Category Archives: Sanctions

The Next US President Will Save Europe From Russia’s Secret Plot

On the eve of his visit to Austria, President Vladimir Putin told the press: Russia has not the least intention of sowing dissent within the European Union. On the contrary, it is in Moscow’s interests that the EU, its biggest trading partner, remain as unified and thriving as possible.

Europeans have long been quite obsessed with the idea that Russia is bent on dividing and weakening Europe.  In the most prominent English-language media this is practically presumed to be as obviously true as their claims that Russia killed the blogger Arkady Babchenko, attempted to murder the spy Sergei Skripal, and shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

As usual, after the Malaysian government admitted that the evidence of Russian involvement in the downing of flight MH17 was inconclusive, the anti-Russian propaganda campaigns were reduced to slim pickings. It was precisely for this reason that the more cutting-edge Western media were so happy to latch onto the murder of the blogger in Kiev. It was precisely for this reason that the very ones who had so desperately hyped that whole episode were so indignant when they realized that they had fallen victim to a bit of ruthless Ukrainian creative license.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G-20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany on July 8, 2017

But let’s get back to Russia’s secret plots against Europe. Interestingly, when you trace back the source of most of the warnings about the Russian plots to divide Europe, they seem to emanate from Great Britain. In other words, they are coming from a government that has decided to pull out of the EU but is now trying to direct its foreign policy.

Allegations of Russian plans to fragment Europe have been heard from both the head of Britain’s MI5 intelligence agency as well as from spokesmen from the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR). Judging by its name, one might be forgiven for assuming that was supposed to be a pan-European organization. But actually that’s just what’s written on the shingle they hang outside their door, because, in fact, this “think tank” is headquartered and funded in London.

It turns out that the most prominently schismatic states in Europe also hold wildly anti-Russian stances. Neither Great Britain, nor, shall we say, Poland could be suspected of a dearth of official Russophobia. Both of them, each in their own way, are trying to ruin the lives of those countries that form the core of the EU.  Both have closed their doors to refugees and both are bravely waging war against an “influx” of natural gas that theoretically has nothing to do with them. Poland, which gets 17 billion euros a year from the EU budget, has the audacity to be demanding reparations from Germany. Britain, which slammed its doors shut in order to avoid chipping in to fund the EU, is valiantly battling Brussels in order to hold on to its economic perks in Europe.

And in this context, the EU’s biggest common ally — the US — is becoming an increasingly big problem. Washington has unleashed an economic war, not only against Russia and Iran, but also against the countries of Europe. But in the propaganda being rolled out for the European audience, the picture of the world looks like this:

The European Union’s main enemies are Russia and China. It’s true that they do want to trade with Europe and are offering enticements to encourage this, but one mustn’t believe them. Because it is a known fact that they are conducting a hybrid war — invisibly and unprovably — against Europe. Russia is such a wily combatant that one can’t ever prove anything — but you have to believe that it’s true. The European Union’s biggest friend is still the US. And yes, it’s true that they are currently trying to run their friends out of town in order to make a quick buck. But it’s solely President Trump who is to blame for that. Just be patient: soon the next president will come and fix everything right up. And it’s also true that no one can say when that next president will be in office, or what his name will be, or what he will do. And, of course, everyone remembers the Obama administration’s ceaseless attempts to foist an entirely colonial “transatlantic partnership” on Europe. But once Trump’s gone everything will be different — you just have to believe.

And this “you just have to believe” has recently become the main leitmotif of all the anti-Russian propaganda. Since the preferred narrative about the spy, the blogger, and airliner haven’t panned out, the proof of Russia’s malice is increasingly being repackaged as a kind of spiritual evidence. As the Guardian put it so aptly — “We do not need Russia to poison people in a British city to recognise the expanding threat to common values posed by Vladimir Putin’s hostile, corrupt regime.”

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – AUGUST 16: A statue holding the symbol of the Euro, the European common currency, stands in front of the European Parliament building on August 16 and 2011 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)

But then how can one explain that in reality, the opposite is true, that Russia actually needs a unified, rich and strong European Union? This isn’t rocket science, people — you don’t need to invoke “values” and chant the mantra of “you just have to believe.”

Russia needs a rich EU, because a rich trading partner has more purchasing power, which gives Russia a positive trade balance with the EU.

Russia needs a unified EU, because a unified Europe that manages its own security issues from a centralized headquarters will present far fewer problems for Moscow than a string of feckless “friends of the US” along Russia’s western borders.

Russia needs a sovereign EU, because the anti-Russian trade sanctions serve no economic purpose for the EU whatsoever — and once Europe establishes sovereignty we will quite likely see those sanctions lifted.

And it is no coincidence that Austria was the first foreign country that Vladimir Putin visited after his inauguration.

Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen shakes hands with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in his office in Vienna, Austria June 5, 2018. Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

That country is European, rich, and neutral (therefore not a member of NATO) and has been a staunch advocate for the rollback of Europe’s anti-Russian policy.

In other words, in Austria you can see a potential model for the kind of independent European Union that Russia would like to deal with in the twenty-first century.

And this is why the ones who are now so fervently preaching about “shared values” and “Western unity” when faced with the treachery of those natural-gas pipelines and that Eurasian trade route are actually demanding that Europe do itself a disservice by remaining deferential.

The Next US President Will Save Europe From Russia’s Secret Plot

On the eve of his visit to Austria, President Vladimir Putin told the press: Russia has not the least intention of sowing dissent within the European Union. On the contrary, it is in Moscow’s interests that the EU, its biggest trading partner, remain as unified and thriving as possible.

Europeans have long been quite obsessed with the idea that Russia is bent on dividing and weakening Europe.  In the most prominent English-language media this is practically presumed to be as obviously true as their claims that Russia killed the blogger Arkady Babchenko, attempted to murder the spy Sergei Skripal, and shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

As usual, after the Malaysian government admitted that the evidence of Russian involvement in the downing of flight MH17 was inconclusive, the anti-Russian propaganda campaigns were reduced to slim pickings. It was precisely for this reason that the more cutting-edge Western media were so happy to latch onto the murder of the blogger in Kiev. It was precisely for this reason that the very ones who had so desperately hyped that whole episode were so indignant when they realized that they had fallen victim to a bit of ruthless Ukrainian creative license.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G-20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany on July 8, 2017

But let’s get back to Russia’s secret plots against Europe. Interestingly, when you trace back the source of most of the warnings about the Russian plots to divide Europe, they seem to emanate from Great Britain. In other words, they are coming from a government that has decided to pull out of the EU but is now trying to direct its foreign policy.

Allegations of Russian plans to fragment Europe have been heard from both the head of Britain’s MI5 intelligence agency as well as from spokesmen from the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR). Judging by its name, one might be forgiven for assuming that was supposed to be a pan-European organization. But actually that’s just what’s written on the shingle they hang outside their door, because, in fact, this “think tank” is headquartered and funded in London.

It turns out that the most prominently schismatic states in Europe also hold wildly anti-Russian stances. Neither Great Britain, nor, shall we say, Poland could be suspected of a dearth of official Russophobia. Both of them, each in their own way, are trying to ruin the lives of those countries that form the core of the EU.  Both have closed their doors to refugees and both are bravely waging war against an “influx” of natural gas that theoretically has nothing to do with them. Poland, which gets 17 billion euros a year from the EU budget, has the audacity to be demanding reparations from Germany. Britain, which slammed its doors shut in order to avoid chipping in to fund the EU, is valiantly battling Brussels in order to hold on to its economic perks in Europe.

And in this context, the EU’s biggest common ally — the US — is becoming an increasingly big problem. Washington has unleashed an economic war, not only against Russia and Iran, but also against the countries of Europe. But in the propaganda being rolled out for the European audience, the picture of the world looks like this:

The European Union’s main enemies are Russia and China. It’s true that they do want to trade with Europe and are offering enticements to encourage this, but one mustn’t believe them. Because it is a known fact that they are conducting a hybrid war — invisibly and unprovably — against Europe. Russia is such a wily combatant that one can’t ever prove anything — but you have to believe that it’s true. The European Union’s biggest friend is still the US. And yes, it’s true that they are currently trying to run their friends out of town in order to make a quick buck. But it’s solely President Trump who is to blame for that. Just be patient: soon the next president will come and fix everything right up. And it’s also true that no one can say when that next president will be in office, or what his name will be, or what he will do. And, of course, everyone remembers the Obama administration’s ceaseless attempts to foist an entirely colonial “transatlantic partnership” on Europe. But once Trump’s gone everything will be different — you just have to believe.

