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Iran summons British envoy for 'illegal seizure' of an Iranian oil tanker - TV

Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran summoned the British ambassador in Tehran over the “illegal seizure” of an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday, Iranian state TV quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying.

British Royal Marines seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday accused of bringing oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, a dramatic step that could escalate confrontation between the West and Iran.

Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Toby Chopra
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News Items / Britain’s warmongering media in the spotlight
« Last post by nestopwar on June 23, 2019, 05:53:01 PM »

Britain’s warmongering media in the spotlight
Sun Jun 23, 2019 03:27PM [Updated: Sun Jun 23, 2019 03:33PM ]  Press TV

The recent suspicious attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf have touched off a flurry of speculation in the international media as to the identity and motives of the saboteurs.

While much of the international press is agnostic on the central question as to who could be responsible, the British media stands out in its near-unanimous chorus of deflecting blame onto Iran. In fact, in this regard, the British media has out-performed their American cousins in assigning blame onto Iran as part of a broader demonization strategy.     

What is most striking about this British media strategy is the extent to which it mirrors the British government’s position. The UK government staked out an extreme position in the immediate aftermath of the 13th June attacks on the Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman by pointing the finger of blame at Iran.

This approach was exemplified by British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt’s bold assertion that he was “almost certain” Iran was behind the attacks. Hunt – with the British media in lockstep – had staked out an identical position in respect to a similarly suspicious attack last month on four tankers off the United Arab Emirates’ coast.

Predictably, the British media has adopted a sensationalist approach toward last Thursday’s downing of the US drone which had violated Iranian air space. Almost without exception the press and the broadcasters dutifully stuck to the false American position that the drone had been shot down in international airspace.

Worse than that, the British press immediately indulged in warmongering, as exemplified by the apparently pro-war position of the tabloid newspaper the Daily Express. Britain’s main tabloid newspaper, the Sun, chose to fan the flames of mutual suspicion and impending doom in its 21st June edition by misreporting a defensive missile show in a village near Tehran. The Sun’s sensationalist reporting completely distorts the spirit of the defensive manoeuvre by making it appear as though Iran is preparing to strike key political targets in the US and Israel whilst simultaneously chanting “Death to England”.

Even supposedly more responsible newspapers, such as the Times, the Daily Telegraph and broadcasters, such as the BBC and Sky News have not only indulged in misreporting – by reflexively relaying the American version of events – but moreover they have consciously tried to create the impression that the US and Iran are edging toward war.

This is despite the fact that the political and military leaderships of both Iran and the USA have explicitly stated their desire to avoid a direct military clash, let alone a major war. So why is the British media trying to whip up a frenzy about a potential war against the wishes of the central protagonists?

At this juncture it is worthwhile examining the British media’s historical role in warmongering and whipping up tensions with a view to satisfying British foreign policy objectives.

The state broadcaster, the British Broadcasting Corporation, came of age during the Second World War, when it was effectively the central arm of the British state’s wartime propaganda apparatus. Based on this tradition, the BBC, in tandem with the broader media establishment, has sought to justify British foreign policy adventures, primarily by way of whipping up tensions and demonising Britain’s opponents.

This media-government partnership was very prominent during the Falklands conflict of 1982 when the British media fully fell behind then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s military intervention to take back the disputed islands from Argentina.

But arguably the best example was in the run-up to the first Persian Gulf War in early 1991 when Britain and America were trying to mobilise an international coalition against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

At that time the British media helped the government perform an awkward about-turn in foreign policy by justifying the reversal of support for Saddam Hussein. This was a delicate public relations exercise which was central to mobilising national and international support for the British government’s position.

Fast forward nearly 30 years and it is legitimate to ask if the British media is trying to sell a war with Iran by whipping up tensions and engaging in widespread scaremongering. In these highly delicate situations, when even the slightest miscalculation can have exorbitant costs, altering perceptions can quickly change the reality on the ground.

Thus, for instance, by attributing blame to Iran in respect of the suspicious attack on the tankers, and misrepresenting the facts in relation to the downed US drone, the British media runs the risk of fanning the flames of conflict and helping to produce a war by altering the perceptions of the protagonists and their constituencies.

As the UK foreign office minister Andrew Murrison visits Tehran today, ostensibly on a mission to de-escalate regional tensions, the British media would do well to at least temporarily cease their warmongering, if only to save the minister from embarrassment.           
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For Your Information / The Gulf of Credibility
« Last post by nestopwar on June 14, 2019, 07:47:14 PM »

The Gulf of Credibility 146

Craig Murray

14 Jun, 2019  in Uncategorized by craig | View Comments

I really cannot begin to fathom how stupid you would have to be to believe that Iran would attack a Japanese oil tanker at the very moment that the Japanese Prime Minister was sitting down to friendly, US-disapproved talks in Tehran on economic cooperation that can help Iran survive the effects of US economic sanctions.

The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous was holed above the water line. That rules out a torpedo attack, which is the explanation being touted by the neo-cons.

The second vessel, the Front Altair, is Norwegian owned and 50% Russian crewed (the others being Filipinos). It is owned by Frontline, a massive tanker leasing company that also has a specific record of being helpful to Iran in continuing to ship oil despite sanctions.

It was Iran that rescued the crews and helped bring the damaged vessels under control.

That Iran would target a Japanese ship and a friendly Russian crewed ship is a ludicrous allegation. They are however very much the targets that the USA allies in the region – the Saudis, their Gulf Cooperation Council colleagues, and Israel – would target for a false flag. It is worth noting that John Bolton was meeting with United Arab Emirates ministers two weeks ago – both ships had just left the UAE.

