LIVE: Putin holds annual press conference in Moscow

December 19, 2019

The version from RT on Twitter is the best one available currently:

https://twitter.com/i/broadcasts/1dRKZLQDDYDJB

English Soundtrack:

Putin holds annual press conference in Moscow

Vladimir Putin addressed State Duma deputies, Federation Council members, heads of Russian regions and civil society representatives in the Kremlin.

Dear friends, we have gathered here today in connection with an issue that is of vital, historic significance to all of us. A referendum was held in Crimea on March 16 in full compliance with democratic procedures and international norms.


More than 82 percent of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96 percent of them spoke out in favour of reuniting with Russia. These numbers speak for themselves.

To understand the reason behind such a choice it is enough to know the history of Crimea and what Russia and Crimea have always meant for each other.

Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptised. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilisation and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The graves of Russian soldiers whose bravery brought Crimea into the Russian empire are also in Crimea. This is also Sevastopol – a legendary city with an outstanding history, a fortress that serves as the birthplace of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Crimea is Balaklava and Kerch, Malakhov Kurgan and Sapun Ridge. Each one of these places is dear to our hearts, symbolising Russian military glory and outstanding valour.

Crimea is a unique blend of different peoples’ cultures and traditions. This makes it similar to Russia as a whole, where not a single ethnic group has been lost over the centuries. Russians and Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and people of other ethnic groups have lived side by side in Crimea, retaining their own identity, traditions, languages and faith.

Incidentally, the total population of the Crimean Peninsula today is 2.2 million people, of whom almost 1.5 million are Russians, 350,000 are Ukrainians who predominantly consider Russian their native language, and about 290,000–300,000 are Crimean Tatars, who, as the referendum has shown, also lean towards Russia.

True, there was a time when Crimean Tatars were treated unfairly, just as a number of other peoples in the USSR. There is only one thing I can say here: millions of people of various ethnicities suffered during those repressions, and primarily Russians.

Crimean Tatars returned to their homeland. I believe we should make all the necessary political and legislative decisions to finalise the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars, restore them in their rights and clear their good name.

We have great respect for people of all the ethnic groups living in Crimea. This is their common home, their motherland, and it would be right – I know the local population supports this – for Crimea to have three equal national languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar.

Colleagues,

In people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia. This firm conviction is based on truth and justice and was passed from generation to generation, over time, under any circumstances, despite all the dramatic changes our country went through during the entire 20th century.

After the revolution, the Bolsheviks, for a number of reasons – may God judge them – added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine. This was done with no consideration for the ethnic make-up of the population, and today these areas form the southeast of Ukraine. Then, in 1954, a decision was made to transfer Crimean Region to Ukraine, along with Sevastopol, despite the fact that it was a federal city. This was the personal initiative of the Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev. What stood behind this decision of his – a desire to win the support of the Ukrainian political establishment or to atone for the mass repressions of the 1930’s in Ukraine – is for historians to figure out.

What matters now is that this decision was made in clear violation of the constitutional norms that were in place even then. The decision was made behind the scenes. Naturally, in a totalitarian state nobody bothered to ask the citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol. They were faced with the fact. People, of course, wondered why all of a sudden Crimea became part of Ukraine. But on the whole – and we must state this clearly, we all know it – this decision was treated as a formality of sorts because the territory was transferred within the boundaries of a single state. Back then, it was impossible to imagine that Ukraine and Russia may split up and become two separate states. However, this has happened.

Unfortunately, what seemed impossible became a reality. The USSR fell apart. Things developed so swiftly that few people realised how truly dramatic those events and their consequences would be. Many people both in Russia and in Ukraine, as well as in other republics hoped that the Commonwealth of Independent States that was created at the time would become the new common form of statehood. They were told that there would be a single currency, a single economic space, joint armed forces; however, all this remained empty promises, while the big country was gone. It was only when Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realised that it was not simply robbed, it was plundered.

At the same time, we have to admit that by launching the sovereignty parade Russia itself aided in the collapse of the Soviet Union. And as this collapse was legalised, everyone forgot about Crimea and Sevastopol ­– the main base of the Black Sea Fleet. Millions of people went to bed in one country and awoke in different ones, overnight becoming ethnic minorities in former Union republics, while the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders.

Now, many years later, I heard residents of Crimea say that back in 1991 they were handed over like a sack of potatoes. This is hard to disagree with. And what about the Russian state? What about Russia? It humbly accepted the situation. This country was going through such hard times then that realistically it was incapable of protecting its interests. However, the people could not reconcile themselves to this outrageous historical injustice. All these years, citizens and many public figures came back to this issue, saying that Crimea is historically Russian land and Sevastopol is a Russian city. Yes, we all knew this in our hearts and minds, but we had to proceed from the existing reality and build our good-neighbourly relations with independent Ukraine on a new basis. Meanwhile, our relations with Ukraine, with the fraternal Ukrainian people have always been and will remain of foremost importance for us.

Today we can speak about it openly, and I would like to share with you some details of the negotiations that took place in the early 2000s. The then President of Ukraine Mr Kuchma asked me to expedite the process of delimiting the Russian-Ukrainian border. At that time, the process was practically at a standstill. Russia seemed to have recognised Crimea as part of Ukraine, but there were no negotiations on delimiting the borders. Despite the complexity of the situation, I immediately issued instructions to Russian government agencies to speed up their work to document the borders, so that everyone had a clear understanding that by agreeing to delimit the border we admitted de facto and de jure that Crimea was Ukrainian territory, thereby closing the issue.

We accommodated Ukraine not only regarding Crimea, but also on such a complicated matter as the maritime boundary in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. What we proceeded from back then was that good relations with Ukraine matter most for us and they should not fall hostage to deadlock territorial disputes. However, we expected Ukraine to remain our good neighbour, we hoped that Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Ukraine, especially its southeast and Crimea, would live in a friendly, democratic and civilised state that would protect their rights in line with the norms of international law.

However, this is not how the situation developed. Time and time again attempts were made to deprive Russians of their historical memory, even of their language and to subject them to forced assimilation. Moreover, Russians, just as other citizens of Ukraine are suffering from the constant political and state crisis that has been rocking the country for over 20 years.

I understand why Ukrainian people wanted change. They have had enough of the authorities in power during the years of Ukraine’s independence. Presidents, prime ministers and parliamentarians changed, but their attitude to the country and its people remained the same. They milked the country, fought among themselves for power, assets and cash flows and did not care much about the ordinary people. They did not wonder why it was that millions of Ukrainian citizens saw no prospects at home and went to other countries to work as day labourers. I would like to stress this: it was not some Silicon Valley they fled to, but to become day labourers. Last year alone almost 3 million people found such jobs in Russia. According to some sources, in 2013 their earnings in Russia totalled over $20 billion, which is about 12% of Ukraine’s GDP.

I would like to reiterate that I understand those who came out on Maidan with peaceful slogans against corruption, inefficient state management and poverty. The right to peaceful protest, democratic procedures and elections exist for the sole purpose of replacing the authorities that do not satisfy the people. However, those who stood behind the latest events in Ukraine had a different agenda: they were preparing yet another government takeover; they wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder and riots. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup. They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.

The new so-called authorities began by introducing a draft law to revise the language policy, which was a direct infringement on the rights of ethnic minorities. However, they were immediately ‘disciplined’ by the foreign sponsors of these so-called politicians. One has to admit that the mentors of these current authorities are smart and know well what such attempts to build a purely Ukrainian state may lead to. The draft law was set aside, but clearly reserved for the future. Hardly any mention is made of this attempt now, probably on the presumption that people have a short memory. Nevertheless, we can all clearly see the intentions of these ideological heirs of Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice during World War II.