And this “you just have to believe” has recently become the main leitmotif of all the anti-Russian propaganda. Since the preferred narrative about the spy, the blogger, and airliner haven’t panned out, the proof of Russia’s malice is increasingly being repackaged as a kind of spiritual evidence. As the Guardian put it so aptly — “We do not need Russia to poison people in a British city to recognise the expanding threat to common values posed by Vladimir Putin’s hostile, corrupt regime.”

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – AUGUST 16: A statue holding the symbol of the Euro, the European common currency, stands in front of the European Parliament building on August 16 and 2011 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)

But then how can one explain that in reality, the opposite is true, that Russia actually needs a unified, rich and strong European Union? This isn’t rocket science, people — you don’t need to invoke “values” and chant the mantra of “you just have to believe.”

Russia needs a rich EU, because a rich trading partner has more purchasing power, which gives Russia a positive trade balance with the EU.

Russia needs a unified EU, because a unified Europe that manages its own security issues from a centralized headquarters will present far fewer problems for Moscow than a string of feckless “friends of the US” along Russia’s western borders.

Russia needs a sovereign EU, because the anti-Russian trade sanctions serve no economic purpose for the EU whatsoever — and once Europe establishes sovereignty we will quite likely see those sanctions lifted.

And it is no coincidence that Austria was the first foreign country that Vladimir Putin visited after his inauguration.

Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen shakes hands with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in his office in Vienna, Austria June 5, 2018. Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

That country is European, rich, and neutral (therefore not a member of NATO) and has been a staunch advocate for the rollback of Europe’s anti-Russian policy.

In other words, in Austria you can see a potential model for the kind of independent European Union that Russia would like to deal with in the twenty-first century.

And this is why the ones who are now so fervently preaching about “shared values” and “Western unity” when faced with the treachery of those natural-gas pipelines and that Eurasian trade route are actually demanding that Europe do itself a disservice by remaining deferential.

US Trade War with the European Union

Background

The EU on Wednesday said a raft of retaliatory tariffs, including on whiskey and motorcycles, against painful metals duties imposed by the US would be ready as early as July.

The European Commission, which handles trade matters for the 28-country bloc, “expects to conclude the relevant procedure in coordination with member states before the end of June,” said European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic at a news briefing.

This would allow “that the new duties start applying in July,” he added.

“It is a measured and proportionate response to the unilateral and illegal decision taken by the US to impose tariffs on the European steel and aluminum exports which we regret,” said the former Slovak prime minister.

From blue jeans to motorbikes and whiskey, the EU’s hit-list of products targeted for tariffs with the US reads like a catalogue of emblematic American exports.

The European Union originally drew up the list in March but pledged not to activate it unless US President Donald Trump followed through on his threat to impose 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum.

The Trump tariffs came into effect on June 1 and the EU now joins Mexico and Canada and other close allies that have announced their own wave of counter-duties against Washington.

The EU commission must now take their proposal to be signed off by the bloc’s member states amid divisions over what path to take against Trump’s unpredictable policies.

France and the Netherlands back a tough line against the US, while export powerhouse Germany has urged caution towards Trump’s “America First” policies.

*****

PressTV: How do you think this will affect the US? Wouldn’t it create more unemployment in America?

Peter Koenig: First, I think we have to distinguish between the various trade blocks and trade wars, like China, Russia, the NAFTA partner countries, Mexico and Canada – and the European Union – the EU. They are all different in as much as they have different motives.

Second, there is much more behind the so-called trade wars than trade. Much of this trade war is propaganda, big style, for public consumption and public debate, whereas in reality there are other negotiations going on behind closed doors.

And thirdly, there are mid-term elections coming up in the US this fall, and Trump must satisfy his home base, all the workers to whom he promised “Let’s Make America Great Again” – meaning bring back jobs, use US-made metals. So, Trump is also addressing those Americans who wait for jobs. As you know the unofficial but real figure of unemployment in the US is about 22% – and that does not even include the large segment of underemployed people, mostly youth.

I think we have to see the Big Picture here. And Trump, or rather those who give him orders, may not see all the risks that this complex multi-polar tariff war implies.

But for now, let’s stick to Europe.

It is very well possible that the EU will also impose import duties on US goods. But if it stays at that, it is very likely that this so-called trade war with the US is pushing Europe even faster than is already happening towards the East, the natural trading partners – Russia and China. As I said, it’s already happening.

But the Big Picture, in the case of Europe, I believe is IRAN. With tariffs on steel and aluminum – quite sizable tariffs, European producers of these metals, the second largest after China, would hurt. There may not be an immediate replacement market for America.

So, Trump may want to blackmail Europe into accepting his new sanctions on Iran. In other words, “either tariffs or you follow my dictate – abandon the Nuclear Deal and impose sanctions”.

Frankly, I doubt very much that this will work, since EU corporations have already signed billions worth of contracts with Iran. On the other hand, Germany in particular, is keen in renewing political as well as trade relations with Russia.

And the recent remark of the new US Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, that he will support conservative right-wing movements in Germany and in Europe did certainly not go down well in Germany, with already a Parliamentary movement to expulse him, which certainly doesn’t help US-German relations.

As we speak, most likely this type of “blackmail” negotiations, “either tariffs or you go with us against Iran”, are going on with the EU behind closed doors. Of course, nobody knows the outcome.  Trump is like a straw in the wind, bending to whatever seems to suit him best at the moment.

Remember, a couple of months ago he already imposed tariffs on Europe, along with everybody else, on steel and aluminum, then he lifted them again – and now we are on again. It’s like with most everything he does. It’s probably his business negotiation strategy.

But, this would just confirm that this trade war is much more than meets the eye, more than a trade war – it’s about geopolitics – like “show me your card – which camp are you in?”

Trump and those who manage him may still be under the illusion of the last 70 years, that the whole world, especially Europeans, have to bend over backwards to please the US of A, because they saved Europe – and the world – from the Nazi evil.

Not only is it time to stop the vassalage and become autonomous again, but also, many European start understanding that whom they really have to thank for liberating them from the Nazis – is Russia.

Venezuela: Vanguard of a New World

Venezuela is a champion in democracy, in democratic elections, as proven twice within the last twelve months and more than a dozen times since 1999. Never mind that the lunatic west doesn’t want to accept it simply because the west – the US and her handlers – and her European vassals, cannot tolerate a socialist country prospering, one that is so close to the empire’s border and on top of it, loaded with natural riches, like oil and minerals. Venezuela’s economic success could send intellectual “left-wing” shock waves to the dumbed and numbed American populace, with shrapnel ricocheting all the way to blindfolded Europe.

That would be terrible. That’s why Venezuela must be economically strangled, literally, by illegal sanctions, by totally unlawful outside interventions within sovereign Venezuela, by corrupting internal food and medicine distribution, literally buying off bus drivers to stay home rather than driving their assigned routes to take people from home to work and vice-versa; and corrupting truck drivers not to deliver the merchandise, so that supermarket shelves are empty. They can be photographed, to make the world believe that Venezuela is at the brink of collapse. Those who are not too young may recall exactly the same pattern of outside (CIA) interference on the Chilean system in 1973, leading up to the CIA instigated coup that killed the democratically elected President, Salvador Allende and put hard-core neonazi Augusto Pinochet in power. Outside interference, CIA and other State Department funded secret services, was also widely responsible for trying boycotting and influencing the Venezuelan democratic election process. To no avail. They did not succeed.

A similar situation exists with Iran, a mighty powerful nation with a high level of intellect, research, industrial and agricultural potential and – foremost – with a collective mindset that does not want to be trampled by the west, let alone by Washington. Iran is the leader in the Middle East and eventually will be the pillar of stability of the region. No Israel Government would dare to mess with Iran. Netanyahu’s threats are just empty saber-rattling. Iran has also strong and reliable allies, like China and Russia. China is buying the bulk of Iran’s hydrocarbon production and would not stand idle in an Israel-US confrontation with Iran. Hence, Iran doesn’t need to submit to the dictate of Washington. Iran is a sovereign nation, having already embarked on a path of ‘Resistance Economy’, meaning, a gradual decoupling from the western fraudulent dollar-based monetary system. Iran is considering launching a government-owned and managed cryptocurrency which would be immune from western sanctions – same as is the Venezuelan oil-backed Petro.

If Venezuela was allowed by the west to prosper, the people of North America could wake up. And, for example, demand explanations why their government is actually so undemocratic as to interfering in other countries affairs around the world, overthrowing other sovereign governments – killing millions, who do not want to bend to the rules of the US dictator; and at home planting fear through false flags and staged terror acts; i.e., multiple school shootings, sidewalk car rampages (Manhattan) and Marathon bomb attacks (Boston).