The USA and their UK stooges have both immediately leapt in to blame Iran. The media is amplifying this with almost none of the scepticism which is required. I cannot think of a single reason why anybody would believe this particular false flag. It is notable that neither Norway nor Japan has joined in with this ridiculous assertion.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.
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For Your Information / D-Day More Drama Than Decisive in World War II Victory
« Last post by nestopwar on June 14, 2019, 11:01:07 AM »

   D-Day More Drama Than Decisive in World War II Victory
Finian Cunningham, Strategic Culture Foundation

June 6, 2019


   Stealing the laurels of victory was a necessary act of treachery by the Western powers in order to facilitate their Cold War against the Soviet Union. The same treachery continues today as Washington and its NATO allies try to wage a new Cold War against Russia.

US President Donald Trump called it the "greatest battle ever" while attending a 75th anniversary ceremony this week to mark the Western allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

Trump was joined by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and leaders from 15 other nations in the British harbor city of Portsmouth from where allied troops embarked for the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Looking back, Operation Overlord was indeed a huge military and logistical undertaking. Some 150,000 troops from the US, Britain and Canada, among others, crossed the narrow English Channel in 7,000 vessels. It is recorded as the biggest military land invasion from sea.

Allied forces were met by Nazi firepower as they stormed the Normandy beaches. But in truth the Nazi defenses were easily overwhelmed. That's largely because Hitler had already shifted the best fighting units months before to the Eastern Front where the Third Reich was really in a war for its survival against the Soviet Red Army. The D-Day casualty figures would attest that American, British and German deaths from the brief battles in Normandy were of the order of 10,000. Meanwhile, on the Eastern Front the casualties on both the German and Soviet sides were hundred-fold more, in the millions.

When the D-Day invasion was launched in June 1944, the pivotal battle at Stalingrad was long over, 16 months before that. The Wehrmacht was already being rolled back to German homeland. Some 90 per cent of all German military casualties – nearly six million soldier deaths – were to be inflicted on the Eastern Front fighting the Red Army.

The question remains: why did Western allies not launch their offensive on Nazi-occupied France much sooner? Soviet leader Josef Stalin had pleaded over the previous year with his American and British counterparts to do so on several occasions in order to relieve the Soviets. Did the Western allies finally act on D-Day because they could see that the Red Army was on the way to conquering all of Nazi Germany singlehandedly, and thus were motivated to claw some of the spoils? It was the Red Army that vanquished the Third Reich's last stand in Berlin in May 1945. But the Soviet Union entered into a postwar carve-up of Germany with the US and Britain.

So, when President Trump talks about D-Day being the "greatest battle ever" he is being prone to unfounded exaggeration, relying on Hollywood fabulation than historical record.

There is little dispute that the opening of the Western Front did indeed help accelerate the final defeat of Nazi Germany. But it also indisputable that the greatest battles and decisive victories were achieved by the Soviet forces for the liberation of Europe from Nazi tyranny.

What we see in today's celebration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day is more dramatics than actual historical reality. Official Western conceit pretends that that event was the key to defeating Nazi Germany.

Part of the reason is to arrogate a moral authority for Western states, which is hardly deserved. By claiming to have emancipated Europe from the scourge of totalitarian fascism, Western states are thereby given a political and moral cover to conduct their own otherwise blatant policies of aggression and militarism.

How many illegal wars and subterfuges have the US and its NATO allies, particularly Britain, carried out since the end of the Second World War? Some historians like the late William Blum, author of ‘Killing Hope', or Mark Curtis, author of ‘Web of Deceit', put the number in the hundreds. These genocidal, supreme crimes of aggression, are afforded an audacious moral license largely because these same aggressors continually invoke their supposed victory against Nazi Germany. The truth is that the US and its NATO allies have in many ways continued the same aggression of Nazi Germany in countless wars and covert operations around the world over the past seven decades. The genocides in Korea, Kenya, Malaya, Indonesia, Vietnam, Chile, Central America, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, are just a few among many other US-UK atrocities.

The present looming conflicts involve the US threatening war and destruction against Iran and Venezuela based on transparently spurious pretexts. And yet Trump has the brass neck to eulogize during the D-Day commemorations this week about American forces standing up for "freedom and liberty".

The US and its NATO allies are using the past and its presumed glories as a shield for their own criminal imperialism.

Dramatizing D-Day as an event is also crucial for the discrediting and demonizing of Russia, as it was previously with regard to the Soviet Union. Wouldn't it have been appropriate to invite Russian leader Vladimir Putin to the D-Day events this week in order to pay respect to the colossal sacrifices of the Soviet people in defeating Nazi Germany?
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For Your Information / UK's position on the Golan Heights has not changed
« Last post by nestopwar on April 03, 2019, 09:13:21 PM »
UK's position on the Golan Heights has not changed
 Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Karen Pierce DCMG 
27 March 2019


 (Transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered)

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to UN, at the Security Council Briefing on UNDOF/Golan Heights

Thank you Madam President and thank you to the two Under-Secretaries-General for your helpful briefings.

Madam President, I'd like to structure my remarks around six headings:

The UK position on the Golan; UN Security Council Resolutions; What this means for the international order; Israel's right to security; The Middle East Peace Process; and UNDOF.

On the first point, the United Kingdom's position has not changed Madam President. It is our position that the Golan Heights is territory occupied by Israel.

The turbulent history of the region is of course well-known. Following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel took control of the Golan, including the disputed Sheba'a Farms, and in 1981 took the decision to annex the territory. The United Kingdom did not recognise that annexation and nor do we today.

Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law, including the UN Charter. In addition, under the Law of State Responsibility, states are obliged not recognise the annexation of territory as a result of force.

Turning to the UN Security Council Resolutions; it is important, Madam President, that we uphold the relevant UN Security Resolutions. Security Council Resolution 242 - which the then British delegation had the honour to pen - was adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on November 22, 1967. British sponsored, it called on all parties to end territorial claims, acknowledge the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and for "the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict".