It is also obvious that there is no legitimate executive authority in Ukraine now, nobody to talk to. Many government agencies have been taken over by the impostors, but they do not have any control in the country, while they themselves – and I would like to stress this – are often controlled by radicals. In some cases, you need a special permit from the militants on Maidan to meet with certain ministers of the current government. This is not a joke – this is reality.

Those who opposed the coup were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here was Crimea, the Russian-speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities.

Naturally, we could not leave this plea unheeded; we could not abandon Crimea and its residents in distress. This would have been betrayal on our part.

First, we had to help create conditions so that the residents of Crimea for the first time in history were able to peacefully express their free will regarding their own future. However, what do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They say we are violating norms of international law. Firstly, it’s a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law – better late than never.

Secondly, and most importantly – what exactly are we violating? True, the President of the Russian Federation received permission from the Upper House of Parliament to use the Armed Forces in Ukraine. However, strictly speaking, nobody has acted on this permission yet. Russia’s Armed Forces never entered Crimea; they were there already in line with an international agreement. True, we did enhance our forces there; however – this is something I would like everyone to hear and know – we did not exceed the personnel limit of our Armed Forces in Crimea, which is set at 25,000, because there was no need to do so.

Next. As it declared independence and decided to hold a referendum, the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter, which speaks of the right of nations to self-determination. Incidentally, I would like to remind you that when Ukraine seceded from the USSR it did exactly the same thing, almost word for word. Ukraine used this right, yet the residents of Crimea are denied it. Why is that?

Moreover, the Crimean authorities referred to the well-known Kosovo precedent – a precedent our western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country’s central authorities. Pursuant to Article 2, Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter, the UN International Court agreed with this approach and made the following comment in its ruling of July 22, 2010, and I quote: “No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to declarations of independence,” and “General international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence.” Crystal clear, as they say.

I do not like to resort to quotes, but in this case, I cannot help it. Here is a quote from another official document: the Written Statement of the United States America of April 17, 2009, submitted to the same UN International Court in connection with the hearings on Kosovo. Again, I quote: “Declarations of independence may, and often do, violate domestic legislation. However, this does not make them violations of international law.” End of quote. They wrote this, disseminated it all over the world, had everyone agree and now they are outraged. Over what? The actions of Crimean people completely fit in with these instructions, as it were. For some reason, things that Kosovo Albanians (and we have full respect for them) were permitted to do, Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in Crimea are not allowed. Again, one wonders why.

We keep hearing from the United States and Western Europe that Kosovo is some special case. What makes it so special in the eyes of our colleagues? It turns out that it is the fact that the conflict in Kosovo resulted in so many human casualties. Is this a legal argument? The ruling of the International Court says nothing about this. This is not even double standards; this is amazing, primitive, blunt cynicism. One should not try so crudely to make everything suit their interests, calling the same thing white today and black tomorrow. According to this logic, we have to make sure every conflict leads to human losses.

I will state clearly — if the Crimean local self-defence units had not taken the situation under control, there could have been casualties as well. Fortunately this did not happen. There was not a single armed confrontation in Crimea and no casualties. Why do you think this was so? The answer is simple: because it is very difficult, practically impossible to fight against the will of the people. Here I would like to thank the Ukrainian military – and this is 22,000 fully armed servicemen. I would like to thank those Ukrainian service members who refrained from bloodshed and did not smear their uniforms in blood.

Other thoughts come to mind in this connection. They keep talking of some Russian intervention in Crimea, some sort of aggression. This is strange to hear. I cannot recall a single case in history of an intervention without a single shot being fired and with no human casualties.

Colleagues,

Like a mirror, the situation in Ukraine reflects what is going on and what has been happening in the world over the past several decades. After the dissolutionof bipolarity on the planet, we no longer have stability. Key international institutions are not getting any stronger; on the contrary, in many cases, they are sadly degrading. Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right. They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle “If you are not with us, you are against us.” To make this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary resolutions from international organisations, and if for some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the UN Security Council and the UN overall.

This happened in Yugoslavia; we remember 1999 very well. It was hard to believe, even seeing it with my own eyes, that at the end of the 20th century, one of Europe’s capitals, Belgrade, was under missile attack for several weeks, and then came the real intervention. Was there a UN Security Council resolution on this matter, allowing for these actions? Nothing of the sort. And then, they hit Afghanistan, Iraq, and frankly violated the UN Security Council resolution on Libya, when instead of imposing the so-called no-fly zone over it they started bombing it too.

There was a whole series of controlled “colour” revolutions. Clearly, the people in those nations, where these events took place, were sick of tyranny and poverty, of their lack of prospects; but these feelings were taken advantage of cynically. Standards were imposed on these nations that did not in any way correspond to their way of life, traditions, or these peoples’ cultures. As a result, instead of democracy and freedom, there was chaos, outbreaks in violence and a series of upheavals. The Arab Spring turned into the Arab Winter.

A similar situation unfolded in Ukraine. In 2004, to push the necessary candidate through at the presidential elections, they thought up some sort of third round that was not stipulated by the law. It was absurd and a mockery of the constitution. And now, they have thrown in an organised and well-equipped army of militants.

We understand what is happening; we understand that these actions were aimed against Ukraine and Russia and against Eurasian integration. And all this while Russia strived to engage in dialogue with our colleagues in the West. We are constantly proposing cooperation on all key issues; we want to strengthen our level of trust and for our relations to be equal, open and fair. But we saw no reciprocal steps.

On the contrary, they have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed us before an accomplished fact.This happened with NATO’s expansion to the East, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They kept telling us the same thing: “Well, this does not concern you.” That’s easy to say.

It happened with the deployment of a missile defence system. In spite of all our apprehensions, the project is working and moving forward. It happened with the endless foot-dragging in the talks on visa issues, promises of fair competition and free access to global markets.

Today, we are being threatened with sanctions, but we already experiencemany limitations, ones that are quite significant for us, our economy and our nation. For example, still during the times of the Cold War, the US and subsequently other nations restricted a large list of technologies and equipment from being sold to the USSR, creating the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls list. Today, they have formally been eliminated, but only formally; and in reality, many limitations are still in effect.

In short, we have every reason to assume that the infamous policy of containment, led in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today. They are constantly trying to sweep us into a cornerbecause we have an independent position, because we maintain it and because we call things like they are and do not engage in hypocrisy. But there is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line, playing the bear and acting irresponsibly and unprofessionally.

After all, they were fully aware that there are millions of Russians living in Ukraine and in Crimea. They must have really lacked political instinct and common sense not to foresee all the consequences of their actions. Russia found itself in a position it could not retreat from. If you compress the spring all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this.

Today, it is imperative to end this hysteria, to refute the rhetoric of the cold war and to accept the obvious fact: Russia is an independent, active participant in international affairs; like other countries, it has its own national interests that need to be taken into account and respected.

At the same time, we are grateful to all those who understood our actions in Crimea; we are grateful to the people of China, whose leaders have always consideredthe situation in Ukraine and Crimea taking into account the full historical and political context, and greatly appreciate India’s reserve and objectivity.

Today, I would like to address the people of the United States of America, the people who, since the foundation of their nation and adoption of the Declaration of Independence, have been proud to hold freedom above all else. Isn’t the desire of Crimea’s residents to freely choose their fate such a value? Please understand us.

I believe that the Europeans, first and foremost, the Germans, will also understand me. Let me remind you that in the course of political consultations on the unification of East and West Germany, at the expert, though very high level, some nations that were then and are now Germany’s allies did not support the idea of unification. Our nation, however, unequivocally supported the sincere, unstoppable desire of the Germans for national unity. I am confident that you have not forgotten this, and I expect that the citizens of Germany will also support the aspiration of the Russians, of historical Russia, to restore unity.