Never mind whether the US Presidents behind such terror are called Trump, Obama, Bush, or Clinton – and the list doesn’t end there. One could go way back to find the same pattern of attempted submission through fear, propaganda, acts of terror. They are all pursuing the same sinister agenda, world hegemony at any price.

Venezuela – and Iran for that matter – are in a totally different league. Venezuela voted on 29 July 2017 for the National Constituent Assembly, an elaborate, transparent process to establish a true People’s Parliament. The idea is brilliant, but was, of course, condemned by the west as fraud – because the reigning elite of the west could and will not allow the people to be in power.

When Iran’s President Rouhani was re-elected in May 2017, Washington was happy, believing Rouhani would bend to the rules of the west. He didn’t. In fact, he stood his course, though trying to maintain friendly – and business – relations with the west, but at Iran’s terms. As this doesn’t seem to be possible, specially after Trump’s unilateral stepping out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also called the Nuclear Deal, and re-imposing “the strongest sanctions the world has ever seen”, what is there left, other than decisively detaching from the west and joining the eastern alliances, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). This is precisely what Venezuela is doing, calling her losses, but moving on to more friendly pastures – and to certainly a more prosperous future.

Western parliaments have become smoke screens for hiding financial dictatorships, and lately worse, police and military oppression for fear people might stand up — which they actually do, right now in France against Macron’s new labor law, intent of stripping workers of their benefits acquired through decades of hard work. Basically, since last February, people take to the streets of Paris, fearless, despite France being the most militarized country of Europe. They are exposed to tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets, but do not give up defending not only their labor rights but also defending theirs and the peoples of France’s democratic right of freedom of expression which in most EU countries has died a silent death.

On 20 May 2018 Venezuela held another peaceful and absolutely democratic Presidential Elections, witnessed by international observers from more than 40 countries, including former President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, and former President of Spain, José Luis Zapatero. They all have confirmed the transparency of the Venezuelan electoral system and called upon the international community to respect the election results. Indeed, the United States as well as Europe could learn a lot from the Venezuelan electoral process and from Venezuelan democracy.

Washington, its European Union vassals and the Organization of American States (OAS), again – what else – condemned the elections as a fraud before they actually took place, urging President Maduro to cancel them (what an abject arrogance!). Similarly, the so-called Lima Group – a collective of 14 Latin American nations – has accused the Maduro Administration of manipulating the elections, declaring the results “illegitimate, also before the ballots were cast. But former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, founder of the Carter Center, said: “Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

Zapatero said at a press conference that the EU, who was invited directly by President Nicolas Maduro to join international election observers, didn’t send delegations because of “prejudice”. Zapatero said, “There is prejudice, and life and political experience consists of banishing prejudices and getting to know the truth firsthand.” He also pointed to the OAS’s double standards against Venezuela: “What are they saying about what’s happening in Brazil and Honduras?” – And allow me to add, “and currently in Nicaragua”?

Correa doubled up, saying, “No one can question the Venezuelan elections… in the world there is no election as monitored as Venezuelan elections.” – The absolute correctness of the Venezuelan election was further confirmed by CEELA, the Latin American Council on Electoral Experts. Mr. Moscoso, the head of CEELA, stated that the CEELA delegation has met with experts and candidates ahead of last Sunday’s [20 May 2018] elections and confirmed “harmony in the electoral process.”

There is no doubt by any member of the high-powered and professional electoral observation delegations that the Venezuelan elections were correct and that Nicolas Maduro has legitimately been re-elected with 68% of the votes for the next 6 years – 2019 to 2025. The “low” turn-out of 54% is blamed by the west on Venezuela for barring the opposition candidates and opposition parties from voting. In fact, the turn-out is “low”, because of the west (EU and US) instigating the opposition to boycotting the elections. Under these circumstances, 54% is a great turnout, especially when compared to the only slightly higher numbers – 55.7% – of   Americans who went to the polls in 2016, when Trump was elected; and 58% in 2012, for Obama’s second term.

It is actually a horrendous shame that we, independent journalists and geopolitical analysts, have to spend time defending the transparency and correctness of the Venezuelan elections and democratic system – the best in the world – in the face of governments where fraud and lies are on their every-day menu and where initiation of conflict and wars – mass killings – is their bread and butter. Yes, bread and butter, because the economy of the United States could not survive without war, and the elite puppets in Europe might be trampled to mulch, if they had not become militarized oppressive police states.

That’s the state of the neoliberal/neofascist world of the 21st Century – defending the honest and correct from accusations by the criminal lying hooligans – is what the west has become, a bunch of mafia states without ethics, where laws are made by white collard criminals for their corporate dominated governments.

There are other reasons why Venezuela has become a vanguard of a new emerging world – a world that is separating itself gradually from the west. Other than China and Russia, Venezuela is among the first countries to abandon the US dollar as trading currency. Caracas has been selling its hydrocarbons to China for gold-convertible Yuan. Venezuela is also the world’s first country to introduce a government controlled, petrol backed cryptocurrency, the Petro which will soon be enhanced by the Petro-Oro, another government-controlled cryptocurrency, based on gold and other minerals.

None of the other privately launched block chain currencies, like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero, Ripplel, and literally more than 3,000 digital blockchain currencies, have any backing. They can be considered similar to fiat money, highly speculative, lending themselves to money-laundering and other fraud.

When the Petro was launched in March 2018 it attracted presale interests from 133 countries of US$ 5 billion equivalent. The first day presale raised US$ 735 equivalent; impressive record figures indicating a huge interest of the world at large to find an alternative to the US currency dominated western monetary system – the one and only tailored to hand out sanctions, block international monetary transfers and confiscate foreign funds abroad. And this is because all international dollar transactions have to transit through a US bank either in London or in New York.

Without divulging many details about the Petro – for good reasons – President Maduro has praised the Petro as a key weapon in his fight against what he describes as an “economic war” led by the United States. The oil-backed digital cryptocurrency is convertible into: yuan, rubles, Turkish liras and euro – all of which is indicative that the world wants an alternative – and Venezuela has initiated this alternative.

In the meantime, Russia and Iran have also announced the introduction of a government-owned cryptocurrency. They are formidable shields against US-dollar intrusion and interference. Government-owned and managed cryptocurrencies are, in fact, master tools for an approach of “Economic Resistance” against economic sanctions. Russia is way ahead of the pack. As President Putin said already two years ago, the sanctions were the best thing that could have happened to Russia, which was economically devastated after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sanctions allowed Russia to promote self-sufficiency, rebuild agriculture and her outdated industrial park, put new energy and savvy into research and development, and actually become in the last three years the world’s first wheat exporter.

Similar approaches are already happening large-scale by other nations, subject to Washington’s sanctions regime; i.e., Iran, Cuba, North Korea and, of course, China. Independence from the western economy also means moving away from globalization and especially the globalized US-dollar hegemony. Venezuela is the vanguard of a slowly growing movement of countries that have already abandoned the use of the US-dollar for international trade, like India, Pakistan, Iran. This growing trend may become a groundswell of independent nations, that may bring the US economy to its knees. It is a war without aggression, but with alternatives for circumventing economic hostilities from Washington, from the US led attempts to subjugate the world to the dollar dictate; i.e., to US-dollar hegemony. The resistance movement shall overcome.

First published in New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Venezuelan Elections: Chavismo Still in Power, US Still Belligerent, Media Still Dishonest

Voters waiting in line in Catia, a popular neighbourhood in Western Caracas (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

In a climate of dire economic war/crisis and foreign aggression, Venezuelans took to the polls to elect their president and regional legislative councils. Chavismo won big in both contests, with president Maduro securing a second term until 2025. The international reaction from the US and its allies was already pre-scripted, and the dishonest coverage from the mainstream media was also to be expected. We take a look at the election, how the electoral system works, these reactions, and also share some observations after witnessing events on the ground.

*****

Incumbent president Nicolás Maduro won in a landslide, taking nearly 68% of the vote, while his closest rival Henry Falcón could only muster 21%. With all the votes tallied, Maduro totalled a little over 6.2M votes. Amidst a devastating economic crisis and increasing imperialist aggression this is a very significant victory, but it nevertheless falls very short of previous totals in chavista victories, and very short of the 10M votes that Maduro “demanded” during the campaign.1 Falcón had distinguished himself by defying the mainstream opposition’s call for boycotting the elections, only to fall back to the familiar tune of not recognising the results after losing.

Participation in these elections was just 46%. This number was historically low… for Venezuela! In the most recent presidential elections in Chile and Colombia, to name just two examples, participation was respectively of 49 and 48%, and nobody even floated the possibility of questioning their legitimacy. So if the low turnout is going to be mentioned, it should only be because Venezuela is (rightly) held to a higher standard than the regional US allies.