We recall, Madame President, that Security Council Resolution 497, adopted unanimously on 17 December 1981, decided that the Israeli Golan Heights Law, which effectively annexed the Golan Heights, is "null and void and without international legal effect" and it further demanded that Israel rescind its action.

The decision by the United States to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights is in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 497.

In terms of international order, Madame President, the United Kingdom firmly believes that the rules based international system has increased states' ability to resolve their differences peacefully, and it has provided a framework for the greatest sustained rise in prosperity which mankind has seen. This is why the United Kingdom thinks we should work hard with our international partners to nurture and protect these rules.

Madame President, the right to self defence is inherent. Israel has a right to defend itself. She has a right to security and her people has a right to live in safety. We do not wish to diminish Israel's genuine security concerns. We fully support her right to defend herself and urge, the Asad Regime, Iran and Hizbollah to refrain from actions which will only lead to increased instability in the region as well as put civilians at risk. As the US Representative has noted, Syria has allowed the use of its territory to launch missiles at Israel and at Israeli civilians. This is not acceptable. But at the same time Madame President, we emphasise importance of adhering to rules-based international system and abiding by UNSCRs which are designed to protect that system. And this is true irrespective of the importance of the Golan is to Israel's security, or of the lack of progress in peace talks.

Turning to the peace talks; Resolution 242 enshrined the concept of land for peace and this has proven successful in ending the conflict between Israel, Jordan and Egypt. We believe it remains a basic principle for resolving peace between Israel, the Palestinians and other neighbours.

I want to emphasise, Madame President, that we strongly welcome the US's efforts on the Middle East Peace Process and we encourage the US Administration to bring forward detailed proposals for a viable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement that addresses the legitimate concerns of both parties. We continue to believe that the best way to achieve this is through substantive peace talks between the parties leading to a two-state solution.

Finally, Madame President, turning to UNDOF; the United Kingdom expresses its strong support for UNDOF. It should be the only armed forces active in the area of separation. The presence and activity of any other armed forces, armed personnel and/or military equipment of any kind in the area of separation contravenes the Disengagement of Forces Agreement and Security Council Resolution 2394 of 2017. The United Kingdom remains committed to supporting UNDOF's mandate and we look forward to engaging in discussions regarding its renewal in June.

Thank you Madam President.

 
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For Your Information / Ukraine's Neo-Nazis "Suddenly" a Problem as Power Grows
« Last post by nestopwar on February 21, 2019, 05:42:34 PM »
Ukraine's Neo-Nazis "Suddenly" a Problem as Power Grows
 Ulson Gunnar, New Eastern Outlook 
Feb 17

 The central role right-wing extremists and literal Neo-Nazis played in Ukraine's "Euromaidan" protests was obvious from the beginning. The square in Kiev the protests unfolded in were filled with the flags of ultra-right party, Svoboda as well as the red and black banners of the Neo-Nazi Right Sector movement.

The Western media never scrutinized who these political parties and militias were leading the protests and often times the violence that eventually overthrew the elected Ukrainian government in 2014. This was a deliberate attempt to portray the protests as spontaneous and popular rather than the efforts of fringe extremists merely portrayed as spontaneous and popular.

Since the NATO-organized coup in 2014, right-wing extremists and Neo-Nazis have played a growing role in the Ukrainian government. From holding public positions to filling up the rank and file of regular and irregular military units with their members, so bad has it gotten that many involved in initially covering up their role in the 2014 Euromaidan protests are now speaking up.

Ian Bond of the Centre for European Reform (CER), a think-tank funded by some of the largest Transatlantic corporate interests, would recently post on social media that:

 Ukraine needs to get these people out of Interior Ministry, police & other official structures. They will do more to help Russia, by reinforcing its propaganda about Nazi influence in Kyiv, than Ukraine – regardless of any good that Azov did on frontlines.

Even as part of Bond's admission, he still attempts to salvage "Azov" (Azov Battalion), a heavily armed Neo-Nazi militia now formally incorporated into Ukraine's National Guard.

While attempting to deny the presence of Neo-Nazis throughout the present day Ukrainian government and military, even official US policy regarding Ukraine reflects their presence and the obvious dangers (or at least, political inconvenience) they pose.

Articles like, "National Guard Decides Not To Give U.S. Arms To Azov Regiment On Request Of United States," clearly illustrate awareness in Washington of the dangers/political inconvenience of yet another one of its client regimes around the globe being cobbled together with some of the most unsavory elements in that nation's society.

As Ian Bond of the CER noted, the Azov Battalion has performed well on "frontlines." Just as designated terrorist organizations in Syria, including Al Nusra and the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) proved the most capable forces in the US proxy war against Damascus, Neo-Nazis are proving themselves the most loyal and dedicated proxies in Washington's continued confrontation with Russia.

It is clear that despite "official" US policy being not to arm or train Neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine, the fact that the Ukrainian government whom the US does arm and train, in turn arms and trains militias like the Azov Battalion, makes such US policy mere window dressing than anything else.

Again, the US arming and supporting the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who in turn admittedly are arming and funding US designated terrorist organizations, is in actuality Washington's enthusiastic support for such militant groups simply "laundered" through its Gulf ally intermediaries.

The Real Problem

The real problem isn't that Ukraine's Neo-Nazi political and armed organizations are growing in power, it is the political nightmare of Washington being seen as openly associating with and even supporting them.

Just as the US has played a sort of geopolitical dance in Syria, circling around IS and Al Nusra, while at other times outright shielding them from destruction, attempting to pose as fighting them while clearly preserving their fighting capacity, the US is preparing to perform a similar dance in Ukraine.

Comments like Ian Bond's of the CER and other NATO-initiated propaganda campaigns aimed at noting and condemning the Neo-Nazi scourge growing inside Ukraine will lead to no discernible change in actual US or NATO policy. Behind the scenes however, attempts will be made to further obfuscate Washington-fed pipelines funneling groups like the Azov Battalion and Right Sector weapons, training and funds.

The real problem is that Washington lacks any credible partners in its "Ukraine project." Those like Azov and its backers in Kiev were always going to inevitably rise to the top in an atmosphere corruption, foreign-backed subversion and counterproductive policies determined in Washington and aimed at hurting Russia regardless of the cost accrued by Ukraine itself.

Hiding the growing power of these extremists, including outright Neo-Nazis is Washington's (and its European partners') real problem, not actually dealing with the growing threat of Nazism in Ukraine in any meaningful manner.

Just as Washington's policy of supporting terrorists in Syria while posing as fighting against them was entirely unsustainable, so too is its current policies regarding Ukraine. Unlike the threat of terrorism through organizations like Al Qaeda and its many affiliates, Nazism is a more universally reviled and well-recognized scourge that will further taint whatever remains of America's reputation within the international community, a community it poses as the unilateral leader of, yet demonstrates none of the qualities associated with actual global leadership.

Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".
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For Your Information / Chuka's core values: privatisation, austerity and war
« Last post by nestopwar on February 21, 2019, 05:30:21 PM »
Chuka's core values: privatisation, austerity and war
 Mona Kamal , Counterfire 
February 19, 2019


 What the 7 MPs who quit Labour have in common is their voting records supporting welfare cuts, privatisation and foreign intervention, writes Mona Kamal

I met Chuka Umunna at a conference in January 2016 a week before the first day of strike action by junior doctors. I invited him to visit our picket in South West London on one of the strike days or failing that, to express support for junior doctors on social media. He refused both, saying that whilst he was "totally behind our wonderful junior doctors", Labour MPs should not be seen expressing support for all-out strike action. He then asked if I'd like a selfie with him.

It was no surprise to me that Chuka Umunna, a media-savvy Blairite, would be more concerned about the optics of being seen on a picket than showing support for NHS workers, despite admitting that this was clearly the right thing to do. Chuka Umunna has consistently shown extraordinary levels of self interest and fickleness, as evidenced by his vehement opposition to the idea of a second referendum after the Leave vote in 2016 before making a spectacular U-turn to demand a second referendum on the final deal when he realised that adopting this position would bring him some prominence and be a handy vehicle to further his own career interests.

After spending the last 2 years undermining his party and openly attacking its leader Chuka Umunna finally resigned from the Labour party along with Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Chris Leslie and Ann Coffey to form the so-called moderate ‘Independent Group'.

Putting aside the chaos and genuine hilarity of Monday's events, which has included Angela Smith making racial slurs on national television (hashtag funnytinge) hours after she had identified growing racism within the Labour Party as a reason for her resignation, it is crucial to pause and allow for an objective assessment of what these MPs really stand for, their principles and crucially their voting records.

First off looking at the issue of Tory austerity and welfare reform in particular. Surely amongst the most basic requirements of a Labour MP is to oppose a program of ideological cuts which punishes the poorest and most vulnerable and which has destroyed our welfare state. However, all seven of these MPs were among those who refused to vote down these reforms in 2015. There had been clear warnings that hundreds of thousands of children would be negatively impacted if these proposed cuts went ahead, with single mothers being hit the hardest. Yet in contrast to the Labour leader, all seven abstained, and the result: a record 4.5 million children living below the poverty line (as measured in 2018). In addition to this, one could argue that if in 2015 Ed Milliband had provided a robust opposition to the Tory austerity being imposed, then Labour would not have suffered such a significant defeat in that general election. The reason that did not happen was down to one Chris Leslie who was amongst the main authors of the ‘austerity-lite' manifesto.

Another of the catastrophic Tory policies was the creation of the hostile environment. This was Theresa May's flagship policy of "deport now, hear appeals later" during her time at the Home Office. Again, not one of the seven MPs in the Independent group opposed this bill - an extreme policy designed to appease the right and which has resulted in the deportation of immigrants who had resided in the UK for decades and seen others denied access to NHS care. And yet it is the Labour leader, amongst a handful of MPs that opposed this racist anti-immigrant bill, who is branded an extremist.

The charge of ‘terrorist sympathiser' could accurately be levelled at Mike Gapes for his support and advocacy for the brutal Saudi regime. Despite allegations by the UN of war crimes in Yemen, Mike Gapes has repeatedly opposed calls for sanctions on Saudi arms sales – this, whilst being the beneficiary of lavish Saudi hospitality with all-expense paid trips provided by the Kingdom. Mr Gapes is also famous for not only voting for the Iraq war but for repeatedly voting against inquiries into the invasion.

Before the extraordinary gaffe of describing BME communities as "being a funny tinge" during a debate on racism, Angela Smith's most noteworthy contributions were in opposing the popular Labour manifesto commitment to renationalise the water industry. Studies have shown that an overwhelming majority of the population are in favour of the plans popularised by the Labour leader for public ownership of the main industries. 83% of those polled were in favour of nationalising the water industry (with 77% for nationalising electricity and gas and 76% for renationalising the railways) and yet despite this, late last year, Angela Smith argued that nationalising the water industry must be resisted and would merely be an "expensive indulgence in the politics of the past". It later emerged that she had vested interests in the water industry and chairs the All Party Parliamentary Water Group which is funded almost entirely by the water industry (namely Affinity Water, Northumbrian Water and Wessex Water), and along with her husband had received lavish gifts from various water companies.

In an article for the Guardian a few months ago she described privatisation of the water industry in the late 1980s as "a pragmatic response to an environmental imperative" and goes on to describe herself as a "passionate environmentalist", but this does not appear to be the case either. She has voiced support for fracking, dismissing concerns around the damage that shale gas extraction could have on the environment, stating that she did not think "those fears are justified at all". Again these comments were made whilst she was sat on the parliamentary group for "Unconventional Oil and Gas", a body given more than £73k by pro-fracking lobbying firm Hill + Knowlton Strategies.

