Strategic Stupidity… Biden Torpedoes French & NATO Relations With Aussie Sub Deal to Target China

September 21, 2021

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Finian Cunningham

It’s not only France that is stunned by the Anglo-American skullduggery. The other European NATO allies were also left in the dark, Finian Cunningham writes.

The Gallic gall erupting between France and the United States, Britain and Australia has overshadowed the new military alliance that U.S. President Joe Biden announced last week for the Indo-Pacific region.

That alliance was supposed to signal a U.S.-led initiative to challenge China. But the strategic move is turning out rather stupid and shortsighted as it has backfired to slam a hole in Washington’s alliance with France and wider NATO partnerships.

French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered the recall of ambassadors from the U.S. and Australia in a sign of the intense anger in Paris over the newly unveiled alliance known as AUKUS – standing for Australia, United Kingdom and the United States. The return of French envoys from these allied nations has never happened before.

What’s at stake is a €56 billion contract to build a fleet of 12 submarines for Australia by France that was first signed in 2016. That deal has been scrapped and replaced by a contract with the U.S. and Britain to supply Australia with eight nuclear-powered submarines. The French subs that were on order were diesel-electric powered.

That’s a huge loss in financial revenue for France as well as a hammer blow to French naval jobs and ancillary industries. But what’s more damaging is the stealth and a palpable sense of betrayal. The French were evidently hoodwinked by the Americans, British and Australians over the whole backroom deal.

France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian did not beat around the bush to express the rage being felt in Paris at the highest level. “I am outraged… this is a stab in the back,” he fumed to French media on news of the new Anglo-American military alliance in the Indo-Pacific and the consequent cancellation of the French sub contract.

“There has been duplicity, contempt and lies – you cannot play that way in an alliance,” he added referring to the NATO military organization of which France is a prominent member.

Apart from the recall of its ambassadors, France has also cancelled a scheduled summit in London this week between French and British defense ministers.

Sir Peter Ricketts, a former British national security advisor and past ambassador to France, said the growing row was “just the tip of the iceberg”. He said it was much worse than when France fell foul of the United States and Britain back in 2003 over the Iraq War.

Ricketts told the BBC as quoted by The Guardian: “This is far more than just a diplomatic spat… this puts a big rift down the middle of the NATO alliance.”

What is particularly galling for the French is that the new U.S. alliance with Britain and Australia was obviously under private discussion for several months to the exclusion of Paris and other NATO members. The French only found out about the pact when it was announced on September 15 in a joint virtual press conference between Biden and his British and Australian counterparts, Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison.

When Biden made his first overseas trip as president in June this year to attend the G7 summit in Cornwall, England, and later to meet other NATO leaders in Belgium, there was no mention of the AUKUS plan. Biden even held a bilateral and apparently cordial meeting with Macron in Cornwall without any hint of the new alliance under formation nor the impending impact on the French submarine contract. More bitterly in hindsight, Biden also held a closed meeting with Johnson and Morrison during the G7 summit even though Australia is not a member of the forum. They must have discussed AUKUS in secret. No wonder the French are aggrieved by the contempt shown.

But it’s not only France that is stunned by the Anglo-American skullduggery. The other European NATO allies were also left in the dark.

Last week, European foreign policy chief Josep Borrell presented a new EU strategic vision for the Indo-Pacific region the day after the AUKUS alliance was announced. Borrell had metaphorical egg dripping off his face when he answered media questions about the U.S., UK, Australia initiative. “We were not informed, we were not aware… we regret not having been informed.”

The brutal irony is that Biden came to the White House promising that he would repair transatlantic partnerships with Europe and NATO which had been ravaged by Donald Trump and his browbeating over alleged lack of military spending by allies. When Biden visited England and Belgium in June it was something of a love-in with European leaders who swooned over his vows of “America is back”.

After Biden’s unilateral withdrawal from Afghanistan last month when European NATO partners were not consulted and their apprehensions were brushed aside, now we see Biden poking France in the eye and kicking it in the coffers with €56 billion pain.

“Political trust has been shattered,” said Frederic Grare of the European Council for Foreign Affairs as quoted by the Euronews outlet.

But the whole sordid betrayal and bickering have more than money and loss of trust involved – far-reaching though that those issues are.

Washington’s willingness to supply nuclear-powered submarines to Australia with British collaboration shows that the United States is moving ahead with a more reckless offensive policy towards China. Biden is explicitly declaring a strategic move to confront China more openly and provocatively, ramping up the hostility of previous administrations under Trump and Obama.

Beijing condemned the new AUKUS alliance as a harbinger of more “Cold War”, saying that it would bring insecurity to the region and lead to a new arms race. That may be an understatement as the Anglo-American alliance spells move to a war footing.

China warned that despite Australia’s insipid assurances to the contrary, the nuclear-powered submarines could be armed with nuclear missiles in the future. Beijing said Australia would be targeted for a nuclear strike in the event of any future war with the United States.

Biden’s strategic move to engage with Britain and Australia in order to threaten China is proving to be a loose cannon in relations with France and other European NATO allies. That speaks of Washington’s desperation to confront China. 

Afghan Lesson For Uncle Sam’s Running Dogs

August 15, 2021

Finian Cunningham

Afghanistan is the most glaring proof of the American treachery. It’s a cautionary tale for others who incredibly still seem trusting in hitching their wagon to a U.S. alliance.

U.S. President Joe Biden said this week that he has “no regrets” about pulling American forces out of Afghanistan as the Taliban militants look set to over-run the entire Central Asian country. The lesson here is: anyone acting as a running dog for Washington does so at the peril of ultimate U.S. betrayal.

The U.S.-backed puppet regime in Kabul has done Washington’s bidding for nearly two decades. After 20 years of futile war at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives and trillions of dollars, Uncle Sam has decided to pack up, get out and leave the Afghans to their miserable fate. As the Taliban take over one provincial capital after another, the U.S. intelligence agencies are warning that the Kabul regime could fall within a month. And callously, Biden this week told the Afghans they have to do their own fighting.

Whatever happened to lofty American vows of “nation-building”? Or “fighting terrorism”, “defending democracy”, “protecting women’s rights”?

It’s a sordid story with much historical precedent illustrating how at the drop of a hat Uncle Sam is liable to hang erstwhile “allies” out to dry. As American elder statesman Henry Kissinger once noted, the U.S. doesn’t have permanent allies, it only has interests.

Some 46 years ago, the Fall of Saigon saw the United States scurry away from a corrupt puppet regime it had propped up in South Vietnam as the North Vietnamese communists finally routed the redundant American pawns.

A more recent example of callous betrayal by Washington was the throwing of Kurdish militants to the mercy of Turkey when the latter invaded northern Syria during the Trump presidency. Anyone who accepts American patronage must know that the small print in the contract always reads: to be dumped at any time of Uncle Sam’s choosing and convenience.

Afghanistan is the most glaring proof perhaps since the Fall of Saigon in 1975 of that American treachery.

It’s a cautionary tale for others who incredibly still seem trusting in hitching their wagon to a U.S. alliance.

Ukraine, run by a venal regime in Kiev, appears slavishly willing to place all its fate under Washington’s whim. Centuries of common history with Russia are being sacrificed by the regime in Kiev all for the gain of Washington’s military benevolence. A seven-year civil war bankrolled by $2 billion in American military aid has destroyed the peace and prosperity of Ukraine as well as damage neighborly relations with Russia. We can be sure that when the imperial planners in Washington realize that their use of Ukraine as a pawn against Russia has become futile, then the people of Ukraine will be dropped to sort out the chronic mess.

Likewise the American lackeys in the Baltic states. They act as running dogs for Washington to spoil relations between Russia and the European Union. For years, the Baltic countries have objected to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, appealing instead for more expensive and environmentally dirty U.S. gas exports. Overnight, Washington has decided such a policy is untenable and not worth antagonizing Germany and the rest of the EU. And just like that, the Baltic lackeys are left out in the cold looking like fools.

They never seem to learn though. This week Lithuania did Uncle Sam’s bidding to provoke China by announcing it would recognize Taiwan. That move infuriated Beijing because it undercuts the international One China Policy of accepting Taiwan as under Beijing’s sovereignty. China recalled its envoy from Vilnius and it has threatened punitive economic measures. As the EU’s top trading partner, it is reckless and self-defeating to incur China’s wrath. Lithuania and the rest of the EU could potentially be hit with economic losses – all for the sake of following Washington’s geopolitical agenda of hostility towards China.

Currently, the biggest caution of U.S. treachery must surely go to the renegade Chinese island territory of Taiwan. Beijing has warned that Washington’s provocative arms sales are fomenting separatist factions on the island. China has declared the right to invade Taiwan militarily and take back control by force. Such a move could ignite a war between the United States and China since Washington has repeatedly vowed to “defend” Taiwan.

But as the Afghan debacle reminds us, the chances are that Washington will leave the Taiwanese to their fate in a military confrontation with mainland China. There would be Chinese blood spilled on both sides before Beijing asserts its authority.

Afghanistan demonstrates with brutal clarity that there is not an iota of principle in Washington’s foreign policy and its military interventions. The lives of ordinary U.S. citizens are as expendable as those of foreign people as long as Washington’s interests of serving its corporate profits are deemed to be met. When those interests stop then the lives lost are flushed down the toilet like a nasty turd.

U.S. Fears of China Nuclear Expansion… Déjà Vu of Soviet Missile Gap Hype

Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

July 31, 2021

Finian Cunningham

China is providing the equivalent scaremongering of the Soviet “missile gap” in order to sustain America’s militarist-dependent capitalist economy.

Media reports from the U.S. this week – regurgitated by the European press – highlighted concerns that China is embarking on a massive scale-up of underground silos for launching nuclear weapons.

Hundreds of silos are alleged to be under construction in the western regions of Xinjiang and Gansu, according to U.S. media reports citing commercial satellite data. American military officials and State Department diplomats are quoted as saying they are “deeply concerned” by the purported expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal.

For its part, Beijing has not yet commented on the claims of new nuclear silos. Some Chinese media reports say that the excavation could be due to something else entirely – the construction of large-scale wind farms. A Global Times dismissed the U.S. claims as “hyped”.

Context, as ever, is crucial. For a start, the U.S. headlines are equivocal and heavily qualified, indicating that the information is far from conclusive.

The Wall Street Journal reported: “China Appears to Be Building New Silos for Nuclear Missiles, Researchers Say”.

While CNN headlined: “China appears to be expanding its nuclear capabilities, U.S. researchers say in new report”.

Despite the lack of definite information that didn’t stop Pentagon and government officials from saying they were “deeply concerned”, thus adding a veneer of factuality to reports that were speculative.

Here’s another consideration. So what if China is expanding its nuclear arsenal with new silos? The People’s Republic of China has a stockpile of warheads numbering 350. The United States has a stockpile of some 5,550 warheads, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The U.S. has a nuclear offensive power 15 times greater than China. So even if China is planning to double its arsenal of nuclear weapons, according to the Pentagon, that increase is still a fraction of American destructive capability.