I also want to address the people of Ukraine. I sincerely want you to understand us: we do not want to harm you in any way, or to hurt your national feelings. We have always respected the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state, incidentally, unlike those who sacrificed Ukraine’s unity for their political ambitions. They flaunt slogans about Ukraine’s greatness, but they are the ones who did everything to divide the nation. Today’s civil standoff is entirely on their conscience. I want you to hear me, my dear friends. Do not believe those who want you to fear Russia, shouting that other regions will follow Crimea. We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that. As for Crimea, it was and remains a Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean-Tatar land.

I repeat, just as it has been for centuries, it will be a home to all the peoples living there. What it will never be and do is follow in Bandera’s footsteps!

Crimea is our common historical legacy and a very important factor in regional stability. And this strategic territory should be part of a strong and stable sovereignty, which today can only be Russian. Otherwise, dear friends (I am addressing both Ukraine and Russia), you and we – the Russians and the Ukrainians – could lose Crimea completely, and that could happen in the near historical perspective. Please think about it.

Let me note too that we have already heard declarations from Kiev about Ukraine soon joining NATO. What would this have meant for Crimea and Sevastopol in the future? It would have meant that NATO’s navy would be right there in this city of Russia’s military glory, and this would create not an illusory but a perfectly real threat to the whole of southern Russia. These are things that could have become reality were it not for the choice the Crimean people made, and I want to say thank you to them for this.

But let me say too that we are not opposed to cooperation with NATO, for this is certainly not the case. For all the internal processes within the organisation, NATO remains a military alliance, and we are against having a military alliance making itself at home right in our backyard or in our historic territory. I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit NATO sailors. Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us, be our guests, rather than the other way round.

Let me say quite frankly that it pains our hearts to see what is happening in Ukraine at the moment, see the people’s suffering and their uncertainty about how to get through today and what awaits them tomorrow. Our concerns are understandable because we are not simply close neighbours but, as I have said many times already, we are one people. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our common source and we cannot live without each other.

Let me say one other thing too. Millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people live in Ukraine and will continue to do so. Russia will always defend their interests using political, diplomatic and legal means. But it should be above all in Ukraine’s own interest to ensure that these people’s rights and interests are fully protected. This is the guarantee of Ukraine’s state stability and territorial integrity.

We want to be friends with Ukraine and we want Ukraine to be a strong, sovereign and self-sufficient country. Ukraine is one of our biggest partners after all. We have many joint projects and I believe in their success no matter what the current difficulties. Most importantly, we want peace and harmony to reign in Ukraine, and we are ready to work together with other countries to do everything possible to facilitate and support this. But as I said, only Ukraine’s own people can put their own house in order.

Residents of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, the whole of Russia admired your courage, dignity and bravery. It was you who decided Crimea’s future. We were closer than ever over these days, supporting each other. These were sincere feelings of solidarity. It is at historic turning points such as these that a nation demonstrates its maturity and strength of spirit. The Russian people showed this maturity and strength through their united support for their compatriots.

Russia’s foreign policy position on this matter drew its firmness from the will of millions of our people, our national unity and the support of our country’s main political and public forces. I want to thank everyone for this patriotic spirit, everyone without exception. Now, we need to continue and maintain this kind of consolidation so as to resolve the tasks our country faces on its road ahead.

Obviously, we will encounter external opposition, but this is a decision that we need to make for ourselves. Are we ready to consistently defend our national interests, or will we forever give in, retreat to who knows where? Some Western politicians are already threatening us with not just sanctions but also the prospect of increasingly serious problems on the domestic front. I would like to know what it is they have in mind exactly: action by a fifth column, this disparate bunch of ‘national traitors’, or are they hoping to put us in a worsening social and economic situation so as to provoke public discontent? We consider such statements irresponsible and clearly aggressive in tone, and we will respond to them accordingly. At the same time, we will never seek confrontation with our partners, whether in the East or the West, but on the contrary, will do everything we can to build civilised and good-neighbourly relations as one is supposed to in the modern world. 

Colleagues,

I understand the people of Crimea, who put the question in the clearest possible terms in the referendum: should Crimea be with Ukraine or with Russia? We can be sure in saying that the authorities in Crimea and Sevastopol, the legislative authorities, when they formulated the question, set aside group and political interests and made the people’s fundamental interests alone the cornerstone of their work. The particular historic, population, political and economic circumstances of Crimea would have made any other proposed option — however tempting it could be at the first glance — only temporary and fragile and would have inevitably led to further worsening of the situation there, which would have had disastrous effects on people’s lives. The people of Crimea thus decided to put the question in firm and uncompromising form, with no grey areas. The referendum was fair and transparent, and the people of Crimea clearly and convincingly expressed their will and stated that they want to be with Russia.

Russia will also have to make a difficult decision now, taking into account the various domestic and external considerations. What do people here in Russia think? Here, like in any democratic country, people have different points of view, but I want to make the point that the absolute majority of our people clearly do support what is happening.

The most recent public opinion surveys conducted here in Russia show that 95 percent of people think that Russia should protect the interests of Russians and members of other ethnic groups living in Crimea – 95 percent of our citizens. More than 83 percent think that Russia should do this even if it will complicate our relations with some other countries. A total of 86 percent of our people see Crimea as still being Russian territory and part of our country’s lands. And one particularly important figure, which corresponds exactly with the result in Crimea’s referendum: almost 92 percent of our people support Crimea’s reunification with Russia. 

Thus we see that the overwhelming majority of people in Crimea and the absolute majority of the Russian Federation’s people support the reunification of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with Russia.

Now this is a matter for Russia’s own political decision, and any decision here can be based only on the people’s will, because the people is the ultimate source of all authority.

Members of the Federation Council, deputies of the State Duma, citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol, today, in accordance with the people’s will, I submit to the Federal Assembly a request to consider a Constitutional Law on the creation of two new constituent entities within the Russian Federation: the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, and to ratify the treaty on admitting to the Russian Federation Crimea and Sevastopol, which is already ready for signing. I stand assured of your support.

أوروبا الاستراتيجية مع إيران والحالية في السجن الأميركي؟

يوليو 17, 2019

د. وفيق إبراهيم

مشروع الوساطة الأوروبية بين إيران والأميركيين يهدف في الظاهر لوقف تدحرج الطرفين نحو حرب مدمرة، لكنه يعكس ايضاً حاجة أوروبا لإعادة تأسيس دور استراتيجي يفتح لها مجدداً ابواب الشرق الاوسط الاقتصادية بالغاز والنفط والاستهلاك وإعادة الإعمار.

فالدول الاساسية في الاتحاد الأوروبي على معرفة عميقة بأن انتصار الأميركيين لا يعني إلا تمديد الاعتقال الأميركي لأوروبا لنصف قرن وأكثر، كما أن فوز إيران وسط تأييد صيني روسي و»ضبابية أوروبية متأمركة» يعني استبعاد أوروبا عن أي دور اقتصادي في الشرق الأوسط ما يؤدي أيضاً إلى المزيد من تراجعها.

هذا ما يدفع بالاتحاد الأوروبي لتأسيس وساطة تلبي ما يطلبه الأميركيون وتبني آفاقاً مستقبلية مع إيران البلد الواعد بإمكاناته الاقتصادية وعلاقاته الإقليمية والدولية.

لذلك بدت الوساطة الأوروبية كعجوز حدباء تحاول الانتصاب ولا تقدر، فتتحايل على الزمن بشدّ ظهرها الى الوراء لتبدو قوية.

للتعمق أكثر، تحتوي الوساطة الأوروبية على ثلاثة مستويات: إعادة السماح الأميركية لثماني دول بالتعامل الاقتصادي مع إيران. وكانت هذه الدول تتمتع باستثناء أميركي من الالتزام بالعقوبات الأميركية لكن واشنطن ألغتها مؤخراً.

