PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2020 – IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

South Front

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

Biden His Time

The South Carolina primary and the Super Tuesday were clarifying events which yielded the surprising result of returning Joe Biden to the status of Democratic Party front-runner for the nomination. It does not appear likely the Party hierarchy desired this result. Given the hype surrounding some of the younger candidates such as Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg, it is more likely they were hoping to repeat the success of the Obama formula. Namely, a young, charismatic, inexperienced candidate who can be all things to all people and does not have any messy baggage that is inevitable with every veteran mainstream politician. But Beto imploded even before his campaign got off the ground, and Pete proved incapable of attracting the votes of Hispanics and African Americans.

Instead, the Sanders campaign tapped into the growing demand for genuine domestic reforms, giving Vermont’s self-declared democratic socialist a massive boost in the polls that simply frightened the Democratic Party elite. The initial reaction to Sanders consisted of enlisting New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, a billionaire, to run as a Democrat as insurance against Sanders’ apparent dominance of the field whose massive campaign advertising spree had the effect of suffocating the efforts of his rivals by driving up ad prices. The second part of anti-Sanders campaign became evident during the most recent debate, in which virtually everyone ganged up on Sanders, even the supposed “moderate” Warren. Thirdly, behind the scenes machinations by Party leadership prompted several candidates (Steyer, Buttigieg, Klobuchar) to drop out in order to promote consolidation around either Biden or Bloomberg, with Warren being kept on in order to siphon the votes away from Sanders. Super Tuesday primaries made Biden look more viable than Bloomberg who then promptly dropped out in order to allow the status-quo support to coalesce around Biden. But the heavy-handed intervention to aid Biden carries two risks.

Dr. Demento

The state of Biden’s health is such that the decision to abandon Bloomberg as “insurance policy” may have been premature. To state it plainly, Joe Biden’s cognitive skills have sharply declined since his time as Vice President. Biden’s arguably greatest asset to Obama was as a ferocious campaigner with a certain presence of mind. Today’s Biden forgets what he said two minutes earlier, seems unaware of which city and state he is in at the moment, cannot decide whether he is running for the Presidency or the Senate, and is prone to making incoherent, stream-of-consciousness rants that the dutiful media continue describe as “gaffes” and  his most ardent supporters as “stutter”. When giving Super Tuesday victory speeches, Biden had to resort to reading prepared text off a teleprompter, leading one TV pundit to praise Biden’s ability to “finish his sentences” without even a hint of irony. But should Biden suffer an impossible to conceal cognitive lapse in the middle of a debate with Donald Trump, who is still a formidable stage performer, it will lead to demands for Biden’s medical records or even a new medical evaluation to ensure he is not suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s. Unless Biden can muster a lucid mind in time to face Donald Trump, the state of his mental health will become a significant liability.

A Party Divided

The other problem is the now-evident and very deep Party polarization. Bluntly put, there are now great many Biden supporters who would never vote for Sanders, and great many Sanders supporters who would never vote for Biden. Worse, many of the Biden supporters, including in the ranks of the American punditry and commentariat, have developed such an intense dislike for Sanders that they are hinting at voting for Trump rather than a “socialist”. One can readily sense the degree of polarization when hashtags like #BernieBros are trending at the same time as #IDoNotLikeJoeBiden.

The level of division within the Party is such that no single candidate can possibly bridge it. No matter who is nominated, he will not have the full and enthusiastic support of a major faction of the Democratic Party coalition. Potentially complicating matters even further is the institution of super-delegates, or die-hard party loyalists who can declare their support for a candidate irrespective of the will of the voters in their state.

The Known Unknowns

The outcome of the race will furthermore depend on several factors which are guaranteed to play a role in the outcome, but whose impact cannot yet be accurately predicted. In no particular order, they are

