Tag Archives: Iran

Terrorist Designations: Trump and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps

It’s designed to give the US more leg room in the sanction stakes but may end up having its own hemming consequences.  The designation by the Trump administration of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organisation was meant to expand options for the US while shutting others out.  While Trump attempts to defrost matters with North Korea, Iran has played the convenient bug bear.

As President Donald Trump outlined in a statement, “This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognises the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.”

The policy had an inevitable resonance in Israel, where it cheered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prior to the Tuesday national poll.  Designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guards “as a terrorist organization” kept “the world safe from Iran aggression and terrorism”.  Such a consequence may well be wishful thinking.  Jacob Heilbrun opines rather pessimistically that such a policy shift is bound to be disruptive; the president “has allowed himself to be captured by a neocon contingent, housed at the Foundation of Defense for Democracies, that is thirsting for a new crusade to vanquish the mullahs in Tehran.”

The IRGC has certainly made its effective, often bloody mark on Middle Eastern affairs.  As US-led forces blundered in Iraq, leaving a security vacuum rich with opportunity, Iran saw a golden chance to increase its influence and harass the invaders.  The role played by IRGC’s Quds Force in supplying Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to militants in Iraq was cited in 2015 as a key reason for US policy makers to abandon the Iran nuclear deal.  “I understand,” claimed Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex) in a July 29, 2015 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, “that the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency has a classified list of roughly 500 American soldiers who were murdered by Iranian IEDs.”  US Central Command revealed a different figure: between November 2005 and December 2011, the number of US combatant deaths arising from EFP “events” stood at 196.

Dissecting such figures forensically is less significant for the anti-Iran hawks than reining in the broader effect of Tehran’s influence.  Training to its proxies has been forthcoming and consistent; the Syrian civil war has further opened the gates, leaving Israel jittery.  Washington’s ally, Saudi Arabia, has similarly balked, and seeks to plug the Shia breach in Yemen with bloody resolve.  Operating behind the scenes is the IRGC.

The issue is complicated from another perspective.  In so designating such an arm of the Iranian government a terrorist outfit, it stymies trading done with any Iranian entity from powers in the international scene untidy.  (The IRGC’s economic tentacles are not only thick, but lengthy.)  This is bound to have a localising effect.  In immediate proximity of Iran and Iran’s influence, Lebanese and Iraqi authorities risk being barred from dealing with the IRGC and its surrogate arms.  Asian and European companies, who do not have the same qualms in dealing with the theocracy, also risk facing the ire of Washington.  In Trump’s own words, “If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”

The concept is strikingly simplistic, ignoring the myriad of entanglements that follows from IRGC involvement in the Iranian economy proper.  It also side steps the possibility that the Trump Organization, in signing contracts in 2012 with developers behind the Trump Tower Baku project, had indirect dealings with Azarpassillo, an Iranian construction company controlled by the IRGC.  (Azarpassillo was awarded contracts in 2008 by then Azerbaijani transport minister Ziya Mammadov, who had been the key contact for Trump’s company.)

Till this point, the approach to the IRGC has been one of economic encirclement featuring attempts to get to the organisation via other entities.  The move to target the IGRC was already underway in other branches of the US government.  The Treasury designated the Quds Force in 2007 a supporter of terrorism, sanctioning entities connected with it.  It has assumed pride of place on the US Specially designated Global Terrorist List.  The IGRC itself, as former Under-Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is on record as saying, “is already fully sanctioned”, making the issue one of superfluous classification and needlessly provocative.

Then comes the issue of Iran’s direct response.  What is good for the goose is invariably good for the unfortunate gander.  Various Trump officials, to that end, were none too keen by the decision, claiming that retaliation would follow against US intelligence officers and troops.  Former State Department official Jason Blazakis, who spent his time in the terrorist labelling business, suggested that the commander of the Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, could well call upon his Shi’ite militias “to take actions against US assets in places like Baghdad’s Green Zone.” In consistently upending fashion, Trump also gave his emissaries in the Middle East very little time to ponder matters, leaving no guidelines as to how to enforce the designation.  On such points, White House national security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hold courtly sway.

Rhetorical retaliation was not long in coming and seemed almost casual.  The US was branded as a “state sponsor of terrorism” with its military elements in the Middle East duly designated as “terrorist groups”.  The move, suggested Iranian state TV, had as much to do with US dislike of Tehran’s influence in the region as it did with its success in “fighting Islamic State”.  Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, in calling the move on Trump’s part “a major strategic mistake”, insisted that the new designation by Tehran would include “US military bases and their military forces in the region” and “confronted accordingly”.  Araghchi, like Trump, was merely stating the obvious, and dangerous turn in relations.

Weaponizing the World Bank and IMF

This is a transcript of the full interview with PressTV for their Program “Economic Divide”, of which sections were aired in this broadcast – “U.S. military use of IMF, World Bank”

Background

Wikileaks revelation

The U.S. Army states that major global financial institutions — such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — are used as unconventional, financial “weapons in times of conflict up to and including large-scale general war,” as well as in leveraging “the policies and cooperation of state governments.”

PressTV: Are these so-called financial institutions guilty of that, and how do they do it? If so, this would point to the fact that these organizations are NOT independent.

Peter Koenig:  Let me start with the fact that indeed these organizations are not independent at all.

The World Bank and IMF are fully controlled by the US. The US has a de facto veto power, since it possesses about 17% of the votes, and it takes 85% to overrule the veto – impossible.

OECD is an organization of some 34 so-called industrialized countries, also dominated by the US and her mostly vassal states of the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand — so of course, they are controlled by the US, or simply, the West.

You could add to these organizations also WTO – the World Trade Organization, also dominated by the US and Europe to the detriment of developing countries, especially since the latter are too weak in general to impose their trade conditions, or even simply get a fair deal.

And yes, these institutions, WB and IMF, can and have used in the past, financial means as “weapons” – for example, the World Bank’s use of structural type adjustment loans, or so-called “rescue packages” by the IMF – a glaring example is Greece, and lately Argentina. These loans come with strong austerity conditions attached, meaning privatization of public properties, of natural resources – all to the benefit of foreign corporations – and to the detriment of the countries and local populations concerned. At home, in Greece and Argentina – there are growing tariffs for all services, reduction of pensions, education and health services are being privatized and unemployment is rampant, leading to poverty.

In the case of Argentina, in 2015 in November, just a month before the neoliberal Macri was pushed in by Washington as Argentina’s new President – the Kirchner regimes were able to reduce poverty from close to 70% in 2001/2002, when Argentina’s economy collapsed, then also as a result of the IMF, they, the Kirchner Governments, managed to reduce it to about 14%. Today Argentina’s poverty rate is above 35% — and rising, especially with the largest ever IMF loan made in the history of the IMF, granted to Argentina late last year, of US$ 57 billion.

So yes, lending instruments of these organizations can and are being weaponized. Imagine, Argentinians cannot take it any longer and resort to a civil war — I don’t even want to think about it.

PressTV:  It is said the US is not only using this against Venezuela, but it has also exercised this on countries, like Ecuador and Argentina. Isn’t the sovereignty of these countries being violated, and aren’t the economic rights of its citizens also violated due to the actions of the government, like exercising austerity and budget cuts?

Peter Koenig:  Yes, very clearly the sovereignty of these nations is being violated. Not only that, interfering in another nations economic affair is an international crime. However, all international courts of justice in The Hague and elsewhere are bought by Washington. A recent statement by US Foreign Secretary Pompeo, couldn’t have been blunter; he threatened any judge of the ICC with sanctions or harsh actions, if they would dare pursue any US or Israeli citizens, adding that this would apply to other allies too.

The US has not used the IMF and the World Bank in Venezuela, simply because Venezuela under Chavez has exited both Institutions and they are not a member of OECD. However, they have used another – let’s say “money tool” to attempt bringing Venezuela to her knees – economic and financial sanctions. Sanctions can only be imposed to countries that are linked to the dollar-based western monetary system, that also includes the Euro and currencies in Canada, Australia NZ, Japan. But no longer Russia and China and much of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) countries.

Under this western system any monetary transaction has to go through a transfer scheme, called SWIFT, and it is automatically channeled through a US, usually Wall Street bank, in either New York or London. Therefore, every transaction is being subject to control and can be blocked and funds can even be confiscated. In the case of Venezuela, the US Government has practically confiscated US$ 35 billion in US banks, and through CITGO – the Venezuela gasoline corporation in the US, from whom profit and cash flows were blocked in US banks.

That’s how the US is punishing Venezuela for not giving it free reign to steal its natural resources, the largest known oil reserves in the world, and for being a socialist country.

