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[l] at 8/15/20 12:20am

T2020

In recent years, reports on political and economic landscape in African countries have increasingly more often mentioned Turkey. In fact, this is true not only for Libya and other African nations located on the Mediterranean coastline but also for countries in the center of this continent and south of the equator.

Focusing on Africa has become a key foreign policy direction for the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power in Turkey in 2002. As of January 1, 2009, the country had only 12 embassies in Africa, seven of which were located south of the Sahara, however, nowadays, the number of consulates in this continent exceeds forty. In view of this, the phrase “today, Turkey is a strategic partner of the African Union” has been used more and more frequently by Turkish officials in their formal speeches. In April 2020, yet another Turkey-Africa summit was set to be held in Istanbul. Representatives of more than 60 African nations were due to participate in it. Unfortunately, the event was postponed on account of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Turkey is developing relations with countries of the African continent in four main areas.

First and foremost, it is expanding its political influence in Africa, as evidenced by the growing number of Turkish diplomatic missions in the African continent as of recent, and the increasing number of official visits paid by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and accompanying officials from various Turkish agencies to 30 African nations over a period of 10 years.

According to Turkish media outlets, Ankara is clearly looking to African countries for support on various issues within the United Nations (UN), including the reform of the UN Security Council. It is also worth reminding our readers that in his official speeches in recent years, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly pointed out that there were no African countries among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). He has also said that it was important to increase the number of members sitting at the UNSC to around 20 (a “political G-20” that naturally ought to include Turkey). By acting as a mouthpiece of sorts for African nations and their hopes on the international arena, the Turkish leader expects reciprocity in return from African officials, i.e. helping Turkey expand its influence and clout and supporting Ankara on the continent.

Another area of focus for Turkey in Africa has, of course, to do with its aim to increase its economic influence there and trade volumes with African nations. Since in most African countries, on average, salaries are low, they are becoming increasingly more attractive for Turkish businesses that can move their manufacturing facilities to these nations, as such work does not require highly skilled labor. As a result, “Turkey and African countries’ bilateral trade rose $23.8 billion in 2018 from $5.5 billion in 2003, while Turkey’s exports jumped by 579% to $14.4 billion in the same period”. Turkey’s exports to African nations far outstrip its imports from the continent in value. Turkey primarily sells goods from metallurgical industries, vehicles, mechanical, electrical and medical equipment, spare parts, chemical and food products, fabric and clothes, tobacco, paper and materials for the construction sector to Africa. Turkey imports agricultural and food products, textiles, leather and crude minerals from the continent.

The country has also become a sizable investor in economies of African nations, which has helped Ankara consolidate its position in their markets.  At present, Turkey has embassies in 42 nations and commercial counselors in 26 countries of the African continent. The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) carried out nearly 2,000 projects and activities the previous year in 150 countries. And Africa is a key region for TIKA, which had 16 representative offices in the continent that carried out hundreds of projects there. In 2016, Turkey’s Independent Industrialists and Businessmen Association (MÜSİAD) opened its Sudan Office. Turkish Airlines (THY, Turkey’s flagship air carrier) has increasingly focused its efforts on Africa and became one of the airlines flying to the most destinations in the continent. In 2019, THY flew to 51 cities in African countries.

In the given climate, the fact that there is a growing number of migrants from Africa in Turkey is viewed positively in the latter. After all, they are skilled workers and many of them are university graduates who speak English and French. In fact, Turkish immigration and naturalization laws are being amended to reflect international standards.

Another important area that Ankara has concentrated its efforts on in Africa has to do with ideology. The Turkish government aims to increase its reach in this sphere and to counter the influence of AKP’s ideological opponent, Fethullah Gülen, by having FETO (or Hizmet movement) educational institutions closed in African nations, such as Burundi, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. According to data for 2018, the Gülen movement ran 105 schools and universities with 10,000 students, in Africa. According to a number of observers, the ruling Justice and Development Party’s increased focus in this direction stems from its aim to spread its Pan-Islamist or Neo-Ottoman ideology, since Turkey’s influence in the continent waned as a result of the dissolution of the Ottoman empire.

Hence, nowadays, training workers from Africa in areas, such as governance, media and communication, tourism and commerce, plays an important role in Turkey’s efforts to increase its clout on the continent. In addition, Ankara has focused on expanding its influence in the religious sphere via its Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), which has been involved in building and repairing mosques in African nations, even those where the majority of the population does not identify themselves as Muslim. In addition, Diyanet has been providing religious training to Africans via a network of schools and grant programs. And as part of the government’s neo-Ottoman policies, Turkish-non-governmental organizations have been building Islamic-Ottoman style complexes (or külliyes) comprising mosques and other buildings for various charitable services for African communities.

In recent years, it has become increasingly important for Turkey to consolidate its position in the military sphere in Africa. In 2016, Turkey established its first military base abroad in Somalia (Africa) meant to house approximately 200 Turkish servicemen and to train 10,500 Somali troops at a time. Turkey became the fifth nation from outside Africa after the United States, France, Great Britain and Japan to have its own military base in the continent.

Using Washington’s desire for its allies to become increasingly involved in ensuring security in the Persian Gulf region as an excuse, Turkey completed the construction of its second military base abroad, in Qatar (as reported by Al Jazeera in November 2019). Similarly, Britain opened a permanent military base in Bahrain while France in the United Arab Emirates. The Turkish facility is near Qatar’s Tariq Ibn Ziyad military base, located south of the capital, where first Turkish ground troops arrived in October 2015. In 2019, it was reported that there were approximately 3,000 Turkish servicemen stationed at the Tariq Ibn Ziyad base.

Ankara’s actions of this nature are a cause for concern in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. After all, Turkey, under the guise of restoring and reconstructing Ottoman-era buildings on Sudan’s Suakin Island, could establish a military base there, which would give Ankara more control over the Red Sea and its shipping routes, and the Suez Canal too. And in fact, Turkey has already established its military presence in the Arabian Peninsula with its base in Qatar, where its ground and air force troops are stationed. The aforementioned concerns are further exacerbated by increasingly frequent reports about Ankara’s aim to construct yet another military base abroad – in Libya – in collaboration with Fayez al-Sarraj-led Government of National Accord (GNA), supported by Turkey.

Recently, Western nations have increasingly begun expressing similar unease to that felt by some Persian Gulf Monarchies about Ankara’s actions in Africa. In large part, these concerns stem from the fact that during his visits to African nations, Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has continued to promote and promulgate the idea that policies of the Ottoman Empire differed to colonial practices of Western European nations and the US, and to criticize policies followed by Western countries in Africa. For example, at the beginning of 2013, Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the following statements at the Parliament of Gabon: “When the time comes, history will definitely ask those who take Africa’s diamonds, gold, underground riches and even their people and leave those left behind to poverty. This ancient continent Africa, where human beings were born but where humanity was slaughtered by the greedy, will sooner or later rise up once again and guide humanity with the power it has gained from its history.” “The Ottoman Empire has been the symbol of living in Africa in a friendly and brotherly respect for centuries. Never and never having acted with imperial feelings, the Ottoman State stood against exploitation in the strongest way,” he continued. “Together with Africa, Turkey passed through an eternal basin of history,” said Recep Tayyip Erdogan towards the end of his speech.

Nowadays, this “rivalry” with Turkey is particularly evident in Libya in light of recent developments there. The Northern African country has become the latest battleground of sorts where Western and Middle Eastern players can wage a more sophisticated campaign against Turkey.  In fact, efforts to oppose Ankara include support shown by Persian Gulf monarchies and a number of Western nations towards Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army, as well as criticism of Turkey’s policies in Africa. In fact, in his public speeches, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman openly accused Recep Tayyip Erdogan of attempting to create a new Ottoman Caliphate.

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 

[Category: Africa, Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics]

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[l] at 8/14/20 1:13pm

MI744523

The city of Minneapolis is where it all began. It is where the last drop fell on the surface of a proverbial overflowing lake, causing the dam to burst, consequently starting to destroy the foundations of the empire.

A death of just one single man can, under certain dreadful circumstances, put into motion the entire avalanche of events. It can smash the whole regime into pieces. It can fully rewrite history, and even change the identity of a nation. It can… although it not always does.

George Floyd’s death became a spark. The city of Minneapolis is where the murder occurred, and where the ethnic minorities rose in rage.

But it is also where white extreme right-wing criminals, and some even say, entire regime, perpetrated the uprising, kidnapped what could have become a true revolution and began choking legitimate rebellion by a stained duvet of nihilism and confusion.

Here, we will not speculate. We will not point fingers at “deep state” or some multi-billionaire families, and to what extent they have been involved. Let others do this if they know details. But this time, I simply came to listen. And to pass to the world what I discovered first hand and what I was told.

This time I simply went to Franklin Avenue and Lake Street, both in Minneapolis.

I spoke to Native American people there. To those who joined forces with the African-American community during those dangerous days after May 25, 2020. To people who dared to defend their neighborhoods against brutality against white gangs, which came to loot, infiltrate, and derail the most powerful uprising in the United States in modern history.

***

Bob Rice is a Native American owner of Pow Wow Grounds, a local entrepreneur, and a ‘community protection organizer.’ His legendary café is located on Franklin Avenue. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been reduced, for the time being, to a takeaway business, but even as such, it is enormously popular among the Native Americans, as well as others.

At the back of the cafe is huge storage, full of food. Everyone hungry, in need of help, can simply come here and take whatever he or she needs.

We grab some freshly brewed coffee from the shop and take it out to the public benches outside.

Bob Rice then begins his story:

“There has been police brutality for a very long time, against people of color. Not only talking about Minneapolis but in all these other places, since the 1991 Rodney King incident. Things were boiling and building up – leading to a big blow up.”

“And all this discrimination did not start here; it came centuries ago from Europe.”

“After the George Floyd murder, I wanted to show solidarity. Native Americans were experiencing an even higher degree of persecution than Black people. We had to stand together. I went down to the site of the murder of George Floyd, in order to support protests.”

For a while, we talked about the mass media in the United States, an official and even some ‘independent one,’ and how it quickly and violently turned against the left, as well as against those who have been daring to expose endemic racism in the United States.

But soon, we returned to the events that took place here, in May and June.

“I noticed the presence of strange elements right from the start. I was watching guys breaking windows. At about 6 am, the morning after, I traveled down to South Minneapolis. There were piles of rocks in front of the rioters. Flash hand grenades. I kept on moving around the areas and kept on seeing rocks. I noticed the Minneapolis Umbrella Man, dressed all in black, with mask and black umbrella and black hammer smashing things – at the end being stopped by black guys. People were walking out of the store with car parts, and I thought, “why stealing those things”? These guys didn’t seem to be as part of the protest. I started moving and going away from the area, thinking that these guys would burn down stores and places soon. I even called up my insurance company the following morning to see if my policy covers civil unrest. That night they burned a lot of stores – auto stores, liquor stores, all types of businesses. I thought that if we do not do something ourselves to protect our neighborhoods, they will burn down all of our areas, too.”

“From what I saw, I couldn’t tell you who these guys were, but they were not from here.

So, we put up our protection zone calling out people on Facebook. We became the Headquarters of protection of Native American businesses and nonprofit organizations, as well as banks, shops, investment properties, etc. all belonging to the Native American community around here.

I noticed there were Caucasian people, driving cars very slowly with no license plates, yelling racial slurs out of the windows. We formed a human shield, chain, along Franklin Avenue, to protect ourselves and our people.

At a high point, about 300 people were protecting the area all night long for about eight days in a row. It had to be done, because here we had people from all over, including Wisconsin, descending on us – we had white supremacist group Proud Boys here. They arrived wearing masks. We had young white kids – 16 and 17 years old – coming from Wisconsin, looting liquor stores. We caught them. Obviously, they came out here because they thought it was an exciting thing to do. They didn’t even know where they were – this area is very dangerous with drug dealing and gang violence at night. Lucky, they got caught by us.”

And the coverage? I wanted to know whether these events, in the heart of Native American neighborhoods, were described in depth by media reports.

Bob Rice replied readily:

There was no media reporting on these matters – mass media blamed everything on the Black Lives Matter movement.

When liquor stores and tobacco shops were on fire, no police or fire trucks were around. Then the National Guard took over – using tear gas.

Mr. Rice sighed, still in disbelief:

Just incredible how our so-called President has done all the mess going and even made it worse!

***

Robert Pilot, Native Roots Radio host, drove me for days all around the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, explaining what really took place on both Franklin Avenue and Lake Street.

But before, we visited provisory, impromptu monument, where the murder of George Floyd took place. There were flowers, graffiti, works of art; there was grief, and there was solidarity. Native American people clearly supported the plight of the African-Americans.

The area was safe; it was well organized. People of all races came here to pay tribute to the murdered man, and centuries of atrocious history of the United States.

As we drove, Robert Pilot explained:

“Native American neighborhoods armed themselves after the Floyd murder. But not only that: economic hardships ensued after the murder; food banks have come up. The Pow Wow Grounds used to be a food distribution deport but ended up becoming a food bank for anyone to donate and get what they need.

Protesters were everywhere; the young generation got fed up. So different from other murders. The last straw was the murder of George Floyd. Four years earlier, in 2016, Philando Castile, an African American man, got murdered by police. He had worked in a school cafeteria. His murder was broadcast live on Facebook. It was a buildup. 10,000 people protested on 38th Street and Chicago in Minneapolis – the site of the murder of George Floyd. Combination of racial and overall frustration.”

We drove by burned stores, services, gas stations. Everything was resembling a war zone, and in a way, it was.

If you are there, things are extremely raw, emotional. It is not like analyzing things from a distance from the comfort of one’s home.

Robert continued explaining, as we drove by block after block of the Middle East-style combat destruction:

“There is a small percentage of African American people as compared to White Americans. We need allies, too. We have to support each other. Signs everywhere in my neighborhood, ‘Black Lives Matter.’”

“Some young white people have woken up. They see the truth. The opinion of the masses is moving to the left; they are feeling fed up with what is happening around them and what it is that the country is doing to the world because of oil.

What is interesting is that there is a protest every single day, which is something new and mind-blowing. The media is misreporting, minimizing the enormity and magnitude of protests, CNN, MSNBC, etc.”

Robert Pilot is not only a radio host, but he is also a teacher:

“White teachers are still teaching history; they are teaching it to black and Native American kids! Political standing of my students – a few are engaged, but definitely not all. Perhaps 10 percent of people are engaged and doing the work for 90 percent.

The white guilt now and then… But many of us feel: You should stand behind us and with us but not in front of us. Revolution is happening in that sense. Everything is changing since protests are happening.”

Not everyone likes the changes; definitely not everyone. The establishment is fighting back, trying to survive, in its existing, horrid form.

Robert Pilot concludes:

“Generally, Black and Native Americans are together, supportive of each other.

It is symbolic that the Native American movement started on Franklin Avenue, where protests began in 1968. We would never burn down our own stores like grocery stores and hospitals. Why should we?

But we had to mobilize and stop members of the KKK and Proud Boys type of guys.”

***

We drive some 100 miles north, in order to meet Ms. Emma Needham – a young Native American activist. Emma was kind enough to bring traditional medicine from her area. We met halfway at the Sand Prairie Wildlife Management Area.

Before our encounter, along the highway, we are surrounded by true ‘Americana’: endless open spaces, half-empty highways, more than 100 car-long cargo train pulled by two monstrous engines, while pushed by yet another one. We pass by St. Cloud Correctional Facility – an ancient-looking prison that bears the resemblance of some massive medieval English mansion surrounded by an elaborate system of barbed wires and watchtowers.

MI734854

In one of the towns along the road, there is a big makeshift market selling posters, T-shirts, and other memorabilia, all related to the current President. It is called Trump Shop. Big banners are shouting at passing cars: “Trump, Make America Great Again,” “Trump 2020 – No More Bullshit,” and “God, Guns & Guts Made America. Let’s Keep All Three”.

Emma is a storyteller, a writer. She is an intelligent, outspoken, sincere, and passionate person:

“Where we were, we did not see a lot of white men with masks attacking, but what we did see were two young white kids, around 16, from Wisconsin, looting a liquor store which was run by Native Americans.”

“I stayed over Friday and Saturday nights around the Indian American Cultural Center in Minneapolis. On Friday night, within half a mile to a mile in all directors, we could see and hear the riots and looting. There were gunshots, helicopters hovering all around us. But nobody came to rescue us.”

“On Saturday night, we could see white people on Jeeps, waving flags, cruising around the neighborhood. “The white kids from Wisconsin were there, it appeared to me, opportunistic grabbing whatever was available.”

“Majority of those who came to protest and loot were outsiders, not from the neighborhoods. It does not make sense for people in Minneapolis to burn down and loot stores they rely on.”

I wanted to know whether the Native Americans and African-Americans were helping each other in that difficult hour?

Emma did not hesitate:

“There was big solidarity between Black people and Native American people; there was empathy.”

“It has been lifelong degradation for many of us growing up poor and severely marginalized in reservations, but we had never seen anything like this, so close to what resembled a war.

Those of us who were down in North Minneapolis those nights – Friday and Saturday – could not find words to describe what was happening. But we had a strong sense that what has been happening to us, Native Americans was happening to Black Americans, too – 400 years of surviving in a system of oppression. Enough is enough! Shared horrors – same for both groups!”

I asked whether everything changed, and this is a new beginning for the nation? As many, Emma did not sound overly optimistic:

“A black American female artist once said, ‘I love my white friends, but I don’t trust you because I know when the time comes, you need to choose your skin color. You count on the freedom and safety which you have. Whether you make that conscious decision or not, it will be there for you.’”

***

On my behalf, Robert Pilot asked Brett Buckner, his fellow radio host, and an African American activist, whether he could confirm that the majority of rioters were whites and not from the community. He replied:

“I would say so. Based on police reports and accounts from the community members, most of the damage was done by outsiders. Unfortunately, their actions will cause our community pain for years and even decades to come.”

***

Before I finished writing this report, “Umbrella man” got ‘identified.’

On July 29, 2020, Daily Mail wrote:

“Masked “Umbrella Man” who was seen smashing windows of Minneapolis AutoZone that was later burned to the ground during George Floyd protests is identified as ‘Hells Angels gang member with ties to white supremacist group’… The Star Tribune reported the 32-year-old man has links to Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood, a white supremacist gang based in Minnesota and Kentucky.”

He was one of many, but the most notorious one. Looking at his photos when in action, he was bearing a striking resemblance to ‘ninja’ looking rioters – right-wing hooligans – who were unleashed in order to bring chaos to Hong Kong, people who have been supported and financed by Western governments. I know, because I work in Hong Kong, since the beginning of the riots. Coincidence? And if not: who really ‘inspired’ whom?

***

Before I left Minneapolis, Robert Pilot and his wife Wendy interviewed me on their Native Roots Radio. What was supposed to be just 30 minutes appearance ended up being a one-hour event.

They showed me their city and their state, sharing sincere feelings and hopes, unveiling suffering of both African American and Native American communities.

This time, I traveled to the United States in order to listen. But I was also asked to talk, and so I did.

During the interview, I took them to several parts of the world, where black people still suffer enormously, due to Western imperialism and corporate greed. The world where Native people of Latin America, Canada, as well as other parts of the Planet, are brutally humiliated, robbed of everything, even murdered by millions.

We were complimenting each other. Our knowledge was.

I am glad I came to Minnesota. I am thankful that I could witness history in the making.

I am also delighted that I observed solidarity between the African American and Native American people. For centuries, both went through hell, through agony. Now, they were awakening.

Minnesota is where the latest and very important chapter of American history began. But I also went to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York City, Massachusetts. I witnessed protests, anger, despair. But there was also hope. Hope, despite tear gas and riot police, lockdowns, despite mismanaged COVID-19 and increasing poverty rates. Something was ending, something unsavory and brutal. Whether this could be considered a new beginning was still too early to tell.

In Minnesota, I chose to see events through the eyes of Native Americans, people who were here ‘forever,’ to whom this land used to belong. People who were exterminated by the “new America,” by European migrants, in a genocide that claimed roughly 90% of the native lives. These were people who were robbed of their culture and their riches. I am glad; I am proud that I chose this angle.

True peace, true reconciliation can only come after history as well as reality are fully understood, never through denial.

Now, both African Americans and Native Americans are speaking, and the world is listening. It has to listen. At least this is already progress. These two groups are forming a powerful alliance of victims. But also, an alliance of those who are determined to make sure that history never repeats itself.

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He’s the creator of Vltchek’s World in Word and Images, and a writer that has penned a number of books, including China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Connecting Countries Saving Millions of Lives. He writes especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Society, USA in the World]

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[l] at 8/14/20 12:22pm

GG11

Global News on 10 August 2020 reports – “Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced on Monday his formal resignation, and that of his government following protests and demands for change after the deadly explosion in Port of Beirut last week, saying his government will follow the will of the people for real change and transparency. Diab, in a televised speech, said the detonation of highly-explosive material warehoused in the port area of the capital for the last seven years was “the result of endemic corruption”. Diab said, “Today we follow the will of the people in their demand to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster that has been in hiding for seven years, and their desire for real change. In the face of this reality … I am announcing today the resignation of this government.”

The cabinet had already been under pressure to step down over the August 4 explosion that killed 163 people, wounded some 6,000 and left around 300,000 without habitable housing.

What the PM doesn’t talk about are the special characteristics of the blast – an explosion that produced an unusual mushroom-like cloud, a detonation causing a shock wave that registered 3.9 on the Richter scale, that shattered windows in a radius of more than 10 km, leaving construction – buildings for industry and housing – in shambles with pictures resembling those of Hiroshima after the US nuclear attack in 1945.

Instead the now ex-PM intimated that it was an accident, “the result of endemic corruption”. – How? – How does endemic corruption cause such a well-targeted blast? – If so, it would mean that there was a flow of a huge amount of money between the corrupter and the corruptee.

True. This cannot be excluded. But who could be interested? Giant real estate speculators, like banks and other financial institutions / financiers that might want to buy the devastated prime area – seaport, airport and surroundings – for pennies on the dollar and newly develop the destroyed site for business and luxury housing – it’s called privatization of disaster. Something similar happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005.

All is possible of course especially in our no holds barred free-for-all neoliberal world, and especially as France’s President Macron, a Rothschild lieutenant, came to visit the devastated area shortly after the Beirut blast. Who knows – the purpose of his offer of “aid” – aid almost always comes with strings attached – may have been preparing the terrain, so to speak, for French financial oligarchs to buy-up the harbor and the surrounding areas, for – well, as usual – pennies on the dollar.

***

But there are also other reasons for the “explosion” of Beirut port. Mind you, they are not at all mutually exclusive. Lebanon’s government blamed a large quantity of poorly stored ammonium nitrate for the blast that devastated the northern quarter of Beirut, killing about 250 people, injuring thousand and destroying the shelter for some 300,000 people. Ammonium nitrate is an industrial chemical commonly used around the world as an agricultural fertilizer, and in explosives for mining. These poorly managed chemicals in the warehouse existed already for at least 6 years. – Is it a sheer coincidence that it went up in flames almost to the day of the 75th Hiroshima anniversary, leaving Hiroshima-like devastation behind?

Next to the warehouse that allegedly harbored these highly volatile chemicals, was apparently also an ammunition-depot of Hezbollah’s. Could it have been the target of a deadly enemy? – On September 27, 2018, Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out to the United Nations General Assembly forum the warehouse, the very warehouse that eventually exploded on 4 August 2020, the Hezbollah arms depot.

Full video of Netanyahu showing Hezbollah’s arms depot, as if he were predicting what was to become the blast site at Beirut port on 4 August 2020.

This is a possibility. But what about the strange explosion? – According to several journalists and observers, including Thierry Meyssan, this is a “new” bomb. It had been tested already in Syria in mostly deserted areas, since January 2020. But nobody spoke about it. Because analyzing it, might cause grave consternation in the public. That is one explanation. But far more likely, because the masters behind this “new” bomb strictly forbid (under threats) making it public.

On August 7, 2020, Thierry Meyssan reports, “It is not known what weapon was used. However, it has already been tested in Syria since January 2020. It is a missile with a tactical nuclear component in its warhead that causes a smoke mushroom characteristic of nuclear weapons. It is obviously not an atomic bomb in the strategic sense. The weapon was tested in Syria on a plain in the countryside and then in the Persian Gulf on the water against Iranian military vessels. This is the first time it has been used in an urban environment, in a particular environment that made the air blast and vibrations reflect off the water and the mountains.”

See video showing the striking similarity between the blasts in Syria and the blast in Beirut.

Was this another test with purpose, like those in Syria? Applied to an archenemy, Hezbollah? – And at the same time destroying Beirut and plunging Lebanon into further turmoil, making it even more vulnerable for a take-over?

One is reminded of Wesley Clark’s interview of March 2, 2007 with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, where the US General and former Europe Head of NATO, listed Lebanon among the seven countries that had to be “taken out’. See video (taking out seven countries, about from min 2:30).

Is the Beirut blast one more test for things to come, after the covid “lockstep scenario”? The permanent ever stronger repression of western governments to keep people separated by social distancing and controlled by so-called “contact tracers” – waiting for a vaccine which they hope will allow the masters inserting a nano-chip in any form or shape, that would integrate with the body and permit permanent surveillance of movement and everything from health records to bank accounts.

Is the Beirut blast just a cog in the wheel to a more important objective; One or New World Order? Mind you, we are already there. The “Lockstep Scenario” is just the fine-tuning mechanism.

Expect mass protests – they have started already in Germany, notably in Berlin on August 1, 2020, with 1.3 million people taking to the streets, protesting against the German Government’s ever more repressive corona measures and restrictions. Numbers and size of such protests may increase over time as the governments do not seem to relent, as if they were following a regime of “higher orders”. Is it conceivable that the “new’ weapon may be applied to western cities of strong social upheaval, and then spread to enemy cities in Russia and China?

Large cities with millions of people could easily be destroyed with the “new” weapon, with the click on a remote bottom – like a video game, and with none of the perpetrators of such horror destruction hurt. The people on the ground are powerlessly exposed to sudden and slow death. Wasn’t that the case for Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945?

And let’s not forget – the US shortly after WWII planned to nuclear-bomb 66 Soviet cities, mind you, this was when the US and the USSR were still allies – see “Wipe the Soviet Union off the Map” –  . The tactics of such plans are still intact – and shelved, could be revived at any moment. Of course, modernized and with today’s technologies.

Beirut is a sad-sad attack – with a story that is not as simple as the official version would like you to believe. Be aware!

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. After working for over 30 years with the World Bank, he penned Implosion, an economic thriller, based on his first-hand experience. Exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Lebanon, Locations, Middle East, Politics]

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[l] at 8/14/20 9:25am

SPA34232

Am I about to suggest that space flights affect the climate? No, the link is between the race to space and the deterioration of planet earth as a human habitat.

Four years ago, I suggested that the main reason why the US government is funding space exploration is because humans are going to need a new home in our lifetime. The recent ‘splashdown’ of two astronauts from a two-month stay at the international space station was hyped because it involved a vehicle built by a private company, Elon Musk’s Space-X. The reasons for the stay were not mentioned, but when laid side by side with recent warnings about climate, they are clear: earth is now expected to pass the relatively safe temperature increase of 1.5 degrees by 2025, with devastating consequences.

America’s foremost warming expert, Bill McKibben, recently reviewed the latest warning about climate in the New York Review of Books . H e quotes author Mark Lynas, a British climate activist stating that:

“ If we stay on the current business-as-usual trajectory, we could see two degrees as soon as the early 2030s, three degrees around mid-century, and four degrees by 2075 or so, corresponding to rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere,” (350 parts per million being the number not to exceed). “If we ’ re unlucky with positive feedback from thawing permafrost in the Arctic or collapsing tropical rainforests, then we could be in for five or even six degrees by century ’s end. ”

Somewhat superfluously, McKibben adds:

“That ’ s a paragraph worth reading again. It ’ s an aggressive reading of the available science (research published in early July estimates we could cross the 1.5-degree threshold by 2025), but it ’ s not outlandish. And it implies an unimaginable future. Two degrees will not be twice as bad as one, or three degrees three times as bad. The damage is certain to increase exponentially, not linearly, because the Earth will move past grave tipping points as we slide up this thermometer.”

Earthlings first encountered the word exponential in The Limits to Growth, which in 1972 warned about doubling times of population growth as opposed to familiar linear increases. A team organized around Dennis and Donna Meadows foresaw that if trends continued, we would see concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere of 350 parts per million by 2000. According to McKibben’s organization, 350 , 400 parts per million was reached in 2013.

Two Hollywood films, Soylent Green , in 1973, and Elysium , in 2013, foreshadow what earthlings could face. In the first, food is distributed by heavily armed police, and in Elysium , they keep a brutal order among the lower classes left behind when space was colonized. Hitler perfected fascism in the name of Lebensraum for the German people – room to live. Trump is updating his methods for The Survival of the Fittest by allowing COVID-19 to decimate the ranks of Blacks, Mexicans and those once known as ‘white trash’. The media accuses the president of disregarding science, when in reality he is using it to defend White Supremacy, winnowing the ranks of unneeded workers as robots take over.

While backing economic warfare between the minority that has accumulated unimaginable wealth and a multi-colored majority, Western governments are laying the foundations for a home in space, whether the moon turns out to be potentially habitable, or man-made planets will have to be built. Authors of the latest books on global warming hope that somehow the human species will be capable of turning the planet around, while governments prepare for a more likely future in which a generation raised on ‘ever more’ will be forced to create a minimalist lifestyle just to survive.

Deena Stryker is a US-born international expert, author and journalist that lived in Eastern and Western Europe and has been writing about the big picture for 50 years. Over the years she penned a number of books, including Russia’s Americans. Her essays can also be found at Otherjones. Especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics, USA in the World]

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[l] at 8/14/20 6:59am

IND3232342On August 5 of this year, a fairly noteworthy event occurred in India, which can be viewed as an important phase in the transformation of the complex socio-political environment within this nation. It is bound to impact (possibly indirectly and with a delay) the relationship between India and Pakistan, which is among the key foreign policy issues for New Delhi.

The author is referring to the “bhoomi pujan”, involving a 40-kg brick made of pure silver, performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mark the start of the construction of a grand temple for Lord Rama in Ayodhya, located in northern India in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The date of the groundbreaking ceremony will be used to calculate how long the work takes. The project designers estimate that the temple will be completed in 3 years’ time.

Rama or Ram is one of the most revered divine beings among numerous deities in Hinduism. According to rough estimates, followers of Hinduism and its more politicized branch, Hindutva (a term that was first used by Indian intellectuals at the end of the 19th century), may account for 40 to 70% of the country’s population nowadays. For this proportion of citizens, Lord Rama symbolizes India’s past, present and future.

The reason the aforementioned estimates could be inaccurate is because it is difficult to define the concept of Hindutva in the first place, which is probably why there is a distinction between soft and hard Hindutva.

The hardliners obviously include the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the head of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, which has won two general elections in a row). The origins of the relatively moderate BJP lie in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, a former Indian right wing political party and the political arm of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist volunteer organization. The BJP was founded in 1980. In recent years, the party has been trying to tone down some of its openly nationalist posturing on India’s domestic political landscape by focusing on the universal nature of Hindutva and on how well-suited it is for numerous minority religious groups in the country.

Clearly, such messages from RSS and BJP primarily target India’s Muslims. There are 180 million people who identify themselves as followers of Islam in the country. And on account of the numbers, it is actually difficult to categorize Muslims as a religious minority in India.

It is the complex nature of the relationship between Hindus and Muslims that lies at the heart of the problem to do with the construction (or according to followers of Hinduism, restoration) of the aforementioned temple in Ayodhya. Its predecessor was supposedly demolished on orders from the Mughal emperor Babur at the beginning of the 16th century. The latter was the founder of the Islamic Mughal Empire that controlled much of India between the 16th and 19th centuries.

The author would like to remind his readers that according to India’s Supreme Court ruling on the disputed territory atop the hill in Ayodhya of November 9, 2019, there was no evidence to suggest that the prior Hindu structure had been destroyed to build the Babri Masjid mosque. In addition, the court ordered “the local government to give the Sunni Waqf Board approximately 2 hectares of land” as compensation for the actual demolition of the ancient Mosque of Babur (in whose place the temple for Lord Rama is to be built), which occurred in December 1992 at the hands of a (supposedly out-of-control) large group of Hindu activists.

Nowadays, discussions about the significance and possible consequences of the construction of the temple for Lord Rama in Ayodhya are reminiscent of equally heated debates that occurred between members of two political groups in India in the first years of its independence. One of them was headed by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, a leading figure in the independence movement. The other was led by the first Deputy Prime Minister of India at the time, Vallabhbhai Patel, a conservative rooted in traditional Hindu values.

They both played prominent roles in establishing the Republic of India but their approaches to resolving practically all key issues at the time were substantially different. For instance, there were heated disagreements over the proposals to “restore” (or in reality, to build on top of ruins) the Somnath temple near the Arabian Sea in the state of Gujarat. According to historians, the temple in question, a shrine to another Hindu deity, Lord Shiva, was repeatedly demolished by Muslim invaders and subsequently resurrected by followers of Hinduism.

In 1952, similar statements to those regarding the temple for Lord Rama were made about yet another “resurrection and restoration of the Somnath temple”, which was hailed “as a proud moment in the history of independent Bharat”. Such words were spoken by Vallabhbhai Patel (a respected figure nowadays) and his supporters who refused to understand the viewpoint on this issue (among others) of Jawaharlal Nehru. Since that time, many different events have transpired in modern India. A possible question that will, of course, go unanswered is “What role did Lord Shiva, who must have felt a great deal of satisfaction because his worshippers remembered him 70 years ago, play in all of this?”.

It is worth pointing out that the foundation stone laying ceremony to mark the start of the construction of the temple for Lord Rama was curtailed. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was used as an official explanation for such measures. In recent months, the spread of the Coronavirus has indeed risen to dangerous levels in India (the daily increase in the number of individuals infected with the virus reached 55,000 at the beginning of August, while in the middle of May the rate was 3,500). The fact that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat attended the ceremony is noteworthy.

Still, the central figure at the “bhoomi pujan” was unquestionably Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, in his speech, said that a grand temple would be built for Lord Rama “who had been staying in a tent”. He also stated that the temple would “keep inspiring the future generations”.

Based on reports published by Indian media outlets, there is a wide range of opinions about the ground-breaking ceremony, which had taken place in Ayodhya, ranging from complete approval to serious concern about the step. The latter viewpoint encompasses several interconnected aspects. In particular, they include concerns about the potential rise in tensions between Hindus and Muslims; the possibility that Hinduism will be recognized as India’s state religion, which will essentially put an end to the existence of the secular democratic republic (something that Jawaharlal Nehru feared), and perhaps either a deceleration of the process to dismantle the caste system in Indian society or even its complete reversal.

Still, it appears that there are considerably more supporters of the construction of the temple for Lord Rama than its detractors. Nowadays, the former group includes “moderates”, such as the current leadership of the Indian National Congress (INC) party, which was, at some point in the past, headed by Jawaharlal Nehru.

As the popularity of the INC continues to decrease in India, it seems that its leaders do not have much choice in the matter, especially because the party (which was in power 30 years ago) is being currently accused of not having a definitive position regarding the justified demands to restore the temple for Lord Rama. Supposedly, such indecisiveness “compromised peace and harmony for years” and led to the tragedy in 1992.

Finally, the author would like to note that there is no (official) basis for the claim that the long awaited landmark event on India’s domestic landscape led to certain actions, taken in its neighboring countries. Hence, in this report, the author would simply like to mention that the aforementioned ceremony happened to coincide with the fact that Pakistan released a new political map that depicts Jammu and Kashmir “as a disputed territory, and claims the regions of Sir Creek and the erstwhile state of Junagadh in Gujarat as part of its territory”.

It is quite clear that this (most likely propagandistic in nature) move made by Pakistan was meant to coincide with the anniversary of yet another official step on the domestic front taken by India, which resulted in the scrapping of Article 370, a constitutional provision that granted a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Together with the dispute over the territory atop the hill in Ayodhya, the aforementioned move reflects overall the political issues facing India, in particular, the complex relationship between Hindus and Muslims.

The anniversary prompted Pakistan to approach its key ally, China, with the request to once again raise the Kashmir issue at the United Nations Security Council. As expected, the move resulted in a negative reaction from New Delhi.

The author would like to once again point out that there is no consensus among Muslim-majority countries on this issue. Formal statements made by officials from some prominent Muslim nations (such as Turkey) typically express concern but not stronger opinions on the Kashmir problem. None of these countries are prepared to spoil their relationships with the Asian giant, whose role on the international arena is becoming increasingly prominent.

On August 5, a noteworthy event took place in the city of Ayodhya, and its consequences are hard to predict. Hence, we will continue to observe further developments in the Indian subcontinent.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 

[Category: Columns, Featured, India, Locations, Politics, Southern Asia]

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[l] at 8/13/20 11:59pm

DAE264625

The author has reported, on more than one occasion, that over the course of the history-related dispute between Japan and South Korea, the issue of comfort women is being gradually replaced with that of forced labor. In fact, its victims are trying to receive as much compensation from Japan as possible via legal action. And decisions made by South Korean courts on the issue have led to what is referred to in Seoul as a trade war between the ROK and Japan.

In Tokyo, it is believed that the problem has already been resolved. On January 6, 2020, “legal teams representing the victims of forced labor” proposed “setting up a consultative body to explore ways to find a complete solution to the issue of forced labor”. In response, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Japan had “absolutely no interest” in the proposal. From Tokyo’s point of view, all of these issues were settled by the Treaty on Basic Relations Between Japan and the Republic of Korea, signed in 1965. In accordance with its provisions, Japan provided South Korea with grants in economic aid and loans as part of economic cooperation between the two countries.

In the ROK, court decisions in cases involving forced labor victims appear to be “mass produced”. For example, on January 14, 2020, a group of such plaintiffs and their families embarked “on another class action suit against Japanese companies” implicated in war crimes. According to South Korea’s newspaper, The Hankyoreh, “the participants were unanimous in saying their aim in taking part in the suit was less about compensation than about restoring their dignity and exorcising 70 years of bitterness”. The lawsuit involved 33 plaintiffs accusing six companies, including the Hokkaido Coal and Boat Company, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Materials, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Mining and Nishimatsu Construction.

A new phase in the confrontation between the ROK and Japan began on June 1, 2020, when the Pohang branch of Daegu District Court decided “to give public notice of the ruling on the seizure of Nippon Steel’s Korea-based assets” after the Japanese firm “refused to honor a ruling to compensate surviving South Korean victims of wartime forced labor”.  According to Korea.net, “it is a legal procedure of making a public announcement on the court’s bulletin board or in a newspaper so that the notice has the same effect as that of court delivery if sending court documents to recipients is difficult”.

This legal step “came after the Supreme Court of South Korea ordered Nippon Steel in 2018” to pay 100 million won in compensation to each of the four South Koreans for their unpaid wartime forced labor. As the company refused to comply with the order, the plaintiffs applied for the seizure of the steel maker’s 194,794 shares worth 973 million won (US$799,400) in PNR, a joint venture created by Nippon Steel and Korean steelmaker POSCO, involved in the “resource recirculation byproduct recycling process”.

However, the defendant, Nippon Steel, “refused to accept the court’s legal document on asset liquidation”. And if the company failed to respond to the document by August 3, 2020, the court could “issue an order to sell off the seized assets”.

The Yonhap News Agency reported that the victims had “no other choice but to resort to the court’s imminent order to dispose of the shares as long as the Japanese firm” continued to ignore the compensation ruling. According to the media outlet, “if such a thing” were to happen, “the relations between Seoul and Tokyo could plunge to the lowest point since the 1965 diplomatic normalization”. In addition, the Shinzo Abe government threatened “to retaliate against the looming sell-off order from the Korean court”. During a telephone conversation between Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi and Foreign Minister of South Korea Kang Kyung-wha, the former urged the latter to exercise restraint by saying “the sale of seized assets” had to be avoided.

Starting at midnight on August 4, the Pohang branch of the Daegu District Court could “start the procedure to auction off some of Nippon Steel Corp.’s stake” in the joint venture company “so as to cash them out for compensating forced labor victims”. The assets subject to sale are “the 30 percent stake held by Nippon Steel” in PNR, “worth about 400 million won (US$335,000) by face value”.

In response, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Tokyo was “looking at all available measures” and had “a clear direction about it”. “In close cooperation with the relevant company, we would like to continue to undauntedly respond with all options in our sight from the standpoint of protecting rightful economic activities of Japanese enterprises,” the Japanese official told reporters.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, “the steps could include higher tariffs, financial sanctions, temporary recall of Japan’s top envoy in Seoul and visa restrictions”.

Nippon Steel planned to appeal the South Korean court decision on asset seizure. The move “would defer the judicial process” that could kick off the procedure to liquidate some of Nippon Steel Corp’s stake in PNR, which observers fear would worsen tensions between the two countries.

The Yonhap News Agency reported that measures Japan could take against South Korea included “further tightening of export control measures on industrial materials that Korea highly relies on Japan for”. In addition, possible financial restrictions could be imposed “in relation to some $42 billion that Japanese banks have invested in South Korean companies”.

The media outlet also said that “an eye for an eye” could not “resolve the history-related dispute between the two countries”. In fact, later in August, Seoul would have to decide whether to renew or terminate the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Tokyo. The decision has to be made by August 23, 2020. South Korean Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Kim In-chul has told reporters that the government “suspended its decision to end the GSOMIA on the premise” that it could “end the pact at anytime”.

During a press conference on August 4, 2020, the official said: “We remain unchanged in our position that the question of whether to exercise this right is something to be examined in response to Japan’s actions regarding the withdrawal of its export controls”. “GSOMIA can be ended at any time by the South Korean government, regardless of the date, and the concept of extending the agreement each year does not currently apply,” he added.

The statement did not go unnoticed in Washington. The Korean-language service of Voice of America (VOA) reported on August 6 that a US Department of State official said: “We encourage Japan and the ROK to continue sincere discussions to ensure a lasting solution to historical issues”. The official added that “the US would continue to pursue bilateral and trilateral security cooperation with the two Asian countries, in recognition of” their shared interests.

In such a climate, a number of experts have stated that South Korea “may face a much stronger backlash from the United States, which values” the GSOMIA “as a tool to contain China’s growing influence in Asia”. Park Won-gon, a professor of international politics at Handong Global University, has said: “Amid an escalating Sino-US diplomatic row, Washington wants to present a united front with Korea and Japan against China, but under the circumstance, Korea’s GSOMIA termination may bring about a fiercer backlash from the US government than last year”.

Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University, also thinks that “terminating the GSOMIA would not work” in South Korea’s favor. “Threatening to cancel GSOMIA provides no negotiating leverage with Japan, but instead damages Seoul’s credibility because it reflects a fundamental misreading of the strategic environment. The move would unnecessarily reduce South Korea’s capabilities, seriously damage its standing in Washington, and embolden Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow to employ greater coercion against Seoul”, he added.

Still, Moon Jae-in’s policies on this particular issue often, somewhat unwittingly, harm its relations with the US.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, Leading Research Fellow at the Centre for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Eastern Asia, Economics, Featured, Locations, South Korea]

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[l] at 8/13/20 12:53pm

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One of the advantages of liberal democracy is that there is a greater separation of powers in that system than a dictatorship, or the pseudo-democracies run by oligarchs behind the scenes, can ever have. Governments can be forced to answer to parliaments, even when they don’t want to, and judiciaries can act according to law rather than government dictate.

Everyone is still rightly outraged by the Watergate scandal from nearly 50 years ago. But in most of the world, Congress and the legal system would never have been able to bring down a president who obstructed justice because he knew it would implicate him in criminal acts.

Indeed, one of the factors which brought Nixon down was the very fact that he fired the Special Prosecutor who was building the case against him in the now notorious “Saturday Night Massacre.” Even then he only succeeded in doing this at the third attempt, two successive Attorney Generals resigning within a few minutes of each other rather than carry out the presidential order.

Consequently, the whole concept of “Miscarriage of Justice” has meaning in liberal democracies, as the independence of different branches of the state, and the media, can be used to ensure mistakes made by the judicial system are corrected. Furthermore, we usually discover that these miscarriages of justice are caused by a violation of the separation of powers: there has been political interference by the government in the judicial process, or by individuals who thought they were doing what the government wanted.

For all these reasons, a miscarriage of justice declared by the courts themselves after the event is BIG news. The victim often becomes a minor celebrity, and the campaigners who gained their release, often in the face of great hostility, are treated as heroes.

So why are we only seeing a small trickle of news about the overturning of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence? The story has been on prominent sites, yes, but compared with those about, say, NFL player Brian Banks, it is barely causing a ripple.

Admittedly the judgement in Tsarnaev’s case remains in place, it is merely the death sentence which has been overturned. But we all heard a lot more about Nixon Vice-President Spiro Agnew’s unsuccessful appeal for an income tax deduction for paying the court fines imposed on him for accepting bribes whilst Governor of Maryland, and that was merely a civil matter.

The overturning of Tsarnaev’s death sentence should be big news, but it isn’t. If we revisit the crime Tsarnaev was convicted for, we can see a host of reasons why – and why news organisations themselves, which are supposed to give the public the truth, have much to hide.

Long arm of misrule

There have always been many questions about the Boston Marathon Bombing. One of the reasons for this is that much of what we do know about it derives from TV footage of the crime itself, but this is one case where we can’t assume that seeing is believing. Also, there are questions about Georgian connections, and that would have opened a BIGGER can of worms.

Much of this footage has mysteriously vanished from Youtube searches. At one time one of the first videos which came up was a frame by frame analysis of the official footage of the event, shot “as it happened.”

However, many of the discrepancies highlighted in this analysis are also referenced by journalist Russ Baker. He describes in a series of articles the same pattern of vilification of evidence, and then wilful appropriation of the truth when it can no longer be ignored, which any investigative journalist is very familiar with.

There is the suspicious case of the news cameraman who appears to be operating his camera whilst wearing sunglasses. As much of the evidence used against Tsarnaev in court was in video form, it matters who this person was, and why he was filming in such an unprofessional way if he really belonged to a news network.

There is the fact that whenever a disputed part of the evidence of what was happening on the ground should have been shown, the official cameras panned up to broken glass in buildings, ignoring what could have been vital testimony. There is the fact that two disconnected halves of the same body somehow superimpose themselves on supposedly live footage, put there by an unknown hand who knew where the original shot was.

All this can be dismissed as mere conspiracy theory. The bombing did happen, and Tsarnaev has admitted it.

But so did Sirhan Sirhan, assassin of Robert Kennedy, who now says he has no memory of what happened or what his motive was. This is hardly surprising, as the fight to identify a possible second gunman, who would have actually fired the fatal shot, is led by Paul Schrade, who was shot in the same incident and doesn’t believe the official version either.

If it is possible that the official version of that 1968 assassination is incorrect, after all these years of intense investigation, you have to ask why, when every possible piece of evidence, genuine and otherwise, has been shown to the authorities? For whatever motive, someone has made a decision that only one version can be correct, and will not look at others backed by evidence.

This is exactly what governments do when furthering policy, but exactly what an independent judiciary should never do. This is how miscarriages of justice are identified, and therefore in any case where this happens, there is a possibility that the accepted facts might be wrong – and this should, by definition, be investigated by governments, judiciary and media.

True if the lesser evil

The appeals court decision to quash the death penalty imposed on Tsarnaev, who will still be imprisoned for life because the verdict was not questioned, was based on a variety of factors. The main one however was not vetting for jury bias.

Every member of every jury has some sort of bias. As corrupt former Premier of Queensland Joh Bjelke-Petersen pointed out, when it was revealed that the jury foreman at one of his trials was a member of his party, many of the other jurors were known opponents of his, who had an axe to grind now he was finally in the dock.

The issue here was that the judge at Tsarnaev’s trial didn’t ask prospective jurors what they thought they knew about the case before forming their opinion of the defendant. This affected whether they were more predisposed to listen to one set of arguments than another.

Somehow the system failed to discover that the forewoman of the jury had made Twitter posts praising Tsarnaev’s arrest and calling him a “piece of garbage,” despite his presumption of innocence. Another juror had defied court instructions by posting on twitter that he was a juror, leading one of his friends to declare he should “get on the jury” and send Tsarnaev “to jail where he will be taken care of,” before hearing a word of evidence in the case.

The appeal court has now decided that Tsarnaev did not receive a fair trial because the jurors were biased. However, it has also made clear that this only affects the decision to sentence him to death.

Apparently those same biases did not affect the jurors’ judgment of whether Tsarnaev was guilty or innocent. These statements indicating bias did not mention executing Tsarnaev, only assumed that he was guilty before he had been tried. They expressed no opinion on whether he should be executed or not, but are supposed to have affected the passing of that sentence but not the question of his guilt, which is what the statements are actually about.

Obviously, this is ludicrous. Tsarnaev has admitted his guilt, but so did several other people who have subsequently been declared innocent because the evidence does not support this contention. If admission of guilt alone is the criterion of guilt, there is no reason to try anyone who admits anything, but Tsarnaev was tried like any other person.

We are reminded that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, older brother of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was killed by police in a gunfight. Much like several other suspected terrorists in what could conceivably be false flag attacks – the ones where the police always found a foreign passport at the scene, and this somehow always got reported in the press, before the police themselves pointed out that no terrorist would carry his ID with him on a bombing mission.

As Russ Baker and his fellow investigate journalists have pointed out, Tamerlan had ties to the FBI. This explains why the Tsarnaev brothers were identified as the perpetrators so quickly, and why it is very convenient that Tamerlan isn’t around to tell the world what those ties were, and therefore what is in the files on him which the FBI refuses to release.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wouldn’t be the first person to be promised rewards for confessing to a crime he didn’t commit. Sirhan Sirhan was due to be executed, but California then abolished the death penalty. Maybe there are some crimes even desperate politicians cannot stomach committing.

But you also can’t have bias without accusation. Those declared guilty by politicians, for political reasons, are found guilty by the media for those same political reasons. The mainstream media declared the Tsarnaev brothers guilty long before the courts did, and that is where the “jury bias” originated.

Unquestioned answers

It is perfectly possible that the Tsarnaev brothers really did plan and execute the Boston Marathon Bombing on their own initiative. But the question remains – why has all the obvious official cover-up been necessary?

Why are there so many problems with the footage of the bombing? How did the FBI know exactly who to look for, and where, amongst that dense crowd of onlookers?

Why did the mainstream media immediately declare the Tsarnaev brothers guilty, just like many others who subsequently embarrassed the media when they were not only declared innocent, but victims of a fit-up by people who knew the evidence against them was impermissible, false or didn’t exist?

How did Tamerlan and other friends of the Tsarnaevs end up dead, despite their proven links to the FBI? Why was the identity of the officer who killed Ibragim Todashev, a friend of the Tsarnaevs, covered up until it was discovered that he had a track record of police brutality and making misleading statements, but had somehow bypassed all the necessary checks when being hired out of retirement by the FBI?

Even if the Tsarnaevs are guilty as charged, these things matter because they demonstrate that someone who has influence with the media, law enforcement and the judiciary knew what was going on and directed the response to it after the event. How many people have such influence, and how have they obtained it?

All roads lead to Rome

The US has conducted its alleged War on Terror for a generation now. But it has never explained who exactly is going to attack the mighty US of A, and how they are going to do it.

Enemy regimes have been identified with distressing frequency, but none has launched any missiles at the US. Whole populations and religions have been declared terrorist, yet the US has continued to arm and recruit for organisations it calls terrorist, and even taken over countries such as Georgia to provide a “legal” means of supplying them and directing their operations.

No terrorist organisation has anything to gain by attacking the US, which could wipe them all out in a week if it wanted. This is why you rarely see any reporting of the fact that the supposedly unstoppable Islamic State has been defeated by Muslim countries who actually oppose it. If people ask why Uncle Sam can’t do the same, they will soon find that Uncle Sam is keeping all these terrorists in business, because both sides need the other to function.

Doubtless there are individuals and groups in the US who do not agree with the US government or state, and are ready to take violent action against them. The same is true in any country. But why do you then use tainted evidence to identify and oppose them, if they are a genuine threat?

The US military-industrial complex needs wars. When the public starts objecting to the cost of these, it needs an ongoing terrorist threat. The US government needs one to justify its adventures and excuse domestic failings. The media needs one to provide easy answers which continue to give it access to bigger information it wants.

Only the US public, and those murdered in Boston, do not need a domestic terrorist threat. As ever, they are bottom of the queue. If the US can’t resolve this, it can only lead democracy to a destruction no one actually wants. This story is only the beginning, and much more will revealed as US presidential elections near, and a new poster boy for “law and order” is needed, and to impose the death penalty.

Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics, USA in the World]

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[l] at 8/13/20 10:30am

HAGA32342

Turkish lira, as of recently, has been in a freefall, indicating the overall health of Turkish economy. Since the beginning of 2020, Lira has fallen by 20 per cent against US dollar. Its adverse impact on the economy and politics has, however, been largely absorbed by the euphoria of Hagia Sophia and the intense symbolism of return to Ottoman glory. Whereas Turkey’s Erdogan blamed the pandemic and Beirut explosion for the recent devaluation, Turkey’s economy was already on the verge of collapse even before the pandemic hit Turkey. As it stands, the Turkish central bank has lost almost a third of its foreign exchange reserves this year, despite heavy foreign-currency borrowings from Turkish banks to artificially boost reserve numbers. Coupled with Erdogan’s stunning defeat in elections last year, when his party lost control of major municipalities, including the capital Ankara and commercial hub Istanbul, the on-going economic crunch was already hitting the self-styled ‘neo-Ottoman’ leader in his face when he decided to convert Hagia Sophia, a cathedral-tuned-museum, into a mosque.

Surely, Turkey was in no dire need of mosques. Just a year ago, Erdoğan inaugurated the Çamlıca Mosque on the Asian side of Istanbul—a huge complex designed to accommodate more than 60,000 worshippers per day. Certainly, Hagia Sophia was not converted into a mosque to accommodate more faithful worshippers; the conversion was/is meant to give a religio-nationalist boost to the domestic political landscape to help Erdogan raise his political stature above the dwindling economy and Turkey’s costly external interventions in Libya and Syria.

Indeed, just when the pandemic was only beginning to spread in Turkey, Turkey’s economy was in tatters, forcing Ankara, lacking the essential funds to provide a meaningful social shield against the economic fallout of the pandemic, to launch a campaign to collect donations from the public. The fact that these measures have failed to put the economy back on track and that a dwindling economy does not bode well for Erdogan’s political future also explain why the regime has not decided to knock on the IMF’s door.

Already, about 85 countries have went to the IMF for bailout packages due to adverse impact of the pandemic on their economies. Going to the IMF at this stage when the official narrative continues to paint Turkey as a ‘strong economy’ would have been self-defeating. Indeed, Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have long maligned their predecessors for borrowing from the IMF, depicting a new, economically strong Turkey that no longer needs the IMF support. While the AKP regime would not go to the IMF, there is no gainsaying that a continued economic fall will have severe political implications for Erdogan, allowing the opposition to rally people against him; hence, Erdogan’s increasing resort to populism to buttress his failing fortunes and create a smoke screen of ‘Ottoman glory.’

As such, by projecting this conversion as a ‘reconquering’ and a ‘great victory’ and calling ‘Al-Aqsa’ mosque as the next target, Erdogan underscored the political message of creating a ‘neo-Ottoman’ territory that goes beyond Turkey’s current territorial borders. Indeed, Erdogan regime has also been projecting Turkey’s foreign interventions, particularly in Libya, as the key to reclaiming the lost ‘Ottoman glory.’

The drive towards reclaiming the lost glory is rooted in Erdogan’s brand of Turkish nationalism and the way he diffuses it with religion. Hagia Sophia’s conversion, in this context, symbolises the increasing rise of religious forces in Turkey and the hegemony of the practitioners of a particular brand of faith. Indeed, while a lot of Western countries were quick in their criticism of the move, Erdogan was clever enough to even use this criticism to his advantage to pitch even more effectively his ‘neo-Ottoman’ credentials to his voters.

Indeed, popular media punditic close to the regime have equally been investing their time and energy in glorifying this conversion as the revival of the lost glory. For Yusuf Kaplan, this conversion shows “Turkey’s recovery, reclaim of its identity, history and spirit, its mental liberation… The re-opening of the Hagia Sophia Mosque is the spark that will trigger the great journey we have been called upon so that we can escape the web spun by the West – and which we had entered voluntarily – to build the new age…” The rhetoric speaks a lot of populism whereby Turkey is projected as “going away” from the west, even though the same regime continues to pitch to the US ideas to create a global supply route to counter China. These ideas show a desire far deeper engagement with the West than a calculated distance.

For Erdogan and AKP, this conversion is also the key to Turkey’s leadership in the Muslim world. Indeed, this is how the regime is speaking to its voters.

“The conversion of Hagia Sophia signifies that Turkey will rise to the position of a founding country that will a kick-start a new age, build a new age, lead the Islamic world in the establishment of a new world, and the declaration to the whole world that Turkey is the only country that can achieve this”, wrote Kaplan.

This is Erdogan’s populist political strategy that he intends to use to counter political opposition which was able to focus their campaign entirely on the questions of economic development and corruption in the AKP to defeat the ruling party in Istanbul elections twice. For the opposition parties, the task will now be to focus on the regime’s economic and political performance than this conversion, which is anyway is a ‘popular’ measure, to build a strong counter-narrative.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Economics, Featured, Locations, Middle East, Turkey]

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[l] at 8/13/20 12:59am

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The situation in the small emirate of Bahrain, situated in the waters of the Persian Gulf, has once again caught the attention of media outlets worldwide. The matter at hand is that the country’s Supreme Court upheld the death penalty against two people accused of killing a police officer, despite international concerns about their confessions, which human rights groups believe were coerced through torture.

Mohamed Ramadan and Hussein Ali Moosa, activists in the “For Democracy” movement, were arrested in 2014 after a police officer was killed in an explosion in a village to the northeast of the island nation’s capital, Manama. Along with them, ten other people were also imprisoned and tortured. Mohamed Ramadan, Hussein Ali Moosa, and their lawyers, according to The Guardian, have exhausted all possible options for legal recourse, and carrying out the death sentence could take place at any time. Mohamed Ramadan’s wife, Zainab Ebrahim, said that she and her husband’s lawyer were forbidden to enter the courtroom, with no explanation given for the reason.

“Today’s verdict is yet another dark spot in the struggle for human rights in Bahrain, and demonstrates that the regime has an iron grip on the country’s corrupt judicial system. This terrible injustice could not have happened without the tacit consent of Bahrain’s Western allies,” bitterly stated Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD).    Maya Foa, director of the UK legal charity Reprieve, said that when faced with demands from MPs to act to save the lives of these people, the government once again spoke about its relationship with Bahrain and the support given by Britain, which has allegedly helped the kingdom “move in a positive direction” in the area of human rights.    The Foreign Secretary talks about regimes with blood on their hands, continued Maya Foa, but Britain’s role in these illegal death sentences, and its apparent reluctance to intervene to stop them, is deeply disturbing.

Incidentally, some glimmers of hope for the release of these human rights advocates first came to light in 2018, when a court of cassation overturned the death sentences, and after the proclamations made by human rights groups it ordered local authorities to investigate whether the men were tortured. The death sentences were reinstated on 8 January by the Supreme Court of Appeal.  Bahraini authorities have confirmed that the two men were behind the “terrorist” attack on 14 February in Al Dair, a village north of the capital Manama, AFP reported.   The incident allegedly came amidst a wave of attacks on police, and other violent incidents, which erupted after widescale street protests in 2011 demanding a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain, and that a prime minister be elected.

Along with that, thousands of people staged nationwide demonstrations throughout Bahrain on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the popular uprising against the ruling Khalifa dynasty. Demonstrators took to the streets in the capital city, Manama, as well as a number of villages in its suburbs, and demanded the immediate release of Sheikh Ali Salman, a 54-year-old prominent Shia cleric and the general secretary of the disbanded national Islamic society Al-Wefaq, as well as other political prisoners.   On 28 January 2019, the Bahrain Supreme Court upheld a life sentence against the leader of the Shiite opposition on charges of espionage for Qatar.   According to a statement released by the public prosecutor, the court upheld the verdict against Ali Salman and his aides, Ali Al-Aswad and Hasan Sultan, for “spying for a foreign nation with the aim of … overthrowing the government.”

The London-based Bahraini Institute for Rights and Democracy condemned the decision at the time, and Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei described the court’s verdict as “political revenge and an insult to justice.” Punishing peaceful dissidents for leading protests against a corrupt ruling family has nothing in common with justice. This verdict “brings disgrace to the rulers of Bahrain and their allies … and specifically the United States and Great Britain”.  The trio was initially acquitted by the High Criminal Court, but this decision was later overturned by the Court of Appeal on 4 November 2018. Demonstrations in Bahrain have been taking place regularly since the popular uprising began in mid-February 2011. Its participants are demanding that the regime ruled by the Khalifa dynasty relinquish its power, and allow the creation of an equitable system that represents all Bahraini people, and primarily the Shia population. However, the ruling regime has done much to suppress any signs of ideological dissent.   On 5 March 2017, the Bahraini parliament approved the trying of civilians in military tribunals, which is a measure condemned by human rights activists as tantamount to the imposing unofficial martial law in the country, and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa ratified the constitutional amendment on 3 April 2017.

However, apparently, it could not have been otherwise, since Manama is where the United States Fifth Fleet is headquartered, and that is from where the Pentagon controls the entire Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Great Britain, which for a century and a half dominated the Bahrain islands, also still maintains many of its warships in Manama. The importance Bahrain holds for the United States’ expansionist policy is attested to by the fact that at one time the CIA director and the Secretary of Defense were in agreement that the last stronghold in the Persian Gulf that they would leave would be the naval base in Manama. That is why it does not take many words, or pieces of evidence, to understand the unconditional support that Washington and London have for the monarchical regime of the Sunni Khalifa in Bahrain.

It is worth mentioning that after facing harsh condemnation of its domestic policy from the international community the ruling regime decided to somewhat loosen the stranglehold it has on the neck of the Shia population. The decision to release prominent human rights advocate Nabeel Rajab was widely broadcast in Manama, and he was allowed to serve the remainder of his internationally criticized prison sentence under house arrest.   Nabeel Rajab, who is 55, put on a garland of white roses after he was released, and smiled as he posed with his family for the first time since his arrest in June 2016, reports AP.  Mr. Rajab was one of the central figures in the 2011 protests, demanding more rights from the monarchy for the Shia population, and he is also the co-founder and president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

He received a five-year prison sentence for his tweets about the torture that occurs in the country’s prisons, and for his criticism of the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen. He received an additional two-year prison sentence for television interviews in which he criticized the ruling regime of the Khalifa dynasty, and said that it usurps power to the detriment of the people of Bahrain. It is now unclear how long Nabeel Rajab will have to live under the strict supervision by the police.

Incidentally, the Constitution of Bahrain guarantees its citizens freedom of speech. However, Nabeel Rajab was prosecuted under laws that prohibit insulting a foreign country, spreading rumors when there is a war, or “insulting” a government institution. This drew international criticism from both activists and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.   For many years, he was subjected to persecution, including imprisonment, and there is no other explanation for this, except that he chooses to exercise his right to express these kinds of views and beliefs, UN experts stated.  In the years that have passed since the 2011 protests, Bahrain has dismantled opposition groups, jailed activists, and stripped more than 700 people of their citizenship.  The United States, under President Barack Obama, postponed the approval for a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighters to Bahrain due to human rights concerns, but Trump later approved the sale without even taking these concerns into consideration.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Special Aide to the President of the Islamic Parliament of Iran in International Affairs, sharply criticized the Khalifa regime for violating Bahraini citizens’ human rights.  “In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic crisis, support for the death penalty for two young Bahraini people shows that the rift between the Khalifa dynasty and Bahrain’s citizens is huge,” the aide wrote on Twitter.  Iran strongly condemns the torture, death sentences, and systematic violations of human rights occurring in Bahrain, he added, and called on the Khalifa regime to reform the way it engages with its own citizens in the interest of promoting peace and tranquility in the Persian Gulf region.

Victor Mikhin, member-correspondent of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.

 

 

[Category: Bahrain, Columns, Featured, Locations, Middle East, Politics]

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[l] at 8/12/20 12:53pm

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The Wall Street Journal, the more conservative daily newspaper of New York City voiced support for Trump’s moves against TikTok in an official editorial, while also raising some mild apprehensions. The August 5th editorial said: “Mr. Trump has threatened a ban, but that would weaken competition and do nothing to limit Chinese big-footing abroad.” It seems apparent to the WSJ editors that TikTok would not disappear simply because it was banned from the US market, and that the restraints and compromises TikTok has made to remain available in the United States would no longer be in effect.

However, in the Wall Street Journal’s criticism of TikTok, some odd statements appeared. The editors wrote: “Last year TikTok was accused of censoring videos of Hong Kong protests. ByteDance denied this and said protest videos didn’t appear in users feeds because they weren’t popular with users.”

The editorial goes on to quote ByteDance, the parent company behind TikTok, as saying it restricted “demonisation or distortion of local or other countries’ history such as the May 1998 riots of Indonesia, Cambodian genocide, Tiananmen incidents” and “highly controversial topics, such as separatism, religion sect conflicts, conflicts between ethnic groups…”

Are Social Media Apps Require To Promote Instability?

The implication behind the Wall Street Journal’s words is that somehow it is the duty of TikTok and other social media apps to promote events like the Hong Kong Protests. TikTok has never censored such videos and many critics of the Chinese government who support the Hong Kong protests are vocal on the app. However, TikTok has not highlighted these videos and allowed them to show up in newsfeeds the way western apps such as Facebook and Twitter have.

It is no secret that the US State Department and intelligence apparatus has used social media to advance its goals. During the Arab Spring events of 2011, the Hillary Clinton State Department was quite open about the fact that it coordinated with Google/Alphabet and other tech giants. Jared Andrew Cohen of Jigsaw directly advised Hillary Clinton during this time, and is currently an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Leaks have revealed that facebook has “News Curators” who select which stories go viral and which stories do not. Individuals targeted by the US government such as Alexander Dugin, have been removed from platforms like youtube.

Its not secret that Washington used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other outlets to push its geopolitical agenda, and attempt to weaken Russia and China and other anti-imperialist states. However, the new question is this: Was Social Media created simply to serve empire? Was this the entire purpose to begin with?

Washington and Silicon Valley

In 1999, the newly accessible internet was key in enabling the Falun Gong extremists to stage a series of well coordinated protests across the Chinese mainland. It was in response to these moves that China began exercising more control over the world wide web. The same year we saw US State Department backed “activists” in Otpor engage in a series of disruptions that eventually resulted in bringing down Milosevic and the socialist government of Serbia. They utilized the internet for their actions as well.

The links of Silicon Valley to American intelligence are no secret either. Loans from the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies enabled Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Erich Schmidt and others to set up their tech monopolies.

As far back at the 1970s, US geopolitical strategists realized that despite the fact that the USSR was very effective at developing computer technology on its own, it simply did not have the resources to invest in it. The NATO treaty banning the sale or sharing of high technology to the USSR and the constant need for spending in the nuclear arms race (dubbed an arms “catch up” by Michael Parenti) made it impossible for the USSR to build its own silicon valley.

The US market sector wasn’t exactly promoting the computer revolution either, as it involved quite a bit of risk. However, the intelligence agencies, seeing an opening geopolitically, arranged for southern California to have a government subsidized tech boom. This put the USA ahead of the Soviet Union and centered the emerging global tech sector around the United States.

So, if the Computer Revolution itself was a scheme to advance US power, and the social media giants openly work with the US state department and intelligence apparatus… was social media a plot all along?

Was the entire goal of social media to coordinate protests and disruptions around the world? Was Facebook, Twitter, and youtube set up simply for the purpose of destabilizing anti-imperialist countries and securing the post-Cold War hegemony of Wall Street and London?

The idea that TikTok is illegitimate as a social media app, simply for not allowing Hong Kong Protest videos to blow up in people’s news feeds, certainly gives that impression. Social media may have been a geopolitical scheme all along.

Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics, USA in the World]

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[l] at 8/12/20 11:25am

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The United States has always regarded itself as the “exceptional “nation. That view may in many circumstances be relatively benign. It becomes less so when it is used as a justification for treating other countries as being less significant in the overall order of things. It is even less justifiable when that exceptionalism is taken as a justification for imposing one’s will and wishes upon the rest of the world. That is a tendency that has been a characteristic of United States foreign policy, certainly since the end of World War Two.

The United States has long assumed for itself the right to pronounce on the acceptability or otherwise of nations in its own geographical area under the so-called Munroe doctrine. This was a self-appointed role, certainly within the western hemisphere. It is a doctrine that still asserts itself as the recent interference in the domestic affairs of Venezuela and Nicaragua amply demonstrate.

Going back further in time, the United States has waged economic and political war on Cuba since the 1959 overthrow by socialist revolutionaries of the corrupt Batista regime. United States arrogance and exceptionalism is encapsulated in the United States’ retention of the Guantanamo Bay military base on Cuban soil despite the manifest wishes of successive Cuban governments that the United States should pack its bags and leave.

The total disregard for the wishes of the sovereign Cuban government is exemplified by the continued use not only of Guantanamo as a US military base, but the use of that base as a centre for the indefinite detention of persons deemed by the United States to be a threat to its national integrity.

Few points better illustrate the hypocrisy of the United States’ claim to be a democracy based on the rule of law than the indefinite detention, without trial, of persons defined by the United States government to be a threat. Most, if not all of those persons are accused of involvement in the attacks of 11th of September 2001 on buildings in New York City and Washington DC, or at the very least some form of association with those alleged terrorists.

The indefinite detention without trial of the accused persons persists for the very good reason that any genuinely fair trial would exonerate them of any culpability in the attacks in the United States on 11th of September 2001. This travesty of justice makes a continuing mockery of United States claims to be any kind of model democracy.

Since the end of World War II, the self-defined and self-justifying model has extended far beyond the original confines of the Munroe doctrine. This manifests itself in multiple ways, including a network of more than 800 United States military bases around the world, these days divided between Russia and China as the focus of their military targeting.

The infinite capacity for self-delusion of the western media is exemplified by their constant reporting of alleged Russian and Chinese ambitions to control the world while totally ignoring the profoundly aggressive and self-serving behaviour of the United States.

Another illustration of this relentless desire to control the fate of other nations is currently exemplified by the United States’ attempts to subvert the completion of the project known as Nord Stream 2.

The countries of Europe have developed economies and a generally high standard of living. In order to oil the machines of their economies however, and to warm their populations through the harsh European winter, they require energy. Apart from coal, now largely phased out on a variety of grounds, including environmental damage, they lack the means of fuelling their economies and heating or air conditioning their populations.

That is where Russian oil and gas enter into the picture, Russia enjoying an abundance of both and the means, motive and willingness to supply Europe. On any objective assessment, it is a classic, to use the Chinese phrase, win win situation. Europe has its energy needs met; Russia has a valuable source of foreign currency, and probably a political bonus from being a reliable and relatively cheap source of needed energy.

According to a recent (6 August 2020) report in Sputnik, a Russian news website, the Nord Stream 2 project will supply up to 55 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year from Russia to Germany, the latter country being the economic powerhouse of Europe.

Russian natural gas is to be supplied to Germany under the Nord Stream 2 project by pipeline, passing through the territorial waters of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Germany and Russia itself. The pipeline is 1230 km in length, and at the time of writing had less than 100 km of construction needed to make its completion. The scheduled completion date is later in 2020, in what is estimated to be less than 100 days.

In July 2020 the final legal hurdle was overcome when Denmark approved the use of its territorial waters for a small section of the pipelines route. To view the matter in terms of the benefits that accrue to the supplying nation Russia and the recipient nations, including but not limited to Germany, is however to underestimate the geopolitics.

The United States, which wishes to sell its own, much more expensive, gas to Europe has opposed the project from the outset. The objective viewers response might well be, how is Europe’s energy supply a matter of grave concern to the United States, even putting to one side the obvious commercial interest in selling its own energy to Europe?

Such a question gravely underestimates the American objections. Firstly, the idea that Germany (and others) should make such decisions so manifestly in their own interest, is anathema to the Americans. For the past 70+ years the United States has imposed its will upon Europe’s nations and does not lightly accept any challenge to that hegemony.

Secondly, that the project is obviously in the economic and political interests of Russia is reason of itself for United States opposition. Successive US governments have been tireless in their portrayal of the “Russian threat”, and any mutually beneficial cooperation between Russia and its neighbours clearly undermines that propaganda.

The American opposition goes even further however, as enormous pressure has been applied at every juncture to cancel the project. This has included the imposition of United States sanctions on individuals, companies and countries that have been involved in the project. According to a recent report in the German news outlet Welt am Sonntag, United States officials from the Department of State, Energy and Treasury have approached European contractors associated with the project to ensure “they fully understand the consequences” of staying in the project.

This goes beyond expressing a point of view and seeking to encourage others to accept one’s own point of you. It is blatant and totally unacceptable interference in the rights and privileges of sovereign states and their independent companies and the rights of both to make decisions on their own perception of self-interest.

A new Bill currently before the United States Senate aims to extend sanctions to every state or company that has any involvement in the Nord Stream project. It was hardly a coincidence that within days of the Danish government given the green light to the use of its waters in the project that the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a sudden visit to the country. Only the terminally naïve would believe that Denmark’s recent agreement to participate in the pipeline was not both the motive for the visit, but also the main topic of Pompeo’s discussions with the Danish authorities.

Thus far, Pompeo’s pressure seems to have been unsuccessful. The project looks like being completed on schedule. Both Russia and Europe will benefit. Perhaps the most significant result however, is that the failure of United States pressure and sabotage to convince the Europeans to act contrary to their own best interests appears to have failed. If that is a further symptom of the continuing decline of US influence in Europe then it is wholly to be welcomed.

James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Economics, Europe, Featured, Locations]

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[l] at 8/12/20 6:00am
USD674534 Last week, the US State Department presented yet another report on Russia’s alleged steps in the “dispersion of fake news”. The report was released under a scandalous title: “Russia’s Pillars of Disinformation and Propaganda”, however, the creativity of those behind the report ended with that title. At first glance, it would seem that there would be a lot of substance in a 77-pages long paper that features a lot of colorful pictures. However, the low quality of the analysis presented outweighs the picturesque advantages of the report. It’s clear that this paper was prepared in a hurry in anticipation of the 2020 Democratic National Convention that is scheduled for August 17-20. The very topic of the report reeks of something stale. However, those behind the report have somehow come to a conclusion that their ability to release a colorful brochure would make their words sound more “scientific”. However, they fell short of fulfilling their aspirations. From the very start of the paper its authors began leveling baseless accusations against the media sources that dare to voice opinions that contradict the views of those behind the brochure, that’s why they are labelled as “propaganda outlets” and “disinformation operations.” How else can one explain the fact that a popular Canadian site Global Research was featured in this paper? Our journal, New Eastern Outlook, has also ended up on that list, where it was for some reason described as a “pseudo-academic publication.” It’s clear that those who wanted to frame our journal as a “source of propaganda and disinformation” didn’t know how to marry that notion with the fact that we’re hosted at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In that respect, one could hardly resist the temptation of quoting the renowned Russian diplomat, poet and writer Alexander Griboyedov, who wrote in his comedy Woe from Wit: “Who are the Judges?!” On what grounds do those behind the aforementioned paper pass their judgement about a journal by only reading titles, without studying the articles themselves? We, for once, don’t know anything about the scientific achievements of those behind the brochure, about their previous publications and presentations. We don’t even know their names. The content of the aforementioned report speaks volumes about the incredibly low level of analytical approach professed by those who tried to draft it. Back in the Cold War years, there were hundreds of analytical centres all across the United States that studied anything and everything Russia-related, however the foundation upon which they were built is all but destroyed these days. And it seems that this shallow approach has become the new normal for US foreign policy in different parts of the world. Our journal specializes in the study of Middle Eastern and African problems and we know a lot about the consequences of the policies that Washington pursued in these regions of the world. Even American media sources and American politicians are now forced to recognize the disastrous consequences of the short-sighted decisions of the United States. At the same time, they are the ones to recognize the success of the policies that Russia advances in these same parts of the world. This fact may serve as testament to the inability of those behind the brochure to tell an “academic publication” from a “pseudo-academic publication”. As for the massive funds that the US State Department allocates on the release of such papers and the initiatives that are associated with such, it’s an entirely different topic. However, the glaringly low quality of such studies shows that it’s not a case of money being well-spent. But what else can one expect from those who can just print money? Have we noticed anything new in the aforementioned paper from the point of view of the principles that guide the way media sources operate? It seems that if somebody replaced the word “Russia” with the word “US”, nobody would notice any difference. Now, look who’s talking! One wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the massive US experience in spreading information that serves its interests the best was used to make the evaluation of Russian media sources. However, our editorial board remains grateful to those readers and authors who remain committed to the principles that our journal professes, to the objective, intellectual, analytical approach to the coverage of international events. The New Eastern Outlook editorial board.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Society, USA in the World]

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[l] at 8/12/20 12:00am

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On the night of July 10, 2020, the body of the 64-year-old mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, who had taken his own life, was found in the woods of Mount Bugak in northern Seoul.  The liberal politician and human rights activist, Park Won-soon, was a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea. He first became mayor of the capital in 2011 and was subsequently re-elected to the post 2 more times in a row. The 64-year-old was viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election.

Park Won-soon actively defended the rights of comfort women. In fact, in 2000, he represented their interests at the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal. While Park Won-soon was the mayor of the capital, he focused on improving the standard of living of its residents, reducing the level of economic inequality and solving problems the city faced. During the Candlelight Revolution, Park Won-soon gained a reputation of being an ardent opponent of former conservative President Park Geun-hye. He openly supported the staging of large-scale protests in the center of Seoul, which, in the end, led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

Park Won-soon also tackled the COVID-19 pandemic head on. He took a number of effective measures to limit the spread of the Coronavirus.

So why did he take his own life?

The suicide note left in his office and made public by his chief secretary did not really provide an answer to this question. Still, South Korean media outlets immediately linked Park Won-soon’s death to a sexual harassment complaint filed against him by his former secretary on July 8. She claimed the harassment began in 2017, when she first started working for him. The former employee accused the mayor of making unwelcome physical contact and sending her inappropriate messages. The victim, whose identity has not been made public, stated that “she had reached out to colleagues for help but didn’t receive any and mentioned that she knew other victims in the city government who were too afraid to do anything”. The woman then quit her job and “sought psychiatric treatment and counseling before filing the complaint”.

There are, however, a number of oddities in Park Won-soon’s case, which set it apart from most other stories of this nature.  First of all, there is the mayor’s background to consider. He was a staunch defender of women’s rights. It is of course possible that he was in fact a two-faced scumbag. But journalists and analysts described him as an open person. Hence, from the author’s viewpoint, the possibility that he was the type of person who said one thing and did another is not very high.

Secondly, the former secretary has been behaving in an unusual manner in comparison to other victims at the center of similar sexual harassment cases. The fact that the victim’s name has not been made public raises questions although it is understandable that keeping her identity secret is arguably necessary in order to protect her from being hounded by the press and the public. Still, parallels can be drawn between the case of the recently deceased Park Won-soon and that of Ahn Hee-jung, a former Governor with a similar degree of political clout. Ahn Hee-jung was also considered to be a leading party candidate (who belonged to a different political faction to Moon Jae-in just as the former mayor) for the presidential election in 2022. But unlike Park Won-soon, he did not commit suicide, and instead denied the alleged sexual assault and claimed the relations were consensual. And there were far more opportunities to apply pressure on Ahn Hee-jung than on the mayor.

Thirdly, it is quite surprising that in the midst of an intense political rivalry at the time, the alleged victim, who must have been aware of the climate in her role as secretary to the mayor, did not try to put a stop to the unwanted advances straight away.

Fourthly, there is no proof that there is indeed a link between the accusations made by the victim and Park Won-soon’s suicide.

Finally, it is worth noting that in the story in question, unwritten rules of investigating such cases are not being followed at all. Typically, if the accused commits suicide, the complaint filed against them is dropped because the alleged perpetrator has “washed away their guilt with blood”. In this particular case, the accuser’s side is continuing to insist that the investigation continue. In fact, the victim’s legal team is demanding that the investigation is carried out by human rights organizations and not by authorities, and that it ought to focus not on the mayor per se but essentially on the office of the mayor and the culture of harassment prevalent there. This means that the secretary’s side is prepared to shift its position if the evidence against the mayor himself proves insufficient.

Still, the idea that Park Won-soon’s death was linked to accusations of sexual harassment made against him has easily permeated mass consciousness. It also finds support among conservatives because for them the case provides an additional opportunity to portray their political opponents as a democratic party of sexual harassers. After all, there have been other similar scandals. One of the most notorious cases is tied to Ahn Hee-Jung, who the author focused his report on over a year ago. We could also recall the failed lawsuit against Lee Jae-myung, the Governor of Gyeonggi-do (i.e. the province surrounding Seoul), who stood accused of sexual harassment. And his case remains memorable to this day.

Feminists and South Korea’s female rights organizations support the ongoing investigation because, at least in this particular story, the wrongdoing has been “punished”. From their point of view, the case is no different from others involving sexual harassment. In fact, while the events at the mayor’s office were unfolding, there was a whole series of horrid scandals with sexual undertones in which justice was not necessarily served in the end.

For instance, there was a case involving Welcome to Video, a child pornography website, that was shut down during an internationally coordinated operation. It was described as one of the largest networks of this nature to date. The “Nth room” case followed. Underage girls and young women “were often duped into giving” personal details to members of chat rooms on the Telegram messaging app, and “then blackmailed into obeying” the users’ sexual whims. Victims were often coerced into abusing their bodies and perpetrators “turned real-life assaults into online content”. Finally, there was a case involving a young female triathlete from South Korea who took her own life after enduring physical and verbal abuse at the hands of her coach, the team’s doctor and the captain.

It is understandable that crimes of this nature cause a great deal of distress within the South Korean society and why people are willing to believe such stories even if there is no evidence to prove they are true yet.

At this point, the author would like to share several of his own theories about the mayor’s death with his readers.  The first is best summarized as follows: it is not worth looking for hidden motives when the truth is staring one in the face. Allegations of sexual harassment have been made against South Korean bosses by their underlings so often that some experts even believe that such abuse is part of South Korea’s traditional corporate culture. The #Metoo movement in the ROK revealed a stark divide since members of the older generation do not view predatory behavior towards women as a crime.

This theory is the least probable in the author’s list for reasons mentioned previously. We must not forget that Park Won-soon, in his capacity as a lawyer, was among the first to raise the issue of sexual harassment. He was viewed as a staunch defender of women’s rights and, as mayor, he made achieving gender equality his key political goal.  According to the author’s sources, Park Won-soon was not a hypocrite in this regard, which is why he is not going to discard this particular theory just yet, but it is certainly not at the top of his list.

Another theory is fairly common place. The mayor and the secretary had a fairly friendly relationship, which encouraged him to take certain liberties with her. Still, neither side really crossed the line, otherwise the victim’s accusations would have been differed in nature. The secretary then quit her job, and it cannot be ruled out that a psychotherapist or a lawyer advised her to resolve her issues by laying the blame squarely at the mayor’s door. Park Won-soon might have perceived such an act as betrayal by someone he viewed as a friend. As a result, instead of putting up a fight and wielding his political clout, he immediately committed suicide.

Still, the theory that the death was politically motivated happens to be at the top of the author’s list. The case may involve not only actual sexual misconduct but also defamation and blackmail of such proportions that the politician, concerned with his reputation, chose to take his own life. After all, one must remember that the #Metoo movement is an extremely useful tool for destroying someone’s career’s in politics. In cases of this nature, the public tend to believe that an abuser is guilty rather than innocent until proven otherwise. And yet, there have been instances when accusers or victims were proven to be in the wrong in South Korea.  In addition, accusations of sexual harassment completely destroy an individual’s reputation, which is an important asset in politics of South Korea.

It is fairly easy to pull such schemes off. It must not have been difficult to convince the mentally unstable woman that the mayor was responsible for all her troubles or that she had to avenge the loss of her job. After all, she does not need to take any exorbitant risks. If everything goes to plan, a lawyer will continue to represent her interests in public, and afterwards, she can enter a witness protection program and get a new identity and name.

It is also relatively easy to get lawyers with radical feminist views involved. After all, they would have a preconceived notion about the case and would be willing to do everything in their power to prove their viewpoint is correct. And as mentioned before, the advantage is that despite the he-said-she-said nature of such allegations, the public would believe the victim, while tabloids and political opponents would ensure the case gains sufficient notoriety for a witch hunt to ensue.

And there are at least three influential groups who could have set the forced suicide in motion. The author’s first theory involves secret sects (including Protestant ones) against which mayor Park Won-soon began a “crusade” of sorts in order to stop the spread of the Coronavirus among their midst. The Sarang Jeil protestant church was among the most severely punished. Its leader was jailed for allegedly breaking public election law and for “violating the government’s guidelines for preventing” the spread of the new Coronavirus. Park Won-soon played an active role in persecuting Sarang Jeil’s head pastor, and Seoul City’s plan included destroying a building housing their church as part of an urban renewal plan. Afterwards, one conservative newspaper wrote that Park Won-soon had crossed the line, and that his actions could “be seen as politically-motivated religious oppression”.

The second theory concerns the mayor’s attempts to sort out Seoul’s real estate market. Prices in it are rising but the city government cannot do anything about this, largely because many high-ranking officials take advantage of their powerful positions to buy and sell properties in the capital, earning 200-300% in profit at times. Park Won-soon actively tried to bring them to heel and they could have retaliated.

Finally, the third theory is tied to the fact that Park Won-soon is Moon Jae-in’s third rival against whom such accusations have been made.  Ahn Hee-jung and Lee Jae-myung were also Moon Jae-in’s competitors within the leading party in a race to become its presidential candidates. And more recently, Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election (who, just as Ahn Hee-jung and Lee Jae-myung, belonged to a different faction to Moon Jae-in), was accused of similar misdeeds.

Hence, unfortunately, the author’s leading theory is that the death of Seoul’s mayor marks the start of a great battle to carve out a niche for oneself among Moon Jae-in’s potential successors. South Korea’s current President remembers what Roh Moo-hyun did to Kim Dae-jung’s loyal supporters and how members of the conservative party stabbed Park Geun-hye in the back. And he does not want the presidential hopeful to be a member of another camp within the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, after all, such an individual could throw him in jail just as Moon Jae-in had two conservative presidents imprisoned.

Hence, it is necessary to eliminate potential rivals and to do so cautiously and well ahead of time, especially since Moon Jae-in’s close allies and presidential hopefuls, such as Im Jong-seok or Kim Kyung-soo, do not compare too favorably with other potential candidates like former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon or the recently deceased Park Won-soon, who was viewed by many as a sensible politician. In such a context, the #Metoo movement is an ideal means of getting rid of rivals as the public does not see a link between sexual harassment cases and the elimination of competitors.

Still, for now, all of this is pure guesswork. And as the author extends his condolences on the death of one of South Korea’s few intelligent and competent politicians, he awaits further news, at the very least, about the ongoing investigation and promises to inform his readers about them.  In the end, the case involving the mayor’s death may either lead to an announcement that the investigation is over and no further developments or to a political scandal of unprecedented proportions.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, Leading Research Fellow at the Centre for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Locations, Politics, South Korea]

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[l] at 8/11/20 1:05pm

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Democracy by definition is a process of self-determination. For Thailand, democracy means the process of the Thai people determining the nation’s path into the future.

Nothing could have less to do with the Thai people and this process of democratic self-determination than a capital and its interests located on the other side of the planet. Yet that hasn’t stopped the United States from insisting otherwise.

Following the dissolution of Thai opposition party Future Forward for blatant violations of Thai election laws, the US embassy in Bangkok has been regularly mentioned in international and local media reports weighing in on the matter which most certainly constitutes Thailand’s internal affairs and should remain off-limits to foreign interests.

One example of this comes from English-language newspaper Bangkok Post in their article, “Pannika dodges rally questions,” in which Future Forward’s spokesperson explained that the disbanded party would resort to street mobs in order to continue pursing the party’s single-minded agenda of ousting the ruling government.

The article concludes by noting:

On Saturday, the US Embassy in Bangkok said the court decision risked disenfranchising the party’s voters and raised questions about their representation within Thailand’s electoral system.

It said the US strongly supports democratic governance around the world, and appreciates Thailand’s recent seating of a democratically elected government. The US does not favour any party, but noted that more than six million voters chose the FFP.

Indeed, more than six million voters chose Future Forward. However, omitted is the fact that several million more chose its larger and more established partners, Pheu Thai. Several million more still chose Palang Pracharath which currently leads the ruling government coalition which came into power following the 2019 general election.

Redefining “Democracy” as Needed 

In other words, Future Forward came in distant third and belongs to a political coalition with Pheu Thai holding a minority in parliament. In ordinary democracy, the minority does not decide or direct policies at the expense of the majority. In Washington’s version of democracy, facts like Future Forward’s unpopularity are spun or shrugged off in order to present it and its agenda as relevant regardless.

This is because Future Forward and its billionaire founder and leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit represent Washington’s latest efforts to place a client regime into power in Thailand as part of a wider regional effort to surround China with uncooperative and even hostile neighbours to hinder its regional and international rise.


Defending a US Client 

Thanathorn has toured the US and vowed to serve US interests. He has vowed to roll back Thai-Chinese relations and has even threatened to replace Chinese-built high-speed rail projects already under construction with non-existent US alternatives like the yet-to-be-developed “hyperloop.” 

Bloomberg’s “Thailand needs hyperloop, not China-built high-speed rail: Thanathorn,” would note:

A tycoon turned politician who opposes Thailand’s military government has criticised its US$5.6 billion high-speed rail project with China because hyperloop technology offers a more modern alternative.

An option such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One — which is working on building networks of pods traveling at airplane-like speeds — is better for Thailand as it would help the nation to be a technological leader, according to Future Forward Party head Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. 

Thanathorn’s threats to slash Thai military spending are aimed at curbing Thai-Chinese military relations and a recent spending spree by Bangkok to replace aging US hardware with newer and cheaper Chinese alternatives.

Bangkok Post’s “Future Forward Party vows to cut army budget,” reported:

The Future Forward Party (FFP) has vowed to cut the military budget and reduce the number of generals in the army, according to its secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul. 

Ignoring multiple wars waged by the US alone, Future Forward’s Piyabutr would claim as a tenuous excuse for slashing the military budget that:

“In today’s world, no one engages in wars any more.” 

It should come as no surprise then that the US, a nation engaged in multiple illegal military occupations around the globe would shamelessly inject itself and its interests into Thailand’s internal affairs particularly regarding the dissolution of what was clearly an opposition party backed by Washington. 

As Future Forward’s remnants now organise street protests it should be remembered how the US has backed similar street mobs in recent years including the so-called “Arab Spring” in 2011 and the more recent mobs in Hong Kong and how Hong Kong’s opposition is linked to Future Forward.

An October 2019 Reuters article titled, “China denounces Thai politicians for show of support to Hong Kong activists,” would report:

The Chinese embassy in Bangkok has condemned Thai politicians for showing support for Hong Kong activists involved in anti-government protests, saying it could harm the relationship between the two countries.

These “Thai politicians” included Future Forward’s Thanathorn. 

Reuters would also report:

The [Chinese] embassy criticism, in a statement on its official Facebook page late on Thursday, came days after Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong posted a picture on social media with prominent Thai opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

While many readers may take it for granted that the US embassy’s comments are regularly included in articles regarding Thailand’s internal political affairs, US meddling should not be taken for granted, accepted or in any way tolerated. 


The prospect of this verbal support transforming into material support for disruptive street protests is a direct threat to Thailand’s political and economic stability and that of the wider region and a threat already manifesting itself.

Street protests in Thailand are not only being openly led and supported by Thanathorn and others in his political party, core leaders including lawyer Anon Nampa are drawn from US government funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organisations.

Anon Nampa’s Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) is funded by the US via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

The Bangkok Post in a 2016 article, “The lawyer preparing to defend herself,” would also note:

…[TLHR] receives all its funding from international donors including the EU, Germany and US-based human rights organisations and embassies of the UK and Canada.

Screenshots of TLHR’s NED funding is also available.

The US NED also funds media platforms like Prachatai and legal organisations like iLaw which is currently petitioning to have Thailand’s entire constitution rewritten, The Nation would report.

It is worth repeating, iLaw, a US government-funded front, is petitioning to have Thailand’s constitution rewritten.

While Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs will likely defer to patience the public should take note not only of US meddling, but who that meddling is being done on behalf of as Future Forward attempts to cling to its existence and reinvent itself to carry on as a vector of foreign interests at the expense of Thailand and its own best interests.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics, Southeast Asia, Thailand]

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[l] at 8/11/20 11:45am

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Ever since the US invasion, Iraq’s political system has been anything but stable. For a country like Iran, which eyes the US-occupied Iraq as a US proxy ground, the imperative of preventing the use of Iraqi territory against itself holds premier significance. Therefore, Iranian imperative and the nature of its interests demand a kind of presence in Iraq that is not only not completely dependent on the leader of the country or the office of the prime minister, which is anyway unstable, but goes beyond it as well, allowing it to protect and materialise its interests. It is for this reason that Iran, unlike the US, has never been keen to install a proxy prime minister. On the contrary, its resistance ideology has been more focused on establishing fighting units which are not only deeply embedded in the society, but also allow Iran to flex its muscle rather freely and independently of the political leadership. This explains why Iran, despite having other preferred candidates on its list, still chose to back other candidates for prime ministership in 2006 and 2014 and in 2020.

In this context, the ‘instalment’ of Kadhimi as Iraq’s prime minister is far from a blow to Iran’s influence in Iraq. Neither is it an expression of “negative thinking” in Iraq against Iran, nor an expression of Iran’s loss of control over parties and blocs allied with it.

Although Kadhimi has a history of direct relations with the US and Saudia and continues to receive political, security, intelligence, and logistical support from his friends, his appointment is only an interim arrangement between Iraq’s warring political factions, although the US does want to make use of him to push back Iran’s influence, including Iran backed militias. Indeed, Kadhimi has taken some steps that seem to go in this direction. On June 26, he ordered a raid on the headquarters of one of the prominent Iran-backed militia factions south of Baghdad — Kata’ib Hezbollah, whom US officials have accused of firing rockets at bases hosting US troops. Arrested members of the militia were, however, quickly released.

However, notwithstanding these actions, Kadhimi is as weak a prime minister as the previous ones. The fact that Iran, despite having the power in the parliament to block his appointment, did not chose to do so speaks volumes about how it engages with Iraq and that it can always use this influence to bring a vote of no confidence against Kadhimi. The fact that Kadhimi is seen as a ‘pro-US’ is a weakness in the Iraqi context that can always trigger opposition into a movement. Iran, for now, is cultivating relations with Kadhimi to maintain friendly ties.

Kadhimi’s recent visit to Iran further clarified the kind of relation Iran is looking to have with him and what particular interests it wants to secure in Iraq. Sensing this, Kadhimi was quick to comment that “Iraq would not allow any threat to Iran coming from its territory.” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was rather explicit when he told Kadhimi that the Popular Mobilisation Units (which Iran supports) are a “great blessing for Iraq, and they should be safeguarded.”

While Kadhimi may not have enough power to prevent the use of Iraqi territory against Iraq—he is already partly blamed by some Iraqi political groups for the killing of Soleimani—he is equally powerless vis-à-vis Iran aligned parties and parliamentary groups who perceive him as ‘pro-US’, and consider the previous ‘pro-US’ regimes responsible for Iraq’s political instability.

Therefore, even if the US wants to use Kadhimi as a ‘strongman’ to push back Iran’s influence and tackle Iranian militias, Iraq’s ground realities currently show no seeds powerful enough to produce a fundamental anti-Iran shift.

Therefore, even though Kadhimi mentioned his objective of reforming the Iran-backed popular mobilization units, PMU’s influence in Iran’s politics and parliament is deep enough to deny any US-sponsored reform agenda. The extent of Iranian influence can be gauged from the fact that when On January 5, Iraq’s parliament voted 170 to 0 to expel US forces, all of Iran’s Shiite allies in parliament voted for the non-binding resolution. Sunni and Kurd votes were either absent or did not vote.

Kadhimi is, therefore, not a “bad news” for Iran. Going by Iranian perspective, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, on the contrary, still presents an opportunity for Iran more so than a threat. Powers in the Iranian state believe that with Kadhimi’s background as an intelligence officer, he would be well-experienced in the game of balance of power. Given that the US still has a direct presence in Iraq, maintaining balance between Iran and the US is an inevitable task that every Iraqi prime minister has been facing and will continue to face in the future as well.

While Kadhimi may still not be an ideal candidate for Iran, recent demonstrations in Iraq seem to have convinced Iranian leadership as well that installing a proxy in Iraq could be counterproductive for Iran’s long-term interests in Iraq and its deep presence in Iraq’s political and security structures.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

[Category: Columns, Featured, Iraq, Locations, Middle East, Politics]

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[l] at 8/11/20 6:49am

3344

On 30 July of this year, Li Teng-hui, who served as the President of Taiwan (officially the Republic of China) from 1988-2000, died in a hospital in Taipei at the age of 97. In some way or another, most of the world’s leading publications and many statesmen have expressed their opinions on this issue. As reported by the Taipei Times, 206 foreign dignitaries from 45 countries and organizations had expressed sadness over Lee’s death.

This is not surprising, since Li Teng-hui was an outstanding personality, as well as a politician whose activities at the highest post of the island significantly affected the formation of one of the most prominent phenomena of modern international processes called the “Taiwan problem”.

Being under constant focus attention from NEO, this issue plays an increasing role in the political situation throughout the Asian and Pacific region. Today, it is at the top of the list of key aspects regarding relations between the two leading world powers, the USA and the People’s Republic of China.

Lee’s biography, full of the most diverse and contradictory factual information, could well be used as a basis for writing a political bestseller. On the occasion of a sad event for Taiwan in the Taipei Times recites major events in Lee Teng-hui’s life. But not all, of course. In particular, the extremely important period of the first post-war years of Lee’s biography is almost not reflected. Only the fact is noted that he was transferred to National Taiwan University’s agricultural economics program in 1946. Meanwhile, it was the time when the range of current problems in relations between Taiwan and the “mainland” was mainly set, and the future President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) also participated in forming them, playing very minor roles at that time, but still.

It should be recalled that after the Japanese surrender in World War II, the Republic of China took over Taiwan; Formosa which is a former name for the island of Taiwan was passed (“given back”, considering the results of the First Sino-Japanese War 1894-1895) under the control of the government of the “Republic of China”, which was then headed by Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Republic of China and a member of the Kuomintang

The process of the mentioned transition did not proceed smoothly at all. For a significant part of the Taiwanese, the Kuomintang officials who had “moved” from the mainland did not look at all “locals” and were in no way better than the “Japanese colonizers”.

At the end of February 1947, the accumulated anti-Kuomintang sentiment resulted in mass protests. As always in such cases, after a relatively minor and accidental incident occurred on February 28, 1947, what later became known as the “228 massacre” (the 2nd month of the 28th day of that year). Until now, there is no exact data on the number of victims of these events, but experts have no doubt that they number in the tens of thousands.

There is a view that the 228 massacre was to some extent a reflection of the renewed struggle on the continent between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which was rapidly gaining weight. What matters is that after leaving the post of President of Republic of China, Lee admitted that exactly in 1946-1947 he was a member of the CCP (which he left “disillusioned with basic ideas”) and participated in the fight against the “hateful” (only during that time?) Kuomintang.

But the fact that doesn’t require any acknowledgement (since it is initially well known) is of him being in the Japanese Imperial army with the rank of Lieutenant of the air defense forces since 1944. Also, this is not mentioned in the brief biography of Lee from the Taipei Times, which only notes his admission in 1943 to study at the Taiwan Department of Kyoto University followed by a move to Japan to continue his studies.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Lee Teng-hui visited US Universities twice to improve his knowledge and experience in the agricultural development area. During this period and later, he wrote several dozen different types of works. Taiwan’s Position is one of them, published in Russian in 2000. It is useful for those who are interested in the background of the current extremely serious events in the Taiwan Strait.

Upon returning to Taiwan, Lee joined the same Kuomintang in 1971. His administrative and service career began after this. This to a large extent was due to the course of President Chiang Ching-kuo (son of Chiang Kai-shek) to attract “local” Taiwanese (and not fugitives from the “mainland”, as it had been before) in the system of administrative management of the island.

This was the first step in the transition from an actually dictatorial regime in Taiwan to a democratic one. And if in 1988 Lee Teng-hui was the first “true Taiwanese” to hold the post of President following the “old rules”, then in 1996, he retained it as a result of a completely democratic procedure.

After leaving the post of President in 2000, Lee Teng-hui also left the Kuomintang, founding the Taiwan Solidarity Union, which as a “minority party” is currently (for the second consecutive term) part of the ruling “Pan-green coalition” led by the Democratic Progressive Party.

In contrast to the more cautious position of the DPP and its leader, current President Tsai Ing-wen, Lee’s party has, from its foundation and until present, supported the immediate de jure establishment of Taiwan’s independent status.

In fact, this perspective is the basis for the growing tension in the Taiwan Strait, and “external” significant forces are more and more involved in the game unfolding here. First of all, this applies to the United States and Japan, whose leaders expressed the most meaningful expressions of condolences on Lee Teng-hui’s death.

One can’t help but note the remarkable features of statements on this issue from the American administration in general and the US Department of State in particular. The first was expressed in a Facebook post of a representative of the administration (without reference to President Donald Trump personally), while Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, spoke directly on behalf of the Department of State.

This shows a certain difference between the approaches of Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo to the phenomenon of PRC becoming a second world power. Apparently, the current American President does not lose hope for the possibility of maintaining constructive relations with Beijing, whose vital interests must be taken into consideration. These include the exclusion of any signs of recognition of Taiwan as an independent subject of international relations by any of the significant players. And Le Teng-hui self-styled himself as the “President of the Republic of China”.

Meanwhile, Mike Pompeo increasingly positions himself as a politician ready to burn bridges in relations with China and therefore does not consider it necessary to address any “subtleties” in the “Beijing-Taipei” relations.

Prime Minister Shinzō Abe also wasn’t taking them into account, as he emphasized in a personal message of condolence “Lee Teng-hui’s great contributions to enhancing friendly ties between Japan and Taiwan”. It should be noted that Shinzō Abe has every reason for this opinion since the former Taiwanese President has repeatedly and very complimentary assessed the role of Japan in the process of Taiwan’s modernization including (perhaps above all) the “colonial” period.

But the most important thing is that the majority of the Taiwanese agree with him in this matter, given that Japan looks even more attractive in public opinion than the actual key ally, the United States.

As for the most interested participant in the “Taiwan problem”, that is, the PRC, the assessments of Lee Teng-hui made here was unsurprisingly quite restrained. At the regular press conference held on July 31 the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, in response to a request to comment on Pompeo’s statement about the former Taiwanese President, said (without mentioning the name of the deceased) that “No individual or force could hold back the historical trend of reunification and revitalization of the Chinese nation.”

Finally, it should be noted that the biography of Lee Teng-hui serves as another evidence of the extreme complexity of real life, which cannot be painted in only black and white.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Locations, Politics, history]

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[l] at 8/10/20 11:59pm

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With crime on the rise on the territory controlled by the Government of National Accord (GNA), and amid growing discontent with how the GNA itself is operating, there has been a recent surge in protests against Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli.

Local residents are fighting for access to basic amenities, as the GNA has failed to distribute them fairly. Outraged civilians, who have had to put up with frequent power cuts, took to the streets to hold a spontaneous rally in Khoms, the capital of the Murqub District. The protesters believe that neighborhoods where militants supported by the GNA are based receive a greater power supply, while residents living in other neighborhoods have to make do without electricity. Local residents protested by blocking the main road leading to a power station and setting car tires on fire.

There have also been other recent protests against the GNA in Tripoli, where residents demanded that the government return their hard-earned tax money, which is being spent on recruiting Syrian fighters, while ordinary Libyans do not even have money to buy food.

GNA militants continue to suppress any form of protest expressed by local residents against Fayez al-Sarraj’s regime. Another protest took place on August 1 in the Abu Salim district of Tripoli, where residents of the capital marched towards Martyrs’ Square in the city center to demand their unpaid salaries, many of whom had salary cuts for some reason or another. A number of protesters have suffered injuries. GNA-backed militants from the Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade and the Nawasi Brigade, widely listed as terrorist organizations, simply ambushed demonstrators and opened fire on them, leaving three people in a critical condition.

On August 3, some of these militants attacked the main power plant while another group seized ten other facilities between Tripoli and Misrata. On the same day in Sabratah, GNA militants broke into a residential building, beat a woman, and kidnapped a small child, which was reported by a number of sources through social networks.

On top of all this, the situation on GNA-controlled territory continues to deteriorate due to a growing number of disagreements between these gangs that are increasingly competing among themselves for spheres of influence, and a new conflict is brewing between the Libyan militants and Syrian mercenaries deployed to fight in Libya. The Al Arabiya news channel reported that according to a police source, one of the groups of foreign mercenaries from Chad was recently arrested due to widespread looting in Tripoli, and it was the Chief of the GNA Tripoli Military Zone, Maj. Gen. Osama al-Juwaili, who helped them reach Libya.

According to Libyan sources, an armed confrontation broke out on August 5 in Misrata between militants from the illegal armed groups loyal to the GNA. The exchange of fire was allegedly fueled by infighting between one of the gangs of militants, who could not agree on a weapons deal. The leader of one of the battalions had sold weapons that had been intended for the fighters themselves.

Moreover, the militants and mercenaries cannot come to an agreement on who should have influence in which neighborhoods, and their confrontation makes the situation worse for Libyan civilians, who are increasingly blaming the mercenaries for the rise in crime. For instance in Tarhuna, four fighters from the Abu Salim Central Security force commanded by Abdal-Ghani al-Kakli, known as “Ghniwa”, were killed during a shootout. The gangsters are fighting among themselves, filling up hospital beds in the Abu Salim district of Tripoli with their own wounded. Local residents are looking on in horror at this lawlessness.

Tripoli’s residents have already called on the GNA to withdraw all mercenaries from urban areas. According to local observers, the situation could spiral out of control at any moment, and could even descend into an armed conflict, given that a significant number of weapons are not only in the hands of militants and foreign mercenaries, but are now also in the hands of local residents.

The situation in Tripoli went beyond the point of no return a long time ago, and it is likely to continue to worsen. This is largely due to the fact that Ankara, which sends mercenaries to Libya, of whom there already 27,000 according to local estimates, often delays the salary payments Turkey has promised them, and has recently begun paying mercenaries less than the agreed salary.

It is worth recalling that the GNA was formed under the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement following the death of Muammar Gaddafi. The head of the GNA Fayez al-Sarraj and his henchmen were supposed to solve Libya’s problems and improve living conditions in the country. However, the powers vested to the GNA under the power-sharing agreement expired in 2018. At the same time, it became widely known that the government in Tripoli and its head Fayez al-Sarraj had actively recruited militants to support the work of the “government”, who came from DAESH, the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda (all of which are banned in Russia – editor’s note). Representatives of the GNA’s Ministry of Interior were bold enough to use their power to kidnap, imprison, and demand a ransom from people’s relatives, and could open fire on residential areas of Tripoli. It is therefore no wonder the city’s residents are outraged by this situation, and have been taking to the streets to protest more and more frequently.

The Arab League has begun to express concern over the deteriorating situation in Libya, where there is a growing belief that Ankara’s intervention in Libya’s sovereign affairs has been the worst thing to happen throughout the entire Libyan crisis. The Arab League’s position, according to the Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States at the UN Maged Abdelfattah, is that this has a lot to do with the fact that Turkey has not stopped sending Syrian mercenaries and military equipment to Libya. Throughout the entire crisis in the country which began in 2011, the most difficult period has been Ankara’s intervention.

Arab League observers point out that Ankara’s actions are unacceptable by recalling the arms embargo adopted by the UN, which prohibits the supply of weapons and ammunition to the North African state. However, Turkey is blatantly ignoring these restrictions by continuing to supply the Government of National Accord’s regime in Libya with mercenaries from Syria and other countries. It has also been noted that the election of Turkey’s Volkan Bozkır as the 75th President of the UN General Assembly, which was obviously not welcomed by representatives of a number of countries, does nothing to help improve the situation in Libya and bring the country out of the crisis it is in. According to Maged Abdelfattah, seven countries objected to the candidacy of the Turkish diplomat, yet despite their objections, Bozkır was still elected.

Valery Kulikov, political analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 

 

[Category: Columns, Featured, Libya, Locations, Middle East, Politics]

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[l] at 8/10/20 12:07pm

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If we step back from the details of daily headlines around the world and try to make sense of larger patterns, the dominant dynamic defining world geopolitics in the past three years or more is the appearance of a genuine irregular conflict between the two most formidable powers on the planet—The Peoples’ Republic of China and the United States of America. Increasingly it’s beginning to look as if some very dark global networks are orchestrating what looks to be an updated rerun of their 1939-1945 World War. Only this time the stakes are total, and aim at creation a universal global totalitarian system, what David Rockefeller once called a “one world government.” The powers that be periodically use war to gain major policy shifts.

On behalf of the Powers That Be (PTB), World War II was orchestrated by the circles of the City of London and of Wall Street to maneuver two great obstacles—Russia and Germany—to wage a war to the death against each other, in order that those Anglo-Saxon PTB could reorganize the world geopolitical chess board to their advantage. It largely succeeded, but for the small detail that after 1945, Wall Street and the Rockefeller brothers were determined that England play the junior partner to Washington. London and Washington then entered the period of their global domination known as the Cold War.

That Anglo-American global condominium ended, by design, in 1989 with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union by 1991.

Around this time, with the onset of the Bill Clinton presidency in 1992, the next phase– financial and industrial globalization– was inaugurated. With that, began the hollowing out of the industrial base of not only the United States, but also of Germany and the EU. The cheap labor outsourcing enabled by the new WTO drove wages down and destroyed one industry after the next in the industrial West after the 1990s. It was a necessary step on the path to what G.H.W. Bush in 1990 called the New World Order. The next step would be destruction of national sovereignty everywhere. Here the USA was the major obstacle.

“ A little help from our friends…”

For the PTB, who owe no allegiance to nations, only to their power which is across borders, the birth of the World Trade Organization and their bringing China in as a full member in 2001 was intended as the key next step. At that point the PTB facilitated in China the greatest industrial growth by any nation in history, possibly excepting Germany from 1871-1914 and USA after 1866. WTO membership allowed Western multinationals from Apple to Nike to KFC to Ford and VW to pour billions into China to make their products at dirt-cheap wage levels for re-export to the West.

One of the great mysteries of that China growth is the fact that China was allowed to become the “workshop of the world” after 2001, first in lower-skill industries such as textiles or toys, later in pharmaceuticals and most recently in electronics assembly and production. The mystery clears up when we look at the idea that the PTB and their financial houses, using China, want to weaken strong industrial powers, especially the United States, to push their global agenda. Brzezinski often wrote that the nation state was to be eliminated, as did his patron, David Rockefeller. By allowing China to become a rival to Washington in economy and increasingly in technology, they created the means to destroy the superpower hegemony of the US.

By the onset of the Presidency of Xi Jinping in 2012, China was an economic colossus second in weight only to the United States. Clearly this could never have happened–not under the eye of the same Anglo-American old families who launched the Opium Wars after 1840 to bring China to heel and open their economy to Western financial looting–unless the Anglo-Americans had wanted it.

The same British-owned bank involved in the China opium trade, Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC), founded by a Scotsman, Thomas Sutherland in 1865 in the then-British colony of Hong Kong, today is the largest non-Chinese bank in Hong Kong. HSBC has become so well-connected to China in recent years that it has since 2011 had as Board member and Deputy HSBC Chairman, Laura Cha. Cha was formerly Vice Chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, being the first person outside mainland China to join the Beijing Central Government of the People’s Republic of China at vice-ministerial rank.  In other words the largest bank in the UK has a board member who was a member of the Chinese Communist Party and a China government official. China needed access to Western money and HSBC and other select banks such as JP MorganChase, Barclays, Goldman Sachs were clearly more than happy to assist.

“ Socialism with Xi Jinping Characteristics…”

All told until 2012 when Xi took charge of the CCP in Beijing, China seemed to be willing to be a globalist “team player,” though with “Chinese characteristics.” However, in 2015 after little more than two years in office, Xi Jinping endorsed a comprehensive national industrial strategy, Made in China: 2025. China 2025 replaced an earlier Western globalist document that had been formulated with the World Bank and the USA, the China 2030 report under Robert Zoellick. That shift to a China strategy for global tech domination might well have triggered a decision by the globalist PTB that China could no longer be relied on to play by the rules of the globalists, but rather that the CCP under Xi were determined to make China the global leader in advanced industrial, AI and bio-technologies. A resurgent China nationalist global hegemony was not the idea of the New World Order gang.

China:2025 combined with Xi’s strong advocacy of the Belt Road Initiative for global infrastructure linking China by land and sea to all Eurasia and beyond, likely suggested to the globalists that the only solution to the prospect of their losing their power to a China global hegemon would ultimately be war, a war that would destroy both nationalist powers, USA AND China. This is my conclusion and there is much to suggest this is now taking place.

Tit for Tat

If so, it will most likely be far different from the military contest of World War II. The USA and most of the Western industrial economies have “conveniently” imposed the worst economic depression since the 1930’s as a bizarre response to an alleged virus originating in Wuhan and spreading to the world. Despite the fact that the death toll, even with vastly inflated statistics, is at the level of a severe annual influenza, the insistence of politicians and the corrupt WHO to impose draconian lockdown and economic disruption has crippled the remaining industrial base in the US and most of the EU.

The eruption of well-organized riots and vandalism under the banner of racial protests across the USA has brought America’s cities to a state in many cases of war zones resembling the cities of the 2013 Matt Damon and Jodie Foster film, Elysium. In this context, anti-Washington rhetoric from Beijing has taken on a sharp tone in their use of so-called “Wolf Diplomacy.”

Now after Washington closed the China Consulate in Houston and China the US Consulate in Chengdu, both sides have stepped up rhetoric. High tech companies are being banned in the US, military displays of force from the US in the South China Sea and waters near Taiwan are increasing tensions and rhetoric on both sides. The White House accuses the WHO of being an agent of Beijing, while China accuses the US of deliberately creating a deadly virus and bringing it to Wuhan. Chinese state media supports the explosion of violent protests across America under the banner of Black Lives Matter. Step-wise events are escalating dramatically. Many of the US self-styled Marxists leading the protests across US cities have ties to Beijing such as the Maoist-origin Revolutionary Communist Party, USA of Bob Avakian.

“ Unrestricted Warfare”

Under these conditions, what kind of escalation is likely? In 1999 two colonels in the China PLA, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, published a book with the PLA Press titled Unrestricted Warfare. Qiao Liang was promoted to Major General in the PLA Air Force and became deputy secretary-general of the Council for National Security Policy Studies. The two updated their work in 2016. It gives a window on high-level China military strategy.

Reviewing published US military doctrine in the aftermath of the 1991 US Operation Desert Storm war against Iraq, the Chinese authors point out what they see as US over-dependence on brute military force and conventional military doctrine. They claim, “Observing, considering, and resolving problems from the point of view of technology is typical American thinking. Its advantages and disadvantages are both very apparent, just like the characters of Americans.” They add, “military threats are already often no longer the major factors affecting national security…these traditional factors are increasingly becoming more intertwined with grabbing resources, contending for markets, controlling capital, trade sanctions, and other economic factors, to the extent that they are even becoming secondary to these factors. They comprise a new pattern which threatens the political, economic and military security of a nation or nations…  The two authors define the new form of warfare as, “encompassing the political, economic, diplomatic, cultural, and psychological spheres, in addition to the land, sea, air, space, and electronics spheres.”

They suggest China could use hacking into websites, targeting financial institutions, terrorism, using the media, and conducting urban warfare among the methods proposed. Recent revelations that Chinese entities pay millions in ad revenues to the New York Times and other mainstream USA media to voice China-positive views is one example. Similarly, maneuvering a Chinese national to head the US’ largest public pension fund, CalPERS, which poured billions into risky China stocks, or persuading the New York Stock Exchange to list dozens of China companies without requiring adherence to US accounting transparency increase US financial vulnerability are others.

This all suggests the form that a war between China and the US could take. It can be termed asymmetrical warfare or unrestricted war, where nothing that disrupts the enemy is off limits. Qiao has that, “the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.” There are no Geneva Conventions.

The two Beijing authors add this irregular warfare could include assaults on the political security, economic security, cultural security, and information security of the nation. The dependence of the US economy on China supply chains for everything from basic antibiotics to militarily-vital rare earth minerals is but one domain of vulnerability.

On its side, China is vulnerable to trade sanctions, financial disruption, bioterror attacks and oil embargoes to name a few. Some have suggested the recent locust plague and African Swine Fever devastation to China’s core food supplies, was not merely an act of nature. If not, then we are likely deep into an undeclared form of US-China unrestricted warfare. Could it be that the recent extreme floods along the China Yangtze River that threaten the giant Three Gorges Dam and have flooded Wuhan and other major China cities and devastated millions of acres of key cropland was not entirely seasonal?

A full unrestricted war of China and the USA would be more than a tragedy. It could be the end of civilization as we know it. Is this what characters such as Bill Gates or George Soros and their superiors are trying to bring about? Do they plan to introduce their draconian dystopian “Reset” on the ashes of such a conflict?

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

[Category: Columns, Economics, Featured, Locations, USA in the World]

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[l] at 8/10/20 7:23am

BER6733423

Focus on Beirut for a moment. What did we just witness happening at the port there? The massive explosion that rocked the whole city felt like an attack. And I use the term “felt” for a purpose here. For in a world where media or even governments can no longer be trusted, we are left with our gut and intuition to protect us. Yes, everything about the Lebanon incident feels like an attack, instead of a freak accident. Here’s a breakdown of what I believe happened based on media analysis, unofficial reports, and the PR signals emanating from Jerusalem, Moscow, Washington, and London. Here’s what I think happened.

The BBC reported a few hours after the colossal explosion shattered thousands of lives in Lebanon’s capital, that an initial explosion in the port area around about 18:00 (15:00 GMT) followed by a fire, was followed by a second blast that leveled a large portion of the city. In social media, video, and images of a gigantic mushroom cloud went viral for obvious reasons. And many analysts quickly attributed the blast to some new kind of tactical mini-nuke launched by the Israelis. In Washington, a loose-lipped president Donald Trump blabbed about his generals telling him the event was assuredly an attack. But at the New York Times, a string of stories described an “accident” involving a seized shipload of ammonium nitrate from a Russia (amazing coincidences).

From a media perspective, the tone and the sheer number of New York Times stories about this event sets off any number of alarms for me. If you Google the venerable newspaper and the term Beirut explosion, dozens of articles come up within a few hours of the catastrophe. Immediately, NYTs reporters were directing the blame for the disaster on a leaky cargo ship full of ammonium nitrate from Russia. Next, the newspaper’s writers focused the blame on Lebanese officials. “As Smoke Clears in Beirut, Shock Turns to Anger,” by Ben Hubbard adds in human touches, before telling readers that the Lebanese people want a new government. The smoke over Lebanon has yet to clear, and a motive for the bombing has been established. Only not in typical fashion. I am sure A. G. Sulzberger never intended that his world-renowned newspaper be used as circumstantial evidence of an Israeli attack. You read it correctly.

The Beirut blast was so massive that it was heard in Cyprus, about 200km (125 miles) across the Mediterranean Sea to the west. The seismologists at the United States Geological Survey claim the explosion was the equivalent of a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. And the amateur videos of the catastrophe bring to mind something out of a Hollywood hero film, but in this case, Bruce Willis, Stallone, or Schwarzenegger will not be coming to the rescue.

And another thing. The blast occurred at the worst possible place in Lebanon, right next to the silos where almost all of the country’s grain is stored. And another coincidence leaves the wheat that’s left in those silos inedible.

I know, you never read a report like this one. Then again, most people don’t spend their professional lives analyzing the media and geo-politics. Most people don’t feel what I feel when The Times of Israel comes out denying Israel had any role in the blast, within minutes of the news their story “Israel not behind Beirut blast, sources on both sides say; at least 10 killed,” hit the presses. The number killed tells you how soon after the explosion their story went out. And get this, The Jewish Press rolls out a story only minutes after the Beirut explosion titled, “Israeli Ambassador Warned UNSC About Hezbollah Control Over Beirut Port,” with a satellite photo of what’s supposed to be a Hezbollah missile conversion site in Beirut marina. Author Hana Levi Julian calls to readers’ attention Israeli officials labeling this part of Beirut as “Hezbollah’s Port” way back in 2019 at the UN.

A couple of days later and fifty New York Times reports about fertilizer accidents and Haaretz.com gets the point, subliminally at least. “For Hezbollah, Beirut Devastation Makes Provoking Israel Even Riskier,” by the Israeli military and defense reporter Amos Harel gives us more evidence that Israel’s regime had tons of motive. Changing the Lebanese government and striking Hezbollah, what better way than to blast the Lebanese capital to kingdom come, and then blame it on the incompetence of the victims’ elected choices?

Then there’s the always cheeky Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told his Twitter followers he had instructed his National Security Council to make contact with UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov “in order to clarify how Israel can further assist Lebanon”. This comes days after Israel accused the Lebanese group Hezbollah of trying to send gunmen across the UN-demarcated “Blue Line” border. In this grievance, Israel said it held the Beirut government responsible for what it termed an attempted “terrorist” attack. And we all know what Israel does when a hint of a terrorist attack is in the wind.

When I first saw Russian space agency’s satellite images of Beirut before and after the explosion I immediately recalled Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the A-bombs hit those Japanese cities. Banned by Facebook and YouTube videos of what appears to be a missile or shell hitting the warehouse where the ammonium nitrate was stored tweak my imagination and my gut feeling on the matter. I guess the images affect many similarly. Factor in what right-wing Israeli politician Moshe Feiglin said about the blast being “a gift from God”, and the case against Israeli leadership gets stronger. Feiglin, who fought in the 1982 Lebanon War. His plan for the Gaza situation includes killing, arresting, and then throwing out what remains of the Palestinian population, and then populating the region with Jews. He asserts that there is no such thing as a Palestinian. Ergo, God must have condemned the Lebanese in this most recent event, right?

Finally, take a look at this. At Forbes, their Aerospace and Defense expert Michael Peck chimed in how Israel’s involvement in the Beirut blast is unlikely. This was hours after the gargantuan explosion put 300,000 people out of their homes. This “expert’s” reasoning is that Israel could not be guilty because Hezbollah and Iran would have already attacked in retaliation if this were so? Yeah, this one has me scratching my head too. Next the defense expert names Mossad as a top suspect right after mentioning the US commander in chief’s remarks about the Pentagon saying the blast was a bomb attack! Yeah, more head-scratching. Finally, Peck says Israel had no motive! This, right after he wrote 200 words explaining how Lebanon is so hated by the Israelis. The Forbes rocket scientist gives a bonus proof Israel is not to blame by claiming the Israelis are afraid of Hezbollah missiles. The author sums up like this:

“If Israel wants to keep its northern front quiet, blowing up a Beirut neighborhood would be stupid. Whatever the cause of the explosion, it probably wasn’t Israel.”

It’s should be painfully obvious that the Israeli leadership does not want quiet on any front. For this writer, Netanyahu and the people who put him in office want Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, and most of its frontier zones to be free of Arab people. End of story. Let’s just be real here. Israel’s methodology is a sound one, it’s a strategy of overkill, all or nothing grounded in the same fear every minority population in the world fears. The Israeli leadership operates (and has operated) from the only position they feel will work. Strength, cold steel, immovability, and utter ruthlessness toward enemies perceived or real. What I am saying here is unequivocal, undeniable, as certain as death and taxes.

Finally, let’s punch all this circumstantial narrative into a probability machine. The chances of anything going on unnoticed in a neighbor country of Israel are minuscule. If a drunk guy welding a rusty pipe in the Beirut warehouse caused the blast, Mossad would probably have photos. Israel, the Pentagon, the White House, and probably the Kremlin all know exactly what took place. Like the MH17 catastrophe over Ukraine, the one nobody ever truly settled, the Beirut bombing is going to be another mystery to everyone except the people who were meant to get “the message”.

The blasts came at a point of high tensions between Israel and Lebanon and hours after Netanyahu issued a new warning to Iran-backed Hezbollah? The “responsible” media is reporting that even Hezbollah has denied an attack on their alleged weapons stored at the port. Like Hezbollah is going to admit a weapons cache at the part to the world. The IDF had struck targets in Syria hours before the Beirut blast. Back in August of 2019, Israel conducted a drone attack that targeted a Hezbollah precision missile facility in Beirut. And my suspicions are, this was a precision attack on another such facility. Only the “opportunity” to send a greater message was located right next door to the primary target. I think the IDF targeted a missile cache or lab in the port of Beirut, and they knew full well the possibility the ammonium nitrate might go up too. Overkill, remember. This kind of thing would put Lebanon’s leaders in a pinch, and Hezbollah too. The Lebanese opposition, with confirmation Hezbollah, was storing or building missiles next to a gigantic bomb… Remember, Israel has said it won’t allow Hezbollah to obtain advanced weapons like precision-guided missiles it says the Lebanese group is trying to develop with Iranian assistance.

The rest you can surmise. 60/40 “for” Israel being behind this devastating event. Unfortunately, Mossad and the Israelis are hardly ever caught red-handed. No one will be able to find Israeli munitions residue. Any eyewitnesses will quickly become conspiracy theories or Hezbollah pawns. We are already seeing that everyone and I mean everyone is trying to make this go away. The chances somebody finds a box of advanced Iranian guided missiles in Beirut’s port are zero, especially if no one is looking for them. Means, opportunity, motive, all the components for Israel as the perpetrator are there, but I am a conspiracy theorist, I guess.

All that’s going to happen is exactly what Israeli intelligence and the leadership knew would happen. “Message received,” is what I see written all over this. Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, anybody in the region struggling with the Israelis got it, “We will stop at nothing. We are here to stay. It is you who must go.” And the more dangerous message is; “We’ll do what we want, and get by with it.”

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

[Category: Columns, Featured, Lebanon, Locations, Middle East, Politics]

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[l] at 8/9/20 11:59pm

SK

On July 28, 2020, South Korean President Moon Jae-in held talks over the phone with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. According to official reports, the South Korean leader requested New Zealand’s support for South Korea’s candidate running to be the World Trade Organization’s next director-general — Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee from the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy — and also discussed how they could cooperate on creating COVID-19 vaccines and ensuring they are fairly distributed.

However, it was quickly brought to light through the media, that this was not in fact the main topic of their conversation. Moon had indeed called to request support for Yoo Myung-hee, but the Prime Minister of New Zealand brought up a completely different topic, a far more unpleasant one for Seoul, especially given that South Korea has recently been rocked by multiple sex scandals.

The incident in question allegedly took place at the end of 2017, when the former Deputy Ambassador to New Zealand Hongkon Kim is accused of harassing a staff member at the embassy in Wellington.  There are different versions, which add mystery to the investigation, but what we do know at this point in time is that the senior official allegedly committed at least three counts of indecent assault against a subordinate.  According to the law in New Zealand, the culprit could theoretically face up to 7 years in prison if his diplomatic immunity were to be waived.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducted an internal investigation, during which Kim denied all charges. Following the disciplinary hearing, the diplomat’s wages were docked for a month, and the case was closed.  The South Korean Embassy did not cooperate when contacted to waive Kim’s immunity to allow a New Zealand police investigation to go ahead. According to a report published on July 25, 2019 by Newshub Nation, a New Zealand multi-platform news service, the South Korean government refused to allow a scene examination, denied the police access to CCTV, refused to share the results of their investigation, and refused to waive diplomatic immunity so that embassy staff members could be interviewed by the police.

Kim is currently serving as the Consul-General at the South Korean Embassy in the Philippines. Despite the incident that allegedly occurred in New Zealand, he has essentially been reassigned an equivalent post in a country which, as it happens, does not have an extradition treaty with New Zealand.

New Zealand has demanded the diplomat be extradited to be tried according to the law in New Zealand where the alleged counts of assault took place. A warrant for his arrest was issued by a Wellington District Court judge at the end of February 2020.  A spokesperson from New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade emailed the following comment to Yonhap News Agency: “New Zealand’s position is that we expect all diplomats to follow the laws of the country they are in, and to be legally accountable for their actions”.

In view of the fact that Seoul declined to make the content of the phone call between the two leaders public, the New Zealand government issued a statement on July 30, expressing disappointment that the Korean government did not cooperate with earlier requests from New Zealand Police in respect of the case. According to the local New Zealand Herald, Ardern “expressed her disappointment that the Korean Government was unable to waive immunity to allow aspects of the police investigation into this matter to proceed” in her conversation over the phone.

Then on August 1, 2020, New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters said in a Saturday interview with Newshub Nation that the South Korean government “should allow [Kim] to waive [his] diplomatic immunity”.  “Now remember this ― the crime which he is alleged to have committed is a crime in our country; it’s not a crime in Korea. But when in Rome, you do what the Romans do. He did it in New Zealand, that’s the allegation,” Peters said. “If he was innocent as he thought, he could come back and submit himself to our judicial procedures himself.”

No wonder this story made front-page news. As noted by the Korea Times, sexual harassment allegations against a Korean diplomat is hardly something the leaders of the two countries would often discuss. The conservative South Korean media has begun expressing concern that if Seoul and Wellington do not cooperate, the issue could turn into a serious diplomatic disaster.

South Korea’s head of state finally emerged from his state of hibernation at the Blue House, and acknowledged that he had heard Ardern mention the case during their talks, and assured her that the relevant government organizations would check the facts and look into the matter to find out if there was any truth in the allegations.  However, the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains that matter has been dealt with and that there is no need for further discussion. In terms of the possibility of extradition, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson has said that it would depend on what the New Zealand police decided to do, and the local court would consider the case in accordance with relevant international treaties and local laws if such a request was made.

The problem is that this is not the first sexual assault case involving officials from the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have come to light over the past few years, although it claims to have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to these crimes. Korean officials have been accused of sexual assault and harassment in a number of countries, including the United States, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Cambodia. At the same time, the Foreign Ministry’s position is essentially to avoid airing their dirty laundry in public. “When diplomats commit misdeeds, it has been the custom within the ministry to simply conduct an internal investigation, impose disciplinary sanctions and then close the cases without any transparency,” Choi Won-mok, a diplomat-turned-law professor at Ewha Womans University told The Korea Times.

South Korea’s leading political opposition, the United Future Party, criticized the government for not dealing with the issue properly. The New Zealand staffer who claims to have suffered the abuse submitted a petition with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in November 2018.

Some conservatives were quick to recall how these kinds of scandals were resolved far more swiftly when former President Park Geun-hye was in office, and how perpetrators had received harsher punishments. When her Press Secretary Yoon Chang-jung was accused of sexually assaulting a young female intern during President Park’s first official visit to the United States in May 2013, Park issued an official apology for Yoon’s actions, and Yoon was fired immediately.  By the way, the opposition led by Moon said at the time that not enough had been done, and demanded the resignation of the presidential chief of staff and all senior secretaries. This was also almost the same type of abuse as what happened in Wellington.

What can you say? The mystery of the investigation remains clouded in rumors, but the very fact that a sexual assault case has become the subject of conversation between the leaders of the two countries, even though this particular case may not be the most egregious one, could mean that something far more serious has been dug up about Kim during the investigation. Or it could be that Jacinda Ardern has been angered by that fact that South Korea has been calling on Wellington for help and support to get a Korean official appointed, whose main aim is to ensure South Korea wins the trade war with Japan, yet Seoul does not want to cooperate with similar requests from New Zealand.

Although the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been quite a frequent source of scandals, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha still belongs to a group of untouchables. Indeed, it is very likely that this time around it will take until the end of the current presidential term to clarify the facts.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, Leading Research Fellow at the Centre for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Locations, Politics, South Korea]

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[l] at 8/9/20 1:59am

CH342422

The recent sanctions and isolationist policy of the White House towards China and Iran declaring them to be the US adversaries directly gave an impetus to countermoves of these countries against Washington’s policy. In that regard, the preparation announced by Iran in July for concluding a bilateral strategic Pact between Tehran and Beijing, involving an unprecedented wide range of joint projects for a 25 years term, is an instance not only of strengthening strategic cooperation between the two countries, but also joint confrontation with the United States.

China is currently Iran’s major economic partner. Energy resources and China’s growing demand for energy supplies form the bases of the economic partnership between Iran and China. 2016 turned out to be the key year in the development of Iranian and Chinese relations following the visit of Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, to Tehran, who was the first world leader to visit Iran after the lifting of Western sanctions. During this visit, 17 agreements were signed, of particular note is the agreement on comprehensive strategic partnership and the adjacent 25-year Program for the development of relations and expansion of trade, which is mainly targeted to increase trade turnover from 35 to 600 billion dollars in ten years.

It was through Chinese investments that Iran was successful in resisting Western sanctions and developing within its limited capabilities. Iran considers China as a potential ally in the sanctions war imposed by the United States, as well as a strong economic partner, a major supplier of investment and technology required for economic development and modernization. Iran’s inability to achieve its strategic goals in the region through cooperation with other major partners, in particular, India and Brazil, has made Beijing in fact an ideal strategic partner for Tehran. At the same time, Tehran considered that Indian interests are too closely linked with the United States to support Tehran to the detriment of Washington. As a geopolitical actor, Brazil lacks economic, military, and geopolitical capital.

In the current context of increasing tension in the Sino-US relationship, Iran clearly believes that China will help it to support the economy and become an important counterbalance for the United States. Moreover, Tehran will acquire additional and quite significant leverage for future negotiations with the United States and Europe having closer ties with Beijing while discussing the JCPOA to be revised or restored in the main format as well as in their relations with regional rivals, in particular, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

China, on its part, is also clearly interested in developing a comprehensive agreement with Iran, a major key actor in the region whose significant energy resources and economic potential make it an important participant in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative oriented in the Western direction, introduced by China  Now, China already purchases oil from Iran at a discount and has become an Iranian key trading partner, including its main supplier of heavy machinery and industrial products. In addition, in the context the US intentions to withdraw from Afghanistan, a partnership with Iran can give China almost total control over the strategic corridor spreading from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea, expanding its presence in Western Asia.

Of course, at the same time, Beijing is calculating certain risks of deepening strategic cooperation with Tehran, since such steps can lead to causing discontent in Washington and could even result in additional US sanctions and restrictions on access to the US market which is much bigger than the Iranian one.  In addition, such a strategic rapprochement may have a bad impact on Beijing’s regional partnership with Israel and Saudi Arabia, which are involved in proxy wars with Iran and covert operations against it at the insistence of Washington. That is why the preparation of the bilateral strategic Pact in Beijing has not been advertised much until recently.

Under these circumstances, an 18-page draft treaty that recently appeared in the media has attracted considerable attention in many countries. Thus, observers note Beijing’s intention to invest $400 billion in Iran and participate in the development of vital areas of the Iranian economy and infrastructure, including the Belt and Road mega-project within the framework of the joint Chinese and Iranian cooperation, the routes of which will run through entire Eurasia. Moreover, China plans to develop free trade zones in the North of Iran, as well as on the Persian Gulf coast.

Besides economic dimensions, the upcoming Treaty includes security issues and partnership in military activities, as well as a joint creation of new types of weapons. In particular, it is planned to help Iran in develop ballistic missiles, exchange data in the intelligence and security areas, including the Persian Gulf region.

The new agreement between Tehran and Beijing represents a change in the strategic calculus of both countries in the current international environment, where international norms and principles have been largely undermined by the unilateral and aggressive policies of the Trump Administration towards Iran and China. In addition to strengthening bilateral strategic cooperation between these countries, we can also see a growing alliance being formed between them and neighboring Pakistan potentially joining Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria over time, which will create a real counterweight to American hegemony in the region and in the international arena in general.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the news of the Sino-Iranian agreement caused a chorus of condemnation in the West and a wave of propaganda publications inspired by the United States and its allies aimed at creating contradictions between Iran, China and the countries in the region. However, in this political-strategic and information game, the Iran-Chinese Joker will clearly win and gain political and economic benefits from such deepening strategic cooperation.

Vladimir Platov, an expert on Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.   

 

[Category: Columns, Featured, Iran, Locations, Middle East, Politics]

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