ويتعلّق المستوى الثاني بتخفيف الدور الإيراني في اليمن والعراق وسورية. وهذا يفتح الباب في المستوى الثالث لمفاوضات جديدة بين الأميركيين والإيرانيين والأوروبيين والروس والصينيين حول إعادة تمتين الاتفاق النووي موضوع الخلاف، على أن تفصل بينهما لقاءات تجمع الرئيسين الإيراني روحاني والأميركي ترامب، فهذا الأخير بحاجة اليها للزوم معركته الرئاسية في 2020، لأنها تتيح له الظهور كالمنتصرين.

يتبين أن القسم الأول من المبادرة الأوروبية يشبه حبة اسبرين فيما المطلوب طرح علاج كامل لأزمة عميقة. فالخنق الاقتصادي الأميركي لإيران بعشرة اصابع لا يتراخى بمجرد توقف اصبع واحد عن الخنق ولمدة محدودة. وهذا يكشف عن المراوغات الأوروبية بسبب الضعف «أمام الأميركي» فقط وليس اي شيء آخر.

لمزيد من الإيضاح، فهناك أربع دول من هذه الدول الثماني لا تزال تتعامل مع إيران اقتصادياً، وهي الصين وروسيا وتركيا بالإضافة الى دولتين أخريين تقيم علاقات سرية.

أما لجهة آلية التعامل «الانستكس». فهي لا تشمل النفط والغاز اللذين يعتبران أهم موارد الاقتصاد الإيراني وتشمل مستويات اقتصادية بوسع الصين وروسيا تلبيتها.

أين الجديد اذاً؟ هناك شعور بأن هذا الجانب قابل للتطوير السريع بمجرد قبول الطرفين المتنازعين بالمبادرة الأوروبية. وهناك من يقول إن أوروبا تحمل موافقة أميركية تريد من إيران إعلان موافقتها المسبقة على المبادرة، حتى يصبح بوسعها القبول بمسلسل تنازلات متدحرجة. وهذا احتمال قابل لعدم التحقق.

على مستوى الطلب من إيران تخفيف دورها السياسي في اليمن والعراق وسورية وإعلان ذلك بوضوح. فهذا غاية في العجب.

لأن أنصار الله في اليمن هم قوة يمنية عربية تشكل جزءاً من الزيود الذين يحكمون اليمن منذ أكثر من ألف عام.

هؤلاء قبلوا باتفاق استوكهولم السويدي الذي يبتدئ بالساحل الغربي والحديدة دافعاً اليمن بكامله الى مفاوضات الحل النهائي، ومراقبو الامم المتحدة هم الذين اعترفوا أن تعطيل الاتفاق من مسؤولية السعودية وقوات رجلها هادي.

ودور إيران هو التحالف السياسي مع قوات أنصار الله في يمنٍ محاصرٍ بحراً وبراً وجواً منذ 2016، فحتى الذبابة لا تستطيع العبور إلا بعد موافقة الحصار السعودي الأميركي.

أما لجهة العراق فلإيران علاقة بالحشد الشعبي الذي يجسّد التطلعات الشعبية العراقية منذ مرحلة ما قبل الفتوحات الاسلامية لأنهم عرب العراق المقيمون فيها منذ أكثر من 1500 عام وأكثر.

فهل يطلب الإيرانيون من عراقيين مغادرة العراق والى أين؟ أم يطلبون منهم إلقاء سلاحهم والتعامل مع القوات الأميركية التي تحتل العراق منذ 2003 مواصلين الطلب من الحوثيين في اليمن الاستسلام لقوات سعودية إماراتية مدعومة أميركياً واسرائيلياً تحتل اليمن منذ 2016؟

يتبقى لسورية التي تجمع إيران بها علاقات صداقات وبضع مئات من مستشارين يعملون الى جانب الجيش السوري، هذا بالإضافة الى قوات حزب الله التي تعتبر معركتها في سورية جزءاً من معركتها ضد الكيان الإسرائيلي الغاصب.

لذلك فإن التحالفات تعمل تحت قيادة الجيش العربي السوري وليس لديها مشروع منفرد، أما السؤال هنا فكيف نطلب من حزب الله والمستشارين الإيرانيين العاملين مع الدولة الشرعية الانكفاء عن سورية ونترك الاحتلال الأميركي الأوروبي لشرق سورية وشمالها والاحتلال التركي لعفرين وإدلب وأرياف حماه وحلب مع شريط حدودي طويل؟

فهل هي مبادرة سويةُ تلك التي تتضمن طرداً لسكان محليين مثل الحوثيين والحشد الشعبي، وتخفيفاً لقدرات الجيش السوري وعقوبات على حزب الله ولا تمسُ شعرة واحدة من الاحتلالات الأميركية للمنطقة والعدوانية الإسرائيلية الدائمة والاحتلال السعودي لليمن الداعم لمنظمة «قسد» الكردية التي بدأت ببيع نفط سورية في شرقي الفرات للإسرائيليين.

تدل هذه المعطيات على مدى الضعف الأوروبي امام رئيس أميركي أهوج قابل للاستثارة بسرعة. وهذا ما يخشاه حكام أوروبا المذعورون.

بالمقابل إيران وسورية واليمن والحشد الشعبي وحزب الله ليسوا من فئة الذين يصابون بذعر من المحتلين والدليل أنهم يحاربونهم في كل مكان، بقي على الأوروبيين أن يخرجوا من خوفهم لأن مصالحهم الاستراتيجية هي مع إيران وحلفائها الوحيدين القادرين على إخراج أوروبا من السجن الأميركي.

Related News

What Makes the EU So Rabidly Hypocritical

What Makes the EU So Rabidly Hypocritical

ERIC ZUESSE | 15.04.2019 | WORLD / EUROPE

What Makes the EU So Rabidly Hypocritical

Unlike America under Donald Trump, who is proudly psychopathic and went so far as to blurt out that his followers would accept his leadership even if he were to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, the European Union is so rabidly hypocritical (Trump would probably call it “politically correct”) that its leaders routinely moralize about ‘human rights and democracy’ even while their governments indiscriminately rob and slaughter people in foreign lands (as will be documented here). EU leaders assist US-led atrocities while using prettier language to describe their alleged motivation for these policies. Though the US Government also occasionally employs such verbal sucker-punches (insincere or “politically correct” rhetoric), such moralizing is now the exception for the US Government, and is no longer (as it had been under the immediately prior US President, Barack Obama) the routine American practice — very much like the EU’s was, and still remains: such ‘idealistic’ hypocrisy.

But even Obama wasn’t as hypocritical as EU leaders still are. The biggest difference between the US and the EU is that, whereas even under America’s Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning (and continuing to be predominantly sanctified) President Obama (the invader of Libya, Syria, Yemen, and more), America’s head-of-state repeatedly said that America is “the one indispensable nation” — meaning that all other nations are “dispensable.” By contrast, there is no EU leader, and not even any European head-of-state, who says, in the modern era, anything of the sort. Adolf Hitler infamously did it when reasserting “Deutschland über alles!” (i.e, that Germany is the one indispensable nation). But modern Europe’s leaders know better than to copy such rhetoric. (Trump’s version, of course, is “America first,” but this can mean many different things, and not only mean that “America is the one indispensable nation.” Obama’s version was far less ambiguous than Trump’s is, because Obama’s clearly means that every other nation is “dispensable,” and that only America is not. And, yet, still, Europe’s leaders accepted it — they accepted that their nations were and are “dispensable.” After all: they are vassals.)

