Is Trump Using Nordstream 2 to Exit NATO?

By Tom Luongo
Source: Gold Goats n Guns

July 21, 2020

The one thing I never thought I’d say is that Donald Trump is consistent, and yet on the subject of the Nordstream 2 pipeline he has been.

No single project has caused more wailing and gnashing of teeth than Nordstream 2. And since Nordstream 2 is simply the substitute for South Stream, which was supposed to come across the Black Sea into Bulgaria and then feed eastern Europe, this U.S. opposition to another Russian pipeline spans multiple administrations.

So, this is policy that goes far beyond simple 2020 electoral politics, Trump trying to look tough on the Russians, or his misguided Energy Dominance policy.

With Trump rescinding the sanctions exemption for Nordstream 2 he now has declared open war against Europe, specifically Germany over this project.

But here’s the thing, I think Trump is doing this for updated reasons that fit a different agenda than why the U.S. opposed Nordstream 2 previously, because he knows he can’t stop the pipeline now. All he can do is further alienate Germany, who he has targeted as the main problem in Europe.

Before I go any further, though, I think a little history lesson is in order.

U.S. opposition to Nordstream 2 is deeply ingrained on all sides of the political aisle in D.C. From Republicans still fighting the cold war to Democrats having deep ties to Ukrainian gas transit there are a multitude of reasons why Nordstream 2 is verboten in D.C.

On the other hand, Europe’s relationship with Nordstream 2 is, in a word, complicated.

Russian President Vladimir Putin scuttled South Stream back in late 2014 because the EU changed its pipeline rules during its development after the contracts were in place.

Most of that was U.S. pressure, but some of that was Germany’s Angela Merkel working with then-President Barack Obama to create the worst possible scenario for Gazprom – a pipeline that wasn’t profitable.

Merkel backed Obama’s play in Ukraine in 2014 as a power move to control prices for Russian gas into Europe, putting Soviet-era pipelines under EU gas directive jurisdiction.

The EU was always going to use Ukrainian gas transit as leverage over Putin to drive gas prices below Gazprom’s cost thinking they had no other options.

Putin famously pivoted to China, singing the mega-deal for Power of Siberia in retaliation to that. Since Putin had already brought Crimea in from the cold war and tacitly backed the breakaway of the Donbass Merkel was now the one on her back foot.

At the same time, to salvage the work done on South Stream to that point, Putin cut a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to replace South Stream’s volumes to eastern Europe with Turkstream’s to Turkey.

The plans for Turkstream include multiple trains into eastern Europe with countries like Serbia, Hungary and the Czech Republic itching for that gas.

Russia’s options were manifest and Putin deftly outmaneuvered Merkel and Obama. These events forced Merkel’s hand after she stupidly caved to the Greens over ending Germany’s use of nuclear power and now she needed Nordstream 2.

And so Nordstream 2 became a big geopolitical football because Merkel saw, as well, the opportunity to bring the recalcitrant Poles and Baltics under her control as well, solidifying long-term EU plans to engulf all of Euope to Russia’s borders.

Nordstream 2 would nominally replace Ukrainian gas supplies and she could set Germany up to be the gas transit hub, supporting political power emanating from Brussels.

This would give her leverage over Poland, who are trapped between their hatred of the Russians and their unwillingness, rightfully, to submit to Germany.

But Merkel, ever the deft three-faced keeper of the status quo, worked with Putin to secure gas flows through Ukraine for another five years, allaying the worst of Poland’s fears while they have courted Trump to bring in over-priced U.S. LNG.

But from the beginning, Nordstream 2 becomes a different animal geopolitically the moment Trump comes to power. Because Trump is opposed to the EU’s consolidating power over Europe while also sucking the U.S. dry on trade and defense.

He’s made this abundantly clear.

Since the beginning of the year Trump has ratcheted up the pressure on both China and the EU. And the only way that makes any sense is if you are willing to see them as allies in undermining the U.S.’s global position.

This isn’t to say that the U.S.’s global position should remain as it is. Far be it for me, of all people, to argue that. But with the insanity of the COVID-19 fake pandemic, the World Economic Forum’s plans for The Great Reset, and the fomenting a cultural revolution in the U.S. the stakes are now as high as they’ve ever been.

The Davos Crowd is making their big move to consolidate power in Europe. Trump is working with Boris Johnson in the U.K. to oppose that. That’s the simplified version of the chess board.

And this is why I think Trump refuses to give up on stopping Nordstream 2. He’s seen the depths to which The Davos Crowd will go to implement this radical change and he’s forcing the moment to its crisis, as T.S. Eliot put it.

He’s making the choice very clear for Merkel and company. If you want Nordstream 2, suffer the consequences of having to do business without the U.S.

This isn’t about Russia anymore, at all. It’s about Germany and the future of the U.S. If Trump loses in November all of the work done to slow down this push for transnational technocratic oligarchy will end.

If he wins then the current policy sticks, the EU is forced to deal with the U.S. retrenching completely, pulling back on commitments to Europe while divorcing U.S. trade from China.

He may actually be courting lower U.S. dollar flow the world over and forcing Europe into real economic crisis by early next year.

This sanctions policy against Nordstream 2 is consistent with his ‘snap’ decision to pull troops out of Germany, his unilateral abrogation of both the INF treaty and the JCPOA while pressuring NATO to do more.

Merkel, meanwhile, is trying to run out the clock on both Trump and Brexit, as I talked about in my podcast from last week. She’s hoping that Trump will be defeated which will set things back to the way they were before him, force U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to knuckle under in trade deal talks and establish the primacy of the EU as the center of Western power.

Putin, for his part, doesn’t care who he deals with in the long run. He can’t afford to. He has to play the cards on the table in front of him with the people in power, since Russia is still a minor player but with big potential.

For Trump, I believe he sees Nordstream 2 as the perfect wedge issue to break open the stalemate over NATO and cut Germany loose or bring Merkel to heel.

This next round of sanctions will target the companies involved directly in the pipeline. Germany can’t afford not to finish Nordstream 2. So, we are headed for an epic clash here.

Trump and Merkel hate each other, with good reason. And while I have mixed feelings about the way Trump does business, I know Angela Merkel is the key to the EU’s future.

I mentioned in a recent article that I feel Trump is a guy with almost nothing left to lose. If he’s going out he’s going out with a bang. Arrest Ghislaine Maxwell, sanction China and threaten war over Hong Kong, ramp up dollar diplomacy on Europe.

He knows that hybrid war is the only war the U.S. can ‘win’ decisively given the relative dominance of the U.S. dollar today.

While the end of dollar hegemony is in sight, do not underestimate how much damage can be done to the status quo while Trump is in power. That status quo isn’t good for anyone except those who currently want that power back.


JCPOA: The Deal That Wasn’t

Source

July 11, 2020 Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

JCPOA Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - Iran USA EU China Russia Germany France UK
July 14th, 2020, marks the fifth anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Agreement, often referred to as the Iran Nuclear Deal (or simply the Deal) – the Deal that wasn’t.   It was yet another attempt at regime change. 
Of all the plans to control Iran beginning from Operation Ajax to Operation JCPOA and everything in between, the Iran Nuclear Deal was by far the most devious attempt at undermining the sovereignty of Iran – one way or another.   The Greek’s Trojan Horse pales compared to this dastardly scheme.  Years in the making, the crafty plan even prompted Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) to nominate John Kerry and Javad Zarif to recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.  
As such, it is high time that the Deal’s planners, their motivations and their associations were discussed in order to grasp the depth of the deception.

Iran, due to its geopolitical position, has always been considered a jewel in the crown of the colonial powers.   Attempts to conquer Iran through a proxy which started with Operation Ajax in August 1953, at the behest of the British and carried out by the CIA were not abandoned even with the ousting of America’s man, the Shah.    Although the Islamic Revolution reclaimed Iran’s sovereignty,  America was not ready to abandon its plans of domination over Iran, and by extension, the Persian Gulf.

The Persian Gulf has been the lynchpin of US foreign policy. “To all intents and purposes,” a former senior Defense Department official observed, “‘Gulf waters’ now extend from the Straits of Malacca to the South Atlantic.” Nevertheless, bases nearer the [Persian] Gulf had a special importance, and Pentagon planners urged “as substantial a land presence in the as can be managed.” (Anthony H. Cordesman, “The Gulf and the Search for Strategic Stability”, Boulder: Westview, 1984).



https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=1FGmy1KGMlllXpX4-jmpuJa259fyPdBUs

Having failed in numerous attempts including the Nojeh coup at the nascent stages of the IR Iran’s newly formed government, war, sanctions, terrorism,  and a failed color revolution,  the United States needed other alternatives to reach its goal.  Unlike the illegal war against Iraq, war with Iran was not a feasible option.  The United States was aware of its inability to wage a successful war against Iran without serious damage to itself and its allies.  

When George W. Bush took office, he commissioned a war exercise to gage the feasibility of an attack against Iran. The  2002 Millennium Challenge,  was a major war game exercise conducted by the United States Armed Forces in mid-2002. The exercise, which ran from July 24 to August 15 and cost $250 million,  proved that the US would not defeat Iran.   The US  even restarted the war games changing rules to ensure an American victory, in reality, cheating itself.  This led to accusations that the war game had turned from an honest, open, playtest of U.S. war-fighting capabilities into a controlled and scripted exercise intended to end in a U.S. victory to promote a false narrative of US invincibility. 

For this reason, the United States continued its attempts at undermining Iran’s sovereignty by means of sanctions, terror, and creating divisions among the Iranians.   The JCPOA would be its master plan.

A simple observation of Iran clearly suggests simple ideological divisions among the Iranian people (pro-West, anti-West, minorities, religious, secular) which have all been amply exploited by the United States and allies.   None of the exploits delivered the prize the US was seeking.  And so it was that it was decided to exploit the one factor which united Iranians of ALL persuasion.  Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

In an interview with National Public Radio (25 November 2004), Ray Takyeh (Council on Foreign Relations CFR and husband to Iran expert Suzanne Maloney  of Brookings) stated that according to polls 75-80% of the Iranians rallied behind the Islamic Republic of Iran in support of its nuclear program, including the full fuel cycle.   In other words, the overwhelming uniting factor among the Iranians for the Islamic Republic was the nuclear program.  (USIA poll conducted in 2007 found that 64% of those questioned said that US legislation repealing regime change in Iran would not be incentive enough to give up the nuclear program and full fuel-cycle).    The next phase was to cause disunity on an issue that united Iranians of all stripes:  negotiate away the nuclear program.

The first round of nuclear negotiations 2003-2005 dubbed the Paris Agreement between Iran and the EU3 proved to be futile, and as  one European diplomat put it: “We gave them a beautiful box of chocolate that was, however, empty.”  As West’s fortune would have it, the same Iranian officials who had participated in the 2003-2005 negotiations would negotiate the JCPOA.

Around the time of the end of the first round of negotiations, another Brookings Fellow, Flynt Leverett , senior advisor for National Security Center, published a book “Inheriting Syria, Bashar’s Trial by Fire” (Brookings book publication, April 2005).  In his book, Leverett argued that instead of conflict, George W. Bush should seek to cooperate with Syria as Assad was popular, but instead seek to weaken Assad’s position among his people by targeting the Golan (induce him to give it up) so that he would lose popularity among the Syrians.   The JCPOA was designed in part along the same line of thinking.   And more.  His wife Hillary Leverett had a prominent role in ‘selling’ the Deal.

Secret negotiations between the Americans and ‘reform-minded’ Iranians never ceased, bypassing both Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and the President at the time – Mahmood Ahmadinejad.  In a 2012 meeting at the University of Southern California, present members of the Iran Project team had no reservations about suggesting that it was more beneficial to engage Iran rather than attack.  They went as far as stating in the Q&A session to this writer that “they had been engaged with the “Green” (the opposition movement in the failed 2009 color revolution) for years, but Ahmadinejad won” (referring to the 2009 elections).  But Ahmadinejad would soon leave office and be replaced by Rohani – a more amenable player.

Why Negotiate?

Fully appreciating the challenge of attacking Iran, in 2004, the pro-Israel  Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), presented its policy paper “The Challenges of U.S. Preventive Military Action” authored by Michael Eisenstadt.   It was opined that the ideal situation was (and continues to be) to have a compliant ‘regime’ in Tehran.   Eisenstadt was of the opinion that unlike the Osiraq nuclear power plant which was bombed and destroyed, Israel/US would not be able to bomb Iran’s Bushehr reactor with the same ease.  In particular, Eisenstadt claimed that Israel may have benefited from French aid in destroying Osiraq. French intelligence reportedly emplaced a homing beacon at Osiraq to help Israeli pilots locate the facility or target a critical underground structure there.

In this light, it was recommended that the principal goal of U.S. action should be to delay Iran’s nuclear program long enough to allow for the possible emergence of new leadership in Tehran.  Failing that, war would have been facilitated.

It was thought the Paris Agreement talks would fail (as the JCPOA was designed to fail) and as such, the following were some of the suggestions made:

  • harassment or murder of key Iranian scientists or technicians;
  • introduction of fatal design flaws into critical reactor, centrifuge, or weapons components during their production, to ensure catastrophic failure during use;
  • disruption or interdiction of key technology or material transfers through sabotage or covert military actions on land, in the air, or at sea;
  • sabotage of critical facilities by U.S. intelligence assets, including third country nationals or Iranian agents with access to key facilities;
  • introduction of destructive viruses into Iranian computer systems controlling the production of components or the operation of facilities;
  • damage or destruction of critical facilities through sabotage or direct action by U.S. special forces.

As with the murder and terror of the nuclear scientists, and the Stuxnet virus into the reactor, the JCPOA enabled personnel on the ground in Iran to carry out extensive sabotage as has been recently observed in recent days and weeks.  Rohani’s visa free travel opened the flood gates to spies and saboteurs – dual citizens,  who easily traveled with passports other than American, British, and Australian.  Iran even managed to prevent an IAEA inspector who triggered an alarm at Iran’s nuclear facility.  But it would seem, Iran has not been able to stop other intruders and terrorists – not yet. 

Other Motivational Factors for Negotiating

According to studies, as of 2008 Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor had 82 tons of enriched uranium (U235) loaded into it, according to Israeli and Chinese reports.  This amount was significantly higher pre and during negotiations.  History has not witnessed the bombing of a nuclear power plant with an operational nuclear enrichment facility.  Deliberate bombing of such facilities would result breach containment and radioactive elements released.  The death toll horrifying.  The Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated 3 million deaths would result in 3 weeks from bombing the nuclear enrichment facilities near Esfahan, and the contamination would cover Afghanistan, Pakistan, all the way to India.

The JCPOA significantly reduced the amount of enriched uranium reducing the potential casualty deaths in the event that a strike is carried out.

The Deal buys time –  Iran’s strength has been its ability to retaliate to any attack by closing down the Strait of Hormuz. Given that 17 million barrels of oil a day, or 35% of the world’s seaborne oil exports go through the Strait of Hormuz, incidents in the Strait would be fatal for the world economy. Enter Nigeria (West Africa) and Yemen.

In 1998, Clinton’s national security agenda made it clear that unhampered access to Nigerian oil and other vital resources was a key US policy. In the early 2000s, Chatham House was one of the publications that determined African oil would be a good alternate to Persian Gulf oil in case of oil disruption. This followed a strategy paper for US to move toward African oil. Push for African oil was on Dick Cheney’s desk on May 31, 2000. In 2002, the Israeli based IASPS suggested America push toward African oil. In the same year Boko Haram was ‘founded’.

In 2007, AFRICOM helped consolidate this push into the region. The 2011, a publication titled: “Globalizing West African Oil: US ‘energy security’ and the global economy” outlined ‘US positioning itself to use military force to ensure African oil continued to flow to the United States’. This was but one strategy to supply oil in addition to or as an alternative to the passage of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.  (See HERE for full article).

JCPOA as a starting point

It has now been made abundantly clear that the Deal was simply JCPOA1.  Other Deals were to follow to disarm Iran even further, to stop Iran’s defensive missile program, and to stop Iran helping its allies in the region.   This would have been relatively easy to achieve had Hillary Clinton been elected – as had been the hope.  The plan was to allow trade and neoliberal polices which the Rohani administration readily embraced, a sharp increase in imports (harming domestic production and self-reliance) while building hope – or as Maloney called it ‘crisis of expectation’.   It was thought that with a semblance of ‘normalcy’ in international relations and free of sanctions, Iranians would want to continue abandoning their sovereignty, their defenses, and rally around the pro-West/America politicians at the expense of the core ideology of the Islamic Revolution, the conservatives and the IRGC.   In other words, regime change.  (several meetings speak to this; see for example, and here). 

The players

The most prominent, one could argue, was President Obama.  Obama was not about peace.   The biggest threat to an empire is peace.  Obama had chosen feigned diplomacy as his weapon.   But before picking up the mantle of diplomacy, he had proposed terrorism – sanctioned terrorism.  Obama, while a junior senator introduced S. 1430 in 2007  and had “crippling sanctions” in mind for the Iranian people.   As president, his executive orders assured this. 

Addressing AIPAC as a candidate, he said: “Our willingness to pursue diplomacy will make it easier to mobilize others to join our cause. If Iran fails to change course when presented with this choice by the United States it will be clear to the people of Iran and to the world that the Iranian regime is the author of its own isolation and that will strengthen our hand with Russia and China as we insist on stronger sanctions in the Security Council. And we should work with Europe, Japan, and the Gulf States to find every avenue outside the United Nations to isolate the Iranian regime from cutting off loan guarantees and expanding financial sanctions to banning the export of refined petroleum to Iran to boycotting firms associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard whose Kuds forces have rightly been labeled a terrorist organization.”

No wonder he was dubbed ‘the first Jewish president’!

Not to be left unmentioned was the darling of the theatrics of this Deal – Federica Mogherini.  So enamored were some of the Iranian parliamentarians with her that to the embarrassment of Iran, the internet was abuzz with these MPs taking pictures with her.   Perhaps they looked at her and not her years as a German Marshall Fund Fellow.

The German Marshall Fund (GMF) sounds harmless enough, but perhaps Russia may not view it that way.  And Iran shouldn’t.  The GMF pushed for bringing Ukraine into NATO’s fold.  Furthermore, the GMF gives funding to American Abroad Media.    AMA boasts of some of the most dangerous anti-Iran neoconservatives who have shaped America’s policies such as Dennis Ross, James Woolsey, Martin Indyk (responsible for the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act later to become ISA and still in place after the JCPOA), Tom Pickering (one of the main proponents of the Iran Deal and member of the Iran Project).  Supporters are not limited to the GMF.   Others include Rockerfeller, Ford Foundation, and NED.

And the most active proponent of the JCPOA was none other than NED recipient, Trita Parsi/NIAC.    Trita Parsi was personally thanked for his role in pushing the JCPOA through.  Job well done for a 3-time recipient of NED funds.  No wonder the George Soros – Koch foundation Quincy Institute selected him as their Executive Vice President.

And last but not least, Hillary Mann Leverett (wife of aforementioned Flynn Leverett) who persuaded her audiences that the JCPOA was akin to “Nixon going to China”.   While some in Iran naively believed this to be the case, and even defended her, they failed to realize that when Nixon went to China it was to bring China on board against Russia.   And Israel was not a player.   It was not an opening to befriend Iran any more than Nixon’s trip had altruist motivations.

Russia and China’s role

The Russians and the Chinese were so eager to embrace a long-awaited peace after all the calamity caused by the United States that they fully embraced this Deal, even though it was detrimental to their interests in so doing.

America’s animosity and never-ending schemes encouraged cooperation between Russia, China, and Iran.  Although the lifting of sanctions post JCPOA would have facilitated trade and enhanced diplomacy between Iran and the West, at a cost to China and Russia, they  stood steadfast by the Deal.  Peace was more valuable.  But far more importantly, the two powerful nations allowed the United States to be the arbitrator of an international treaty – the NPT. 

During the Shah’s reign, President Ford had signed onto a National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM 292, 1975) allowing and encouraging Iran to not only enrich uranium, but sell it to neighboring countries to profit America.  The United States then decided that since the Islamic Republic of Iran did not serve the interests of the United States, the United States would determine how the NPT should apply to Iran.    

But their efforts at peace and the West’s efforts at regime change all came to naught.  What is important to bear in mind is that America’s efforts at war, sabotage, and terrorism have not ended.  Imposing unilateral sanctions – terrorism against the Iranian people, has not ceased.  Although the Iranian people and their selected representative in the new Iranian parliament are far more aware of, and have an aversion to America’s ploys and the Deal, China and Russia must do their part not only as guarantors of peace, but also to maintain their integrity in a world where both aspire to live in multilateralism.   The world already has a super power without morals and integrity; it does not need other great powers that act similarly.

Iran has fended off another assault on its sovereignty.  However,  saboteurs and terrorists are soliciting war with their recent string of terrorism in Iran.  As the fifth anniversary of this trap approaches, the world needs to understand and step up in order to defend peace, international law and social justice.   The future of all depends on it. 

And to American compatriots:  Make sure Trump understands war will not get him re-elected.

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich is an independent researcher and writer with a focus on U.S. foreign policy and the role of lobby groups in influencing US foreign policy. 

Intercontinental Wars – Part 2: The Counterattack

https://www.syrianews.cc/intercontinental-wars-part-2-the-counterattack/embed/#?secret=bnZ0gj7yPs

Intercontinental Wars – Part 3 The Open Confrontation

واشنطن تخسر الجولة الحاسمة حول الاتفاق النوويّ

ناصر قنديل

خلال لقاء جمعني خلال زيارتي لطهران، بوزير الخارجية الإيرانية الدكتور محمد جواد ظريف في مطلع شهر شباط الماضي، وفي لحظة تأزم حول الملف النووي، والتهديدات الأوروبية بنقل الأمر إلى مجلس الأمن الدولي، وفقاً لبنود الاتفاق بمنح الأطراف الموقعة على الاتفاق هذا الحق إذا وقعت مخالفات متمادية في تطبيقه من جانب أحد الموقعين. وكان مفوّض السياسة الخارجية الجديد الأوروبية جوزيب بوريل يغادر طهران بعد جولة محادثات، قال ظريف، إيران لن تخرج من الاتفاق مهما كانت الضغوط والاستفزازات، فسوف نجد ردوداً من ضمن الاتفاق لأن أحد أكبر المكاسب القانونية والسياسية لإيران من الاتفاق يستحق في شهر تشرين الأول، وهو رفع الحظر عن استيراد وتصدير السلاح منها وإليها، وهو أمر تلقائيّ وفقاً لنصوص الاتفاق ولا يحتاج إلى قرار من مجلس الأمن الدولي الذي صادق على الاتفاق، بل إن تجديد الحظر هو الذي يحتاج إلى قرار، تثق إيران ويعلم الأميركيون والأوروبيون أنه مستحيل في ظل فيتو روسي صيني، بالتمسك بمندرجات الاتفاق كنموذج لحل الخلافات الدولية بالطرق الدبلوماسية، وهو ما يعرفه الأوروبيون، ويعترفون به، لكنهم يجسّون نبض إيران، ويبحثون عن مخارج لا تضعهم في مواجهة مع أميركا من دون التفريط بالاتفاق النووي كمدخل لفرص اقتصادية واعدة، ولاستقرار سياسي وأمني موعود، ولذلك يسعى الأميركيون عبر الاستفزازات لإيصالنا إلى لحظة ضيق نخرج فيها من الاتفاق فنخسر هذا المكسب الكبير، لكننا لن نفعل مهما قلنا في سياق التصعيد إن خيار الخروج من الاتفاق وارد، والكلام يومها لم يكن للنشر طبعاً، لكنه اليوم بات من المفيد وضعه في التداول، فكل شيء قد بلغ النهايات.

بالأمس كان الموعد في مناقشات مجلس الأمن الدولي حول الطلب الأميركي بتجديد حظر السلاح على إيران، وكانت المواقف واضحة بتحميل واشنطن مسؤولية زعزعة مسار تطبيق الاتفاق عبر الانسحاب الأحادي. ولم يكن الأمر محصوراً بما قاله مندوبا روسيا والصين، بل أظهرت مواقف غالبية الأعضاء تقديراً للالتزام الإيراني بالاتفاق وموجباته، رغم الانسحاب الأميركي وتشديد العقوبات على إيران، وبدت المواقف الأوروبية الرافضة لتجديد الحظر بصفته إعلان سقوط للاتفاق، أقرب لموقف كل من روسيا والصين ولو بلهجة أخرى. والحصيلة خسارة أميركية مدوّية، وانتصار دبلوماسي نوعي لصالح إيران، التي سيكون بمستطاعها عقد صفقات شراء وبيع الأسلحة من دون تعقيدات قانونية أممية، والكلام الأميركي كان واضحاً لجهة وجود تفاهمات إيرانية مع كل من روسيا والصين على صفقات سلاح كبيرة، في ظل امتلاك إيران لبرامج تطوير صاروخي يحظى بدعم دبلوماسي صيني وروسي، وسيحظى وفق الاتهامات الأميركية بالمزيد من الدعم التقني واللوجستي بعد رفع حظر السلاح، وتحوّل الحركة الأميركية إلى طلقة طائشة في الهواء، رغم الحشد الإعلامي الذي قامت به حكومات الخليج وحكومة كيان الاحتلال لصالح تظهير خطورة رفع الحظر عن إيران.

بعد تشرين الأول إيران ستمضي سريعاً في تنمية مقدراتها العسكرية، وستصبح أشد منعة، وأكثر قدرة على توجيه التهديدات، وستفرض حضوراً عسكرياً كقوة أولى في المنطقة، لا يمكن تحدّيها، وما هي إلا شهور قليلة وتمضي، فكيف ستتصرّف إدارة الرئيس دونالد ترامب مع دروس هذه الجولة، في ظل انسداد الخيارات العسكرية، وانعدام فرص تحقيق أي تراجع لإيران وقوى المقاومة مهما بلغ الحصار وتمادت سياسات التجويع عبر تشديد العقوبات، وفي ظل تراجع فرص الرئيس دونالد ترامب في الفوز بولاية رئاسية ثانية بعد تقدّم منافسه جو بايدن عليه بـ 14% من أصوات الناخبين وفقاً لاستطلاعات الرأي؟

المنطقة وفي قلبها لبنان على موعد مع الكثير من المفاجآت، خلال المئة يوم المقبلة، وكل حدث قابل للتحوّل إلى باب للتصعيد أو إلى باب للتفاوض، وإمكانيات الانزلاق للمواجهة شديدة السيولة بلا ضوابط، وإمكانيات فتح الأبواب لتفاهمات قائمة، وصمود محور المقاومة وقواه ومجتمعات الدول التي يتحرّك على ساحاتها ستزداد مؤشراته في الاقتصاد كما استعداداته في الميدان، رغم الضجيج والتهويل والحديث عن الانهيار، وربما يحمل شهر أيلول الإشارات الأهم في الدلالة على وجهة الأحداث في اللعب على حافة الهاوية.

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What is China really doing with its digital Yuan?

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What is China really doing with its digital Yuan?

June 28, 2020

by Chris Faure for the Saker Blog

Reserve currency, backing of a currency and value of the financial systems that distribute a currency.

Its going to take years for the US dollar as reserve currency to fully reduce in importance and of course, the US should continue to use their currency as their own even when it changes into a normal currency. Yet there are financial technologies (FinTech) which may accelerate this process via leapfrogging and I would argue that from a Chinese perspective this is happening. (Leapfrogging is easiest understood by looking at an older example: slower developing countries without a well developed terrestrial telephone system, where these countries leapfrogged the building of a terrestrial system, and directly went to cellular telephone technological networks without loss of function.)

Let’s first take a look at some general concepts:

The fact of ownership of financial systems is very powerful. There is value in the currency that the financial system produces, and there is value in the system itself.

The value proposition is similar but differently done in cryptocurrencies and in digital currencies. The backing frequently lies in the system itself, and not as many think, in a hard asset such as gold. This is a large step to take in thinking for most people, as the idea generally still is that money has to be something that is tangible and real – like gold (or cowrie shells). But it is not such a big step to take if one considers that the act of money creation, production and distribution of currency itself is modernizing and is developing on the same trajectory that the rest of our technological and currently digital society is developing in.

As an example, compare the development of current money distribution systems and the new Financial Technologies (FinTech) with fully automated manufacturing plants for example, where the product coming off the production line is as a result of the technological system. Money is the same, it has to be manufactured, distributed or created or somehow brought into being and these systems are now modernizing, just the same as modern fully automated manufacturing.

The current financial systems belong to the west and banking systems technology is expensive, old, legacy, decrepit and not friendly to the ordinary person, not to mention very hard to maintain. Even the ubiquitous credit cards are now old technology and fast becoming deprecated technology and being replaced by wallets on cell phones that work like supermarket scanners.

It is often speculated that China will back their digital Yuan with gold. This is not an accurate speculation. The backing is the same as with other digital and cryptocurrencies, i.e., the work that the system provides to create the financial transactions in the financial ledger confirms that the transaction is secure and someone actually owns digital currency, they can pay for goods or sell goods and they can do it much easier and incredibly cheaper via a scan of a cell phone or other digital device.

The difference between China’s digital Yuan and common crytocurrencies is the ownership of the system. In modern independent cryptocurrencies the system (the technology) is owned by those that use the cryptocurrency – it is open source. Obviously for the digital Yuan ownership of the system lies with the Chinese State. The digital Yuan though retains the strength of other cryptocurrencies. It is secure transactions, tamper proof, immediate, inexpensive, easily distributed, can cross borders and all this by virtue of being a distributed blockchain system. The easiest to explain a blockchain is that it is self-policing because of technology of consensus algorithms that verify the efficacy of financial transactions. Blockchain very simply stated is blocks of financial transactions that are algorithmically created, are by definition encrypted, and chained together in such a way that nobody can meddle with any one of them.

To recap:

– The digital Yuan is not a cryptocurrency. It is a state issued digital electronic currency that happens to run on a blockchain (the FinTech).

– As the Chinese digital yuan is not and will not be backed by gold at least in our term (it is backed by the strength of the yuan as well as its system), we may well ask what the objective is of this currency.

Is it just a cute technological way of using money?

I would argue absolutely not.

Internationalization of the Yuan

Few realize the extent of the internationalization of the Yuan. As example, 20% of French trade with China is currently settled in Yuan and this is 55% of payments made between both countries. The Macron government is encouraging banks and companies to increase Yuan uptake.

I would argue that the digital yuan is a part of the 5th plank of the Belt and Road process of facilitating cross border investments and supply chain cooperation (perhaps not openly stated).  If one takes into consideration that belt and road is operating now in infrastructure development and investments in nearly 70 countries and international organizations – this is not such a difficult leap to make.

So how can that bold statement be supported? It may be hard for people in countries with old financial systems (the US would be one), to even imagine the new FinTech operating in many other countries. Where I live, I can go to the local corner store, and literally send cash money to someone on the other side of the country, and they will have it immediately. I don’t have to go to a bank, do a bank transfer, send a check, or interact with a bank or a type of Paypal at all. This is a service that the corner store offers at a very reasonable cost. I can also do this directly from my cell phone. We know that in China there is little use for hard currency, and most transactions take place on internal Chinese financial networks and cell phones for the average person, but business finance still flows through banks.

So, let’s start supporting that bold statement

  • The Chinese authorities added Crypto (cryptographic as well as cryptocurrency) to the School Curriculum – quite literally ‘educating the future’ in new FinTech.

https://cointelegraph.com/news/chinese-communist-party-adds-crypto-to-curriculum

  • In reality the distribution of the new Chinese Digital Yuan is proceeding apace. In size, the following is not a massive deal, but in construction of the agreement, this is probably the number one of the new Chinese Digital Yuan Deals and is pure modern FinTech.

China Baowu Group, the world’s largest iron and steel complex, completed a yuan-denominated, blockchain-technology-based transaction of more than 100 million yuan ($14 million) with Rio Tinto …, a move signaling the rising influence of Chinese currency in pricing major commodities.

Standard Chartered issued a blockchain-technology-powered letter of credit for the Baowu-Rio Tinto deal, which the bank said was the world’s first such certificate pegged with offshore yuan.

The use of blockchain technology – a digital public ledger of transactions that has seen increased usage in the global commodity trade – helped facilitate the trade and reduced costs for all parties involved in the transaction …”.

https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1188131.shtml

So, what can we learn from this transaction?

This is not only a further distribution of the Yuan, but is a further distribution of the digital Yuan. While we do not know how this deal is constructed in detail, the use of the words blockchain-technology-powered letter of credit says it all. It looks like this deal will run completely on a blockchain, in the form commonly known as a smart contract, where each step of the deal and its payment schedule in digital currency are transactions on a blockhain. (Now try and skim off that transaction where the rules are hardcoded at the outset with technical principles of consensus pre-programmed in the smart contract and agreements signed directly on contract existent on the blockchain– those that know project management, will know the value of a self-documenting project).

  • the “Moodies

In addition China has become the ranker of record for private cryptocurrency projects.

The health of financial systems or countries are ranked by three major ranking agencies. These are S&P Global Ratings (S&P), Moody’s, and Fitch Group. S&P and Moody’s are based in the US, while Fitch is dual-headquartered in New York City and London, and is controlled by Hearst. These organizations hold the collective global market share of who can be considered good, and who can be considered bad in the global financial system. Not too healthy in my opinion as this is a disproportionate western control over the financial well-being of other countries.

So, as the proverbial quote from Buckminster Fuller states: “You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.

The old banking and financial systems are indicative of the existing reality and are old, decrepit, ancient technology, needs a bunch of maintenance, and the worst is that they are of course owned by those that use them as weapons against others.

China is doing no less than building a new model in FinTech that will make the old model obsolete and in this way they are simply leapfrogging the current financial systems distributing the dollar with fast, lean and modern systems supporting the Financial Silk Road. They have made their own ranking system in new FinTech, i.e., cryptocurrencies. The June rankings are as follows:

Quite rightly the Asiatimes is asking .. Who is actually decoupling from Whom? And I can add, and using modern FinTech to do so with solutions appropriate contextually to our modern world.

My own expectation is that the notable private cryptocurrency systems (those that actually make it to the Chinese ranking system) will eventually be able to exchange smoothly and seamlessly with the Chinese Digital Yuan.

A quick look for the same trajectory, leapfrogging legacy systems, outside of FinTech

We see this creation of seamless new systems outside of hard FinTech as well. Here are three examples. The current hegemon in its common ‘break it’ style, made errors as it thinks if it breaks something, people will come back begging, to make a new plan. This is not happening any longer, and the world simply decouples and creates new systems, as we see from three seminal events and the hegemon further losing its power base.

– The US attacked the WTO on the basis of refusing to allow it to vote for and institute staff for the appeals body for trade disputes. Usually this would have taken many meetings to solve. This time, what happened is that China has joined 18 other members including the European Union, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong in launching a temporary system for trade disputes at the World Trade Organization, with the agency’s appeal body having ceased to function in December after the United States blocked appointments of new judges to the top trade court.

The needed functionality is now still there, the US having excluded itself (actually shot itself in the foot), while the rest of the world moved forward saying we need this body, and we will have this body, with or without hegemon. The Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA) was developed in just over three months, after the members announced at the World Economic Forum in January that they would seek to form a new body to work around the demise of the regular WTO panel.

From a combined statement by the European Union: The new system is designed to preserve the principle enshrined in international trade law that governments have the right to appeal in any dispute.

https://www.scmp.com/economy/global-economy/article/3082748/china-eu-join-19-member-temporary-global-trade-dispute

– Most readers of this blog will know how the US is trying to carve out for itself some way back to the JPCOA, the Iran agreement, after simply breaking this agreement. It is proving to be not so easy to walk this one back and so far, they have lost their power base. Do-overs are not so easy in terms of diplomacy, after one has squandered the world’s goodwill and Iran is receiving widespread help to overcome the results of any further sanctions.

It is no wonder then that the EU policy chief made this statement: US century ceding to Asian one, says EU foreign policy chief. https://tass.com/world/1160031

– The third event is the US stunt at the recent Vienna arms control talks. The US stealthily placed Chinese flags, took photos and posted media – then accused China of being a no-show, knowing full well that China declined to attend these talks and refuses to be roped into an agreement that is not in the least appropriate for it. Clear petulance is the hegemon’s only response to a visible decoupling of the world with the US and western cronies. They have nothing more left than petulance and literal pictures of false flagging to offer.

So, it is clear that both inside and outside of hard FinTech which this writing is about, the trajectory of recreating systems and simply leaving the US out, is alive and well.

A small note on Iran and Venezuela as part of the empire resistance countries. Iran is mining cryptocurrency and Venezuela floated theirs, namely the Petro. Unfortunately (and this is not the focus of this writing), they did not do that cleverly but the newest news is that the Venezuelan government is now beginning to trade in cryptocurrencies, and for example, accepting current private chain cryptos for payment for passports. Bear in mind I said that some private chain cryptos will eventually be exchanged with the digital Yuan, so, very soon now, if a government takes payment in a crypto, they will have digital Yuan if they decide to exchange – and they do not need anyone’s permission (Like a Central Bank).

What is the Chinese View

With ‘the moodies’ rating system, cryptography education in China, a clear project based on the digital yuan and blockchain technology and more to follow, it becomes clear that the Yuan and the digital Yuan is being moved into the global financial sphere, de facto without years of negotiation and agreements and trade type negotiations. My expectation then is that certain cryptography and cryptocurrencies will eventually be seamlessly exchanged on China’s blockchain(s) – and you will have a digital yuan wallet on your phone, or on your computer or even a credit card supporting and in this way, you and I could be right on the Belt and Road. In other words, if I want to use a cryptocurrency to pay for something, and I have digital Yuan or another crypto, I can simply, within my electronic wallet exchange for the right currency that I need. This is how China is distributing their Digital Yuan de facto.

What is the Russian view

Russia is still a little behind this revolution in FinTech. but with one fell swoop they can get rid of their central bank if they so choose. The Russian Central bank is following Western ways on the renewal of currency through their central bank. https://cointelegraph.com/news/russias-central-bank-seeks-to-ban-crypto-issuance-and-circulation.

Yet, the decoupling continues. It is interesting to wait to see if the 5 UN security council countries will in fact gather for the summit that Mr. Putin invited them to. My expectation is that if they don’t, Putin will run out of patience and choose others, perhaps the G20 or something new. The decoupling will continue.

We now have clear precedence set on the decoupling part of FinTech and other organizations. It is no longer a big deal to decouple from empire.

What is the Western view?

Forbes stated recently that the launch of the Digital Yuan could create serious problems for the U.S. banking system—potentially forcing the U.S. to digitalize the dollar to compete. The Federal Reserve has warned that central bank digital currencies might one day replace commercial banks, creating “a deposit monopolist” and playing “havoc” with the banking system. (This seemed to me somewhat like gobbeldy-gook and is meaningless – yet, they know something is happening.)

The West is 20 years behind this technology, because China decided to leapfrog and not follow the accepted development trajectory and as such has reconfigured the potentials for the entire planet.

It is high time and in the words of Michael Hudson: “So the United States, through the World Bank, has become I think the most dangerous, right-wing, evil organization in modern history — more evil than the IMF. That’s why it’s almost always been run by a Secretary of Defense. It has always been explicitly military. It’s the hard fist of American imperialism.”

The world is leapfrogging, and elegantly zig-zagging around current imperial financial systems, for a true birth of a new post capitalist post industrial order, without going to war for it.

US To Witness Another Global Support For JCPOA At UN Security Council Meeting: Iran’s Envoy

Source

US To Witness Another Global Support For JCPOA At UN Security Council Meeting: Iran’s Envoy

By Staff, IRNA

Iran’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi said the US will hear once again the world supporting the July 2015 nuclear deal at the UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday.

Ravanchi made the remarks in an interview held in New York, US, with IRNA on Tuesday.

In his remarks, the ambassador underlined that the US effort to extend arms embargo against Iran is in complete contradiction with the UN Resolution 2231.

Resolution 2231 [2015] urges full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] on the timetable set by the Deal and sets forth the next steps for the eventual removal of Security Council sanctions on Iran.

The international community is after implementation of the JCPOA and following the Resolution 2231, the ambassador stressed, adding that the UN chief and many world leaders have repeatedly expressed their willingness to witness the implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Such willingness indicates that the world is against the US stance on the issue, the senior diplomat noted.

Iran and the six world powers- US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany- signed a landmark nuclear agreement, aka JCPOA, on July 14, 2015, after months of intensive talks.

But the US withdrew unilaterally from the deal on May 8, 2018, and imposed sanctions on Iran at the highest level of its kind.

Related

In tortured logic, Trump begs for a do-over on the Iran nuclear deal

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Written by Tyler Cullis and Trita Parsi

Even the Trump administration seems to grudgingly have concluded that breaching the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) was a mistake. More than two years after the U.S. exit, the deal still stands while the Trump administration is running out of options to force a re-negotiation. It is now so desperate it is seeking to convince the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that it never quit the deal in the first place. The lesson to the U.S. is clear: Diplomatic vandalism carries costs — even for a superpower. The lesson to a prospective President Joe Biden is more specific: Rejoin the nuclear deal, don’t try to renegotiate it.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims that UNSC Resolution 2231 defines the term “JCPOA participant” to be inclusive of the United States, and nothing the United States could do or has done can change this supposed legal fact.  According to Pompeo, even though the Trump administration repeatedly referred to its “withdrawal” from the JCPOA as a “cessation of its participation” in the agreement, UNSCR 2231 continues to define the United States as a “JCPOA participant” that can invoke the resolution’s sanctions snapback mechanism. 

The snapback permits a “JCPOA participant” to provide notification to the Security Council of a case of significant non-performance by a party to the agreement, triggering the automatic re-institution of former Security Council sanctions resolutions targeting Iran. No Russian or Chinese veto can prevent the reimposition of the sanctions contained in those resolutions. Only a resolution agreed to within 30 days that would undo the snapback — but the U.S. has the ability to veto such a resolution.

This is why the Obama administration cherished the snapback — if Iran were to renege on its nuclear commitments, the reimposition of sanctions would be swift and automatic. 

But this leverage was lost when Trump abandoned the deal in 2018 (the Presidential memoranda announcing the decision was even titled “Ceasing U.S. Participation in the JCPOA”). A senior Iranian diplomat told us at the time that Tehran was shocked that Trump would forgo this advantage. 

Now Trump is begging for a do-over. Despite the legal debate over Pompeo’s interpretation of UNSCR 2231, Trump’s gambit will prove less a legal question than a political one. The issue is not so much whether the United States remains a “JCPOA participant,” but whether the other members of the Security Council — and most prominently, its permanent members — will recognize the United States as such and allow Trump to issue a reverse veto to ensure the full re-imposition of U.N. sanctions on Iran. 

That is less likely to happen — and for an obvious reason: the Trump administration has spent the last three years squandering any international goodwill towards the United States, abandoning international agreements, strong-arming allies, and cozying up to dictators. It has threatened and cajoled its European allies to abandon legitimate trade with Iran or risk the wrath of punishing U.S. sanctions — all for the purpose of killing a fully functioning nuclear agreement that Europe views as essential to its security. Trump will need the sympathy of Europe’s permanent members to the Security Council. But no sympathy is likely to be forthcoming.

But even if Europe were to succumb to Trump’s pressure, it is unclear what objectives stand to be achieved. If, as Trump and his allies fear, a Biden administration would rejoin the nuclear accord, the snapback of U.N. sanctions is unlikely to pose a significant impediment to doing so, other than raising the cost to the United States for a return to the JCPOA. Nothing would prevent a President Biden to support the immediate reinstitution of UNSCR 2231. 

The danger, instead, is that Iran, having witnessed the malicious use of the snapback, will demand that any future resolution drop the snapback procedure. Considering that Iran will be weighing the merits of leaving the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and terminating its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a result of the U.N. snapback, the Biden administration would likely be forced to choose between eating that cost or escalating militarily against Iran in its first months in office. 

This underscores the real reason for Trump’s move: the U.S. is out of leverage when it comes to Iran. While U.S. sanctions have decimated Iran’s economy, they have not forced Iran to accede to Trump’s demands. Iran has neither begged for talks nor abandoned the JCPOA. Its posture remains essentially the same, immune to Trump’s best efforts to cause it to lash out to international approbation. 

Though immense pain, Iran has sapped the U.S. of its leverage while keeping its own intact. Tehran can (and has) scale back its commitments to the JCPOA in response to Trump’s actions, it can abandon the JCPOA or even withdraw from the NPT and terminate its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. These, and other options, remain in Iran’s arsenal, unused for the time being but ready to be deployed should the U.S. continue on its path of diplomatic vandalism. 

This is why Biden must dispel with any illusion that he can seek a renegotiation of the JCPOA on the back of Trump’s sanctions. If a Biden administration were to signal to Tehran that it will not seek a clean return to the JCPOA, then Iran will begin using the leverage it has kept in store.

If Trump succeeds in snapping back U.N. sanctions, Biden would not even be able to leverage the risk to Iran in international isolation, as Iran would be already isolated internationally by virtue of the U.N. sanctions. Biden’s sole recourse would be to threaten war with Iran — a terrible prospect for an incoming administration that will be fighting off a deadly pandemic, resuscitating a depressed economy, and operating under the promise of being different from Trump.

Trump overplayed his hand by thinking he could renegotiate the nuclear deal and is now begging for a do-over. Candidate Biden should take note and signal clearly already now that he does not intend to repeat this mistake.

Why Iran won’t be broken

June 26, 2020

Why Iran won’t be broken

Submitted by Pepe Escobar – source Asia Times

So what’s goin’ on in Iran? How did the Islamic Republic really respond to Covid-19? How is it coping with Washington’s relentless “maximum pressure”?

These questions were the subject of a long phone call I placed to Prof. Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran – one of Iran’s premier, globally recognized analysts.

As Marandi explains, “Iran after the revolution was all about social justice. It set up a very elaborate health care network, similar to Cuba’s, but with more funding. A large hospital network. When the coronavirus hit, the US was even preventing Iran to get test kits. Yet the system – not the private sector – managed. There was no full shutdown. Everything was under control. The numbers – even contested by the West – they do hold. Iran is now producing everything it needs, tests, face masks. None of the hospitals are full.”

Expanding Marandi’s observations, Tehran-based journalist Alireza Hashemi notes, “Iran’s wide primary healthcare system, comprising public clinics, health houses and health centers is available in thousands of cities and villages”, and that enabled the government to “easily offer basic services”.

As Hashemi details, “the Health Ministry established a Covid-19 call center and also distributed protective equipment supplied by relief providers. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei ordered the armed forces to help – with the government deploying 300,000 soldiers and volunteers to disinfect streets and public places, distribute sanitizers and masks and conduct tests.”

It was the Iranian military that established production lines for producing face masks and other equipment. According to Hashemi, “some NGOs partnered with Tehran’s chamber of commerce to create a campaign called Nafas (“breath”) to supply medical goods and provide clinical services. Iran’s Farabourse, an over-the-counter stock market in Tehran, established a crowd funding campaign to purchase medical devices and products to help health workers. Hundreds of volunteer groups – called “jihadi” – started producing personal protective equipment that had been in short supply in seminaries, mosques and hussainiyas and even natural fruit juices for health workers.”

This sense of social solidarity is extremely powerful in Shi’ite culture. Hashemi notes that “the government loosened health-related restrictions over a month ago and we have been experiencing a small slice of normality in recent weeks.” Yet the fight is not over. As in the West, there are fears of a covid-19 second wave.

Marandi stresses the economy, predictably, was hurt: “But because of the sanctions, most of the hurt had already happened. The economy is now running without oil revenue. In Tehran, you don’t even notice it. It’s nothing compared to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Turkey or the UAE. Workers from Pakistan and India are leaving the Persian Gulf in droves. Dubai is dead. So, in comparison, Iran did better in dealing with the virus. Moreover, harvests last year and this year have been positive. We are more self-reliant.”

Hashemi adds a very important factor: “The Covid-19 crisis was so massive that people themselves have pitched in with effort, revealing new levels of solidarity. Individuals, civil society groups and others have set up a range of initiatives seeking to help the government and health workers on the front line of countering the pandemic.”

What a relentless Western disinformation campaign always ignores is how Iran after the revolution is used to extremely critical situations, starting with the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Marandi and Hashemi are adamant: for older Iranians, the current economic crisis pales in comparison with what they had to put up with throughout the 1980s.

Made in Iran soars

Marandi’s analysis ties up the economic data. In early June, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht – responsible for planning Iran’s state budgets – told the Majlis (Parliament) that the new normal was “to sideline oil in the economy and run the country’s programs without oil.”

Nobakht stuck to the numbers. Iran had earned just $8.9 billion from the sale of oil and related products in 2019-20, down from a peak of $119 billion less than a decade ago.

The whole Iranian economy is in transition. What’s particularly interesting is the boom in manufacturing – with companies focusing way beyond Iran’s large domestic market towards exports. They are turning the massive devaluation of the rial to their advantage.

In 2019-20, Iran’s non-oil exports reached $41.3 billion. That exceeded oil exports for the first time in Iran’s post-revolutionary history. And roughly half of these non-oil exports were manufactured goods. Team Trump’s “maximum pressure” via sanctions may have led to total non-oil exports going down – but only by 7%. The total remains near historic highs.

According to Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data published by the Iran Chamber of Commerce, private sector manufacturers were seriously back in business already in the first month following the relaxation of the partial lockdown.

The fact is Iranian consumer goods and industrial products – everything from cookies to stainless steel – are exported by small and medium enterprises to the wider Middle East and also to Central Asia, China and Russia. The myth of Iranian “isolation” is, well, a myth.

Some new manufacturing clusters bode well for the future. Take titanium – essential for myriad applications in military, aerospace, marine industries and industrial processes. The Qara-Aghaj  mine in Urmia, the provincial capital of West Azarbaijan, which is part of Iran’s mineral belt, including the country’s largest gold reserves, has tremendous potential.

Iran features in the Top 15 of mineral-rich countries. In January, after getting the technology for deep-level mining, Tehran launched a pilot project for extraction of rare earth minerals.

Still, Washington pressure remains as relentless as the Terminator.

In January, the White House issued yet another executive order targeting the “construction, mining, manufacturing, or textiles sectors of the Iranian economy.” So Team Trump is targeting exactly the booming private sector – which means, in practice, countless Iranian blue-collar workers and their families. This has nothing to do with forcing the Rouhani administration to say, “I can’t breathe”.

The Venezuelan front

Apart from a few scuffles between the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Health Ministry about China’s response to Covid-19, the Iran-China “comprehensive strategic partnership” (CSP) remains on track.

The next big test is actually in September. That’s when Team Trump wants to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran. Add to it the threat to trigger the snapback mechanism inbuilt in UNSC resolution 2231 – if other Security Council members refuse to support Washington and let the embargo expire for good in October.

China’s mission at the UN has stressed the obvious. The Trump administration unilaterally abandoned the JCPOA. Then it reimposed unilateral sanctions. Thus it has no right to extend the arms embargo or go for the snapback mechanism against Iran.

China, Russia and Iran are the three key nodes of Eurasia integration. Politically and diplomatically, their key decisions tend to be taken in concert. So it’s no wonder that was reiterated last week in Moscow at the meeting of Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov and Javad Zarif – who get along famously.

Lavrov said, “We will be doing everything so that no one can destroy these agreements. Washington has no right to punish Iran.”

Zarif for his part described the whole juncture as “very dangerous”.

Additional conversations with Iranian analysts reveal how they interpret the regional geopolitical chessboard, calibrating the importance of the axis of resistance (Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, Hezbollah) in comparison with two other fronts: the US and its “stooges” (the House of Saud, UAE, Egypt), the master – Israel – and also Turkey and Qatar, which, like Iran, but unlike the “stooges”, favor political Islam (but of the Sunni variety, that is, the Moslem Brotherhood).

One of these analysts, pen name Blake Archer Williams, significantly remarks, “the main reason Russia holds back from helping Iran (mutual trade is almost at zero) is that it fears Iran. If Trump does not have a Reagan moment and does not prevail on Iran, and the US is in any event driven out of the Middle East by the continuing process of Iran’s weapons parity and its ability to project power in its own pond, then all of the oil of the Middle East, from the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, to Iraq, of course, and not least to the oilfields in Saudi Arabia’s Qatif region (where all the oil is and is 100% Shi’ite), will come under the umbrella of the axis of resistance.”

Still, Russia-China continue to back Iran on all fronts, for instance rebuking the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for giving in to US “bullying” – as the IAEA’s board last week passed a resolution submitted by France, Britain and Germany criticizing Iran for the first time since 2012.

Another key foreign policy front is Venezuela. Tehran’s soft power, in quite a spectacular manner keenly observed all across the Global South, de facto ridiculed Washington’s sanctions/blockade in its own Monroe Doctrine “backyard”, when five Iranian tankers loaded with gasoline successfully crossed the Atlantic and were received by a Venezuelan military escort of jets, helicopters, and naval patrols.

That was in fact a test run. The Oil Ministry in Tehran is already planning a round two of deliveries to Caracas, sending two or three cargos full of gasoline a month. That will also help Iran to offload its huge domestically produced fuel.

The historic initial shipment was characterized by both sides as part of a scientific and industrial cooperation, side by side with a “solidarity action”.

And then, this past week, I finally confirmed it. The order came directly from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. In his own words: “The blockade must be broken”. The rest is – Global South – history in the making.

Iran Is Not A Victim, It Is One of The Most Influential and Strong-Minded Nations on Earth

By Andre Vltchek

Source

Soleimani Iran Hero 26624

When facing mortal danger, its people unite, harden themselves and get ready to face invaders, no matter how threatening they might be.

Iran is home to one of the oldest and deepest cultures in the world, and it’s precisely this culture that helps Iranian people to survive the most frightening moments.

And one such moment is sadly, right now.

US battleships are sailing right next to the Iranian territorial waters. One mistake, one false move, and war could erupt, engulfing the entire region in flames. Iran is a proud nation, and it takes its independence extremely seriously.

Right now, the country is facing one of the most unjust embargos in human history. It is being punished for nothing; or more precisely, for sticking to all the points of the agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also known as The Iran Nuclear Deal, which it signed in 2015 with China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany, and which the United States abandoned, without providing any logical explanation. While not particularly happy about the U.S. withdrawal; Germany, France and U.K. are doing all they can not to anger their senior partner, and its leaders in Washington.

Add COVID-19, and inability of the country, due to sanctions, to buy medical equipment, at least in the West, and you have the perfect scenario for a national calamity and even for imminent collapse.

Or more precisely, anywhere else this would be the case, but not in Iran!

After receiving terrible blows from the West, one after another, Iran has never fallen to its knees. It has never abandoned its internationalist and socialist course (socialist, with Iranian characteristics), and it has preserved its dignity.

What it has managed to achieve is amazing, nothing short of heroic, given the circumstances.

If you look at the latest, 2019 HDI (Human Development Index, compiled and published by the UNDP), Iran is in the High Human Development bracket, and only 3 steps from the Highest Human Development group of countries. Which is thoroughly amazing, given the above-mentioned sanctions, embargos and constant military intimidations.

Whenever I visit Iran, I am astonished by its public spaces, cultural institutions, public transportation, fountains, comfortable trains… The country is functioning well, showing incredible grace under pressure. Its television channel – PressTV – is one of the most important anti-imperialist news outlets in the world. I don’t see extreme misery, or homelessness, there. Iranians are polite, well-educated and proud. They have to deal with complex exchange rates, which I do not understand. Whenever I pay in a café or taxi, I simply extend my hand full of local currency, and I never get cheated. Things are solid and reassuring there; I feel it and really appreciate it.

Iran is an internationalist country. Not unlike Cuba or Venezuela, who are its long-term allies. Even when injured, itself, it helps others, those who need solidarity even more. This can never be forgotten, particularly in places like Latin America, or Syria.

Hezbollah, Iran’s close ally in the Middle East, is fighting the most dangerous terrorist groups in Syria; those groups that have been injected there by the West, but also by Washington’s allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey. But Hezbollah is also essentially the only social net for the poor in Syria’s neighbor – Lebanon. And not only for the Shi’a Muslims, but also for the disadvantaged Sunni citizens, for the Christians, and non-believers. Whoever is destitute in Lebanon, comes to Hezbollah, for assistance. I was based in Beirut for five years, and I know what I am talking about. All this, while the Lebanese elites are burning money in Paris, in Nice, in the nightclubs of Beirut, driving their lavish cars through the slums. And the more Iran and Hezbollah help the region, the more frustrated, outraged and aggressive the West gets.

Look at Palestine. When it comes to the liberation of the Palestinian people from the long and brutal Israeli occupation, the Gulf countries just talk and talk. In the end, some of them side with the West and Israel. The closest, the most determined allies of the long-suffering Palestinian people in the region, are, without doubt, Iran and Syria. That, everybody in the Middle East, knows, and it is only “a secret” to Westerners.

In Afghanistan, particularly in Herat, I witnessed long lines of Afghan people in front of the Iranian consulate. Devastated by the NATO occupation, Afghanistan is in despair, rated as a country with the shortest life expectancy in Asia, and the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) on the Asian continent. Tens of thousands of Afghan people have been traveling to Iran in search of jobs. Without Iran, Herat would most likely starve to death. And now, Iran is searching for ways, (together with China and Russia), how to help Afghanistan to find a political solution, and send the NATO forces packing.

For years, all the Socialist countries of Latin America, could always rely on Iran. Be it Bolivia, before the legitimate government of Evo Morales was overthrown, or Cuba and especially Venezuela. Iran has been building social housing, it was helping with oil technology, and with many other social essentials.

Iraq and Iran, two great nations, in the past brutally pitched against each other by Washington, are once again cooperating, working together. The Western occupation has already thoroughly ruined Iraq (as it has ruined Afghanistan), historically one of the richest countries in the region. However, more positively Iran gets involved in neighboring Iraq, the more aggressively the West behaves. It now habitually crosses all the lines of acceptable behavior. In January 2020, a U.S. drone strike murdered Iran’s national hero, General Quasem Soleimani, while he was traveling right near the Baghdad International Airport.

For years now, Iran has been standing shoulder to shoulder with Russia, China, Syria, Venezuela and Cuba; the nations which are openly and bravely deterring the aggression and brutality of Western imperialism.

It seems that no matter what the West tries to do, Iran cannot be broken. Despite the embargos and sanctions, it demonstrates that it is capable of producing and shooting satellites into space, or of producing its own medical equipment to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. While the nation creates its great scientific and technological achievements, Iranian filmmakers keep producing their cinematic masterpieces. What a nation!

Unfortunately, all this is hidden from the eyes and ears of the public, both in the West, and in the client states. There, Iran is portrayed as a “threat”.

Look at this irony. On April 30, 2020, Reuters released a report about the German move to ban Hezbollah:

“Last December, Germany’s parliament approved a motion urging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to ban all activities by Hezbollah on German soil, citing its “terrorist activities” especially in Syria.

On a trip to Berlin last year, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped Germany would follow Britain in banning Hezbollah. Britain introduced legislation in February of last year that classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.”

When the West says “Terrorist activities, especially in Syria”, what it really means is “fighting the terrorism injected by the West and its allies, into Syria”. Everything is twisted, perverted and turned upside-down by the propaganda outlets operating out of the United States, Europe, Israel and the Gulf.

“Terrorist activities” outside Syria, also means supporting the Palestinian struggle for independence, as well as at least moral support for Syria, in its attempts to regain the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, an occupation which has never been recognized, even by the United Nations. It also means helping Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Latin American countries, which are brutalized (or should we say ‘terrorized’), relentlessly, by Washington and its allies.

This is precisely the logic and lexicon which was used by German propagandists during WWII, to describe resistance forces in its colonies. Freedom fighters and partisans were labeled as terrorists, in France, Yugoslavia, Ukraine.

Even the otherwise mainstream newspaper – The Independent – published on May 1, 2020 a report critical of the bizarre US scheming against Iran:

“The United States is pushing ahead with a scheme to extend a United Nations arms embargo on Iran that is due to be lifted in October as part of the nuclear deal that Washington abandoned two years ago.

To force the extension, Washington will attempt to lobby the Security Council to continue the arms embargo, which bars weapons sales to or from Iran.

But it also is making what legal experts and diplomats describe as a convoluted argument that it is still part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action it left, and hence able to use one of its provisions to “snapback” the embargo.”

This weird political somersault has been, according to The Independent, criticized even by one of Washington’s allies, the French President Emmanuel Macron:

“China and Russia have already vowed to use any means to block the US plan. France’s Emmanuel Macron has been working behind the scenes to sabotage the Trump scheme because of what it sees as an attempt by the White House to destroy international legal norms, said a well-placed European diplomat.”

France, the UK, Germany and other EU countries are not necessarily happy with Washington’s foreign policy towards Iran, but their outrage is far from being moral indignation. Iran is big and it is far from being poor. European companies are losing billions of euros in trade, because of the sanctions. For instance, in the recent past, two Iranian airlines were ready to purchase large numbers of brand-new Airbus aircraft, in order to compete with Qatar Airways and the Emirates. Such plans collapsed, because of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, and the almost immediate imposition of new, senseless but brutal sanctions against Teheran. Now even Mahan Air, a civilian airline, is facing sanctions, allegedly because of its flights to Venezuela, and to several Middle Eastern destinations.

Now, many are perhaps wondering, what triggered, in the West, such hate towards Iran?