  • The Economy. If United States suffers from a recession or even a full-blown financial crisis, 2008-style, Trump is toast almost irrespective of what Biden does on the campaign trail. Trump has made the economy the centerpiece of his presidency—if anything bad happens to it, it will doom the chances of his second term. However, at the moment there are no indications anything like that will happen. Rather the opposite—the Federal Reserve’s lowering the federal funds rate by half a percentage point represents an endorsement of Trump for a second term.
  • Coronavirus. If the United States are hit hard by the pandemic and its ramshackle for-profit health care system copes with it less effectively than China’s, this too would be a major problem for Donald Trump, particularly if it triggers an economic crisis whose effects are felt before November. Trump’s appointment of Pence to deal with the anti-pandemic measures shows the White House is taking this threat very seriously.
  • VP pick. There are no indications Trump would have a different running mate in 2020, and Pence has proved himself to be if not a Cheney-style power-behind-the-throne, then at least a reliable and discrete troubleshooter for the administration. Biden’s or Sanders’ VP picks are still unknown and, in the light of their own lack of executive experience, selection of a capable, experienced administrator.
  • Election rigging. Research conducted after Super Tuesday showed significant discrepancies between tabulated votes and exit poll results, in some states reaching 8%, which is an unusually large amount well outside the margin of error. Ironically, US AID own guidelines for election monitoring state that such discrepancies may constitute an indicator though not proof that the election was tampered with. That possibility cannot be ruled out, since voting is done using electronic machines leaving no paper trail, making verification all but impossible. Given the post-2016 emphasis on “securing elections”, ostensibly to prevent “Russian hackers” from influencing the outcome in the future, one also cannot rule out the possibility the “Russia scare” was used as cover under which mechanisms for influencing vote scoring were embedded in many if not all US states. It also remains to be seen whether such tactics could be used in the general election, given the inevitable outcry it would provoke among the republican electorate. For now, it appears more likely for them to be used only in intra-party power struggles, to eliminate status quo challengers like Sanders.

Four More Years

Unless one of the above-named unknowns manifests itself in the coming months, Donald Trump is well positioned to win the second term. Not only can Trump boast certain successes in domestic and foreign policy, the schism among the Democrats will result in a demotivated base no matter whether Biden or Sanders are the nominee.

In practical terms it means United States foreign policy run by the “deep state” for at least four more years, leading to more wars, fewer arms control agreements, deeper deficits, and the general deterioration of international security, which will make the global multipolarity even more evident than it is right now.

Biden’s victory would not change the trajectory of US politics, either. Joseph Biden Jr. represents the corporatist pro-war wing of the Democratic Party, and Biden’s own involvement in Ukraine is so well known that it requires no additional elaboration. And whereas Trump at least made efforts to rein in the “deep state” and paid a price for it in the form of impeachment, President Biden will do no such thing.

Finally, in the unlikely event of a Sanders victory, there is no reason to expect he would be any more successful than Trump in thwarting such subversion of Constitutional authority. Even though he might be willing to do so, and his extensive domestic agenda practically demands reductions in the colossal national security budget, his own party simply will not let him. If anything, it will back the “deep state” against him as it did against Trump.

Thus at the moment the US political system is a functioning replica of the Titanic heading for the iceberg, with intense struggle on the bridge over who will control the steering wheel. Except that there’s a catch: no matter who seizes it, the ship’s course will not change sufficiently to avoid catastrophe.

Nasrallah: Iran’s strike is the first step towards the expulsion of all US forces from the Middle East

February 11, 2020

Source

Speech by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayed Hassan Nasrallah on January 12, 2020, commemorating the martyrdom of Hajj Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Translation: resistancenews.org

Transcript:

[…] My third point concerns the response (to the assassination of Soleimani), or the just retribution (which must be inflicted on the United States), which I mentioned last Sunday after His Eminence the Leader (Khamenei), (political and military) Iranian and Iraqi officials, and Resistance movements throughout the region. All aspects of this issue need to be highlighted.

It can be formulated in one sentence: the response to the American crime that caused the martyrdom of Hajj Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, as well as the brothers who accompanied them, is not a simple operation. It is a path, a long journey that we have initiated, and that must lead to the expulsion of the American military presence from our region, from the whole Middle East, or, as His Eminence the Leader (Khamenei) names it, the region of Western Asia. This will be the response. The response is not a single operation. What happened at the American base of Ain al-Assad is just a slap, and it is not the answer to the martyrdom of Qassem Soleimani. And anyone who views the attack on Ain al-Assad as the Iranian response is completely mistaken. It is only a slap, as defined by His Eminence the Leader, inflicted on American forces and bases, a slap that is part of this long process. It’s just a thunderous start, a thunderous military start. It is a powerful first step that has shaken (American imperialism), on the long road of the retaliation to this crime, which is one of the greatest crimes committed by the United States in our region. And as I said, this must lead to the expulsion of American troops and the end of the American military presence in our region.