America’s leaders are simply more honest about their psychopathy than modern Europe’s are. In fact, ever since at least the time of Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, “Greed is good” has been America’s unofficial, but clearly dominant, political philosophy — virtually the official American philosophy. How many European nations today publicly and proudly assert anything like that? Do any?

A recent example of the EU’s hyper-hypocrisy was headlined at the far-right UAWire Ukrainian news-site on March 31st, “EU urges Russia to stop attacks on Crimean Tatars”, which reported that,

The EU decisively condemns the arrest of 23 Crimean Tatars in police raids by the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea on 27 and 28 March, said EU Spokesperson for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Maja Kocijancic in a statement.

“A court in the Crimean peninsula, illegally annexed from Ukraine by Russia, has ruled that all 23 Crimean Tatars detained on 27 March and 28 March will be held in pre-trial detention until 15 May. They are accused of belonging to the organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia but not in Ukraine. The European Union does not recognise the enforcement of Russian legislation in Crimea and Sevastopol and expects all illegally detained Ukrainians to be released without delay,” Kocijancic stated.

“The recent detentions, as well as the prior searches of their private property, constitute the latest targeting of Crimean Tatars, human rights defenders, and people who have spoken out peacefully against the illegal annexation by Russia of the Crimean peninsula,” the EU spokesperson stressed…

Here is what Wikipedia says about that banned-by-Russia group:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hizb_ut-Tahrir

Hizb ut-Tahrir (Arabic: حزب التحرير) (Translation: Party of Liberation) is an international, pan-Islamist political organisation, which describes its ideology as Islam, and its aim as the re-establishment of the Islamic Khilafah (Caliphate) to resume the Islamic way of life in the Muslim world. The caliphate would unite the Muslim community (Ummah)[4] upon their Islamic creed and implement the Shariah, so as to then carry the proselytising of Islam to the rest of the world.[5] …

Hizb ut-Tahrir has been banned in countries such as Germany, Russia, China, Egypt, Turkey,[14] and all Arab countries except Lebanon, Yemen, and the UAE.[15][16] In July 2017, the Indonesian government formally revoked Hizbut ut-Tahrir’s charter, citing incompatibility with government regulations on extremism and national ideology.[17] …

They declare the necessity of jihad so that Da’wah will be carried “to all mankind” and will “bring them into the Khilafah state,” and the importance of declaring “Jihad against the Kuffar without any lenience or hesitation;” (Ummah’s Charter),[97][117] as well as the need to fight unbelievers who refuse to be ruled by Islam, even if they pay tribute (The Islamic Personality).[97][118]

Do Europeans really want people such as this to be increasing in the EU? The Ukrainian regime that Obama had installed in February 2014 thinks it’s fine, but do Europeans, really? Obama had fooled Russia’s Government, at least until his 2012 re-election, to think that he wasn’t aiming like all his predecessors since at least the time of Reagan were aiming — for the US Government ultimately to conquer and absorb Russia into the steadily growing US empire — but after the bloody US coup right on Russia’s doorstep in Ukraine in 2014, the EU has been clearly the US regime’s vassal in this conquer-Russia enterprise — participating in it, though reluctantly.

The EU’s leadership has consistently been working in secret to assist jihadists — mass-murderers and terrorists — whenever jihadists are fighting in the US-led international war against Russia and against any nation whose leadership (such as Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Viktor Yanukovych, and Nicolas Maduro) are either allied with or even just friendly toward Russia. Syria, and its President, Bashar al-Assad, constitute one particular example of this EU hypocrisy.

Here are examples of this US-EU support for jihadists that are trying to overthrow a Russia-friendly government:

On 10 December 2012, AFP bannered “Jihadists seize key north Syria army base”, and reported that, “Jihadists led by the radical Al-Nusra Front seized a strategic army base in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo on Monday, in a fresh setback for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. … On the political front, the EU gave a vital boost to the newly-formed Syrian opposition coalition, describing it as the ‘legitimate representatives’ of the Syrian people following talks in Brussels with its leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.”

On that very same day, December 10th, Britain’s Telegraph headlined and sub-headed “Syrian rebels defy US and pledge allegiance to jihadi group: Rebel groups across Syria are defying the United States by pledging their allegiance to a group that Washington will designate today a terrorist organization for its alleged links to al-Qaeda.” That report opened: “A total of 29 opposition groups, including fighting ‘brigades’ and civilian committees, have signed a petition calling for mass demonstrations in support of Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist group which the White House believes is an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq.” So: no one could reasonably doubt that America’s alleged ‘rebels’ in Syria were, in fact, loyal to al-Nusra. Yet, the EU and US continued supporting them.

Also on that same day, Bill Roggio at Long War Journal bannered, “Al Nusrah Front, foreign jihadists seize key Syrian base in Aleppo”, and he reported that, “The Syrian government has warned that rebels may also use chemical weapons after the Al Nusrah Front took control control of a chlorine factory in Aleppo last week. Islamists hold sway over new rebel military command.” So: it was already clear, even then, that the ‘rebels’ were interested in perpetrating against civilians a chemical-weapons attack that their supporters in the US and EU could then blame against Syria’s Government as being an alleged reason to invade Syria by their own forces in order to ‘protect the Syrian people and establish democracy and human rights there’, or similar lies.

The next day, December 11th, Roggio reported that “The Al Nusrah Front has by far taken the lead among the jihadist groups in executing suicide and other complex attacks against the Syrian military. The terror group is known to conduct joint operations with other Syrian jihadist organizations.”

And, on the very next day, December 12th, Roggio headlined “Syrian National Coalition urges US to drop Al Nusrah terrorism designation”. Anyone who, after this, didn’t know that the US and EU were supporting jihadists to take control over Syria, was very deceived, because the truth was now known, and was then being subsequently hidden from the public, by almost all of the subsequent ‘news’-reporting. But there were a few exceptions:

On 26 January 2013, Roggio reported that,

The Al Nusrah Front has now claimed credit for 46 of the 55 suicide attacks that have taken place in Syria since December 2011, according to a tally of the operations by The Long War Journal (note that multiple suicide bombers deployed in a single operaton are counted as part of a single attack).

Al Nusrah spearheads military assaults

Al Nusrah has also served as the vanguard for jihadist forces in the major attacks on Syrian military bases. In concert with allied jihadist groups such as the Ahrar al Sham, the Islamic Vanguard, Mujahedeen Shura Council, the Muhajireen Group, and Chechen fighters, the terror group has overrun three large Syrian installations since last fall.

On 20 April 2013, Reuters headlined “Rebels battle with tribesmen over oil in Syria’s east” and reported that, “The EU said this week it wants to allow Syria’s opposition to sell crude in an effort to tilt the balance of power towards the rebels.” The EU supported and backed the ‘rebels’ seizure and black-market sale of whatever oil they could steal from Syria. This was the EU’s ‘humanitarianism’.

On 22 April 2013, the AP headlined “EU lifts Syria oil embargo to bolster rebels” and opened: “The European Union on Monday lifted its oil embargo on Syria to provide more economic support to the forces fighting to oust President Bashar Assad’s regime. The decision will allow for crude exports from rebel-held territory.”

On 1 May 2013, TIME bannered “Syria’s Opposition Hopes to Win the War by Selling Oil” and reported that, “Without an embargo, European companies can now legally begin importing barrels of oil directly from rebel groups, which have seized several oil fields in recent months, mostly around the eastern area of Deir Ezzor. That would provide the opposition with its first reliable source of income since the revolt erupted in Feb. 2011, and in theory hasten the downfall of Bashar Assad’s regime.” No mention was made, in any of this reporting, that this constituted aggression by the EU against the sovereign nation of Syria under the UN’s Charter and was therefore an international war-crime. The Western press didn’t care about such things — but only about ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ and other such billionaires’ bumper-stickers for suckers.