We had the chance to witness the electoral process on the ground as a member of the international accompaniment mission (acompañante electoral), alongside the Venezuelanalysis team. Our observations pretty much mirrored what the results would later show. Popular and working-class neighbourhoods (barrios), such as Catia, El Valle or Petare, had a very decent turnout, starting from the early morning hours. By contrast, voting centres in middle- and upper-class neighbourhoods such as El Paraiso and Chacao, traditional opposition strongholds, had very few people.

Maduro giving his victory speech in Miraflores palace (Photo: Prensa Presidencial)

The electoral system

Given the amount of attention dedicated to Venezuela’s voting system, you would think that the media would be compelled to at least explain how it works, but, of course, that would undermine all the half-truths and outright lies that are published. So, for the umpteenth time, here is how it works:

  • The voter goes into the polling station (each voting centre can have several polling stations (mesas electorales)) and hands their ID to the station president, who enters it into the authentication system. The voter then introduces their fingerprint to verify. Should they be at the wrong voting centre, or have already voted, an error message will appear and they cannot proceed. (Step 1, lower left corner, in the picture below)
  • The next step is the voting booth. The voter will pick their preference on a touchscreen display, and the choice will appear on the voting machine screen. If this is correct, they confirm the vote. The machine then prints a paper receipt with the vote, and if this matches the vote just entered, the voter deposits it in a box. (Steps 2 and 3 in the picture)
  • Finally the voter goes to another member of the polling station who hands them back their ID, and then signs and introduces their fingerprint in the appropriate spot in the electoral roll. (Step 4 in the picture)
  • Once the voting closes the voting machine prints an act (acta) with the final tally of results, to be signed by all members of the polling station and electoral witnesses. The number of voters, for example, can be immediately checked against the number of signatures in the electoral roll or the number of fingerprints registered in the authentication machine. Then 54% of polling stations are randomly chosen for a “hot audit”, which is open to the public and members of the international accompaniment mission (acompañantes electorales), whereby the paper ballots are manually checked against the electronic result. And once all this is done, the data is transmitted to the CNE headquarters.

Depiction of the voting process, called the “electoral horseshoe” in the CNE logistics and production centre in Mariches. See above for a detailed description. Step 5 (indeleble ink) is no longer used since the authentication system prevents multiple voting. (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

This is not the whole story, as there are also plenty of audits (14 in this case) done before the elections, with members of all political parties of the international accompaniment mission present, and after the election. But just this short explanation shows you why you cannot just stuff ballots (the vote is electronic), you cannot vote more than once (authentication system will not let you and the electoral roll total will not match), you cannot just enter more votes into the machine remotely (the machines are offline except for the final transmission of results, plus the match against the paper ballots would fail), etc.

More than that, members of the hundreds-strong international accompaniment mission on the ground have praised the Venezuelan electoral process as free and fair. Nicanor Moncoso, president of the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America (Ceela), insisted that the results must be recognised because they reflect the will of the people.

Ridiculous claims of fraud and irregularities

The existence of all these checks and audits is the reason why in over 20 elections, with constant cries of fraud whenever the opposition loses, no one has produced a single shred of evidence of fraud2,3, although that has not stopped the media from repeating these claims uncritically over and over. Given that in each of the thousands of voting centres the polling station members are chosen randomly and opposition witnesses are present, and they all sign an act at the end confirming that everything is in order, to claim there was fraud without anything to back it up is to take your supporters/listeners/readers for idiots.

One of the most widespread allegations meant to undermine the legitimacy of the process was that someone from the CNE told Reuters that by 6 PM participation was just 32.3%. This is a pure fabrication, as any of the hundreds of acompañantes who were on the ground could have told any of these outlets if asked. Simply put, the CNE does not publish preliminary data because it does not have access to it. Only when when all the audits (to 54% of voting centres) have been completed and a sizeable number of voting centres have transmitted their numbers, so as to make the results irreversible, are the figures made available.

So this claim might as well have been made by the Queen of England. It is akin to writing a headline “caveman source claims that the Earth is flat” when the Earth’s curvature has been measured. It is giving credence to random allegations about a number that has actually been measured and audited. And going back to what we said before, given such a large discrepancy and the large number of people involved, surely there would be ONE piece of evidence about ONE voting centre where the final tally had supposedly been inflated.

In the absence of hard evidence to back up fraud claims, the discourse is shifted towards other “irregularities”. While this is just small sample hearsay, opposition electoral witnesses did not report any irregularities when talking to us, although they did expect a low turnout from opposition voters. Some did complain that the puntos rojos were closer than the stipulated 200m, but laughed at the notion that voters would change their mind or be turned into zombies by the sight of red canopies. In fact, these puntos rojos have been present in elections for the past 20 years, and used to have their opposition-coloured counterparts across the street.

These places mostly serve as gathering points as people wait for the voting to unfold, and more importantly to track participation from their ranks, to see if further mobilising is necessary or not. The notion that these were a factor in the results, embraced hysterically by Falcón and his team and then echoed by the media, reeks of desperation. Other complaints, such as assisted voting (people helping elderly voters) irregularities were also insignificant in terms of their relevance for the final numbers.

A menacing punto rojo/red point in Petare! (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

International reaction

The international reaction was no surprise because it was already pre-determined before the elections. Such is the absurdity and dishonesty when it comes to Venezuela. And at this point it makes no sense to distinguish the reaction of the US State Department and the ones from its multiple echo chambers, be they spineless allies like the self-appointed Lima Group and the EU or the propaganda outlets of the mainstream media.

After the opposition MUD delegation walked away from the negotiating table with a deal already hammered out (according to former Spanish PM and mediator Zapatero), allegedly under US orders, the US quickly moved to announce that the elections would be fraudulent and illegitimate, its results not recognised, and all the usual suspects followed suit. And that is precisely what happened after Maduro’s victory, with people who claim to be champions of democracy vowing to punish Venezuela for the unforgivable crime of holding elections.

We have dedicated plenty of efforts to deconstructing the mainstream media propaganda surrounding Venezuela, and elections in particular, but it feels more and more like a waste of time. People that truly want to be informed about Venezuela should simply look for sources that do more than repeat the State Department talking points or uncritically echo the allegations of the Venezuelan opposition. FAIR did an excellent job of pointing out how even the MSM headlines have become unanimous, with “amid” their new favourite preposition. It is fair to say that amid so much propaganda, there is very little actual journalism left.

It would serve us well to go back a few months to the Honduran elections. Here there was actually plenty of evidence of fraud, which allowed for an irreversible trend to be reversed in order for the US-backed incumbent Juan Orlando Hernández to secure victory. Despite a few protests and some tame calls for holding new elections, the fraudulent winner was eventually recognised and it is now business as usual. Believe it or not, Honduras is part of this Lima Group that has the nerve to question the legitimacy of the Venezuelan elections.

Had the reaction been just this shameful bombast it would not be much of a problem. But it came followed by the tightening of the economic noose around Venezuela; i.e., new sanctions. The latest round of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration again fell short of an oil embargo, which has been increasingly floated by US officials, but targeted Venezuela’s and PDVSA’s ability to collect and re-finance debt.

After the sanctions and all the meddling, Maduro reacted by expelling the two top US diplomats in Caracas. Nevertheless we can expect the screws to be further tightened as the US and its followers show no signs of backing down from their regime-change crusade, and imposing as much suffering on the Venezuelan people as possible is their way to go. For all the sanctimonious claims that sanctions are only meant to hurt those-corrupt-officials-who-have-hijacked-democracy, we can thank British FM Boris Johnson for his clumsy honesty:

The feeling I get from talking to my counterparts is that they see no alternative to economic pressure – and it’s very sad because obviously the downside of sanctions is that they can affect the population that you don’t want to suffer.

So from an international perspective the elections did not change much, perhaps accelerating the aggression we had been seeing. But on the inside the picture is different. There were very clear signs, whether the loud cries from those who voted or the loud silence from those who did not, that the current economic situation needs to be dealt with, and fast. We already know what the solution would be if the right-wing returned to power, electorally or otherwise. The question is whether amidst this international siege the Bolivarian government has enough resources and political will to radicalise their path.

  1. We hope to go into a more detailed analysis of the political situation and the challenges ahead in an upcoming article.
  2. Perhaps we should clarify that no credible evidence has been produced. After the 2013 elections defeated candidate Capriles produced a dossier of “evidence” that was mercilessly torn to shreds, because none of it held any water.
  3. A possible notable exception was the gubernatorial election in the State of Bolívar this past October. Defeated candidate Andrés Velázquez published alleged acts that differed from the results on the CNE website, but this matter was not pressed further, perhaps because it undermined all the other unproven fraud claims.

Iran and Pompeo’s 12-Point Ludicrous Wish List

When you listen to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s 12-Point wish list, what he calls Plan B to confront Iran – one can but wonder, has this man, or for that matter the entire Trump Administration, truly departed from the realm of common sense? This is, of course, a question many of us have been asking for quite a while. But this latest affront of aggression towards Iran is so out of context, out of whack, so ludicrous, that the question is more like is the empire reaching the end of the rope and using Iran as one of a last-ditch propaganda effort to prove to the world its economic and military might, like in “we are the greatest and exceptional nation. Don’t you dare start messing with us”?

Trump’s reneging on the Nuclear Deal was the first step. It was, of course, pushed by Israel, but based on lie after lie and more lies, that Iran did not comply with the conditions and ‘spirit’ of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). And this despite the fact that the Atomic Energy Commission in Vienna has already at least 8 times since the signing of the deal in July 2015 confirmed that Iran is in absolute compliance.

What exactly is Washington and its Israeli handlers trying to achieve with Pompeo’s most clumsy approach? “Regime Change”, perhaps? By activating and mobilizing the Fifth Column in Iran to create an internal revolt, with the objective of putting a new Shah-type puppet in place?  The desperation of creating a strong and oppressive “ally” in the Middle East – as Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf States are ‘failing’ US trustworthiness – is hidden only by a thin veil.

Abandoning US loyalty in the Middle east is becoming epidemic. Iraq has just elected a new Parliament, where Muqtada al-Sadr’s nationalistic, anti-American Shia Sairoon Alliance emerged as the winner with 54 seats in the 329-seat Iraqi Parliament. Though, it is said that al-Sadr’s coalition was largely elected because of his anti-corruption stance, his parliamentary victory also means a resurgence of an Iraqi nationalism with a strong position against foreign influence, meaning especially the US, but possibly also Iran. The latter remains to be seen when the new Government is in place. Within the coming 90 days, al-Sadr, the new ‘kingmaker’, will have to form a new governing body and choose a President. But already now it is clear that Iraq, if left alone by the west as a sovereign country, will turn away from Washington and may eventually also move towards an eastern alliance.

However, what might possibly be a key reason behind Trump’s and Pompeo’s outrageously preposterous and utterly awkward anti-Iran tirade, other than submitting to Israel’s dictate, is the fact that the EU seems to want to stick to the deal, and to make things worse, is planning to switch from US dollars to euros in payments for oil supplies from Iran. This emerged from a recent meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, the UK, and the EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, where ways were discussed on how to protect the JCPOA for the remaining signatories after Washington backed out of deal.

Using the euro, rather than the traditional US dollar as an instrument for payment, would also protect the new trade agreements between Iran and Europe from US interference and sanctions. Unless, of course, the US would decide to ‘sanction’ the entire EU. But would they want to ‘punish’ their principal trading partner, who is already weary of Washington’s ever mounting unreasonable demands, thus, pushing them more and more to the east?

On the other hand, dropping the dollar as a means of payment for hydrocarbons would set a further precedent for future hydrocarbon trading elsewhere which would weaken the US dollar – ergo, the US economy – even more. Remember, Russia and China are not using the dollar for years to trade hydrocarbons. By putting Iran under the “strongest ever” sanction regime, the financial rulers behind Washington may hope to deter Europe from trading in euros instead of dollars. Should this not work, Trump may have other ammunition in store against Europe, like re-imposing the recently waived tariffs on steel and aluminum.

What becomes ever clearer is that the empire approaches the end of the rope. By such actions of tariffs and sanctions, the Trump Administration is just driving its main trading partner, Europe, into the ‘eastern camp’; i.e., Russia, China and Iran. This is already happening. Recent talks between Germany’s Chancellor Merkel and President Putin, the contents of which were non-aggression and trade, are a clear indication that Europe is getting tired of being commandeered by Washington. This is, by the way, the opinion of more than 90% of the people in Europe.

By re-establishing closer and peaceful relations with Russia, European leaders would actually move closer to their ever so revered democratic principles. Though, this too, is a process hindered by many contradictory political activities within Europe. For example, the neoliberal/neo-nazi move towards militarization, with rising peoples’ oppression, is so far rather increasing than easing, especially in France, but also in Germany, where Bavaria has already or is about to pass a law prohibiting any normal citizen (other than MSM journalists) to take pictures of demonstrations in which authorities’ atrocities could be witnessed and recorded. At this point, the only major EU country that is about to form a euro-sceptic government, a return to sovereign democracy, and which is discussing the possibility of a parallel currency is Italy.

Back to Pompeo and especially Trump’s bombastic, “the strongest sanctions ever imposed on a country…”- Really? But, so what? – At this point and with a well-structured “Economy of Resistance”, Iran is almost immune to US sanctions. And as President Rouhani said a few days ago, we might hurt for a short while, but will soon recover and be much stronger than living under the scepter of a western economic dictatorship. In this sense, it doesn’t matter whether the EU will resist Washington’s pressure to bend to Washington’s “rule of law” or whether they finally go their own way. Europe is politically still very much part of the West, even if they become more detached from Washington, they are still under NATO’s yoke. Depending on the power of European autonomy, dealing with Europe may yet expose Iran to the vulnerability of dollar-based US sanctions.

Economy of Resistance is essentially food, health, education and industrial production self-sufficiency (local production for local markets with local money through public banking), and trading with neighboring and/or friendly and politically aligned countries. In the case of Iran, this is well under way. Iran is about to become a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, spearheaded by Russia and China, and is already enjoying special status within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), slated to become a full member either later this year or in 2019. The EEU and SCO, also headed by China and Russia, with members of the EEU and lately also India and Pakistan, comprise about half of the world’s population and control one third of the world’s GDP. They, and by association Iran, do not need the West for survival at all.

Besides, Iran is a crucial link in President Xi’s New Silk Road initiative, also called the Belt and Road Initiative. The BRI is a gigantic multi-multi-trillion-dollar (equivalent, but NOT dollar-based) project, spanning at least the next hundred years or more and aiming at developing transport, rural and urban, agricultural and industrial infrastructure; and connecting people through research, education, culture – all envisioning linking Eastern China and Russia with the most Western European trading places, as well as the Middle East through Iran, Africa through Kenya, and even Latin America through the southern tip of South America.

There are at this point at least six “land corridors” and a maritime route foreseen. Building them involves economic development of the still backward areas in western China, eastern Russia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Sub-Sahelian Africa, connecting them with infrastructure, knowledge, science and bringing about economic inclusion with the rest of the world. This is a huge scheme following egalitarian principles not known in the west. Iran is already part and parcel of this extraordinary development plan.

Regarding Washington’s ‘backstabbing’ of Iran’s Nuclear Deal, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi, also warned North Korea in view of their forthcoming negotiations with Trump on nuclear disarmament. Mr. Qassemi cautioned DPRK may think twice before believing in any deal made by the US.

Vigilance is also in order for Iran. As part of the empire’s last-ditch effort for survival, there may be multiple attempts to infiltrating destabilizing elements into Iran. Together with the well-established Iranian Fifth Column and unlimited foreign designed propaganda, they may attempt internal upheavals, terror acts, with the ultimate goal of overthrowing the legitimate Iranian Government. Trump and Pompeo with their terror speeches – which will continue for sure – are preparing the terrain for the world to believe in Iran’s internal conflicts the same way they have done it with Venezuela, and the same way they will do it with impunity anywhere they want to achieve regime change. At this stage, I don’t believe Washington and Israel would be bold enough to launch a direct or proxy military attack on Iran. They are well aware of Iran’s might and power of retaliation.

• This article was first published by the New Eastern Outlook

Will Europe stand up to American Pressure?

Europe has decided to assert its independence: it will not revise its agreement with Iran and will not comply with US sanctions. When Washington tore up the Iran deal, that was the last straw for the European Union. In reality the EU had nowhere left to retreat — any further capitulation to the Atlanticists’ dictates would render the entire pan-European project meaningless. Will May 2018 prove to be the turning point, the moment when the West’s unity began to fracture?

On May 17, 2018, the leaders of the countries of Europe, together with senior officials from the European Union, gathered in Sofia, officially to discuss their relations with the Balkan countries that are candidates for EU membership. But how could there be any talk of expanding the EU if it is unable to manage its primary mission — protecting the interests of Europeans? Thus it is unlikely that the conversation at that informal dinner in the Bulgarian capital was about anything other than their relations with the US, because Europe is on the verge of not just a trade war, but a geopolitical conflict with its … Well … with its what, exactly?