On top of it, the US propaganda is such that the majority of the people around the world believe that Venezuela is mismanaged, is suffering from hunger and needs regime change. All of this is a flagrant lie. Fortunately, this is now changing, since about 60 nations, including China, Russia and India in the UN have expressed their disgust with this coercive US policy and stand firmly behind Venezuela – that means more than 50% of the world population supports the current, freely and fully democratically elected Venezuelan Government, headed by Nicolás Maduro.

But the US has used the IMF and the World Bank’s “Money Weapons” in Argentina and also to some extent on Ecuador. The case of Argentina I described earlier, and in an example of Ecuador, the government proposed a motion at the UN, preferring breast feeding over artificial milk, à la Nestlé. The US – followed by her European vassals – threatened Ecuador with trade sanctions, if they would not withdraw their motion – so, they did. And that’s only one example.

PressTV:  Another point of interest is that these financial weapons are largely governed by the National Security Council (NSC), which is currently headed by the US national security advisor John Bolton. The document notes that the NSC “has primary responsibility for the integration of the economic and military instruments of national power abroad.” John Bolton is an avid advocate of regime change, like in Iran: why has he been given these broad powers?

Peter Koenig: John Bolton has been known since the Bush Administration and even earlier as a ruthless character that finds hardly a match among the many ruthless politicians the US has in stock. So they let him lose because his pathological psychopathic behavior is intimidating to many countries.

First you bring down countries by intimidation, once that has been achieved, it is easier to put other coercive measures in place, like more sanctions, as in the case of Iran. And finally, if nothing works, they threaten and demonstrate US/NATO military intervention by putting the weapons at a country’s doorstep. Like in the case of Russia. However, I doubt very much that the US really intends to intervene militarily in Russia and Iran – or in Venezuela for that matter. There is too much at risk. Washington knows that the Russian modern missiles – that can fly at speeds in excess of 20 Mach – and the S-400 missile defense systems, are far superior to anything the US has in store.

In addition to a big-mouth, Bolton is a very good sable-rattler.

PressTV:  It appears that countries who counter US policies can be economically pressured in order to have financial assistance, and if they don’t walk Washington’s line, then these financial instruments can be used against them to bring about regime change: Is this an accurate scenario? Are many countries forced to be financially weak to then be subservient to the US?

Peter Koenig: Yes, this is a plausible scenario, especially in the case of a country that has natural resources, like oil, and especially, if the country does not have a corrupt leader that easily bends to the wishes of Washington. There are reasons invented to punish the country with “sanctions” – case in point is Iran – the negation of the Nuclear Deal for no good reason whatsoever, other than to weaken Iran’s economy – and once the country is weak enough, the IMF and WB come in and offer “help” in the form of bail-out loans, or structural adjustments as they were called in the 80’s and 90’s.

If the government falls for these loans – often the ministry of finance in such countries are infiltrated by “Fifth Columnists” or Atlantists – the IMF and World Bank come in with large loans, i.e. huge debt, that at the end leaves the country totally enslaved to the masters of Washington – ready for privatization of all public goods, natural resources. – Iran has a lot of oil and gas – and other resources.

If that doesn’t work, the Fifth Columnists create civil unrest in the hope of bringing about regime change – which then would allow Washington to put in a puppet regime and come in to steal what it wants to steal, and control a country’s strategic position – like in the case of Iran. So, Iran beware. – I think Iran is fully aware of the game – and the departure of Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Javad Zarif, may just be the beginning.

Trump’s Stance on the Golan will allow Israel to Operate with Impunity Elsewhere

When President Donald Trump moved the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem last year, effectively sabotaging any hope of establishing a viable Palestinian state, he tore up the international rulebook.

Last week, he trampled all over its remaining tattered pages. He did so, of course, via Twitter.

Referring to a large piece of territory Israel seized from Syria in 1967, Mr Trump wrote: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability.”

Israel expelled 130,000 Syrians from the Golan Heights in 1967, under cover of the Six Day War, and then annexed the territory 14 years later – in violation of international law. A small population of Syrian Druze are the only survivors of that ethnic cleansing operation.

Replicating its illegal acts in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel immediately moved Jewish settlers and businesses into the Golan.

Until now, no country had recognised Israel’s act of plunder. In 1981, UN member states, including the US, declared Israeli efforts to change the Golan’s status “null and void”.

But in recent months, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu began stepping up efforts to smash that long-standing consensus and win over the world’s only superpower to his side.

He was spurred into action when Bashar Al Assad – aided by Russia – began to decisively reverse the territorial losses the Syrian government had suffered during the nation’s eight-year war.

The fighting dragged in a host of other actors. Israel itself used the Golan as a base from which to launch covert operations to help Mr Assad’s opponents in southern Syria, including Islamic State fighters. Iran and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, meanwhile, tried to limit Israel’s room for manoeuvre on the Syrian leader’s behalf.

Iran’s presence close by was how Mr Netanyahu publicly justified the need for Israel to take permanent possession of the Golan, calling it a vital buffer against Iranian efforts to “use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel”.

Before that, when Mr Assad was losing ground to his enemies, the Israeli leader made a different case. Then, he argued that Syria was breaking apart and its president would never be in a position to reclaim the Golan.

Mr Netanyahu’s current rationalisation is no more persuasive than the earlier one. Russia and the United Nations are already well advanced on re-establishing a demilitarised zone on the Syrian side of the separation-of-forces line. That would ensure Iran could not deploy close to the Golan Heights.

Mr Netanyahu is set to meet Mr Trump in Washington on Monday, when the president’s tweet will reportedly be converted into an executive order.

The timing is significant. This is another crude attempt by Mr Trump to meddle in Israel’s election, due on April 9. It will provide Mr Netanyahu with a massive fillip as he struggles against corruption indictments and a credible threat from a rival party, Blue and White, headed by former army generals.

Mr Netanyahu could barely contain his glee, reportedly calling Mr Trump to tell him: “You made history!”

But, in truth, this was no caprice. Israel and Washington have been heading in this direction for a while.

In Israel, there is cross-party support for keeping the Golan.

Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the US and a confidant of Mr Netanyahu’s, formally launched a plan last year to quadruple the size of the Golan’s settler population, to 100,000, within a decade.

The US State Department offered its apparent seal of approval last month when it included the Golan Heights for the first time in the “Israel” section of its annual human rights report.

This month, senior Republican senator Lindsey Graham made a very public tour of the Golan in an Israeli military helicopter, alongside Mr Netanyahu and David Friedman, Mr Trump’s ambassador to Israel. Mr Graham said he and fellow senator Ted Cruz would lobby the US president to change the territory’s status.

Mr Trump, meanwhile, has made no secret of his disdain for international law. This month, his officials barred entry to the US to staff from the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, who are investigating US war crimes in Afghanistan.

The ICC has made enemies of both Washington and Israel in its initial, and meagre, attempts to hold the two to account.

Whatever Mr Netanyahu’s spin about the need to avert an Iranian threat, Israel has other, more concrete reasons for holding on to the Golan.

The territory is rich in water sources and provides Israel with decisive control over the Sea of Galilee, a large freshwater lake that is crucially important in a region facing ever greater water shortages.

The 1,200 square kilometres of stolen land is being aggressively exploited, from burgeoning vineyards and apple orchards to a tourism industry that, in winter, includes the snow-covered slopes of Mount Hermon.

As noted by Who Profits, an Israeli human rights organisation, in a report this month, Israeli and US companies are also setting up commercial wind farms to sell electricity.

And Israel has been quietly co-operating with US energy giant Genie to explore potentially large oil reserves under the Golan. Mr Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has family investments in Genie. But extracting the oil will be difficult, unless Israel can plausibly argue that it has sovereignty over the territory.

For decades the US had regularly arm-twisted Israel to enter a mix of public and back-channel peace talks with Syria. Just three years ago, Barack Obama supported a UN Security Council rebuke to Mr Netanyahu for stating that Israel would never relinquish the Golan.

Now Mr Trump has given a green light for Israel to hold on to it permanently.

But, whatever he says, the decision will not bring security for Israel, or regional stability. In fact, it makes a nonsense of Mr Trump’s “deal of the century” – a regional peace plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that, according to rumour, may be unveiled soon after the Israeli election.

Instead, US recognition will prove a boon for the Israeli right, which has been clamouring to annex vast areas of the West Bank and thereby drive a final nail into the coffin of the two-state solution.

Israel’s right can now plausibly argue: “If Mr Trump has consented to our illegal seizure of the Golan, why not also our theft of the West Bank?”

• First published in The National

Saddamizing al-Assad

Donald Trump’s first action upon assuming the Presidential throne of the United States involved the re-location of a bust of Winston Churchill back into the Oval Office. Originally given to President Bush the Second in July, 2001, Churchill’s bust was removed by Barack Obama (January, 2009) in favor of a bust of Martin Luther King. If the symbolism in all of this changing of the bust business were a pinball machine, then lights and buzzers would be flashing and dinging like crazy!