Beijing maintains that the onus is on Washington to de-escalate its nuclear arsenal. The United States and Russia have resumed talks this week in Geneva on renewing arms-control efforts – efforts that have been put on hold by Washington since the Trump administration. Washington and Moscow – both possessing over 90 percent of the world’s total nuclear warheads – need to get on with their obligations for disarmament before China is reasonably brought into the discussion, along with other minor nuclear powers, such as Britain and France.

Another consideration for context is the ramping up of hostility by the United States towards China. The Biden administration is continuing the aggressive agenda of its Trump and Obama predecessors. Arming the renegade Chinese island territory of Taiwan, sailing warships into the South China Sea, media vilification of China over allegations of human rights abuses, genocide, malign conduct in trade, cyberattacks, and the Covid-19 pandemic. All of this speaks of stoking confrontation with China and inflaming U.S. public opinion to accept war with China.

Pentagon officials tell Congressional hearings that they consider war with China a distinct possibility in the near term.

Given this context, it would be reasonable to expect China to expand its nuclear defenses in order to shift the American calculation away from contemplating a war. The problem is not the alleged Chinese military buildup. It is Washington’s criminal policy of hostility towards Beijing that is fueling the risk of war.

But here is another key factor: the United States is undergoing a trillion-dollar upgrade of its nuclear arsenal. That began under Obama and was continued under Trump and now Biden. That puts alleged Chinese expansion into perspective. The United States has already nuclear power that dwarfs China’s and yet the U.S. is expanding what is a provocative threat to China.

Furthermore, Washington’s nuclear upgrade of its triad of submarines, silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers is hurtling out of control financially.

A recent report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office warned that the trillion-dollar nuclear upgrade was ballooning with “stupefyingly expensive” cost overruns. In just two years, the cost was over-budget by $140 billion and the upgrade program is to run for a total of three decades.

This eye-watering waste of taxpayers’ money has led some U.S. lawmakers to call for drastic cuts in nuclear arms expenditure. Senator Ed Markey and others have decried “our bloated nuclear weapons budget”. Given the crumbling state of America’s civilian infrastructure, popular opposition to exorbitant military spending is potentially a major political problem for the Pentagon and its industrial complex.

The U.S. media hype over the alleged expansion of Chinese silos begins to look like déjà vu of the alleged “missile gap” with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In the 1950s and 60s, Washington and the compliant corporate media became animated by CIA data that purported to show the Soviet Union outpacing the U.S. in the numbers of nuclear missiles. It turned out that the “missile gap” was non-existent. But the fear-mongering it engendered, in turn, created public acceptance of massive military expenditure by Washington that has become structural and chronic to this day. The warped allocation of financial resources is a parasitical drain on American society. Any rational, democratic mind would abhor the grotesque priorities.

China today is providing the equivalent scaremongering of the Soviet “missile gap” in order to sustain America’s militarist-dependent capitalist economy.

War… It’s Just a Shot Away as Brits Provoke Russia

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Finian Cunningham

June 24, 2021

It sounds almost incredible that a war situation was only a shot away in such a grim face-off between NATO member Britain and Russia.

Russian patrol vessels fired warning shots at an armed British warship after it breached Russian territorial waters this week. Then a SU-24 fighter jet dropped bombs in the path of the British destroyer apparently forcing it out of Russian waters.

It sounds almost incredible that a war situation was only a shot away in such a grim face-off between NATO member Britain and Russia.

But what’s also condemnable is that the incendiary incident was a deliberate provocation by Britain. Russia has warned Britain not to provoke it again in the Black Sea. And Moscow accused London of telling barefaced lies.

The British government and its Ministry of Defense were quick to play down the incident, claiming that there were no warning shots fired on the Royal Navy guided-missile destroyer. London accused Russia of “disinformation” and maintained that HMS Defender was engaged in “innocent passage” through international waters in the Black Sea.

However, the official British version is contradicted by a BBC correspondent who was on board HMS Defender.

Jonathan Beale reported: “I am on board the warship in the Black Sea.The crew were already at action stations as they approached the southern tip of Russian-occupied [sic] Crimea. Weapons systems on board the Royal Navy destroyer had already been loaded.

This would be a deliberate move to make a point to Russia. HMS Defender was going to sail within the 12 mile (19km) limit of Crimea’s territorial waters. The captain insisted he was only seeking safe passage through an internationally recognized shipping lane.”

Thus, according to the BBC’s account, a fully armed and cocked warship deliberately entered territorial waters claimed by Russia (since Crimea joined the Russian Federation by a referendum in 2014). The crew were at action stations on their approach “to make a point to Russia”.

Such conduct by the British is nothing less than a wanton provocation to Russia. The BBC version concurs with Russia’s account of the circumstances, including the sound of warning shots.

One question is: why did the British government and MoD seek to immediately play down the incident, purporting to say that nothing had happened? London claimed that the warship was merely in the vicinity of Russian “gunnery exercises” as if it was all coincidence and that Moscow was engaging in disinformation about warding off the Royal Navy vessel.

Another question is: why was the BBC correspondent invited to take part in the Black Sea voyage of HMS Defender from the Ukrainian port of Odessa to Georgia skirting the Crimea Peninsula? It seems like the British may have been expecting their “point to Russia” would have been met with a passive response. And so the British would have been able to spin that their plucky navy was able to stick it to the Russians. Turns out though that the BBC man unhelpfully contradicted the military planners in London.

Britain was obliged to deny the military encounter because it knows full well that it was a provocative show of aggression by its warship. If the shots had escalated it could have been an act of war that Britain had instigated. Aggression is the supreme war crime as defined by the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders.

Russia has condemned the British action, saying HMS Defender should be renamed HMS Aggressor or HMS Provocateur.

It is also reported that on Tuesday, the day before the skirmish, Ukrainian military chiefs were hosted onboard HMS Destroyer while docked in Odessa where they signed new military contracts with the British on naval cooperation. That the Brits then sailed the next day straight into Russian waters suggests that the maneuver was a calculated show of naval power in support of Ukraine’s claims of “fighting against Russian aggression”.

As far back as April, the British had given notice that they were intending to dispatch warships to the Black Sea “in support of Ukraine”. Russia responded angrily and warned Britain and other NATO members to stay away from its territory. Russia subsequently has deployed larger military forces in its Black Sea territory, including around the Crimea Peninsula.

That the British went ahead with their plans to send warships into disputed waters is further sign that London was deliberately goading Moscow.

What the Brits were not expecting, it seems, was the way Russia rapidly deployed firepower this week to underscore its warnings to back off.

This is the context for why international “stability talks” between the United States and Russia are an urgent matter. It remains to be seen if the American Biden administration genuinely responds to Moscow’s appeals for earnest negotiations to stabilize relations. NATO so far seems to be indifferent to Russian proposals for cooperating on forming new security mechanisms in Europe.

The deterioration in relations between Russia and the United States and other NATO members has reached a dangerous flashpoint. The arming by the U.S. and NATO of the anti-Russia regime in Kiev is fueling the potential for all-out conflict between nuclear powers. Western indulgence of Kiev’s reckless claims of “Russian aggression” is further insanity.

And amid the treacherous conditions, the British send a guided-missile destroyer into Russian waters in defiance of reasonable warnings. That’s just a shot away from disaster.

Incredibly, this is all happening on the 80th anniversary of Operation Barbarossa when Nazi Germany launched its war against the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

Europe’s Failure Over Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Due to Germany’s Nazi Guilt and EU’s Subservience to United States

June 1, 2021

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Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

Finian Cunningham

The international community has to end its support for the apartheid state of Israel and must stop the genocide of the Palestinian people, says MEP Mick Wallace in an interview with Finian Cunningham.

Mick Wallace, an independent Irish Member of the European Parliament, speaks his mind to Strategic Culture Foundation about the recent violence in Gaza where 248 people were killed by the Israeli military. Among the dead were 66 children during 11 days of bombardment of the Palestinian territory. Nearly 2,000 were injured in airstrikes on the densely populated coastal strip where two million people live in appalling deprivation. Hundreds of homes and civilian infrastructure were destroyed by the Israeli forces armed with U.S. warplanes and munitions. Rockets fired by Palestinian militant group Hamas killed 12 Israelis, including two children. Yet the United States and the European Union stridently declared support for Israel’s “right to self-defense” while not categorically denouncing the slaughter of Palestinians. Mick Wallace condemns what he calls the complicity of America and the European Union in Israeli war crimes. He says the oppression of Palestinians will continue tragically because, effectively, the U.S. and EU are sponsoring genocide. However, he notes, Western governments are increasingly out of step with public opinion horrified by Israel’s wanton occupation of Palestinian territory.

Wallace was elected to the EU parliament in 2019. He is an independent MEP who is affiliated with the European Party of the Left. He is an outspoken critic of American imperialism and European complicity in NATO aggression towards Russia. His weekly podcast frequently explores and condemns Russophobia in EU foreign policy which he says is due to the bloc’s subservience to Washington. Wallace’s outspoken internationalism and anti-imperialism have gained him much popular support in Ireland and abroad.

Interview

Question: American and European politicians commonly declare their support for Israel’s “right to self-defense”. However, you have stated that Israel does not have such a right. Many people would condemn your statement given the barrage of rockets fired at Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Can you explain why you think Israel does not have a right to self-defense?

Mick Wallace: Gaza is the largest concentration camp in the world. Do concentration camp guards have the right to self-defense? The indigenous people, the Palestinians, have the right to self-defense, not the colonizer. Does Israel have the right to self-defense? Does Israel have the right to commit crimes against humanity?

Question: During the recent eruption of hostilities between the Israelis and Palestinians, the European Union showed little leadership in calling for a ceasefire. Why is the EU so ineffective in resolving a conflict which is on Europe’s periphery?

Mick Wallace: It would probably be fair to say that when it comes to foreign policy, the European Union has never been so weak.

Question: European leaders aspire for the EU to be a global political force. But the EU is all too often seen as subordinate to the United States. With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Europe seems too deferential to Washington. Is that a fair criticism?

Mick Wallace: Yes, the EU does not have the courage to challenge the United States on these matters.

Question: You have been especially critical of Germany and the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who was formerly the German minister of defense, for their appeasement of Israel by not criticizing its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. You have made the point that Germany’s historical guilt from Nazism and the Holocaust is a factor. Can you elaborate on that point?

Mick Wallace: Von der Leyen is a weak European Commission president but her statement on the conflict emphasizing Israel’s supposed right to self-defense was a new low. Sixty-six Palestinian children were killed by the illegal occupier, Israel, while Hamas killed two Israeli children. And yet Von der Leyen could only condemn Hamas. Germany backs Israel because of its guilt over Nazi horror. Yet in appeasing Israel, German politicians are complicit today in crimes against humanity akin to those of Nazi Germany.

Question: Other European countries were also complicit in Nazi crimes against Jews, such as France and the Baltic states, Austria, Romania, and Hungary. During the latest violence, Austrian public buildings were draped with the flag of Israel. Does the specter of the past Nazi horrors and European guilt account for the EU’s failings with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Mick Wallace: There’s no doubt that German guilt for the terrible atrocities committed against European Jews is a factor. The failure of so many German Members of the European Parliament to criticize Israeli war crimes is shocking, but other forces are also at play. Israel is a vital part of the United States Empire, and that’s reflected in EU subservience to the Americans.

Question: Out of 705 European parliamentarians, a sizable majority seems to be supportive of Israel whereas among European citizens there is strong sympathy for the Palestinians suffering from illegal occupation and oppression. How do you explain such a discrepancy between elected representatives and the general public with regard to views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Mick Wallace: Politicians rarely represent their citizens.

Question: Is European guilt over Nazism and fascism a factor in the European Parliament’s attempts at World War Two revisionism whereby the Soviet Union is equated with the Nazi Third Reich?

Mick Wallace: I believe it’s more a case of the European Union, at America’s beckoning, trying to undermine and isolate Russia.

Question: Russia has offered to act as a mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians, claiming to have credible relations with both sides. The American mediation efforts have been a failure as has been shown by the chronic impasse and erosion of Palestinian rights over several decades. Do you think Russia could help find a resolution?

Mick Wallace: I wouldn’t be confident of Russia playing a neutral and fair role – the Kremlin also tolerates much of the lawless behavior of Israel.

Question: What, in your view, is a viable solution to the decades-old conflict?

Mick Wallace: That’s a big question. The two-state solution is long dead. The international community has to end its support for the apartheid state of Israel and must stop the genocide of the Palestinian people. All Palestinians are entitled to live a dignified life in their homeland. But this is unlikely to happen until the international community stops supporting U.S. imperialism, and the sovereignty of all nations is respected.

Syria Regime Change Still on Western Agenda – Ex-Ambassador Peter Ford

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Finian Cunningham

April 30, 2021

Syria Regime Change Still on Western Agenda – Ex-Ambassador Peter Ford -  TheAltWorld

“The Western powers are like dogs with an old bone on the subject of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. There is no meat on it but they continue to gnaw away,” says former British ambassador to Syria in an interview with Finian Cunningham.

The United States, Britain, and other NATO powers failed in their covert military efforts for regime change in Syria, thanks in large part to the principled intervention by Russia to defend its historic Arab ally. However, Peter Ford, the former British ambassador to Syria, contends that regime change is still very much a top priority for Western powers and their criminal agenda of reshaping the Middle East according to their imperial objectives. In the following interview, Ford explains how the Western tactic has now shifted to intensifying economic warfare in order to buckle the Syrian government led by President Assad. Nevertheless, the former British envoy envisages that the presidential election on May 26 will see Assad being resoundingly re-elected by a nation defiant towards Western aggression.

peterford hashtag on Twitter

Peter Ford is a former British ambassador to Syria (2003-2006) who has publicly denounced Britain’s proxy-terror war for regime change in the Arab nation, along with other NATO accomplices. He is a seasoned diplomat having graduated in Arabic Studies from Oxford University and serving as an envoy in several Middle East countries. Ford has incurred the wrath of the British establishment for his outspoken truth-telling about their nefarious agenda in Syria. On the other hand, he has won the admiration of many people around the world for his courage and integrity. He is a recipient of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromising Integrity in Journalism.

Interview

Question: What do you make of the ruling last week by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to strip Syria of its member rights based on allegations that the Syrian government military forces have repeatedly used chemical weapons during the 10-year war? It seems that the OPCW has become extremely politicized by the United States and its Western allies. Do you see a lot of arm-twisting of member states by Western powers to produce OPCW sanctions against Syria?

Peter Ford: The Western powers are like dogs with an old bone on the subject of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. There is no meat on it but they continue to gnaw away. Why? Because the trope that “Assad gasses his own people” has become a cornerstone of the whole Western propaganda narrative on Syria. Without it, justifying the cruel economic war on Syria, largely through sanctions, would be harder to justify. And with military efforts at regime change having failed, economic warfare is now the last hope for the Western powers of destabilizing Syria enough to topple the government. For this strategy to work the Western powers are more than ready to undermine the credibility of the OPCW by abusing their ability to manipulate it in the Syrian context.

Question: The OPCW’s executive has been exposed in distorting its own reports for the objective of incriminating the Syrian government over alleged chemical weapons attacks. Do you think the OPCW has been turned into a lever to enable Western powers to harass Syria because these powers have been blocked by Russia and China from using the United Nations Security Council as a mechanism for aggression against Syria?

Peter Ford: The United States and the United Kingdom have not hesitated to ventriloquize the OPCW executive to get their way on Syria, stifling whistleblowing even where the cases of misreporting have been flagrant. As a former United Nations official myself, I can say that international organizations are nearly all controlled and used by the U.S./UK, with the Security Council thankfully the one arena where they are unable always to get their own way. This irks them considerably, leading them to go even further in exploiting and debasing agencies like the OPCW.

Question: Three months into a new administration in the United States under President Joe Biden, is there any discernible change in Washington’s policy towards Syria? You have stated publicly before that the whole war in Syria was a regime-change operation orchestrated by the U.S., Britain, France, and others. Is regime change in Syria still on the Western powers’ agenda?

Peter Ford: Regime change is very much still on the agenda. It cannot be openly avowed, of course, but how else to describe a policy of seeking a  “transition” under conditions that would guarantee removal of the present government? Those conditions include rigged elections and “justice” against “war criminals”. The economic warfare is as severe as anything that was waged against Iraq to bring Saddam down. It is blatant deceit to pretend this policy is not aimed at President Bashar al-Assad’s removal. Biden brings no change. If anything he is doubling down on the policy of his predecessor, without even the pretense of wanting out of Syria, holding on to sanctions, and deliberately hampering reconstruction.

Question: The United States still has troops illegally occupying parts of eastern Syria near the country’s oil fields, denying the Syrian state important resources for national reconstruction. You have described the American forces there as functioning like a “tripwire”. Could you expand on that concept?

Peter Ford: U.S. forces in occupied parts of Syria number around a thousand. The Syrian Arab Army could overrun these forces and their Kurdish allies in a matter of days. What stops them? The certain knowledge that any advance towards the American forces would trigger massive retaliation from the U.S. Air Force operating from its bases in the region. So the function of these U.S. forces is not to help “eradicate ISIS terror remnants” as implausibly claimed, but to serve as a tripwire and thereby deter Syrian forces from recovering territories that hold most of Syria’s oil and grain resources. Denial of these resources is key to bringing Syria to its knees via economic warfare.

Question: Could Biden step up the military intervention in Syria? Or is it more likely that the U.S. and its Western allies will pursue economic warfare through sanctions against Syria?

Peter Ford: It must be considered unlikely that the U.S. would put many more boots on the ground but many in the Pentagon are straining at the leash to bomb Syria at the slightest pretext. For the moment, the policy planners are counting on economic sanctions and are content to wait for the Syrian government to buckle.

Question: What are the strategic reasons for Western regime change in Syria?

Peter Ford: It’s a way of getting at Russia and Iran, essentially. A little thought experiment proves it. Imagine Assad suddenly said he was ready to get rid of the Russians and Iranians and complete America’s set of Arab powers in return for being left in power. Egypt’s Sadat did something similar in the late 1970s so it’s not unthinkable, and Assad was having tea with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth not so very long ago. Would the U.S. not then cast aside without a moment’s hesitation all the blather about democracy and human rights?

Question: How significant was Russia’s military intervention in the Syrian war in October 2015?

Peter Ford: It was a life-saver. Most people do not realize how close ISIS and other terrorist proxies were to grabbing control of Damascus. Naturally, the Western powers never like to acknowledge this awkward truth.

Question: France’s former Foreign Minister Roland Dumas remarked in a media interview back in 2013 how he was privately approached by British officials with a scheme for regime change in Syria two years before the war erupted in 2011. As a former British ambassador to Syria (2003-2006) can you recall noticing any such plot being considered?

Peter Ford: Planning for regime change in Syria only really began when the aftermath of the Iraq war went really sour and rather than blame themselves, the U.S./UK sought to deflect blame on to Syria. It accelerated after Britain’s Conservatives with their anti-Russian and anti-Iranian obsessions, and their support for Israel, came to power in 2010.

Question: Your principled and outspoken criticism of the British government’s involvement in the Syrian war has won you much respect around the world. Do you feel personally aggrieved by the malign conduct of Britain in Syria?

Peter Ford: I feel ashamed for my country’s actions. It really is quite shameful that we have been instrumental in causing suffering for millions of Syrians while hypocritically claiming we are doing it for their own good.

Question: Finally, Syria is holding presidential elections on May 26 in which incumbent Bashar al-Assad is running for re-election. The Western powers disparage Syria as an “undemocratic regime”. How do you view Syria’s polity? Is Assad likely to win re-election?

Peter Ford: Of course Assad will win and of course the Western powers will try to disparage his victory. But I can state with certainty that if you could offer the Conservative party in Britain a guarantee of achieving in the next general election anything anywhere near Assad’s genuine level of support, albeit some of it reluctant from a war-weary people, the Tories would bite your hand off for such an electoral gain. Much of the current Western propaganda effort against Syria is geared at trying to spoil Assad’s victory and deny it legitimacy. But inside Syria itself, the people will see the election as setting the seal on 10 years of struggle, and Assad will emerge strengthened as he faces the next phase in the Western war on Syria.

Another Navalny Drama Fizzles Despite Hungry Western Media

Another Navalny Drama Fizzles Despite Hungry Western Media

Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

Finian Cunningham

April 27, 2021

The indulgence and fawning must have given Navalny a sense of impunity, reinforcing his megalomania and attention-seeking, Finian Cunningham writes.

After three weeks allegedly on a hunger strike, the Western-lionized Russian blogger Alexei Navalny has thrown the towel in. The decisive factor was the Russian authorities refusing to kowtow to a Western orchestrated drama.

Another factor is that Navalny is a conman and stooge of Western intelligence services. To carry out a real hunger strike is perhaps one of the most traumatic, mentally excruciating feats of self-sacrifice. To witness yourself wasting away to death must summon the deepest convictions of righteousness.

I remember living through the Irish Republican hunger strike 40 years ago which resulted in the death of 10 prisoners in a British state prison. The first one of those men to die was Bobby Sands who at the age of 27 passed away in a coma on May 5 after 66 days of refusing food. It was one of the grimmest periods in the 30-year conflict with Britain that ravaged Ireland.

Few political prisoners undertake hunger strike, and fewer still see it through to the horrendous end. Only those dedicated to a righteous cause could ever contemplate overcoming the gravest challenge.

That’s why everything about Navalny’s supposed hunger strike reeks of a sham aided and abetted by the fawning Western corporate media. The apparent collaboration in this drama also indicates the relationship of a stooge orchestrated by Western state intelligence.

When the 44-year-old convicted embezzler declared that he was going on a death-fast on March 31, the Western media kept pace with sensational headlines detailing his supposed declining health. We were told about pains, aches, and numbness, “torture”, “imminent death” and so on. Even though the Russian prison authorities released video footage of Navalny swaggering around his shared dormitory remonstrating with a guard over some petty issue.

The British state-owned BBC reported that prison authorities were using dastardly tricks such as putting savory meals beside Navalny’s bed. The BBC never gave any such concerned coverage to Bobby Sands and his Republican comrades who were abused inhumanely by British prison guards. Indeed, the British media portrayed the then Margaret Thatcher government as justified in its treatment of “Irish terrorists”.

Instead of the grim fate supposedly facing Navalny, the Western media reported his social media statements with an air of jocularity. “My friends would laugh if they saw me now walking around like a skeleton,” said Navalny in one of his Instagram posts. How is it that a purportedly persecuted prisoner has the liberty to use social media and generate Western headlines? The inappropriate humor also betrays a lack of credibility in his supposed journey of death.

All the while, the Russian authorities were monitoring Navalny’s health and maintaining that his condition was “satisfactory”.

U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were reportedly impressing on Russian President Vladimir Putin their concern over Navalny. Again, such high-profile intervention is a reflection of the political orchestration going on. It is so disproportionate to the reality that it is an absurd giveaway of scripted drama.

It soon became clear, however, that the Russian state would not be bullied by psycho-drama. Its laws and sovereign affairs are not open for hypocritical Western lecturing.

Navalny was arrested on January 17 after spending five months in Germany in flagrant violation of his parole terms for a suspended jail sentence over a fraud conviction in 2014. While in Germany, Navalny cooked up the outlandish drama that he had been poisoned with a military nerve weapon on the direct orders of Putin. No evidence has ever been provided to support his claims but the Western media and governments have endorsed the narrative as if gospel truth.

The indulgence and fawning must have given Navalny a sense of impunity, reinforcing his megalomania and attention-seeking. He was therefore shocked when he was arrested on returning to Russia from Germany and again when the Russian federal authorities ordered in February that his suspended sentence be converted to two-and-half-years behind bars.

While in prison, Navalny began demanding the “right” to have his private doctors visit him over alleged leg numbness and back pain. How’s that for arrogance!

One wonders how the BBC would have reported it if Irish Republican prisoners were making such a demand from the British state.

In any case, Russian authorities faced down the intense Western media campaign aiming to make a hero out of the “starving” Navalny. Prison doctors maintained that he was being adequately cared for. One may speculate that the Russian authorities spotted the fake drama from an early stage. You can’t pull off a harrowing hunger strike without an iron will – which Navalny and his handlers do not have because their cause is a fake pretext for destabilizing Russia’s internal politics and undermining the government.

Realizing that the battle of wills – and shills – was not going to be won, the next necessary ploy was to create an off-ramp for Navalny in order to avoid farcical embarrassment.

His personal doctors started “warning” on April 18 through obliging Western media headlines that Navalny “could die any day” due to his deteriorating condition. That was after 19 days of supposed hunger strike. Strangely, Navalny’s doctors were somehow able to give such a dire prognosis without actually examining him personally.

Then on April 23, the BBC and other Western media outlets ran headlines such as: ‘Navalny urged to end hunger strike’.

Within hours, the convicted conman declared that he was coming off his alleged fast to the death.

So, there you have it. The end of another drama in which the Western-lionized hero cheats death twice in only a matter of months. First, from alleged poisoning with a deadly nerve agent, and secondly, from an anguish-filled three-week hunger strike (at least according to Western media).

At this point, Navalny’s intel scriptwriters and Western media are the only ones going hungry.

As British Warships Deploy to Black Sea, Putin Warns of Red Lines

As British Warships Deploy to Black Sea, Putin Warns of Red Lines - Islam  Times
As British Warships Deploy to Black Sea, Putin Warns of Red Lines
Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

Finian Cunningham April 22, 2021

The British are being told that they cannot just sail their warships into the Black Sea and rattle their sabers in Russia’s face. Putin is telling the Brits and anyone else not to even think about getting that close.

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a stern warning to countries trying to provoke military tensions, saying that his nation is drawing up red lines for defense.

Putin delivered the sharp remarks during his annual state-of-the-nation address to lawmakers from both chambers of the Russian parliament. The stark warning comes amid spiraling tensions over Ukraine between Western supporters of the Kiev regime and Russia.

Specifically, days before Putin’s set-piece speech, British media reported that Britain’s Royal Navy is planning to deploy two warships to the Black Sea: a Type-45 destroyer armed with anti-aircraft missiles; and a frigate for hunting submarines. A British ministry of defense spokesman is quoted as saying the move was a sign of “unwavering support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity” in the face of alleged Russian aggression.

The British deployment is planned to take place in the coming weeks. The two warships will transit Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait to enter the Black Sea. International shipping is permitted under the Montreux Convention. However, the British plan seems far from an innocent passage, and a rather more calculated provocation.

The two ships will be part of a bigger battle group, the newly launched HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier which will station in the East Mediterranean. The battle group will be able to supply F-35B Lightning fighter jets and Merlin helicopters with submarine-hunting missiles. All in all, it is a pretty audacious attempt by the British to raise tensions with Russia.

It is notable that the United States last week abruptly cancelled sending two of its guided-missile destroyers to the Black Sea after Russia mobilized its own fleet in the region and warned the Americans to “stay away”. Days later, the British seem to have stepped into the breach with their proposed Black Sea operation. Did the Biden administration ask London to step up to the plate and to show “solidarity”, or is the British maneuver a gambit to curry favor with Washington by flexing AngloSaxon muscles for Uncle Sam?

In any case, London’s move comes on the back of an already brazen buildup of British military forces in the Black Sea. Britain has previously sent naval personnel and equipment to train Ukrainian warships. The Royal Air Force has also dispatched a squadron of Typhoon fighter jets to patrol the Black Sea in support of the Kiev regime and its claim to take back control of the Crimean Peninsula. The Peninsula voted in a referendum in March 2014 to join the Russian Federation after a NATO-backed coup d’état in Kiev the previous month which ushered in an anti-Russian regime.

The Kiev regime has also been stepping up its violations of the ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine where ethnic Russian populations have declared breakaway republics in defiance of the 2014 NATO-backed coup. Civilian centers in Donetsk and Luhansk are being shelled on a daily basis. This is clearly a cynical attempt by the Kiev regime to escalate the civil war in such a way as to drag NATO further into the conflict. Russia has mobilized sizable army divisions on the border with Ukraine in what Moscow says is a matter of national self-defense. Yet, ironically, the United States, Britain, and other NATO powers are demanding Russia to “de-escalate” tensions.

NATO’s very public backing for the Kiev regime and the supply of American lethal weaponry is no doubt emboldening the regime to step up its offensive fire on Eastern Ukraine and making menacing moves towards Crimea.

The British are in particular giving the Kiev regime a dangerous sense of military license for its bravado towards Moscow.

The situation is an extremely dangerous powder-keg. One wrong move, even unintended, could spark off a wider war involving the NATO powers and Russia.

In this highly combustible context, Russia is right to close off areas in the Black Sea that encompass its territorial waters. Those areas include the coastal waters off the Crimean Peninsula.

NATO powers sending warships into the region is the height of criminal folly. If Britain and other members of the U.S.-led alliance contend that they are “defending Ukraine’s territorial integrity” then the logic of that position dictates that they will attempt to make an incursion into Crimean coastal water since they don’t recognize Russia’s sovereignty. In that event, a military confrontation is bound to happen.

President Putin’s declaration of red lines is not so much a rhetorical putting it up to the West. It is a responsible position to prevent a war from breaking out.

The British are being told that they cannot just sail their warships into the Black Sea and rattle their sabers in Russia’s face. Putin is telling the Brits and anyone else not to even think about getting that close.

Threatening Syria’s First Lady Shows NATO’s Depravity

Threatening Syria's First Lady Shows NATO's Depravity - Islam Times
Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

Finian Cunningham

March 18, 2021

Threatening Syria’s First Lady – a national heroine – with prosecution for war crimes is NATO powers reaching into the gutter, Finian Cunningham writes.

This week marks the 10th anniversary since the United States and its NATO allies launched a devastating covert war of aggression for regime change in Syria. Ten years on, the Arab nation is struggling with war reconstruction, a struggle made all the more onerous because of economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union.

Syria and allied forces from Russia, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon’s Hezbollah won the war, defeating legions of mercenary terrorist fighters who were armed and infiltrated into Syria by NATO. Nearly half a million Syrians were killed and half the pre-war population of 23 million was displaced.

But tragically the war is not over yet. It has moved to new hybrid phase of economic warfare in the form of Western sanctions and blockade on Syria.

The barbarity of Western sanctions on Syria have necessitated the cover of distractive media narratives.

This explains the sensation of British media reports that Asma al-Assad, the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is being investigating by London’s Metropolitan police for war crimes. Asma (45) was born in London, was educated there and holds British nationality. Although she has Syrian heritage.

Now British authorities are mulling stripping her of nationality and seeking her extradition over charges that she aided and abetted war crimes, including preposterously, the use of chemical weapons against civilians. There is practically no chance of a prosecution, but that’s not the British aim. Rather it is all about smearing the Syrian leadership and distracting the world’s attention from the real issues: which are the criminality of NATO’s war on Syria and the ongoing economic warfare to destroy the nation into submission.

Irish peace activist and author Declan Hayes who has travelled extensively in Syria during the past decade commented: “Britain’s legally ludicrous accusations against Asma al-Assad have a number of objectives in mind. They are there to delegitimize Syria’s 2021 presidential elections; they are there to scare expatriate Syrians and British humanitarians; they are there to deflect from NATO’s well documented war crimes; and they are there to deflect from the mercenary collusion of a cast of media, political and NGO characters in NATO’s war crimes in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.”

Asma married Bashar in 2000. Before the war erupted in March 2011, she was eulogized in Western media as the “desert rose” owing to her feminine beauty and quietly spoken graceful persona. The daughter of a cardiologist and having had a career in investment banking before she become Syria’s First Lady, Asma al-Assad later showed herself to be no wilting flower. She refused to leave Damascus and go into comfortable exile with her children when the war was raging.

She remained loyally by her husband’s side and took on the role of consoling the nation, often visiting families of slain soldiers and civilian victims of NATO’s terror gangs.

No doubt the stress resulted in Asma suffering from breast cancer for which she was successfully treated in 2018.

President Assad and his wife stood by the Syrian nation when the jaws of defeat were looming during the early years of the war. When Russia intervened in support of its historic ally in October 2015, the tide of the war turned decisively against the NATO plan for regime change. Assad was singled out for regime change because of his anti-imperialist position against the U.S., Britain, France and Israel. His alliance with Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah put a target on his back for destruction, as former French foreign minister Roland Dumas disclosed. Dumas revealed that the British government had war plans on Syria two years before the violence erupted in March 2011. In this context, the so-called “uprising” was a carefully orchestrated false flag.