On 22 February 2019, one of the UN’s top experts on international law, Alfred de Zayas, was interviewed for a half hour on the ways in which America and its allies are blatantly violating international law by attempting a coup to overthrow Venezuela’s Government, and by going even further and imposing sanctions against Venezuela’s Government because it was resisting this (in effect) economic invasion-by-means-of-sanctions. The EU is one of these invading countries, but some of its constituent states oppose the US-sponsored invasion.

On 31 March 2019, I headlined “EU Joins NATO’s War Against Russia” and reported on the EU’s knee-jerk increase of economic sanctions against Russia as being the initial phase — the sanctions phase — of the US regime’s wars to overthrow the leaders of nations that are friendly toward Russia (e.g., Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, Viktor Yanukovych, and now Nicolas Maduro), and now (ever since the 2012 Magnitsky Act sanctions fraud against Russia) increasingly to apply Washington’s economic sanctions against Russia itself.

In international affairs, the EU therefore is clearly a stooge of the constantly aggressive US regime.

After all, the US regime had initiated and led the creation of the European Union. This scheme started as soon as FDR died and Harry S. Truman became America’s President. The death of FDR was also, in a sense, the death of any real democracy in the United States. Truman was forced onto the Democratic Party’s Presidential ticket in 1944 by the Democratic Party’s centi-millionaires against the will of FDR.Truman and Churchill started the Cold War, which increasingly became mass thought-control in America (culminating with Joseph R. McCarthy) and with the CIA’s operations Gladio in Europe and Mockingbird in the US itself. First, NATO, and then the EU, were born as part of that secret US strategy to conquerRussia even after the end of the USS.R and of its communism and of its Warsaw Pact counterbalance to America’s NATO anti-Russian military alliance. Ever since that time (1991), America’s controlling owners of international corporations (our billionaires) have also controlled — via European nations’ own super-rich — first, Europe’s national Governments, and then the EU itself. It secretly remains true even after the 1991 end of the Cold War on Russia’s side.

Consequently: when there’s a choice to be made between supporting jihadists (or other extremists such as — in Ukraine — nazis) or else to side with Russia (or any nation that’s friendly toward Russia), the American team always back the jihadists or other extremists, and they say it’s being done ‘for human rights and democracy’ and other such hypocrisies, while they perpetrate actual war-crimes, and make fools of their own publics, in order ultimately to conquer Russia. That’s doing it the “diplomatic” way, and they don’t like Trump’s doing it the “Greed is good” way. The directness of his greed makes themselves look bad. That’s why these super-hypocrites preferred Obama.

And now, a word from the Jewish Democratic Council of America

Source

February 15, 2019

Friends,Events of the past week demonstrated that words matter. The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) immediately condemned Representative Ilhan Omar’s tweet for what it was – an anti-Semitic trope. We followed-up with a statement, denouncing Rep. Omar’s tweet because it represented a form of anti-Semitism that has historically been used to target Jews. We expressed deep concern that a member of Congress would express such incendiary views, and asserted that her constituents and the American people deserved better.

Within 24 hours, House Democratic leadership, as well as dozens of Democratic members of Congress, condemned Rep. Omar’s statement and expressed similar concerns. Facing immense pressure, Rep. Omar “unequivocally” apologized for her tweet. JDCA responded by welcoming Rep. Omar’s recognition that her words were offensive and her willingness to learn. We expressed hope that this would be last time she repeats dangerous stereotypes targeting Jews and said we look forward to engaging with her to voice our deep concerns. We also expressed concern that her apology was in fact equivocal because it repeated some of the same references she had originally tweeted about. JDCA is committed to ensuring that all members of Congress understand the gravity of these issues and calling out anti-Semitism wherever we see it.

JDCA has spoken out against Rep. Omar and other Democrats with whom we disagree before, and we will continue to speak out against anyone who engages in anti-Semitism irrespective of their party affiliation. Speaking truth to power, even within your own party, is consistent with our values. Words matter. But hypocrisy matters too.

JDCA Board on the Hill

That is why JDCA will continue to call out the hypocrisy of Republicans who are quick to criticize anti-Semitism when it’s politically expedient, but refuse to denounce anti-Semitism in their own ranks and at the highest levels of power.There is no question that insinuations of Jewish money controlling American politics is an anti-Semitic canard. So where was the Republican outrage when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy insinuated just four months ago that Jews were attempting to buy the midterm election? In the last election, Republican state parties and candidates ran attack ads in six states featuring Jews clutching cash. Where was the outrage over the GOP’s widespread use of this anti-Semitic trope? Unfortunately, it wasn’t there. Instead, we have seen Republicans selectively condemn anti-Semitism when it suits their political interests but remain silent when it comes from the highest ranks of power.

Republicans were silent as Donald Trump ran a presidential campaign in which he frequently used anti-Semitic tropes. His final campaign ad – which was explicitly condemned by at least five Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – referred to the same anti-Semitic trope Rep. Omar invoked this week. But that wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last. In 2015, Trump told a crowd of Jews that “you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.” More recently, he promoted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on Twitter. And we will never forget that the President of the United States publicly created a moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and those protesting them in Charlottesville.

Again, where is the Republican outrage? There has been none. Just silence.

Republicans have been quick to point to their recent condemnation of Rep. Steve King for his alignment with white supremacy, but as Speaker Nancy Pelosi reminded us on Wednesday, Republicans’ decision to finally take action against King – who has long been known to hold anti-Semitic views – took Republicans 13 years.

Even this past week, 177 House Republicans voted against a bill containing language condemning anti-Semitism. All Democrats – including Rep. Omar – voted for it, but Republicans chose party over principle, and nearly all of them voted “no.” JDCA spoke out after this vote, affirming that it was “blatant hypocrisy on the part of Republicans, plain and simple, and we condemn them for it in the strongest possible terms.”

This hypocrisy is simply unacceptable.

We’ve had enough. Anti-Semitism cannot be tolerated, and we must uniformly hold elected officials to the highest standards. If you are committed to calling out anti-Semitism only when it’s politically expedient, then you are just dedicated to partisanship not principles. That’s why we’re encouraging the GOP to commit to calling out anti-Semitism whenever and wherever it emerges. As JDCA stated on Wednesday in a message to Republicans – “enough of the willful blindness, hypocrisy, and double standards.”

Words matter, but hypocrisy matters too, and if you agree with the work JDCA is doing, please consider supporting our efforts today. Please also check out more of JDCA’s work from this past week on our website, including our response to the breaking news of President Trump’s emergency declaration at our border, an op-ed by Executive Director Halie Soifer published in the Times of Israel, and a letter to the editor published in the Jewish Journal by JDCA Board Member Ada Horwich and Halie Soifer.

JDCA Board on the Hill

Shabbat Shalom,Ron Klein
Chair, Jewish Democratic Council of America

Halie Soifer
Executive Director, Jewish Democratic Council of America

Ramin Mazaheri interviewed by Sputnik about the “Yellow Vests” and Macron

February 05, 2019

Ramin Mazaheri interviewed by Sputnik about the “Yellow Vests” and Macron

Macron Won’t Put Question of Resignation Up for French Referendum – Journo

You can listen to the full audio of the interview here:

The first referendum in 14 years could take place in France in May as part of President Emmanuel Macron’s response to the ongoing series of weekend ‘yellow vests’ protests. The newspaper Journal du Dimanche reported that Macron was planning to organise the vote on the same day as European parliament elections: on May 26th.

According to the publication, one of the questions the French would be asked is whether they want to reduce the number of national lawmakers — a campaign pledge by Macron, as well as whether they favour imposing term-limits on legislators.