Churchill, of course, like Dr. King, was well known for his rhetorical flourishes. Given recent events, I offer this extended Churchillian gem, a War Office Minute recorded on May 12, 1919, when Churchill was both Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air, for your consideration.

I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference (Versailles) of arguing in favor of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare. It is sheer affectation to lacerate a man with the poisonous fragments of a bursting shell and to boggle at making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory gas. I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet have no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.

Yes, that’s vintage Versailles-era Churchill promoting the “moral effect” of chemical weapons, with an eye to quelling the contentious “tribes” of soon-to-be British Mandate Iraq. Fast forward one century later, and the use of “poisoned gas” is back in the news, in connection with the Syrian conflict. In particular, the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, who does not possess a Churchill bust as far as we know, once again stands accused of using weaponized gas to attack his own citizens. A chorus of Western leaders chants “Gas! Gas! Gas!” at al-Assad, because Winston Churchill did not get his wish, since gas warfare has been considered illegal for almost a century, despite the former British Prime Minister’s obviously logical argument for it. Might as well ban War altogether! Except that, War is still entirely legal—only certain modes of warfare are not, such as chemical weapons.

In the meantime, Syrian President al-Assad flatly denies these allegations, blaming instead the rebel factions that are trying—at the moment unsuccessfully—to topple his regime. These rebel groups, whom Assad labels “terrorists,” include ISIS and al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliated militia or mercenary formation. In fact, despite President Trump’s inaugural cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase, no one knows who perpetrated the sarin gas attack on the village of Khan Sheikoun in April, 2017.

We do know, however, that 30 years ago the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein gassed between 3,000 and 5,000 Kurds to death in a town called Halabja, in Kurdish Iraq. That was March 16,1988, part of an anti-Kurdish campaign known as al-Anfal. In the face of universal condemnation, the Reagan Administration stood behind Saddam, shielding his regime from sanctions. There were even some fuzzy reports at the time that pinned the chemical blame on Iran, against whom Saddam had been waging a Kuwaiti, Saudi, and American assisted war since September of 1980. Indeed, those reports were ‘fuzzy’ because Saddam’s forces had been attacking the Iranians with chemical weapons since 1983, a fact entirely known to the Reagan Administration

Interestingly enough, when Saddam went rogue and invaded Kuwait in August of 1990, the first Bush Administration absolutely Hitlerized Saddam for his use of “poisoned gas” during the previous decade. Talk about policy pivots! Thus it came to pass that the useful genocidal tool Saddam became the useful genocidal villain Saddam. Ultimately, Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons became a major pretext for launching the Second Crusade against Iraq in 2003.

And now, we have “gas” in Syria, which has been floated as a “red line” since the Obama Administration. The United States, it should be noted, has no direct interest, or stake, in Syria. Nevertheless, we have conducted thousands of airstrikes in Syria since August of 2014, despite having no policy to accessorize our bombing campaign in that war-torn, Middle Eastern nation.

So far, Bashar al-Assad has not quite fit the neatly tailored line of villains used to sell undeclared wars to American taxpayers the last 30 years. This line includes: Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and, most recently, Moammar Qaddafi.

As of this reporting, the “Saddamizing” of Syria’s al-Assad remains incomplete; the portrait of Assad as another neo-Hitler, unfinished. Until then, we may not have a Syrian Policy beyond “Bombs Away!”, but at least we can rest assured that Winston Churchill’s bust is back in the Oval Office, symbolizing the continuing spread of a “lively terror” throughout the Middle East.

Addendum:  Nota bene. Currently, yet another American Regime is playing the demonization game, this time with Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro as the “Devil with the Red Dress on.” It is worth noting, in this connection, that the MLK bust in Obama’s Oval Office did not engender a foreign policy even remotely reflective of Dr. King’s worldview, as Obama Administration regime change operations in Honduras (2009), Libya (2011), and the stalled-out Syrian intervention, certainly attest. Indeed, it was Obama’s 2015 characterization of Venezuela as a “national security threat” that set the stage for the Trumpistanis’ would-be Bushwhacking of Venezuelan democracy, just as President Clinton laid the groundwork for the unusually disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003 by declaring “regime change” the official U.S. policy towards Iraq on Halloween, 1998 (in other words, Clinton let Al-Qaeda and the Neo-Cons — a very bad jazz band — in.). The American Regime names change, yet they keep playing the same tune, which perhaps only proves the old adage that absolute power is absolutely tone deaf.

However that may be, it should be emphasized that the Regime Changelings’ coup has not succeeded in Venezuela. Maduro, the former bus driver, has refused to be thrown under the bus by the unlawful firm of Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Rubio; their hand-picked usurper, Juan Guaido (“I’m a puppy, not a puppet!”), has failed to win Venezuelan hearts and minds. In Venezuela, it could very well be that we are witnessing a decisive break in the Regime Change tide.

Can China and Russia Survive in this Unharmonious World?

Does it pay ‘to be good’? Is it still possible to play by the rules in this mad world, governed by brigands?

What if the rules are defined and ratified by all countries of the world, but a small group of the strongest (militarily) nations totally ignores them, while using its professional propagandists to reinterpret them in the most bizarre ways?

Describing the world, I often feel that I am back in my primary school.

When I was a child, I had the misfortune of growing up in a racist Czechoslovakia. Being born in the Soviet Union, and having an half Russian and half Asian mother, I was brutally beaten up between classes, from the age of seven. I was systematically attacked by a gang of boys, and humiliated and hit for having ‘Asian ears’, for having an ‘Asian mother’, for being Russian. During winters, my shoes were taken out into the bitter cold and pissed into. The urine turned into ice. The only consolation was that ‘at least’ I was Russian and Chinese. If I was a Gypsy (Roma) boy, I would most likely not have made it, at least without losing an eye, or without having my hands broken.

I tried to be polite. I did my best to ‘play by the rules’. I fought back, first only half-heartedly.

Until one day, when a kid who lived next door, fired his air gun and barely missed my eye. Just like that, simply because I was Russian… and Asian, just because he had nothing better to do, at that particular moment. And because he felt so proud to be Czech and European. Also, because I refused to eat their shit, to accept their ‘superiority’, and humiliate myself in front of them. Both mother and I were miserable in Czechoslovakia, both of us dreamt about our Leningrad. But she made a personal mistake and we were stuck in a hostile, provincial and bombastic society which wanted to “go back to Europe”, and once again be part of the bloc of countries, which has been ruling and oppressing the world, for centuries.

The air gun and almost losing my eye turned out to be the last straw. I teamed up with my friend, Karel, whose only ‘guilt’ was that at 10, he weighed almost 100 kilograms. It was not his fault, it was a genetic issue, but the kids also ridiculed him, eventually turning him into a punching bag. He was a gentle, good-natured kid who loved music and science-fiction novels. We were friends. We used to plan our space travels towards the distant galaxies, together. But at that point, we said ‘enough’! We hit back, terribly. After two or three years of suffering, we began fighting the gang, with the same force and brutality that they had applied towards us and, in fact, towards all those around us who were ‘different’, or at least weak and defenseless.

And we won. Not by reason, but by courage and strength. I wish we did not have to fight, but we had no choice. We soon discovered how strong we were. And once we began, the only way to survive was to win the battle. And we did win. The kids, who used to torment us, were actually cowards. Once we won and secured some respect, we also began sheltering and protecting the ‘others’, mainly weak boys and girls from our school, who were also suffering attacks from the gang of those ‘normal’, white, and mainstream Czechs.

*****

There are self-proclaimed rulers of the world: Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. And there are two other groups: the nations which are fully cooperating with the West (such as Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, South Korea, Colombia or Uganda), and those that are decisively refusing to accept Western dictates, such as Russia, China, DPRK, Syria, Eritrea, Iran, South Africa, Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia.

The first group does almost nothing to change the world. It goes with the flow. It accepts the rule of the bullies. It collaborates, and while it is at it, tries to at least gain some privileges, most of the time unsuccessfully.

The second group is well aware of the dismal state of the world. It maneuvers, resists, and sometimes fights for its survival, or for the survival of others. It tries to stick to its principles, or to what used to be called ‘universal values’.

But can it really survive without confrontation?

The West does not tolerate any dissent. Its culture has been, for centuries, exceedingly aggressive, bellicose, and extremist: “You are with us, that is ‘under us’, or you are against us. If against us, you will be crushed and shackled, robbed, raped, beaten and in the end, forced to do what we order, anyway.”

Russia is perhaps the only nation which has survived, unconquered and for centuries, but at the unimaginable price of tens of millions of its people. It has been invaded, again and again, by the Scandinavians, French, Brits, Germans, and even Czechs. The attacks occurred regularly, justified by bizarre rhetoric: ‘Russia was strong’, or ‘it was weak’. It was attacked ‘because of its Great October Socialist Revolution’, or simply because it was Communist. Any grotesque ‘justification’ was just fine, as far as the West was concerned. Russia had to be invaded, plundered and terribly injured just because it was resisting, because it stood on its feet, and free.