I want to talk a little bit about this slap. Then, I will talk about this path (which should lead to the end of the US military occupation of the Middle East).

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First, this slap… When the Aerospace forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targeted, a few days ago, in the middle of the night… Of course, the main target was the Ain al-Assad base. In Erbil, they only fired one or two missiles, and the message was merely psychological. But the real military target was the Ain al-Assad base. Several missiles traveled hundreds of kilometers and struck the heart of the base, as recognized by the United States’ Defense Secretary, and hit their targets. This event was enormous and constituted a veritable earthquake. It placed the whole region… We followed the events overnight, and during all the following day, and the whole region was on the brink of war.

I want to talk a bit about the impact of this slap, this strike. Of course, since the early hours, some US media, and also the media in the Gulf and the Arab world, who are more American than the Americans themselves, have started to prepare the ground for the American reaction. From that moment, I understood that Trump was going to swallow the insult and would do nothing, I understood that he was going to pipe down. When they started to insist emphatically on the fact that there were no dead or injured soldiers, to diminish the importance of the slap and to disparage it (they are accustomed to do that), I understood that Trump would not do anything.

But if we want to be objective and consider somewhat the real importance of this slap, we must establish the following points.

First, this slap, this major military strike, demonstrates unparalleled courage on the part of the Iranian leaders and the Iranian people, who supports his leaders. This courage is indescribable. Who are we talking about? They fired missiles at an American base, at American forces. As all (serious) experts and analysts have pointed out in the past few days, such a thing has not happened since the end of the Second World War. We are talking about a State, not an organization, a group, a Resistance movement. Because it has already happened that a non-State group strikes the Americans, like the attack (that killed 241 American officers and soldiers) against the headquarters of the Marines in Beirut in 1983 (attributed to Hezbollah). But it is very different when we speak (not of a clandestine organization but) of a State, which has institutions, leaders, an army, (Revolution) Guards, refineries, factories, airports, ports… A State has a lot to lose, as they say. This act and this decision express an incommensurable and unprecedented courage and audacity. Who dares to do such a thing all over the face of the Earth? In the whole world, who dares to attack the Americans directly and brazenly? Since the Second World War, no one has dared to stand up to the Americans and strike them openly, firing missiles at one of their bases. Who dares to do such a thing?

Especially that during the previous days, the American officials threatened (of violent reprisals in the event of Iranian response). And you remember Trump’s Tweet: if you hit us or do anything, I will immediately respond, violently and firmly, by destroying 52 Iranian strategic sites, including cultural ones. But he swallowed everything he said. These threats were clearly present on the minds of Iranian leaders when they made this decision.

Therefore, the first element established by this slap and this strike is the unequaled courage and boldness of the Iranians manifested by this act, which marks a rupture and confirms a whole new stage (in History). The message to the United States and its allies in the region is that it faces officials, a regime and a people of tremendous courage. If Washington imagined that the Iranians were afraid, weakened, had backed away, had become cowardly,and felt defeated, they received a scathing denial. This was perhaps Iran’s strongest decision since the death of Imam Khomeini, may God have mercy on him (not to say since the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in 1979). But in all truth, one can consider this grandiose act only as a summit of courage. We know very well (in Hezbollah) what it means to make a decision of this nature, which can lead to dangerous reactions, even war, to (regional or perhaps global) war.

The second point is that this strike or slap revealed the power of Iran’s military capabilities. Because there were always people who denigrated this capacity. There are, in truth, people who are pathetic non-entities and who take pleasure in their state, and belittle themselves, having no self-esteem, but they do not accept to see strong, dignified, powerful and capable people in this (Arab-Muslim) Nation, people who actually do what they say and achieve everything they promise. They don’t accept it because they’re just the opposite of that. This strike exposed the truth of Iran’s military capability. The missiles are 100% Iranian made. They were not bought from US arms manufacturers and paid hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from the pockets of the Iranian people (unlike Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, especially in their war against Yemen). These missiles are Iranian-made, and the experts are Iranian, with no need for any foreign experts. The targets were determined by the Iranians, as was the entire technical process. The launches were carried out by Iranian officers and soldiers, and not by mercenaries hired in the United States or other countries (United Kingdom, France, Israel…) as do other States (in the region). The decision was Iranian, as are the weapons and the execution of the operation.