Radio Sputnik discussed the possibility of France holding its first referendum in 14 years with Ramin Mazaheri, PressTV’s Chief Correspondent in Paris.

Sputnik: What do we know about this proposed referendum and how likely is it to happen in your opinion?

Ramin Mazaheri: The Yellow Vests have no clear programme; there are literally dozens and dozens of demands which are associated with them and the reason that there are so many demands is because France has submitted to the dictates of Brussels for eight years and they have embraced far-right economic austerity, and austerity has totally created a lost decade of economic growth, high employment and suppressed wages, and reduce government services. So, you know, we should see why the Yellow vests have so very many demands. Austerity accumulates; it’s been eight years, so you always have to keep that in mind.

French President Emmanuel Macron attends the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. November 30, 2018

But the idea of more referendums, that this something that truly has risen to the top of the list of their demands… why is that? It’s because in the past decade, it has become painfully clear to the French that their politicians just don’t care a bit for the popular will. Macron, you know, he’s totally done away with the false promises of his predecessor, Francois Hollande, because he openly says he doesn’t care about public opinion at all. He says that public opinion will not affect his policy decisions whatsoever. This is obviously contrary to the modern idea of democracy. So this new demand for a referendum has to be viewed as a reaction to the dominance of the French elites in policy-making. The French people want more power in policy-making.

We have to keep in mind that out of all of the Western governments, the presidency of France has the most power, and we have to combine this reality with another one, that Macron has more power than any [French] president in recent memory, and that’s because he has an absolute majority in Parliament and because he also has total control over his own party, which is full of political novices, they owe their entire careers completely to Macron.

Macron is known for ruling like a Roman God, Jupiter; he’s also known as the president of the rich. So a referendum would reinject democracy into France’s Fifth Republic, that’s the background for this demand for the referendum. The French want direct democracy because their elected leaders, in their indirect democracy, they’re not only not succeeding, they’re not even listening to public opinion. There hasn’t been a referendum in France in 14 years, not since 2005, and French voters then rejected the Lisbon Treaty on the European Union Constitution, and what happened? The vote was totally ignored. So it’s important to keep in mind that Many Yellow vests view a referendum as some sort of cure-all for the French democracy. History proves that that’s not necessarily the case in France. The only country which seems to have incorporated referendums in an effective manner is Switzerland, and France clearly wants to emulate their neighbour in this respect, but these are two very different countries with very different political systems, so it’s not really that simple.

Macron has stated that the idea of a referendum is being discussed, it will be held on the same day as EU elections, but it’s not a done deal. I would say that a referendum is likely to happen because it’s avery attention grabbing way for Macron to say, “Look, I’m not ruling like Jupiter, I am being democratic.” However it’s something which, depending on the issues which are being voted on, this is something which could have very little political risk for Macron.

Sputnik: Let’s talk in greater detail about these issues that could be deliberated?

Ramin Mazaheri: Well that’s really the key question here, right? I mean, if you listen to the Yellow Vests, the most popular question would be: Should President Macron resign? But I think we can all agree that there is no way that Macron is going to put that question up for referendum. It’s really very ironic that Macron, I’m sure he’s going to refuse the hold new elections, because that is exactly what he ordered Venezuela to do. Macron and other EU leaders, they gave Venezuelan leader Nicholas Maduro just eight days to hold new elections or they will recognize someone else, someone who’s never received a presidential vote, as Venezuela’s new president, so it’s really a case of hypocrisy from France, but that is nothing new at all.

French 'red scarves' (foulards rouges), critics of violent 'yellow vest' (Gilets Jaunes) protests demonstrate in Paris on January 27, 2019.

So what the government is proposing right now about the referendum is to have just one question and that’s to ask voters if they want to reduce the number of parliamentarians and limit the number of terms they may serve. I think that all of our listeners will immediately grasp that this is not a major interest for the Yellow Vests. It will not affect their purchasing power, it will not touch austerity, and we should see that this is really quite a neoliberal idea once again, because it’s a way to reduce the size of France’s government. So we see that Macron is actually trying to use the referendum, and it’s not decided yet, this is what he’s floating in the media, to push the very same neoliberal agenda. He’s not talking about putting up ideas which the average French person cares about, so it’s really a tone deaf move if he goes forward with just this one question, and France’s politicians have said exactly that. They’ve said that if this is the only question on the referendum, it’s going to be a total failure. Reducing the number of legislators actually is one of Macron’s campaign pledges, so it’s amazing that despite his massive unpopularity and the massive protests that have really undermined his international image, he’s on the precipice of sticking with pursuing his very, very unpopular political agenda.

Sputnik: What the Yellow Vests envisioned for a referendum is obviously going to be quite different. They want questions on a number of socioeconomic issues.

Ramin Mazaheri: You know, for example, Macron has rushed through many, many sweeping reforms which are so very unpopular and all of which are designed to make France more in line with the American system, the English system, the German system, and what is on the docket for this year is major right-wing roll-backs to the unemployment system and the social security system. So the Yellow Vests, they would want ideally those types of issues to be on the referendum, to really talk about public policy and the policies that really affect the average French person, the average French household, the pensioner, everybody.

The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

And Speaking of Banned and Challenged Books…

A few days ago I posted an article about children’s books by Jewish authors, a disproportionately high number of which were found by Andrew Joyce, the writer of the article, to have been included on a list of “banned and challenged books” that is yearly maintained by the American Library Association (ALA).

Not long after I posted the article, a friend sent me an email about the children’s book you see above.

P is for Palestine has not, at least as of yet, made the ALA’s list, although that could be because it was only published this past November. Yet assuredly the book has been challenged (rather persistently), and may possibly have been banned in certain places as well. It is not currently available, for instance, at either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. The only online retailer that appears to be carrying it is Etsy.

According to Joyce, the books published by Jewish authors and which made the ALA’s list were found to have been objectionable by parents and school officials mainly due to their sexual content. For instance, one of the books he talks about, It’s Perfectly Normal, contains graphic illustrations of people engaging in sex acts. The book, which has been made available to ten-year-olds, has a section explaining that sexual intercourse “can involve the penis and the vagina, or the mouth and the genitals, or the penis and the anus.” Not surprisingly, the inclusion of the book in public school curricula has sparked considerable protest.

P is for Palestine has also sparked protests–but for an entirely different reason.

In November of 2017, shortly after the book’s release, a number of New York City Jews launched a campaign against a local bookstore after it scheduled an event featuring a reading and book signing by the author. The following was reported by the website Palestine Legal:

Last week, a popular independent book store in New York’s Upper West Side, Book Culture, received calls to censor and denounce a children’s book, P is for Palestine, after the book’s author, Professor Golbarg Bashi, publicized an event at the store on an Upper East Side mother’s blog.

I haven’t actually seen a copy of the book, but apparently it does not include any graphic depiction of the human anatomy or sex acts. On the contrary, like many children’s books, it attempts to expand children’s vocabularies by presenting them with words beginning with different letters of the alphabet (this I do know from reading the reviews). And the chief complaint from Jews who have gone ballistic over the issue is the “I” word–intifada.

“I is for Intifada, Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or a grownup!” reads one section of the book.

Additionally, there is a section reading, “J is for Jesus,” which probably also doesn’t sit too well with the kosher critics.

“We forcefully reject Palestinian efforts to persuade us that ‘intifada’ has a peaceful connotation,” wrote three rabbis in an open letter posted on the website of a local synagogue after the controversy erupted. “These are apologetics, at best, and more likely, attempts to confuse, whitewash, and distort. It is easy to philosophize from afar about the Arabic origins of the word ‘intifada’ if you have never experienced its murderous wrath or lived under its constant violent threats.”