Even the great China could not withstand Western assaults. It was broken, divided, humiliated; its capital city ransacked by the French and Brits.

Nothing and no one could survive the Western assaults: in the end, not even the proud and determined Afghanistan.

*****

A Chinese scholar Li Gang wrote in his “The Way We Think: Chinese View of Life Philosophy”:

“Harmony” is an important category of thought in traditional Chinese culture. Although the concept initially comes from philosophy, it stands for a stable and integrated social life. It directly influences Chinese people’s way of thinking and dealing with the world… In the ancient classic works of China, “harmony” can, in essence, be understood as being harmonious. Ancient people stressed the harmony of the universe and the natural environment, the harmony between humans and nature, and what is more, the harmony between people…  Traditional Chinese people take the principle as a way of life and they try their best to have friendly and harmonious relations. In order to reach “harmony”, people treat each other with sincerity, tolerance and love, and do not interfere in other people’s business. As the saying goes, “Well water does not intrude into river water.

Could anything be further from the philosophy of Western culture, which is based on the constant need to interfere, conquer and control?

Can countries like China, or Iran, or Russia, really survive in a world that is being controlled by aggressive European and North American dogmas?

Or more precisely: could they survive peacefully, without being dragged into bloodstained confrontations?

*****

The onset of the 21st Century is clearly indicating that ‘peaceful resistance’ to brutal Western attacks is counter-productive.

Begging for peace, at forums such as the United Nations, has been leading absolutely nowhere. One country after another has collapsed, and had no chance to be treated justly and to be protected by international law: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya.

The West and its allies like Saudi Arabia or Israel are always above the law. Or more precisely, they are the law. They twist and modify the law however it suits them; their political or business interests.

Harmony?  No, they are absolutely not interested in things like harmony. And even if a huge country like China is, then it is seen as weak, and immediately taken advantage of.

Can the world survive if a group of countries plays totally against all the rules, while most of the planet tries to stick, meticulously, to international laws and regulations?

It can, but it would create a totally twisted, totally perverse world, as ours actually already is. It would be a world of impunity on one end, and of fear, slavery and servility at the other.

And it is not going to be a ‘peaceful world’, anyway, because the oppressor will always want more and more; it will not be satisfied until it is in total, absolute control of the planet.

Accepting tyranny is not an option.

So then, what is? Are we too scared to pronounce it?

If a country is attacked, it should defend itself, and fight

As Russia did on so many occasions. As Syria is doing, at great sacrifice, but proudly. As Venezuela will and should do, if assaulted.

China and Russia are two great cultures, which were to some extent influenced by the West. When I say ‘influenced’, I mean forcefully ‘penetrated’, broken into, brutally violated. During that violent interaction, some positive elements of Western culture assimilated in the brains of its victims: music, food, even city planning. But the overall impact was extremely negative, and both China and Russia suffered, and have been suffering, greatly.

For decades, the West has been unleashing its propaganda and destructive forces, to ‘contain’ and devastate both countries at their core. The Soviet Union was tricked into Afghanistan and into a financially unsustainable arms race, and literally broken into pieces. For several dark years, Russia was facing confusion, intellectual, moral and social chaos, as well as humiliation. China got penetrated with extreme ‘market forces’, its academic institutions were infiltrated by armies of anti-Communist ‘intellectual’ warriors from Europe and North America.

The results were devastating. Both countries – China and Russia – were practically under attack, and forced to fight for their survival.

Both countries managed to identify the treat. They fought back, regrouped, and endured. Their cultures and their identities survived.

China is now a confident and powerful nation, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. Present-day Russia under the presidency of Vladimir Putin is one of the mightiest nations on earth, not only militarily, but also morally, intellectually and scientifically.

This is precisely what the West cannot ‘forgive’. With each new brilliant electric vehicle China produces, with each village embracing the so-called “Ecological Civilization”, the West panics, smears China, portrays it as an evil state. The more internationalist Russia becomes, the more it protects nations ruined by the West – be it Syria or Venezuela – more relentless are West’s attacks against its President, and its people.

Both China and Russia are using diplomacy for as long as it is constructive, but this time, when confronted with force, they indicate their willingness to use strength to defend themselves.

They are well aware of the fact that this is the only way to survive.

For China, harmony is essential. Russia also has developed its own concept of global harmony based on internationalist principles. There is hardly any doubt that under the leadership of China and Russia, our world would be able to tackle the most profound problems that it has been facing.

But harmony can only be implemented when there is global concept of goodwill, or at least a decisive dedication to save the world.

If a group of powerful nations is only obsessed with profits, control and plunder, and if it behaves like a thug for several long centuries, one has to act, and to defend the world; if there is no alternative, by force!

Only after victory, can true harmony be aimed at.

At the beginning of this essay, I told a story from my childhood, which I find symbolic.

One can compromise, one can be diplomatic, but never if one’s dignity and freedom was at risk. One can never negotiate indefinitely with those who are starving and enslaving billions of human beings, all over the world.

Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan and so many countries are now bleeding. Soon, Iran could be confronted. And Nicaragua. And DPRK. And perhaps China and Russia themselves could face yet another Western invasion.

A ‘harmonious world’ may have to be built later; definitely one day, but a little bit later.

First, we have to make sure that our humanity survives and that Western fascism cannot consume further millions of innocent human lives.

Like me and my big childhood friend Karel at an elementary school in former Czechoslovakia; Russia and China may have to once again stand up and confront ‘unharmonious barbarity’; they may have to fight, in order to prevent an even greater disaster.

They do not want to; they will do everything possible to prevent war. But the war is already raging. Western colonialism is back. The brutal gang of North American and European countries is blocking the road, clenching fists, shooting at everyone who dares to look up, and to meet their gaze: “Would you dare?” their eyes are saying.

“Yes, we would!” is the only correct answer.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

US Negotiations: Masters of Defeats

The US is currently engaged in negotiations with at least a dozen countries — which involve fundamental political, military and economic issues.

The US has adopted diplomatic strategies in the face of its ‘inability’ to secure military victories. The purpose of adopting a diplomatic approach is to secure through negotiations, in part or fully, goals and advantages unattainable through military means.

While diplomacy is less subject to military and economic losses it does require making concessions. Negotiations are only successful if there are reciprocal benefits to both parties.

Those regimes which demand maximum advantages and minimum concessions, usually fail or succeed because they are based on very unequal power relations.

We will proceed to evaluate Washington’s success or failure in recent negotiations and analyze the reasons and consequences for the outcome.

US-North Korea Negotiations

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un have been engaged in negotiations, for nearly a year. The White House has prioritized the ‘de-nuclearization’ of the peninsula which includes dismantling nuclear weapons, missiles, test sites and other strategic military objectives.

North Korea seeks the end of economic sanctions, the signing of a US-Korean peace treaty and diplomatic recognition. A decisive meeting between the two took place Feb. 26-27, 2019 in Hanoi.

The negotiations were a total failure. Washington failed to secure any gains, nor did they advance the peace process; and there are no future prospects.

North Korea offered three significant concessions which were not reciprocated. President Kim Jong-Un proposed to (1) dismantle nuclear testing sites, (2) announced a moratorium on nuclear tests and inter-continental range ballistic missiles tests, and (3) agreed to partially dismantle missile engine test sites.

Washington offered nothing in return. Instead it demanded total disarmament, no lifting of sanctions, no signing of the end of the US-Korea war.

Washington’s asymmetrical ‘negotiations’ were pre-determined to fail. The US underestimated the capacity of the North Koreans to insist on reciprocity; they believed that future verbal promises would entice the North Koreans to disarm. The Koreans were fully aware of the recent US record of reneging on signed agreements with Iran, China and its partners in the Belt and Road agreement.

Moreover, North Korea has powerful allies in China and Russia and nuclear weapons to resist added US pressure.

US-Iran Negotiations

US and Iran negotiated an agreement to terminate economic sanctions in exchange for ending nuclear weapons development. It temporarily succeeded but was quickly reversed by the Trump regime. The White House demanded Iran dismantle its missile defense program and threatened a military attack. Washington did not bargain, it sought to impose a one-sided ‘solution’. The UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, co-signers of the agreement, rejected the Trump dictate, but a number of major EU multi-national corporations capitulated to the White House demand to tighten sanctions.

As a consequence, the US deliberate sabotage of negotiations pushed Iran closer to Russia, China and alternative markets while the US remained wedded to Saudi Arabia and Israel. The former is engaged in a losing war with Yemen, the latter has remained an international pariah receiving billions of US dollars in handouts.