And the missiles hit their targets precisely. All the missiles hit the base successfully. Some talk about 13 missiles, the US Secretary of State for Defense talks about 11 missiles that struck inside the base, fired from hundreds of kilometers away. What does this mean for the United States? All American bases in the region are within range of Iranian missiles, and can be struck with great precision. And it should be known that the Islamic Republic of Iran has missiles even more precise than those which it used for this operation, but it did not resort to them, because it keeps them in reserve (for later).

And despite their high alert, maximum alert, and the fact that they expected an imminent response from Iran, the Americans failed to intercept any of these missiles. And this all their bases are in the same situation. This is a message to all those who are plotting with the United States against Iran. And this is a very strong message to the Zionist entity, which still believed it could play with Iran. It is a message to Netanyhau, who has always dreamed of sending his air force to bomb the Iranian nuclear installations. But the military and security officials within the Zionist entity always opposed him. He wanted to achieve a feat, but this imbecile does not know his limits and does not know to which abyss he is leading his entity. The message of this strike is a very strong message to the Zionists. When they hear threats from His Eminence the Leader, may God preserve him, or from Iranian officials against the Israeli entity, they must take these threats very seriously. This has been understood and stated by Israeli analysts and experts over the past few days. The missile strike hit the Ain al-Assad base in Iraq, but the mourning was in the Zionist entity, because they understood that this is what awaits them if they dare to attack Iran, plot against Iran or threaten Iran. Because Iran has this capacity and this power.

This is why, my brothers and sisters, this strike is huge and of paramount importance. Whether US soldiers got killed & wounded or not, this will be revealed in the coming days. The CNN reporter yesterday saw the scene and showed a spectacle of desolation, saying it was caused by a single missile. We could see a huge destruction in this base. Even if most of the soldiers had gone to take refuge in the shelters, weren’t there guards, soldiers at the observation and defense posts? We’ll see (if there are victims). However, the scale of the military damage is colossal. We are talking about (the destruction of) extremely sophisticated radars, equipment, planes, installations… Anyway, whether or not there are victims, this strike alone, in itself, the way in which it was carried out has all the importance that I have just emphasized.

One of its effects is to have broken America’s prestige. The prestige of the United States was shattered by the strike against the base of al-Assad, whether in the eyes of their friends or in the eyes of their enemies. Yes, the Americans kept a low profile, they lowered their heads and piped down! During the last days, yes, the American soldiers stood on a foot and a half (ready to run away), and we are talking about the United States, o people (reference to earlier words of Nasrallah following the assassination by Israel of two Hezbollah fighters in Syria, mocking the fear of Israeli soldiers while awaiting the inevitable response)! This is what Iran has achieved in the past few days. And that’s why in Israel, one of the mourning topics that gets a lot of attention is that according to some rumours, Trump prepares to withdraw from Iraq and the region, and leave Israel alone (against their enemies). Today, within the Zionist entity, all the talk is about this nightmarily prospect. The prestige of the United States has been shattered.

And what has been the response of the United States? They swallowed the insult. Under what pretext? ‘Be happy o Americans, no one got killed (proclaims Trump).’ But who are you? You are the United States! It’s an American base! Thousands of American soldiers hid, dispersed, ran all over the place, rushed to the shelters, moped in fear and terror for hours! Missiles hit your base, and a State claimed responsibility for these strikes! Your equipment, your radars, your planes have been destroyed! And after all that, you stay quiet? Trump swallowed the insult.

Just see the pictures. We in Lebanon have a long experience in this area. Go and see the footage from Trump’s press conference on January 8 in the morning. The Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Defense Secretary and the commanders of the United States armed forces were standing, and Trump arrived. What did their faces express? Did they express a victorious America? A powerful America? America in a position of strength and arrogance? An America that has just defeated its enemies? Or was it, on the contrary, a scene of mourning in the White House? Just look at their faces! Review the images, and observe their faces (carefully)!

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And when Trump talked about the situation, he immediately went in another direction. ‘As long as I am President, Iran will not have nuclear weapons. They will never get nuclear weapons.’ What a joke! Iran has no desire for nuclear weapons! Who is he kidding? He talked about something else, and he swallowed the insult. He made it clear that the United States would not use a military response but economic sanctions.