There is a well-hidden (again, in the West) secret regarding Iran: “It is a Socialist country. Socialist with Iranian characteristics.”

In his latest and by all means ground-breaking book about Iran (“Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism”), which our publishing house Badak Merah will be publishing later in May 2020, an Iranian author and the PressTV Paris chief correspondent, Ramin Mazaheri, passionately defends the Iranian socialist concept:

“I think that if open-minded leftists would simply become aware of the facts and… modern socialist interpretations of Iran’s policies – many of which I’m sure are being presented in English for the first time – I’m sure that they would not be waiting breathlessly for the collapse of the Middle East’s greatest bulwark against imperialism and capitalism.

It is urgent that Western leftists understand that the reversal of Iran’s popular, democratic revolution would have incredibly negative ramifications for the anti-imperialist movement in the Middle East, and thus the global anti-imperialist movement, and it certainly would be the cruelest loss for Islamic Socialism, which is taken quite seriously in the Muslim world even if atheistic Trotskyism cannot even discuss the concept without resorting to insults.

And, of course, a counter-revolution in Iran would be a major blow for global democracy, as there is no doubt that the Iranian People support their revolution, constitution and unique system in a democratic majority.”

Like Russia and China in Euro Asia and in Asia, like Venezuela, Cuba and before the coup, Bolivia, Iran is spreading hope and revolutionary optimism in its entire part of the world. And it is an extremely wounded part of the world, where hope is absent, but desperately needed.

Spreading hope – that is never forgiven by the Western empire, which, like some gigantic and sadistic prison warden, constantly demands submission, while spreading depression and fear.

In the entirety of modern history, Iran has never invaded, never attacked anyone. Iran is a peaceful nation. But at the same time, it is a powerful, brave and proud country.

The United States and its turbo-capitalist regime understand brutal force, only. They do not comprehend, do not appreciate cultural nuances, let alone depth. Pity! There is so much to learn from Iran and its culture.

Iran will not attack anyone, that is clear as is proven by history. But if physically confronted, it will defend itself, and its people. It will fight, well and bravely.

The West should know: if it triggers a war with Iran, the entire Middle East will be consumed by terrible fire.

Where Is Joe Biden?

by Lawrence Davidson 

May 2, 2020 

Part I—The Where Is Biden Question

Do you remember that classic puzzle bookWhere’s Waldo? It was first marketed in 1987 and placed Waldo, a tiny, oddly dressed, twenty-something figure amidst hundreds of other ordinary folks. The challenge was to find him in the crowd. Today the Waldo puzzle is still out there but, because in the latest version he is wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, he is not so hard to find. 

The Where’s Waldo? puzzle has recently lent its iconic title to a different question: “Where’s Joe Biden?” Because Biden is the prospective Democratic presidential nominee, this question denotes more than a puzzle game. Some argue that, despite the present contagious environment, Joe Biden should be a lot more visible than at present. Why so?

Well, it might be true that our present Republican president, the all too easy to find Donald Trump, is in the process of self-destructing. But given the often fickle state of mind of the American voter, the Democrats would be ill advised to just rely on the Republicans to defeat themselves. 

Part II—So Just Where is Joe Biden?

Thanks to an in-depth article in the New York Times (NYT), we do in fact know where Joe is. He is presently hunkered down at his home in Wilmington, Delaware—involuntarily cloistered in the basement due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, according to the NYT, Biden is not just twiddling his thumbs. 

Joe Biden is in an information-gathering mode. He has daily briefings via conference calls with chief aids and other advisers. The daily topics are invariably the state of the national economy; the state of the national health; and electoral strategy “seeking to map out the fall campaign and a potential administration.” Occupying only an occasional subject of discussion is the category of foreign policy. 

In the process, Biden seems to be presenting the picture of a sober elder statesman to be contrasted with the present erratic occupant of the White House. Whether the cloistered elder statesman image will cut it in an agitated age of pandemic, economic collapse, and global warming is something that is worrying a lot of Democrats. 

There can, of course, be no campaigning although Biden has experimented with virtual town halls and round tables). Unlike Trump, Biden hasn’t got a bully pulpit. Nor has he figured out how to replicate what can be called the Governor Cuomo phenomenon of drawing almost daily media attention to himself by the sheer public mastery of his circumstances. So, the Democratic leadership, never the most imaginative of pacesetters, seems to be content with casting a low-key virtual image.

There is another factor that keeps Biden secluded. The last thing the party leaders want is for the 77-year-old Biden to get sick (“rare outside visitors don masks and gloves as a safety measure”). A Corvid-crippled Joe would probably bring a Bernie Sanders candidacy back to center stage.

Part III—A Man for Our Time?

It appears that behind the scenes, Joe Biden is not optimistic about the nation’s near future, even if he wins the November election. “Before Mr. Biden entered his state of near-quarantine, he was telling associates that he feared the onset of a national catastrophe” in the form of  “another Great Depression.” This contrasts sharply with Donald Trump’s prediction that the economy will soon “come roaring back.” If the precipitous movement towards reopening the economy under Trump’s leadership backfires and triggers a national reinfection, Biden’s concern will prove much closer to the truth. Under such circumstances, he may very well win the presidency even if he never leaves his basement. 

And then what? Can Joe Biden be a man for our time? Can he be the leader who saves us all in this crises-ridden hour? Considering Biden’s political record, one has a hard time imagining this. 

There is a recently published (January 2020) book entitled Joe Biden, Yesterday’s Man. Written by Branko Marcetic, an investigative reporter and staff writer for Jacobin magazine, the book lays out Biden’s political biography. It argues that Biden’s political sensibility is that of a 1970s suburbanite. He sees his base as being a white middle class that has, in truth, shrunk and turned to the right. That process has, on occasion, led him to turn to the right (he has a record of sharp reversals on positions when subjected to heavy pressure). He has no problem taking corporate money (he told donors that with a Biden presidency “nothing fundamental will change for them”), and is the friend of many powerful lobbies. Biden is a politician whose lifelong self-image is that of a great conciliator—someone who believes he can work with all groups. In the 1970s, he cut political deals with segregationists in Congress so as to “get things done.” As Marcetic shows, what Biden got done at that time was putting a stop to busing as a method of desegregation. Biden seems to think he can now work with the Trump Republicans as well. Finally, as we will see below, he embraces most of the nation’s immoral foreign policy.

As it stands now, Biden’s ambition does not go any further than a naive desire to take the nation back to the time before Trump—“make it [America] like it used to be”. Two things can be said about this ambition. First, unfortunately, historical times cannot simply be reversed. Second, to limit your goal in this fashion means you fail to realize that “like it used to be” perforce embodies the problems that led to the “time of Trump” in the first place. Thus, Biden’s present thinking can only provide superficial and ultimately unsatisfactory answers to challenges facing both the U.S. and the world beyond. 

Part IV—Then there is Foreign Policy

Biden and his present advisers “largely embrace the core principles that have driven U.S. foreign policy for decades,” namely, the U.S. must lead the world, spread pseudo democracy, be loyal to its allies, etc. Here Biden is most often “yesterday’s man.”

Israel: Biden has been a loyal friend of Israel even during the tensions that arose when he was vice president under Obama. He has known Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for 30 years and considers him a good friend. As vice president, Biden once told Uzi Arad, one of Netanyahu’s advisers, “Just remember that I am your best fucking friend here.” 

If this holds true, what can one really expect from Biden the president? It would come as a surprise if Biden reversed Trump’s over-the-top embrace of the Zionist state. He has already said that, as president, he would not move the U.S. embassy out of Jerusalem. Even in the face of astronomical U.S. debt, Biden probably will still insist on giving billions of dollars to a Zionist state that, on multiple counts, stands in stark violation of international law.

Venezuela: It would appear that Biden would have little trouble following up on the Trump administration’s promotion of a rightist coup in Venezuela. For all intents and purposes he has backed Trump’s aggression in this arena and, of course, done so in the name of democracy.  

Iran: Biden says he continues to support the 2015 nuclear deal Obama helped negotiate with Iran—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, he does so from the stereotypical American view that Iran continues to be “a destabilizing factor in the Middle East.” As president, he claims that he will rejoin the agreement. This would certainly be a positive move, but don’t be surprised if the Iranians are a bit suspicious of Biden—after all, they too know his political biography.  

Part V—Conclusion

A conciliatory, mediocre leader, who has shown little ability to resist the will of lobbies and donors, might find greatness when forced to face novel challenges. But that does not happen very often, and from all we do know about Joe Biden, the odds are against him blossoming in this fashion. 

If elected, Biden will face three immediate challenges: (1) a nation struggling to overcome plague, (2) an economy in deep recession, and (3) a world climatically self-destructing (Biden’s record on climate change is “sketchy). According to the NYT, Joe Biden,secluded in his basement, is trying to prepare himself to meet these challenges. However—and here is the key factor—he is doing so as the machine politician he has always been—and that one-dimensionality will certainly help define the results. Trump might well be dethroned, but there will be no new and better world emerging under Joe Biden. When all is said and done, perhaps things will become less bad.

A Teleological Response to the Crash of the Price of West Texas Intermediate Oil as a Consequence of the Corona Virus

A Teleological Response to the Crash of the Price of West Texas Intermediate Oil as a Consequence of the Corona Virus

April 24, 2020

By Blake Archer Williams for The Saker Blog

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“God damn America, not God bless America!”

“If we can’t sell our oil,” the Iranians said, “you won’t be able to sell your oil [either]!” This turned out to be more of a prayer than a threat that was actually implemented.

The same prayer could be extrapolated for the economy: “If you want to destroy the economy of an entire nation with your barbaric ‘Maximum Pressure’ policy, then may your economy be destroyed instead!” And also with respect to safe air travel: “If you won’t let your Europoodles sell us their Airbus airplanes because they contain American avionics components; and if you won’t let Boeing sell us any of their airplanes once the JCPOA paved the way for such a deal, then may your airplanes be grounded, and may Boeing go bankrupt! And may global air travel be reduced down by more than 80%.”

As Obama’s erstwhile preacher Jeremiah Wright memorably said, “God damn America, not God bless America!” Amen, brother! This is the prayer of all of the people of Iran, the people of Syria, of Yemen, of Iraq, of Libya, of Bolivia, of Venezuela, of Cuba, of the Axis of Resistance, and of all of the peoples whose countries have been ruined or are victims in some way of the American imperium.

Télos

One of the major differences between the theistic worldview of Moslems and Christians on one hand, and that of the modern mindset and of pre-modern atheists revolves around the issue of whether there is such a thing as a ‘Final Cause’, which is the fourth of the four Aristotelian causes (material cause, formal cause, efficient cause, and final cause). Final or télosic cause is the ultimate purpose of the existence of a given object; it is its telos, or the end-term or ultimate purpose of a process that is goal-driven and goal-directed. In the theistic worldview, everything exists for an ultimate purpose, which is to play its part, however small, in the arrival at the eschaton, or at the Final Event in God’s Plan, which is the Day of Judgment: the day everyone will be judged for their deeds on Earth, and the day upon which the eternal fate of their souls shall be determined. Everything is drawn (as opposed to driven) towards God, who is in control of the whole process, which control includes allowing a certain volitional latitude to the sons and daughters of Adam for testing purposes. It is this observation of man’s volitional acts by God and His ultimate judgment of them that gives them meaning.

The atomistic materialistic atheistic view, on the other hand, holds that there is no God and there is no control. Rather than a centripetal motion being drawn to a singularity at the center of the process (as in a vortex), the forces of the universe are mechanical and centrifugal, driving everything outwards towards nowhere in particular and with no particular meaning or purpose. (I talked about this recently on a radio show hosted by Kevin Barrett. Those interested in learning more about the political system in Iran can listen to the show here, where I discuss the thesis of my 2017 book, Creedal Foundations of Walīyic Islam – How Shī’a Theology, Prophetology and Imamology give rise to the theory of Velayat-e Faqih).

And so if we were to subject the phenomenon of the Covid-19 virus to an analysis that includes such a dichotomy, while the materialist and atheistic perspective maintains that the occurrence of the virus, or at least its dispersion, is random and non-purposive, the theistic perspective might see the interference of the Hand of Providence in the big picture view of the phenomenon. Perhaps it is an answer to the prayers of the hundreds of millions of people who have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of “Christian” war pigs like Pompeo, and the “Jewish” war pig who heads the US Treasury Department, Steven Mnuchin, may they both be damned to Hell. Amen. Ditto the meathead Trump, of course.

This picture has been making the rounds on WhattsApp here in sunny Tehran.

The caption reads “An Artistic Impression of [the Meathead] Trump

More not Less Religious

Of course, there are conditions that prevent prayers from being answered. Perhaps if the authorities in Iran were a little more religious, their prayers would have been answered sooner. Perhaps if the Leader of the Revolution had used the facilities afforded by mass communication technology and had the tens of millions of people who poured out into the streets of the cities of Iran to bid farewell to their beloved Major General Qāsem Soleymānī to supplicate in unison for the ending of the American siege of the Shī’a Citadel, their prayers would have been answered sooner. The experiment in mass prayers has been carried out in Christian nations through the power of radio at least on one occasion that I know of, and that was conducted by George Noory, the host of the Coast to Coast radio show.

Much of the problems of modern man stem from his financial over-reach and his living beyond his actual means. And Iran is no exception (though of course the phenomenon is less pronounced in developing countries). Perhaps if the political order of Iran had eliminated the practice of their banks lending money with the policy that has come to be known as ‘fractional reserve’ banking where banks lend out more money than they actually have, their prayers would have been answered sooner. “By what right,” God will put the question to you, O bankers and Statesmen of modern governmental institutions, “did you lend money that you did not have? By what right did you create money out of thin air and create value and worth by fiat?? By what right did you de-couple the value of your national currency from real value, so that you could print money at will, making a mockery of the earnings of your citizens?” So the Islamic Revolution still has a long struggle ahead of it…

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Whether or not this virus is an answer to people’s prayers remains to be seen, especially with the effect it is going to have on the US economy, which has already seen a staggering 22 million people filing for unemployment benefits in the last month. Robert Redfield, an American virologist and the current Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned that the virus will be with us until the winter at any event, and that the effects of its second wave will be much worse because it will be compounded by the usual influenza epidemic which will be taking its toll, especially on the elderly, at the same time, as it does every year, taking the capacity of the health care system to breaking point. Time will tell. But either way, what is clear is that the United States needs to clean up its act and “start behaving like a normal nation” to quote the war pig Pompeo.

Abdul Mahdi Says US Pressuring Iraq to Cut Ties with Iran

 March 9, 2020

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister said the US is pressurizing Baghdad to sever relations with Tehran, but Iraqis will never allow their country to become a staging ground for clashes between other countries.

“By withdrawing from the JCPOA and putting pressures on Iran and Iraq, the US further complicated the regional situation, and is now mounting pressure on us and urges the severance of ties between Iraq and Iran,” said Adil Abdul Mahdi in a meeting with Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani in Baghdad.

Abdul Mahdi has remained in office as the caretaker prime minister of Iraq since his resignation in November.

Abdul Mahdi further underlined that the Iraqi people and government will never allow the Arab country to be a venue for the settlement of conflicts or clashes between other countries.

Praising the Iranian government and nation for their genuine support for Iraq in the difficult years of the war against terrorism, he expressed gratitude to Tehran for offering assistance in the battle with a novel coronavirus epidemic.

“The geopolitical logic dictates that we employ the potential of our neighbors to fulfill our national interests and security,” AbdulMahdi stated.

For his part, Shamkhani highlighted the leading role of Iraq in restoring stability and calm to the region, and voiced Iran’s support for the immediate formation of a popular government in the Arab country.

There is hard evidence that a Western-Arab-Hebrew axis is doing its utmost to obstruct stability in Iraq, Shamkhani said, adding that Takfiri terrorists were the West’s proxies that only sought Iraq’s disintegration.

The Iranian official also lauded the Iraqi Parliament for ratifying a bill on the expulsion of American military forces, saying the Iraqi army and popular forces have proved their ability to ensure security without reliance on foreign forces.

Related News

Saudis see Trump as unpredictable and fear who might be the next American President: Askari

February 26, 2020 – 12:29

TEHRAN – Professor Hossein Askari, an expert on Saudi Arabia who also teaches international business at the George Washington University, believes that “The Saudis see Trump as unpredictable and fear who might be the next American President.”

“Open up a small channel with Iran in case it is needed given the unpredictability of U.S. foreign policy,” Hossein Askari, who served as special advisor to Saudi finance minister, tells the Tehran Times.
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: The Lebanese newspaper Al-Banna disclosed that Saudi Arabia had expressed willingness to negotiate with Iran after the Aramco oil facility incident, but it was ultimately the Americans who prevented Riyadh from fulfilling its demand. How effective do you think America is in affecting such decisions in Riyadh? 

A: Historically, Saudi Arabia would never think about negotiating with Iran before two conditions were met. The King was convinced that Iran was not bent on overthrowing the Al-Sauds, a paranoia that has poisoned rapprochement between the two countries. And second, America’s concurrence about a dialogue with Iran as the Kingdom is totally dependent on the United States for its self-defense. After the Iran Nuclear deal in 2015 (JCPOA), the Al-Sauds had second thoughts about relying on American support. Could they continue to depend on the United States? But when Trump became president and after his trip to Saudi Arabia, the Al-Sauds became emboldened. They felt they could do anything in the region because Trump had their back. But after the Aramco incident, when Trump did not retaliate against Iran for its alleged role, the Al-Sauds became weak in their needs. They had second thoughts. They were willing to hedge their bets. I don’t know, but I think the U.S. did not want any dialogue that would weaken its hands in dealing with Iran in the future. 

Q: In your opinion, what groups within Saudi Arabia are in favor of dialogue with Iran, and what groups oppose this? In general, the question is whether internal disputes within Saudi Arabia itself determine whether or not to negotiate with Iran. 

A: I think the issue is within the Al-Saud tribe. They don’t listen to other voices in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi public wants peace, less military expenditures and less foreign adventures in places such as Yemen or Syria. The Al-Sauds have to be convinced that Iran has no designs on their rule and will not work with anyone or any group in Saudi Arabia to change the ruling structure in Saudi Arabia. Until then, something that is impossible to predict as relations and events can change, it will rely on the United States the best it can and even secretly secure Israeli support.

Q: Saudi Arabia has aligned with Washington in pursuit of U.S. maximum pressure campaign toward Iran. But after the Aramco attack and the lack of serious U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, Riyadh found that its problems with Iran had to be resolved bilaterally. Do you agree with this assessment? 

A: Yes, bilaterally but with full U.S. backing to reach a global security arrangement for the entire Middle East region.

Q: In your opinion, which foreign countries oppose the normalization of Iran- Saudi relations and benefit more from the current situation? 

A: The countries that benefit are clear. First, the United States. Because of the conflict, it sells arms to Saudi Arabia and has preferred access to Saudi Arabia for selling everything else, goods and services, that the country imports. U.S. financial institutions are major beneficiaries of managing Saudi assets. But also don’t forget the benefits to lobbyists and consultants of turmoil in the Persian Gulf. The second country that benefits is Israel. I believe it has found a secret channel to Saudi Arabia, affording Israel a useful wedge to use against Iran and extract indirect Arab support in its suppression of Palestinian rights. Russia and China are afforded a role to exploit opportunities for influence in the region.

Q: Some media reported that the Americans had informed the Riyadh authorities that the Iranian system was in dire straits after the demonstrations in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran began and there was no need to negotiate. If this is true, why is Saudi Arabia fully defining its foreign policy towards Iran, despite the lack of American support for the Aramco attack? 

A: U.S. hawks, such as Bolton and the Israeli lobby, are all the time touting the imminent collapse of the government in Iran if just a little more pressure is brought to bear. Always, a little bit more. I don’t see any collapse of Iranian cooperation in Iraq or Lebanon. The one thing that has gotten worse for Iran is its economy. And even this seems to have stabilized. Still for the longer run, the migration of talent from Iran to Europe, North America and Australia spells further trouble ahead. But even if I am wrong and the Iranian system is in dire straits, the Saudis see Trump as unpredictable and fear who might be the next American President. A Bernie sanders would scare the Al-Sauds to no end. They want to slowly hedge their bets. Open up a small channel with Iran in case it is needed given the unpredictability of U.S. foreign policy.

محور المقاومة :ربح بالنقاط في العراق ولبنان… والضربة القاضية بالنووي !

ناصر قنديل

خاض الأميركيون حربهم على محور المقاومة في ثلاث ساحات رئيسية، هي إيران ولبنان والعراق، بينما أصيب مشروعهم بالعجز عن الإقلاع في ثلاث أخرى هي سورية وفلسطين واليمن، حيث المسارات ترسمها قوى وحكومات محور المقاومة، وحيث الحلفاء الذين تعتمد عليهم واشنطن مصابون بالارتباك والعجز. فكيان الاحتلال أقوى حلفاء واشنطن غارق في متاهة سياسية انتخابية وحكومية وعجز عسكري متكرّر عن الإمساك بزمام المبادرة في فلسطين بوجه المقاومة، وفي اليمن المبادرة بيد أنصار الله، والأمن السعودي والإماراتي تحت رحمة ضرباتهم، وآخرها في مأرب زلزل حضورهم بالخسائر البشرية المؤلمة، بصورة أعادت مشهد ضربات مجمع آرامكو، بينما في سورية كل شيء في السياسة والميدان محور تحولات متسارعة لصالح مشروع الدولة السورية، من التموضع التركي إلى الحراك الكردي، وكل منهما يسابق الآخر نحو الدولة السورية، إلى معارك إدلب، ومسار اللجنة الدستورية، والعلاقة الروسية السورية وآفاقها، ورغم الوضع الاقتصادي الصعب تتحرّك الدولة السورية بقوة نحو معالجات وشراكات تتيح توسيع مجالات الحركة أمامها وتعزيز قدرات شعبها على الصمود.

الضغوط على الساحات الإيرانية والعراقية واللبنانية التي بدأتها واشنطن من بوابة الحصار المالي الخانق والرهان على الاحتجاجات والقدرة على توظيفها، بالتعاون مع حلفاء محليين، يتلقون تعليماتها أو يشتغلون لحساب مصالح خاصة تتقاطع مع الأهداف الأميركية، توّجت باغتيال القائدين قاسم سليماني وأبومهدي المهندس، لينفتح مسار المواجهة الأشد والأقسى بسقوف مرتفعة، وجاء السقوط الأول للرهان الأميركي في العراق بنهوض شارع واسع يتضامن مع قوى المقاومة ويطغى على الاحتجاج الحراكي الذي راهنت واشطن على تجييره، وشكل التحوّل الأبرز في جعل الساحة العراقية مفتوحة على خيار تعزيز مكانة قوى المقاومة، بربط ثنائية مشروع إخراج الأميركيين من العراق ورئاسة الحكومة الجديدة، على قاعدة التحالف مع السيد مقتدى الصدر، وهو تحالف يقترب من ترجمة هذه الثنائية، مع اقتراب تسمية رئيس حكومة بالتفاهم مع السيد الصدر وامتداده الحراكي الوازن، واقتراب موعد المليونية المناهضة للوجود الأميركي التي دعا إليها السيد الصدر وأيّدتها قوى المقاومة، ولا يستطيع أحد تجاهل حجم الرهان الأميركي على تحييد السيد الصدر من المواجهة، بل على كسبه في مواجهة عنوانها إخراج إيران لا أميركا من العراق.

في لبنان وبعدما راهن المشروع الأميركي على محاصرة قوى المقاومة بثنائية الحراك واستقالة الرئيس الحريري، نجحت عملية تسمية رئيس مكلف بتشكيل الحكومة يتمتع بمواصفات الصلابة والثبات ويمثل خلفية غير طائفية، وصاحب سيرة لم يستطع خصومه تظهير ثغرة يُعتدّ بها على صعيد تعامله مع المال العام خلال توليه وزارة بأهمية وزارة التربية. وبعد الرهان على تناقضات المصالح والأحجام والتوازنات داخل فريق المقاومة والحلفاء في تعزيز المصاعب بوجه تشكيل الحكومة، والضغوط المذهبية لدفع الرئيس المكلف للتراجع والاعتذار، تقترب الغالبية النيابية من الفوز بتشكيلة حكومية يطغى عليها التكنوقراط، ويصعب النيل من السيرة الذاتية لوزرائها رغم كثرة الكلام عن أنهم من المستشارين، لأن موقع التكنوقراط الطبيعي في حكومات سياسية هو أن يكونوا مستشارين، ويصيروا وزراء عندما تكون الحكومة من التكنوقراط. ومع إعلان الحكومة الجديدة سيتمّ طي صفحة وفتح صفحة في الحياة السياسية والتعامل مع الأزمات، وسيكون لفتح ملفات الفساد دور كافٍ في تحقيق توازن ردع لحماية الحكومة لأن المتفق عليه أن هذا الملف لن يسيَّس ولن يُترك مغلقاً وأن كل المتورطين ستتم مساءلتهم قضائياً بعد رفع الحصانات بموجب قانون.

التعامل الخليجي مع الساحتين العراقية واللبنانية لن يتّسم بالتصعيد بعد تشكيل الحكومة. فالحكومات الخليجية تخشى الانفتاح المالي القطري ومن ورائه السياسي التركي، ضمن التنسيق مع موسكو وطهران، والمواقف في عواصم الخليج تتحدّث عن عدم تكرار تجربة العزلة التي دفعت ثمنها غالياً في سورية بسبب العناد والرهانات الخاسرة، والمواقف الأوروبيّة لا توحي بما يُشاع عن نيات تصعيد بوجه الحكومة الجديدة مالياً، بل إن المؤشرات معاكسة، خصوصاً أن أوروبا والخليج تتّجهان لمحاولة فهم حدود الخطوة الإيرانية التي يتم التحضير لها على المستوى النووي، بعد الإعلان عن نية الخروج من معاهدة وكالة الطاقة الذرية للحدّ من الانتشار النووي، وليس إلغاء الاتفاق النووي فقط، وما لم يتم استدراك عاجل ومدروس أوروبياً وخليجياً بغطاء ضمني من واشنطن، فإن الكثيرين في عواصم أوروبا والخليج يتحدّثون عن كارثة مقبلة لا يمكن ردها حتى لو لم تذهب إيران نحو التراجع عن قرارها بعدم إنتاج سلاح نووي، لأنه يكفي بلوغ إيران عتبة امتلاك القنبلة الأولى تقنياً، كي تكون قد امتلكتها، وتلك ستكون الضربة القاضية التي تنقل إيران إلى مكان مختلف، على الأوروبيين والخليجيين أن يطرحوا على أنفسهم كيفية التعامل معها فيما الأميركي الغارق في الانتخابات وحساباتها، قد يفاجئهم بقرار انسحاب مموّه تحت عنوان هو إعلان النصر على الإرهاب ونهاية الحرب على داعش.

US Reportedly Tells European Allies to Pressure Iran or Face 25% Auto Tariffs

Source

00:56 16.01.2020

Under the Trump administration, the United States has widely expanded its economic leverage to renegotiate international agreements which it considers inequitable to US economic or strategic interests.

The Trump administration quietly threatened last week to impose tariffs on key European nations, just before they officially accused Iran of breaching the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

According to EU officials familiar with the talks, the United States threatened to impose a 25-percent tariff on European automobiles from Germany, France and Britain, if they refused to condemn Tehran’s actions and trigger a trade dispute mechanism within the deal.

Days after the alleged ultimatum, the 3 countries formally accused Iran of violating the agreement, triggering a fallback option which could reimpose United Nations sanctions on Iran, thus destroying the residual accords of the Obama-era nuclear deal.

“We’ve been very clear that the JCPOA was a horrible deal”, an unidentified senior US official within the Trump administration said, when asked about the tariff threat, cited by the WaPo.

The unnamed official acknowledged, however, that the Europeans were already moving towards triggering the dispute resolution before the US threat was issued.

“The consensus among the Europeans about the need to hold Tehran accountable took form weeks ago and was driven by Iran’s escalatory behavior and violations of the nuclear deal,” the official said, according to WaPo.

It is unclear whether the so-called EU 3 issued the criticism against Iran due to the US threat or whether interests just happened to align in this circumstance, as both blocs maintain an interest in triggering the mechanism.

The United States views the mechanism as a means of reimposing full sanctions on Iran within 65 days, while EU powers see it as a necessary way to ultimately restore the deal, reduce tensions, and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

Abbas Araghchi (Center R), political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, and Helga Schmid (Center L), Secretary General of the European Union's External Action Service (EEAS), take part in a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) attended by the E3+2 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom) and Iran on July 28, 2019 at the Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria.

© AFP 2019 / ALEX HALADAAbbas Araghchi (Center R), political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, and Helga Schmid (Center L), Secretary General of the European Union’s External Action Service (EEAS), take part in a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) attended by the E3+2 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom) and Iran on July 28, 2019 at the Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria.

A New Transatlantic Relationship

Trump has previously used tariffs against the EU to win favourable trade concessions, but has yet to use them to influence foreign policy.

The policy is, however, indicative of the way the Trump administration views geopolitics, seeing the world through an ‘America First’ lens and willing to use economic leverage to reorganise the global geopolitical balance.

Opposing the Iranian nuclear deal has been the position held by the US since Trump’s election in 2016, characterizing the Iran nuclear deal as “unfair” to the United States.

The Europeans, however, have maintained their dedication to the deal, with EU leaders repeatedly saying, in line with international nuclear inspectors, that Iran has consistently been found to be in compliance with the landmark peace deal.

“The tariff threat is a mafia-like tactic, and it’s not how relations between allies typically work” said Jeremy Shapiro, research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

A Deal Scrapped 

Due to the recent heating up of tensions between the US and Iran beginning with the withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA and the assassination of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani on 3 Janurary, Iran has begun to enrich uranium beyond the limits set by the deal.

The JCPOA was signed and ratified in 2015 by the US, Iran, Russia, China, France, Germany, United Kingdom and the EU.

The purpose of the deal is to allow – but limit – Iran’s uranium enrichment program, to be used only for peaceful nuclear power and other research purposes, seeing Tehran agreeing to scrap its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent, and reduce its number of gas centrifuges by around two-thirds.

Iran slaps the US in the face after the murder of Martyr Soleimani as Trump backs down

January 09, 2020

By Aram Mirzaei for the Saker blog

Four days after the terrorist attack which killed Martyrs Soleimani and Al-Muhandis, the Islamic Republic retaliated with missile attacks on at least two military bases in Iraq where US troops were present. The retaliation was to be expected as popular demands and expectations were at an all-time high during the three day long funeral procession.

So on Wednesday night, on January 8th, at exactly the same time when the US conducted its terrorist attack four days earlier, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps launched their missiles on the largest and most significant US military base in Iraq, Ain al-Assad where the US had gathered a large number of its troops after evacuating many bases in Shia dominated areas around Baghdad. Ain al-Assad is located in the western Al-Anbar province, and was the same base from which the drones that killed Martyrs Soleimani and Al-Muhandis were launched. There was also a second US base in Erbil that came under attack that night.