US-China Negotiations

The US has engaged in negotiations with China to downgrade its economy and retain US global supremacy. Beijing has agreed to increase its imports from Washington and tighten controls over Chinese use of US technology, but the US has not offered any concessions. Instead, Washington has demanded that China end the state’s role in financing its cutting-edge technology, artificial intelligence, and communication innovations.

In other words, China is expected to surrender its structural advantages in order to avoid harsh White House tariffs which would reduce Chinese exports.

There is no reciprocity. The Trump regime operates by threats to China which will have negative effects: on US farmers dependent on Chinese markets; on US importers, especially the retail sector which imports Chinese products; consumers who will suffer higher prices for goods purchased from China.

In addition, China will deepen its links with alternative markets in Asia, Africa, Russia, Latin America and elsewhere.

As of the most recent year (2018) China’s positive trade balance with the US rose to $419 billion dollars while the US was forced to increase its subsidies to US agro-exporters to compensate for loss of sales to China.

After several months of negotiations US representatives have secured trade concessions but failed to impose a breakdown of China’s economic model.

By the middle of 2019, while negotiations continue, the likelihood of a ‘grand bargain’ is dismal. In large part this is because Washington fails to recognize that its weakened global position requires that the US engage in ‘structural changes’, which means that the Treasury invests in technology; labor upgrades and education. The US should practice reciprocal relations with dynamic trading partners; to do so, Washington needs to invest billions to upgrade its domestic infrastructure; and reallocate federal spending from military spending and wars to domestic priorities and productive overseas agreements. US diplomatic relations with China based on threats and tariffs are failing and economic negotiations are deteriorating.

US-Venezuela: Non-Negotiations a Formula for Defeat

Over the past half-decade (2015-2019) Washington has succeeded in restoring client regimes in Latin America, by military coups, political intervention and economic pressure. As a consequence, the White House has successfully ‘negotiated’ one-sided political, economic, social and diplomatic outcomes in the region … with the exception of Cuba and Venezuela.

President Trump has broken negotiated agreements with Cuba to no advantage; US threats have led to Cuba securing greater ties with Europe, China, Russia and elsewhere without affecting Cuba’s tourism business.

The Trump regime has escalated its political and economic propaganda and social war against Venezuela. Multiple overt coup efforts have backfired beginning in April 2002 and continuing to February 2019.

While the US succeeded in the rest of Latin America in consolidating hemispheric hegemony, in the case of Venezuela, Washington has suffered diplomatic defeats and the growth of greater popular resistance.

US interventionist and sanctions policies have sharply reduced the presence of its middle- and lower-middle-class supporters who have fled abroad. US propaganda has failed to secure the support of the Venezuelan military which has become more ‘nationalist’ with very few desertions.

The White House appointment of the convicted felon Elliott Abrams, known as the ‘butcher of Central America’, has certainly undermined any prospect of a favorable diplomatic settlement.

US sanction of political and military leaders precludes efforts to co-opt and recruit leaders. The US appointed as its ‘interim ruler’ one Juan Guaidó who has little domestic support – widely seen domestically as an imperial stooge.

The US non-negotiated successes in Latin America have blinded Washington to the different conditions in Venezuela; where structural socio-economic reforms and nationalist military training consolidated political support.

In the case of Venezuela, the US refusal to enter into negotiations has led to greater polarization and multiple defeats, including the failed coup of February 23/24 2019.

US-Russia: Colluding with Failed Diplomacy

Washington successfully ‘negotiated’ the surrender and break-up of the Soviet Union and the subsequent pillage of Russia. It was the US’ most successful ‘negotiations’ of the century. The US ‘negotiations’ allowed it to expand NATO to the Russian frontier, incorporated most of East Europeans into the EU and NATO and led the US to boast of creating a ‘unipolar world’.

Excess hubris led the US to launch prolonged (and losing) wars in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and elsewhere.

With the election of President Putin, Russia made a comeback, which led to the Kremlin reconstituting its military, economic and geopolitical power.

The White House reacted by attempting to ‘negotiate’ Russia’s military encirclement and to undermine Moscow’s economic growth.

When Russia refused to submit to US dictates, Washington resorted to economic sanctions and power grabs in the Ukraine, Central Asia and the Middle East (Iraq and Syria).

Washington rejected a diplomatic approach in favor of economic intimidation — especially as some US-backed oligarchs were arrested or fled with their wealth to the UK and Israel.

The US refused to recognize the opportunities which still existed in Russia – a neo-liberal economic elite, a mainly mineral export economy, and Moscow’s conciliatory approach toward US military engagement in Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iran.

US ‘negotiations’ were non-starters. The White House defined Russia as an enemy to be undermined. Sanctions became the weapon to deal with Russia’s attempt to regain its world standing. Washington’s aggressive posture included its refusal to recognize that the world had become multi-polar; that Russia had allies in China, partners in Germany, military bases in Syria, and has loyal and advanced scientific elite.

The US, operating from a past image of Russia from the Yeltsin era, failed to adapt to the new realities – a resurgent Russia willing to bargain and secure reciprocal advantages.

The US failed to recognize potential allies and economic advantages in open negotiations with Russia. Many Russian economists close to the Kremlin were neo-liberals, ready and willing to open the economy to US penetration. Russia was willing to concede the US a major role in the Middle East and offered to negotiate their oil export policies.

Instead the US refused to negotiate power sharing .US sanctions forced Russia to embrace China; Washington’s drive for global dominance encouraged Russia to build ties with Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Syria and other independent nations.

Washington’s unipolar policies turned a potentially lucrative and long-term strategic relation into costly confrontations and failed diplomacy.

US and the European Union: Dead End Deals

Bullying Europe has been a successful endeavor, which the US has put on display on innumerable occasions in recent times. Washington negotiates agreements with the French, English and German to end economic sanction on Iran and then reneges and turns around to apply sanctions on European firms which comply with the US and disobey their own government.

The US negotiates with Europe on trade policies and then abruptly threatens to impose sanctions on its crucial auto exports.

Europe negotiates with Washington on NATO security issues and then the White House threatens them in order to raise their military spending.

The US claims that the EU is a strategic ally but treats it as a junior partner.

Negotiations between the two have been a one-sided partnership: the US sells arms and names adversaries, while Europe argues and dissents, eventually submitting and sending troops to fight US wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.

The US dictates sanctions against Russia, increasing the price of EU imports of gas and oil. Germany debates, discusses, hems and haws while avoiding an outright rejection.

The US has steadily encroached on EU prerogatives to the point where it claims if the EU fails to comply with the White House’s “America First” agenda, it would cause the US to withdraw from NATO.

Despite a longstanding alliance, the White House no longer negotiates policies – it threatens and expects compliance. Despite a history of EU submission and pro forma debates, as Washington has hardened its opposition to Russia, China and Iran it no longer considers EU trade relations a point of negotiations. While Europe might consider the US as an ally, it will not be allowed to be treated as such, because it is viewed as a trade adversary.

Conclusion

Washington has succeeded in securing non-reciprocal agreements with weak countries. This was the case in post-war Europe, post-Gorbachev Russia and among Latin America’s current colonized regimes.

In contrast, Washington’s rejection of reciprocal agreements with Russia, China, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela has been a failure. US trade wars with China have led to the loss of markets and allowed China to pursue global agreements through its massive billion-dollar ‘Belt and Road’ infrastructure projects.

US one-sided hostile policies toward Russia have increased ties between the Kremlin and Beijing.

Washington has lost opportunities to work with neo-liberal oligarchs in Russia in order to undermine President Putin. Washington has failed to negotiate reciprocal ties with North Korea which would ‘de-nuclearize’ the peninsula in exchange for lifting economic sanctions and opening the door for a capitalist restoration.

Demanding unilateral concession and submission has led to uniform failures; whereas negotiated compromises could have led to greater market opportunities and long-term political advances.

President Trump and his top policy makers and negotiators have failed to secure any agreements.

The Democratic Congress has been as ineffective and even more bellicose – demanding greater military pressures on Russia, expanded trade wars with China and fewer negotiations with North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.

In a word, failed negotiations and non-reciprocal diplomacy has become the hallmark of US foreign policy.

The US Must Grow Up And Respect Iranian Independence

US Peace Delegation to Iran February 2019 outside of Iran’s Foreign Ministry. From CODE PINK.

One of the lessons from our recent visit to Iran as a Peace Delegation is that Iran is a mature country. It is 2,500 years old, ten times as old as the United States and one of the world’s oldest continuous major civilizations with settlements dating back to 7,000 BC. It was an empire that controlled almost half the Earth for over 1,000 years. It is hard not to see the US-Iran relationship as one between an adolescent bully and a mature nation.