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Why? Why is that? Simply put, o my brothers and sisters, because Iran is powerful. Because Iran is brave. Because Iran is capable. What prevented Trump (from retaliating) ? I’m sure that when they met that night, the military said to him: if you decide to strike Iran, you must know that they have already pointed their missiles at all our bases and that all of them will be struck (immediately, which will cause thousands of victims among our troops). And the Iranians have let the Americans know, via intermediaries, and have also publicly announced that if the United States retaliates, they will immediately strike all American bases in the region as well as Israel. And the US military told Trump that they are unable to defend their bases, as the example of Ain al-Assad has shown, and that things would certainly escalate to war. And who claims that Trump is willing to head for war? (Nobody!)

I add to that the extraordinarily massive funeral (of Soleimani) in Iran. Its importance should not be underestimated. This is part of the message of colossal power sent (by Iran to its enemies). The decision to retaliate is not only that of the Leader or of political and military decision-makers, it is a decision of the entire Iranian people! This is what the Iranian people have longed for. The Iranian people was ready for war to defend his honor, and to avenge the blood of his eminent and grand martyr, Hajj Qassem Soleimani.

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And that’s why, in all simplicity, Trump piped down, he swallowed his pride and backed away. And he made a speech devoid of any threat. And of course, he repeated his lies: ‘I call on Iran to negotiate (with the United States). I call on Iran to cooperate…’ And who expressed himself in these terms? The one who the previous night received 11 huge missiles on his forces at the base of Ain al-Assad. ‘I call on Iran to cooperate on our common interests such as the fight against ISIS.’ You hypocrite, you pretend to want to fight ISIS when you have just murdered the two biggest commanders in the region who have fought and inflicted countless defeats on ISIS? While ISIS celebrated their death so gleefully?

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Trump again declares to the Iranian people: ‘I only wish prosperity for you.’ But what a shameless liar! Are you pretending to want prosperity for the Iranian people when you impose on him sanctions and a state of siege, the most severe siege in the history of Iran? And he said again, not during this press conference, but in meetings and interviews later, he repeated his lies to the Americans. Because he has to put forward a good reason (for what he did). The Americans asked him where he led the country, what situation he put them in, and he had to justify his assassination of Soleimani & Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis with a pretext. Anyway, because my state of clergyman does not allow me to show you or describe the images, I invite you to watch the cartoons published by the Washington Post. These cartoons are a commentary on the Iranian missiles launched against the Al-Assad base and Trump’s stance. Look at them.

In order to put forward an (admissible) pretext, he claims that he ordered the murder of Soleimani because he was about to blow up American embassies in the region. Liar! He lies to his people! And it is well known that he is the greatest liar in the history of the United States of America. All American Presidents were liars, but the biggest liar in their history is unquestionably Trump. In no case did Hajj Qassem Soleimani plan to attack American embassies. Never in his life, never ever. It was not part of his plans, or even of his ideas. It never crossed his mind (because embassies are civilian and therefore illegitimate targets). These are Trump’s lies that seek to cover up the real reasons for the crime he perpetrated.

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Anyway, this silence of the United States after this (humiliating) slap from Iran is also a lesson addressed to all (the other countries) so that they be courageous, have confidence in their capacities and their power and have faith, and realize that as great and tyrannical the power of the United States can be, there are safeguards, limits, circumstances to which even American decision-makers must submit. It is therefore a mere slap in the path that we have just taken, and which should lead to the expulsion of all the American forces from our region.

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I will now very quickly address the last point of my speech, namely the next steps that should lead us to this lofty goal. And I’m going to talk about two things in particular, very briefly.

The first point is related to Iraq. Why Iraq? Because it is the battlefield in which the crime was committed. After Iran, the first place that should be concerned with the response against the United States is Iraq. Here are the reasons in order of priority:

1 / because the crime was perpetrated on Iraqi territory, in the shadow of Iraqi sovereignty (which has been flouted), on the road to Baghdad airport;

2 / because the crime also targeted a very high ranking Iraqi commander, an official leader, the deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Units (Hashd al-Cha’bi); he is a commander of the official Hashd al-Cha’bi force (integrated into the Iraqi national army);

3 / because the crime targeted Hajj Qassem Soleimani and his Iranian brothers who defended Iraq and sacrificed themselves for the Iraqi people.

Iraq is therefore the first country, after Iran, which has the duty to respond to this crime. The first response took place during the (mass) funeral of the martyrs, and in the position expressed by religious leaders, scholars, politicians, religious education establishments and the Iraqi people.