According to reliable sources, the Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was informed by Iran about the imminent attack and relayed the information to the US forces who were prepared in advance. The IRGC attack was conducted with two types of missiles – the Fateh 313 and the Qiam types. These Precision ballistic missiles targeted specific areas of the airbase and were deliberately aimed at avoiding casualties. The idea was to only send a message to Washington and its vassals: “Don’t test us because we can and will hurt you badly”. Despite reports by Iranian state media about 80 casualties, a number reported to appease the domestic opinion, it is more likely that there were very few or rather zero casualties for the US occupation forces. However, it should be noted that the US refused to allow any Iraqis to investigate the site for the attacks, and no pictures whatsoever were released until at least 14 hours after the attack. Indicating that Washington was hiding something.

So why did Iran intentionally avoid killing US troops? The obvious reason for this- de escalation. But the ingenious part of the Iranian plan was to de-escalate the crisis without actually de-escalating it in public. Of course, the leadership in Tehran aren’t so eager for a war which will result in millions of lives lost, Iranians are still traumatized by the 8 year brutal Iran-Iraq war which caused the deaths of over a million Iranians.

The message was aimed to achieve several goals, the first I mentioned above.

The second goal can be identified in the decision to attack the base in Erbil, to show the US that its forces will not be safe in Erbil, and that they should not dare to think that they can remain in their vassal state of Kurdistan.

The third probable goal was to send Israel and the Gulf states a clear message. Throughout the night it was reported by several sources and outlets that Hezbollah had threatened to launch attacks on Israel if the US were to respond to Iran’s retaliations, while the Houthis in Yemen had threatened to launch their missiles on the Gulf states that are harbouring US troops. Meanwhile the Hashd Al-Shaabi had also threatened to turn the US embassy into ashes should they dare to attack Iran. This was a show of force by the Resistance Axis – to show Washington’s allies that the entire region will be engulfed in fire if Iran is attacked directly. It was also reported that night that the IRGC had warned Qatar and the UAE that any country that allowed its territory to be used as a springboard for a US attack would be considered a legitimate target for Iran’s retaliation.

But like I mentioned in my latest article, the true revenge for Iran would not be to strike back militarily, but to kick the US out of the region. This was confirmed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei when he held a speech on Wednesday morning:

“The talk of revenge and such debates are a different issue. For now, a slap was delivered on their face last night,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in remarks broadcasted live on national television.

“What is important about confrontation is that the military action as such is not sufficient. What is important is that the seditious American presence in the region must end,” he said to chants of “Death to America” by an audience in Tehran.

The Leader hailed the Iraqi parliament’s decision ordering US troops to leave the country as well as the Iranian parliament’s blacklisting of American forces as terrorists.

“This measure by the Majlis was a very good blow. The Iraqi parliament’s act for the expulsion of America from Iraq was also very good. May God help them continue this path.”

“The Americans want Iraq to be like the former idolatrous regime in Iran or Saudi Arabia today – a region full of oil to be under their control so they can do whatever they want – a milking cow in the words of that individual,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in reference to US President Donald Trump.  

“But the faithful elements and the Iraqi youth and their Marja’iya (religious authorities) stood up to these scenarios and Haj Qassem assisted this vast front in the capacity of an active adviser and an honorable supporter,” the Leader added.

The Islamic Republic’s allies lauded the IRGC’s attack with statements of support from Syria, Hezbollah, Hashd Al-Shaabi and Houthis. The Islamic Republic’s moral victory and bravery during this crisis has encouraged the region to muster enough courage to dare to speak of the Terrorist Empire’s inevitable expulsion from West Asia.

The strike has also shown the world and especially Washington’s vassals in the region that the billions of dollars spent on purchasing “the best military equipment” in the world are useless as a deterrence against the Islamic Republic. This realization will push them to seek rapprochement with Tehran, and could even entice countries to seek to purchase Iran’s missiles.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday afternoon, US president Donald Trump held his speech in response to the attack. Speaking from the White House, Trump backed away from threatening further strikes against Iran, describing Tehran’s stand-down as “a good thing for all parties concerned.”

“Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast…The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean that we have to use it.”

Trump did, however, vow to impose new economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic, in addition to the thousand or so already imposed since the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal) in 2018. “These powerful sanctions will remain,” he said, “until Iran changes its behavior.”

After boasting about America’s “big missiles,” Trump spent the remainder of his speech suggesting that under a new deal, Iran could become a “great country,” and could cooperate with the US on areas of mutual benefit.

“ISIS [Islamic State, IS, ISIL] is the natural enemy of Iran,” he said. “The destruction of ISIS is good for Iran. And we should work together on this and many other shared priorities.”

(Trump during the moment of the IRGC missile attack)

I’m certain that any intelligent person understood that Trump got the message quite clearly. He spent major parts of his speech talking about the JCPOA and other matters, and his how “great” the US economy is – neither of those had anything to do with the crisis. Many people surely noticed how his tone changed – from previously threatening to destroy Iran’s cultural sites if Iran responded, to suggest that Washington was hoping for negotiations, once more proving many people’s points of Trump’s total incompetence when it comes to diplomacy.

Now that the Iraqi parliament have voted for the expulsion of US forces, which can be seen as the first retaliation for Martyrs Soleimani and Al-Muhandis’ killings (the second one being the IRGC’s attack), the US occupation of Syria is also in danger. Washington and its pathetic vassals, unless they wish to send their troops home in coffins, will have to respect Iraq’s decision or face the wrath of the Iraqi resistance forces.

The time when Washington can just hit other countries and threaten them to stand down is over. The Empire has been exposed and will no longer be able to freely terrorize the region without suffering consequences. One way or another the US will be removed from West Asia, beginning with Iraq.

Iran is very close from the usage of a nuclear bomb بين إيران والقنبلة النووية مسافة تصغر

الحلقة 01 # من برنامج ستون دقيقة مع ناصر قنديل 05 01 2020

Iran is very close from the usage of a nuclear bomb


يناير 8, 2020

Written by Nasser Kandil,

Everyone knows that a country as Iran abides by being within the limits of its objectives and the peaceful controls of its nuclear file, although it has all the capabilities to turn it into a military level and to protect it, but in return it gets such blocking of legitimization of that right, the right that is theoretically guaranteed according to the international law and conventions sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran has faced fierce UN sanctions due to the doubt of using its nuclear file for military purposes, so it has suffered for many years from these sanctions and paid the cost of its steadfastness from the growth of its economy and the welfare of its people till it reached by negotiation to the understanding signed and ratified by the UN and the permanent members of the Security Council, Germany, and the European Union. Iran accepted restrictive conditions of its peaceful nuclear capabilities equal times to the legal restrictions of the International Atomic Agency, just in order to prove the good intentions and in hope to be under legal diplomatic international auspices.

Within two years of implementing the understanding, the International Atomic Energy Agency assured along with the capitals involved including Washington the strict abidance of Iran by its controls of understanding, as they assured that there are no fears from any military intentions. But within the same years and in escalatory stages, Washington left the understanding without any excuse related to Iran’s breach of its controls, but due to the political disagreement with Iran about the situations of the region especially the position towards Israel. Iran continued its commitment despite the severe sanctions affected its economy, but the international institutions and the major powers which formed the backbone of these institutions kept assuring the illegality of the American hostile actions against Iran, but they say that they cannot commit to their obligations to Iran in accordance with the provisions of the understanding for fear of the American sanctions.

The assassination of the Commander of the Iranian military forces the General Qassim Soleimani was announced officially by the American President. That assassination assured that the world which sees that American action was illegal and a blatant attack on Iran does not dare to do anything but to be beside Washington and avoid its inconvenience calling Tehran to be restraint and to refrain from responding. The conclusion is clear, the world fears the strong and complies with its laws, and that the one who abides by law has no place realistically and is seen as a party which is asked unilaterally to make concessions whenever the equation of “keeping stability” is present. Once again Iran concludes that its faithful decision which is based on a religious belief of not having a nuclear bomb which it can produce turns into a burden on the right of its people to live and on its security which is threatened of violation, and on its national dignity which is subject to be affected. Most importantly, in Iran there is who wonders whether the way to maintain stability, sovereignty, and dignity is to possess a bomb instead of refraining from possessing it?

Today, the question being asked by the important circles in the Iranian elite is what if Iran possessed a nuclear bomb, would Trump dare to go on in his intervention, and would stability which is going to be affected soon be fragile. The answer which is not yet clear has been alluded to by the former President Barack Obama, who expressed his convention that the shortest way to make Iran possess a nuclear bomb is to make it feel the threat of war, since the technical distance between Iran and the bomb is much shorter than the ideological distance, but as soon as the ideological aspect falls and Imam Al Khamenei’s fatwa becomes “the possession of the bomb is something and its usage is another thing and that the legal restriction is related to the usage not production, in addition that the production of a bomb is a guarantor of peace and deterrent to aggression” many things will change quickly and those who tolerated with the American tamper in the security of the region, its balance, and economy will discover that they push Iran to the place where they tried to keep it away from.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

يناير 6, 2020

بين إيران والقنبلة النووية مسافة تصغر

ناصر قنديل

لم يعرف العالم دولة مثل إيران تحرص على بقائها ضمن حدود الأهداف والضوابط السلمية لملفها النووي، وتملك كامل المقدرات لنقله إلى المستوى العسكري وحمايتها، وتلقى بالمقابل هذا المستوى من الصدّ والتيئيس لفرصها بشرعنة هذا الحق المكفول نظرياً وفقاً للقانون الدولي والمواثيق التي ترعاها الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية. فقد واجهت إيران عقوبات أممية قاسية تحت عنوان الشك في وجود نيات لأبعاد عسكرية لملفها النووي، وبقيت تعاني سنوات من هذه العقوبات، وتدفع من نموها الاقتصادي ورفاه شعبها ثمن صمودها، حتى توصلت عن طريق التفاوض إلى التفاهم الذي وقعته وصادقت عليه الأمم المتحدة، والدول الدائمة العضوية في مجلس الأمن وألمانيا والاتحاد الأوروبي، وقبلت إيران في التفاهم شروطاً تقييدية لقدراتها النووية السلمية تعادل أضعاف القيود القانونية للوكالة الدولية إثباتاً لحسن النيات، وأملاً بالوقوف تحت مظلة دولية دبلوماسية قانونية.

خلال سنتين من تطبيق التفاهم أكدت الوكالة الدولية للطاقة الذرية، ومثلها عواصم الدول المعنية بما فيها واشنطن التزام إيران بتطبيق صارم لموجباتها في التفاهم، كما أكدت عدم وجود أي مخاوف من شقّ عسكري للملف النووي الإيراني، ومنذ سنتين وعلى مراحل تصعيديّة خرجت واشنطن من التفاهم دون أي عذر يتّصل بإخلال إيران بموجباتها، بل بترجمة مباشرة للخلاف السياسي مع إيران حول أوضاع المنطقة وخصوصاً الموقف من “إسرائيل”، وواصلت إيران التزاماتها رغم العقوبات المشدّدة التي لحقت باقتصادها، لكن المؤسسات الدولية والدول الكبرى التي تشكل العمود الفقري في هذه المؤسسات والموقعة جميعها على التفاهم النووي مع إيران، بقيت وهي تؤكد لا قانونية الإجراءات الأميركية العدائية على إيران، تقول إنها عاجزة عن السير بموجباتها تجاه إيران وفقاً لنصوص التفاهم، والسبب الخوف من العقوبات الأميركية.

يأتي اغتيال القائد في القوات المسلحة الإيرانية الجنرال قاسم سليماني بإعلان رسمي من الرئيس الأميركي، ويؤكد أيضاً ان العالم الذي يرى الخطوة الأميركية عملاً غير قانوني، واعتداء سافراً على إيران، لا يجرؤ على فعل شيء، بل يجامل واشنطن ويتفادى إزعاجها وتنصبّ الدعوات نحو طهران للمطالبة بضبط النفس، ووصولاً لمطالبتها بالامتناع عن الرد على الاغتيال، والخلاصة واضحة أن العالم يخشى القوي ويخضع لقوانينه، وأن الملتزم بالقانون لا مكان له في الحسابات الواقعية، وسيبقى جانبه مهيضاً، وينظر إليه كجهة مطالبة أحادياً بالتنازلات كلما حضرت معادلة اسمها “الحرص على الاستقرار”، وإيران تستنتج مرة بعد مرة أن قرارها الصادق والمؤسس على عقيدة دينية، بعدم امتلاك قنبلة نووية، تملك القدرة على إنتاجها، يتحول إلى عبء على حق شعبها بالعيش، وعلى أمنها المعرّض للانتهاك، وعلى كرامتها الوطنية المعرضة للطعن، والأهم أن في إيران من بات يتساءل: هل بات طريق حفظ الاستقرار والسيادة والكرامة معاً هو امتلاك القنبلة بدلاً من الامتناع عن امتلاكها؟ – السؤال الذي تتداوله اوساط مهمة في النخبة الإيرانية اليوم، هو ماذا لو كان لدى إيران قنبلة نووية، هل كان ليتجرأ ترامب على التمادي، وهل كان الاستقرارالذي سيهتزاليوم في المنطقة حكماً معرضاً للاهتزاز، والجواب الذي لم يتوضح بعد كان قد لمح إليه الرئيس الأميركي السابق باراك أوباما، ن إيران والقنبلة أقصر بكثير من المسافة العقائدية، ومتى سقطت العقدة العقائدية وصارت فتوى الإمام الخامنئي أن امتلاك القنبلة شيء واستخدامها شيء آخر وأن التقييد الشرعي يطال الاستخدام وليس الإنتاج، لا بل إن إنتاج القنبلة ضامن للسلم ورادع للعدوان، سيتغير الكثير وبسرعة، وسيكتشف الذي تهاونوا مع العبث الأميركي بأمن المنطقة وتوازناتها واقتصادها، أنهم دفعوا إيران نحو الطريق الذي كانوا يظنون أنهم يبعدونها عنه

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Round one is over – an initial assessment

January 08, 2020

The Saker

Dear friends,

Looks like Round 1 is over.  Let’s begin with a small recap of events:

  • Iran fired a relatively small number of short range missiles at one, possibly two, US bases
  • The IRGC indicated that if Iran is attacked, then so will Israel
  • Trump tweeted “so far, so good”
  • The US reported no casualties

In plain English this means that the strike was intended to be both highly visible AND symbolic (Iran has MANY more missiles, including longer ranged ones, which, if Iran wanted to, could strike every single US base in the Middle-East simultaneously.

So what happened?

I think that Iran wanted to humiliate the US but in a manner which would be under the threshold which would guarantee a US/Israeli counter-strike.

Next, I forced myself to listen to Esper and the Idiot-in-Chief.  Here are the salient points:

  • Esper reiterated that the US does not want war with Iran
  • The US does not want to leave Iraq because, unlike the Iraq MPs, many/most Iraqis want the US to stay
  • The US armed forces are THE BEST in the history of the galaxy
  • Trump will never allow Iran to have nukes
  • Iran appears to be “standing down”
  • Europe needs to ditch the JPCOA
  • NATO needs to get further involved in the Middle-East
  • Iran bad bad bad, USA good good good
  • The US armed forces are THE BEST in this history of the galaxy
  • USA! USA! USA! (etc.)

Okay, to these idiots apparently think that’s it is over.  Or maybe they hope it is?