The root cause of the problems between the United States and Iran is not because Iran has oil, an Islamic government, nuclear weapons or Iran’s role in the Middle East — it is because in 1979, Iran ended 26 years of US domination. Foreign Minister Zarif explained to our Peace Delegation:

…the U.S. difficulty with Iran is not because of the region, not because of human rights, not because of weapons, not because of the nuclear issue – it’s just because we decided to be independent – that’s it – that’s our biggest crime.

Since the 1979 Revolution, the US has sought to dominate Iran using sanctions and threats of military aggression. Iran has responded by seeking negotiation with the US. The Iran Nuclear Agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA), which took over ten years to finalize, was viewed by Dr. Zarif as a first step toward more agreements.

Although Iran fulfilled its side of the nuclear agreement, the US did not relieve the sanctions, as promised, and under the Trump administration, increased the sanctions and left the agreement. On our trip, we learned first hand about the impacts of these actions.

Facing The Ugly Realities Of US History With Iran

Correcting the relationship between the US and Iran begins with an honest review of US policy since 1953. It is a record for which the US should be ashamed and shows the need for a new approach.

Iran Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq

The 1953 Coup

The August 19, 1953 coup was one the US denied for decades but has now been proven by documents released by the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. The British government also released documents showing its involvement. Information has been made public over the decades, but even after 65 years, many documents about ‘Operation Ajax’ remain classified.

The coup was led by CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of President Teddy Roosevelt and cousin of President Franklin Roosevelt. The coup not only impacted Iran but the Middle East and was a model for US coups around the world, which continue to this day. As we write, we are on our way to Venezuela where a US-led coup just failed.

The 1953 coup was preceded by economic sanctions to destabilize the Mossadegh government and a Guaido-like fake Prime Minister. The coup initially failed on August 16 when the Shah fled to Baghdad and then to Rome. Before fleeing, he appointed former Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi as Prime Minister to replace the elected Prime Minister Mossadegh. Zahedi continued the coup with the military arresting Mossadegh at his home on April 19. When Operation Ajax succeeded, Zahedi became Prime Minister and the Shah returned to rule as a brutal dictator until 1979. Mossadegh was imprisoned until his death in 1967.

 

US Den of Espionage by Barbara Briggs-Letson

Installation Of The Brutal Shah

The Shah became the enforcer for the United States in the Middle East. His rule coincided with the US war in Vietnam when the US focused its military in Southeast Asia. When President Nixon came to office in 1969, Iran was the single-largest arms purchaser from the US. Nixon encouraged a spending spree and by 1972, the Shah purchased over $3 billion of US arms, a twenty fold increase over 1971’s record.

US weapons buying continued throughout the decade dwarfing all US allies including Israel. The weapons being sold required thousands of US military support troops in Iran. In 1977, President Carter sold more arms to Iran than any previous years. Carter toasted the Shah as “a rock of stability” during a visit to Tehran at the end of 1977.

The stability was not as rock solid as Carter imagined. Domestically, a conglomerate of western oil companies ran the oil industry taking fifty percent of the profits but not allowing Iran to audit the accounts or have members on the board of directors. The Shah recognized Israel and put in place modernization policies that alienated religious groups. In 1963, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was arrested for making a speech against the Shah after several days of protests. The Shah’s brutal secret police, the SAVAK, made mass arrests and tortured and killed political prisoners. The Islamic clergy, still headed by Khomeini living in exile since 1964, became more vociferous in its criticisms.

Mass protests and strikes struck Iran in 1978. On November 4, 1979, Iranian students seized the US Embassy and held fifty-two hostages for 444 days until January 1981. Khomeini returned from exile in February 1979. In December, a new Constitution creating the Islamic Republic was approved by referendum and Khomeini became the Supreme Leader.

Graves of martyr’s from the Iraq-Iran War at the central cemetery of Iran’s capital Tehran by Philipp Breu

US Supports Iraq’s War Against Iran

The Iraq war would not have been possible without US encouragement and support in the form of money, naval assistance and weapons. The US also provided Iraq with the ingredients for the chemical weapons as well as intelligence on where to use them. More than one million people were killed and more than 80,000 injured by chemical weapons in the Iraq war.

The US Shoots Down A Civilian Airliner

The US also killed 289 Iranians when a US missile shot down a commercial Iranian airliner in July 1988. The US has never apologized for this mass killing of civilians. When we were in Iran, we visited the Tehran Peace Museum and our delegation did what our country should do, apologized.

Forty Years Of US Economic Sanctions

The US has imposed economic sanctions since the Islamic Revolution began. In 1980, the US broke diplomatic relations with Iran and Carter put in place sanctions including freezing $12 billion in Iranian assets and banning imports of Iranian oil. Every president since Carter has escalated sanctions against Iran. In response, Iran has developed a “resistance economy” where it has become more self-sufficient and built relationships with other countries.

Announcement of the Iran Nuclear Agreement between six world powers and Iran in the Swiss town of Lausanne (Photo from CBS News)

US Withdrawal From Nuclear Agreement And Increased Sanctions

The most recent atrocity is the failure to live up to the carefully negotiated nuclear agreement. Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif painstakingly negotiated the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal between China, France, Russia, the UK, Germany, the US, and the European Union for more than a decade. Iran complied with all the requirements of the agreement, but the US did not lift sanctions, as promised, and exited the deal under President Trump, leading to protests against the US throughout Iran.

The people of Iran were joyous when the JCPOA was finalized as it promised relief; i.e., the release of $29 billion in Iranian funds held abroad, allowing US exports of Iranian oil, allowing foreign firms to invest in Iran and allowing trade with the rest of the world through the global banking system.

Instead of abiding by the agreement, the US escalated sanctions against Iran. Trump’s escalation has been harsh as the US seeks “to isolate Iran politically and economically, by blocking its oil sales, access to hard currencies and foreign investments, along with more harsh sanctions and overall financial hardships on the country.” Sanctions include secondary sanctions on non-US corporations and nations doing business with Iran, which the International Criminal Court found to be illegal.

These sanctions are having a significant human impact. They are causing a rapid devaluation of Iranian currency resulting in increasing costs of basic goods, including a tripling of the cost of imported goods such as cars. When we were in Iran, we heard firsthand about the impact sanctions have on people’s lives; e.g., the inability to get life-saving medicines, make financial transactions, use apps or translate books from the US into Farsi. In a restaurant, the menu warned prices may not be as listed because of rapid inflation. We interviewed Dr. Foad Izadi of the University of Tehran on Clearing the FOG about the impact of the sanctions and how US policies are alienating youth.

We spent time at the University of Tehran with students and faculty in the American Studies department. They were excited to speak with people from the United States, as few people from the US are able to get visas, and they lamented not being allowed to travel to the US. We found that we have much in common and believe we would benefit from more exchanges with Iranians.

Ongoing US Destabilization Iran And Threats Of War

Sanctions are designed to destabilize the government but are instead uniting people against the United States. If anything, US actions will put in place a more anti-US government in upcoming elections. The US has a flawed understanding of Iranian politics and global politics around US unilateral sanctions. The Iran sanctions are likely to speed up the de-dollarization of the global economy and end US dollar hegemony and are illegal.

The US is also fomenting rebellion. The Trump administration has been seeking regime change through various actions including violence. It created a Mission Center in the CIA focused on regime change in Iran and spends millions of dollars to encourage opposition in Iran, working to manipulate protests to support a US agenda. The threat of war continues and becomes ever more likely in an administration dominated by Iran hawks, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.

US military bases around Iran

Creating A Peaceful, Positive Relationship Between The US And Iran

The history of US behavior toward Iran cannot be ethically defended. The US needs to appraise this history and recognize it has a lot for which to apologize, then it must correct its policies.

A group of prominent Iranian-Americans recently sent an open letter to Secretary Pompeo, writing:

If you truly wish to help the people of Iran, lift the travel ban [although no Iranian has ever been involved in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, Iran is included in Trump’s Muslim ban], adhere to the Iran nuclear deal and provide the people of Iran the economic relief they were promised and have eagerly awaited for three years.

Until the US is ready to accept responsibility for its abhorrent actions, Iran will continue to build a resistance economy and relations with other countries. There is talk of US-sanctioned countries joining together as a countervailing force. Such countries include Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Somalia, Belarus, Iraq, a number of African countries and more, as well as China with US trade tariffs. Building relationships through civil society, academia, professional societies, and government are needed to create a unified opposition to challenge US sanctions.

Our tasks in the US are to create opportunities for greater knowledge about and exchanges with Iran. Students at the University of Tehran are interested in dialogue with students and professors in the US. Members of the peace delegation live in areas across the US and can speak to groups about Iran. Contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni if you are interested in any of the above. We must educate our members of Congress about Iran and insist that the sanctions be lifted and that the US rejoin the JCPOA, and we must stop the threats of war against Iran.

“Canada’s Dershowitz”, Apologist for Israeli War Crimes, nominated for Peace Prize

Hypocrisy, lying, disdain for the victims of ‘our’ policies and other forms of rot run deep in Canadian political culture.