The mysterious shootings of police and protesters in the southern city of Daraa – which served to smear the Assad government internationally – were the same modus operandi used by NATO covert forces which carried out the sniper murders in Kiev’s Maidan Square triggering the February 2014 coup d’état in Ukraine.

Western media headlines this week marking the 10th anniversary since the beginning of NATO’s war on Syria have been ghoulish and nauseating.

There is a sense of gloating over the misery and hunger that the nation is facing.

headline in Associated Press labels Syria as the “Republic of Queues”, reporting almost gleefully on how civilians are struggling with food and fuel shortages.

Nowhere in the media coverage is there a mention of how the American CIA and Britain’s MI6 ran Operation Timber Sycamore to arm and direct mercenaries to terrorize Syrians. Absurdly, Western media still claim that Syria’s war rose out of “pro-democracy uprisings” which were crushed by a “ruthless Assad regime”.

Barely acknowledged too is the fact that the United States, Britain and the European Union are strangling a war-torn nation with barbaric sanctions preventing reconstruction. The criminality of economic terrorism is the corollary of a failed criminal covert war of aggression.

The abominable reality of Western policy towards Syria has to be covered up. Threatening Syria’s First Lady – a national heroine – with prosecution for war crimes is NATO powers reaching into the gutter.

U.S. Paves Way for Intervention in Ethiopia, Horn of Africa

Finian Cunningham

March 12, 2021

USAID – with an annual budget of over $27 billion and operating in over 100 countries – is notoriously intertwined with covert operations run by the CIA, Finian Cunningham writes.

An ominous development underway in Ethiopia’s devastating civil war is the intervention by the United States under the pretext of humanitarian relief.

The U.S.’ international aid agency – USAID – announced last week it has deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) in the northern Tigray region where millions of people are facing starvation.

A humanitarian crisis has been created in Ethiopia after the central government in Addis Ababa launched a military offensive against the Tigray region in November last year. Heavy fighting continues between Tigray militia and the Ethiopian National Defense Force. The Ethiopian government forces are being assisted by Eritrean troops which have invaded Tigray. There are reports of widespread violations against civilians.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in a phone call on February 27 to open up Tigray to humanitarian access and he expressed deep concern over possible war crimes. Washington then promptly deployed the USAID intervention apparently without authorization from the Ethiopian federal government.

The American move came despite a row during a closed meeting at the UN Security Council last week when it is understood that Russia and China objected to U.S. intervention plans in Ethiopia, which they said was over-riding legal processes and issues of national sovereignty.

USAID said its disaster response team is “assessing the situation in Tigray, identifying priority needs for the scaling up of relief efforts”. Given the dire humanitarian and security situation in Ethiopia that provision is logically paving the way for a major U.S. military intervention under the guise of the “right to protect” (R2P) presumption which has been unilaterally invoked by Washington in other conflicts.

President Joe Biden has picked Samantha Power as the new head of USAID. The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a former national security advisor to President Barack Obama, Power is a stalwart proponent of R2P foreign interventions. Biden also wants to make Power a member of his national security council.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is, like Power, another staunch advocate of “humanitarian interventions”. They were senior members of the Obama administration who formulated American military interventions in Libya and Syria. The “humanitarian” remit is rightly seen as a cynical moral cover for what would otherwise be condemned as American military aggression to achieve Washington’s own political objectives, such as regime change.

USAID – with an annual budget of over $27 billion and operating in over 100 countries – is notoriously intertwined with covert operations run by the CIA.

The damnable thing about Ethiopia’s current crisis is that arguably it was provoked by the United States from its geopolitical ambitions to control the Horn of Africa region and in particular to cut out China and Russia from this strategically important global hub.

Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed worked previously as a top military intelligence officer in the Ethiopian army before he became prime minister in early 2018. A long-time bilateral security partnership between the U.S. and Ethiopia made Abiy an ideal CIA asset. He was involved in developing Ethiopia’s telecom spying network in a replication of the National Security Agency in the U.S.. He was also educated at a private American university.

Before Abiy’s rise to political power, Ethiopia had an independent policy on foreign relations, pursuing strategic partnership with China for economic development. Ethiopia – the second most populous country in Africa and home to the African Union – was seen as a crucial link in building China’s new silk routes from Asia to Africa.

Oddly, Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at the end of 2019 for a supposed rapprochement with Ethiopia’s northern neighbor Eritrea. The two countries fought a bitter border war in 1998-2000. In hindsight, the award was a travesty given how Abiy has invited Eritrean troops into Tigray to wage war against the civilian population there, committing horrendous massacres.

But the Nobel prize can be seen as part of Abiy’s image-building by his CIA handlers for their objective of reordering Ethiopia. Tellingly, the Western media during his early months in office gushed with praise about the “young democratic reformer” and “peacemaker”. How foolish and fawning those media look now in light of the mayhem and suffering that Abiy unleashed in Tigray over the past four months.

In truth the war was building ever since Abiy took office. Almost from the get-go, there was a campaign of low-intensity aggression directed against the Tigray region. (This author was living there.) This was while the Western media were hailing him as a “reformer”. Abiy’s campaign of hostility towards Tigray involved the central government cutting electricity, water and communications as well as political assassinations. The purpose was to wear down the region and the people’s support for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front which had been the previous dominant governing party before Abiy’s ascent. The Tigray region represented a bastion of opposition to the plan by Abiy and his CIA handlers to refashion and reorient Ethiopia geopolitically. The power struggle culminated in the full-blown war launched against Tigray on November 4, 2020, under false claims of being a security operation against a “terrorist junta”.

The terrible irony is that the war and humanitarian crisis inflicted on six million people in Tigray was predictable because Abiy seems to have been following an American imperial plan to destabilize Ethiopia for boosting its great power rivalry with China and Russia. The Horn of Africa is a geopolitical hotspot: it provides a commanding position for North Africa and Sub-Saharan mineral-rich countries, overlooking the vital shipping lanes of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, and proximate to the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula. Russia last year opened a naval base in Port Sudan on the Red Sea, while China’s only overseas military base is located in Djibouti adjacent to Ethiopia.

Now humanitarian interventionists in the Biden administration are stepping in to “resolve” a mess that the U.S. was instrumental in creating. If the USAID mission is scaled up, as seems intended, then American military could be deployed in Ethiopia giving Washington an unprecedented foothold in a strategically vital region.

It is notable that while the Biden administration seems to be over-riding the authority of the Abiy regime in Addis Ababa, the American objective does not necessarily seek regime change on this occasion. The Biden administration is promoting itself as a mediator in Ethiopia’s civil war, even though this war would not have come about were it not for America’s covert manipulation of Abiy. Recently, the Tigray militia have appeared to be gaining the upper-hand against Abiy’s forces and their Eritrean allies. The American intervention seems prompted in part by concern in Washington to prevent the Abiy regime collapsing in defeat.

How Britain and U.S. Killed the Bahrain Revolution

Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

Finian Cunningham

February 17, 2021

Britain and the United States worked together to kill the Bahrain revolution of 2011 and its people’s long-held aspirations for democratic governance.

Ten years ago this week, the Bahraini people launched a daring, peaceful uprising against a despised and despotic monarchial regime. During the next four weeks, the Al Khalifa regime was rocked to its shaky foundations as hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets of the Persian Gulf island state.

What followed, however, was a crucial – if despicable – intervention by Britain and the United States which unleashed a wave of brutal repression – a repression that continues to this day. Without this British and American operation, the Bahraini regime would have fallen to a popular uprising.

At stake for London and Washington was not just the tiny island of Bahrain itself but the stability of the entire chain of Persian Gulf monarchies, principally Saudi Arabia. The Gulf sheikhdoms are essential for maintaining the geopolitical interests of the Western powers in the Middle East, for propping up the petrodollar system which is paramount to American economic sustenance, and prolonging lucrative trade for British and American weapons manufacturers.

If Bahrain were to succumb to a democratic uprising by its people demanding free and fair elections, independent rule of law, more equitable economic governance, and so on, then the Gulf monarchies would be “threatened” by example. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman are the other Gulf states which are ruled over by monarchs. They are all clients of Western powers, facilitating American and British military bases across the region which are vital for power projection, for example prosecuting wars and confronting designated enemies like Iran. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet base as well as a new British naval base that was opened in 2016. In short, Bahrain could not be allowed to attain democracy as that would have a domino effect across the entire region jeopardizing U.S. and British interests.

The democratic aspirations of the Bahraini people are poignantly apposite. The majority of the indigenous population are followers of Shia Islam with many cultural connections to ancient Iran which lies to the north across the narrow Gulf sea. The Bahraini rulers descend from a colonial settler tribe which invaded the island in the 18th century. The Khalifa tribe hailed from the Arabian Peninsula originally. Their occupation of Bahrain was one of conquest and pillage. Unlike most Bahrainis the usurpers professed to following Sunni Islam and held the native population in contempt, lording over them and imposing arbitrary, extortionate levies under pain of death. But the British Empire constructed the new rulers into a monarchy in 1820 in order to perform a sentinel duty over the island in a key waterway leading to Britain’s imperial jewel in the crown, India. The British Empire had similar protectorate arrangements with all the other Gulf Arab territories.

Down through the centuries, British colonial officers and soldiers were relied on to enforce the Khalifa regime in Bahrain. Uprisings by the people would recur periodically and would be violently suppressed by British security forces.

The pattern was repeated during the 2011 Arab Spring revolts which swept across North Africa and the Middle East. Some of these revolts were manipulated or fomented by Western powers for regime change, such as in Syria and Libya. But in Bahrain, it was a truly democratic impulse that galvanized the Shia majority to once again demand their historic rights against what was viewed as an imposter, despotic regime.

Such was the regime’s shaky hold on power that the tide of popular uprising nearly swept it aside during the four weeks following the beginning of the Bahrain uprising on February 14, 2011. This author was present during this tumultuous time which saw up to 500,000 people take to the streets – nearly half the population. Pearl Roundabout in the capital, Manama, became a de facto “Republic of Bahrain” with peaceful encampments and daily throngs defiantly telling King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa that it was “game over” for his crony regime. It was a heady time and the regime’s imminent perilous fate was palpable. Plunging the people into a bloodbath would be the escape route for the rulers and their Western sponsors.

On March 14, 2011, thousands of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded Bahrain and began a bloody repression against unarmed protesters. People were rounded up for mass-detention and torture. Young men were shot dead at point-blank range. The vicious repression that began a decade ago continues to this day – albeit ignored by Western news media. All of the Bahraini pro-democracy leaders languish in prisons without due process. Several prisoners have been executed for alleged terrorist crimes after “confessions” were beaten out of them.

Only days before the Saudi-Emirati invasion of Bahrain, on March 9, 2011, the regime was visited by senior British and American security officials. On the British side were Sir Peter Ricketts, the national security advisor to then Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as General Sir David Richards, the head of British military. In a second separate meeting, on March 11, three days before the onslaught, the Khalifa regime was visited by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. We don’t know the details of those discussions but media reports stated at the time that the British and Americans were “offering their support for the royal family”.

Britain and the United States worked together to kill the Bahrain revolution of 2011 and its people’s long-held aspirations for democratic governance. The repression goes on with British and American officials frequently visiting Bahrain to express support for the Khalifa regime. Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the island in August 2020 and fawned over the regime for its support to Washington’s policy of normalizing ties with Israel. There is no sign of the new Biden administration taking a more critical position towards Bahrain. Indeed it was the Obama administration in which Biden was vice president that colluded with Britain in the slaughter of the Bahraini revolution back in 2011.

Thus, when Britain and the United States talk about promoting democracy and human rights in places like Hong Kong, Venezuela, Russia, or anywhere else, just remember their bankrupt credibility as proven by Bahrain. Western news media – despite their claims of freedom and independence – also deserve condemnation. Those media have steadfastly ignored the plight of Bahrainis in deference to their government’s geopolitical interests.

A follow-up commentary on the Arab Spring events 10 years ago will look at how the United States and Britain hypocritically and disingenuously moved to intervene in Libya and Syria at the very same time that these powers were suppressing the legitimate pro-democracy movement in Bahrain.

Pentagon’s Sinister Role in Trump’s Coup Bid

Pentagon's Sinister Role in Trump's Coup Bid - TheAltWorld

Finian Cunningham

January 11, 2021

With the likes of Miller and other far-rightists in charge at the Pentagon, there is no guarantee on whose side the military will be, Finian Cunningham writes.

The extraordinary breach of security at the US Congressional building wasn’t just a “failure of planning” which allowed thousands of Trump supporters to trash the seat of government and to interrupt the electoral certification of Joe Biden as the next president. It was a coup attempt.

What’s more, Trump’s acting Pentagon chief Christopher C Miller is implicated in aiding and abetting the coup bid on January 6.

Trump appointed Miller, a former Green Beret and political loyalist, to head the Pentagon as acting Secretary of Defense following the November 3 election. He was among several other Trump loyalists rushed into senior positions at the Department of Defense prompting concerns back then that Trump was planning to overturn the election result which had cast Biden as winner but which Trump and his supporters have relentlessly disputed.

Several media reports have focused attention on the Pentagon to explain how the siege on the Capitol last Wednesday turned into a four-hour ordeal during which over 500 lawmakers, including Vice President Mike Pence, were forced to shelter in secure bunkers fearing for their lives. But media outlets like the New York Times are reporting the fiasco in anodyne terms as a result of “poor planning” or “failure” to coordinate security.

Calls were put out at around 2pm by the Capitol Police that they needed assistance after crowds broke through security fencing. But it was not until 6pm that members of the National Guard arrived to vacate the government buildings of protesters.

Washington DC mayor Muriel Bowser reportedly made phone calls to the Pentagon appealing for troopers to be deployed. So too did lawmakers trapped inside the Capitol, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Those calls went strangely unheeded.

Since Washington DC is not a state it does not have authority over its National Guard. That authority lies with the Pentagon. But the DC troops had been stood down in the days before January 6 or deployed away from the Capitol building on traffic duty, even though there were abundant signals across social media that far-right Trump supporters were planning to rally at the Capitol to block the scheduled certification of Biden’s election by lawmakers in a joint session of Congress.

Mayor Bowser then appealed to the governors in neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia to deploy their National Guards to assist the Capitol. The governors were also receiving frantic calls from those politicians besieged within the chambers of Congress.

However, these state authorities were still obliged to get clearance from the Pentagon in order to deploy their troopers across state lines.

Maryland governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, has said that his requests to deploy the National Guard were repeatedly denied by Pentagon officials. It is not clear who these officials were. But the finger of suspicion points to Christopher Miller and the cohort of Trump-appointed loyalists at the Department of Defense.

This indicates that the events on January 6 were much more sinister than has been reported thus far. Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died on the day Trump protesters stormed the Congressional building.

President Donald Trump has been condemned for inciting the crowds to attack the Capitol. He made an incendiary speech at a rally hours before Congress convened to certify the election, instructing the throngs to “take back their country”.

The storming of the Congress halls has also been widely condemned as an act of “insurrection” and “an assault on democracy”. But the media coverage tends to portray the event as a chaotic breach of security by rag-tag pro-Trump supporters. Belying those reports are more sinister accounts of armed far-right militia among the melee. There were cadres of Neo-fascists who were armed, equipped with zip-ties and nooses. They were even chanting for Republican Vice President Mike Pence’s head after Trump had earlier denounced him for being weak in not backing his effort to overturn the electoral process.

But what if the Capitol was deliberately left undefended? Questions have to be asked of the chiefs of Capitol Police and Washington DC metropolitan force who reportedly declined security back up purportedly offered by the Pentagon in the days before the “stop the steal” rally which Trump had been promoting for weeks. Was that Pentagon offer genuine or part of a charade?

Capitol Police chief Steven Sund told lawmakers before January 6 that everything was under control for all contingencies. They weren’t. He has since resigned. The Capitol was remarkably vulnerable from only a thin line of cops deployed on the day. Former security officials have expressed amazement at the lack of security. And there is video evidence of officers letting protesters through fences, even waving them on, and guiding them to key areas within the cavernous chambers.

But it is the apparent sinister role of the Pentagon that is most disturbing. Four hours to deploy the National Guard while armed men were marauding the seat of government suggests that this was an opportunity afforded to them to kill members of Congress and to block the electoral process of electing Democrat Joe Biden.

Only three days before January 6, an unprecedented oped piece was published in the Washington Post signed by 10 former Pentagon chiefs, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, William Cohen, Leon Panetta and James Mattis. In the oped, they warned Christopher Miller to not use the military to overturn the election result otherwise there would be dire consequences for America’s democracy. It was a phenomenal intervention and warning, which shows how degenerated US politics has become.

It looks like Miller and all the President’s Men at the Pentagon ignored the advice. They went ahead to aid and abet a coup. The coup fizzled out. But there is still explosive elements remaining until Biden is inaugurated on January 20.

When far-right groups target the inauguration ceremony fully armed as they are declaring to do, what will the Pentagon’s response be then? With the likes of Miller and other far-rightists in charge at the Pentagon, there is no guarantee on whose side the military will be.

US Back to ‘Normal’ Imperialism

U.S. Army soldiers prepare to clear and secure a building during exercise Hammer Strike at the Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait

Sputnik

By Finian Cunningham

13:09 GMT 24.11.2020

The next US administration is taking shape with President-elect Joe Biden naming his picks to top cabinet posts and national security. It heralds a return to “normal” US imperialism and militarism. That is something to dread not celebrate, as American and European media would have us believe.

The incoming Democrat president, who is due to be inaugurated on January 20, is cheerfully reassuring European and NATO leaders that “America is back” after four years of erratic US foreign policy under the maverick Donald Trump.

Biden said his administration will “reclaim America’s seat at the top of the table”.

US media are also straining with Orwellian euphemisms. CNN says under Team Biden, the US will “reclaim its squandered leadership role”. While the Washington Post said the new Biden administration hails the “return to competent government”.

Other commentators say it is a “return to normalcy”. Former US Assistant Secretary of State PJ Crowley is quoted by the BBC as saying of Biden’s picks: “They have a consistent world view. They are strong believers in American leadership and international alliances”.

Well, what is “normal” and “competent” about wars, death and destruction?

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hold a joint news conference in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 12, 2017.
© REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNSTU.S. President Donald Trump (R) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hold a joint news conference in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 12, 2017.

Biden’s cabinet is a rehash of holdovers from the Obama administrations. Several of the people he has nominated or who are tipped to fill vacancies are advocates of warmongering.

The next US Secretary of State – if vetted by the Senate – is Antony Blinken. As part of the previous Obama administration, Blinken was a major proponent of US military intervention in Libya, Syria and Yemen. He also pushes a hard line towards Russia and China.

All the recent media swooning about Blinken being a professional diplomat and fluent in French belie the true, ugly face of American war policy which he instrumented. We only have to look at the misery of starving children in Yemen to realise the horror and criminality of US militarism which the likes of Blinken are responsible for.

Not yet confirmed by Biden for cabinet posts are Obama-era warmongers Susan Rice, Samantha Power and Michèle Flournoy. The latter is hotly tipped to head the Pentagon as Secretary of Defence.

International human rights lawyer Christopher Black dismissively describes the Biden team as “cruise missile liberals”. Meaning they are adept at using righteous rhetoric to justify war.

Flournoy wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine in June that the US military must build up “deterrence” against China by being able to “credibly threaten to sink all of China’s military vessels, submarines, and merchant ships in the South China Sea within 72 hours”.

Blinken and Flournoy co-founded a shadowy political strategy business called WestExec Advisors which connects weapons manufacturers with the Pentagon. Talk about conflict of interest! Or maybe that should be a confluence of interest. These people have a vested interest in promoting conflict and war for profit.

During Trump’s four years in the White House, the chaos in US foreign policy was such that American imperial interests were often frustrated. Not that Trump was a peacemaker. His aggression towards China, Iran and Venezuela and Russia (if you count the Nord Stream-2 sanctions), was apparent. But his erratic egoism and cronyism got in the way of the “vital interests” of the US foreign policy establishment and the military-industrial complex.

Joe Biden receives a national security briefing in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 17, 2020
© REUTERS / TOM BRENNERJoe Biden receives a national security briefing in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 17, 2020

That’s why Biden was so heavily backed during his election campaign by former Pentagon and intelligence chiefs, as well as by Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. He’s their man to get back to business-as-usual. And the team he is forming is meant to deliver Washington to the “top table” of exerting hegemonic ambitions.

That means solidifying the NATO alliance and cohering European allies behind US policy of confronting China and Russia – a move which the European vassal politicians seem to be cooing over.

Trump’s feckless leadership was infuriating and exhausting. He was a destabilising figure in international relations. But so too are all US presidents. They will use massive violence and lawlessness to achieve whatever the “vital interests” demand. Supposed “business genius” Trump was just incompetent and inefficient as the so-called leader of the US-led “free world”.

A Biden administration will bring “competence” back to US imperialism with the deployment of professional warmongers. Absurdly, the brainwashing of US and European media present this dreadful prospect as something to be welcomed.

Nuking Itself… How Russophobia Led the U.S. to Bomb its Own Citizens

Finian Cunningham October 26, 2020

Generations of countless Americans have been contaminated and sickened by the first-ever atomic bomb test. The Trinity explosion on July 16, 1945, was carried out in the New Mexico desert. Three weeks later, two A-bombs were dropped on Japan, killing up to 200,000 people.