What's especially galling is that whilst these 7 MPs have been motivated by a wish to undermine the leadership of the Labour party and it's left agenda, it was this left agenda that they stood on at the general election in 2017 and which enabled them to increase their majorities. As John McDonnell said yesterday, now that they are standing on a markedly different platform by-elections must be called so that constituents are given the opportunity to select alternatives to their current pro-war, pro-austerity, pro-privatisation representatives.




 
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Juan Guaidó: The Man Who Would Be President of Venezuela Doesn't Have a Constitutional Leg to Stand On
Roger Harris, COHA

February 7, 2019


   Donald Trump imagines Juan Guaidó is the rightful president of Venezuela. Mr. Guaidó, a man of impeccable illegitimacy, was exposed by Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal as "a product of a decade-long project overseen by Washington's elite regime change trainers." Argentinian sociologist Marco Teruggi described Guaidó in the same article as "a character that has been created for this circumstance" of regime change. Here, his constitutional credentials to be interim president of Venezuela are deconstructed.

Educated at George Washington University in Washington, DC, Guaidó was virtually unknown in his native Venezuela before being thrust on to the world stage in a rapidly unfolding series of events. In a poll conducted a little more than a week before Guaidó appointed himself president of the country, 81% of Venezuelans had never even heard of the 35-year-old.

To make a short story shorter, US Vice President Pence phoned Guaidó on the evening of January 22rd and asked him how'd he like to be made president of Venezuela. The next day, Guaidó announced that he considered himself president of Venezuela, followed within minutes by US President Trump confirming the self-appointment.

A few weeks before on January 5, Guaidó had been selected as president of Venezuela's National Assembly, their unicameral legislature. He had been elected to the assembly from a coastal district with 26% of the vote. It was his party's turn for the presidency of the body, and he was hand-picked for the position. Guaidó, even within his own party, was not in the top leadership.

Guaidó's party, Popular Will, is a far-right marginal group whose most enthusiastic boosters are John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, and Mike Pompeo. Popular Will had adopted a strategy of regime change by extra-parliamentary means rather than engage in the democratic electoral process and had not participated in recent Venezuelan elections.

Although anointed by Trump and company, Guaidó's Popular Will Party is not representative of the "Venezuelan opposition," which is a fractious bunch whose hatred of Maduro is only matched by their abhorrence of each other. Leading opposition candidate Henri Falcón, who ran against Maduro in 2018 on a neoliberal austerity platform, had been vehemently opposed by Popular Will who demanded that he join their US-backed boycott of the election.

The Venezuelan news outlet, Ultimas Noticias, reported that prominent opposition politician Henrique Capriles, who had run against Maduro in 2013, "affirmed during an interview that the majority of opposition parties did not agree with the self-swearing in of Juan Guaidó as interim president of the country." Claudio Fermin, president of the party Solutions for Venezuela, wrote: "we believe in the vote, in dialogue, we believe in coming to an understanding, we believe Venezuelans need to part ways with the extremist sectors that only offer hatred, revenge, lynching." Key opposition governor of the State of Táchira, Laidy Gómez, has rejected Guaidó's support of intervention by the US, warning that it "would generate death of Venezuelans."

The Guaidó/Trump cabal does not reflect the democratic consensus in Venezuela, where polls consistently show super majorities oppose outside intervention. Popular opinion in Venezuela supports negotiations between the government and the opposition as proposed by Mexico, Uruguay, and the Vatican. The Maduro administration has embraced the negotiations as a peaceful solution to the crisis facing Venezuela.

The US government rejects a negotiated solution, in the words of Vice President Pence: "This is no time for dialogue; this is time for action." This intransigent position is faithfully echoed by Guaidó. So while most Venezuelans want peace, the self-appointed president, backed by the full force of US military power, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that it was possible to "end the Maduro regime with a minimum of bloodshed."

The Guaidó/Trump cabal's fig leaf for legitimacy is based on the bogus argument that Article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution gives the National Assembly the power to declare a national president's "abandonment" of the office. In which case, the president of the National Assembly can serve as an interim national president, until presidential elections are held. The inconvenient truth is that Maduro has shown no inclination to abandon his post, and the constitution says no such thing.

In fact, the grounds for replacing a president are very clearly laid out in the first paragraph of Article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution and do not include fraudulent or illegitimate election, which is what the cabal has been claiming. In the convoluted logic of the US government and its epigones, if the people elect someone the cabal doesn't like, the election is by definition fraudulent and the democratically elected winner is ipso facto a dictator.

The function of adjudicating the validity of an election, as in any country, is to be dealt with through court challenges, not by turning to Donald Trump for his approval. And certainly not by anointing an individual from a party that could have run in the 2018 election but decided to boycott.

The National Electoral Council (CNE), Venezuela's separate electoral branch, has certified Maduro's reelection, as have independent international observers. A transparent and redundant auditing process of the vote had been conducted at each polling station and all party representatives – including opposition ones – signed off on the validity of the process when the polls closed. Further, no appeal was filed by any of the boycotting parties, although Falcón – who ran – subsequently asserted irregularities in the process before the high court.

Maduro was sworn into office under Article 231 of the Venezuelan constitution before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), which is the separate high court branch of the Venezuelan government. The TSJ had previously found the National Assembly to be in judicial contempt under Article 336:7, because the assembly had sworn in three deputies temporarily suspended because of voting irregularities.

The far-right opposition has boycotted the high court as well as the electoral process. They contest the legitimacy of the TSJ because some members of the TSJ were appointed by a lame duck National Assembly favorable to Maduro, after a new National Assembly with a majority in opposition had been elected in December 2015 but not yet seated.

Even if President Maduro were somehow deemed to have experienced what is termed a falta absoluta (i.e., some sort of void in the presidency due to death, insanity, absence, etc.), the National Assembly president is only authorized to take over if the falta absoluta occurs before the lawful president "takes possession." However, Maduro was already "in possession" before the January 10, 2019 presidential inauguration and even before the May 10, 2018 presidential election. Maduro had won the presidency in the 2013 election and ran and won reelection last May.