The latest example is former prime minister Paul Martin nominating Irwin Cotler for the Nobel Peace Prize, which has been applauded by the likes of Bernie Farber, Michael Levitt and Anthony Housefather.

This supposed promoter of peace and former Liberal justice minister has devoted much of his life to defending Israeli violence and has recently promoted war on Iran and regime change in Venezuela.

In a story titled “Irwin Cotler’s daughter running with Ya’alon, Gantz” the Jerusalem Post recently reported that Michal Cotler-Wunsh was part of the Israel Resilience and Telem joint election list. The story revealed that Irwin Cotler has been an unofficial adviser to Moshe Ya’alon for years. Former Chief of Staff of the Israeli military and defence minister between 2013 and 2016, Ya’alon recently boasted about his role in setting up the West Bank colony of Leshem and said Israel “has a right to every part of the Land of Israel.” In 2002 Ya’alon told Haaretz, “the Palestinian threat harbors cancer-like attributes that have to be severed. There are all kinds of solutions to cancer. Some say it’s necessary to amputate organs but at the moment I am applying chemotherapy.”

Ya’alon’s Telem party is in a formal electoral alliance with Israel Resilience, which is led by Benny Gantz, a former Israeli army chief. To launch his party’s campaign, Gantz released a video boasting about his role in the killing of 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza in the summer of 2014. It actually notes that “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age.” Gantz faces a war crimes case in the Netherlands for his role in the deaths of civilians in Gaza.

Cotler has described illegal Israeli colonies in the West Bank as “disputed territories” and the Canadian lawyer justified Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon that left 1,200 dead. He savagely attacked Richard Goldstone after the South African judge led a UN investigation of Israeli war crimes during operation Cast Lead, which left 1,400 dead in Gaza in 2008–09. Cotler called for the removal of Richard Falk as UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories and William Schabas from his position on the UN Human Rights Council’s International Commission of Inquiry into the killings in Gaza in 2014. Alongside attacking these three (Jewish) lawyers tasked with investigating human rights violations, Cotler promotes the notion of the “new anti-Semitism” to attack critics of Israeli policy.

In an indication of the unquestioning depths of his support for Israeli crimes, Cotler has repeatedly criticized his own party and government’s (mild) expressions of support for Palestinian rights. In May Cotler tweeted his “regret [of a] Canadian Government statement” criticizing Israeli snipers for shooting thousands of peaceful protesters, including Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani, in Gaza. In 2000 Cotler complained when the government he was a part of voted for a UN Security Council resolution calling on Israel to respect the rights of Palestinian protesters. “This kind  of resolution, which singled out Israel for discriminatory and differential treatment and appeared to exonerate the Palestinians for their violence,” Cotler said, “would tend to encourage those who violently oppose the peace process as well as those who still seek the destruction of Israel.”

In 2002 a half dozen activists in Montréal occupied Cotler’s office to protest the self-described ‘human rights lawyer’s’ hostility to Palestinians. Cotler’s wife, Ariela Zeevi, was a “close confidant” of Likud founder Menachem Begin when the arch anti-Palestinian party was established to counter Labour’s dominance of Israeli politics.

‘Canada’s Alan Dershowitz’ has also attacked Iran incessantly. He supported the Stephen Harper government’s move to break off diplomatic relations with Tehran in 2012 and pushed to remove the MEK, which is responsible for thousands of Iranian deaths, from Canada’s terrorist list. As a member of the advisory board of “United Against Nuclear Iran”, Cotler opposed the P5+1 Iran Nuclear Agreement. Recently, he called for Canada to invoke the Magnitsky Act to “impose sanctions in the form of travel bans and asset freezes” on Iranian officials.

As well as promoting US/Israel propaganda about Iran, Cotler criticized Hugo Chavez’s government since at least 2009 when Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in response to killings in Gaza. In recent weeks Cotler has disparaged Venezuela’s government in a number of articles, including a National Post story headlined “Canadian unions helped fund delegation that gave glowing review of Venezuela election widely seen as illegitimate.” Cotler was quoted saying, “the notion that free and fair elections could possibly be taking place when you not only criminalize those who are on the opposition … but when you don’t have any allowance for expressions of freedom of speech, assembly, association and the like, simply is a non-sequitur.” But, as Dave Parnas wrote in response, “for two weeks we have been seeing pictures of streets filled with people who assembled, associated and spoke freely against President Nicolás Maduro.”

Cotler pushed for Canada to request the International Criminal Court investigate Venezuela’s government. Cotler was one of three “international experts” responsible for a 400-page Canadian-backed Organization of American States (OAS) report on rights violations in Venezuela that recommended referring Venezuela to the ICC. At a press conference in May to release the report, Cotler said Venezuela’s “government itself was responsible for the worst ever humanitarian crisis in the region.” As this author wrote at the time: Worse than the extermination of the Taíno and Arawak by the Spanish? Or the enslavement of five million Africans in Brazil? Or the 200,000 Mayans killed in Guatemala? Or the thousands of state-murdered “subversives” in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil?

For four years Cotler has been working with Juan Guaidó’s “ultra right wing” Voluntad Popular party to oust Nicolas Maduro’s government. In May 2017 Cotler helped bring Lilian Tintori, wife of Voluntad Popular leader Leopoldo López, to meet the Prime Minister and opposition leaders. The Guardian recently reported on Tintori’s role in building international support for the slow-motion coup attempt currently underway in Venezuela. Tintori acted as an emissary for Lopez who couldn’t travel to Ottawa because he was convicted of inciting violence during the deadly “guarimbas” protests in 2014. A series of news outlets have reported that Lopez is the key Venezuelan organizer in the plan to anoint Guaidó interim president.

Cotler joined Lopez’s legal team in early 2015. At that time the Venezuelan and international media repeated the widely promulgated description of Cotler as Nelson Mandela’s former lawyer (a Reuters headline noted, “Former Mandela lawyer to join defence of Venezuela’s jailed activist”). In response, South Africa’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Pandit Thaninga Shope-Linney, said, “Irwin Cotler was not Nelson Mandela’s lawyer.” For his part, Nelson Mandela mentions a number of lawyers (he was one) in his biography but Cotler’s name seems absent.

Cotler’s human rights credentials are a sham. He is a vicious anti-Palestinian who aggressively criticizes enemy states such as Venezuela, China, Russia and Iran while largely ignoring rights violations committed by Canada and the US.

For those appalled by the idea of Cotler receiving the Nobel Peace Prize Iranian-Canadian activist Mehdi Samadian has created a petition titled “Irwin Cotler does not deserve nomination for Nobel Peace Prize”.

Russian Mediation: The Critical Messages of the Hamas-Fatah Talks in Moscow

The Russian-sponsored Palestinian unity talks in Moscow on February 11 were neither a success nor failure. Uniting Palestinian factions was not the main objective of the Moscow conference in the first place.

Instead, the nature of the event, the host country and the clear messages sent to Washington and Tel Aviv were all meant to communicate something else entirely. And they did.

The head of the Fatah delegation to the conference, Azzam al-Ahmed, apologized to his hosts on behalf of Palestinians for failing to achieve political reconciliation.

But that apology could have been prepared in advance. It would not have been rational to expect that a conference organized in such haste, with few preliminary meetings or intense prior consultations, could have achieved the coveted unity.

If one is to also consider the various unity agreements, signed between Fatah and Hamas in the past – but never honored – and bearing in mind the additional punitive measures slapped by the Palestinian Authority against Gaza recently, a unity deal in Russia would be nothing less than a miracle.

So why did the Russians hold the conference in the first place and why did the Palestinians agree to attend, if its failure was a foretold conclusion?

The answer lies elsewhere, specifically in Warsaw, Poland.

Around the same time that Palestinians met in Moscow under the auspices of the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, the US was holding its own conference in Warsaw, Poland.

The Warsaw meet was the US’ attempt at drawing a new political paradigm to replace the defunct ‘peace process’, which, itself, was an American political invention.

While the ‘peace process’, thanks to US blind support of Israel, has failed terribly, Warsaw, too, is unlikely to deliver any meaningful or long-term political vision in the Middle East. The conference was the equivalent of a public American declaration that only Israel matters and that Washington’s commitment to Tel Aviv is paramount to all else.

Even the Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, known for its political subservience to Washington, was repulsed by the US’ new, brazen political approach. Time and again, the Donald Trump Administration has made it clear to its former Palestinian ally that Palestinian political aspirations are no longer a subject worthy of even mere consideration by the US. The relocating of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Washington in May last year was one of many such signs.

Abbas, who is now increasing pressure on his Hamas rivals in Gaza, and is plotting against his own Fatah rivals in the West Bank, agreed to allow Fatah participation in the Moscow conference because he, too, has a message for the US, the gist of which is “we too have a new strategy and political alternatives.’

Knowing in advance that Trump’s so-called “deal of the century’ is likely to be consistent with the new, more aggressive US foreign policy approach to the Middle East, Fatah is keen to preclude the announcement of the ‘deal’ by seeking different routes that do not  necessarily go through Washington.

For Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions, freeing Fatah from Washington’s grip is something they can also all agree on.

A Hamas official, Hussam Badran, was very clear regarding the consensus of all Palestinian participants in denouncing the “deal of the century (and) all conspiracies to eliminate the Palestinian cause.”

Musa Abu Marzouk, who led the Hamas delegation, declared from Moscow that all Palestinians factions will work together to “confront the deal of the century.”

Fatah’s position was of one and the same.

For Russia, a unified Palestinian call to defeat the latest US political stratagem in the region is consistent with Moscow’s ongoing efforts to undermine Washington’s once uncontested role in the Middle East.

True, the Palestinian factions failed to agree on a final statement written on behalf of all parties, but the disagreements were of little relevance to their political outlook concerned with Washington’s political ploys. The Islamic Jihad refuses to consider a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, and, along with Hamas, does not see the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the one and only representative of all Palestinians, as the draft of the final statement proposed.

These positions are hardly new, especially since Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are not yet part of the PLO. Palestinian factions would need more than a two-day conference in Moscow to iron out the numerous details of such complex issues.

Russia, too, had its own messages to send. Aside from a message to the US-led Warsaw conference that Russia is ready to fill the gap left open by the US departure from the ‘peace process’, another Russian-hosted political summit in Sochi carried layers of direct and subtle meanings.

The tripartite Sochi summit brought Russia, Turkey and Iran together to discuss the future of Syria following the US withdrawal.

For Russia to be heavily involved in two major political processes and conflicts concerning the Middle East at the same time is unprecedented since the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Russian-Soviet led socialist bloc.

Those in Washington who see Moscow as an adversary must have been particularly unpleased by the new developments. The US-Russian rivalry is definitely at its highest point in many years.

Hamas and other Palestinian factions, save Fatah, would have welcomed Russia’s re-engagement, regardless of any specific political contexts. Hamas has been under massive pressure and near-complete isolation in Gaza for many years, and a political outlet of this nature is, for the Movement, a welcome development.

Hamas is now ready to upgrade its ties with Russia, especially after the Movement’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, received an official invitation to include Russia on his next trip outside of besieged Gaza.

The major change in the political equation, however, is that Fatah has been recently dropped from the US political sponsorship list, and is desperately seeking new political and financial patrons.

Mahmoud Abbas is likely to wait for further indications of the changing American position before completely abandoning his quest of an American sponsored ‘peace’ with Israel.

All three conferences – Warsaw, Moscow and Sochi – should be enough of an indication that the new political paradigm, which has been in the making for years, is unlikely to be reversed, at least, not any time soon.

Arrest of Marzieh Hashemi Reveals Nature of Bipartisan Police State

Arresting PressTV’s Marzieh Hashemi on no criminal charges demonstrates by any objective measure the United States operates as a rogue state in its utter contempt for accepted international human-rights law and standards.

Hashemi, an African American mother and grandmother converted to Islam, moved to Iran more than 25 years ago. She has become an internationally recognized journalist as a result of her press and media work in Iran, but specifically with her work on PressTV, an outlet that—like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the United Kingdom—receives most of its support from the Iranian government.

Hashemi flew to the United States to visit an ailing brother and to complete a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement. She was working on this film when she was detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in Saint Louis. For two days, her family had no information on what had happened to her. When she was finally allowed to communicate with her children, they were horrified to learn that she had been disappeared by the FBI and moved to a detention center in Washington, D.C., where she was subjected to degrading treatment, including the forcible confiscation of her hijab, constant surveillance, disrespecting her halal diet as required of her adopted faith by feeding her animal products, and not informing her as to why she was being detained.

Over the course of some days, it was revealed that Hashemi was being detained either under the authority of the vague and sweeping new laws passed by the U.S. Congress that has given the president the power to indefinitely detain, disappear, and even murder citizens— or a dramatic and unprecedented use of the material witness statute.

The Strengthening of the Police State has Been a Bipartisan Affair

The arrest and imprisonment of journalists—publishers of “dangerous” materials—used to be actions associated in the popular imagination with “illiberal” states in the Global South. But with the current economic, political and ideological crisis in the West, the superficiality of the West’s commitment to “liberal” human rights and its rule of law has been revealed to the world over the last decade and a half.

The Patriot Act was the first in a series of repressive legislation passed just a few days after the September 11, 2001 attacks. This ominous development intensified the process of destroying any legal protection of human rights, which is recognized as fundamental to any democratic state and the international order.

Built on the foundations of law that saw the erosion of habeas corpus during the Clinton administration, the act provided the mechanisms for the objective elimination of prohibitions by the state against unlawful, unreasonable searches and seizures and due process.

The expansion of repressive state power continued and even quickened during the Obama years. After ensuring impunity for Bush officials who were involved in authorizing torture and disproportionate military force in the execution of the war crimes of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama administration authorized indefinite detentions and military trials with Executive Order 13567.

But while that order gave the military more latitude to target non-citizens and deprive them of their rights, another question emerged: What would the U.S. government do with U.S. citizens working with “enemy states” and movements. That was resolved in 2012, with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It provided the legal authority to indefinitely detain anyone—including U.S. citizens—holding them on suspicions, hearsay, secret evidence, or no evidence at all in the United States or abroad.

And, of course, we know detaining U.S citizens was not the most dangerous element of these new powers. Obama demonstrated a U.S. president could murder U.S. citizens—even a 16-year-old named Abdulrahman al-Awlaki—and get away with it.

Abdulrahman’s father, Anwan, was murdered by the Obama administration a few weeks earlier. Obama said adding Anwar al-Awlaki to his weekly kill list was an easy task for him. When gently asked by the corporate media about Anwar al-Awlaki’s due process under the constitution, an Obama spokesperson stated it had given him due process, a process not taken to the court but conducted within the executive!

Marzieh’s detention violates protection theoretically offered by the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment that prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures”; the Fifth Amendment that affirms the right of “due process of law” in any proceeding that denies a citizen “life, liberty or property”; and the Eighth Amendment that prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments”—what Marzieh has been subjected to daily.

It is not even necessary to spend much time on the U.S. constitutional violations since it is clear that even the Bill of Rights don’t provide protections when you have been designated an enemy of the state.

Like any other rogue state, the United States determines its law supersedes international law. The United States signed and ratified just three of the main human-rights treaties, with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights being one of them. The United States is theoretically obligated to adhere to it. It says quite clearly in Article 9 that everyone has “the right to liberty and security of person” and “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.”

Hashemi Is Being Punished As a “Runaway Slave”

Reuters cited an unnamed U.S. federal source, saying PressTV is being investigated as an Iranian “propaganda outlet.”

But even with it increasingly becoming clear that Press TV is the target, it is also evident, according to Stanley Cohen, that the state is using the material witness statute in a very creative way to deny Marzieh her freedom.

There is no reason for Marzieh to be detained. With family in the United States and travel documents that could theoretically be seized if the state was really concerned she would not appear before a grand jury, the only reason she is being held captive is to once again demonstrate how a runaway slave is treated.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday the detention of the PressTV anchorwoman proves the United States is still violating the rights of Black people.

He is correct.

On Wednesday, 23 individuals who make up a grand jury will be making a decision about Hashemi’s fate, according to her son Hussein. Her association with PressTV has put her in the crosshairs of the U.S. state.

For unknown reasons, she has now been moved into solitary confinement, according to her son.

But we, the colonized, the inhabitants of the zones of non-being, we who have no human rights—we understand.

To have the audacity to leave the plantation that is the United States and seek a home in a nation the United States considers an enemy state is an offense that requires an extraordinary demonstration of white colonial power. This boldness may inspire others on the plantation to attempt to strike out for freedom. This is not even new. The state doubled the bounty on Assata Shakur to $2 million on the watch of its first HNIC because, after all, they are the ones really in charge. Yeah, we get it, if others don’t. The message is clear—this is our nigger and we will do with her what we want.

So:

Today Marzieh Hashemi sits alone. Isolated and entombed deep in a government catacomb, she stands charged with no offense but in the eyes of this administration guilty as charged . . . a Muslim, a journalist, and a U.S. ex-pat who has found shelter from its storm in Iran.

But she is not alone. We will stand with Marzieh and give her voice when she has none. We are not afraid, even though we know we are next. Our people have endured this and more and will endure even more before this nightmare that is U.S. settler-colonialism is over. And unlike Dr. King, when our people and the people of the world emerge on the other side of freedom, we will not thank god for our freedom, but ourselves.