I can tell you for sure that it ain’t.  The goal of Iran and its allies is to get the USA out of the Middle-East.

Thus these symbolic strikes appear to have given the US/Israeli a sense of relief which might bring them to let their guard down, making it much easier for Iran and its allies to strike again.

It is rather funny to see how the Iranian PR machine “packaged” this one: if you dare hit us, we will hit you in your most holy and sacred, i.e. Israel.  So far this “we get to shoot at you but you don’t get to shoot back” has worked, but only because the Iranian strike was so symbolic.

Conclusion: this is far, FAR veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrry far from over.

Still, I have to downgrade the likelihood of a massive and imminent war back from 90% to 80%.

Finally, Putin traveled to Damascus to attend a Nativity celebration with Bashar al-Assad.  Then he visited a mosque (I can imagine how pissed Alt-Righters are at Putin’s care for Muslims, both in Russia and abroad).

Is Trump Preparing A New Iran Nuclear Deal?

Is Trump Preparing A New Iran Nuclear Deal?

By Simon Watkins – OilPrice.com

A moment of monumental importance for US-Iran relations took place early last week when a high-level exchange of prisoners took place in Switzerland. OilPrice.com can exclusively reveal that during the exchange the US, for the first time, made it clear that it would resume negotiations with Iran on the removal of sanctions “with no preconditions.”

Iran made it equally clear that it saw the prisoner exchange as the road to re-engaging in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] nuclear deal, without the removal of sanctions by the US being required beforehand. “This is the beginning of the end of this extremely dangerous global stand-off between the US and Iran,” a senior oil and gas industry source who works closely with Iran’s Petroleum Ministry exclusively told OilPrice.com last week.

Where we are now in US-Iran relations is a product of two key factors that have occurred in just over the past six months. The first of these was the absolute absence of any support for any meaningful US retaliation against Iran for either the downing of the US ‘surveillance’ drone in June, or the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Khurais oil field and the Abqaiq refinery in September.

In the case of the former, military retaliation was halted at the last moment, and subsequently John Bolton – the most insistent proponent of military action against Iran over the years – was fired as National Security Adviser. In the case of the latter, various high-level officials from the US State Department repeatedly tried to persuade US allies in NATO and other supposedly sympathetic states in the Middle East to take part in a joint naval task force to patrol the Strait of Hormuz, but to no avail.

This was followed by the decision from the US to effectively disengage from the rolling conflicts in Syria, even if it involved leaving its former allies in the fight against Daesh [the Arabic acronym for terrorist ‘ISIS/ISIL’ group], the Kurds, at the mercy of their longstanding mortal enemy, Turkey. Given the twin realization that the US was no longer willing to and/or could not meaningfully safeguard them and that Iran had everything to gain from further attacks on oil and gas targets in the region, Middle Eastern countries have been looking to row back on any hostility against Iran. Even the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the Ansarullah in Yemen since 2015 have begun releasing jailed Ansarullah members in an attempt to bring some resolution to the conflict.

From the US side, there is the realization that, without the option to have an enduring [and costly in blood and money terms] military presence in multiple countries across the Middle East, it needs to have Iran on side to protect its political and energy interests there.

“Wherever the US withdraws, China increases its presence, with Russia close alongside, and the US is finding itself marginalized not just in Syria but also in Iraq and further East in Afghanistan by China and/or Russia, as these places are central to China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ project and to Russia’s attempts to isolate the US internationally,” the Iran source told OilPrice.com.

“The US is looking at being left with just Saudi, which is not the force that it once was either in political or energy terms and a country that is deeply unpopular amongst many segments of the US, including in both Houses [Senate and Representatives],” he added. “Iran, on the other hand, with Rouhani, is relatively moderate and has enormous influence across the entire Shia crescent of power [Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria] and into Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he underlined.

This ties in to the second game-changing reason that portends an end to sanctions and a resumption of the nuclear deal…

From both perspectives, then, an agreement makes sense and the prisoner exchange “marks an extremely important signal that we on the road to a lasting and workable resolution,” said the Iran source. As important as the exchange – Iran released Princeton PhD student Xiyue Wang [accused of spying], detained since 2016, and the US dropped [spying] charges against Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani, who was arrested in the US in 2018 – was the rhetoric [and absence of rhetoric in interesting places] involved.

At the time of the exchange, US President Donald Trump Tweeted: “Thank you to Iran on a very fair negotiation… See, we can make a deal together!” Behind the scenes, US officials highlighted that Trump is willing to meet with Iran “without preconditions” and added that the administration was “hopeful [that the release of Wang] is a sign that the Iranians may be willing to come to the table to discuss all these issues.” Iran, in the meantime, signaled that it is willing to engage in more prisoner swaps and, crucially, according to the Iran source: “That it does not necessarily expect all sanctions to be removed before sitting down for negotiations with the Washington team.”

Iran Studying Next Step to Reduce JCPOA Commitments – FM Spox

Iran Studying Next Step to Reduce JCPOA Commitments – FM Spox

By Staff

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that the Islamic Republic is currently studying the next step to reduce its nuclear deal commitments, adding that all of the signatories slammed the US withdrawal from the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

He said that all the remaining signatories of the JCPOA believe that the US is responsible for the current situation. “They do not recognize the US illegal sanctions on Iran, he said in reference to the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 in 2015 which backed the JCPOA, requiring to lift international sanctions on Iran.”

Mousavi further stressed in his weekly press conference on Monday that there aren’t any negotiations between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia other than the Hajj issue.

“There are countries seeking to settle dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which we think are based on good intentions, and Iran welcomes this but sometimes we figure out doubled statements by Saudi officials, which contradict with the spirit of the Iranian path and the efforts of other countries,” Mousavi explained.

In response to a question about exchanging prisoners, Mousavi noted that “When we find that prisoners’ swap with other countries serve our nationals then we will carry out. We carry out prisoners’ swap with other countries from a humanitarian motive.”

Commenting on the unrest engulfing Iraq, Mousavi stressed that Iran doesn’t intervene in Iraqi affairs and hopes that the country restores stability.

Asked about Russia’s stopping cooperation in Fordow nuclear facility, he said it is due to technical difficulty and that the issue is under examination by the two sides.

Mousavi told reporters that the main reason is simultaneity of two actions; the Russians want to see if it is possible to do two projects at the same time.

Western media excited about ‘new Iran revolution’, but polls tell a different story about protests

Sharmine Narwani

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani

Western media excited about ‘new Iran revolution’, but polls tell a different story about protests

Reuters/WANA/Nazanin Tabatabaee

Data from two foreign polls tell a very different story about protests in Iran. The economy is tough, but a majority of Iranians back their government’s security initiatives and reject domestic upheaval.

On November 15, angry Iranians began pouring onto the streets to protest sudden news of a 50% fuel price hike. A day later, peaceful demonstrations had largely dissipatd, replaced instead by much smaller crowds of rioters who burned banks, gas stations, buses and other public and private property. Within no time, security forces hit the streets to snuff out the violence and arrest rioters, during which an unconfirmed number of people on both sides died.

Western commentators tried in vain to squeeze some juice out of the short-lived protests. “Iranian protesters strike at the heart of the regime’s legitimacy,” declared Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution. France 24 asked the question, is this “a new Iranian revolution?” And the LA Times slammed Iran’s “brutal crackdown” against its people.

They grasped for a geopolitical angle too: protests in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq that were based almost entirely on popular domestic discontent against corrupt and negligent governments, began to be cast as a regional insurrection against Iranian influence.

ALSO ON RT.COMIran has quashed ‘extensive & very dangerous conspiracy’ perpetrated by foreign enemies, Khamenei saysAnd despite the fact that the internet in Iran was disabled for nearly a week, unverified videos and reports curiously made their way outside to Twitter accounts of Iran critics, alleging that protestors were calling for the death of the Supreme Leader, railing against Iran’s interventions in the region and calling for a fall of the “regime.

Clearly, the initial protests were genuine – a fact that even the Iranian government admitted immediately. Reducing petrol subsidies on the cheapest fuel in the region has been an issue on Iran’s political agenda for years, one that became more urgent after the US exited the Iran nuclear deal last year and began to tighten the sanctions screws on Iran again.

To try and understand Iranian reactions in the past twelve days, let’s look at two opinion polls conducted jointly by the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and Toronto-based IranPolls in the immediate aftermath of the 2017/2018 protests/riots – and in May, August and October 2019, when the US “maximum pressure” campaign was in full gear.

What leaps out immediately from the earlier 2018 poll is that Iranians were frustrated with a stagnant economy – and 86% of them specifically opposed a hike in the price of gasoline, the main impetus for protests this November.

Ironically, this month’s gasoline price hike was meant to generate upward of $2.25 billion earmarked for distribution to Iran’s 18 million most hard-hit families. In effect, the government was softening the fuel subsidy reduction with payouts to the country’s neediest citizens.

The 2018 poll also lists respondents’ single biggest woes, ranging from unemployment (40%), inflation and high cost of living (13%), low incomes (7%),financial corruption and embezzlement (6%), injustice (1.4%), lack of civil liberties (0.3%), among others.

These numbers suggest the 2018 protests were overwhelmingly in response to domestic economic conditions– and not over Iran’s foreign policy initiatives or “widespread repression” that was heavily promoted by western media and politicians at the time.

The same Suzanne Maloney quoted above on this month’s protests, insisted in a 2018 Washington Post article:“The people aren’t just demonstrating for better working conditions or pay, but insisting on wholesale rejection of the system itself.”

In fact, in the 2018 poll, only 16% of Iranians agreed with the statement “Iran’s political system needs to undergo fundamental change,” with a whopping 77% disagreeing.

ALSO ON RT.COMIranian protesters should be angry at the regime in Washington, not Tehran

 

Like protests this month in Iran, the 2017-18 demonstrations also morphed into small but violent riots, and Iranian security forces hit the streets to stop the chaos. But in the aftermath of those events – and despite endless foreign headlines about the “brutality” of the security reaction – Iranians overwhelmingly sided with their government’s treatment of rioters.

Sixty-three percent of those polled in 2018 said the police used an appropriate amount of force, and another 11% said they used “too little force.” Overall, 85% of Iranians agreed that “the government should be more forceful to stop rioters who use violence or damage property.”

This Iranian reaction must be understood in context of Iran’s very insecure neighborhood, region-wide terrorism often backed by hostile states and a relentless escalation against Iranian interests after Donald Trump became US president. His “maximum pressure” campaign has only worsened matters, and Iranians consider themselves in a state of war with the United States – on constant guard against subversion, sabotage, espionage, eavesdropping, propaganda, border infiltration, etc.

Earlier this decade, the US military declared the internet an “operational domain”of war, and cyber warfare has already been widely acknowledged as the future battle frontier in conflicts. Iran was one of the early victims of this new warfare, when the suspected US/Israeli Stuxnet virus disrupted its nuclear program.

The US military has set up war rooms of servicemen dedicated to manipulating social media and advancing US propaganda interests. The British army has launched a “social media warfare” division, its initial focus, the Middle East. Israel has been at the online propaganda game forever, and the Saudis have recently invested heavily in influencing discourse on social media.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the Iranian government shut down the internet during this crisis. Expect this to become the new normal in US adversary states when chaos looms and foreign information operations are suspected.

The western media themes of corruption, violent repression, popular rejection of the Islamic Republic and its regional alliances have been consistent since the 2009 protests that followed contentious elections in Iran. They flared up briefly in early 2011, when western states were eager for an “Iranian Spring” to join the Arab Spring, and became popular narratives during 2017-18 protests when social media platforms adopted them widely.

This November, those narratives sprung to the surface again. So let’s examine what Iranians thought about these claims in October when CISSM/IranPolls published their latest, extremely timely survey.

Iran’s regional military activities

Sixty-one percent of Iranians support retaining military personnel in Syria to contain extremist militants that could threaten Iran’s security and interests. Polls taken since March 2016 confirm the consistency of this view inside Iran, with a steady two-thirds (66%) of respondents supporting an increase in Iran’s regional role.

Asked what would happen if Iran conceded to US demands and ended the US-sanctioned Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) activities in Syria and Iraq, 60% of Iranians thought it would make Washington demand more concessions – only 11% thought it would make the US more accommodating.

Moreover, the October 2019 report says negative attitudes toward the United States have never been higher in CISSM/IranPoll’s 13 years of conducting these surveys in Iran. A hefty 86% of Iranians do not favor the US, and those who say their view of the US is very unfavorable has skyrocketed from 52% in 2015 to 73% today.

They could care less that Washington has sanctioned the IRGC and its elite Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, who is the most popular national figure of those polled, with eight in ten Iranians viewing him favorably. If anything, a hefty 81% of Iranians said the IRGC’s Mideast activities has made Iran “more secure.

As for the IRGC’s role in Iran’s domestic economy – a favorite subject of western foes who cast the military group as a malign and corrupt instrument of the state – today 63% of Iranians believe the IRGC should be involved “in construction projects and other economic matters,” as well as continuing their security role. In times of crisis, they’re viewed as a vital institution: the IRGC and Iranian military scored top points with the public (89% and 90% respectively) for assisting the population during crippling floods last Spring, which displaced half a million Iranians.

Economy and corruption

Seventy percent of Iranians view their economy as “bad” today, a figure that has stayed surprisingly consistent over the past 18 months, despite the imposition of US sanctions last year. The majority blame domestic mismanagement and corruption for their economic woes, but a rising number also blame US sanctions, which is possibly why 70% of Iranians prefer aiming for national self-sufficiency over increasing foreign trade.

Asked about the “impact (of sanctions) on the lives of ordinary people,” 83% of Iranians agreed there was a negative impact on their lives. Oddly, since the US exited the JCPOA, economic pessimism has dropped from 64% in 2018 to 54% last month-mainly, the poll argues, because Iranians feel the US can’t realistically pressure Iran much further with sanctions. Accordingly, 55% of Iranians blame domestic economic mismanagement and corruption for Iran’s poor economy versus 38% who blame foreign sanctions and pressure.

The blame for much of this mismanagement and corruption is pinned on the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, whose favorability numbers dropped under 50% for the first time, to reach 42% this August. Fifty-four percent of Iranians think his government isn’t trying much to fight corruption.

In contrast, 73% believe the Iranian judiciary is much more engaged in fighting economic corruption, up 12% since May.

On the economic front, it appears that Iranians have largely been disappointed by the promises and vision of this administration, which could benefit its Principlist opponents in upcoming parliamentary elections. The fuel tax hike two weeks ago was a necessary evil and a brave move by Rouhani, despite the mismanagement of its public rollout. Unfortunately, Iranians, who have railed against subsidy removals for years, are unlikely to be forgiving anytime soon.

On the political front, Iranians appear to be largely in lockstep with their government’s foreign policy and military initiatives, viewing the IRGC’s activities – domestic and regional – very favorably, and supporting Iran’s involvement in neighboring Iraq and Syria, both for security reasons against terrorism and because they believe in an active regional role for Iran. In terms of support for their leaders, a majority of Iranians view favorably the IRGC’s Soleimani (82%), followed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (67%) and Judiciary Head Ebrahim Raisi (64%), which covers an unexpectedly broad spectrum of political viewpoints in the country.

In light of these numbers, it is fair to say that there is no “second revolution” on Iran’s horizon, nor any kind of significant rupture between government and populace on a whole host of key political, economic and security issues. Foreign commentators can spin events in Iran all they want, but so far Iranians have chosen security and stability over upheaval every time.

*Poll numbers in this article have been rounded up or down to the nearest unit.

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

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