If the falta absoluta is deemed to have occurred during the first four years of the presidential term, the vice president takes over. Then the constitution decrees that a snap election for the presidency must be held within 30 days. This is what happened when President Hugo Chávez died while in office in 2013. Then Vice President Nicolás Maduro succeeded to the presidency, called for new elections, and was elected by the people of Venezuela.

If it is deemed that the falta absoluta occurred during the last two years of the six-year presidential term, the vice president serves until the end of the term, according to the Venezuelan constitution. And if the time of the alleged falta absoluta is unclear – when Maduro presided over "illegitimate" elections in 2018, as is claimed by the far-right opposition – it is up to the TSJ to decide, not the head of the National Assembly or even such an august authority as US Senator Marco Rubio. Or the craven US press (too numerous to cite), which without bothering to read the plain language of the Bolivarian Constitution, repeatedly refers to Guaidó as the "constitutionally authorized" or "legitimate" president.

As Alfred de Zayas, United Nations independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, tweeted: "Article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution is inapplicable and cannot be twisted into legitimizing Guaidó's self-proclamation as interim President. A coup is a coup."

Roger Harris with the Task Force on the Americas and the Campaign to End US/Canada Sanctions Against Venezuela.
9
What's behind U.S. Troop Withdrawals Announced for Syria and Afghanistan?
 Sara Flounders, International Action Center in UNAC 
December 24, 2018
 
 The announced withdrawal of the remaining 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria and a partial withdrawal from Afghanistan does not mean an end to the Pentagon's aggressive militarism and endless U.S. wars – in Syria, in Afghanistan, in the region or globally.

The U.S. military has 170,000 troops stationed outside the U.S. in 150 countries, in more than 800 overseas bases. Nearly 40,000 are assigned to classified missions in locations that Washington refuses to even disclose. Because the Pentagon has continually renamed and shuffled its forces in the Middle East, it's impossible to know how many troops are on standby and how many are on rotation.

But this surprise "troop withdrawal" announcement — regardless of its limitations, regardless of U.S. military strength — exposes the increasingly untenable U.S. imperialist global position and the fraying condition of all of its historic alliances.

The announcement has opened a chasm within U.S. ruling circles. Resignations from the Trump administration and ensuing denunciations are calling the attention of the masses to the heated conflict.

The top echelons of the Democratic Party and corporate media "talking heads" are in an uproar of opposition. They are attacking Trump for "caving in" to Iran and Russia and allegedly endangering national security — by which they mean he is harming U.S. imperialist interests.

Their charges only confirm that both the racist Trump and his ruling-class opponents are imperialist war criminals and enemies of the people of the world. The pro-militarist criticisms of Trump are themselves reactionary.

A progressive working-class analysis

Trump's abrupt announcement — with no known discussion with policy makers, without any consultation with co-conspirators in the NATO war alliance — is indeed a departure from the U.S. hegemonic strategy of the past 75 years.

That departure is behind "Mad Dog" Mattis's resignation as Trump's Secretary of Defense. Mattis, lauded as the "grownup" in the Trump cabinet, has bulwarked relations with U.S. allies using his Pentagon position. His nickname comes from his infamous statement about U.S. war in Afghanistan: "It's fun to shoot some people. You know, it's a hell of a hoot." (New York Times, Feb. 4, 2005) Mattis is also notorious as the U.S. commander responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians in Fallujah in 2004.

Mattis' resignation reflects how the announced withdrawal is a dramatic break with countries that have collaborated with the U.S. in Syria, such as France, Germany, Belgium and Britain. All of them are former colonial powers that destroyed Indigenous cultures and looted the Americas, Africa and Asia.

The rulers of these countries were all determined to re-colonize the Arab world after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Other willing partners in imperialist crime were Saudi Arabia and Israel. They were willing to commit to war on Syria based on the assumption they would share in the looting of the country. Their official threadbare cover was that they were fighting a "war on terror."

Trump surprised them with this major U.S. policy shift in the region, which increases imperialist instability.

U.S. tries to exploit national differences

According to numerous media reports, Trump made his decision based on a long phone call with Turkish President Erdogan. Erdogan has threatened to launch a military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG forces in northeast Syria, where U.S. troops are based. Erdogan made it clear that the U.S. cannot have Turkey as an ally and also have a Kurdish U.S.-proxy statelet.

This is an unsolvable dilemma for the U.S. imperialists, whose corporate rulers have not been able to destabilize Syria and carry out "regime change." Washington's open demand from day one was the resignation of President Bashar Assad and all existing government officials. It hasn't happened.

The U.S. goal was the appointment of a Syrian government, subservient to Western interests, which would establish an electoral process under the control and vetting of the major imperialist powers. This is the meaning of the vague term "regime change."

On Washington's drawing board, it looked like an easy plan.

To this end, the U.S. political-military establishment attempted to exploit every possible difference, based on the many religious, ethnic and national groups within Syria, including the Kurdish forces. The entire U.S. and Western effort was to carve Syria into pieces, all in the name of "defending" oppressed nationalities and "democracy."

This effort to weaponize sectarian differences was implemented with the influence of the reactionary Saudi regime. Foreign-funded mercenary death squads operated openly in Syria. Supplies were air-dropped in massive quantities.

The outside imperialist and Saudi efforts sought to mobilize reactionary elements in the majority Sunni Arab population against Christians, Alawis, Druzes, Shi'a, Yazidis, Armenians, Kurdish, Turkmen and numerous smaller national, ethnic and religious groupings and recent refugees. Among Syria's 23 million population (counting those who have recently left the country) are more than a half million Palestinian refugees and 1.5 million Iraqi refugees.

The U.S. spent eight years orchestrating participation of Western imperialist powers and Gulf monarchies in its imperialist endeavor. Despite four years of bombing that decimated the country's infrastructure, the introduction of tens of thousands of heavily armed and well-funded mercenaries, intense international political pressure, and strangling economic sanctions, Syria still remains unconquered.

Solidarity combats sectarian division in Syria

Syria resisted the attempted takeover on two fronts. Of course, the government organized a defensive military struggle. But the most important weapon was the constant reliance on the fact that Syria is a mosaic of many religious, ethnic and national groupings that are all able to coexist through a secular state.

The positive face of the struggle to maintain national independence was visible in every picture, every delegation, every mobilization and every mass rally. These stressed the rich cultural diversity and the unity of the whole people.

Syria also invited Hezbollah's well-organized military units from Lebanon, and then Iranian and Russian military assistance, to aid in defense against this imperialist attack, part of an expanding regional conflict.

Almost all the tens of thousands of reactionary foreign mercenaries funded and trained by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have now been defeated, along with the fanatical ISIS forces who held large areas of Syria. Though each armed group was capable of massive destruction, the different mercenary militias were divided and competed with each other, based on who was sponsoring them.

National pride in Syria's accomplishments and defense of Syria's sovereignty succeeded in keeping the country intact.

Diminishing U.S. ability to dominate globe

The U.S. has been dealt a different but similar failure in Afghanistan. Despite an open and direct U.S. invasion of the country in 2001 and years of occupation, with the rotation of a million troops, Washington's brutal "pacification" program in Afghanistan has failed. Corruption may be endemic in an occupation, but so is resistance. Today, not one base of occupation or one national road in the country is secure.

The Afghanistan war is now the longest in U.S. history, with no end in sight and no prospect of establishing a stable puppet regime.

An additional crisis for U.S. imperialism is mounting international opposition to the civilian casualties and starvation in Yemen. Even with U.S.-supplied high-tech arms and a U.S. naval blockade, its proxy, Saudi Arabia, has not succeeded in crushing resistance in Yemen.

Meanwhile, against all possible odds, the Palestinian resistance continues against U.S.-proxy Israel. This resistance is a 21st-century reality that even the latest generation of U.S.-provided weapons cannot seem to reverse.

Despite the confident, aggressive tone of Trump's sudden announcement, it nevertheless reflects a diminishing U.S. capacity to dominate the world — regardless of who is in the Oval Office. The current media and political brouhaha is about where to lay the blame for this diminished capacity, and how to reverse the slide of U.S. power.

Media speculation is that Trump, faced with a wall of political opposition for his racist, sexist and anti-migrant actions, is cynically trying to shore up his own base. Though Trump's base is racist and right-wing, it sees no interest for itself in another U.S. war — just like every other sector of the U.S. masses.

Trump actually made campaign promises to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan — but no one in U.S. ruling circles expected him to follow through on those promises.

Why Syria is on U.S. hit list

Syria has been targeted by the U.S. for decades based on its militant Arab nationalism, its support of the Palestinian struggle, its opposition to the Israeli state — which is an imperialist beachhead in the region — and its nationalized oil and state-regulated economy.

Before being placed on the U.S. hit list, Syria had a relatively high standard of living and rate of development in the region.

The U.S. effort to destroy Syria moved into high gear when President George W. Bush included Syria in his 2002 "Axis of Evil" list of countries slated for overthrow. In 2013, Washington imposed economic sanctions on Syria that were intentionally dislocating. Washington charged Syria with not making the "right decisions" at the time of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Wikileaks documents exposed CIA subversion plans in 2006, and its efforts in fomenting dissent and supplying weapons drops by 2009.

In 2011 U.S. operatives began to manipulate the mass ferment that toppled U.S.-supported military dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia, called the "Arab Spring." This ferment gave the U.S. an opening for undercover efforts to topple the anti-imperialist governments in Libya and Syria.

Seven months of U.S. bombing did succeed in ripping apart Libya in 2011, thereby shredding every development gain in a country that had enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa. The extensive development aid that Libya had provided throughout Africa was left in ruins. The U.S. immediately seized the opening to position new military bases throughout Africa.

Obama administration officials, especially Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, all but announced that they expected a similar and even faster success in Syria. The early predictions were that, under direct U.S. pressure, the Syrian government would collapse within weeks.

Washington invited all its allies to participate in the shredding of Syria. Not wanting to be left out of the promise for future looting, France, Britain Turkey, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE funded proxy attack forces. Jordan provided open-border training camps. Israel provided backdoor access through the Syrian province of Golan that Israel has occupied since 1967.

An endless series of international conferences on Syria, hosted by the United Nations or the European Union, were held in Geneva, Washington, London, Paris, Brussels and Berlin. A rotating assortment of collaborators who had no base in Syria were appointed to set up a new proxy government. These puppet forces could not agree with each other and their contending backers maneuvered endlessly.

The existing Syrian government was never a participant in any meaningful way in these grand conferences to decide the future of their country.

Then Secretary of Defense James Mattis repeated the arrogant U.S. demand as recently as August 2018:

 "Our goal is to move the Syrian civil war into the Geneva process so the Syrian people can establish a new government that is not led by Assad."

Other "humanitarian conferences" were held to focus on the 5.5 million Syrian refugees who had fled the destruction. But the conferences' real purpose was also to raise demands for a "negotiated settlement" that gave international bodies some effective control over Syrian sovereignty.

Each of these conferences made it clear that no aid in reconstruction or resettlement would be forthcoming unless there was a government in place that was to their liking.

Additional in the effort to legitimize the U.S. takeover was a multi-pronged effort on social media to demonize Syria and its leadership. It was a campaign intended to silence and demoralize any opposition.

Many good community-based activists, who knew little about Syria, were taken in. Even those who resisted the U.S. war message absorbed a deep suspicion of the forces fighting to defend Syria, as a secular state, from the concerted effort to pull it apart.