But the number of American victims caused by radiation fallout from the Trinity test is reckoned to be also imponderably high. The American government conducted the explosion in secret, unbeknownst to the population of New Mexico. That was in spite of warnings from Manhattan Project scientists of a high risk to public health from the extreme radiation. Without a warning to the public and because of a cover-up about the event, countless Americans were exposed to carcinogenic radiation.

In a recent interview with Karl Grossman, New Mexican resident Tina Cordova tells how her community has been campaigning for decades to find out the truth behind the Trinity test and to seek reparations from the federal government. Incredibly, there has never been a federal investigation into establishing the human health impact from that atomic test explosion. But Cordova and her community estimate that the number is huge. She is the fourth generation in her family to have suffered from cancer. Countless others tell of high numbers of infant mortality over the decades and other morbidities that stretch across the entire state of New Mexico.

A combination of factors conspired to wreak a heavy toll on the people of New Mexico. It is one of the poorest states in the U.S., with large numbers of native Americans and Latinos. In selecting the test site for the A-bomb, there was a tacit racism among planners in Washington who viewed the area and its population as expendable. By not warning the people of the explosion, local populations were given no chance to take protective measures such as evacuation or avoiding consumption of contaminated water and food produced from the soil. The people were deceived into continuing their livelihoods as normal following the explosion, drinking contaminated water and breathing radioactive air. The New York Times was instrumental in the cover-up, issuing reports that the explosion was due to a conventional munitions incident. It was only after the horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 an 9 that the people of New Mexico realized what had really happened at the Trinity site. Even then they were kept in the dark by Washington stonewalling about the event for decades to come.

Still another factor that maximized the damage on public health was the rush by the American government to weaponize the A-bomb technology. As Karl Grossman points out, the rationale behind the Manhattan Project was said to be to preempt Nazi Germany. But by July 1945, Nazi Germany was defeated and imperial Japan was on its knees. The inescapable implication is that President Harry Truman and the Pentagon wanted to display the new awesome weapon of mass destruction to the Soviet Union in what would be a chilling demarcation of the postwar globe according to American power.

Truman eagerly awaited the news of the Trinity test while attending the Potsdam allies’ conference in Germany along with Britain’s Winston Churchill and the Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin. On receiving news of the successful explosion, Truman immediately adopted a more strident attitude towards Stalin. In that moment, a new Cold War was born.

Thus, it was Russophobia among the American ruling class that rushed the Trinity A-bomb explosion, even though that event would lead to generations of American citizens stricken with fatal diseases from the fallout. In a very real and frightening way, the U.S. rulers took a decision to “nuke” their own people such was their obsession with confronting the Soviet Union.

Subsequent U.S. nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 60s was conducted in remote areas of Nevada and in the Pacific Ocean. Those tests also took a deadly toll on the environment and local populations on Pacific islands.

But the recklessness and callous conditions of the New Mexico test is unparalleled in the toxic exposure it imposed on unsuspecting populations.

The stone-cold willingness to, in effect, bomb its own citizens by the federal government is a shuddering testimony as to the nefarious lengths the planners in Washington were prepared to go in their obsessive Russophobia.

When we survey the relentless fixation today in Washington and the U.S. political class with blaming Russia for all sorts of alleged malign intent, one can easily discern that this endemic Russophobia among America’s rulers has not waned.

The barbarity of what happened in New Mexico 75 years ago is alive and well. If it can be inflicted without apology on American citizens, then what does that say about the danger to the rest of the world?

As U.S. Tensions Soar With China, Taiwan Fears Cannon Fodder Risk

As U.S. Tensions Soar With China, Taiwan Fears Cannon Fodder Risk —  Strategic Culture

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Finian Cunningham October 22, 2020

After 40 years of “strategic ambiguity” in its partnership with the United States, Taiwan has taken the unprecedented move of calling Washington for “clarity” on whether it would be defended in the event of armed conflict with China.

The Washington Post reported last week a senior Taiwanese representative to the U.S. as saying: “We need some degree of clarity.” The post headlined with the question: “Would the U.S. protect Taiwan from China?”

The growing nervousness on the island territory off China’s southern coast comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing. Those tensions have been fueled by the Trump administration’s sharp divergence from respecting Washington’s erstwhile One China policy.

Washington severed official relations with Taiwan in 1979 in deference to China’s claims of territorial sovereignty over the island. That move was an expedient concession by Washington to inveigle China away from alliance with the Soviet Union. Taiwan became a redoubt for nationalist forces after the 1949 victory in the civil war by Chinese communists led by Mao Zedong.

During the past four decades, the U.S. has maintained friendly relations with the separatist government in Taipei. Past American administrations have sold arms to Taiwan. However, Washington has always refrained from declaring a military defense pact with the island, even as Beijing reserves the right to take back control by use of force if necessary.

Under Trump, relations were thrown into upheaval. Washington has signed off on an unprecedented number of offensive weapons deals over the past four years with Taiwan. Just last week the Trump administration gave notice that it was moving ahead with three separate advanced-arms packages, including rocket and missile launchers. The arming of Taiwan has provoked anger in Beijing which views the U.S. moves as turning the territory into a “porcupine”, and emboldening separatist intransigence.

There has also been a step-change in American military deployment in the Taiwan Strait. Last week saw the 10th passage this year of a guided-missile destroyer through the strait which the Pentagon calls “freedom of navigation” exercises in international waters.

China has stepped up its military presence in the southern region. Earlier his month, Beijing launched maneuvers which simulated an invasion of Taiwan. Warplanes of the People’s Liberation Army have also increased flights near Taiwan. From Beijing’s point of view, these drills are legal because it holds territorial claim over Taiwan.

The Trump administration seems to be using Taiwan in its wider confrontation with China over trade and geopolitical objectives. By ramping up support for Taiwan, it is calculated to be a destabilizing jab at China.

This summer, the U.S. sent its most senior official to Taiwan since 1979. Health Secretary Alex Azar’s visit infuriated Beijing as it openly flouted the One China status of Taiwan in relation to China. It was seen as a provocative snub to Beijing’s authority.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen is being buoyed by what she sees as Washington’s moves towards restoring diplomatic relations. The Trump administration has called for Taiwan to be given full representation at the United Nations, which again is a daring insult to Beijing’s sovereignty.

It is not clear what policy a Joe Biden administration would adopt if the Democrat presidential candidate is elected to the White House on November 3. One hint comes from Michèle Flournoy who is speculated to be in the running to become Biden’s defense secretary. In June this year, Flournoy wrote a lengthly article in Foreign Affairs in which she urged tougher American military support for Taiwan to “deter China”.

On October 10, Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen delivered a strident separatist speech in she called for dialogue with Beijing “as equals”. While the proposition for dialogue might sound welcome, the presumption of “equals” would be seen in Beijing as impudent.

The dangerous tensions over Taiwan are a direct manifestation of U.S. policy to antagonize China. Taiwan is a classic pawn in a bigger game which Washington is pursuing with regard to trying to contain the rise of China as a perceived global rival to the U.S.

The Trump administration’s reckless arms sales to Taiwan have little to do with “protection” of the breakaway territory. China’s far greater military power is no match for the U.S. weapons being plied to the island. The American military-industrial complex is enjoying a surge in sales and profits, but there seems no conviction on Washington’s part to step up to the plate with regard to committing to a defense pact.

That self-serving ambiguity is putting Taiwan in a discomfiting bind. It is being caught in a geopolitical crossfire between the U.S. and China. In its antagonism with Beijing, Washington is fueling separatist tensions which could spark an armed confrontation through miscalculation or frustration.

No wonder Taiwan is belatedly demanding “clarity” from Washington as tensions reach boiling point. Nerves are fraying because, it seems, Taiwan is being assigned the role of American cannon fodder. The clarity it is seeking is unlikely to be rendered by Washington as the latter is only using Taiwan as a device against China.

Why Conflict in Caucasus Is Erdogan’s Revenge for Syria

Why Conflict in Caucasus Is Erdogan's Revenge for Syria - TheAltWorld

Finian Cunningham

October 17, 2020

Turkey’s outsize role in fueling the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is becoming more apparent. That’s why a peace deal will be hard to cut and indeed the conflict may blow up further into a protracted regional war. A war that could drag Russia into battling in the Caucasus on its southern periphery against NATO proxies.

In a phone call this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly backed Moscow’s efforts at mediating a ceasefire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Notwithstanding, Erdogan appeared to deliver an ultimatum to his Russian counterpart. He said that there must be a “permanent solution” to the decades-long territorial dispute.

Erdogan and his Azerbaijan ally have already made it clear that the only solution acceptable to them is for Armenian separatists to relinquish their claim to Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey and Azerbaijan – bound by common Turkic culture – have long-called the Armenian-held enclave an illegal occupation of Azerbaijani territory since a border war ended in 1994.

When hostilities flared again last month on September 27 initial reports suggested the clashes were of a haphazard nature with both sides trading blame for starting the violence. However, it has since become clear that the actions taken on the Azeri side seem to have been a planned aggression with Turkey’s full support.

Following a previous deadly clash on July 12-13 involving about a dozen casualties among Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, there then proceeded massive military exercises in Azerbaijan involving 11,000 Turkish troops beginning on July 29. For nearly two weeks into August, the maneuvers deployed artillery, warplanes and air-defense units in what was evidently a major drive by Ankara and Baku to coordinate the armies from both countries to fulfill joint operations. Furthermore, reports indicated that Turkish forces, including F-16 fighter jets, remained in Azerbaijan following the unprecedented military drills.

Alongside the drills, there was also a dramatic increase in military arms sales from Turkey to Azerbaijan. According to Turkish export figures, there was a six-fold increase in weapons deals compared with the previous year, with most of the supply being delivered in the third quarter of 2020 between July and September. The armaments included drones and rocket launchers which have featured with such devastating impact since hostilities erupted on September 27.

A third factor suggesting planned aggression was the reported transport of mercenary fighters from Syria and Libya by Turkey to fight on the Azerbaijani side. Thousands of such militants belonging to jihadist brigades under the control of Turkey had arrived in the Azeri capital Baku before hostilities broke out on September 27. The logistics involved in organizing such a large-scale deployment can only mean long-term planning.

Armenian sources also claim that Azeri authorities had begun impounding civilian vehicles weeks before the shooting war opened. They also claim that when the fire-fights erupted on September 27, Turkish media were present on the ground to give live coverage of events.

It seems indisputable therefore that Turkey and Azerbaijan had made a strategic decision to implement a “final solution” to the protracted dispute with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

That’s what makes Russian efforts at mediating a cessation to hostilities all the more fraught. After marathon talks mediated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a ceasefire was introduced on October 10. However, within hours the truce unravelled with reports of resumed exchange of fire and shelling of cities on both sides. The main violations have been committed by the Azerbaijani side using advanced Turkish weaponry. Armenian leaders have complained that the Azeri side does not seem interested in pursuing peace talks.

More perplexing is the widening of the conflict. Azerbaijan air strikes since the weekend ceasefire broke down have hit sites within Armenia, extending the conflict beyond the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan has also claimed that Armenian missiles have hit cities within its territory. Armenia flatly denies carrying out such strikes, which begs the question: is a third party covertly staging provocations and fomenting escalation of conflict?