Its senior partner? Ally? Suzerain? Competitor? In geopolitical terms, the US is without question the boss over the Old World — under the auspices of a unified West and NATO. It is the American Atlanticists who hold the higher rank. After WWII, the US used various means of control to seize the reins in Germany, Italy, France, and other countries in Western and later in Eastern Europe. Great Britain partnered with them to help keep Europe under control, and since then — despite any differences that may have arisen between the two shores of the Atlantic — Europe, even in the form of the European Union, has generally remained their vassal.

French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel walk during the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

As the project to integrate Europe gained momentum, continental Europeans felt a growing desire to become more independent, but Washington and London always kept that situation well in hand.

Germany’s genuine autonomy and especially its rapprochement with Russia has clearly been at odds with the interests of the Atlanticists — and a few years ago, under the pretext of a “Russian threat,” Europe knuckled under to the anti-Russian sanctions.

The majority of Europe’s political class understood that it was beneficial for the EU to have close ties with Russia, and they have always been looking for a chance to end the confrontation with Moscow. In order to perpetuate the atmosphere of Russophobia, the Anglo-Saxons even resorted to staging the provocation with the Skripals, so as to somehow preserve the tension between Russia and Europe.

It seemed that Europe would remain under their thumb for the immediate future. Europe’s leaders will wait to see how the power struggle in the US ends and will try to simultaneously accommodate themselves to both Trump as well as to the Atlanticist elite that opposes him. However, recent actions by Washington seem to have prompted some major changes.

Trump needed the dissolution of the Iran deal largely for domestic political reasons, but he was prepared to lean particularly heavily on the Europeans. In accordance with his plans, the Europeans needed to agree with the US to compel Iran to draw up a new accord that could be presented as a major victory to the American public. Trump did not take into account the individual positions of Russia or China, which would in any case be against a revision of the deal. Apparently inspired by the imaginary success of his Korean offensive (in which Beijing and Pyongyang created the illusion of a breakthrough for him), the US president decided that everything would work out fine in this matter as well. To encourage the Europeans to be more amenable, they were threatened with sanctions. But the Old World balked outright and decided to preserve both the deal as well as its relationship with Iran.

And the aftermath of the US pressure on Europe over the Iran deal will now extend far beyond just a run-of-the-mill misunderstanding between allies.

Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies? But frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump. Because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions,” stated the chairman of the European Council, or in other words, the president of united Europe, Donald Tusk on May 17, 2018.

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, US President Donald Trump and President of the European Council Donald Tusk

And the head of the government of this united Europe, Jean-Claude Juncker, stated a week earlier that the European Union needed to take on the role of global leader, because Trump’s decision to tear up the Iran deal meant that the US “no longer wants to cooperate” with other parts of the world and was turning away from friendly relations “with a ferocity that can only surprise us.” In addition, European countries should do more than simply salvage the agreement with Iran: “We have to replace the United States, which as an international actor has lost vigor, and because of it, in the long term, influence.”

So as it turns out, Europe is not only ready to shoulder the responsibility for its own future — something which even Angela Merkel has been speaking about for the past year, which includes providing for its own security — but is also ready to replace the US as a world leader! Did we actually hear this correctly?

Yes, that’s right. In fact, they started talking about this in Europe immediately after Donald Trump won the election more than a year and a half ago. Even then, Trump was declaring that America should focus on itself and not on the construction of a unified Atlanticist world, and that for the sake of filling America’s coffers he would shake down all its partners, enemies, and allies. Europeans, who have grown used to wielding only limited sovereignty in matters of war and peace, were suddenly being told that they needed to pay for being protected by the US, because Trump’s America saw that umbrella as something expendable.

The West’s unity began to fracture. And although the Atlanticist elite on both sides of the ocean hope that Trump turns out to be nothing more than a bad dream and that everything will go back to normal in 2020, the reality is that there is no way the West can regain that indivisibility. America will rewrite its foreign policy with the goal of “making itself great again,” regardless of whether or not Trump is in power, because the hegemon has cracked and America’s more nationalistic elites are seizing power from the ones who have been playing at being the world’s policeman.

What is left for the Atlanticists? Should they make their peace with this or attempt to shift the Western world’s center of gravity toward Europe? But are there any political figures in Europe who are capable of taking the lead? They tried to audition Merkel, but she refused to bite. Tusk or Junker? Macron? They’re all wrong. There is no solution — and in this environment, relationships among the Western nations are evolving the way Trump wanted: into a battle between national states.

Trump sees the EU as a competitor and he wants to weaken it. When it comes to the Iran deal, what’s important isn’t even that it’s about Iran, around which Germany and France have constructed big economic plans, but rather that Europe is simply being ordered to abandon the idea of protecting its own interests. And also that this is being done under an utterly contrived pretext. Unlike the introduction of the anti-Russian sanctions, there are no reasons whatsoever for tearing up that deal, not even nominal ones.

Europe cannot agree to this. It would be suicide for the very European Union itself. As Renaud Girard, a columnist for Le Figaro writes: “Now that such an unheard-of dictate from the US is upon us, will the Europeans be able to regain their independence? This is a test of truth for the political dimension of the EU. If the European Union caves to Trump, this will negate any reason for its existence.”

And the ones talking this way aren’t just those who have spent the last few years reminding Europe that it is harming itself by bowing to Washington’s pressure and keeping the anti-Russian sanctions intact. Now this is the argument being made even by the hardliners on Moscow — the reliable Atlanticists.

“This is nothing less than a massive assault on the sovereignty of European states and the European Union. They are deprived of their right to decide on their policies and actions by brutal dictates from a foreign — and allegedly friendly — country. This is utterly unacceptable from a European point of view, as well as a violation of the preaching of Trump himself. It relegates Europe to just abiding by and implementing policies with which it profoundly disagrees,” writes former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt in the Washington Post.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, May 2018

Europe cannot cave in to US pressure, but it cannot realistically break ties with Washington when rejecting it, much less lay a claim to the mantle of global leadership. Europe simply wants more independence, which is already asking a lot, given the current state of world affairs. To achieve this, Europe needs to develop a more favorable balance of forces and interests, and when seeking out the building blocks for this, it naturally turns its gaze toward Moscow.

It just so happens that within a week the heads of half of the world’s most powerful countries — Germany, France, Japan, and India — have visits to Russia. Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron were initially planning to talk to Vladimir Putin about a variety of topics: Syria, trade, Ukraine … But now everything will revolve around the word “Iran,” which signifies much more than just a country or a deal. It is rather the choice that Europe is making as we all watch.

Europe’s Response to Secondary Sanctions Threats

French economy minister Bruno Le Maire, in response to U.S. threats to apply secondary sanctions to European companies trading with Iran, asks: Est-ce que nous acceptons que les USA soient le gendarme économique de la planète ? La réponse européenne doit être clairement non.

“Do we need to accept the USA as the economic policeman of the planet? The European response clearly must be no.”

Mais bien sur. The U.S. stands in violation of an agreement not just confirmed by Iran, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany but by the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. is now the international outlaw, demanding that others abandon their legitimate trade arrangements with Iran in order to indicate their continued submission to U.S. imperial fiat.

The abrasiveness and inconsistency of Trump himself. The contradictions within his staff and their multiple announcements on foreign policy. The manifest deference of the U.S. president to a very backward support base and the Israel Lobby.  These have little appeal in European capitals where leaders generally want peace in the Middle East, no more refugee floods, and adherence to a modicum of consultation within the Atlantic Alliance before Washington does something crazy.

Trump responds: Screw you free-loaders, avoiding your 2% NATO expenditures! We like the Saudis and Israelis more than you, and they both want confrontation with Iran. Who cares about your auto manufacturing deals or airline deliveries? You’re supposed to be on our side for god’s sake. We liberated you from the Nazis or somebody, once. Now we want you on board as we restart the pointless conflict with Iran. Why can’t you just cooperate, Angela and Emmanuel and Bruno?

The tone of dissent intensifies. Europeans are saying: Who are you, at this point, at your level of relative decline, when our EU GDP exceeds yours, when we have healthier more peaceful societies should we take your lead on Iran relations? Or back off from our lucrative deals because you object, and stupidly want war with Iran?

Maybe this will be the tipping-point. May inter-imperialist contradictions intensify, not to produce war as usual but to discourage it. A common European front against U.S. bullying on Iran, along with the rise of populist and nationalist parties in Europe and mounting discontent with the Russia sanctions demanded by the U.S. after the Ukraine coup in 2014, and growing anxiety about the madness of U.S. policy (as in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital) could weaken NATO.