What is role of Turkey and Kurds?

The day before Trump's Dec. 18 announcement to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, there was a meeting in Geneva on Syria — one that excluded the U.S. and imperialist EU countries.

Instead, meeting on the future of Syria were the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and, surprisingly, Turkey.

These three countries are opposed, for different reasons and interests, to the uninvited, massively destructive U.S. role in Syria. At the recent conference, according to the Guardian newspaper, they pledged to move forward with "a viable and lasting Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, UN-facilitated political process." (Dec. 18)

Turkey, an especially strategic member of the U.S.-commanded NATO military alliance, has been sharply opposed to the U.S. use of the YPG Kurdish forces in Syria. Turkey is engaged in a decades-long war against the national aspirations of the 15 million oppressed Kurdish population in Turkey, where the Kurds make up almost 20 percent of the population.

The much smaller Kurdish minority in Syria, amounting to 1.5 million, decided to take advantage of the vacuum created by the weakened central Syrian government to establish a long-sought Kurdish homeland as an autonomous area. They did not, however, call for the overthrow of the Syrian government or of President Assad's ouster.

The political umbrella representing the Syrian Kurds, the SGF, has held official meetings with the Syrian government in Damascus. At these meetings President Assad made it clear that the government welcomed "open doors" and discussion with the Kurds, but that all foreign occupiers, including the U.S. and Turkish forces, must leave Syria.

The Syrian Kurdish delegation made it clear that their goal is a political deal to safeguard their autonomy. The Syrian central government, engaged in a struggle to save the whole country, did not oppose Kurdish autonomy. The future federated status of the Kurds was left open. (tinyurl.com/ycrvng9b)

In May 2017 Washington, anxious to create a statelet or proxy state in the oil-rich area of northeast Syria, armed the Kurdish YPG forces in an effort to create an army dependent on the U.S. With al-Qaeda ISIS forces on one side and a U.S. bombing onslaught on the other, the Kurdish YPG militias were boxed into an alliance with the U.S.

The Turkish regime appeared apprehensive that U.S. arms supplied to Iraqi Kurds with the U.S. aim of keeping Iraq divided, and U.S. arms supplied to Syrian Kurds with the U.S. aim of keeping Syria divided, would easily reach the more numerous and more oppressed Kurds in Turkey.

Current hand wringing by the U.S. media that Trump's announced withdrawal means a U.S. military presence will no longer "protect" the Kurds in Syria is disingenuous.

The U.S. goal all along has been to establish its own base in the region and keep all other forces divided and in contention.

Now Turkey's participation with Russia and Iran in the recent conference, and the growing possibility of Turkey's break with NATO — perhaps even military intervention where Turkey's army confronts U.S. forces — has caught Washington in a tangled web of its own making.

Russia, Iran or — ? Which country is next?

Russian and Iranian assistance to Syria is defensive in character.

If the U.S. were to succeed in overturning the government in Syria — as it did in Iraq and Libya — certainly Russia and Iran, which both resist U.S. domination, seem likely to be next on the U.S. list for attack.

The antiwar movement also needs to remain vigilant. U.S. forces are still massed on the ground in the Near East, in drone bases in African countries, in naval convoys off the shores of China and in the Far East.

There are still U.S. troops, aircraft carriers, nuclear subs and drones in the immediate area of Syria, looking for a new opportunity or a staged provocation.

As the Pentagon did in Iraq, there are many ways to rebrand or rename U.S. troops in Syria and launch a new imperialist initiative.

Antiwar and progressive forces need to maintain a clear and consistent demand to bring all U.S. troops and advisors home, close the bases, and end all occupation and sanctions.

Sara Flounders has traveled twice to Syria in solidarity delegations during the U.S. war against that country. She is co-director of the International Action Center and helps coordinate the United National Antiwar Coalition, the Hands Off Syria Campaign, and the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases.




 
10
Jeremy Corbyn adviser suggests 'deep state' working to stop Labour government
  Kevin Schofield, PoliticsHome 
19th September 2018
 

 A top adviser to Jeremy Corbyn has suggested the intelligence services are working to prevent him ever becoming Prime Minister.

Andrew Murray said his suspicions were raised by recent newspaper reports about his failure to get a security pass for Parliament nearly a year after applying.

The Mail on Sunday also reported that he has been banned from entering Ukraine for allegedly being part of Vladimir Putin's "global propaganda network".

Mr Murray, who was in the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Communist Party of Britain before joining Labour in 2016, said he believed the "manoeuvrings of what is now called the deep state" could be behind it.

Writing in the New Statesman, he strenuously denied any links to the Russian regime and added: "Call me sceptical if you must, but I do not see journalistic enterprise behind the Mail's sudden capacity to tease obscure information out of the SBU (Ukrainian security services).

"Yes, they got a copy of an SBU letter allegedly banning me back in June, although it is dated 14 September and does not mention me anyway. Don't publish what you can't read guys!

"Someone else is doing the hard work – possibly someone being paid by the taxpayer. I doubt if their job description is preventing the election of a Corbyn government, but who knows?

"We are often told that the days of secret state political chicanery are long past and we must hope so. But sometimes you have to wonder – this curiously timed episode seems less rooted in a Kiev security scare than in a political stunt closer to home."

Mr Murray, who works for Unite general secretary Len McCluskey and is also a part-time adviser to Mr Corbyn, added: "This much I know: the millions of people headed by Corbyn who were right on Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan when the elite, the security services included, were wrong, are near to office – in significant part because of those views.

"Britain could soon have an anti-war government. Vet that, comrades."

It emerged earlier this week that another of Mr Corbyn's staff, his private secretary Iram Awan, had finally been given a Parliament pass nine months after applying for one.

A row had broken out after it was revealed she had been getting signed in by others in the Labour leader's office while her application was processed.
 
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