The second response was the stance of the head of the Council of Ministers and the Iraqi Parliament, who demanded the departure of the American forces.

And by the way, I hope that Mas’oud Barzani (Kurdish separatist leader) will be grateful for the benefits brought by Hajj Qassem Soleimani, which he acknowledged many years ago. Today, you need to (publicly) acknowledge these benefits. When ISIS was on the verge of reaching Erbil (in Iraqi Kurdistan), when all of Kurdistan was on the verge of falling into the hands of ISIS, and you contacted all your friends to help you, but they forsake you, you then contacted the Iranians, who from the second day, as you acknowledged, sent you Hajj Qassem Soleimani with his brothers. And I add that he was accompanied by Hezbollah brothers, who went with him to Erbil. And they all told me that Mas’oud Barzani was trembling, his two hands were literally trembling with fear and terror. But it was the rapid presence of Hajj Qassem Soleimani and the Islamic Republic of Iran at your side that repelled this danger which threatened you all, and which has never been seen in the history of Kurdistan.

Today, you have a duty to acknowledge these benefits and to participate in the response alongside other leaders in the Iraqi government, the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi forces.

Be that as it may, the authentic response, one of the most important elements of the authentic response, is to expel American forces from Iraq. The Iraqi Parliament has already taken a step in this direction, and we are grateful for that, because it is a grandiose, capital, courageous, bold and important decision. The head of the Council of Ministers, Sayed Abd al-Mahdi, who follows the implementation of this decision with courage and sincerity, and publicly asked Pompeo to send a delegation to negotiate the stages of the withdrawal of the US forces, all this is closely followed by the leaders, officials and people of Iraq. And if this is followed up seriously, the departure of American troops will be an inevitable certainty, and the best response to this infamous crime. This is what Hajj Qassem and Abu Mahdi aspired to: they wanted to see Iraq liberated from the occupation, cleansed of all the terrorist forces which are protected by the officers of the occupying US forces and their helicopters, that move the leaders and ISIS commanders from one province to another (to save them). It was their highest hope. And this responsibility falls on the Iraqi people. And if the Americans do not go out voluntarily, the Iraqi people will know how to force them out, as will the factions of the Resistance.

Of course, we must know that the American administration will do everything possible to delay the implementation of this historic decision by the Iraqis, by playing on internal dissension, reviving sedition, threatening sanctions and confiscation of Iraq’s property and deposits that are in the United States. The United States puts the Iraqi people before two choices: ‘Either you force me out and I will punish you by confiscating your money, or I will continue to occupy you and plunder your oil and your choices.’ So choose, o Iraqis. This is what Trump wants for Iraq. He wants your oil, he wants your sovereignty, he wants to take over your country. It will be up to the Iraqis to choose.

The second and final point of my speech is the steadfastness of the Resistance Axis on its path. After the slap of Ain al-Assad, and, with the Grace of God, and the developments under way in Iraq, I consider that the Resistance Axis must start to act. We must start to act. What we all said a few days ago (we vowed to expell the US forces from the region) is not an empty promise. It was not a vain statement meant to boast, to absorb the blow that was dealt to the Resistance Axis or to cheer up people. Never. The Axis of Resistance is serious, sincere and pragmatic in achieving the grandiose goal it has set for itself. And the days, weeks and months to come will demonstrate this unequivocally. I said it was a long way. It is a difficult road. The Americans must withdraw from their bases; their soldiers, their officers and their warships must leave our region. They must leave (voluntarily). The alternative… I’m going to speak the opposite of what I said last Sunday. I said that they came to our region in a vertical position (and would leave in a horizontal position, in coffins).

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Now, I tell them this: either you get out voluntarily on your two legs, in a vertical position, or you will leave in a horizontal position (in coffins). This is the alternative available to you. And this is a final and irrevocable decision of the Resistance Axis. It’s just a matter of time. There will be no hindsight on this issue. Anyone who imagines that this grandiose event, this grandiose martyrdom, this pure blood which has been unjustly shed, will be forgotten after a few months or a few years, is greatly mistaken. Never. We are talking about the start of a new phase, a new stage, a new era in the region. And the days to come will let you see it with your own eyes (our first actions to kick US forces out will be visible to all). I don’t need to dwell on this any further.

This is the responsibility of the (Arab-Muslim) Nation, of the whole Nation. I know with certainty that today, our peoples have the height of soul, spirit and aspiration required, they have a high forehead, courage and are daring without limits, they have a disposition to sacrifice and a lucid conscience. It is the case everywhere in our Arab-Muslim world. The current dangers are well understood by all, (as is the need to uproot them definitively by expelling the American occupier, who is the main cause of most if not all of our problems).

The American administration and the American murderers will pay the price for this crime and all the other crimes they have committed and continue to commit in our region and in our countries. They will pay dearly for it, and they will find out that they were wrong in their calculations.

After the martyrdom of Hajj Qassem Soleimani and Hajj Abu Mahdi, I listened to statements by Trump, Vice President Pence, the Secretary of State, the Defense Secretary, the National Security Advisor and of the United States Congress who all claimed that the world is a safer place after the assassination of Soleimani. You are deluding yourself! You are grossly mistaken! And you will soon realize it. You will realize it by the blood (of your soldiers & officials). You will soon find out. Which world is safer? The world of those whose territory is occupied? The world of the oppressed? The world of peoples? The Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, Pakistani, Yemeni, Bahraini people, the peoples of the region? Are you talking about these people? Certainly not. You talk about the world of the Zionists, the world of the occupiers, the world of the despots and the tyrants. The days to come will reveal to you that after the martyrdom of Soleimani, the world will be very different (from what it was): there will be no more security for the tyrants, murderers, criminals and despots.

I will stop here for today. […]

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

US Returns to Ashes of 1945

by Finian Cunningham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pence to Offer ’Carrots’ to Venezuela Military, Warnings to Judges

By Roberta Rampton – Reuters

US Vice President Mike Pence is set on Tuesday to offer new incentives to Venezuela’s military to turn against President Nicolas Maduro, responding to an attempted uprising that fizzled out last week, a senior administration official told Reuters.

In a speech to the Americas Society at the State Department, scheduled for 3:25 p.m., Pence will also warn that the United States will soon move to sanction 25 additional magistrates on Venezuela’s Supreme Court, the official said on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Pence will also offer assistance for refugees who have fled the country, and an economic aid package contingent on a political transition, according to the official.

Pence’s speech will be the first look at the Trump administration’s recalibrated strategy following massive street protests last week led by Juan Guaido, the opposition leader backed by the United States and most other Western countries.

Guaido had described the protests as the start of his “final phase” to oust Maduro, but mass military defections failed to come to fruition.

US President Donald Trump has invested considerable political capital in the diplomatic and economic intervention in the Venezuela crisis.

Although Guaido’s attempted uprising failed to immediately dislodge Maduro, it exposed new fissures within the country, the official said.

“A week before last, all the media – including you guys, everybody – was writing about how there’s no way forward, complete stalemate,” the official said.

“Suddenly last week, everyone woke up.”

New Carrots, And a Stick

Guaido, the president of the country’s national assembly, invoked Venezuela’s constitution in January to declare himself interim president of the country, arguing that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was ‘illegitimate.’

Maduro – who has said Guaido is a puppet of Washington – has sought to show that the military remains on his side, but opposition leaders and US officials have said that support is tenuous.

“They sat back in the barracks and they’re there, but they don’t want to be identified as the institutional source of repression,” the official said.

Pence will offer new “carrots” to the Venezuelan military, the senior official told Reuters, declining to provide details of the incentives ahead of the speech.

“He’ll be showing where the opportunities lay if people do the right thing moving forward,” the official said.

Pence is also set to outline new assistance for Venezuelans who have fled the oil-rich OPEC member, which has been plagued by hyperinflation and shortages of food, water, power and medicine – and a “Day One” economic assistance plan for Venezuela contingent on Maduro’s departure, the official added.

The vice president in addition will deliver a “warning shot” to magistrates on Venezuela’s Supreme Court. The Treasury Department sanctioned the court’s president, Maikel Moreno, in 2017 and the seven principal members of its constitutional chamber – and is now preparing to sanction the 25 remaining members of the court, the official said.

“We feel like that’s where the pressure needs to be,” according to the official.

“All 32 magistrates in the TSJ are going to sink or swim together,” the official said, using the acronym for Tribunal Supremo de Justicia.

The court would be responsible for signing off on any warrant for an arrest of Guaido – a move the US official emphasized would have severe consequences.