Think of it this way. The U.S. effort from 1999 to expand NATO culminated in a failed effort to draw in Ukraine and the (arguably defensive and premptive) Russian reassertion of sovereignty over Crimea and support to Russian-speaking separatists in the Donbas region. U.S. leaders treated this as a crime comparable to Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938 and demanded that Europe join it in applying sanctions on Russia. (The irony here is that Victoria Nuland, the odious State Department official who helped engineer the coup, told the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine just before the coup, “Fuck the EU!” because of differences over Ukraine’s political future. Europe has been expected to bear the pain of sanctions and counter-sanctions on their continent, demanded by the power across the ocean experiencing minimal pain from them. This is despite the fact that many Europeans sympathize with the Russian position; former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder has, for example, expressed understanding and objected to the sanctions.)

That 2014 moment, following the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia (arguably, provoked by Georgia’s crazy president Saakashvili dreaming of NATO back-up), resulted in the depiction of Russia as an “adversary.” Not because it threatens the U.S. in any way other than by sometimes trying to thwart U.S. imperial expansion.

The bullying of Europe in connection with Russia relations is joined with the bullying of Europe to accept the millions of refugees generated by USA wars.  And the bullying of Europe to spit up 2% of GDP annually on military expenditures, regardless of legislators’ views about budget priorities, in order to satisfy Washington. Even though the last thing on their minds or even imaginable to intelligent people is a Russian invasion or Iranian missile attack. The bullying of Europe to cut Iran ties under threat of secondary sanctions could be the last straw. Not so much because of the money involved. It’s the arrogance, ignorance, and strong-arming by people who don’t realize the U.S. has declined a lot from the 1950s and can no longer control its allies, much less the whole world. Europe’s a very old place with lots of proud people. So is Iran. The two are bound by an international agreement signed by the European Union itself as well as by the UK, France and Germany. The U.S. is in violation. Why should it be able to sabotage the deal?

It’s all about freedom, surely. U.S. freedom to use its market access as an intimidating tool to prevent other nations’ free trade with one another.

Secretary of State Pompeo is going today to announce the administration’s plans for “the strongest sanctions in history” on Iran (to “crush” it). He seems to assume European cooperation. May they say Fick dich! to Pompeo. May they say a loud NO! and enjoy the advantages of national independence and independent multilateral ties in what should be a multilateral world.

The Europe That Can Say No?

EU president and Polish politician Donald Tusk says the U.S. acts with “capricious assertiveness.” With friends like this who needs enemies?” he asked the other day, adding, “If you need a helping hand you will find one at the end of your arm.”

EU vice-president Federica Mogherini met with European and Iranian representatives after the U.S. decision to leave the Iran nuclear agreement. She committed Europe to the following:

  • Maintaining and deepening economic relations with Iran;
  • The continued sale of Iran’s oil and gas condensate petroleum products and petrochemicals and related transfers;
  • Effective banking transactions with Iran;
  • Continued sea, land, air and rail transportation relations with Iran;
  • The further provision of export credit and development of special purpose vehicles in financial banking, insurance and trade areas, with the aim of facilitating economic and financial cooperation, including by offering practical support for trade and investment;
  • The further development and implementation of Memoranda of Understanding and contracts between European companies and Iranian counterparts;
  • Further investments in Iran;
  • The protection of European Union economic operators and ensuring legal certainty:
  • And last but not least, the further development of a transparent, rules-based business environment in Iran.

Meanwhile U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton asks rhetorically on ABC: “Why would any business, why would the shareholders of any business, want to do business with the world’s central banker of international terrorism?” He threatens secondary sanctions on nations that, adhering to the agreement, expand trade with Iran.

Some including RT commentators predict Europe will buckle to U.S. pressure and cancel contracts. But maybe not this time. Maybe Europe will become the Europe That Can Say No.

“We are working on finding a practical solution … in a short delay of time,” Mogherini says. “We are talking about solutions to keep the deal alive. We have a quite clear list of issues to address. We are operating in a very difficult context … I cannot talk about legal or economic guarantees but I can talk about serious, determined, immediate work from the European side.”

Immediate work to diminish the damage done to world peace and stability by Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.

According to EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulus, the EU is preparing legislation to block U.S. sanctions targeting Iran. Its members know that if Iran reaps no sanctions relief from the agreement it will also withdraw, charging betrayal. France’s Total S.A. and Germany’s Siemens have indicated they may back out of contracts with Iran due to fears of U.S. secondary sanctions. The U.S. strives to use access to its marketplace to shape others’ investment options, in this case options that can lead to war. No matter that this violates the sacred bourgeois principle of Free Trade.

There are all kinds of good reasons for Iran and the rest of the world to expand trade ties. (French cooks would like access to Iranian pistachios—the world’s best—and saffron.) And there’s no reason for other governments to embrace Bolton’s view that the Iranian government is the central banker of international terrorism. (Surely that is Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading supporter of Salafist Sunni Islamism, which supports the Syrian Liberation Front, the Army of Conquest, and Ahrar al-Sham. The Saudi monarchy, presiding over a society far more oppressive than Iranian or Syrian society—but spared media outrage—pursues its unholy alliance with Israel to bring down the regime in Tehran, preparing for the coming confrontation by invading Bahrain, isolating Qatar, pulverizing Yemen and bombing Syria at U.S. behest and kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister in order to influence Lebanese politics and diminish the role of Hizbollah.)

And there are all kinds of reasons for Europe to stand up to the U.S. and say, “Your sanctions are not our sanctions.” And maybe add: Your intentions for further regime change in the Middle East are not popular in Europe, which fears more waves of refugees. And also add: The sanctions you’ve demanded we impose on Russia following the February 2014 coup in Ukraine and consequent Russian reassertion of sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula are hurting Europe and should be lifted.

There should be a multilateral world. It already exists, actually, but the U.S. ruling class, wedded as it is to “full-spectrum dominance” and notions of U.S. “exceptionalism” resists acknowledging it. Bolton’s remarks are telling.

“I think the Europeans will see that’s in their interest ultimately to go along with this,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper over the weekend. Asked if the U.S. would apply sanctions to European firms, he said vaguely, “It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments.” He notes legal devices available to the U.S. such as the denial of licenses. He threatens to pull out all the stops to impede the world’s effort to conciliate Iran. He wants to coordinate Saudi, Israeli, U.S. and MEK efforts to effect regime change in Tehran; as he told an MEK audience in July 2017, he expects this by 2019!

This is the U.S. National Security Advisor, serving an unusually unbalanced, ignorant U.S. president. (The British demanded his withdrawal from the Libya talks in 2004 because he was overbearing, indeed acting like a madman.) He is saying, confidently, Europe will go along “when they see it’s in their interest.” Maybe he and Trump miscalculate. The EU even without Britain rivals the U.S. in population and GDP. If it once needed to obey, it might not need to (or want to) now. The U.S. these days does not smell of freedom, democracy, liberal values, calm reason, tolerated dissent. It reeks of white nationalism, racist exclusion, institutional police violence and murder, and seemingly irrevocable tendency towards the concentration of wealth in the .01%. It is a fundamentally unfair, unjust, unadmirable society that tortures its youth by offering them low-paying jobs and endless student debt if they were lucky enough to go to college. It denies its people the normal standard of public health care and charges them twice the Canadian fees.

It is a basically a fucked-up country. That it, after its (ongoing) disasters in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon and elsewhere, it has no moral leg to stand on in lecturing Europe to maintain sanctions on Iran. After siding 100% with Israel, on everything imaginable, it has lost any credibility as an honest broker in international relations.

The EU comprises various imperialist countries who, of course, exploit workers throughout the world, competing in the process with the U.S. They are not morally different from the U.S. But their governments increasingly chafe under U.S. hegemony, and this particular nut-case hegemon, Donald Trump.

Angela Merkel said last week that Europe can no longer count on the United States to protect it. “It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us,” she declared, “but Europe must take its destiny in its own hands. That’s the task of the future,” she said during a speech honoring French President Emmanuel Macron, who said European nations should not allow “other major powers, including allies” to “put themselves in a situation to decide our diplomacy [and] security for us.” Trump was all over this guy in his last visit but the bromance ends here. You do not order proud France to cease trade ties with Iran just because you’re looking for another war. Europeans are tired of that. Tired of being taken for granted as slavish allies when the U.S. decides to attack somebody. The Truman Doctrine is dead, the Cold War over, Europe despite Brexit increasingly united in its ability to collectively respond to U.S. pressure.

Let there be an intensification of inter-imperialist contradictions! Let Germany say, yes, brothers and sisters, let us manufacture Mercedez-Benz sedans in Tehran! Let us sell you Airbus passenger airliners! Let us buy your walnuts and pomegranates and carpets. And let us tell the Americans the “American century” is not gonna happen. Because it shouldn’t happen.