What is challenging for Russia is that it has a legal obligation to defend Armenia as part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (1992). With Armenia coming under fire, the pressure will be on Moscow to intervene militarily.

This would see Russia being embroiled in another proxy war with NATO-member Turkey. But this is not in Syria. It is the Caucasus region on Russia’s southern border. There are concerns among senior Russian military figures that such a scenario is exactly what Turkey’s Recep Erdogan is aiming for. Turkey was outplayed by Russia in the proxy war in Syria. Erdogan and NATO’s plans for regime change in Damascus were dealt a bloody nose by Russia. It seems though that conflict in the Caucasus may now be Erdogan’s revenge.

Moscow may need to seriously revise its relations with Ankara, and let Erdogan know he is treading on red lines.

Neither Trump Nor Biden Really Matter to China or Russia

Neither Trump Nor Biden Really Matter to China or Russia - TheAltWorld

Finian Cunningham July 30, 2020

Well, according to the Trump campaign, Democrat rival Joe Biden is the candidate whom Chinese leaders are rooting for to win the presidential election in November. “Beijing Biden” or “Sleepy Joe” would be a gift to China, so it goes.

In turn, trying to out-hawk the Republican incumbent, the Biden campaign paints Trump as being “soft” on China and having been “played” by Chinese counterparts over trade, the corona pandemic and allegations about human rights.

Biden, the former vice president in the previous Obama administrations, has vowed to impose more sanctions on China over allegations of rights violations. He claims to be the one who will “stand up” to Beijing if he is elected to the White House in three months’ time.

Last week, Biden declared he was “giving notice to the Kremlin and others [China]” that if elected to the presidency he would impose “substantial and lasting costs” on those who allegedly interfere in U.S. politics. That’s war talk based on worthless intel propaganda.

Trump meanwhile asserts that no-one is tougher than him when it comes to dealing with China (and Russia for that matter).

Given the Trump administration’s reckless policy of ramping up hostility towards China in recent months, that begs the question: how could a future Biden administration begin to be even more aggressive – short of going to war?

Relations between Washington and Beijing have plummeted to their worst levels since the historic detente initiated by President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s. The precipitous downward spiral has occurred under President Trump’s watch. So, how exactly could a prospective President Biden make the relationship more adversarial?

The truth is both Trump and Biden are equally vulnerable to domestic partisan criticism about their respective dealings with China. The belated high-handed approach that both are trying to project is pockmarked with risible hypocrisy.

The Trump campaign scores a valid point when it recalls how former Vice President Biden smooched and feted Chinese leaders with economic opportunities in the American economy.

Likewise, Trump stands accused of lavishing praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping while ignoring the impending coronavirus pandemic because Trump’s top priority was getting a trade deal with China.

The fact that both American politicians have U-turned with regard to China in such nasty terms must leave the authorities in Beijing with a deep sense of distrust in either of the would-be presidents.

Biden at one time waxed lyrical about his close relationship with Xi, but as his bid for the presidency heated up, Biden stuck the proverbial knife in the Chinese leader calling him a “thug”.

For his part, Trump previously referred to Xi as a “dear friend” while dining him with “beautiful chocolate cake” at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, but his administration has since slammed the Chinese leader as “authoritarian”. Trump’s racist slurs over the pandemic being “Kung Flu” and “Chinese plague” must give President Xi pause for disgust with the falseness.

At the end of day, can either of these presidential candidates be trusted to pursue principled U.S.-China relations going forward? The toxic anti-China campaigning by both indicates a level of puerile treachery which foreshadows no possible return to any kind of normalcy.

One distinction perhaps between Trump and Biden is the latter is promising to repair relations with Western allies to form a united front against China. To that end, a hawkish confrontational policy under Biden may have more impact on U.S.-China relations than under Trump. Trump has managed to alienate European allies with his broadsides over trade tariffs and NATO spending commitments. Although Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has recently urged “an alliance of democracies” to confront China, that rallying call is likely to fall on deaf ears with European allies irked by Trump’s brash style. Biden on the other hand could bring a more unified Western policy of hostility towards Beijing (and Moscow) by affecting a more appeasing attitude towards Europe. In that way, Biden would be more preferred by the Pentagon and foreign policy establishment than Trump, just as Hillary Clinton was in 2016.

However, it is doubtful that Beijing is paying too much attention to what either candidate is saying or posturing at. If both of them can flip so much from talking softly to shouting loud anti-China profanities then their individual characters may be deemed malleable and unscrupulous. Both have shown a shameless streak in stoking anti-China bashing for electioneering gain. Trump pulled that trick last time out in 2016 when he railed against China for “raping America” only for him to discover “deep friendship” with Xi following that election. Now he has reverted to hostility out of self-serving calculation to whip up anti-China sentiment among voters. And Biden is apt to do the very same.

Forget about such fickle personalities when it comes to reading U.S. policy towards China. Beijing will be looking at the longer trajectory of how U.S. policy turned towards a more militarized approach with the “Pivot to Asia” under the Obama-Biden administration in 2011. Indicating how Deep State continuity transcends Democrat or Republican occupants of the White House, the next major indicator was in the Pentagon planning documents of 2017 and 2018 under Trump which labelled China and Russia as “great power rivals”. The American “ship of state”, it may be concluded, is therefore set on a collision course with both Beijing and Moscow in terms of ramping up a confrontational agenda. Who sits in the White House scarcely matters.

For Trump and Biden to trade barbs about which one is “softer” on China or Russia is irrelevant in the bigger picture of U.S. imperialist ambitions for global dominance. The logic of a waning American empire and the concomitant inherent belligerence to compensate for the perceived loss of U.S. global power are the issues to follow, not whether Trump or Biden clinch the dog-and-pony race to the White House.

Conflict Looms for Egypt and Ethiopia Over Nile Dam

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Conflict Looms for Egypt and Ethiopia Over Nile Dam - TheAltWorld
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Finian Cunningham Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages

July 17, 2020

Ethiopia appears to be going ahead with its vow to begin filling a crucial hydroelectric dam on the Nile River after protracted negotiations with Egypt broke down earlier this week. There are grave concerns the two nations may go to war as both water-stressed countries consider their share of the world’s longest river a matter of existential imperative.

Cairo is urging Addis Ababa for clarification after European satellite images showed water filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia has stated that the higher water levels are a natural consequence of the current heavy rainy season. However, this month was designated by Addis Ababa as a deadline to begin filling the $4.6 billion dam.

Egypt has repeatedly challenged the project saying that it would deprive it of vital freshwater supplies. Egypt relies on the Nile for 90 per cent of its total supply for 100 million population. Last month foreign minister Sameh Shoukry warned the UN security council that Egypt was facing an existential threat over the dam and indicated his country was prepared to go to war to secure its vital interests.

Ethiopia also maintains that the dam – the largest in Africa when it is due to be completed in the next year – is an “existential necessity”. Large swathes of its 110 million population subsist on daily rationed supply of water. The hydroelectric facility will also generate 6,000 megawatts of power which can be used to boost the existing erratic national grid.

Ominously, on both sides the issue is fraught with national pride. Egyptians accuse Ethiopia of a high-handed approach in asserting its declared right to build the dam without due consideration of the impact on Egypt.

On the other hand, the Ethiopians view the project which began in 2011 as a matter of sovereign right to utilize a natural resource for lifting their nation out of poverty. The Blue Nile which originates in Ethiopia is the main tributary to the Nile. Ethiopians would argue that Egypt does not give away control to foreign interests over its natural resources of gas and oil.

Ethiopians also point out that Egypt’s “claims” to Nile water are rooted in colonial-era treaties negotiated with Britain which Ethiopia had no say in.

What makes the present tensions sharper is the domestic political pressures in both countries. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is struggling to maintain legitimacy among his own population over long-running economic problems. For a self-styled strong leader, a conflict over the dam could boost his standing among Egyptians as they rally around the flag.

Likewise, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is beset by internal political conflicts and violent protests against his nearly two years in office. His postponement of parliamentary elections due to the coronavirus has sparked criticism of a would-be autocrat. The recent murder of a popular singer-activist which resulted in mass protests and over 100 killings by security forces has marred Abiy’s image.

In forging ahead with the dam, premier Abiy can deflect from internal turmoil and unite Ethiopians around an issue of national pride. Previously, as a new prime minister, he showed disdain towards the project, saying it would take 10 years to complete. There are indicators that Abiy may have been involved in a sinister geopolitical move along with Egypt to derail the dam’s completion. Therefore, his apparent sudden support for the project suggests a cynical move to shore up his own national standing.

Then there is the geopolitical factor of the Trump administration. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump weighed in to the Nile dispute in a way that was seen as bolstering Egypt’s claims. Much to the ire of Ethiopia, Washington warned Addis Ababa not to proceed with the dam until a legally binding accord was found with Egypt.

Thus if Egypt’s al-Sisi feels he has Trump’s backing, he may be tempted to go to war over the Nile. On paper, Egypt has a much stronger military than Ethiopia. It receives $1.4 billion a year from Washington in military aid. Al-Sisi may see Ethiopia as a softer “war option” than Libya where his forces are also being dragged into in a proxy war with Turkey.

Ethiopia, too, is an ally of Washington, but in the grand scheme of geopolitical interests, Cairo would be the preferred client for the United States. Up to now, the Trump administration has endorsed Egypt’s position over the Nile dispute. That may be enough to embolden al-Sisi to go for a showdown with Ethiopia. For Trump, being on the side of Egypt may be calculated to give his flailing Middle East policies some badly needed enthusiasm among Arab nations. Egypt has the backing of the Arab League, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Egypt has previously threatened to sabotage Ethiopia’s dam. How it would do this presents logistical problems. Egypt is separated from Ethiopia to its south by the vast territory of Sudan. Cairo has a strong air force of U.S.-supplied F-16s while Ethiopia has minimal air defenses, relying instead on a formidable infantry army.

Another foreboding sign is the uptick in visits to Cairo by Eritrean autocratic leader Isaias Afwerki. He has held two meetings with al-Sisi at the presidential palace in the Egyptian capital in as many months, the most recent being on July 6 when the two leaders again discussed “regional security” and Ethiopia’s dam. Eritrea provides a Red Sea corridor into landlocked Ethiopia which would be more advantageous to Cairo than long flights across Sudan.

Nominally, Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a peace deal in July 2018 to end nearly two decades of Cold War, for which Ethiopia’s Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. However, the Eritrean leader may be tempted to dip back into bad blood if it boosted his coffers from Arab money flowing in return for aiding Egypt.

There will be plenty of platitudinous calls for diplomacy and negotiated settlement from Washington, the African Union and the Arab League. But there is an underlying current for war that may prove unstoppable driven by two populous and thirsty nations whose leaders are badly in need of shoring up their political authority amid internal discontent.

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.

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