The United States imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, in January. Oil provides 90 percent of export revenue for Venezuela.

The administration also continues to work on other responses to increase financial pressure on Maduro, including “secondary sanctions” on companies from other countries that do business with Venezuela, and additional shipping sanctions for oil, the official said.

Pompeo Lies, Cheats and Steals (But He’s Still a Good Christian)

FEATURED STORY
Philip Giraldi
May 2, 2019
Image result for Pompeo Lies, Cheats and Steals (But He’s Still a Good Christian)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently recounted to an audience at Texas A&M University that when he was head of the Central Intelligence Agency he was responsible for “lying, cheating and stealing” to benefit the United States. “Like we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.”

The Secretary made the comment with a grin, noting that when he was a cadet at West Point he subscribed to the Academy honor code, which stated that “You will not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do.” The largely student audience clearly appreciated and irony and laughed and applauded, though it is not clear what they made of the “glory of the American experiment.” The normally humorless Pompeo was suggesting ironically that yesterday’s Pompeo would be required to turn today’s Pompeo into the appropriate authorities for lying and also conniving at high crimes and misdemeanors while at the Agency.

Certainly, some might find Pompeo’s admission a bit lame though perhaps understandable as he arrived at CIA without any experience in intelligence. Someone should have whispered in his ear, “That is what spy agencies do Mike.” And if he found the moral ambiguities vexing, he should have turned down the job. Equally lame has been the international media coverage of the comments (it was not reported in any major national news outlet in the US) which reflected both shock and vindication at finding a top-level official who would admit that Washington does all that sort of nasty stuff.

And Pompeo is not alone in his doing what would have hitherto been unthinkable as many senior figures in the Trump Administration who have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution now find themselves conniving at starting various wars without the constitutionally required declaration of war from Congress. Pompeo has personally assured both the Venezuelans and Iranians that “all options are on the table,” while also arming the Ukrainians and warning the Russians to get out of Caracas or else face the consequences. And it is a good thing that he has now learned how to lie as he does so when he keeps insisting that the Iranians are the leading state sponsors of terrorism or that the Saudis are fighting a just war in Yemen.

And then there is the ethical dimension. The United States government is already involved in economic acts of war through use of its sanctions worldwide. It is currently dedicated to starving the Iranian and Venezuelan people to force them to change their governments. This week, a global boycott of Iranian oil sales to be enforced unilaterally by Washington kicks in with the objective, per Pompeo, of reducing “Iran’s oil exports to zero” to deny its government its “principal source of revenue.” The problem with the Pompeo objective is that attacking a foreign government normally rallies the people around their leadership. Also, denying a country income ultimately hurts ordinary people much more than it does those who make the decisions. One recalls the famous Madeleine Albright line about killing 500,000 Iraqi children through malnutrition and disease brought about by sanctions as “being worth it.”

Image result for Madeleine Albright iraq

Pompeo believes himself to be a good Christian. Indeed, a very good Christian in that he believes that the second coming of Jesus Christ is imminent and by virtue of his good deeds he will be saved and “raptured” directly to heaven. He, like Vice President Mike Pence, is referred to as a Dispensationalist, and he also believes that those who are not “born again” and accept Jesus will be doomed to hell. Most Dispensationalists think that the second coming will be preceded by a world war centered in the Middle East referred to as Armageddon, which will pit good against evil. How that shapes Pompeo’s thinking vis-à-vis encouraging a major armed conflict with Iran is certainly something that war-weary Americans should be considering.

One of the really interesting things about fanatics like Pompeo and his dos amigos Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton is how they are unable to figure out what comes next after the “lying, cheating, stealing” and shooting are over. After American air and naval power destroy Iran, what comes next? If Iraq and Afghanistan are anything to go by, “next” will be kind of figured out as one goes along. And as for an end game, fuggedaboutit.

Now let us suppose that with the crushing of the Mullahs all the requirements for Armageddon will be met and Jesus Christ makes his second appearance, what happens after that when the world as we know it ends? Presumably the rapture itself is painless but when Pompeo and Pence arrive at heaven what will they do all day? Play cards? There will be no television one presumes and no Muslims or Latinos to kick around as they will all be in hell. Drinking and smoking are probably not allowed and acquiring a girlfriend will likely be discouraged. One suspects that engaging in philosophical symposia to pass one’s time is not particularly favored by either gentleman.

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