Iran: Trump’s Broken Deal

Trump’s “Broken Deal”, his irrational decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, or simply called Iran’s Nuclear Deal, has hardly any other motives than again launching a provocation for war. The decision goes against all reason. Let’s not forget, that deal took 9 years of diplomatic efforts, a negotiation called “5 + 1” for the UN Security Council Members, plus Germany – and, of course, Iran. It was finally signed in Vienna on 14 July 2015.

A quick background: From the very beginning, way into Trump’s Presidential Campaign, he was against the deal. It was a bad deal, “the worst Obama could have made” – he always repeated himself, without ever saying what was bad about it, nor did he reveal who was the “bad-deal whisperer”, who for once didn’t get across to Obama with his unreasonable requests.

My guess is, Trump didn’t know, and he still doesn’t know, what was/is bad about the deal. Any deal that denuclearizes a country is a deal for Peace, therefore a good deal, lest you forget the profit motive for war. The reasons Trump recently gave, when announcing stepping out of the Nuclear Agreement – Iran could not be trusted, Iran was a terrorist nation supporting Al-Qaeda and other terror groups, Iran’s ballistic missile system – and-and-and… were ludicrous, they were lies, contradictory and had nothing to do with the substance of the Deal, which frankly and sadly, Trump to this day probably doesn’t quite grasp in its full and long-range amplitude.

But what he does understand are his very close ties to Israel, or better to his buddy Bibi Netanyahu. And this not least, thanks to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who has long-standing business connections to Israel and is also close to Netanyahu. Even the mainstream media are not blind to this fact. But this is merely an added weight in Trump’s bias towards Israel, as the deep dark state that calls the shots on US Foreign Policy, is composed by the likes of Netanyahu. Survival, political or otherwise, Trump knows, depends on how well you follow their orders.

But back to reality: First, the Atomic Commission in Vienna has confirmed up to the last minute that Iran has no intention to start a nuclear arms program. They have confirmed their attestation 8 times since the signing of the deal. Second, the European allies – speak vassals – have so far strongly expressed their disagreement with Trump’s decision, especially the three “M’s” – May, Merkel and Macron. Their less noble reasons for doing so may have to do with economic interests, as they have already signed billions worth of trade and technology-exchange contracts with Iran. Thirdly, even the more moderate and diplomatic Foreign Minister of the European Union, Ms. Federica Mogherini, said in no unclear tones that there was no justification to abandon the Deal, and that the EU will stick to it. However, given past history, the EU has rather demonstrated having no backbone. Have they now suddenly decided – for business reasons – that they will grow a backbone? Would be nice, but so far, it’s merely a dream.

Of course, Russia and China, will stick to the Deal. After all, an international agreement is an international agreement. The only rogue country of this globe, and self-nominated exceptional nation, feels like doing otherwise. Literally, at every turn of a corner, if they so please. And like in this case, it doesn’t even make sense for the United States to withdraw. To the contrary. In theory, Iran could now immediately start their nuclear program and in a couple of years or sooner, they would be ready and equipped with nuclear arms.

But Iran is a smart and civilized nation. They have signed the Non-Proliferation pact and, at least for now, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, has already pledged to stick to it. That could, of course, change, depending on how the Europeans will behave in the future. Will they eventually cave in to US pressure, or will they finally claim back their sovereignty and become an independent autonomous European Unit, able and willing to enter business relations with whomever they want and with whomever they deem is right, irrespective of illegal US sanctions. That would mean, of course, Iran, and normalizing relations with Russia, their natural partner for hundreds of years before the ascent of the exceptional nation. Time will tell, whether this is a mere pipe dream or what.

What is it then that Trump and his handlers expect from this illegal decision of rescinding an international agreement?  A move towards “Regime Change”?  Hardly. They must know that with this undiplomatic decision, they are driving President Rouhani into the camp of the hardliners, this large fraction of Iranians who from the very beginning were against this Deal in the first place.

This decision is also a blow to the Atlantists or the “Fifth Column” which is quite strong in Iran. They see themselves abandoned by the west, as it is clear now that Iran will accelerate the course they have already started, a move towards the East, becoming a member of the Eurasian Economic Union and formalizing their special status vis-à-vis the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), by becoming a regular member. Both are headed by Russia and China.

And, not to forget either, how does this “Broken Deal” affect negotiations between President Trump and DPRK’s President Kim Jong-un on 11 June in Singapore? Will anything that Trump negotiates and signs have any credibility?

Source: global security.org

Plus, not to forget, President Xi Jinping was crystal clear when he recently said that Iran will be a crucial and vital link within the New Silk Road, or the BRI – Belt and Road Initiative, a Chinese socio-economic and cultural enterprise that will likely dominate the next few hundred years with trillions of investments in transport, industrial manufacturing, education, research and cultural infrastructure, connecting Asia from the very east with western Europe, Africa, the Middle East and even South America. The BRI is also being included in the Chinese Constitution.

There is a good reason why this gigantic Chinese Program is hardly mentioned in the western mainstream media. The corporate oligarchs who control these media don’t want the world to know that the western fraudulent economy, built on debt and a pyramid monetary system (a large Ponzi scheme), is gradually declining, leaving all those that cling to it eventually abandoned and in misery.

Well, as in Chinese peaceful Tao tradition, President Xi is offering the world’s nations, to join this great socio-economic initiative – no pressure – just an offer. Many have already accepted, including Iran, India, Turkey, Greece … and pressure from business and politicians in Europe to become part of this tremendous project is mounting. The BRI is an unstoppable train.

What good will US-western sanctions do to an Iran detached from the west? And ever more detached from the western economy and monetary system?  None. As Mr. Rouhani said, Iran will hurt for a short while, but then “we will have recovered for good”. It’s only by hanging between east and west, a line that President Rouhani attempted to pursue, that western sanctions have any meaning. From that point of view, one can easily say, Trump shot himself in the foot.

But there is the other branch of the deep state – the military-security industrial complex – the multi-trillion dollar war machine, an apparatus which feeds largely on itself. It produces to destroy and needs to destroy ever more to guarantee its survival. That would explain how Obama inherited two wars and ended his Presidency with seven wars which he passed on to Trump, who does his best to keep them going. But that’s not enough. He needs new ones to feed the bottomless war monster which has become just about synonymous with the US economy; i.e., without war, the economy collapses.

Wars also make Wall Street live. War, like the housing market, is debt-financed. Except, war-funding is a national debt that will never be paid back,  hence, the Ponzi scheme. New money, new debt, generated from hot air refinances old debt and will accumulate to debt never to be paid back. In 2008, what the General Accounting Office (GAO) calls “unmet obligations”, or “unfunded liabilities”, projected debt over the next five years, amounted to about US$ 48 trillion, or about 3.2 times GDP. In April 2018, GDP stood at about US$ 22 trillion as compared to unfunded liabilities of about US$ 140 trillion, nearly 6.5 times GDP. Ponzi would turn in his grave with a huge smile.

Since Washington’s foreign policy is written by Zionist think tanks, it follows logic that more wars are needed. A big candidate is Iran. But why? Iran does no harm to anybody, the same as Syria – no harm to anybody, nor did Iraq, or Libya for that matter. Yet, there is a distinct group of people who wants these countries destroyed. It’s the tiny little tail that wags the monster dog for the resources and for greater Israel as unofficial maps already indicate, stretching from Euphrates across the Red Sea all the way to the Nile and absorbing in between parts of Syria, Iraq, all of Palestine, of course, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt.

Those who control the US think tanks make sure that this target is enshrined in the minds of US decision makers. It would count as a major achievement in the course of global hegemony by the Chosen People (not to confound with the ‘exceptional nation’). Although, Iran is not within this picture, Iran would be the most serious and formidable opponent – enemy – of such a scheme.

By breaking the Nuclear Deal, Trump and his masters, especially Netanyahu, may have assumed a harsh reaction, now or later, by Iran. Or in the absence of such a reaction, launch a false flag.  Say a rocket lands in Israel, they claim it comes from Iran, and bingo, the brainwashed western populace buys it, and there is a reason to go to direct confrontation between Israel and Iran, of course, backed by Washington. This would make for war number 8, since Obama took over in early 2009. And it could account for a lot of killing and destruction and most probably would involve also Russia and China. And would that stay simply as a conventional war within the confines of the Middle East?  Or would it spread around the globe as a nuclear WWIII? Would the commanding elite want to risk their own lives? You never know. Life in bunkers is not as nice as in luxury villas and on luxury boats. They know that.

That’s the dilemma most of those who stand behind the Trump decision probably haven’t quite thought through. Granted, it is difficult to think straight and especially think a bit ahead, when blinded by greed and instant profit as the western neoliberal/neofascist doctrine dictates.

My hunch is, don’t hold me to it though, that this Trump decision to “Break the Deal” is the beginning of a disastrous and yet, ever accelerating decline of the western Global Hegemony Project.