Besides all the venom-spitting over the book, the article in Palestine Legal goes on to report on threats to block the store, Book Culture, from participating in an upcoming book fair sponsored by a local synagogue. The piece was published November 29, but on December 4, an update was posted noting that the store’s owners had been “forced to put out a statement which says that they do not endorse boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns for Palestinian rights, that they support Israel’s right to exist, and that they oppose terrorism.”

The statement issued by the store reads as follows:

  1. We regret that we did not fully appreciate the political or communal ramifications of the children’s book P is for Palestine by Dr. Golbarg Bashi, nor did we anticipate the pain and distress it has caused in our community. We now understand these much better.
  2. We oppose terrorism or other forms of violence perpetrated against Israeli civilians during the intifada or thereafter. Any impression from the book to the contrary is not our view.
  3. We support Israel’s right to exist.
  4. We do not endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

In addition to the above written statement, one of the store’s owners, Chris Doeblin, produced an outpouring of contrition in an interview with a local media outlet–in an article headlined, “Rabbis and Bookstore Owner Break Bread After Split Over Palestine Book.”

The store, we are told by Palestine Legal, was finally allowed to participate in the book fair.

The author of P is for Palestine is Goldbarg Bashi, an Iranian-Swedish woman who formerly taught at Rutgers University. You can visit her website here. In a Facebook post in late November she talks about death threats and other hostile communications she has received since the release of her book. Here is an excerpt:

A small but very loud minority have accused my book of very serious but false charges. It is important for me to note, once again, that their disproportionate backlash against my book and my person (resulting in death threats, devaluing of my social-impact business) was initially to the mere title of the bookPalestine they claimed does not exist, even though the UN and scores of legitimate nation states on our globe recognize Palestine as a country, and how dare I (read an Iranian, or Muslim, or Arab, or Palestinian woman) publish such a book in “their” city New York.

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, and in the Palestinian context the letter I most certainly stands for Intifada, as does B for BethlehemC for ChristmasJ for JesusF for FalafelK for KuffiyaN for Nazareth and so on.

Intifada means resistance and resilience against the global and the UN condemnation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine—it is a daily component of Palestinian life that is manifested in carrying the signs and symbols of Palestinian life with pride—carrying a Palestinian flag, wearing a Palestinian dress, cooking a Palestinian dish, protecting a Palestinian olive tree from being bulldozed etc are all examples of Intifada.

It would be irresponsible of an author of a book for Palestinian children (or e.g. Native American children) to ignore or whitewash the fact that their people have a resistance movement, most of which is manifested in peaceful protest—I have written a loving book for real Palestinian children with some of whom I grew up in a Swedish refugee camp—along with many other refugee children from around the world. My sense of moral responsibility emerged in those refugee camps not among the self-proclaimed powerful neighborhoods of New York City who racially-profile me, incite hatred and violence against my person and my social-impact start-up, and issue edicts to boycott and shut down bookstores for having dared to sell world’s first English language alphabet book on Palestine.

I wonder how many of the Jews who have gotten so upset over P is for Palestine, became equally as worked up over It’s Perfectly Natural.

Something tells me probably not many.

And I wonder how many of those who take such offense at the word “intifada” have ever bothered to go out and protest against any of  Israel’s murderous campaigns in Gaza?

Again, something tells me probably not many.

Whether the book P is for Palestine has specifically been banned from Amazon and Barnes and Noble I can’t say. All I know for sure is that as of this posting it is not available at either (unlike It’s Perfectly Natural, which is available at both). Certainly it’s possible that the author, for whatever strange reason, chose not to sell it through these two major online dealers.

But a question very much worth pondering at this point is whether any of this will be mentioned by the American Library Association when it publishes its next list of the most “banned and challenged books.”

And once again…though I hope I’m wrong…I have a feeling I know the answer to that as well.

MBS’s Lavish Buys: Some See Hypocrisy, Others Say They’re No Big Deal

Tom DiChristopher

29-12-2017 | 15:32

A series of recent reports have connected Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince – an avowed anti-corruption crusader – to lavish real estate, art and yacht purchases.

MBS luxury yacht

To some, the spending is a sign of hypocrisy and a threat to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s legitimacy. The reports come on the heels of his anti-graft campaign, which culminated in the detention of Saudi princes, officials and businessmen at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.

But to others, the purchases are legitimate investments and nothing unusual for a future king.

The 32-year-old crown prince is a polarizing figure who has captured the financial world’s attention. First in line to succeed his father, King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, he is spearheading Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation plan and has overseen an invasion of Yemen, a blockade of Qatar and a domestic crackdown on graft that has swept up high-profile royals.

As such, his every move is dissected by Middle East watchers for signs of turbulence in the world’s second-largest oil-producing nation and pre-eminent Sunni Muslim power. This month, a pair of New York Times investigations gave tea-leaf readers plenty to talk about.

First, the paper linked Crown Prince Mohammed to the record $450.3 million auction sale of a Leonardo da Vinci painting, “Salvator Mundi”. The following week, the Times traced the mysterious $300 million sale of Chateau Louis XIV in France to Crown Prince Mohammed. The paper also noted his roughly $500 million yacht purchase in 2015, reportedly a spur-of-the-moment splurge.

The Saudi government declined to comment about the chateau to the Times, but has disputed reports that a Saudi royal purchased the da Vinci on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed.

In light of the anti-corruption arrests, the chateau and yacht purchases send signals that are inconsistent with Crown Prince Mohammed’s social and economic reforms, said Robert Jordan, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President George W. Bush.

“The lack of judgement and the lack of self-awareness that this reflects I think is shocking,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.

“There will be members of the royal family, others in the community, who are saying, ‘Wait a minute. This guy is just the biggest hypocrite in the world.’ So, I think he’s got to be very careful to balance that,” said Jordan, now an adjunct political science professor at Southern Methodist University.

But others say Crown Prince Mohammed’s spending habits and his corruption crackdown are separate issues, and those who conflate them might fuel misconceptions about public opinion Saudi Arabia.

Crown Prince Mohammed is trying to rein in widespread corruption, not discretionary spending by the future king, said Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University. He says Saudis don’t consider splashy purchases to be corruption, nor do they typically object to wealthy princes investing in assets with tangible value like overseas property, yachts or artwork.

“This is not a guy who is going to Monaco and dropping $100 million on gambling,” Haykel told CNBC on Wednesday. “That would be a very different kind of story.”

While Western media are focused on the purchases, the average Saudi is more concerned about the introduction of a new value-added tax and the ongoing reduction in fuel subsidies, said Haykel, who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia. These Saudis worry that their incomes will not rise to meet higher costs.

Haykel says wealthy Saudis who say they built their fortunes through legitimate channels are “ecstatic” that Crown Prince Mohammed cracked down on allegedly corrupt princes and officials. They see the type of corruption he is targeting, like bribe-taking and skimming funds for development projects, as a burden on the system, Haykel said.

Still, Haykel says Crown Prince Mohammed has not clearly communicated his motives for the crackdown either at home or abroad.

Saudi youth have also emerged as a base of support for the crown prince due to his social reforms, notes Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and energy policy program at the Washington Institute. At least for the moment, he said, they are forgiving his extravagances as Saudi Arabia prepares to lift a ban on women driving and rolls back restrictions on entertainment.

Still, Henderson cautions that Crown Prince Mohammed is treating some corners of the royal family and the religious Islamic establishment with “disdain.” He’s getting away with it because royals are scared and religious figures don’t want to be marginalized, but the crown prince’s ambition could cost him in the future, Henderson noted.

“My guess is that the ulema are waiting for him to make a big mistake or for a surprise event and for him to come to them for political help,” he told CNBC in an email, using a word for religious scholars. “At which point they will say ‘we warned you’ and exact a price for their support.”

Source: CNBC, Edited by website team

%d bloggers like this: