Monday, 20 August 2018
Today it seems like we are in another Cold War. It was breathtaking to watch our PM Theresa May immediately blaming Russia for the poisoning of the Skripals before the police had conducted their investigation into the evidence.
Growing up after the Second World War our news was dominated by the threat from the Soviet Union, but when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 I don’t think anyone could have guessed that just over two decades later we would be once again talking about the threat from Russia. Anyone who only gets their news from the British or American media is kept in ignorance of the truth; the endless accusations about the Skirpal poisoning or the conflict over Crimea is presented in a completely biased way in which most of the facts are ignored. But there is nothing new about this: dishonest reporting and lies dominated the whole of the Cold War in the days of the Soviet Union.
Although President John Kennedy in the United States started out with quite a right-wing agenda with one of his 1960 election promises being to close the missile gap with the Soviet Union, he rapidly changed and began to throw the weight of his administration behind the struggle to end racism in America’s deep south. Also, if he hadn’t been assassinated, he was planning to withdraw American troops from Vietnam if he had been re-elected in 1964 because he realized a full-scale war in Vietnam would be a disaster.
What changed his politics so much were his conflicts with the military. He had only been president a few days before they got him to continue with the planned invasion of Cuba by a small band of Cuban dissidents. The military told him that the invasion would lead to an uprising and the overthrow of Fidel Castro so America would not need to provide any air support for the invasion of the Bay of Pigs. But no sooner had the rebels landed, than the Pentagon was insisting that Kennedy agree to American air strikes on Cuba. Kennedy realized he had been lied to and refused. I would love to be able to go back in time and tell him that Castro’s regime would outlast the reign of twelve US presidents, eight of whom, including Kennedy, authorized assassination attempts on Castro, all of which failed.
Kennedy had already been shocked to discover that his campaign pledge to close the missile gap with Russia was nonsense. At his first military briefing he was told that the Soviet Union had four nuclear missiles capable of landing in the USA whereas the USA had three hundred and fifty capable of obliterating the Soviet Union.
It says a lot about the way we are lied to by governments that a man who had been a senator for eight years and was on the verge of becoming president was as completely ignorant about the truth of America’s nuclear superiority as were all the rest of us. Kennedy’s predecessor, Republican President Eisenhower, had tried to warn the American people about the growth of the power of the military industrial complex in his final television address before his presidency ended but nothing has changed and if anything it has become more powerful over the American government today than it was then when half the federal government’s budget was being spent on the military. Given that President Eisenhower had been the most senior military official in America before he became president, his warning is quite remarkable.
The lies about Russia’s military predominance are being echoed again today over issues like the Crimea. I have never seen anything in the British media that reports the fact that over ninety percent of the people living in the Crimea are Russian. Nor have I ever seen it reported in the media that the Crimea was never a part of Ukraine until 1954 when the Soviet Union’s then leader Nikita Khrushchev switched the boundaries to include the Crimea inside Ukraine. He might be that he did this simply because he was himself born and brought up in the Ukraine but there have always been rumours that he was very drunk when he took the decision but I’ve never seen that reported in the British media.
Although Britain and America have imposed sanctions on Russia for incorporating the Crimea the history of what happened is of course very different. The centre and west of Ukraine is dominated by Ukrainians and during the Second World War many Ukrainians collaborated with the Nazi regime after it invaded Ukraine on its way to Moscow and a couple of years later as the Soviet army pushed back the Nazis many Ukrainians fought with the Nazis against the Soviet army. So no-one should be surprised that the people of the Crimea and the Russian dominated Eastern part of Ukraine had worries and doubts about the Ukrainian government and its attitude towards them after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
What triggered this crisis was not a Russian invasion but the overthrow of the then moderate Ukrainian government under President Viktor Yanukovych. Back in November 2013 Yanukovych announced he was delaying the signing of an economic treaty with the European Union because it would have terminated the Ukraine’s trading and economic relations with its main economic partner Russia. Why the EU was demanding this change which would clearly damage the economy of Ukraine has never been revealed.
Following Yanukovych’s announcement demonstrators occupied the Ukrainian capital’s central square, Maidan, protesting against his decision but the protests and rallies became violent and led to the overthrow of the president on February 22, 2014.
The protests were led by extreme Ukrainian nationalists and paramilitary groups whose policies echoed much of the fascist ideology including the use of Nazi symbols and racist slogans, calling for the ethnic cleansing of the Russians living in Ukraine.
Britain, the USA and the EU supported the coup that overthrew President Yanukovych. There is now a considerable degree of evidence that western intelligence agencies were involved in encouraging these far-right groups over many decades following the end of the Second World War.
The new Ukrainian government claimed that the number of people shot dead had been killed by the government’s security forces and Russians posing as Ukrainians. Those allegations were blown away when the Italian TV website Eyes Of War showed a documentary interviewing three ex-military snipers from Georgia who admitted they had been hired by the insurgents and had been partly responsible for the shootings. No western government has talked about sanctions against Georgia.
Clearly the overthrow of the government and its replacement by a far-right anti-Russian regime spurred the fear of ethnic cleansing and led to the Russian majority in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine deciding they would not remain under the new Ukrainian regime and so they fought to defend themselves. Russians living in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine should have the same right to self-determination as should be the case around the whole of the world.
None of this is new, just a few years earlier in 2014 a Malaysian aeroplane was shot down as it passed over Ukraine in July. Immediately Western media said that this had been done by a Russian missile. But nowhere in the Western media was it revealed that the missile used was so old that they had been taken out of service by the Russian government years before. Following the chaotic break up of the old Soviet Union its wholly possible that several of these old missiles were retained, perhaps even by far-right groups in the Ukraine.
It takes decades for the truth to come out. We now know that when Tony Blair told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could reach Britain within 45 minutes and President Bush claimed Iraq had amassed a huge stockpile of uranium that this was completely untrue, but it led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
As a young man I remember back in 1964 the American government announcing that one of their battleships has been attacked by North Vietnam and this led to their mass bombing and full-scale war leading to the deaths of over three and a half million people. Twenty years later the truth came out that there had never been an attack on that American ship.
The earliest lie I remember was when I was just eleven years old and Britain and France announced they were invading Egypt to stop the war between Egypt and Israel. All the politicians behind that lie were dead long before the truth emerged that Britain and France had asked Israel to invade Egypt so that this would give Britain and France the chance to overthrow Nasser’s Egyptian government and take back control of the Suez Canal.
Always be careful about what you believe.
You’re sanctioned! You’re bombed! You’re invaded! The US has plenty of punishments lined up for states which it claims are doing things wrong. But what if the rest of the world held the US to the same standards?
Last Thursday was quite an unusual day. The US didn’t impose new sanctions on anyone. Not unless I missed it while I was lying on my sofa with tendonitis (cured after a day, I’m pleased to say, by my wife’s ‘Two-Pointing’).
At present the US operates active sanctions programs against almost 20 countries: from Belarus to Zimbabwe. And guess what? By and large the reasons the US gives for sanctioning these countries could just as equally be used to sanction the US.
Let’s look at the recently re-imposed sanctions on Iran, some of which came into force on August 6, with others set for November 4. The financial punishments don’t just target Iran. In a particularly nasty, school playground-style bullying tactic they target countries and foreign financial institutions which trade with Iran too. The Islamic Republic is accused of “malign behavior.” Of being a leading, sorry, make that “THE world’s leading state sponsor of terror.”
In fact Tehran’s crime has been to help defeat the terrorism, euphemistically described as “rebel activity,”supported by the US and its regional allies in Syria.
If sanctions are to be imposed for “malign behavior” and being a “sponsor of terror” then it’s the US that should be sanctioned, and not Iran. Moreover, if we followed the US logic, countries and financial institutions trading with America would be hit too. Just imagine the outcry from Washington if Iran had announced the sort of comprehensive measures against companies and banks that do business with the US, that the US has announced against companies and banks that do business with Tehran. But they would be justified, if we followed the State Department’s line of reasoning.
Russia has been subject to US sanctions since 2014. The Kremlin was accused of “annexing” Crimea, and “undermining” the “democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine,” and threatening Ukraine’s “peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.”
“You don’t just in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pre-text,”declared Secretary of State John Kerry, without any sense of irony. Because when it comes to invading other countries on “completely trumped-up pretexts” no-one has done it more often in recent decades or more shamelessly than the US and its allies. Iraqi WMDs anyone?
In April it was reported that the US was illegally occupying around 30 percent of Syria – the areas where most of the oil is located. Did the Syrians vote for this, as the Crimeans voted? In the case of the latter, an overwhelming majority of the population chose to return to Russian authority in 2014.
Of course, you don’t hear anyone talk about the US “annexing” Syria – “annexing” is only what “official enemies” do.
Russia has also been sanctioned for “interfering” in the 2016 US Presidential election. Never mind we’ve got no hard evidence of this. But what we do have proof of is massive US meddling in Russia’s presidential election of 1996 (Time magazine even boasted about it on its front cover) and in countless other elections around the world. Being accused of interfering in other countries’ affairs by the US is like being told to sit up straight by the Hunchback of Notre Dame, or being lectured on moral rectitude by Count Dracula.
If US standards on “election meddling” were applied to itself, then at least half the countries in the world would be justified in sanctioning the US. A country that most certainly does interfere in US politics is Israel. “Israeli intervention in US elections vastly overwhelms anything the Russians may have done,…even to the point where the prime minister of Israel, (Benjamin) Netanyahu, goes directly to Congress, without even informing the president, and speaks to Congress, with overwhelming applause, to try to undermine the president’s policies – what happened with Obama and Netanyahu in 2015,”says Noam Chomsky.
So is the US sanctioning Israel? Au contraire: ‘key US lawmakers’ want to increase the $38bn in military aid it gives to Israel!
The same ‘key US lawmakers’ who, surprise, surprise, are so keen to punish Russia!
The latest US sanctions on Russia, which come into force this week, are in relation to the Skripal case, and what Washington calls (no sniggering at the back) a “violation of international law.” Never mind that, once again, no evidence has yet been produced to show that Russia poisoned Sergei and Yulia. Just imagine if the Kremlin introduced sanctions on the US in response to the unsolved poisoning of two American citizens, who had worked previously for the FSB. What would the US say to that? Worse still, Washington is demanding that Russia proves within 90 days that it is no longer using chemical or biological weapons and will not do so again in the future. How about if someone gave the US this ultimatum? After all, we know that the US has used chemical weapons and possibly biological ones too and still has stockpiles, having missed the 2012 OPCW deadline.
Russia, by contrast, completed the disposal process in 2017.
Moving to Africa, the US has sanctioned Zimbabwe since 2001. All about Robert Mugabe? Well, Comrade Bob has gone now, and guess what? This summer the US extended sanctions ahead of the country‘s presidential elections. It’s clear that Zimbabwe is subject to sanctions because it has the “wrong” foreign policy alignments. Again, imagine if countries sanctioned the US because they didn’t like those with whom they were friendly?
A common reason cited for US sanctions against other countries is that they don’t hold “free and fair elections.” But does the US? The American political system is controlled by big money and powerful interest groups.
The Democrats and Republicans are just two wings of the same pro-war, pro-capital party, one just a little bit more socially liberal than the other to give voters the illusion of choice. For the US to sanction other countries for alleged democratic deficiencies really takes the biscuit when you consider the “choice” on offer to American voters in 2016. Even more hypocritical is when the US cites “human rights”concerns as a reason for punishing a foreign state. This is the country, which after all, is so committed to human rights that it withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council in June.
In fact, some of the worst human rights-abusing states in the world are very close allies of the US, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, and of course Washington doesn’t sanction them, but instead provides them with the military hardware to help them commit those very human rights abuses.
‘Peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.’ Let’s consider those words which the US uses to justify its sanctions on Russia, and think again about what’s been going on in the world these last 30 years. Did the US and its allies care about the ‘sovereignty and territorial integrity’ of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia when they bombed the country for 78 days in 1999, to try and achieve “independence” for Kosovo?
