Monday, 1 March 2021

Tehran rejects Netanyahu’s accusations over explosion of vessel in Gulf of Oman and is ‘closely monitoring’ Israeli actions


Tehran rejects Netanyahu’s accusations over explosion of vessel in Gulf of Oman and is ‘closely monitoring’ Israeli actions
Tehran has dismissed claims made by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran was behind an attack on an Israeli merchant ship in the Gulf of Oman last Thursday, adding that security in the region is just as important for Iran.

“The Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman are Iran’s immediate security areas,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters on Monday, adding that Tehran would not allow these priorities to be undermined by Israeli accusations. 

Khatibzadeh lambasted Israel for its “incorrect” claims that Iran was behind last Thursday’s attack on the vessel.

Not only do we strongly reject this accusation, but we also reject and closely monitor Israel’s actions in the periphery in recent months

“Netanyahu suffers from an obsession with Iran and thinks it is the cause of their internal problems,” Khatibzadeh claimed, adding that if Israel wished to lay the groundwork for new tensions, Iran would “follow it up.” 

The spokesman sought to clarify Iran’s positive influence on security in the Persian Gulf, adding that Tehran’s decision in late 2020 to seize a South Korean tanker was a legitimate action to help with legal proceedings. 

ALSO ON RT.COMIran ‘clearly’ behind Gulf of Oman ship explosions – Israeli PM Netanyahu

Speaking earlier on Monday, Netanyahu said Iran was “clearly” behind an explosion on the Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray on Thursday evening. 

“Iran was behind the attack on an Israeli ship this weekend in the Gulf of Oman,” the prime minister told the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, adding that Tehran was “Israel’s biggest enemy,” and his country was “beating it [Iran] all across the region.”

Why India's Farmers—Confronting Corporate Power and Modi's Right-Wing Government—Deserve Global Solidarity

 Published on Sunday, February 28, 2021

For more than eighty days, Indian protesters have demonstrated against a set of laws that would corporatize the country’s agriculture—and leave most farmers destitute.

Thousands of farmers gathered to protest three new agricultural laws in Mumbai, India, January 26, 2021. (Photo by Sanket Jain)

Thousands of farmers gathered to protest three new agricultural laws in Mumbai, India, January 26, 2021. (Photo: Sanket Jain)

During the last four months, Anjana Balsane has travelled more than 1,900 miles. She has attended protests with as many as 100,000 other farmers, who often chant “Kaale krisi kanun wapas lo,” or “Take back the black farm laws.” 




“How could I follow social distancing when the new farm laws will kill us anyway?” asks Anjana, sixty-five, in a frail voice.  


Since September 2020, when the far-right government in India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi hastily passed three farm laws without due consultation, tens of thousands of farmers across India have taken to the streets. 


These laws give unprecedented power to corporations by deregulating trade and undermining the existing state support systems that serve farmers. The three laws are: the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.


In India, farmers sell their produce to registered buyers through auctions or at mandis (market yards). The first law enables farmers to directly sell their produce to private traders. With no taxes and no mandate on reporting these transactions, farmers fear this will deregulate trade throughout the country. 

At the official, state-monitored markets, farmers are paid a Minimum Support Price, or MSP, set by the government for twenty-three commodities. The new bills make no mention of the MSP, stirring farmers’ fears that they will lose this bare minimum support once these markets are dismantled.

Anjana told me about her recent experience of selling soybeans to a private trader in her village in the Nashik district of Western India’s Maharashtra state. She says she was paid $41 for 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds) of soybeans, down from $53 in 2020. 

“For every 100 kilograms of soybeans we sell, we have to give seven kilograms to the trader as a commission,” Anjana says. With this deceitful practice, she lost more than 40 kilograms of her product as a commission—an amount that would have otherwise accounted for an additional $20 in her pocket. 

“If there’s no MSP, what will the poor farmers like us do?” asks Anjana, who has been tilling two acres of land for more than twenty-five years. 

For the past eighty days, around 300,000 farmers have protested at the borders of New Delhi, India’s capital. In late January, after several thousand farmers stormed Delhi’s Red Fort, a Mughal-era monument that’s become a symbol of the Indian state, the government began cracking down on the protesters, deploying barricades, trenches, barbed wire, batons, water-cannons, and Internet shutdowns. 

So far, more than 200 activists have been arrested and, due to the biting cold of Delhi’s winter, more than sixty farmers have died. 

So far, more than 200 activists have been arrested and, due to the biting cold of Delhi’s winter, more than sixty farmers have died. 

The protests at Red Fort quickly became international news. On February 2, the pop singer Rihanna tweeted, “Why aren’t we talking about this?” Several other activists, entertainers, and international celebrities such as Greta Thunberg, Mia Khalifa, Ilhan Omar, Meena Harris, Vanessa Nakate, and John Cusack soon began expressing solidarity for the protesting farmers. On February 16, The New York Times even published a full-page advertisement signed by more than seventy global human rights organizations supporting the farmers’ protests.

In response, Modi’s government called this international solidarity a “global conspiracy to tarnish India’s image.” 

Pro-government media channels have accused protesters of being mainly elite landholders. But in reality, more than 40 percent of India’s population works in agriculture, and a majority of these workers are small and marginal farmers. 

According to an official report, the average monthly income of a farm household in India during 2012-13 was $88. But with an average household size of 5.1, the per-capita income comes down to a mere $17. Moreover, over 86 percent of farmers in India own less than two hectares of land. 

Sandeep Gadag, age forty, lives in a remote village in Maharashtra’s Palghar district, where he practices organic farming and masonry on an acre. On January 25, I met him at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan sports grounds, where more than 20,000 farmers from twenty districts in Maharashtra had gathered for a three-day sit-in solidarity protest on January 24. 

“They say they won’t take away the land,” he tells me, highlighting how one of the new laws will encourage contract farming without mandating written contracts. “But with contract farming, you [corporation owners] will ask us to use costly chemical fertilizers. After five years, if we want to abandon the contract, then we won’t be able to farm traditionally because the land has already been polluted with chemicals.”

Gadag thinks local farming practices will inevitably change as corporations, on the whole, prefer signing contracts for cash crops. “With smaller landholdings, what they [corporations] will do is contract the land in bulk and slowly take away everyone’s land.” 

Vijay Jawandhiya, an activist and farmer based in Maharashtra, says, “If the corporate owners reject the harvest, then there’s no mention they can’t recover the cost of the seeds, fertilizers from farmers.” 

Farmers fear that this recovery could come at the cost of selling their land. In 2019, 10,281 Indians dependent on farming died by suicide.

Farmers fear that this recovery could come at the cost of selling their land. In 2019, 10,281 Indians dependent on farming died by suicide. These numbers highlight the severity of the nation’s agrarian crisis. 

The third new law amends the Essential Commodities Act of 1955, which was implemented to prevent the hoarding of essential commodities, including cereals, pulses, potatoes, onions, and oils. It would make it easier for agribusiness to stockpile these items by removing the procuring limits, except in rare circumstances like war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural disasters. “This will give corporate owners the power to hoard the essential items, after which they will increase the price,” says Anjana.  

The public procurement of grains, which are then sold at a subsidised price to the poor, became a standard practice in several developing countries after they gained independence from colonial rule. In India, the government stockpiles grains from farmers through its procurement agency, the Food Corporation of India. As of July 8, 2020, the agency had a massive stock of 81 million metric tons of wheat and rice. 

In recent decades, economically developed countries and international agencies such as the World Trade Organization have pressed developing countries to cut back their procurement policies. In 1995, India signed the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Agriculture and committed to reducing some of its farm subsidies to as much as 10 percent of the value of production. In 2018, however, the United States warned India that its subsidies were still too high, and that reforms were needed for the country to comply with the demands of global capitalism. 

But, today, India’s protesting farmers are wary of unfettered free markets and the government’s promises of “doubling farmers’ income by 2022.” As Jawandhiya says, “With these laws, Narendra Modi is not freeing the farmers. He wants to free himself from the promises he made.”

Sanket Jain is an independent journalist based in Kolhapur, India and a 2019 People’s Archive of Rural India fellow.

Biden Aims to Justify Attack on Syria, Iran Warns US Attack Helps ISIS


Biden says groups in Syria were involved in attacks in Iraq

Jason Ditz 

Facing criticism for the attack on Syria last week, President Biden has offered a letter to top Congressional leaders defending the incident, saying that the military notified Congress in advance, and that the militias targeted are “non-state militia groups” who the US blames for recent attacks in Iraq.

Biden said this was “consistent” with past US policy, and that the US has the inherent right to conduct such attacks. He added it was consistent with the War Powers Resolution in keeping Congress informed.

Congressional critics aren’t disputing that, however, and are more concerned with the wisdom of US aggression on this front, and whether it amounts to a continuation of US military policy going forward.

Even more critical was Iranian FM Javad Zarif, who called it a violation of Syrian sovereignty, and warned it amounted to the US giving a boost to ISIS in Syria with these attacks.'

Iran FM: Iraqi Rocket Attack Culprits Must Be Identified


Iraq FM promises attacks won't damage bilateral ties\

Jason Ditz 

In a meeting with Iranian FM Javad Zarif, Iraqi FM Fuad Hussein assured him that bilateral Iran-Iraq ties won’t be affected by the missile strikes, which US officials have blamed on Iraqi Shi’ite militias loyal to Iran.

Zarif sees these strikes as a serious problem, and also a suspicious one, saying Iran wants the culprits to be properly identified, and suggesting that they are deliberately trying to tarnish diplomatic ties.

It’s less about Iran-Iraq ties, of course than the US ties with each of them, as the US blames Iran, shying away from diplomacy, and also blames Iraq, potentially harming the US-Iraqi ties that have been built over years of occupation.

Iran had the foresight to warn its militias explicitly to not do this sort of thing during the period between US election and inauguration, and while they keep being blamed there is a lot of uncertainty over which militias are actually culpable, and some heretofore unheard of militias with Shi’ite-sounding names have also cropped up.

‘Fortress Israel’: The ups and downs of arms sales and cyber surveillance


Israel’s arms sector has not been able to sell the tools to achieve military victory, but it is now a leader in selling cyber technology for repression and surveillance

The military industry in Israel has had its ups and downs over the years. After the occupation of 1967 and the French arms embargo on Israel, massive state investments in arms production have turned the arms industry into one of Israel’s largest industrial sectors.

The Israeli Ministry of Defence buys many of these weapons, but exports were a crucial source of finance for the industry. The Israeli arms industry was not distinguished in its quality until the 1980s, but mostly by the willingness of Israeli arms traders to violate arms embargoes and sell to militias and to tyrannical regimes.

The end of the Cold War and the Oslo Peace Process were a difficult time for the Israeli arms industry, but recovery came quickly with the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000. Arms exports also increased in the arming rush after the September 11 attacks in 2001, and the “War on Terror” launched in the US by President Bush created a business opportunity for Israeli companies.

Tested on Palestinians

In the years that followed, the advantage of Israeli companies in the arms sector became apparent. Israeli firms could claim that their equipment had been tested against actual people because the newly developed military technologies were sold first to the Israeli military and police, and used in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The use of the OPT as a laboratory for Israeli weapons was discussed by Naomi KleinNeve Gordon, and in the movie “The Lab,” and it has not been denied by the Israeli authorities. Senior Israeli policymakers openly boast that military operations create business advantages to Israeli arms companies.

The peak of the Israeli arms exports seems to have arrived in 2009. In December 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead. Nine Israeli soldiers died in the fighting, and 1,398 Palestinians. After the attack, the Israeli military held a special demonstration of the new technologies which were used in the attack and Israel’s arms sales skyrocketed in the years 2009-2010. Israel’s largest privately owned arms company Elbit Systems showed the highest profit on record in 2009.

Governments interested in controlling and containing large, restless, impoverished populations have become the biggest customers of Israeli arms: Brazil, India and Mexico are among the biggest customers. Arms sales to Africa continue to rise, even though the Israeli Ministry of Defence refuses to name specific countries in Africa to which it sells these arms, and refuses to address the evidence regarding arms sales to South Sudan.

The broken promise

It is not difficult to understand that armies and companies express interest in technology that has been tested in real conditions and would prefer it over products from arms companies of countries at peace. However, one must ask what exactly is this technology supposed to achieve, and in other words, has the experiment succeeded?

When Brigadier-General Gal Hirsch left the army in 2006, he started - like many other retired Israeli officers - his own arms company. Hirsch sold military equipment to the Georgian government, which did very little to slow down the advance of the Russian army in the war between Georgia and Russia in 2008. It was a reminder for potential customers of Israeli arms that the Israeli army has not engaged in conventional warfare since 1973, and that its technologies were perfected for use against Palestinian civilians, mostly unarmed. They are not technologies for winning wars, but for controlling populations.

Even the objective of controlling a civilian population eludes the Israeli military. The attack of 2008-2009 did not ensure Israeli dominance in Gaza. Another attack was launched in 2012, and another in 2014. The last one was launched a year ago on 8 July, 2014, and ended in bitter disappointment for the Israeli side. Despite the massive destruction and 2,104 Palestinian dead, the Israeli military could not force the Hamas government into signing a ceasefire and had to continue the fighting for 51 days, one of the longest wars in Israel’s history.

Advanced weaponry did not prevent the loss of 65 Israeli soldiers and four civilians who were killed in the fighting, and did not prevent the enormous damage to the Israeli economy, mainly to the tourism sector.

Indeed, in the arms fair following Protective Edge, both Britain and France cancelled their participation, and Israeli companies became concerned at a possible arms embargo, an indication that Israel’s brute force approach is losing popularity even among some of the world’s largest arms exporting countries.

In early 2015, the Israeli Ministry of Defence published data, according to which Israeli arms sales are in decline.

When the image of “fortress Israel” cracks, the potential customers of Israel will be forced to realise that advanced as it may be, Israel’s military technology is not a substitute for a political process. Even the most advanced weapons fail to intimidate the occupied Palestinian population into silence.

Cyber war

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s new favourite word is: “cyber”. He mentioned it at great frequency as the new direction of the Israeli technological advance. Although the word “cyber” does not necessarily have military connotations, in Israel it certainly has.

In 2012, Netanyahu set up a “national cyber bureau” to promote private security companies and encourage their involvement in cyber technology. The Israeli military is establishing a new “cyber command” which is due to become operational in 2017. It has been revealed that Israel’s famous “8200” intelligence unit is in fact a cyber-intelligence unit. A letter signed by 34 soldiers from the unit revealed that the unit uses technological means to collect private information on Palestinians in order to blackmail them and force them to collaborate with Israeli intelligence. Indeed, 2014 was the first year in which “cyber” exports, which reached $6 billion, exceeded Israel’s arms exports of $5.66 billion.

The massive investments in surveillance technology, hacking and cyber-security indicate a change of direction in the Israeli arms-industry philosophy. The arms sector has not been able to sell the tools to achieve military victory in armed conflict, so it seeks to specialise in selling tools for repression. The Occupied Palestinian Territory continues to be Israel’s testing lab, and so citizens of governments who purchase the new cyber products from Israeli companies should consider the possibility that their governments seek to use similar control mechanisms on them, which Israel is using on Palestinians.

- Shir Hever is a graduate student at the Free University of Berlin, and an economist with the Alternative Information Centre.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: An Elbit Systems technician pilots a Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS) to operate drones during a presentation to the media of products manufactured by the international defence electronics company in Haifa on 25 February, 2010 (AFP)

Israeli private arms export is too terrible even for Tel Aviv

 Israel cracks down on sales of suicide drones to China to avoid heavy diplomatic cost in relationship with US

An Israeli UCAV IAI Harop drone displayed at Bourget airport during the International Paris Air Show on 21 June 2011 (AFP)

At least 20 Israeli arms dealers have been arrested by Israel's secret police over several months, in what is now being revealed as one of Israel's biggest arms-industry scandals in history. 

The story is under a gag-order in Israel, and only a few scant facts have been printed by Israeli newspapers. Even the destination country for the arms remains unnamed. 

Even so, there have been enough details coming out for the Israeli public to pick up the pieces and foreign platforms to publish what everyone already knew: suicide drones appear to have been developed in Israel to be sold to China.

Privatising Israel's arms industry
Read More »

Richard Silverstein, a Middle East Eye contributor, was one of the first to name Beijing in his blog, in a post published on 11 February. He noted that this was not the country's first scandal involving the sale of attack drones, and it came as no surprise considering the lack of oversight by the Israeli defence ministry.

"There have been numerous similar problematic sales to China in the past, many of which have angered the US. Israel plays a dangerous game of both cultivating trade with China while trying to maintain the close relationship with the US," Silverstein told MEE. 

"In this case, the aerospace engineer who coordinated the ring of military technology thieves may have been acting for his own enrichment, but he also created a potentially damaging scandal just as the US changes administrations, welcoming a president who is far more reluctant to look the other way regarding Israel stepping over the line than his predecessor."

Antony Loewenstein, an independent journalist, filmmaker and author, said that the recent scandal is just the latest example of Israel's defence sector going rogue. 

"Israel has a largely unregulated defence industry, allowing the Israeli government and its private companies to sell weapons, surveillance equipment and hi-tech to some of the most despotic regimes in the world from Uganda to the Philippines," he told MEE. 

"It's time for the Israeli state to be held accountable for this decades-long practice."

'Israel has a largely unregulated defence industry, allowing the Israeli government and its private companies to sell weapons, surveillance equipment and hi-tech to some of the most despotic regimes in the world'

- Antony Loewenstein, journalist

Despite the lack of regulations on the Israeli arms industry, this time Israel's secret police (ISA) have conducted an investigation and stopped the arms-dealing ring, indicating that the diplomatic cost of the deal in terms of the relationship with Washington would be too heavy to bear.

The sale marks the second time that China has purchased "loitering" munitions from Israeli manufacturers. The first time was in 1998. 

These weapons, nicknamed "suicide drones," have become a trademark of two Israeli arms companies: Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Aeronautics Ltd, which was bought by Rafael. 

Suicide drones, a hybrid between a drone and a missile, hover in the air for hours before the operator directs them to explode on a target. They are expensive, carry less firepower than artillery, and are as indiscriminate and inaccurate as other drones, so what is their strategic value? 

Terror factor

Newcastle University scholar Jamie Allinson pointed to the psychological value of suicide drones to commanders of powerful military forces who covet the only weapon that they do not have in their arsenal: the suicide bomber. 

Human soldiers are reluctant to perform suicide missions, but suicide drones can take their place. 

The deciding factor is terror: just as populations are terrorised by the thought that a stranger may turn out to be a suicide bomber and kill without warning, so can they be terrorised by a suicide drone that can drop from the sky without warning. 

Israeli-made suicide drones were used extensively by Azerbaijan in its recent conflict with Armenia over the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh.

By turning loitering munitions into an Israeli trademark weapon, although other countries produce them as well, Israeli arms companies have capitalised on the assumption that Israelis are familiar with suicide bombings. 

While it is unlikely that Chinese generals suffer from suicide-bomber envy, China could however gain valuable intelligence from these drones, which are being increasingly employed by Nato forces.

'Israel tests, develops and more importantly markets its weapons as ‘battle proven’ - that ‘battlefield’ is Palestinian cities and villages under Israeli occupation'
- Sahar Vardi, researcher

A new database on Israeli exports launched by the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organisation, lists three arms-export deals between Israel and China between 1998 and 2008: they involved missiles, loitering munitions and a satellite for the Beijing Olympics. 

"The Israeli military export law from 2007 does not include human rights related monitoring, consideration and restrictions because it was not legislated with that in mind," researcher and anti-militarist activist Sahar Vardi told Middle East Eye.

"It was legislated for one reason only: to allow the state, and its foreign affairs interests, to restrict sales in situations in which it is not in Israel's political interest."

Vardi said that this policy meant that arms sales to countries like Myanmar, which has committed ethnic cleansing against Rohingya people, have been allowed to take place, which she describes as not surprising.  

"Israel tests, develops, and more importantly markets its weapons as 'battle proven' - that 'battlefield' is Palestinian cities and villages under Israeli occupation."

According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot, the value of the loitering munitions illegally sold to China was a few tens of millions of dollars.

Under $1m was confiscated from the account of the ringleader, indicating that the payment to the arms dealers was meagre. 

Why would over 20 Israeli arms dealers take such a tremendous risk for such a small payoff? 

Conditional US aid

Considering the long-term decline in Israeli defence spending; the 2015 urgent appeal of Israeli arms companies to the government warning of a crisis in arms sales; the Memorandum of Understanding signed by then-president Barack Obama in 2016 revoking the special privilege of Israeli arms companies to receive a piece of US military aid; and the new political movement by ex-generals aimed at ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he faces corruption charges, a picture emerges that the Israeli security elite has been losing its hegemonic position in the Israeli economy. 

This deep crisis of the Israeli security elite offers an explanation as to why these arms dealers chose to ignore the risks and sell suicide drones to China.

‘Fortress Israel’: The ups and downs of arms sales and cyber surveillance
Read More »

The arms dealers could not have known that Joe Biden would win the US presidential elections and take a harsh stance on China. 

Even though Israel receives more US military aid than any other country, the aid comes with strings attached. 

The Pentagon holds strong leverage over Israel, restricting the transfer of US technology to third parties, banning Israeli companies from competing with US arms manufacturers and demanding that, in addition to the aid, Israel will spend billions more on US weapons. 

The inflexibility of the US demands on Israel was demonstrated by the Israeli finance ministry's recent decision to refinance a $2bn loan that was due this year, in order to enable the purchase of F-35 jets for the Israeli air force at a cost of $9bn.

Although the upcoming elections in Israel scheduled for the end of March were triggered by the government's failure to approve a budget, funds had to be found for the F-35 deal in order to avoid offending the Pentagon, which is already riled by the suicide-drone sale to China. 

Israeli arms exports serve two, sometimes conflicting, goals: furthering diplomatic influence and generating profit. 

Privatisation drove a wedge between the goals, as the arms dealers do not work for the government any more and focus only on profit, while the government no longer has as much influence as before over the types of technologies developed and the customers.

EU in Disarray Over Russia as Brussels Begs to Be Taken Seriously

It’s time the EU got its act together on Russia and accepted that Germany runs the EU and it will have its Russian gas pipeline at any cost. But don’t let that stop whining MEPs throwing stones at Putin.

As a body, the EU itself doesn’t fear much. It doesn’t fear the bloc falling apart as already France, Spain and Italy unite in their own ‘brexit’ plans; it doesn’t fear the extreme right gaining a majority in the European parliament in 2024 (a distinct possibility as EU citizens use the populist vote as an anti-immigration signal to the EU); it also doesn’t fear that the chaos of its own making with a vaccine could bring the entire project down as even its most diehard supporters in Brussels talk about the shambles of how the European Commission president has handled the matter.

But there is one thing the EU does fear, in fact: Russia. And they are right to.

Russia is the only entity which can cause real problems for the EU, not only in cyberattacks on companies, banks and media in both the 27-nation bloc but also in key institutions like the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Putin could, if he chose, cause chaos, in fact within the EU at any moment he chose. And on top of that, the political scandals that he endures only serve him well internationally as it is the EU which practically advertises itself as being a fractured, disorganised and delusional fake superpower which in reality is chasing its own tale most of the time on the world stage and trying its best to cause distractions within its own servile media that it is relevant and has cohesion.

The recent scandal involving Alexei Navalny might shock many in the West who balk on about human rights and lack of freedoms in Russia. But can Brussels really stand on a soap box and, with a straight face, preach to Europeans about such things? Guy Verhofstadt, an odious Belgian euro federalist MEP, recently took a swipe at the management of the EU under Ursula von der Leyen and harped recently that it was “time to get our act together on Russia”. On this particular occasion it was not over the preposterous scenario of the EU foreign policy chief recently visiting Moscow and trying to pull off the awkward back flip, triple axel circus stunt of both chastising Putin over the alleged poisoning of agents while at the same time presenting a begging bowl for the Russian vaccine. The spineless ruse was all about saving the EU from being a laughing stock by its own voters as yet another major policy — vaccines — is exposed as being a calamity in itself. But now it’s not vaccines or alleged assassinations, but energy which is troubling the euro federalists in Brussels who feel vulnerable to attack by Russia, when they know they are facing an unprecedented political crisis which the EU has never seen before. Verhofstadt is championing a call to block a controversial gas pipeline from Russia to Germany which is expected to put Berlin on a collision course with Brussels — a terrifying prospect for top apparatchiks in Brussels who are already fearful of a genuine groundswell of anti-EU resentment in Germany over the EU’s failed vaccine program.

Nord Stream 2 would serve Germany’s energy needs formidably but it also presents other bigger problems for the EU in that Brussels’ energy dependency on Russia increases, giving the latter more power over the former. While the EU tries to stop giggling as it imposes sanctions on Putin’s officials — which prevents them from travelling to the EU — the idea of the EU imposing any leverage on Russia is hysterical and practically a comedy in itself. Energy dependency is nothing new and has forced the EU to look at more radical plans so that some EU countries, like Italy for example, could be less reliant on Russian gas.

Perhaps the most vivid display of rank desperation was to bring in Gadaffi from the cold in 2004, with a Brussels visit which involved tents and female body guards clad in tight-fitting blue commando fatigues. Hilariously, Gadaffi took the podium in the press room and said nothing as journalists did their duty to their EU bosses and applauded him. The comedy is still alive and well in Brussels today now as the EU still cannot find the requisite magic to act as a superior power to Russia and to dish out the moral tutelage to Putin when in reality it grows weaker and weaker each day under the weight of Russia’s energy supplies.

Even on human rights it’s a joke. When the European parliament runs out of debating chambers named after European journalists murdered doing their jobs exposing graft — within the EU — few see the comic irony of MEPs supporting a motion which would pump more EU money into EU-friendly outlets, to actually boost the fake news coming from the Belgian capital.

Or even on a national level how EU countries are becoming more and more like dictatorships every day as human rights are eroded and the role of media is diminished. What did the EU even say about Julian Assange being held in a UK prison (whilst it was in the EU) or about draconian laws being passed in France which erode personal freedoms? Unfortunately, most EU citizens don’t know that scores of millions of euros each year are paid into a slush fund in Brussels which subsidies broadcasters’ production costs when covering EU events — and of course the recipients are very grateful for the bung, which doesn’t in any way — ho ho ho — affect their objective ‘reporting’ on the EU. Those same citizens are too quick to condemn Russia Today television as being a “Kremlin” tool, without even knowing that what their watching on their TVs about the EU is the epitome of fake news. The 10bn euro pipeline built by Gazprom is just the latest comedy which allows MEPs like Verhofstadt to call for “unity” and “standing up” to Russia. But how does an infant stand up to its towering, older brother how feeds him and keeps him warm? And when was the last time the EU had “unity” on anything big?