of exploiting the pandemic for alleged propaganda purposes. It is claimed that Russian and Chinese media are spreading disinformation over Covid-19 with the objective of undermining NATO and the European Union. That’s just another iteration of the usual anti-Russia mentality which is fixated on the notion of a supposed Kremlin plot to “destroy Western democracies”.

NATO and the EU are doing a pretty fine job of undermining themselves, never mind purported input from Russia or China.

The only time NATO seems to show “solidarity” is when its member-nations attack and destroy weaker foreign countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Somalia – at the behest of top-dog USA. When the chips are down, however, and survival instincts kick in, then it’s dog-eat-dog with a snarling “Screw You!”

The saga of stealing masks from one another is surely truth-by-parody.

Sick West Goes Viral

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM SATURDAY 4 APR 20

The world is in a sick place. We’re not just talking about the escalating coronavirus pandemic, serious though that is with global deaths doubling over the past week. What is also sick is the way gestures of solidarity are being cynically twisted.

Take the arrival of Russian medical aid to the US this week. That was promptly arranged after US President Donald Trump asked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call for help in coping with the coronavirus crisis. Even before the Antonov-124 cargo plane touched down at JFK airport certain US media outlets were labelling the gesture of solidarity as a “propaganda gimmick” by the Kremlin.

It was surmised that the Russian response to the US request for aid was “to push efforts for relief from sanctions” imposed by Washington. The cynical inference is that supposed Russian conniving and deceit knows no bounds in the black art of manipulation.

A Russian made Antonov An-124, one of the biggest cargo planes in the world, is pictured on May 29, 2019, on the tarmac of the airport in Brest, Western France.

© AFP 2020 / FRED TANNEAU

How about just simply acknowledging the evident fact that Russia is sending vital medical help to the US at a time of need motivating by no other sentiment than basic humanitarian compassion? The fact that Russia has been slapped with numerous US sanctions over recent years since the Ukraine crisis as well as stemming from bizarre claims of Moscow meddling in the 2016 US presidential election – only goes to show Russia’s capacity for magnanimity. Simple as that folks.

The same pathetic distortion was earlier voiced regarding Russian and Chinese aid to Italy and other European countries stricken with the deadly virus.

This week a European Union so-called media watchdog warned that Russia and China were engaged in a disinformation campaign to “undermine public trust in national health-care systems”.

There are also reports of claims by US intelligence and other officials that China is to blame for spreading the disease because it deliberately under-reported the outbreak that initially occurred in December, thereby allegedly leaving Western nations ill-prepared to withstand the pandemic.

Those claims are patently false. China had alerted the world to the seriousness of the disease as early as January when it was itself getting to grips with the uncertain public health crisis. Western nations had three months to learn from China’s experience, as well as from neighboring South Korea, where authorities clamped down on the epidemic. But Western governments for various reasons, no doubt primarily due to budgetary costs, chose instead to ignore the threat.

Trump and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson in particular showed stupendous nonchalance bordering on callous indifference. Both of them dismissed the looming Covid-19 crisis as a “passing flu”. Only last week Trump was touting the US “getting back to business by Easter”.

What is abundantly evident is that the US, Britain and other Western states are not prepared to deal with the present crisis because of their rundown public health services. That structural problem is a matter of government neglect over many years to ensure that their citizens are adequately protected in a time of crisis. And that neglect stems from deliberate policy choices, such as showering the rich with tax breaks and squandering trillions on militarism, while relentlessly cutting funds for public services.

In short, the coronavirus crisis is a reflection of a deeper crisis in the capitalist system that prevails among Western states, as American professor Richard Wolff explains. Societal human needs are always sacrificed on the altar of elite private profit.

Men wearing protective masks stand as people hike along a section of the Great Wall in Badaling in Beijing, on its first day of re-opening after the scenic site's coronavirus related closure, China, 24 March 2020.

© REUTERS / THOMAS PETER

The fact that in the US and Britain there is a paltry number of test kits for checking the disease and a dearth of vital protective equipment for medical staff is a national disgrace due to inherent political and economic reasons. That is what needs to be focused on. That is where the public anger should be directed. Why have citizens been so abjectly betrayed by their governments whose first duty of care should be to protect them?

It is absurd and contemptible for certain media and pundits to try to distract from the central issue of bankrupt democracy by seeking to disparage Russia over humanitarian aid or scapegoat China for the systemic failures of Western governments.

One senses, however, that the ploys of Russophobia and Chinaphobia have become hopelessly threadbare in credibility. In Britain, for example, normally Conservative-supporting media are asking angry questions on their front pages about government dereliction. Are we to believe that such anger is the result of Russia and China “sowing disinformation to undermine public trust”?

No, it is simply a case of citizens realizing – slowly and painfully – that their governments and society organized on capitalist priorities is a shambles unworthy of the name “democracy”.

The sickness of smearing and blaming others instead of dealing honestly with inherent problems will only embolden the public even more to exact retribution from their culpable authorities. As millions of workers and their families reap poverty and illness, one senses too that the pitchforks are being taken down from the barn roofs.

Sickness in the West is going viral, but maybe some lasting benefit may come from this crisis in the end, if societies are overhauled for the greater good of citizens.

Finian Cunningham

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromising Integrity in Journalism (2019).

Sickening US Sanctions on Iran Amid Global Coronavirus Epidemic

By Finian Cunningham

Source

Corona Iran 64861

Russia, which has so far been relatively unscathed from the disease, is reportedly sending 50,000 test kits to Iran for detecting the virus. The Islamic Republic has recorded over 300 deaths so far and there are fears of many more fatalities to come over the next few weeks as the flu-like disease spreads to all provinces.

Meanwhile, China – where the outbreak originated in December – is sending thousands of ventilators, respirators and other equipment to Italy, which has become the worst-affected country in Europe by the disease.

In stark contrast to these international humanitarian actions, the United States continues to impose crippling economic sanctions on Iran under its policy of “maximum pressure”.

Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani this week called on the rest of the world to demand the lifting of US sanctions because they are hampering the fight against Covid-19 in Iran.

Washington claims that its sanctions on Iran do not specifically target medicines and humanitarian supplies to the country. But that claim is cynical sophistry. Even the US-based Human Rights Watch organization – usually uncritical of American foreign policy – has stated that sanctions are hitting Iran’s public health services.

A ruling by the United Nations’ International Court of Justice in October 2018 also found that US sanctions were unlawful, especially because they prevent Iran from importing vital humanitarian supplies.

Two weeks ago, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that his country would offer humanitarian assistance to Iran over the coronavirus crisis if Tehran made a request. Pompeo said the US “stands with the people of Iran”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has subsequently rejected Washington’s “offer”, dismissing it as a disingenuous propaganda stunt. He said that if Washington really was concerned for the people of Iran then it would immediately revoke its economic sanctions that are restricting every industrial sector, including banking and shipping.

Any fair-minded person would agree with President Rouhani. What is charitable about throttling a country and then offering superficial respite? It’s tantamount to waterboarding a prisoner and then letting him breathe for a few seconds before continuing the torture.

The Trump administration re-imposed crippling US sanctions on Iran in May 2018 after the Americans decided to dump the international nuclear accord. As the ICJ ruling above makes clear, those sanctions are unlawful. Again, let that fact sink in: US policy towards Iran is unlawful.

The American economic stranglehold has slashed Iran’s global oil exports, plunging the country’s economy into turmoil. Even before the coronavirus epidemic emerged, Iranians have been deprived of life-saving medicines because of failing import-purchasing power and skyrocketing inflation. Untold numbers of patients have died from lack of drugs for cancer treatment and other terminal illnesses – all because of the US blockade on the country.

But from the callous American point of view, this is all going to plan as part of “maximum pressure” to incite regime change. Professed concern for the Iranian people by President Trump and his administration is simply sickening.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world can become inured to the barbarity of economic sanctions inflicted on Iran by the US. The slow, daily death toll of people perishing from chronic lack of medicines can become invisible due to the seeming abstract nature of these deaths.

However, with the coronavirus now gripping Iran it suddenly becomes clear again just how monstrous US policy towards that country is. Whatever American propaganda fantasies might claim about Iran, there is absolutely no justification for kicking sick innocent people when they are down.

Washington calls Iran the “world’s number one terror state”. What does that make the US when it is choking a nation that is trying to fight off a disease that may kill thousands?

At the end of the day, what comes around goes around. There are growing fears that the Covid-19 virus is set to explode in the US, mainly because of years of underfunding of public health services. American governments have for years pandered to the rich elite, while the majority of its citizens have become mired in poverty and deprivation. The US authorities are nowhere near prepared to deal with the impending humanitarian crisis, according to American medics and nurses.

The heartlessness of successive US governments towards Iran – and in particular under the current Trump administration – is heartlessness shown towards all human beings, including ordinary American citizens. And vile US policy will reap what it has sown.

NATO and COVID-19: a Parasitical Disease in Europe

Finian Cunningham March 12, 2020

The decision to go-ahead with NATO’s biggest-ever war games in Europe at a time of heightened fears over the coronavirus sure raises questions about the military alliance’s stated purpose of maintaining security.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has said the Defender-Europe 20 exercises will not be cancelled due to the flu-like disease which has now spread to every country in the European Union causing hundreds of deaths so far.

Over the next five months some 17 allied NATO members will participate in military maneuvers across seven European states: in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. All of the host nations have reported infections from the COVID-19 virus. “Host” being an operative word when it comes to also talking about the relationship with the U.S.-led NATO alliance.

Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn is quoted as saying that the coronavirus outbreak has “become a global pandemic” and the “worst has yet to come.”

In all, 37,000 troops are involved in the Defender-Europe 20 war games, the biggest contingency since the end of the Cold War nearly three decades ago. The U.S. is sending 20,000 personnel. Most of those troops will return to bases located in at least 20 American states. Thus, the risk factor of spreading the disease across Europe and the U.S. is significantly increased by the NATO events.

Going ahead with the European war games looks especially ill-advised given that U.S. forces in Asia-Pacific have cancelled similar military exercises that were scheduled in South Korea out of fears about coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Defender-Europe 20 events underway come amid reports that the U.S. Commander in Europe, Lt. General Christoper Cavoli, may have been infected after attending a recent military conference in Wiesbaden, Germany.

The top health advisor to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Brig. General Paul Friedrichs has also admitted that the number of COVID-19 cases among the Pentagon’s armed forces may be far higher than is being reported.

The seeming lack of cautionary measures by the U.S.-led NATO alliance is in contrast to growing public concerns for containing the disease. Italy – which has recorded the second highest fatalities worldwide after China – has placed a total lockdown on public travel for its 60 million population. Airlines across Europe have cancelled thousands of flights as some carriers go out of business altogether.

Sporting events across Europe including major soccer matches are being cancelled or will be held without attendance by fans. The six-nations rugby tournament has been thrown into disarray from match fixtures being rescheduled; a big match between Ireland and France due this weekend is postponed until October.

In Britain there are calls for parliament to be suspended after health minister Nadine Dorries was reported to have been infected. Boris Johnson’s government has been accused of complacency in dealing with the virus.

U.S. President Donald Trump has also come under fire for not taking sufficient containment measures or providing adequate resources such as testing kits. The official number of U.S. cases of COVID-19 is relatively low so far, but that is thought to be due to limited testing.

It would therefore seem reasonable in this context of pandemic risk that such a multinational event like NATO’s Defender-Europe 20 be called off. As it proceeds, the war games appear to a perfect vector for accelerating disease spread between two continents and beyond. Indeed, not parking these war games seems the height of carelessness.

How fitting that NATO should be so unresponsive to real need. This lumbering 29-nation military organization which consumes a combined annual budget of $1 trillion is a creature of habit and slavish ideology. Nearly 30 years after the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the world has moved on. But not, it seems, NATO. It continues to hold its war games supposedly defending Europe from “Russian invasion”.

If NATO can’t adjust to such glaring world realities as the end of the Soviet Union three decades ago, then no wonder its response to coronavirus is hardly fleet-footed. It’s the military equivalent of a dinosaur whose functioning is no longer supported by its environment.

The irony is that NATO’s obscene military largesse is crushing public finances that would otherwise be more usefully spent, such as building up healthcare infrastructure that would help mitigate crises like the coronavirus. Many other societal needs are chronically neglected because of exorbitant military budgets among NATO members. Donald Trump brags that he has cajoled European allies to fork out hundreds of billions more dollars on military budgets.

The coronavirus is but a stress-test on whole societies that have become hollowed out by excessive militarism and the corporate capitalist super-structure it serves.

Even before the coronavirus problem emerged in China earlier this year, the NATO war games in Europe (and elsewhere) have been a cause for much criticism. The geopolitical tensions that this U.S.-led militarism is engendering towards Russia and China have been deplored. Moscow has denounced the Defender-Europe 20 event as a “rehearsal for war” which is completely disconnected from reality. The inveterate Cold War ideology that drives NATO is imposing insecurity and risk of war on Europe in a way that makes a mockery of NATO claims about being dedicated to “security and defense”.

The reckless risk-taking with regard to inflaming a coronavirus pandemic is typical of NATO’s obsolete purpose. Like the disease itself, NATO is a parasite on host nations draining vital public resources. This organization should be “self-isolating”… 30 years too late.

Dresden Terror Bombing, Like Hiroshima, a Maniacal Warning to Moscow

Finian Cunningham February 17, 2020

This weekend 75 years ago, the German city of Dresden was razed to the ground by British and American aerial bombardment. At least 25,000 mainly civilians were destroyed in raid after raid by over 1,200 heavy bombers, indiscriminately dropping high explosives and incendiaries. It took seven years just to clear the rubble.

The destruction of Dresden, a world-famous cultural center of Baroque majesty, has been long dogged by controversy. Official British and American military accounts claim it was necessary to hasten the collapse of the Third Reich; with a reasoning that resonates with US claims for dropping the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

Critics say, however, that the mass bombing of Dresden was immaterial in the effort to defeat Nazi Germany. It was a wanton act of terror – a war crime – carried out by the British and Americans. Critics point out that most of the industrial and military targets on the outskirts of the beautiful city were largely left untouched by the bombing. British wartime leader Winston Churchill is even said to have expressed misgivings about the morality of this and other indiscriminate bombing of German civilian centers.

Ardent advocates of the terror-bombing campaign said it would exhaust German morale. A classic case of ends justifying means, no matter how vile the means.

There were also claims at the time that the damage to Nazi communication and transport lines would aid the advancing Soviet Red Army.

But there is good reason to believe that the rationale for the obliteration of Dresden was for an altogether more sinister reason. It wasn’t so much an act of terror aimed at Nazi Germany, but rather a show of maniacal power to the Soviet Union.

A British Royal Air Force memo on the Dresden operation noted that it would “show the Russians when they arrive what Bomber Command can do.” (See caption 17 in this linked photo essay.)

By mid-February 1945, the front lines of the Western and Eastern allied forces were such that the American and British ground troops had not yet entered Germany territory, while the Soviet Red Army had crossed the Oder River and were a mere 70 kilometers from Berlin, the seat of the Third Reich. Such was the keen advance of the Soviets that the Western allies were concerned that the Red Army might take all of German territory.

Rather than aiding Soviet forces from the mass bombing of Dresden, Leipzig and other cities in the German east, it seems plausible that, as the above British RAF memo indicates, the Western allies were intent on demonstrating a shockingly brutal, raw power to Moscow. Not just military power, but a will power to use any means necessary to defeat enemies.

There is a direct analogy here with the subsequent atomic bombing of Japan. At the Potsdam conference in July 1945 following the defeat of Nazi Germany and the carve-up of Berlin, giving the Western allies shared control of the German capital way beyond their final front lines, the American president Harry Truman relished the ability to drop a sinister hint to Josef Stalin about a newly acquired secret weapon – the A-bomb.

As with the earlier British and American bombing of Dresden and other German cities, there was arguably little military justification for dropping the atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9. Like Dresden, the military significance of those cities was dubious. The death of 200,000 civilians from the atomic inferno was not a military necessity for defeating imperial Japan, as Truman’s top generals MacArthur and Eisenhower were advising him against.

So if the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki was unnecessary from a military point of view to end the Pacific War, why was it done?

As with Dresden, the point was a monstrous display of terror by Western powers to let the Soviet Union know that nothing would be off-limits in the postwar geopolitical stand-off that was anticipated and which became the Cold War.

When the A-bombs were dropped on Japan, Stalin was said to have been frozen by reports of the awesome new destructive power. The Soviet Union was not to develop its A-bomb until 1949.

The terror unleashed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki seems to have had the intended effect of halting Soviet Red Army advances that were being made into the Korean Peninsula and onwards to Japan. The American troop lines were relatively remote by comparison with their Soviet counterparts, yet after the A-bombing the US was catapulted to take over both Asian-Pacific territories in the postwar period. Not unlike the precocious territorial gains that were acquired by the Western allies in defeated Nazi Germany.

Thus the moral controversies about the British and American bombing of German and Japanese cities goes way beyond arguments about the right or wrong of mass murder for the supposed purpose of ending wars. That moral hazard is difficult enough. But even more fiendish is a bigger picture; one in which the cold, calculated use of terror and genocide is not about ending war, but rather to simply exert geopolitical power against a perceived rival in the postwar era. Terror for terror sake, evil for evil sake.

A final note: it has become fashionable to falsify the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany by claiming that the Red Army became an occupying tyranny in eastern Europe after the war’s end. Suffice to say that if the Soviets committed even a fraction of the crimes that were actually carried out by the Americans and British from their aerial bombing of civilians in both Germany and Japan, one would never hear the end of deafening Western condemnations against Moscow to this day, and for decades to come.

Trump’s Brink of War with Iran Spun on a Lie

Finian Cunningham

February 9, 2020

Iraqi military intelligence has found that almost certainly the rocket attack on a U.S. base in December which killed an American contractor was carried out by the Islamic State terror group – not an Iranian-backed Shia militia, contrary to what Washington has been claiming.

The rocket attack on the base in Kirkuk in northern Iraq on December 27 led to a spiral of violence which brought the U.S. to the brink of war with Iran last month. For a few days, the world held its breath in dread of a war which could have engulfed the entire Middle East and beyond.

It turns out that President Trump’s brink of war with Iran was most likely spun on a cynical lie. That misinformation also led to the U.S. assassination of top Iranian military leader, Major General Qassem Soleimani on January 3, and to the subsequent shoot-down of a civilian airliner in Iran with 176 lives lost.

Following the deadly barrage on the American base in Kirkuk on December 27, the U.S. immediately blamed the Iranian-backed militia called Khataib Hezbollah. Washington took revenge within days by launching airstrikes on December 29 against the militia at sites across Syria and Iraq, killing dozens of fighters.

That then prompted furious protests at the U.S. embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on January 1. Trump fulminated against Iran for orchestrating the assault on American personnel and property, warning of a devastating military response.

On January 3, Trump ordered a drone strike against Iran’s Maj. Gen. Soleimani after he arrived at Baghdad international airport. Soleimani was murdered along with Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al Muhandis who was leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, which includes Khataib Hezbollah – the Shia group that the Americans blamed for the multiple-rocket attack killing the U.S. contractor on December 27 in Kirkuk.

There then followed an intensive media campaign by Trump and his top officials which sought to portray the Iranian general as the ultimate author of the December 27 rocket attack. Soleimani was overnight transformed into a monster-terrorist who had to be “taken out”.

In his State of the Union address last week, Trump repeated the vilification of Soleimani and the justification for his assassination.

The president stated: “Soleimani was the Iranian regime’s most ruthless butcher, a monster who murdered or wounded thousands of American service members in Iraq. As the world’s top terrorist, Soleimani orchestrated the deaths of countless men, women, and children. He directed the December assault [at Kirkuk U.S. base] and went on to assault U.S. forces in Iraq. Was actively planning new attacks when we hit him very hard. And that’s why, last month, at my direction, the U.S. military executed a flawless precision strike that killed Soleimani and terminated his evil reign of terror forever.”

Neither Trump nor his senior administration officials have presented any evidence to link Soleimani with the rocket attack at Kirkuk. Nor have they provided evidence that the Khataib Hezbollah militia group were responsible. The Americans say their information is classified and therefore cannot be disclosed publicly. For its part, the militia group has denied any involvement.

Iraqi military officials, however, are now coming out to say that they believe the perpetrators of the Kirkuk attack were Islamic State (also known as Daesh). The New York Times last week quoted Iraq’s Brigadier General Ahmed Adnan as saying: “All the indications are that it was Daesh… We as Iraqi forces cannot even come to this area unless we have a large force because it is not secure. How could it be that someone [Khataib Hezbollah] who doesn’t know the area could come here and find that firing position and launch an attack?”

The area surrounding the U.S.-Iraqi base in Kirkuk is a hotbed for the radical Sunni Islamic State network. It would therefore be nigh impossible for a Shia militia like Khataib Hezbollah to mount a major operation in a hostile and remote northern area of the country.

Furthermore, the Iraqi military said it had notified the Americans of imminent Islamic State hostile activity in the Kirkuk area in the weeks before the attack on December 27.

That points to another anomaly in Trump’s State of the Union speech when he bragged about how he had achieved the “100 per cent” destruction of the IS terror organization in Iraq and Syria. Trump’s bravura necessarily means denying that the terror group could have killed an American contractor. Better to blame a Shia militia affiliated with Iran so as not to spoil the self-congratulations.

More than that though, it seems that the Trump administration had Iran’s military leader in its cross-hairs for months before he was finally assassinated. It is reported Trump wanted to kill Soleimani as far back as 2017. Thus, the rocket attack on the base in Kirkuk and the subsequent protests at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad were merely a cynical pretext to trigger the assassination plan.

The killing of Soleimani resulted in an outpouring of national grief across Iran for a hero figure and a retaliation ballistic missile attack by Iran against two U.S. bases in Iraq on January 8. There were no American casualties in those attacks. But the world was brought to the brink of war. A war which could have spiraled into a regional conflict and even a world war given the strategic balance of forces in the region, including those of Russia, NATO and Israel.

In the event, war was narrowly averted. But one tragic outcome was the accidental shooting down of Ukrainian airliner Flight 752 above Tehran on the morning of January 8. Iranian air defenses fired in the mistaken belief it was an enemy target amid heightened tensions of war with the U.S. in retaliation for the Iranian missile attack on American bases in Iraq only hours earlier. All 176 onboard the airliner were killed. All the more damnable is that assassinations, the brink of war and the loss of innocent civilians all stemmed from what appears now to be an odious lie from the Trump administration.

US Returns to Ashes of 1945

by Finian Cunningham

US Vice President Mike Pence used his speech at the Holocaust memorial last week to bang a war drum at Iran. It revealed a deplorable lack of dignity and understanding of the event, despite Pence’s efforts to appear solemn.

But not only that. It showed too how out of touch the United States – at least its political leadership – is with the rest of the world and a growing collective concern among others to ensure international peace.

Maybe that’s why Britain’s Prince Charles appeared to snub Pence, declining to shake his hand while attending the commemoration of the Holocaust and 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Charles warmly greeted other dignitaries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and France’s Emmanuel Macron. It was curious how he blanked Pence.

But there again, maybe not that curious. Pence and the Trump administration seem to be hellbent on starting a war with Iran. A war that would engulf the entire Middle East and possibly ignite a world conflagration.

Washington’s wanton threats of violence against Iran and its recent assassination of one of Iran’s top military leaders stands as a shocking repudiation of international law and the UN Charter. It’s the kind of conduct more akin to an organized crime syndicate rather than a supposedly democratic state.

The UN Charter was created in 1945 in the aftermath of the Second World War precisely to prevent repetition of the worst conflagration in history and all its barbaric crimes, including the Nazi Holocaust. Over 5o million people died in that war, and nearly half of them belonged to the Soviet Union.

The prevention of war is surely the most onerous responsibility of the UN Security Council. Yet the United States is the one power that routinely ignores international law and the UN Charter to unilaterally launch wars or military interventions. Washington’s threats against Iran are, unfortunately, nothing new. This is standard American practice.

Britain's Prince Charles speaks to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during the World Holocaust Forum
© REUTERS / RONEN ZVULUN

Snub or No Snub? Netizens Laugh Off Prince Charles’ Explanation After Not Shaking Hands With Mike Pence

When world leaders addressed the Holocaust memorial held in Israel last Wednesday it was obvious – albeit implicitly – from their words that the US has become an isolated rogue state owing to its inveterate belligerence.

Putin, Macron, Prince Charles and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier all invoked the need for collective commitment to international law and peace. They implied that such a commitment was the best way to honour those who were killed in the Holocaust and the Second World War; the surest way to prevent the barbarity of fascist ideology and persecution ever to be repeated.

Those speakers one after another denounced the ideology of demonizing others which fuels hatred and wars. How pertinent is that to the way Washington routinely demonizes other nations and foreign leaders?

In sharp contrast, when the American vice president made his address, his apparent solemnity was contradicted by a blood-curdling call to arms against Iran, which he accused of being the “leading state purveyor of anti-semitism”. Pence urged the whole world “to stand strong against the Islamic Republic of Iran”, spoken as if he was spitting out the words like venom.

There is little doubt that Pence was formulating a rationale for military confrontation with Iran. That has been the consistent policy of the Trump administration over the past three years.

It was no surprise that Pence’s speech was in sync with the usual bellicose rhetoric from Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu towards Iran. But what was arresting was just how out of sync Pence and the Trump administration are with the rest the world.

US Vice President Mike Pence speaking at the fifth World Holocaust Forum, 23 January 2020.
© SPUTNIK / ALEXEY NIKOLSKY

World War II for Dummies? US Vice President Hails Liberators of Auschwitz Death Camp, ‘Forgets’ to Name Them

It was an odious spectacle to see Pence don a somber face as he talked about the victims of the Holocaust, while his own state wages war against any foreign nation whenever and wherever Washington deems. At an event that was supposed to reflect on the horror and evil of war, Pence showed he had no understanding or self-awareness.

That’s what is perplexing about many American politicians. They seem ignorant of history (Pence gave no acknowledgement to the Soviet soldiers who liberated Auschwitz and other death camps); they are consumed by self-righteousness and arrogance like a puritan preacher without an ounce of humanity.

Anyone who reflects on the horror of war would surely be advocating the respect of and adherence to international law, commitment to peace, and the earnest pursuit of dialogue and partnership among nations.

Russia’s Putin has repeatedly called for the members of the UN Security Council to urgently get together in order to guarantee a multilateral commitment to peace. Putin has also repeatedly appealed to the United States to get serious about negotiating renewed arms control treaties. Washington has ignored those latter calls.

Participants in the Jewish event of Holocaust remembrance walk in the former Nazi German World War II death camp of Auschwitz shortly before the start of the annual March of the Living in which young Jews from around the world walk from Auschwitz to Birkenau in memory of the 6 million Holocaust victims, in Oswiecim, Poland, Thursday, May 2, 2019

© AP PHOTO / CZAREK SOKOLOWSKIIf One’s Outraged by Words About Polish Anti-Semitism, One Should Delve Into History – Ex-Polish MP

The American national myth, evolved over recent decades since 1945, views itself as “exceptional” from all other nations. That translates as the US presuming to be “superior” and “above the law that others are bound by”.

Mike Pence’s menacing words and attitude at the Holocaust memorial showed a disturbing and pernicious disconnect with the need for preventing war and genocide. It was a disgraceful dishonouring of victims.

Out of sync with the world, the US has returned to the ashes and lawlessness of 1945.

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

Ukraine Peace Hostage to Washington’s Russophobia

Image result for Ukraine Peace Hostage to Washington’s Russophobia

December 15, 2019

After Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky finished multilateral peace talks in Paris, the emphatic media message was that “no red lines had been crossed” in negotiations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. It sounded like Zelensky was far more concerned with trying to reassure observers he hadn’t “capitulated” to Putin, rather than engaging in a genuine dialogue to resolve his country’s conflict.

The so-called Normandy Four format of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine is scheduled to meet again in four months. The meeting in Paris on December 9 was the first time leaders had convened after nearly a three-year hiatus. It is to be welcomed that President Zelensky, who was elected in April, shows a willingness to engage with Russia, unlike predecessor Petro Poroshenko, in order to bring peace to eastern Ukraine. The region has been mired in nearly six years of civil war.

During the Paris talks, there was agreement to uphold a ceasefire in Ukraine’s Donbas region, and to extend deconfliction zones by withdrawing troops and artillery. There was also agreement on the exchange of all prisoners between Ukraine government forces and the pro-Russia rebels in Donbas. All very good. But what about the full implementation of the Minsk Accord signed back in 2015?

That accord obliges the government in Kiev to permit elections and regional autonomy in the Donbas. It also obliges a full amnesty for rebels who took up arms against the Kiev administration, which came to power through an illegal US-backed coup in February 2014. The Kiev power grab ushered in an ultra-nationalist Russophobic regime intent on dominating the pro-Russian eastern region. The dramatic shift in power in Kiev towards Neo-Nazi demagogues and paramilitaries was the decisive factor in Donbas taking up arms and also in pro-Russia Crimea seceding in March 2014 and joining the Russian Federation.

Regrettably, President Zelensky appears unwilling to implement the Minsk deal which his predecessor signed up to. In fact, at the concluding press conference jointly held by the four leaders at the Paris talks, Zelensky was given to trying to re-write Minsk. He insisted on “security issues” being settled before political issues. That suggests he wants rebels in Donbas to disarm without Kiev recognizing the region’s autonomy. Zelensky also insisted on “not giving up Donbas and Crimea”, and of regaining control over all of Ukraine’s borders, including those adjacent to Russia.

The Minsk deal – which France, Germany and Russia are in concurrence on as being the only viable way forward to peace – does not say anything about Crimea “being returned” to Ukraine. The accord does not precondition autonomy in the Donbas on a prior disarmament.

In other words, Zelensky is going off script on the Minsk terms for finding a peace settlement. His position is still not adhering to the obligations his government signed up to. Perhaps over the coming months, the Ukrainian president may come round to fulfilling responsibilities as stipulated by the Minsk accord.

But there are, unfortunately, reasons to be skeptical. That’s because the relentless Russophobia residing in Washington leaves Zelensky with little room for maneuver. The shaky Kiev regime is totally reliant on Washington’s patronage for its IMF financial life-line, as well as for military support. Zelensky is the president of a vassal state. Washington calls the tune and the tributes.

As could be seen more than ever during the recent impeachment hearings on President Trump, the consensus in Washington is that Ukraine is “at war with Russia”. American politicians and media are convinced in their Cold War delusions that Russia has invaded Ukraine and is the “aggressor” against a “freedom-loving nation”. That propaganda narrative, of course, reinforces the delusions of the Russia-hating ultra-nationalists in Ukraine who have threatened Zelensky’s life if he “surrenders” to Russia.

Hence, the conflict in Ukraine is not being addressed as the internal one that it really is. Instead, it is being viewed through the Russophobic lens as an external problem, allegedly created by Russian aggression. That means the “solution” is about standing up to Russia with lots more US military aid, rather than addressing the core issues of Kiev’s toxic politics and policies towards its separatist regions.

Russia is a guarantor of Minsk, just like France and Germany are. It is not a party with obligations to fulfill. Those obligations are on the politicians in Kiev and the rebels in eastern Ukraine.

With Washington pressing Zelensky to stand up to non-existing “Russian aggression” that means the search for peace in Ukraine will remain elusive. Peace will only come to Ukraine when Washington stops kicking Kiev around like a political football to gratify its Cold War hostility towards Russia. That’s unlikely to happen in the near future.

When Zelensky seeks to reassure that “no red lines” have been crossed, his mind is not on genuine peace negotiations. Rather, he is seeking to placate Ukraine’s hostage-takers in Washington.

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Netanyahu-Pompeo Meeting Solidifies War Plan on Iran

Netanyahu-Pompeo Meeting Solidifies War Plan on Iran

Ratcheting economic sanctions, military force encirclement, inciting seditious violence and relentless war rhetoric. This all by the US and its allies over the past year towards Iran, yet it is Iran which is portrayed as posing “potential threats” to American interests.

The hastily arranged meeting last week between Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had the hallmarks of a war-plan summit amid a peak in renewed media provocation against Iran.

In the last weeks there has been a flurry of US media reports claiming that Iran is secretly moving ballistic missiles into Iraq and elsewhere across the region. As usual the media credulously cite anonymous intelligence and Pentagon officials on those claims.

Here’s CNN quoting one administration official: “There has been consistent intelligence in the last several weeks,” the official said, referring to “a potential Iranian threat against US forces and interests in the Middle East.”

Last month, the head of US CentCom made a similar dire forecast of Iranian intentions. General Kenneth McKenzie said: “I would expect that if we look at the past three or four months, it’s possible they [Iran] will do something that is irresponsible.”

Notice how General McKenzie tacitly acknowledges the background of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions and US military force buildup against Iran as if that is somehow normal international conduct. Then he turns all that US aggression on its head by accusing Iran of possibly doing “something that is irresponsible”.

There are worrying signs that the US and Israel are redoubling the pressure of war against Iran. This pressure has to be seen in the context of a formidable deployment of US military forces – troops, warplanes and warships in the region since May this year. The earlier buildup was announced on the basis of unfounded claims that Iran was preparing to launch offensive operations against American interests. Then came a series of mysterious attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf over the summer which Washington blamed on Iran without evidence.

Street protests in Iran since mid-November over fuel-price increases appear to be hijacked by subversive elements. President Trump and other US officials have openly called for the protests to destabilize the Iranian government.

Fresh claims that Iran is sending ballistic missiles to neighboring countries appear to be setting the stage for justifying a pre-emptive US attack on Iran.

No doubt the Iranian government is under severe pressure from the economic hardship that the US has re-imposed unlawfully since Trump dumped the international nuclear accord in May 2018. No doubt too Iran is apprehensive about the relentless military threats against it from Washington and its Israeli ally. Almost certainly, Iran will have mobilized forces in the reasonable calculation that it may come under attack at any moment.

But, perversely, US intelligence and military officials are interpreting Iranian defensive moves as “indications of a potential threat” to American “interests”.

The meeting last week between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signals a foreboding development. Recall that this is in the context of US media reports of Iranian ballistic missiles being deployed and of reports that the Trump administration is considering a doubling of troop levels in the Middle East to 28,000, as well as sending more missiles and warplanes.

Netanyahu met Pompeo in Lisbon, Portugal, on Wednesday, December 04. The meeting was called urgently and was unscheduled. Netanyahu – who is fighting for his political survival over corruption charges – tried to arrange discussions with Pompeo on the sidelines of the NATO summit near London, but according to Israeli media reports there was not enough time for security logistics to be put in place by the British. That indicates the Israeli leader was trying to meet Pompeo in a hurry.

When Netanyahu met with Pompeo in Lisbon, he said at the start of their discussions: “The first subject that I will raise is Iran. The second subject is Iran, and so is the third. And many more.

The Israeli premier added: “We have been fortunate as President Trump has led a consistent policy of exerting pressure on Iran. Iran is increasing its aggression in the region as we speak, even today, in the region. They are trying to have staging grounds against us and the region from Iran itself, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen and we are actively engaged in countering that aggression.”

Netanyahu also gloated that the “Iranian empire [sic] is tottering… let’s make it totter even more.”

For several months Iran has steadfastly refused to take the bait of war laid down by the Trump administration. But with pressures mounting both within the country and externally, it would be imperative for the Iranian authorities to marshall their defenses.

US intelligence and military officials are using contorted logic to accuse Iran of posing a threat, and the American corporate media are ably assisting in the propagation of this oxymoron.

Netanyahu’s hasty meeting with Pompeo last week suggests that the US and Israel are putting the final touches to their malignant masterpiece for provoking a war with Iran.

The Antisemitic Card

People of different faiths wear the Jewish kippah during a demonstration against antisemitism in Germany in Erfurt, Germany, Wednesday, April 25, 2018.

by Finian Cunningham

27.11.2019

It is a ludicrous situation when anyone criticizing Israeli state violations against Palestinians or neighbouring countries is then instantly discredited as being “antisemitic”.

We see this in Britain and the United States all the time. Congresswomen like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have been denounced for being “anti-Jewish”, including by President Trump, simply because they protested Israeli policy of occupying Palestinian lands or for having a malign influence on US foreign policy.

In Britain, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his party have once again this week been vilified as “antisemitic” in prominent news media.

The reality is that Corbyn is neither racist or anti-Jewish. The specious allegation stems from him and sections of Labour being vehemently critical of Israel and its conduct towards Palestinians.

If elected in the general election next month, Labour says it will cut military trade with Israel and move to officially recognize a Palestinian state.

This conflation of valid criticism of the Israeli state with being “anti-Jew” is a cynical distortion which is wielded to give Israel impunity from international law. It plays on moral blackmail of critics by equating the historical persecution of Jews and in particular the Nazi holocaust with the sanctity of the modern Israeli state.

That distortion is exposed by many Jews themselves who have spoken out in the US and in Britain to defend the right of people to criticize Israeli policies. They understand the vital distinction between the Israeli state and the much wider existence of Jewishness. They understand that to be opposed to Israeli state practices is in no way to mean animus towards Jews in general.

Only in the past week, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared his government intends to expand annexation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank. The land occupied by Israeli forces since the 1967 Six Day War is illegally occupied, according to multiple UN resolutions under international law. Now Netanyahu wants to increase the violations. And with the support of the Trump administration which also announced it was no longer viewing Israeli settlements on Palestinian land as illegitimate.

Over the past month, the Israeli military has stepped up airstrikes on the Gaza Strip where nearly two million Palestinians subsist in abject poverty largely because of an Israeli blockade. One family of nine, including children, was killed by an airstrike on their home on November 14. As always the death toll among Palestinian civilians is grotesquely disproportionate to Israeli victims of rockets fired from Gaza.

Israeli forces have also been carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria, including the capital Damascus, over the past year. Russia, among others, has condemned those attacks as “unlawful aggression”. Arguably, war crimes.

When Jeremy Corbyn and Britain’s Labour Party and a handful of American politicians speak out to denounce Israeli violations they are doing so to uphold international law and voice support for victims of state violence. That is a principled and honourable position.

Shamefully, the US and British governments and much of the corporate news media never do speak out. They shield Israeli leaders from international accountability by vetoing UN resolutions or by turning a blind eye. Pro-Israeli lobbies funnel massive donations to politicians in Washington on both sides of the aisle, and to the British Conservative Party. Their silence is bought. Not only silence but outright distortion, such as when people criticize Israeli malfeasance – and there is much of that – then they are absurdly character-assassinated as “antisemites”.

Admittedly, many British Jews phoned into radio stations this week to complain that they feel unwelcome in Britain due to what they perceive as growth in antisemitism under the Labour Party. To be fair though, their claims were not backed up by hard evidence of specifically anti-Jewish behaviour. They were eliding their Jewishness with Labour’s criticism of Israel.

The claims made against Corbyn this week by the British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirviz of being “unfit for office” because of an alleged complacent attitude towards antisemitism in his party should be put in context.

Corbyn has apologized several times for a tiny fraction (less than 0.1 per cent) of party members accused of antisemitism. Why should he be obliged to keep on apologizing, as BBC interviewer Andrew Neil imperiously demanded again this week?

Chief Rabbi Mirviz is a self-declared friend of Conservative leader Boris Johnson and an ardent, uncritical supporter of the Israeli state.

Mirviz does not represent all British Jews, as many other Jewish groups came out voicing their support for Corbyn and his valid right of free speech to criticize Israel.

Mirviz got prominent media coverage for his views this week in the London Times and Daily Mail, among others. Britain’s rightwing media are owned by billionaire oligarchs who despise Labour’s manifesto for progressive wealth redistribution.

Official race-hate figures for Britain show that physical attacks against British Muslims are preponderantly more than attacks against any other religious minority, including Jews. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have evident problems of fomenting Islamophobia. Yet we don’t see British media providing proportionate criticism on that to balance their focus on Corbyn and his alleged views.The antisemitic card is played to shield Israel from important criticism; and by Britain’s plutocrats and their media who would rather see the public squabbling over spurious claims about antisemitism so they can keep on plundering wealth from the majority of British people.

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

Bibi’s Get-out-of-Jail Card… War With Iran

Image result for Bibi’s Get-out-of-Jail Card… War With Iran

Finian Cunningham
November 24, 2019

It seems more than coincidence that as the legal noose tightens around Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, Israeli military have suddenly stepped up air strikes on Iranian forces based in Syria.

Playing the strongman role on national security and winning another term as prime minister would stave off prosecution over pending corruption charges.

If Netanyahu is ousted from office he will be immediately subjected to trial. A subsequent conviction on all charges could result in him facing up to 13 years in jail. A lot is at stake for Israel’s elder statesmen. At 70 years old, he is the longest-serving prime minister in the history of the Israeli state, having been elected four times already.

Therefore the longer he can hang on as premier, the longer he can postpone his day in court, as the leadership position affords a certain immunity while in office.

Israel’s current political impasse is a particularly dangerous time for Netanyahu. After two elections held earlier this year, neither Netanyahu nor his nearest rival Benny Gantz have been able to form a coalition government. Netanyahu is still the sitting PM. But lawmakers could vote for a new prime minister in the next few weeks, or else failing that the country will be forced to go to a third election in March next year.

Either way, Netanyahu needs to stay in office if he wants to throw the prosecution trial into the long grass. That means the temptation will be ever-stronger for the hot-headed commando-turned-politician to rile up security tensions with Iran and Syria, as well as neighboring Palestinians. Netanyahu has always drummed up votes by presenting himself as the great defender of Israelis.

Over the past week, as a three-year criminal investigation concluded with charges being leveled against Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and abuse of power for favorable media influence, Israeli forces under his command launched deadly air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria. Reports indicated that around 23 people were killed, most of whom were Iranian military belonging to the elite Quds Force. Though Syrian media claimed that most of the attacks were intercepted. Whether Iranian personnel were killed or not, the Israeli intention is to provoke Tehran.

Notably, Israeli military usually do not confirm or deny when they carry out air strikes on Syria or neighboring countries. This week, however, Israeli leaders including Netanyahu were bragging about the strikes.

Netanyahu said: “I have made clear that any who attack us, we will attack them. That is what we did tonight [November 20] toward military targets of the Iranian Quds Force and Syrian military targets.”

The Israelis claim they were responding to rockets fired from the Golan Heights. But it seems those rockets were provoked by earlier Israeli strikes on Syria just days before.

There is more than a suspicion that Israel was orchestrating the pretext for a flare up in violence. The purpose being to allow Netanyahu to dust off his war medals and flex his muscles for the electorate.

Such a ploy is in keeping with how Netanyahu over recent months has been cranking up the bellicose rhetoric. Before the elections this year in March and September, he has been declaring that if he is re-elected his government would annex large swathes of the Palestinian territory in the West Bank. In spite of international law and UN resolutions designating Israeli settlements as illegal.

US President Donald Trump obliged Netanyahu’s electioneering when the White House announced on November 18 that Washington was henceforth recognizing all Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory as legitimate. Was this Trump shifting US policy to help bail out his friend Bibi, knowing that the indictment sheet was on the way?

Over the past month, Israeli forces have also escalated air strikes on Gaza with dozens of civilians being killed, including families and children. Netanyahu has been cynically winding up fears among Israelis of rocket attacks from Palestinian militants in the besieged Gaza strip. A densely populated area of 1.8 million people subsisting in poverty, deprived of fresh water and electricity, due to Israel’s military cordon.

But in ginning up tensions with Iran in such a provocative way by targeting its elite Quds Force in Syria, Netanyahu is playing with fire.

Russia condemned the Israeli air strikes on Syria last week as unlawful aggression. The Russian foreign ministry warned that such acts were risking a wider conflict in the region.

Again, Trump seems to be aiding and abetting Netanyahu’s agenda of inciting national security tensions with Iran in order to hand Netanyahu a get-out-of-jail card. No doubt Trump knows the feeling as lawmakers in Washington push an impeachment inquiry into his alleged abuse of authority for favors regarding Ukraine.

The dramatic eruption of street violence in Iran over the past week has seen provocateurs hijack public protests over fuel price increases. The rapid spread of arson attacks on public property and shooting dead of several Iranian security force members indicate a foreign role in agitation.

President Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued stark statements of interference in Iranian internal affairs, by encouraging further street disturbances, hypocritically claiming that the US “was standing with the Iranian people”.

Brian Hook, the White House’s special envoy for Iran, even went as far as openly admitting that the US has been working for the past 18 months on finding ways of helping anti-government activists to circumvent internet restrictions imposed by the Iranian authorities to quell the spread of disturbances.

“We have been able to get into the hands of the Iranian people circumvention tools that allow them to communicate with each other when the regime tries to censor them,” said Hook.

Last week, Trump told Congress that he was sending 3,000 US troops to Saudi Arabia to “prevent Iranian provocation”, another move which Russia slammed as provoking regional tensions. Meanwhile, the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group entered the Persian Gulf.

Trump and Netanyahu seem to be working hand-in-hand to ratchet up tensions with Iran. Evidently, Netanyahu is betting that the sound of war drums will drown out the calls for his prosecution trial over corruption charges. But rather than facing justice, the Israeli leader seems prepared to ignite a war with Iran just to save his own hide.

Yemeni Killer Blow to House of Saud

Image result for Yemeni Killer Blow to House of Saud
Finian Cunningham
September 18, 2019

The Yemeni rebels’ drone blitz on the “nerve center” of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry was a devastating counter-offensive which potentially could end the four-year war in short order. What is even more catastrophic for the Saudi monarchy – especially the ambitious Crown Prince – is that the Houthi rebels have wielded the ultimate power to crash the kingdom’s oil economy.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) was the main architect of the disastrous Saudi war on Yemen. His military hard-man display was meant to consolidate his rise to power as heir to the Saudi throne. It was a calculation based on the blood of the Yemeni people. But now the war has gone from a callous game to a far-more dangerous threat to the House of Saud’s seat of power. If the Saudi oil economy is put at severe risk, then the lifeline for the monarchy is liable to be cut.

After last weekend’s spectacular air strike on the main oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia – northeast of the capital Riyadh, some 1,000 kms from Yemen – the Houthi military leadership is warning that more deeply-penetrating aerial attacks are on the way. The Yemeni rebels have demonstrated that nowhere in Saudi Arabia is safe.

Saudi air defenses and their multi-billion-dollar US Patriot anti-missile systems have been rendered useless against an-ever increasing arsenal of more sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operated out of Yemen. UN experts reckon that the Houthis’ UAV-X drone has a range of up to 1,500 kms, which means that all of the Saudi oil infrastructure located in the Eastern Province near the Persian Gulf is a viable target.

Last weekend’s air strikes carried out with 10 drones, according to the Houthis, caused Saudi oil output to shut down by nearly half. The main target – the Abqaiq refinery – processes some 70 per cent of all Saudi crude destined for export. It is not clear when the processing plant can be restored to normal function. It may take weeks or even months. But if the Yemeni rebels can inflict that extent of damage in one air raid, it is not hard to foresee how the Saudi oil-dependent economy could conceivably be brought to a crippling standstill.

“The only option for the Saudi government is to stop attacking us,” said a Houthi military spokesman following the drone strikes. The rebels also warned foreign workers in Saudi Arabia associated with the country’s oil industry to vacate.

The Yemenis have a gun to the House of Saud’s head. It must give the rebels great satisfaction to finally have the Saudi monarchy in their cross-hairs after four years of Yemen suffering relentless aerial bombardment and siege by the US-backed Saudi military. The Saudi-led war on its southern neighbor – the poorest country in the Arab region – was always an outrageous aggression under the guise of supporting the return of a corrupt crony who had been ousted by the Yemenis in early 2015. Up to 100,000 people have been killed – most of them from the indiscriminate bombing campaign by Saudi (and Emirati) warplanes supplied and armed by the US, Britain and France. Millions face starvation in what the UN calls the worst humanitarian crisis for many years.

The Saudi rulers, Western governments and media have tried to obscure the genocidal war on Yemen as a “proxy war” involving Iran, as if Tehran is the instigator of subverting Saudi Arabia from the south. Iran backs the Houthis politically, and perhaps also militarily more recently, but any involvement by Tehran is a reaction to the initial Western-backed Saudi aggression against Yemen.

Claims by US and Saudi officials that Iran is responsible for the latest air strikes on Saudi Arabia’s vital oil industry are more of the same obfuscation. Such muddying of the waters is an attempt to distract from the central point that the Houthis are retaliating with the legitimate right of self-defense after years of merciless slaughter inflicted on their people by the Western-backed Saudi coalition.

There’s another urgent reason for why the Saudi rulers and the US are trying to blame Iran for the latest drone attacks on the Saudi oil industry. If admitted that the air raids were carried out primarily by the Houthis – perhaps even with Iranian drone technology – then that admission points to the complete vulnerability of the Saudi oil economy and the very power structure of the monarchial rulers.

A hint of the trepidation being felt in Riyadh are reports that the latest air strikes have rattled stock markets for Saudi petrochemical companies. Worse, it is also reported that the attacks may delay the planned stock market listing of Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company. Worse still, the valuation of the company may be slashed due to the perceived risk from further Yemeni air strikes.

The planned Initial Public Offering (IPO) of Aramco – whereby the Saudi state is selling a portion of the company to private investors – has been one of the most talked about events in recent years among international business. The IPO which is due to be launched next year has been called the “biggest-ever” stock market sell-off.

In an extensive interview with Bloomberg in October last year, the Saudi Crown Prince, MbS, boasted that it was the “biggest IPO in human history”. He claimed then that Aramco’s total valuation was worth $2 trillion. If the Saudis sell off a 5 per cent share in the company, they are expecting to raise $100 billion in cash. The Aramco IPO is central to MbS’ ambitious diversification master plan for the entire Saudi economy, known as Vision 2030. The capital raised from the Aramco sell-off is intended to catalyze private sector employment and technological innovation in the oil-dependent kingdom whose budget is unsustainably propping up government-sector jobs and welfare largesse to prevent the young population of Saudis rebelling against the sclerotic House of Saud.

After the Houthis’ devastating air attacks on the Saudi oil heartland – the crown jewels of the kingdom – potential investors are now reportedly looking warily at the future risk of Aramco. Valuation of the company in the aftermath of the Yemeni drone strikes has been slashed by some estimates to $300 billion – that’s down by 85 per cent from the previous aspired-for $2,000 billion. If that downgrade holds or worsens with future Houthi attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure, then the capital raised from an IPO could shrink from the $100 billion projected by the Crown Prince to $15 billion. In short, his Vision 2030 plan is down the pan.

It must be alarming to the young Saudi potentate that US President Donald Trump has begun to play down any retaliation against Iran, saying that he doesn’t want to be drawn into a war.

That means the Saudi monarchs are on their own and at the mercy of the Houthis and what they do next. The downfall of the scheming Crown Prince evokes a Shakespearian drama of treachery.

See also

US defense failure… Why Washington has to blame Iran over Saudi attacks

Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively on international affairs.
US defense failure… Why Washington has to blame Iran over Saudi attacks
The devastating blitz on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry has led to a flurry of accusations from US officials blaming Iran. The reason for the finger-pointing is simple: Washington’s spectacular failure to protect its Saudi ally.

The Trump administration needs to scapegoat Iran for the latest military assault on Saudi Arabia because to acknowledge that the Houthi rebels mounted such an audacious assault on the oil kingdom’s heartland would be an admission of American inadequacy.

Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars in recent years purchasing US Patriot missile defense systems and supposedly cutting-edge radar technology from the Pentagon. If the Yemeni rebels can fly combat drones up to 1,000 kilometers into Saudi territory and knock out the linchpin production sites in the kingdom’s oil industry, then that should be a matter of huge embarrassment for US “protectors.”

ALSO ON RT.COM‘Maximum lies’: Iran rejects US’ claim it attacked Saudi oil facilities, warns it’s ready for warAmerican defense of Saudi Arabia is germane to their historical relationship. Saudi oil exports nominated in dollars for trade – the biggest on the planet – are vital for maintaining the petrodollar global market, which is in turn crucial for American economic power. In return, the US is obligated to be a protector of the Saudi monarchy, which comes with the lucrative added benefit of selling the kingdom weapons worth billions of dollars every year.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Saudi Arabia has the world’s third biggest military budget, behind the US and China. With an annual spend of around $68 billion, it is the world’s number one in terms of percentage of gross domestic product (8.8 per cent). Most of the Saudi arms are sourced from the US, with Patriot missile systems in particular being a recent big-ticket item.

Yet for all that financial largesse and the finest American military technology, the oil kingdom just witnessed a potentially crippling wave of air assaults on its vital oil industry. Saudi oil production at its mammoth refinery complex at Abqaiq, 205 miles (330 kms) east of the capital Riyadh, was down 50 per cent after it was engulfed by flames following air strikes. One of the Saudi’s biggest oilfields, at Khurais, also in the Eastern Province, was also partially closed.

There are credible reports that the damage is much more serious than the Saudi officials are conceding. These key industrial sites may take weeks to repair.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got it half right when he claimed, “Iran launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply”.

Yes, it is unprecedented. But Pompeo and other US officials have most likely got it wrong about blaming Iran.

ALSO ON RT.COMPompeo blames Iran for drone attack on Saudi oil facilities, Senator Graham urges US to strike itSome Trump administration officials told US media that “cruise missiles” were responsible for the giant fireballs seen over the Saudi oil facilities. One was quoted anonymously as saying:

There’s no doubt that Iran is responsible for this… there’s no escaping it. There is no other candidate.”

In a hurried effort to substantiate accusations against Iran, satellite images were released which show what appears to be the aftermath of the air strike on the Abqaiq refinery complex. US officials claim the location of the explosions indicate the weapons originated not from Yemen to the south, but from either Iran or Iraq.

Even the normally dutiful New York Times expressed doubt about that claim, commenting in its report: “The satellite photographs released on Sunday did not appear as clear cut as officials suggested, with some appearing to show damage on the western side of facilities, not from the direction of Iran or Iraq.”

The accusations made by Pompeo and others are assertions in place of substantiated claims.

It is noteworthy that President Donald Trump refrained from openly blaming Iran by name, merely hinting at the possibility. If Pompeo is so adamant in fingering Iran, why didn’t Trump? Also, the president made a telling remark when he said he was “waiting for verification” from Saudi Arabia “as to who they believe was the cause of the attack.” Again, if US officials are explicitly accusing Iran then why is Trump saying he wants “verification” from the Saudis?

For its part, Iran has flatly dismissed the allegations that it had any involvement, saying that statements by Pompeo were “blind” and tantamount to setting up a conflict.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also rejected claims that his country’s territory might have been used by pro-Iranian Shia militants to launch the air strikes.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen have issued unambiguous statements claiming responsibility for the air raids on the Saudi oil installations. They were specific that the weapons were drones, not missiles, adding with details that 10 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were deployed.

ALSO ON RT.COMPrematurely assigning blame for attack on Saudi oil facilities is irresponsible, says ChinaNotably too, most US media reported initially that the attacks were by drones flown from Yemen. Associated Press reported a level of sophistication in the attacks whereby drones were used first to disable the US Patriot radar systems before other UAVs proceeded to execute the air strikes.

It therefore seems that US officials are attempting to switch the story by blaming Iran. It is reckless scapegoating because the logical consequence could elicit a military attack against Iran, in which event Tehran has warned it is ready for war.

The rationale for blaming Iran is that the Yemeni rebels (which Iran supports politically) are just not capable of using drones with such dramatic success against the Saudi oil industry. The culprit must be Iran, so the rationale goes. This is a follow-on from alleged sabotage by Iran against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf earlier this summer.

However, a timeline shows that the Houthis are more than capable of launching ever-more powerful ballistic missiles and deeper penetrating drones into Saudi territory. The rebels have been using drones from the beginning of the war which the US-backed Saudi-UAE coalition launched on the southern Arabian country in March 2015.

Over the past four years, the Houthi aerial firepower has gradually improved. Earlier, the Saudis, with American defense systems, were able to intercept drones and missiles from Yemen. But over the last year, the rebels have increased their success rate for hitting targets in the Saudi interior, including the capital Riyadh.

In May this year, Houthi drones hit Saudi Arabia’s crucial east-west pipeline. Then in August, drones and ballistic missiles were reported to have struck the Shaybah oil field near the border with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as the Dammam exporting complex in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

ALSO ON RT.COMWill France, UK, US ever pay for what they have done to Yemen?The Yemenis claim they are taking the war to Saudi Arabia and the UAE after years of relentless air strikes on their homeland which have resulted in nearly 90,000 dead. A recent UN report censured the US, Britain and France for possible complicity in war crimes through their military support for the Saudi coalition.

There must be trepidation among the monarchs in Saudi Arabia and the UAE that the rebels from war-torn and starving Yemen are now coming after them with drones that could demolish their oil economies. What’s more, the much-vaunted American protector is not able to deliver on its strategic bargain, despite billions of dollars of Pentagon weaponry. That’s why Washington has to find an excuse by casting Iran as the villain.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Yemen: Another Shameful US Defeat Looms

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Yemen: Another Shameful US Defeat Looms

Finian Cunningham
September 9, 2019

An official confirmation by the Trump administration of it holding discreet talks with Yemen’s Houthi rebels indicates a realization in Washington that its military intervention in the Arab country is an unsalvageable disaster requiring exit.

There are also reports of the Trump administration urging the Saudi rulers to engage with the Houthis, also known as Ansarullah, in order to patch up some kind of peace settlement to the more than four-year war. In short, the Americans want out of this quagmire.

Quite a turnaround. The US-backed Saudi coalition has up to now justified its aggression against the poorest country in the Arab region with claims that the rebels are Iranian proxies. Now, it seems, Washington deems the Houthi “terrorists” worthy of negotiations.

This follows a similar pattern in many other US foreign wars. First, the aggression is “justified” by moralistic claims of fighting “communists” or “terrorists” as in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Only for Washington, after much needless slaughter and destruction, to reach out to former villains for “talks” in order to extricate the Americans from their own self-made disaster.

Talks with the Houthis were confirmed last week by US Assistant Secretary of Near East Affairs David Schenker during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

“We are narrowly focused on trying to end the war in Yemen,” said Schenker. “We are also having talks to the extent possible with the Houthis to try and find a mutually accepted negotiated solution to the conflict.”

In response, a senior Houthi official Hamid Assem was quoted as saying: “That the United States says they are talking to us is a great victory for us and proves that we are right.” However, he declined to confirm or deny if negotiations were being held.

You have to almost admire the effrontery of the American government. Notice how the US diplomat says “we are focused on ending the war” and “a mutually acceptable solution”.

As if Washington is some kind of honest broker trying to bring peace to a country stricken by mysterious violence.

The war was launched by the US-backed Saudi coalition, including the United Arab Emirates, in March 2015, without any provocation from Yemen. The precipitating factor was that the Houthis, a mainly Shia rebel group aligned with Iran, had kicked out a corrupt Saudi-backed dictator at the end of 2014. When he tucked tail and fled to exile in Saudi capital Riyadh, that’s when the Saudis launched their aerial bombing campaign on Yemen.

The slaughter in Yemen over the past four years has been nothing short of a calamity for the population of nearly 28 million people. The UN estimates that nearly 80 per cent of the nation is teetering on hunger and disease.

A UN report published last week explicitly held the US, Britain and France liable for complicity in massive war crimes from their unstinting supply of warplanes, munitions and logistics to the Saudi and Emirati warplanes that have indiscriminately bombed civilians and public infrastructure. The UN report also blamed the Houthis for committing atrocities. That may be so, but the preponderance of deaths and destruction in Yemen is due to American, British and French military support to the Saudi-led coalition. Up to 100,ooo civilians may have been killed from the Western-backed blitzkrieg, while the Western media keep quoting a figure of “10,000”, which magically never seems to increase over the past four years.

Several factors are pressing the Trump administration to wind down the Yemen war.

The infernal humanitarian conditions and complicity in war crimes can no longer be concealed by Washington’s mendacity about allegedly combating “Iran subversion” in Yemen. The southern Arabian Peninsula country is an unmitigated PR disaster for official American pretensions of being a world leader in democratic and law-abiding virtue.

When the American Congress is united in calling for a ban on US arms to Saudi Arabia because of the atrocities in Yemen, then we should know that the PR war has been lost. President Trump over-ruled Congress earlier this year to continue arming the Saudis in Yemen. But even Trump must at last be realizing his government’s culpability for aiding and abetting genocide is no longer excusable, even for the most credulous consumers of American propaganda.

After four years of relentless air strikes, which has become financially ruinous for the Saudi monarchy and its precocious Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who conceived the war, the Houthis still remain in control of the capital Sanaa and large swathes of the country. Barbaric bombardment and siege-starvation imposed on Yemen has not dislodged the rebels.

Not only that but the Houthis have begun to take the war into the heart of Saudi Arabia. Over the past year, the rebels have mounted increasingly sophisticated long-range drone and ballistic missile attacks on Saudi military bases and the capital Riyadh. From where the Houthis are receiving their more lethal weaponry is not clear. Maybe from Lebanon’s Hezbollah or from Iran. In any case, such supply if confirmed could be argued as legitimate support for a country facing aggression.

No doubt the Houthis striking deep into Saudi territory has given the pampered monarchs in Riyadh serious pause for thought.

When the UAE – the other main coalition partner – announced a month ago that it was scaling back its involvement in Yemen that must have rattled Washington and Riyadh that the war was indeed futile.

The defeat is further complicated by the open conflict which has broken out over recent weeks between rival militants sponsored by the Saudis and Emiratis in the southern port city of Aden. There are reports of UAE warplanes attacking Saudi-backed militants and of Saudi force build-up. A war of words has erupted between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. There is strong possibility that the rival factions could blow up into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, supposed coalition allies.

Washington has doubtless taken note of the unstoppable disaster in Yemen and how its position is indefensible and infeasible.

Like so many other obscene American wars down through the decades, Washington is facing yet another ignominious defeat in Yemen. When the US starts to talk about “ending the war” with a spin about concern for “mutual peace”, then you know the sordid game is finally up.

G7: An Obsolete, Useless Talking Shop

Image result for G7: An Obsolete, Useless Talking Shop
Finian Cunningham
August 23, 2019

The Group of Seven (G7) self-declared advanced nations meet this weekend in France for their 45th annual summit. US President Donald Trump caused a stir ahead of the gathering in Biarritz when he remarked that Russia should be included in the format, thereby making it a G8 summit.

“Russia should be at the negotiating table,” said Trump, in a rare moment of lucidity.

His view of including Moscow appears to be shared by France’s President Emmanuel Macron who hosted Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in southern France earlier this week, only days before the G7 summit.

Of course, Russia should be at the table to discuss resolving global economic problems. Not just Russia, but China, India and a few others as well.

Since the G7 club was created in 1975 during the Gerald Ford administration the world has undergone transformative changes from the days when the US, (West) Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Japan were deemed then to be the most powerful national economies.

Today, China is second to the US in terms of its economic size. The top 10 national economies have various ranking iterations, depending on which yardstick is used to compare.

In nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measurement, the top 10 nations, according to the International Monetary Fund, are: US, China, Japan, Germany, India, France, Britain, Italy, Brazil, Canada. In this ranking, Russia is 12th listed after South Korea.

But if national economies are rated by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which takes currency exchange factors into consideration, then the top 10 national economies are: China, US, India, Japan, Germany, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Britain, France.

In other words the present G7 line-up is an arbitrary listing. Indeed, its exclusivity is something of an anachronism in today’s world. It’s a throwback to a bygone era when Western nations were more dominant (save for Japan’s inclusion in the original club). The contours of the world have become more multilateral and multipolar. The exclusion of China from the G7 is perhaps the most glaring anomaly.

In a tacit admission of the changed global reality that’s why there is the larger format of the G20 (formed in 1999) which in addition to the G7 includes China, India, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and others.

The so-called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) is another sign of changed times, as are numerous other economic fora such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Eurasian Economic Union (EEA), and the Latin American bloc Mercosur.

Given that the G7 is supposed to be a forum for coordinating macroeconomic policies to enhance global economic growth, one would think that the logical requirement would therefore be for inclusion of more nations in order to more effectively address the ostensible purpose.

As it stands, the limited G7 club is a rather clapped-out vehicle. It’s a bit like a broken down auto with flat tires, a blown gasket and crankshaft missing. Does anyone seriously think that Italy in its present political meltdown is in a position to boost the world economy?

It’s also incongruous that the biggest member of the club, the United States, has no interest in coordinating policy with anyone else. President Trump’s trade war with China, the Europeans and the rest of the world is more akin to the 1930s practice of go-it-alone mercantilism and predatory capitalism. We know how disastrous that turned out with global depression and world war.

Trump’s reckless gung-ho “America First” policy (and to hell with everyone else) is casting a dark cloud on the world economy from China’s output slumping and Germany’s exports plummeting. Ironically, “business genius” Trump seems to be dimly realizing that the inevitable repercussions are rebounding like a boomerang with harmful impact on the US economy. Yet he says he’s not letting up on his America First drive to the abyss.

So, sure, if there were a genuine commitment to improve global economic outlook and uplift the wellbeing of ordinary people around the world then the leading nations should be working together in a collegiate planned fashion, and with as much outreach to others as possible.

Thus, without doubt, the leaders of China, Russia, India and others should be in attendance at the summit in France this weekend. Then it would supposedly turn into a forum not unlike the G20. Which makes the point: why is the G7 even continuing to exist?

There is an analogy with the US-led NATO military alliance. That organization was formed in a very different geopolitical world compared with the present. Why does NATO continue to exist? It’s putative security function is redundant.

So too it could be argued is the United Nations Security Council redundant with its five permanent members of US, Russia, China, France and Britain. Surely that forum should be overhauled too reflect a contemporary multipolar world. In short, the world, like history changes, and so too should mechanisms of governance.

Arguably, however, the G7 is not an economic forum, despite its public image. It’s an arbitrary political clique aimed at reinforcing a presumed Western dominance. A sign of this caprice was when the Russian Federation was admitted to the G7 in 1997 which was then renamed the G8. The admission of former President Boris Yeltsin was permitted because he was feckless towards Western strategic demands. Russia remained a G8 member for 17 years until the Ukraine conflict erupted and President Vladimir Putin was accused of “invading” that country and “annexing” Crimea. Those Western allegations are easily countered with evidence of NATO subversion of the elected government in Kiev in order to prize the former Soviet republic away from Moscow’s orbit.

Russia’s exclusion from the G8, which then reverted back to the G7, has been a political punishment to bolster a propaganda narrative for undermining and isolating Russia internationally. This is again why the G7 is no longer a viable forum for its stated purpose of advancing the global economy. It’s a useless talking shop in an utterly changed world.

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Moscow Mitch, Secret Russian Subs… and Russophobia Derangement

Image result for Moscow Mitch, Secret Russian Subs… and Russophobia Derangement

Finian Cunningham
August 11, 2019

Arch Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is being taunted by major US media outlets and at political rallies as a “Russian asset”. Meanwhile, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports on “super-secret” Russian submarines which are “operating unseen” in British territorial waters.

The collapse in rational thinking among American and British political mainstream circles is highlighted by the rampant Russophobia. Such thinking is delusional, paranoid and ultimately horrifying at a time of heightened international tensions between nuclear superpowers.

First, let’s deal with the farcical furore over Senator McConnell being labelled a Russian asset. The Senate majority leader has been dubbed by US news channel MSNBC and the Washington Post as “Moscow Mitch” and “doing Putin’s bidding”. The monikers followed McConnell’s blocking of legislation aimed at tightening security of electoral systems ostensibly to prevent “foreign meddling”.

It’s not clear why McConnell objected to the proposed legislation. It seems he doesn’t agree with extra federal controls over state-level electoral systems. Also, he claims that hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent upgrading electoral systems, and therefore additional expenditure is not warranted. He is a fiscal hawk after all.

Nonetheless, it is a preposterous leave of senses when paranoid Russophobia in US politics and media are inferring that McConnell’s opposition to the proposed electoral legislation is “evidence” that he is a Russian agent, by allegedly enabling Russian hacking into US elections.

At a recent political event in his home state of Kentucky, McConnell was heckled and booed by Democrat supporters chanting “Moscow Mitch, Moscow Mitch!” The protesters were wearing T-shirts and brandishing placards with images of McConnell donning a Cossack hat with Soviet-era hammer and sickles.

Understandably, the 77-year-old senator has reacted with aghast over the political attacks. He called it “modern-day McCarthyism” harking back to the Cold War years of Red Baiting. He even said it was worse that the past McCarthyism. And he has a point there.

McConnell’s exasperation is borne out of the complete irrational vacuousness of the accusations. The six-time elected lawmaker is the longest-serving Republican senator. He is a grandee of the traditionally rightwing party, with an “impeccable” record of being hawkish towards Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

How anyone can construe that good ole boy McConnell is a Russian stooge is too absurd for words. What the accusations do betray is the total derangement and politically illiterate condition of mainstream American political and media culture.

As Princeton Professor Stephen Cohen remarked in a recent interview Russophobia and paranoia over alleged interference in US politics has become a permanent mindset among too many American politicians, pundits, military-intelligence agencies and Democrat supporters. Cohen rightly deplores how the whole baseless narrative of “Russia-gate” continues with a life of its own, having not been finally made redundant after the two-year Mueller probe spectacularly failed to provide any substantive details or evidence.

Still, however, former FBI chief Robert Mueller in recent hearings before Congress was permitted to reiterate hollow accusations that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential elections and, he asserted, Moscow will do so again in the 2020 elections. This is simply doctrinal thinking which is, in turn, accepted as “fact” that Russia’s President Putin ordered an “interference campaign” to subvert American democracy. (Moscow has always vehemently rejected that.)

That’s why when someone as antipathetic towards Russia as Senate leader Mitch McConnell exercises relative sanity by rejecting the alleged need for more electoral security systems to “prevent foreign meddling” he is then assailed with hysterical accusations of being a “Russian asset”. The utter irrationality is self-reinforcing because of unhinged delusions about Russian malignancy. No evidence is required. It’s “true” because “we believe it is true”.

McConnell has hit back at his detractors by calling them “leftwing hacks” and “communists”. He made that conclusion by referring to the Democrats’ policy of seeking to expand free healthcare for American citizens. He proudly called himself the “Grim Reaper” who would protect America from a “socialist agenda”.

This inane back and forth demonstrates how dumbed down American political culture is. Increasingly bitter partisan accusations and slander are flying around based on no facts, no evidence, no reason, nor any intelligent understanding about policy, history or political philosophy.

But, lamentably, at bottom the crazed political discourse relies on an embedded Russophobia. Russia is viewed as evil and malicious, by both sides of the political coin. Rather than addressing inherent problems in American society, the discourse finds a common false explanation – blame it on Russia or association with presumed communism. The Cold War nihilism of American politics and propaganda has never stopped. It’s just become more delusional and divorced from any semblance of reality. In this context, the modern-day Russophobia is perhaps more dangerous because of its irrationality and evidence-free doctrinal thinking.

Which brings us to the “super-secret” Russian submarines that are stalking Britain, according to the Daily Telegraph. The so-called report (more accurately, psy-ops piece) is a must-read for exposing the delusional anti-Russia paranoia that the British political class have in common with the Americans.

“A new breed of super quiet Russian submarines are feared [sic] to be operating unseen [sic] in British territorial waters, according to military sources [sic],” the Telegraph claimed.

The sources were, as usual, anonymous, betraying that the Telegraph was being used, as it often is, as a conduit for British intelligence propaganda.

Not one scrap of evidence was presented to substantiate these “fears” of “unseen” Russian submarines. Supposedly, the “unseen” vessels are “proof” of how dastardly and stealthy those damn Russians are. The point of the article was to deliver a public message for more military spending on Britain’s Royal Navy.

What makes it possible for the Daily Telegraph to publish such bogeyman rubbish is because of the systematic inculcation of Russophobia among many, but not all, Britons.

As with its American counterpart, British political culture has become degenerate and depraved. It is the equivalent of medieval sorcery and “magical thinking”. Standards of proof, reason and due process have been abandoned. It’s like a regression to pre-Enlightenment times. The fact that the US and Britain possess nuclear arsenals aimed at Russia makes the deranged thinking of their political class a truly frightening prospect for the entire world.

Pompeo ‘Happy’ to Pontificate in Tehran, Revealing US Tyranny of Arrogance

Finian Cunningham
August 3, 2019
Image result for Pompeo ‘Happy’ to Pontificate in Tehran, Revealing US Tyranny of Arrogance

Imagine the spectacle. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sitting in Tehran and telling the Iranian people via a state media interview how “evil” their government is. No wonder tensions with Iran are reaching a flashpoint when Washington is so arrogant and delusional.

Last week, Pompeo told US media he was willing to go to Iran despite the Americans having no diplomatic relations with Tehran. Pompeo was not intending to suddenly meet with Iranian officials. Instead he wants a putative visit to Tehran to be an occasion to get on state media and address the Iranian people “directly”.

In response to a question about whether he was prepared to go to Tehran, the American top diplomat said:

“Sure. If that’s the call, I’d happily go there… I would welcome the chance to speak directly to the Iranian people.”

“I’d like a chance to go [to Tehran], not do propaganda but speak the truth to the Iranian people about what it is their leadership has done and how it has harmed Iran,” he added.

That’s not diplomatic outreach. It is simply about seeking the chance to pontificate in Tehran. Despite claiming he would “not do propaganda”, the talking points that Pompeo would regurgitate on Iranian media would be the usual baseless slander that has become Washington’s standard depiction of Iran. A depiction that Pompeo as well as President Donald Trump have personally propagated.

Iran, according to Washington dogma, is an evil terrorist-sponsoring regime that ruthlessly represses its 80 million people, fueling conflict all over the Middle East, and secretly building nuclear weapons. Typically, the Americans never provide any evidence to substantiate their caricature of Iran. It’s merely a “truth” solidified by relentless repetition of hollow allegations. In short, propaganda.

And Pompeo wants to insult the intelligence of Iranians by being given a pulpit on Iranian state media.

By saying he wants to “speak directly” to the Iranian people, Pompeo is adverting to the real US agenda of fomenting regime change.

America’s official arrogance and hypocrisy are boundless. Every malign activity that Washington accuses Iran of can be thrown straight back at the US with manifold more accuracy of facts. The US has destroyed the Middle East with numerous criminal wars and covert regime-change operations, has sponsored terrorists as its proxies, and has fueled the danger of nuclear war by illegally arming Israel with hundreds of weapons of mass destruction.

President Trump has sinisterly alluded to potentially using WMD against Iran in recent weeks, threatening to deploy overwhelming force “to end the regime”.

Admittedly, the American president has at times said he is open to talks with the Iranian government. His “offer” is unconvincing of an intention for genuine dialogue. Trump expects Iran to come to the negotiating table in an act of surrender and self-debasement to accept his terms of “disarmament”. All the while using the threat of annihilation as a bargaining tool.

Moreover, Pompeo expressed his entitlement to lecture the Iranians and urge them to liberate themselves from a “theocratic tyranny

” because, he said, the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javid Zarif is allowed “the freedoms of the United States to come here and spread malign propaganda”.

Pompeo was referring to an official visit to the US earlier this month by Zarif who was attending the United Nations in New York City for a diplomatic conference. All foreign diplomats have a sovereign right to attend the UN. Pompeo’s remarks indicate a presumption that the US government has dominion over the UN and international law.

The alleged “malign propaganda” that Pompeo accused Zarif of spreading was an interview he conducted with the NBC news channel at the Iranian ambassador’s residence. During that interview, Zarif did not unload on the litany of factually verifiable war crimes that the US is culpable of.

What Zarif said was a model of restraint and diplomacy. He said that if the US lifted crippling sanctions off Iran, then the “door is wide open” for future negotiations.

Calling for the avoidance of war, the Iranian diplomat pointed out that it was the United States, not Iran, that had undermined diplomacy by walking away from the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers, reported NBC.

“It is the United States that left the bargaining table. And they’re always welcome to return,” Zarif added.

What Pompeo calls “malign propaganda” many other people would view as an accurate, if restrained, telling by the Iranian diplomat of how it really is.

Given the unlawful aggression that the Trump administration is wielding against Iran in terms of economic warfare on the country’s vital oil trade and in terms of military force buildup in the Persian Gulf, including nuclear-capable B-52 bombers, what Iran is demonstrating is an immense discipline to maintain regional and world peace.

Iran’s conditions for possible negotiations are eminently reasonable. They include being respected as a sovereign nation and entering into dialogue as a mutual party where discussions can be held on the basis of facts and international law.

Pompeo’s supreme arrogance about America’s presumed exceptional entitlements and superiority are, unfortunately, a sign that Washington is incapable of being a normal state. The real “theocratic tyranny” is in Washington where it has the perverse belief that it has divine right to destroy other nations if they don’t grovel sufficiently at its feet. But those feet are made of the proverbial clay signifying a doomed power, as Iran’s dignity and defiance is revealing.

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Idiots Driving World to War

A view of the Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar, Thursday, July 4, 2019
Finian Cunningham
10620

Like a person going up in an escalator while asserting they are going down, the British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has a bizarre way of trying to assure Iran that war is not on the cards.

Hunt, who is vying to become Britain’s new prime minister, stated on camera that “he wants to de-escalate” the danger of a military confrontation with Iran over mounting tensions in the Persian Gulf.

That was only days after he vowed to dramatically increase Britain’s military spending and in particular, boost the country’s naval firepower  – citing Iran as the main threat to British commercial shipping interests.

It also follows news that London has ordered a second warship to patrol the Persian Gulf. Earlier this week a British Royal Navy frigate reportedly challenged Iranian military vessels (three small boats) after they allegedly tried to impede a British oil tanker entering the narrow Strait of Hormuz. Iran vehemently denied any such interference by its boats and claimed that Britain and the US were engaging in a provocation.

Given that the Pentagon has announced plans to send an international coalition of warships to the Gulf “over the next two weeks”, under the guise of protecting commercial shipping from alleged Iranian threats, it must certainly look to Iran like the “war escalator” is speeding upwards.

Hunt has previously asserted that British forces would join in any American military attack on Iran. The resonance of past Anglo-American skullduggery against Iran is no doubt palpable to most Iranians.

There seems little doubt that Hunt is playing the “hard military man” card in his grubby contest with Boris Johnson to become the next prime minister. Conservative Party members are due to vote later this month on who is to replace the hapless Theresa May.

Bumbling Boris is the favourite to win the party race. But Hunt is making a last-gasp bid to rally the rank-and-file with seeming credentials of being a “tough leader”.

This week he wrote in a newspaper oped: “As the son of a naval officer, I know a little of the sacrifices of these individuals and of their families back home.”

He then promised that, if elected prime minister, he would ramp up military spending by 25 per cent, or by £15 billion, over the next five years. He claimed the tensions in the Gulf with Iran are “proof” that Britain needs to overhaul its maritime forces.

That exorbitant indulgence of military spending will likely wreak havoc on public services and prolong years of economic austerity on ordinary Britons. But such is the ambition of Hunt to get into 10 Downing Street, it’s a devastating price he seems willing to make British citizens pay.

However, more damning is Hunt’s reckless gamble from inflaming tensions with Iran. Sending more naval forces to the Gulf at a time of knife-edge fears about a war breaking out is ludicrous, if not criminally irresponsible.

Over the past two months, there have already been numerous incidents of alleged sabotage on shipping in the strategically important Gulf which the US has blamed on Iran. An American spy drone was shot down on June 20 by the Iranians after it allegedly violated Iran’s airspace. That incident nearly resulted in, reportedly, Trump ordering airstrikes.

The seizure last week by British commandoes of an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar has added to fraught nerves in the region. More so because Tehran contends that seizure to be an illegal “act of piracy” orchestrated by Washington and London. The refusal by Britain to release the cargo of two million barrels of oil – based on dubious claims of enforcing EU sanctions against Syria – would also seem to be a calculated insult to provoke Iran.

From Iran’s point of view, the British are permitted to hijack oil ships, but whenever its patrol boats even as much as approach a British tanker near its territorial waters, then London and Washington are crying “foul”. The flagrant hypocrisy is in itself another provocative goading.

Let’s be clear: the Buffoonish Boris Johnson would be equally as deplorable as the Silly Hunt. Both of them are unscrupulous sycophants to America’s President Trump and his crazed warmongering towards Iran.

Russia has warned that the escalating tensions in the Gulf could spark a catastrophic war. Potentially a war in the tinderbox region could lead to World War III.

Lamentably, Britain’s shambolic politics and its venal politicians are playing with fire in their pathetic plans for personal self-aggrandizement of power.

Hunt’s double-think posturing of “escalating to de-escalate” is a sure sign that this Tory toff should not be heading to Downing Street, but rather to a padded cell. Johnson could also qualify for a cell next door.

The backdrop to resolving the current madness for endangering global peace seems blindingly obvious. Washington needs to abide by the 2015 international nuclear treaty with Iran, lift the sanctions crushing the Iranian economy, and remove all warships from the Persian Gulf.

As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said this week, there would be no need for the US or Britain to “protect shipping” in the Gulf if these two states simply respected international law and norms of diplomacy.

It is insane and gut-wrenchingly tragic that world peace is being jeopardized by idiots like Hunt, Johnson and their puppet master in Washington. The only long-term solution is for the whole rotten political class in Britain, and the US, to be thrown out by popular revolt.

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

Trump Admin Dangles $50Bn Bribe for Palestinian Surrender

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Finian Cunningham
July 3, 2019

President Trump’s senior aide on Mideast affairs Jared Kushner tried last week to sell his much-vaunted “deal of the century” for a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement. The core of it was a purported foreign investment plan worth $50 billion.

The sales pitch made at a conference in Bahrain amounted to a $50Bn bribe dangled at the Palestinians to accept permanent illegal occupation of their ancestral lands in exchange for foreign investment. Kushner rebranded it as the “opportunity of the century”.

He claimed that political peace depends on a viable economic plan. Others would see that formulation as back-to-front: economic development and prosperity depends on a political solution to decades of injustice against Palestinians.

American diplomacy has been an utter failure for decades with regard to settling this bitter dispute. It would therefore be impossibly naive to expect the Trump administration to succeed. More likely, its blundering and bias will only make this historic problem a whole lot worse.

That’s no doubt why so many regional players decided to give the Bahrain event this week a clunking big miss.

Like his father-in-law in the White House, Kushner comes from a real estate background before Trump appointed him as his top aide on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. For the past two years, Kushner has been working on a “master plan” to end the eight-decade-old conflict. That conflict has been at the center of most other disputes and tensions in the region. Trump has billed his son-in-law’s peace plan as the “deal of the century”.

In Bahrain, the Trump administration gave the first-ever preview of its peace plans. Skeptics of Kushner’s ability to deliver a realistic, workable framework were not to be surprised. The boyish-looking Kushner looked way out of his depth as he presented his vision of business and investment as the supposed key to peace. He invited the audience to “imagine” Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza bustling with enterprise and trade. That entrepreneurial “promised land” would arrive if the Palestinians accepted Kushner’s vision of a $50Bn foreign investor fund.

What that boils down to is Palestinians accepting the present status quo of illegal occupation by Israel and in effect surrendering their historic claims for sovereign statehood. Moreover, the $5oBn in investments that Kushner was swooning about are not existing funds. They are only promises of potential investment, which may never actually be delivered.

Nowhere in the Trump administration’s “deal of the century” is there any attempt to redress historical violations of Palestinian national rights. There is no mention of the right of return of millions of Palestinians displaced by the 1948 war that established the sate of Israel. Nor of returning land annexed during the 1967 war. Illegal occupation is merely a fact on the ground that needs to be officially recognized as Israeli territory, according to the Trump administration. In the same way that Trump earlier this year officially recognized the occupied Syrian Golan Heights as part of Israel.

Kushner’s bias in a supposedly peace mediator role is flagrant. He is Jewish and a family friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Kushner’s wife, Ivanka, Trump’s daughter, is a convert to Judaism. Last year, she personally unveiled the controversial new American embassy in Jerusalem, which Trump had promised to Netanyahu on his election in 2016 in recognition of the city as the capital of Israel. That move was seen by Palestinians as a betrayal of their historic claim to East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

During the past two years, the Trump administration has cut off development aid and diplomatic links with Palestinian authorities. Respected Palestinian negotiators like veteran envoy Hanan Ashrawi have been denied travel visas to the US. The consultation conducted by Kushner with the Palestinian side in formulating his peace plan has been minimal.

During a recent interview in the US, Kushner revealed his colonial-type mindset when he asserted that the “Palestinians were not ready yet for self-government”. In other words, in this supposed mediator’s view, he is saying that there will be no foreseeable state of Palestine. That is, the Palestinians must accept their inferior status as an occupied people while the state of Israel is permitted to continue annexing more and more of their ancestral land. Indeed, Kushner is believed to have personal business investments in the construction of new Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

It’s no wonder then than his so-called “deal of the century” amounts to a shallow business plan bereft of any deep historical, political issues. Palestinians are expected to shut up and surrender their historic rights for statehood by accepting a quixotic vision of economic wonders descending on them while living under permanent marginalization and deprivation. A UN report last year found that Gaza will no longer be habitable in a few years due to water and power shortages.

The Trump-Kushner proposal is the sort of con job that real estate agents excel at. Everything is reduced to the value of money while prospects are talked up with the most ludicrous glamor. Unscrupulous real estate agents would have the temerity to sell a cardboard box as if it were a penthouse suite. Trump and his son-in-law would seem to be of that same wheeler-dealer ilk.

After two years of bragging about its big Middle East “vision”, what people saw this week was little more than a glossy brochure of hype over historical realities. Indeed, it would seem that the purpose of the hype is to bury the hard historical problems that underly the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The excessive emphasis on billions of dollars of investment by Kushner is an attempt to seduce Palestinians into relinquishing their political and moral rights.

This week, however, while the Trump administration was making its sales pitch in Bahrain, it was notable that there was no Palestinian delegation present. All across the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians shut their businesses in protest and took to the streets to burn effigies of the “deal of the century”.

Israeli government representatives were also not in attendance. That was only after the White House belatedly pulled their invitations in the weeks before the Bahrain conference took place. No doubt that hasty move by the White House was meant to minimize the embarrassing spectacle of a Palestinian boycott by also not having an official Israeli delegation.

Russia and China also gave the Kushner presentation a miss. Some Arab countries, such as Iraq and Lebanon, did not attend either. Iran, a major regional player and supporter of the Palestinian cause, was not represented. The European Union sent only technical-level officials; EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was not present.

The glaring absences reflect the lack of international credibility of this White House’s peace efforts for the Middle East. The “deal of the century” is more seen as the “con of the century”.

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