Did the US and its allies care about ‘peace, security and stability’ when they illegally invaded Iraq in 2003, plunging the country into chaos and bloodshed, with the carnage continuing to this day? Did they care about these very noble things when they bombed Libya, a country with the highest living standards in the whole of Africa, back to the Stone Age, in 2011? Or in their attempts to destabilize and Balkanize the Syrian Arab Republic?
The US loves to punish other countries, but it has no legal or moral authority to be the world’s judge, jury and executioner. It’s time it was held accountable to the same standards it demands of others, and where appropriate, subject to the same penalties.
In the words of my fellow OpEd columnist John Wight: “Only when we are living in a world in which sanctions are imposed ‘on’ the United States rather than ‘by’ the United States will we know justice reigns.”
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Qatar and Turkey have inked a currency swap agreement to boost liquidity and provide financial stability, Qatar’s central bank said, days after Doha pledged $15 billion of direct investment into Turkish markets.
The deal, which aims to boost cooperation between the countries, was clinched on Friday. The agreement will set up a two-way currency exchange line and facilitate exchange of trade between the nations, according to the Qatari central bank statement.
A currency swap is an economic tool that involves exchanges of loans, where countries borrow the same amount in each other's currencies and conduct trade using those currencies.
Last week, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, approved a package of economic projects, investments and deposits in Turkey. The step slightly boosted the plummeting Turkish lira. The funding for the first phase of the deal will reportedly reach $3 billion.
Turkey is currently struggling with a severe currency crisis triggered by escalating US sanctions. Washington has been applying economic pressure on Ankara over the detention of US pastor Andrew Brunson, who was accused of aiding the failed Turkish military coup two years ago. Brunson is facing up to 35 years in a Turkish prison.
So far, the White House has frozen the assets of Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu over their alleged “leading roles” in Brunson’s imprisonment. US President Donald Trump also pledged to double the current tariffs imposed on Turkish steel and aluminum imports.
At the same time, Qatar is facing an economic blockade from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations over the country's ties with Iran. Riyadh has accused its neighbor of supporting terrorism - a charge which Doha has repeatedly denied.
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed a “land, sea, and air blockade” on the peninsula state and cut diplomatic relations. Qatar's only land border is with Saudi Arabia, leaving the country isolated in the region and looking for alliances elsewhere.
Russia hopes to finalize two major defense deals with India by year’s end, with first deliveries of the S-400 air defense system potentially taking place in 2020, a Russian defense official has said.
India defied US demands to drop the S-400 deal in favor of US weaponry, selecting the defense system to protect its skies in June following an agreement on technical and economic specifications earlier this year. The S-400 is capable of destroying aerial targets at an extremely long range of up to 400km (almost 250 miles).
A separate deal will see the Indian Navy buy a further three Talwar-class/Project 11356 frigates as part of the service’s modernization program.
“As for the S-400, we have already prepared everything to sign this contract. All the main technical and commercial aspects have been agreed upon, and I think that we are close to making this happen. We hope to sign both contracts with our Indian partners by the end of the year,” Director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) Dmitry Shugaev told RIA Novosti.
Viewing India as a “strategic partner,” Shugaev confirmed that Moscow had adhered to New Delhi’s request to lower the price tag for five S-400 Triumf systems, which previous reports had pegged at $6.5 billion.
“India is a strategic partner for us, so we took into account the wishes of our partners, and made certain concessions,” Shugaev said, adding that India could receive first deliveries of the system as early as 2020 “if we sign the deal by the end of this year.”
Greenlighting the purchase in June, the Indian government faced off warnings from the US to drop the deal with the Russians or face potential sanctions though Washington’s CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act).
Undeterred by the threats, India’s Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at the time: “In all our engagements with the US, we have clearly explained how India and Russia’s defence cooperation has been going on for a long time and that it is a time-tested relationship. We have mentioned that CAATSA cannot impact the India-Russia defence cooperation.”
In May, US House Armed Services Committee chairman Mac Thornberry warned against governments choosing Russian tech over American, saying that the acquisition of S-400 technology would “limit” the degree with which the United States would “feel comfortable in bringing additional technology into whatever country we are talking about.”
Another ally to fall out with the US over S-400 procurement has been Turkey, who are on course to receive the first parts of their system in 2019. US lawmakers and fellow NATO members have expressed fears that Ankara’s possession of both the S-400 and the F-35, made by Lockheed Martin, might expose the state-of-the-art fifth-generation jet’s advantages, or lack of thereof, to allies and “known foes.”
French energy major Total is leaving Iran, the country’s oil minister announced on Monday. The firm pulled out of a major gas development deal despite promises by the EU to protect European companies from US sanctions.
“Total has officially left the agreement for the development of phase 11 of South Pars (gas field). It has been more than two months that it announced that it would leave the contract,” Iran Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said, as quoted by the government-run ICANA news agency.
Total’s departure was triggered by Washington’s unilateral reinstatement of sanctions against Tehran, which also targets any foreign firms doing business with the Islamic Republic.
In May, the EU officials pledged to protect the European companies doing business in Iran by enforcing the so-called Blocking Statute – a law of one jurisdiction that is designed to hinder application of a ruling made by a foreign jurisdiction. Brussels said that despite US sanctions, European firms would continue working in Iran under the protection of the EU.
“As the European Commission we have the duty to protect European companies. We now need to act, and this is why we are launching the process to activate the ‘blocking statute’ from 1996,” EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said prior to his July meeting with President Trump.
The announcement by Brussels failed to assure major European firms, for whom the prospect of losing the US market is much scarier than losing contracts in Iran. Apart from Total, shipping giant Maersk announced it would no longer transport Iranian energy products. Vehicle manufacturers Peugeot said it would leave the Islamic Republic, while Daimler halted expanding its business in the country.
The US unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal the country signed in 2015 with Iran, Russia, China and the European Union. As part of the agreement Iran vowed to limit its nuclear enrichment program and, in return, decades-long economic sanctions against Tehran were to be lifted.
Russia, China, the European Union and a number of other countries have condemned Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and have vowed to continue working in Iran despite US sanctions. They said they would recognize only an internationally agreed mandate by the United Nations, not unilateral action against a particular country by the United States.
The renewed US penalties, targeting the automobile sector along with gold and other metals trading, came into force on August 7. The second round of sanctions imposed by Washington is set to come into effect on November 4. The broader measures will target Iranian oil and shipping sectors, as well as transactions tied to energy trading and the country’s central bank.
The temporary ban of a left-wing, pro-Palestine Facebook page was a part of a “massive rearguard action on the part of the establishment” carried out in the name of “fake news,” argued George Barda, of Occupy London, told RT.
Upon reinstating the Occupy London page, which has more than 150k followers, Facebook said the ban was a mistake, though, according to Barda, the company gave “no reasonably explanation” for the initial ban, leading to suspicion from the group that the censure was over pro-Palestinian messages posted by the group.
Referencing a 2016 investigation by The Intercept, Barda stated “Facebook unfortunately works very, very closely with the US government, and the Israel government specifically to remove posts.
“It was the Israeli foreign minister, in a public statement, announced that previously only 50 percent of their demands for things be removed were responded to favourably by Facebook , now 95 percent of things the Israeli government order Facebook to remove they remove,” referencing reported comments by Israel's justice minister, Ayelet Shaked.
The Israeli government has recently weighed in the ongoing anti-semitism row that has riven the Labour Party, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exchanging barbs with Jeremy Corbyn last week.
“Because of this anti-Semitism row [in the Labour Party] progressives are keeping their voice down about the horrific recent events in Palestine; the passing of the law by the Israeli state that effectively, formally locked in the situation that we’ve had for 40 years, namely that Jewish people a different legal status from other citizens in Israel.”
Barda stated that he regarded the temporary ban on his page a part of a “massive rearguard action on the part of the establishment,”continuing to note that “in the name of fake news many progressive websites that have been a major part of Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn etc. they found their traffic going down significantly.
“Mainstream progressive websites have seen their traffic go down by 70 percent. These are algorithms that are designed in private that nobody can inspect that have a huge impact on what information the world gets to see about what’s going on. That’s a hugely significant issue going forward.”