Does the US provide military assistance to 73% of world’s dictatorships – truth or narrative? – By Rich Whitney – Truthout – (Sott)

US boots

© Sputnik News.com
US boots on the ground.

For decades, the American people have been repeatedly told by their government and corporate-run media that acts of war ordered by their president have been largely motivated by the need to counter acts of aggression or oppression by “evil dictators.” We were told we had to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator. We had to bomb Libya because Muammar Gaddafi was an evil dictator, bent on unleashing a “bloodbath” on his own people. Today, of course, we are told that we should support insurgents in Syria because Bashar al-Assad is an evil dictator, and we must repeatedly rattle our sabers at North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin because they, too, are evil dictators.

This is part of the larger, usually unquestioned mainstream corporate media narrative that the US leads the “Western democracies” in a global struggle to combat terrorism and totalitarianism and promote democracy.

I set out to answer a simple question: Is it true? Does the US government actually oppose dictatorships and champion democracy around the world, as we are repeatedly told?

The truth is not easy to find, but federal sources do provide an answer: No. According to Freedom House‘s rating system of political rights around the world, there were 49 nations in the world, as of 2015, that can be fairly categorized as “dictatorships.” As of fiscal year 2015, the last year for which we have publicly available data, the federal government of the United States had been providing military assistance to 36 of them, courtesy of your tax dollars. The United States currently supports over 73 percent of the world’s dictatorships!

Most politically aware people know of some of the more highly publicized instances of this, such as the tens of billions of dollars’ worth of US military assistance provided to the beheading capital of the world, the misogynistic monarchy of Saudi Arabia, and the repressive military dictatorship now in power in Egypt. But apologists for our nation’s imperialistic foreign policy may try to rationalize such support, arguing that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are exceptions to the rule. They may argue that our broader national interests in the Middle East require temporarily overlooking the oppressive nature of those particular states, in order to serve a broader, pro-democratic endgame.

Such hogwash could be critiqued on many counts, of course, beginning with its class-biased presumptions about what constitutes US “national interests.” But my survey of US support for dictatorships around the world demonstrates that our government’s support for Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not exceptions to the rule at all. They are the rule.

Sources and Methods

It was not easy to find out how many of the world’s dictatorships are being supported by the United States. No one else seems to be compiling or maintaining a list, so I had to go at it by myself. Here is how I came up with my answer.

Step 1: Determine how many of the world’s governments may be fairly characterized as dictatorships.

A commonly accepted definition of a “dictatorship” is a system of government in which one person or a small group possesses absolute state power, thereby directing all national policies and major acts – leaving the people powerless to alter those decisions or replace those in power by any method short of revolution or coup. I examined a number of websites and organizations that claimed to maintain lists of the world’s dictatorships, but most of them were either dated, listed only the world’s “worst dictators” or had similar limitations, and/or failed to describe their methodology. I ultimately was left with the annual Freedom in the World reports published by Freedom House as the best source for providing a comprehensive list.

This was not entirely satisfactory, as Freedom House has a decidedly pro-US-ruling-class bias. For example, it categorizes Russia as a dictatorship. In the introduction to its 2017 Freedom In the World report, it opines that

“Russia, in stunning displays of hubris and hostility, interfered in the political processes of the United States and other democracies, escalated its military support for the Assad dictatorship in Syria, and solidified its illegal occupation of Ukrainian territory.”

A more objective view would note that claims of interference in the US election by the Russian government have not been proven (unless one is inclined to take certain US intelligence agencies at their word); that Russia was asked by the UN-recognized Syrian government for assistance, in compliance with international law (unlike US acts of aggression and support for insurrection there); and would at least acknowledge that any Russian intervention in Ukraine occurred in the context of the United States’ brazen support for a coup in that nation.

Nonetheless, the Freedom House reports appear to be the best (if not the only) comprehensive gauge of political rights and freedoms covering every nation in the world. It utilizes a team of about 130 in-house and external analysts and expert advisers from the academic, think tank and human rights communities who purportedly use a broad range of sources, including news articles, academic analyses, reports from nongovernmental organizations and individual professional contacts. The analysts’ proposed scores are discussed and defended at annual review meetings, organized by region and attended by Freedom House staff and a panel of expert advisers. The final scores represent the consensus of the analysts, advisers and staff, and are intended to be comparable from year-to-year and across countries and regions. Freedom House concedes that, “although an element of subjectivity is unavoidable in such an enterprise, the ratings process emphasizes methodological consistency, intellectual rigor, and balanced and unbiased judgments.”

One can remain skeptical, but a key consideration is that Freedom House’s pronounced pro-US bias is actually a plus for purposes of this project. If its team of experts tilts toward a pro-US-government perspective, this means that it would indulge every presumption in favor of not categorizing nations supported by the United States as dictatorships. In other words, if even Freedom House categorizes a government backed by the United States as a dictatorship, one can be fairly confident that its assessment, in that instance, is accurate.

For purposes of the present assessment, I used Freedom House’s 2016 Freedom in the World report, even though its 2017 report is now available. I did so because the 2016 report reflects its assessment of political rights and civil liberties as they existed in 2015, which would roughly correspond with the military assistance and arms sales data that I had available for federal fiscal year 2015 (October 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015) and calendar year 2015. (I will work on a new report when such data for fiscal year 2016 becomes available.)

Freedom House uses a scoring system to gauge a nation’s “political rights” and “civil liberties,” in order to rate each country as “free,” “partly free” or “not free,” with a range of scores for each category. It describes its scoring system as follows:

“A country or territory is assigned two ratings (7 to 1) – one for political rights and one for civil liberties – based on its total scores for the political rights and civil liberties questions. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the greatest degree of freedom and 7 the smallest degree of freedom, corresponds to a specific range of total scores.”

For purposes of deciding whether a nation could be categorized as a “dictatorship,” however, I focused only on the “political rights” scores, classifying nations with a political rights score of 6 or 7 as a dictatorship. This does not mean that civil liberties are unimportant, of course, but the objective here is to assess the degree of absolutism of the political leadership, not freedom of expression, press, etc. Of course, in the overwhelming majority of cases, nations with low political rights scores also have low civil liberties scores. However, a political rights score of 6 or 7 corresponds most closely with our definition of dictatorship, based on Freedom House’s characterization:

6 – Countries and territories with a rating of 6 have very restricted political rights. They are ruled by one-party or military dictatorships, religious hierarchies, or autocrats. They may allow a few political rights, such as some representation or autonomy for minority groups, and a few are traditional monarchies that tolerate political discussion and accept public petitions.

7 – Countries and territories with a rating of 7 have few or no political rights because of severe government oppression, sometimes in combination with civil war. They may also lack an authoritative and functioning central government and suffer from extreme violence or rule by regional warlords.

While it may be debatable whether it is appropriate to consider a country with no “functioning central government” as a dictatorship, I would submit that the label is appropriate if that nation is ruled de facto by warlords or rival armies or militias. In effect, that simply means that it is ruled by two or more dictators instead of one.

By Freedom House’s measure, then, there were 49 nation-states that could be fairly characterized as dictatorships in 2015, as follows:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Brunei, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa), Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Libya, Mauritania, Myanmar, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

It should be noted that Freedom House included in its ratings several other entities with a political rights score of 6 or 7 whose status as an independent state was itself disputed:

Crimea, the Gaza Strip, Pakistani Kashmir, South Ossetia, Tibet, Transnistria, the West Bank and Western Sahara.

My count of 49 dictatorships in the world in 2015 excludes these subordinated or disputed state territories.

Step 2: Determine which of the world’s dictatorships received US-funded military or weapons training, military arms financing or authorized sales of military weapons from the United States in 2015.

For this step, I relied on four sources, the first two of which took considerable digging to locate:

A. Foreign Military Training in Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016 Volume I and Volume II (Country Training Activities), US Department of Defense and US Department of State Joint Report to Congress.

This is the most recent annual report, required by section 656 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961, as amended (22 U.S.C. § 2416), and section 652 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (P.L. 110-161), which requires

“a report on all military training provided to foreign military personnel by the Department of Defense and the Department of State during the previous fiscal year and all such training proposed for the current fiscal year,” excluding NATO countries, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

This report provides data on US expenditures for military training programs under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants, the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, the Section 2282 Global Train and Equip (GT&E) program, the Aviation Leadership Program to provide pilot training (ALP), and the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) drawdown program, which authorizes the president to direct the drawdown of defense articles, services and training if an “unforeseen emergency exists that requires immediate military assistance to a foreign country” that cannot be met by other means. Such expenditures are listed by recipient country, in some detail. For purposes of this study, I include expenditures under these programs as US-funded military training.

The report also provides data on US expenditures for narcotics and law enforcement, global peace operations, centers for security studies, drug interdiction and counter-drug activities, mine removal assistance, disaster response, non-lethal anti-terrorism training and other programs that I did not count as military assistance or training for purposes of this survey. It is certainly more than possible that US assistance under these programs could play a role in providing de facto military assistance to recipient countries, but I err on the side of caution.

The report describes the IMET program as including civilian participants, and including training on “elements of U.S. democracy such as the judicial system, legislative oversight, free speech, equality issues, and commitment to human rights.” One could conceivably criticize my inclusion of IMET training, therefore, on the ground that it actually trains foreign civilians and soldiers in democratic, anti-dictatorial values. However, the IMET program is presumably called “military” training and education for a reason. It trains students in “increased understanding of security issues and the means to address them,” and provides “training that augments the capabilities of participant nations’ military forces to support combined operations and interoperability with U.S. forces.” Accordingly, I think it is fair to count IMET as a form of military assistance, while acknowledging that it arguably might, at times, play a pro-democracy role.

B. US Department of State, “Congressional Budget Justification FOREIGN ASSISTANCE SUMMARY TABLES, Fiscal Year 2017.”

Table 3a of this publication provides the actual fiscal year allocations for foreign assistance programs, by country and by account, including the two programs that interest us here, Foreign Military Financing and IMET. In that regard, it is somewhat duplicative of the previous source, but I reviewed it as a check.

C. Department of Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), Financial Policy And Analysis Business Operations, “Foreign Military Sales, Foreign Military Construction Sales And Other Security Cooperation Historical Facts As of September 30, 2015.”

This source provides the total dollar value of military articles and services sold to foreign governments for FY 2015, including the value of agreements for future deliveries and the value of actual deliveries, which I have provided in the table below. It also includes other data on foreign military financing (credit or grants) extended to foreign governments and provides yet another source on IMET training.

D. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),Transfer of major conventional weapons: sorted by recipient. Deals with deliveries or orders made for year range 2015 to 2016.”

SIPRI provides an interactive tool by which the user can generate a list of major weapons transfers by supplier, all or some recipients, and the year. Although it only counts “major” conventional weapons transfers, I reviewed it as an additional check on the accuracy of the chart. It essentially affirmed the accuracy of the DSCA report but there were some possible anomalies. For example, the DSCA reports only $8,000 worth of military sales to Uganda in FY 2015 but SIPRI reports the transfer of 10 RG-33 armored vehicles, two Cessna-208 Caravan light transport planes, and 15 Cougar armored vehicles in 2015. The discrepancy may be due to the three-month difference between fiscal year 2015 and calendar year 2105, different methods of dating the transfer, differences in valuation or some unknown factor.

Step 3: Generate the Chart

The first column in the chart below lists the 49 countries classified by Freedom House as dictatorial in nature.

The second column shows those nations that received some US military training in FY 2015, relying primarily on source B, but also checking source C.

The third column shows those nations that received an agreement for future military sales or transfers from the United States in FY 2015, with the dollar value of the military articles listed, based on source C, but also checking source D.

The fourth column shows those nations that received an actual delivery of military articles from the United States in FY 2015, with the dollar value of the military articles listed, based on source C, but also checking source D.

whitney chart
Whitney chart 2

© Rich Whitney

I plan on providing similar reports on US support for dictatorships around the world on an annual basis. I will begin work on a report covering Fiscal Year 2016 as soon as the relevant data becomes available.

Rich Whitney is an attorney, actor, radio commentator and disk jockey, Illinois Green Party activist and former Green Party candidate for governor.

Comment: Military sales of equipment and services represent a very lucrative business (see the chart for 2015 which represents ‘dictatorship’ remunerations only). Peace and minding US’ own business, in this sense, has no ‘value’.

Deal of the century? No peace in sight as Israel carries on lying, stealing and killing with US approval – By Jonathan Cook /Middle East Eye – (Sott)

trump protest palestine

© AFP
‘He will be given free rein to do what he likes,’ Israeli analysts tells MEE

There are mounting signals that Donald Trump’s much-delayed Middle East peace plan – billed as the “deal of the century” – is about to be unveiled.

Even though Trump’s officials have given away nothing publicly, the plan’s contours are already evident, according to analysts.

They note that Israel has already started implementing the deal – entrenching “apartheid” rule over Palestinians – while Washington has spent the past six months dragging its heels on publishing the document.

“Netanyahu has simply got on with deepening his hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and he knows the Americans aren’t going to stand in his way,” said Michel Warschawski, an Israeli analyst and head of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem.

“He will be given free rein to do what he likes, whether they publish the plan or, in the end, it never sees the light of day,” he told Middle East Eye.

Eran Etzion, a former Israeli foreign ministry official, agreed: “Israel has a much freer hand than it did in the past. It feels confident enough to continue its existing policies, knowing Trump won’t stand in the way.”

Netanyahu ‘the winner’

According to the latest reports, the Americans may present their plan within days, soon after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Yossi Alpher, a former aide to Ehud Barak during his premiership in the late 90s, said it was clear Netanyahu was being “kept in the loop” by Trump officials. He told MEE: “He is being apprised of what is coming. There won’t be any surprises for him.”

Analysts are agreed that Netanyahu will emerge the winner from any Trump initiative.

Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli politician who was a pivotal figure in the Oslo peace process of the early 90s, said Netanyahu would cynically manipulate the plan to his advantage.

“He knows the Palestinians will not accept the terms they are being offered,” he told MEE. “So he can appear reasonable and agree to it – even if there are things he is unhappy with – knowing that the Palestinians will reject it and then be blamed for its failure.”

Alpher agreed. “If the plan is rejected, Trump will say he did his best, he offered the parties the greatest deal ever, and that they must now be left to settle the issues on their own.”

He added that the only obstacle to Washington presenting the plan were fears about Abbas’s waning health. Trump’s team might then prefer to shelve it.

Even then, he said, Netanyahu would profit.

“He can then continue with what he’s been doing for the past 10 years. He will expand the settlements, and suppress the rights of Israelis who oppose him. He will move Israel towards a situation of apartheid.”

Fragments of land

In an early effort to win Trump’s favour, reported by MEE a year ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas proposed a land swap ceding 6.5 percent of the occupied territories to Israel. That was more than three times what had been accepted by the Palestinians in previous peace talks.

But the Palestinians appear to have lost the battle and are now braced for the worst. Abbas has derided the plan as “the slap of the century”, and has said he will not commit “treason” by agreeing to it.

According to Palestinian officials, they are likely to be offered provisional borders over fragments of land comprising about half the occupied territories – or just 11 percent of what was recognised as Palestine under the British mandate.

The Palestinian areas would be demilitarised, and Israel would have control over the borders and airspace.

Israel and the Palestinians would then be left to “negotiate” over the status of Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with Trump likely to back Netanyahu to the hilt, according to the analysts.

It is widely assumed that the Americans have rejected any principle of a right of return for Palestinian refugees, either to Israel or to the areas of the occupied territories that Israel wins US approval to seize.

Gaza and Golan windfalls

The US embassy’s move to Jerusalem last month appears to signal that the Trump administration will recognise all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That would deny Palestinians East Jerusalem, long assumed to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

And separate reports this month suggest that the announcement of the peace plan may be timed to coincide with new measures for Gaza and the Golan Heights. There have been rumours for several years that Washington and Israel have been pressuring Cairo to let Palestinians in Gaza settle in Sinai.

According to Israeli reports, Washington may be close to unveiling a scheme that would weaken the border between Gaza and Egypt, and allow Palestinians to work and maybe live in northern Sinai.

The aim would be to gradually shift responsibility for the enclave away from Israel on to Egypt and further undermine prospects for a Palestinian state in historic Palestine.

golan map

And in a separate move that would complete Netanyahu’s windfall, an Israeli government minister claimed late last month that the Trump administration may be ready to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.

The Heights were seized by Israel from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed in violation of international law in 1981.

No longer ‘occupied’

A Jerusalem Post report last month suggested that the White House document would be unlikely to include a commitment to a “two-state solution”, reflecting previous comments from Trump.

That would free Israel’s hand to seize areas of the West Bank it has colonised with its ever-expanding settlements.

Noticeably, the latest annual report from the US State Department on the human rights situation by country, published in April, drops for the first time the term “occupied Palestinian territories”, implying that the Trump team no longer views much of the West Bank as under occupation.

Netanyahu told a recent meeting of his Likud faction: “Our successes are still to come. Our policies are not based on weakness. They are not based on concessions that will endanger us.”

So given Israel’s recent moves, what can we infer about the likely terms of Trump’s peace plan?

1. Gerrymandering Jerusalem

The most sensitive of the final-status issues is Jerusalem, which includes the incendiary Muslim holy site of al-Aqsa. Trump appears to have effectively recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by relocating the US embassy there last month.

The embassy move is likely to be interpreted by Netanyahu as a retroactive seal of approval from the US for a series of Israeli measures over recent months designed to engineer a Greater Jewish Jerusalem.

jerusalem map

The main thrust are two legislative proposals to gerrymander the city’s boundaries and its population to create an unassailable Jewish majority. Both have been put on hold by Netanyahu until the announcement of the peace plan.

The first – called the Greater Jerusalem Bill – is intended to annex several large Jewish settlements close by in the occupied West Bank to the Jerusalem municipality. Overnight that would transform some 150,000 West Bank settlers into Jerusalem residents, as well as effectively annexing their lands to Israel.

In a sign of the impatience of members of Netanyahu’s cabinet to press on with such a move, the bill is due to come up for consideration again on Sunday.

A separate bill would strip residency in the city from some 100,000 Palestinians who are on the “wrong side” of a wall Israel began building through Jerusalem 15 years ago. Those Palestinians will be all but barred from Jerusalem and assigned to a separate council.

In addition, Israel has intensified harsh measures against Palestinians still inside East Jerusalem, including night arrests, house demolitions, the closing down of businesses, the creation of “national parks” in Palestinian neighbourhoods, and the denial of basic services. The barely veiled aim is to encourage residents to relocate outside the wall.

Experts have noted too that Palestinian schools inside the wall are being pressured to adopt the Israeli curriculum to erode a Palestinian identity among pupils.

2. Abu Dis: a Palestinian capital?

With Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital, Trump’s team is reported to be seeking a face-saving alternative location for a future Palestinian “capital” outside Jerusalem’s municipal borders.

According to rumours, they have selected the town of Abu Dis, 4km east of Jerusalem and cut off from the city by Israel’s wall more than a decade ago.

east jerusalem

The Abu Dis plan is not new. At the end of the 90s, the US administration of Bill Clinton proposed renaming Abu Dis “al-Quds” – Arabic for “the Holy”, the traditional name of Jerusalem because of its holy places. That was seen as a prelude to designating it the future capital of a Palestinian state.

Reports about the elevation of Abu Dis in the new peace plan have been circulating since late last year. In January, Abbas rejected the idea outright.

Only last month Yair Lapid, leader of Israel’s centre-right Yesh Atid party, highlighted reports about the imminent change of Abu Dis’s status in comments directed at Netanyahu.

Abu Dis is a densely populated village home to 13,000 Palestinians. In practice, it is all but impossible to imagine how it could function meaningfully as the capital of a Palestinian state – something that makes it an attractive proposition for most of Netanyahu’s coalition.

Currently, most of Abu Dis’s lands are under Israeli control, and it is hemmed in by the wall and Jewish settlements, including the 40,000 inhabitants of Maale Adumim.

Palestinian protester

© Reuters
A Palestinian protester hits the Israeli separation barrier with a hammer in Abu Dis in October 2015

Several government ministers have made Israel’s annexation of Maale Adumim a priority. Netanyahu has delayed such a move, again citing the need to wait for the announcement of the Trump peace plan.

Beilin said it was mistakenly believed that he and Abbas agreed on Abu Dis as a Palestinian capital back in the 90s.

“It wasn’t credible as an idea then, and the map looks very different now,” he said. “The Palestinian capital has to be in East Jerusalem. Nothing else will work.”

3. Access to al-Aqsa

There has also been talk of a plan to create a narrow land corridor from Abu Dis to the al-Aqsa mosque, so Palestinians can reach it to pray.

However, Israel has been allowing ever larger numbers of settlers into al-Aqsa, which is reputedly built over two long-destroyed Jewish temples.

aqsa settlers

© AFP
Settlers accompanied by Israeli security guards pose for a photo during a visit to al-Aqsa

Meanwhile, Israel has been tightly restricting access to the site for most Palestinians. There have been long-standing Palestinian fears that Israel is seeking to engineer a situation where it can impose its sovereignty over the mosque.

David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel and a benefactor to the settlements, only heightened such fears last month when he was pictured apparently accepting a photo doctored by religious settlers that showed al-Aqsa mosque replaced by a new Jewish temple.

4. Jordan Valley

Under the Oslo accords, some 62 percent of the occupied West Bank was classified as Area C, under temporary Israeli control. It includes much of the Palestinians’ best agricultural land and would be the heartland of any future Palestinian state.

Israel never carried out the withdrawals from Area C intended in the Oslo process. Instead, it has been accelerating the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements there, and making life as hard as possible for Palestinians to force them into the confines of the more densely populated Areas A and B.

The Trump plan is reported to offer recognition of provisional Palestinian borders on about half of the West Bank – effectively awarding most of Area C to Israel. Much of that land will be in the Jordan Valley, the long spine of the West Bank that Israel has been colonising for decades.

Last December, as the Trump plan took shape, Israel announced a massive programme of settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley, designed to more than double the settler population there. Three new settlements will be the first to be built in the valley in nearly 30 years.

At the same time, Israel has lately been intensifying the harassment of the ever-shrinking Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley, as well as other parts of Area C.

In addition to denying Palestinians access to 85 percent of the Valley, Israel has declared military firing zones over nearly half of the area. That has justified the regular eviction of families on the pretext of ensuring their safety.

Israel has also been developing accelerated procedures to demolish Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley.

5. The rest of Area C

Israel has been speeding up efforts to expand the settlements in other parts of Area C. On 30 May, it announced nearly 2,000 new homes, the great majority of them in isolated settlements that it was previously assumed would be dismantled in any peace deal.

Additionally, Israel has been quietly preparing to “legalise” what are termed “outposts” – settlements, usually built on private Palestinian land, that violate a “no new settlements” agreement with the US dating from the 90s.

At the same time, Israel has been destroying Palestinian communities in Area C, especially those that stand in the way of efforts to create territorial continuity between large settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Late last month, France objected after Israel’s supreme court approved a plan to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, next to Maale Adumim. The families are supposed to be moved to a garbage dump in Abu Dis.

The French statement warned that Israeli actions were threatening “a zone of strategic importance to the two-state solution and the contiguity of a future Palestinian state”.

In its place, it was recently revealed, Israel is planning to build a new settlement neighbourhood called Nofei Bereishit.

In another sign of mounting international concern, some 70 Democratic members of the US Congress appealed last month to Netanyahu to stop the destruction of the Palestinian community of Sussiya, between the Gush Etzion settlements and Jerusalem.

US lawmakers expressed concern that the move was designed to “jeopardise the prospects for a two-state solution”.

6. Gaza and Sinai

It is becoming hard for the Trump administration and Israel to ignore the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza – one Israel helped to engineer with an 11-year blockade and intermittent military attacks. The United Nations warned some time ago that Gaza would soon be “uninhabitable”.

Seeking a solution, the White House hosted 19 countries at a meeting in March to consider the situation in Gaza. The PA boycotted the meeting.

gaza sinai

At the time, Arab media reported that the Trump peace plan might include a commitment from Egypt to free up northern Sinai for a future Palestinian state. According to a Hamas official, Cairo offered reassurances that it was opposed to “settling Palestinians in Sinai”.

But a report in Haaretz has revived concerns that the White House may try to achieve a similar end by other means, by launching a Gaza initiative to coincide with the peace plan.

The paper noted that the Trump team had picked up proposals from an Israeli general, Yoav Mordechai, who participated in the White House meeting in March.

A reported initial stage would see Palestinians from Gaza recruited to work on $1.5bn worth of long-term projects in northern Sinai, funded by the international community. The projects would include an industrial zone, a desalination plant and a power station.

Egyptian opposition to such an initiative is reported to be weakening, presumably in the face of strenuous pressure from Washington and Arab allies.

Palestinian protests

The Palestinians are doing their best to try to halt the peace plan in its tracks. They are currently boycotting the Trump administration to show their displeasure.

Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called last month on Arab states to recall their ambassadors from the United States in protest.

And an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has proposed that an international peacekeeping force, modelled those used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 90s, be deployed to protect Palestinians.

In another sign of anger at the Trump initiative, the Palestinians defied the US by submitting a referral for the International Criminal Court at the Hague to investigate Israel for war crimes last month.

Etzion, the former Israeli foreign ministry official, however, warned that a turning point could be on the horizon.

“A Palestinian implosion is coming and that could change the situation in unexpected ways,” he told MEE. “The question is which implosion comes first: the humanitarian catastrophe about to engulf Gaza, or the political vacuum created when Abbas leaves.”

Arab pressure

Nonetheless, the Palestinians are facing huge pressure to give in to the peace plan.

The Trump administration has already cut funding to the UN refugee agency, UNRWA, which cares for more than two million refugees in the occupied territories. It is also poised to pull more than $200m of funding to the Palestinian Authority this summer.

Trump has also sought to recruit the Arab states to lean on Abbas. According to reports, the Palestinian leader was presented with a 35-page document originating from the Americans when he visited Saudi Arabia last November, and told to accept it or resign.

In recent years the Saudis have increased their aid to the Palestinian Authority, giving them greater leverage over the Palestinian leader.

In exchange for the Arab states acceding to Trump’s plan, Washington appears to be rolling out a more draconian policy towards Iran to limit its influence in the region.

The Arab states understand that they need to first defuse the Palestinian issue before they can be seen to coordinate closely with Israel and the US in dealing with Tehran.

In Yemen, Selling, Borrowing, Begging To Save Loved-Ones as Cholera Rages – By Ahmed Abdulkareem (MINT PRESS)

A man is treated for suspected cholera infection at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

What is taking shape across this Texas-sized nation at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula is an awful, perfect storm, a disastrous collaboration between nature and man that has caused a cataclysm unlike anything the world has ever seen.

SANA’A, YEMEN — When his wife’s vomiting and diarrhea simply wouldn’t stop, 40-year-old Ali Sherwaid, an English teacher, did a quick accounting in his head, calibrating the catastrophe that had befallen him. With cholera ravaging his wife, 28 years-old and nine-months pregnant with the couple’s first child, Sherwaid needed to get her medical treatment. Problem was, the constant Saudi airstrikes had decimated the healthcare infrastructure in Yemen’s northern Sa’ada province, and his village of Fudh was at least 6 hours drive, on bad country roads, to the nearest hospital.

Compounding the crisis was the fact that Sherwaid had no money — Yemen’s civil servants haven’t been paid in months — and he had nothing to pay a doctor to treat his wife, Fatimah.

And so Sherwaid auctioned off his wife’s jewelry, borrowed money from neighbors, bundled his wife’s doubled-over frame into his car, and sped off in the night, headed for al Jomuri Hospital in the city of Sa’ada, some 80 miles away. Days later, as her health continued to break down, his wife was taken to Al Sabeen Hospital in Sana’a, the capital.

In an interview, Sherwaid told MintPress News:

When we finally reached the hospital, my wife was inching towards death.”

What is taking shape across this Texas-sized nation at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula is an awful, perfect storm, a disastrous collaboration between nature and man that has caused a cataclysm, unlike anything the world has ever seen.

Yemen’s is the 21st century’s worst humanitarian crisis and, when measured by the proportion of the population affected, it might well be the worst in a century. Since the armed conflict erupted in March of 2015, more than 10,000 Yemenis have died, and 22.2 million people — out of a total population of just under 28 million — are now in need of food, medicine, water and shelter. Of that number, 11.3 million — mostly women, children, and the elderly — are at risk of dying, according to international relief agencies.

A nurse cares for a malnourished boy at Al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

In addition to an aggressive bombing campaign led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and supported by the United States and the United Kingdom — targeting Yemen’s civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and clinics — the coalition’s blockade of Yemen’s land, sea and air routes has left more than 12 million people without wheat and other food staples. The combination of the blockade and bombing of Yemen’s electrical grid has left nearly 15 million Yemenis without access to health care, and 10 million are in jeopardy of losing access to potable water.

The shortage of potable water has driven Yemenis to drink from water sources polluted with their neighbors’ feces and urine, resulting in a cholera outbreak that is believed to have infected more people than any cholera epidemic in modern history. Since the spring of 2011,”nearly 1,490,000 cases of a particularly aggressive strain of the waterborne disease have been reported in Yemen,” Abdul Hakeem al-Kuhlani, general manager of the cholera observation unit in Sana’a said to a Journalist for MintPress; “tens of thousands have proven fatal.”

Even before the war, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East. The war has deepened poverty; millions of public-sector employees have gone months without a paycheck.

“Everything in Sa`ada has been destroyed by Saudi airstrikes,” Sherwaid told MintPress. “My wife, who is pregnant with our first child, contracted cholera; I didn’t have money and was forced to sell everything to save my wife and child.”  

 

The room of horrors

The cholera ward at Al Sabeen Hospital is a room of horrors. A dozen patients lie motionless in their beds; a couple watches their child take his last breath. A man vomits into a pan, his eyes dry and dazed. Patients’ families kneel in prayer to Allah. When Sherwaid arrived at the camp, the families welcomed him and helped his wife find a new bed. Saeed — a father of two children, ages six and nine, who are infected with cholera — whispers to Sherwaid: “I only want to see my two sons recover from cholera, and then we can celebrate.” He tells MintPress, “My youngest son Salem, six, was first infected, and then he transmitted the disease to his brother.”

“We expect to see a surge of cases during the rainy season,” Anton Camacho, lead author of a study on the epidemic published in The Lancet Global Health journal, told Reuters.

MSF`s cholera treatment center in Hajjah’s Abs, destroyed by Saudi airstrikes on June 11, 2018. Ahmed Abdulkareem | MintPress News

The Saudi-led coalition targeted this particular center for the second time, and facilities managed by Doctors Without Borders have been targeted on six different occasions. According to a statement by the Ministry of Public Health and Population in Sana`a: “The U.S.-Saudi-led coalition deliberately undermines the health system,” in Yemen, and the “United States of America bears responsibility for these attacks.”

 

After attack on Hodeida, the humanitarian situation worsens

The Saudi-led coalition escalated its airstrikes on the city of Hodeida in western Yemen, which is the lone remaining supply line for the millions of Yemenis in the north who rely on foreign aid for food, fuel, medicine for cholera, and other necessities. The number of Yemenis in danger of starving to death could rise from 8.4 million currently to 18.4 million by December of this year, according to UN officials.

On May 6, 2018, national health authorities launched an oral cholera vaccination (OCV) campaign in cooperation with the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Almost 275,000 doses of OCV were administered in May across five priority districts in Aden, reaching nearly 70 percent of the target population.

A billboard raising awareness of the environmental campaign against cholera in the Tahrir district of Sanaa, June 11, 2018. Ahmed Abdulkareem | MintPress News

For his part, Sherwaid gets a double-dose of horrible news: His unborn child died and his wife has an incurable kidney disease and will need dialysis for the rest of her life. Realizing it could be worse, Sherwaid says almost jubilantly: “Praise Allah.”

Top Photo | A man is treated for suspected cholera infection at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

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Trump And Kim Sign Declaration of Peace in Singapore (Because The Alternative is Too Expensive)- By Niall Bradley (Sott.net)

 

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump

© Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump signing a “historic” document in Singapore

So Rocket Man and The Dotard have met. After last year’s epic mud-slinging, US President Donald Trump now says he and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have a “special bond”. The ‘optics’ of the summit reflect well on both leaders, who were cordial and without any of the hysterics and tantrums that had ‘analysts’ forecasting nuclear conflagration just last year.

But that’s all ancient history now. The signed document – a declaration, not a ‘deal’, ‘roadmap’ or anything more – is brief:

trump kim meeting

Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:

  1. The United States and the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
  2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
  4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Trump apparently had the following video played at the end of the meeting:

Call it gaudy or wishful thinking, but this messaging is so much better than “fire and fury”.

So Trump apparently wants to ‘bring the American Dream to North Korea’. The real deal-making potential for him lies in American firms being top of the queue for meeting North Korea’s development needs. He surely realizes that – for historical, geographical and cultural reasons – the North Koreans are more likely to embrace the Chinese Dream over the American one, but Trump will not settle for the US being completely cut out of the picture. That’s what we saw happen to US firms following the Iran Deal, and that’s why Trump tore it up.

Kim apparently turned to Trump at one point during their meeting and said:

“Many people in the world will think of this as a form of fantasy from a science fiction movie.”

It is indeed historic, and whatever one thinks of Trump, or Kim for that matter, and whatever their ‘real intentions’, the very act of opening up before the world in this way makes fire, fury and missile attacks that much less likely. Not included in the document, but said by Trump afterwards, was that the US would “stop playing war games.” Again, actions have to meet words, but it’s clear that they have tangible meaning to Trump when he reveals that he’s again thinking of the bottom line:

“The war games are very expensive, we pay for the majority of them.”

By the way, the basic Trump-Kim agreement for a freeze of US war games on and around the peninsula in exchange for a freeze in nuke/ICBM testing is exactly what China and Russia called for before last year’s ‘rocket hysterics’ led into ‘sanctions like never before’. What will happen to those sanctions now? UN-agreed sanctions on North Korea were a useful tool only because China and Russia also upheld them. Both countries have already called for the sanctions to end, arguing that they have done their job of ‘bringing Kim to heel’. If the US is left unilaterally sanctioning North Korea for too long beyond this point, those American investment prospects will evaporate as North Korea bargains directly with its neighbors and the US is left looking like the sole unreasonable party – as is currently the case with the Iran Deal.

The losers, for now, are the deep staters and build-a-burgers in Japan, South Korea and Washington. They know nothing other than the post-WW2 Pax Americana and will resist entering uncharted territory without Uncle Sam taking the lead. They tried their best – with their ‘Libya model’ threats – to prevent this meeting from happening. The winners are the peoples of Korea, China and Russia. Trump gets kudos too, though it remains to be seen for what. Special peace prizes go to President Xi Jinping of China and Moon Jae-in of South Korea. One is also left wondering just what Putin – via Lavrov – said to Kim on the Russian state visit to the Hermit Kingdom just 10 days before this summit.

As we’ve said before, North Korea’s nukes aren’t really the issue. In fact, North Korea itself isn’t the issue either. This is about the US foothold in East Asia – in South Korea, Japan and elsewhere – and what becomes of that foothold in a situation where China’s star is rising and America’s fading. Trump sees what Eurasian integration (BRICS, Belt and Road, SCO, etc) means for US domination of – in this case – ‘our Pacific lake’. He wants to leverage US military advantages (while they still exist) in order to gradually replace the US military foothold in the region with a more constructive, profitable, and longer-lasting one: “We’ll pull back our troops and guns, if you give us access to your market resources. There’s no way we’re abandoning the whole region to Chinese economic, and later military, domination.”

Ironically, while China and Russia have responded positively to Trump’s moves to transform – rather than remove – US presence in East Asia, it’s a really hard sell for Trump on the domestic front because that military foothold was designed to ‘contain’ China, not ‘do trade deals’ with it. So Trump has to somehow convince US elites to get onboard with his plan to switch guns for iPhones and channel their warmongering impulses into something resembling a reasonably fair trade war with China.

I think he can pull it off. Nobody does deals like The Donald. Did you know he wrote a book about The Art of the Deal?

 

Niall Bradley (Profile)

Niall Bradley has a background in political science and media consulting, and has been an editor and contributing writer at SOTT.net for 8 years. His articles are cross-posted on his personal blog, NiallBradley.net. Niall is co-host of the ‘Behind the Headlines’ radio show on the Sott Radio Network and co-authored Manufactured Terror: The Boston Marathon Bombings, Sandy Hook, Aurora Shooting and Other False-Flag Terror Attacks with Joe Quinn.

See Also:

 

Outcome of Assange Case Could Undermine the Rights of Millions – by Whitney Webb (MINT PRESS)

Australians march through Brisbane to protest the detention of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, Dec. 10, 2010. Tertius Pickard | AP
War on Wikileaks

If Australia reneges on its obligations to protect Assange and fight for his rights, the implications such actions would hold for every other citizen of the country are as vast as they are chilling.

LONDON – As the sixth anniversary of his extended stay in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London approaches, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange is faced with increasingly limited options. Barred from communicating with the outside world and from receiving most visitors, Assange’s only hope of avoiding extradition to the United States on trumped-up espionage charges comes down to the governments of the two countries of which he is a citizen: Australia and Ecuador.

In an unexpected move last week, the Australian government sent officials to meet with Assange and later confirmed that Australia would finally extend consular assistance to the Australian-born journalist after years of failing to do so and even threatening to revoke his Australian passport. The Australian government, in the past, has attempted to argue that it can do little to help Assange’s situation, asserting that it was “unable to intervene in the due process of another country’s court proceedings or legal matters.”

It has also failed to publicly comment on the UN’s finding that Assange has been subjected to arbitrary detention by the United Kingdom — asserting, as recently as last week, that the government’s position on the matter is “confidential,” and deflecting responsibility by claiming that the UN’s findings “are directed at the United Kingdom and Sweden, not at Australia.”

However, given the fact that Sweden has dropped all legal proceedings against him, and with his protected status at the Ecuadorian embassy in question, Australia is now coming under unprecedented pressure to act. And the political pressure the Australian government is facing involves the broader implications the Assange case holds for Australian citizens as a collective, not just for Assange as an individual.

As recently noted by Richard Hoffman at WSWS:

The issue at stake for the Australian government is its commitment to the protection of the human rights of its citizens, including internationally recognized legal and democratic norms such as free speech, the right of due process, freedom from cruel and degrading treatment, and the right not to be punished in the absence of a criminal act.”

Indeed, Assange’s detention in the embassy has been carried out in the complete absence of criminal charges, as the only remaining legal justification for his arrest by the U.K. government is his breach of bail.

However, as Hoffman writes, a breach of bail would not lead to incarceration in the U.K., as the primary punishment for such infractions is the payment of a bail bond, which was forfeited in Assange’s case. Thus, the only reasonable conclusion regarding the U.K.’s intention to detain Assange if he leaves the embassy is that it is to extradite him to the United States — the very basis for his protected status.

 

What undercutting Assange would mean for all Aussies

Thus, if Australia reneges on its obligations to protect Assange and fight for his rights, the implications such actions would hold for every other citizen of the country are as vast as they are chilling. It would set the legal precedent for Australia to allow any of its citizens to be detained, imprisoned and/or silenced by another government without charges, greatly weakening the rights of any Australian national living or traveling abroad. Essentially, it would mean that many of the rights granted to an Australian by right of one’s citizenship would evaporate the second he or she set foot on foreign soil.

Were Assange anyone else, the Australian government would be forced to act – at the very least – to maintain the appearance that it is committed to the rights of citizens and its own national sovereignty. However, Assange is no “normal” individual in this sense – his arrest is a “priority” to the U.S. government, which is now seeking to maximize pressure to extradite Assange while his protected status is at its weakest.

Australians march through Brisbane to protest the detention of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, Dec. 10, 2010. Tertius Pickard | AP

Thus, the degree to which the Australian government is influenced by the United States will be the deciding factor in this case. That influence, particularly under the current government of Australia, is as strong as ever and has been undeniable for decades. Indeed, since World War II, Australia has been very much a part of U.S. empire, hosting numerous U.S.-related military facilities and consistently offering support for U.S. wars in exchange for “preferential” access to U.S.-manufactured weapons.

That relationship has only grown stronger in recent years, in part due to Australia’s major role in facilitating the U.S. military’s “pivot to Asia” that was first announced under Barack Obama. With the current prime minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, having been a former executive at the U.S.-based “vampire squid” bank Goldman Sachs, the past influence of the U.S. on Australia’s government remains a factor that continues to demand attention.

Will the long-standing influence of the U.S. military-industrial complex be enough for Australia to choose to jeopardize the rights of its other 25 million citizens by setting a dangerous precedent in Assange’s case? The extent of the “consular assistance” that Australia has now extended to Assange will effectively answer that question.

 

Ecuador’s pivot towards U.S. empire

While Australia susses out its position, the most pressing threat to Assange’s security seems to come from the country that first granted him asylum, Ecuador. Once defiant in the face of U.S. pressure, Ecuador under President Lenín Moreno has sought to return to its neo-colonial status under the thumb of the United States, despite Moreno’s having campaigned as a loyalist to former President Rafael Correa, who had granted Assange asylum in the first place.

Moreno’s “betrayal” of Correa was foreshadowed by WikiLeaks’ releases in the past. In 2010, WikiLeaks’ released a 2007 document on Moreno written by the Bush-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Linda Jewell. In the report, Jewell stated her view that then-Vice President Moreno would be “useful” to Washington:

Moreno welcomed the visit and expressed his admiration for the United States … He said that Ecuador had to get past its cultural inclination to always play the ‘blame game’ with respect to its problems, which so often includes blaming the U.S. for one thing or another … He will be a useful partner and advocate for many of our development assistance programs, and he will likely also be a useful and strategic conduit for political messages that may be difficult to deliver directly to Correa.”

This past Saturday, Correa’s Twitter account tweeted a screenshot of this same document, leading some to suggest that the document’s publication by Assange’s organization helped motivate Moreno’s recent decision to silence the journalist.

As the document foretold, Moreno indeed has sought to return his country to the sphere of U.S. influence. He has barred Correa from running for re-election and removed Correa loyalists from his cabinet. He has also begun paving the way for the U.S. military to regain its foothold in the country, which was abruptly ended in 2009 when Correa expelled the U.S. military from its base. The only exception is Ecuador’s granting of citizenship to Assange. However, this was done behind Moreno’s back and orchestrated by Correa ally María Fernanda Espinosa of Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry.

As in Australia’s case, the actions of Moreno’s government in the Assange case will have similarly far-reaching implications for the rights of its citizens, especially if Moreno chooses to revoke Assange’s asylum. Yet, while Moreno is likely to avoid revoking Assange’s asylum directly, his decision to gag Assange suggests that he is opting to make Assange’s stay in the embassy so miserable that he will choose to leave of his own accord.

Correa has hinted that this is the case, as he has called Assange’s current treatment by Ecuador within the embassy a form of “torture,” and also noted months prior that Moreno was set to ensure that Assange’s days in the embassy were numbered. If Ecuador is willing to “torture” one of its own citizens in an effort to force him to “voluntarily” rescind its protections, its commitment to protecting the right to free speech and even the very dignity of its other citizens is immediately called into question.

Translation | Moreno delivers Ecuador to the USA, part of his betrayal of our people and the Patria Grande (shared homeland). Assange’s days in Ecuador’s embassy in London are numbered.

While the “vassal state” status of Australia and potentially Ecuador may do much to endanger the status of Assange, a negative decision by both governments on this single case would also set dangerous precedents for the rights of all citizens of both of those countries, a combined population of over 41 million people. As a result, the outcome of Assange’s case could well be much more damaging to Australia or Ecuador than the content of any past or future WikiLeaks release. If both countries fail to act on their obligation to protect one of their own, it will force them both to acknowledge that their citizens’ rights and their national sovereignty come second to the lures and demands of the American empire.

Top Photo | WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange looks out the window of the Ecuadoran embassy in London, where he has been confined since 2012. Luke MacGregor | Bloomberg

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Ten Years On, Putin Told Them So – Finian Cunningham Sputnik (SOTT)

putin munich

Putin first articulates the term ‘multipolar world’ at the Munich Security Conference in 2007. US Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham look on in disgust

You can hardly blame Russian President Vladimir Putin for enjoying a “told you so moment”. He lately reminded European leaders that their all-out spat with the United States is what happens when you are too deferential to American hegemonic ambitions.

This predicament is just what the Russian leader had warned against almost 10 years ago in a famous speech he delivered in Munich on growing global disorder.

Last week, during his nationally televised marathon Q and A with Russian citizens, Putin referred to the unprecedented trade tariffs that President Trump is slapping on European states.

Rightly, Putin said those penalties were effectively a form of economic sanctions imposed by Washington on its supposed allies.

Putin hinted that the Europeans were now getting a taste of the noxious medicine that has been doled out to Russia by Western powers which have inflicted sanctions on Moscow over dubious allegations concerning the nearly four-year-old Ukraine conflict.

The acrimonious fallout from Trump’s de facto trade war with Europe, Canada and Japan was all-too apparent during the testy G7 summit held this weekend in Quebec.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decried American “illegal” trade measures, while French President Emmanuel Macron jettisoned his earlier “bromance” with Trump to declare that the group of Western industrialized countries plus Japan may reformat as the “G6” without the US, in order to counteract Washington’s “hegemony”.

Speaking on behalf of the European bloc, Donald Tusk, the European Council President, expressed his frustration at Washington’s increasing disdain for multilateralism by saying that under Trump the United States is destroying the “rules-based global order”.

But hold on a moment. Let’s go back to the landmark speech made by Putin in 2007 at the Munich Security Conference. More than a decade ago, the Russian leader delivered a blistering, prescient warning back then, when he said that American hegemonic ambitions of unipolar power would inevitably disrupt the global balance.

As far back as 2007, Putin explicitly admonished that Washington’s drive for unrivaled global dominance would end up bringing chaos to international law and order. This was during the heyday of post-9/11 US-led wars in the Middle East, which the European states all-too deferentially went along with despite these wars being illegal and unleashing ongoing global problems of terrorism and refugee crises.

Putin’s essential lesson in Munich more than 10 years ago was that the world order of multilateralism and diplomacy could not withstand the assault of a would-be hegemon, whether that is the US or any other power.

Today, the Russian president’s analysis has been vindicated, as can be seen from the shock among the Europeans and Canadians at being treated like nothing more than minions by an American bully.

Washington under Trump is showing its true colors towards supposed “allies”. For Washington, there is evidently no such thing as allies, only clients, who must do the bidding of American capitalism and imperialism. Any dissent is not tolerated, under pain of economic retribution, which the Europeans and Canada in particular are now getting a bitter taste of.

The contrast between the fractious G7 and the parallel summit taking place in China this weekend could not be more instructive.

Over the weekend, President Xi Jinping warmly welcomed Putin and the leaders of Iran, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to the annual Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting.

Putin was honored with a medal of friendship and described by President Xi as his best ally. All SCO delegates underlined the strategic importance of fraternal cooperation and multilateralism – the exact opposite of the debacle taking place at the G7 in Canada.

In those two events, we see two diametric visions of global relations. The G7 is all about American bullying for unipolar dominance. Whereas the SCO heralds a new world of multipolar partnership. The former is a recipe for conflict and war; the latter is the way forward for joint prosperity, development and peaceful coexistence.

Ironically, however, the incumbent European powers still don’t seem to fully get it.

Admittedly, to a certain degree, their bruised interests and sensitivities seem to demonstrate a realization that they are being used and abused by Washington’s hegemonic desires. The Europeans and Canada are huffing and puffing with chagrin and talking about “asserting themselves” without America.

Nevertheless, despite all the huffing and puffing, the Western minions still don’t seem to get it.

Paradoxically, it was Trump who said before the G7 summit that Russia should be readmitted to the forum. Previously, Russia was a member of what was the G8, but following the Ukraine crisis in 2014, the other members kicked Moscow out of the club, leveling unfair allegations that Russia had destabilized Ukraine and “annexed” Crimea.

At least Trump seems to have looked beyond that dubious affair, and hence called for Russia to be “at the negotiating table” of a reformed G8.

For their part, European leaders don’t seem to have come to their senses. Apart from the dissenting voice of the new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the EU bloc rejected Trump’s conciliatory offer to Russia. Germany’s Merkel, France’s Macron and the others said that relations would not be normalized with Russia “until Crimea was returned to Ukraine”.

The Europeans are hanging themselves by their own irrational petard over the spurious Ukraine issue.

Ukraine was, by far, much more destabilized by Washington and the EU’s unlawful interference than anything Russia has done. The people of Crimea voted in a legal referendum to join the Russian Federation. Europe needs to get over that illusion and stop making its futile demands on Russia.

The fact is that the EU has inflicted vast damage to its member state economies by sheepishly going along with a US-led NATO agenda of hostility towards Russia. The Europeans have slavishly aped Washington’s sanctions against Moscow for no sound reason, only based on hollow and demeaning claims about Russian “interference” and “aggression”.

More than 10 years after he told them so, European leaders are slowly realizing what Putin was warning about American bullying, unipolar dominance and its arrogant “exceptionalism”.

The operative word here is “slowly”. Europeans – the mainstay governments and Brussels establishment that is – still haven’t copped on that they are being played for minions and fools by Washington, as is evidenced by their irrational views about Russia and Ukraine.

European leaders – apart from Italy and a few emerging others – are still trapped within a servile transAtlantic role towards American imperialism. It is doubtful that the EU establishment as currently comprised will ever break out of its subservience towards Washington, despite being kicked around by the Americans.

That’s why the Kremlin’s response this weekend to Trump’s “offer” of readmitting Russia to the G8 was spot on.

Russia cooly said, “we are focusing on other formats”. That can be taken to mean the SCO, the Eurasian Economic Union and the broader project of building a multipolar global order. Forums, that is, which are based on fraternal cooperation and genuine solidarity, not bullying and unilateral expedience.

In its existing form, the G7 is a bunch of losers. It’s a retrogressive world view, not progressive. Russia is better off without.

Pompeo: US Will ‘Not Allow Iran to Develop a Nuclear Weapon’ – By SPUTNIK

A Ghadr-H missile, center, a solid-fuel surface-to-surface Sejjil missile and a portrait of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are displayed at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran

© AP Photo / Vahid Salemi

US

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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The United States is monitoring media reports about Iran’s plans to build up its nuclear capacity, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

“We’re watching reports that Iran plans to increase its enrichment capacity,” Pompeo wrote in a Twitter post on Wednesday. “We won’t allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran is aware of our resolve.”

Iranian state media reported earlier in the day that the government has ordered to start operations to boost uranium enrichment in light of the recent US decision to re-impose sanctions on Tehran.

Pompeo called Iran’s actions another representation of Tehran’s “foolishly squandering its resources.” Therefore, protests in the country come as no surprise, the US secretary of state concluded.US President Donald Trump announced in May that the United States would pull out from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump also decided to restore wide-ranging sanctions on Iran, including secondary sanctions against financial institutions of third countries doing business with Tehran.

The JCPOA was signed in 2015 by Iran, the European Union and the P5+1 group of countries — China, Germany, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.The deal stipulated the gradual lifting of the anti-Iranian sanctions in exchange for Tehran maintaining the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.

‘Either Russia is a sovereign country, or there is no Russia’ – Putin on relations with the West – By RT

‘Either Russia is a sovereign country, or there is no Russia’ – Putin on relations with the West
Sanctions, however harsh they may be, will not force Russia to abandon its independent stance in the world, President Vladimir Putin said, adding that Russians will never accept trade-offs at the expense of sovereignty.

Speaking to Chinese TV, Putin said that he believes the rounds of sanctions imposed on Russia by the US, its allies and the EU have only one goal – to hamper its economic development. He went on to stress that no amount of sanctions and punitive measures will ever be enough to make Russia cave in and change its policy.

“I believe that either Russia will be sovereign, or there will be no Russia at all. And, of course, the Russian people will always opt for the first. I think the Chinese people will too. We have no other option,” Putin said.

The Russian president argued that all attempts by the West to wreck the Russian economy will eventually backfire on those who followed the US’ lead in ‘punishing’ Russia.

“Those who followed the US lead, they themselves are beginning to suffer from what the United States is implementing with regards to these countries,” Putin said.

While Putin does not refer to anything in particular, it has been reported that the US government is mulling sanctioning European corporations that are engaged in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is expected to deliver 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas to European consumers per year. 

Germany is one of the key beneficiaries of the project.

Ukraine-linked sanctions, introduced after Russia’s reunification with Crimea and an outbreak of civil conflict in eastern Ukraine, are taking their toll on European economies. Calls to lift the sanctions have been coming from several European capitals, including Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and the new Italian government. 

READ MORE: ‘We must respond to US tariffs, end sanctions on Russia’ – Austrian vice chancellor

Apart from Russia-related sanctions, the EU has been forced to deal with a steep increase in import tariffs on steel and aluminum, which were introduced by US President Donald Trump and took effect last week.

Noting that the countries that sided with Washington on Russia are now themselves starting to feel the burn, Putin said that he points it out not because he likes to rejoice at others’ misfortunes, but because it proves that sanctions are detrimental to all the parties, “including those who initiated them.”

Speaking on the chances that relations between the West and Russia, which are now hitting rock bottom, will improve, Putin said he hopes for “positive,” mutually beneficial ties.

“Eventually, I believe that we will manage to improve the relations one way or another.”

The West is racing towards full-blown economic collapse and when it comes it will be devastating – By Egon von Greyerz /King World News (SOTT)

eye on the world

As the world edges closer to the next crisis, today the man who has become legendary for his predictions on QE and historic moves in currencies, told King World News there is no way out and this is why the global collapse will be devastating.

20th Birthday Celebration!

The ECB (European Central Bank) just had its 20th birthday. But there is really nothing to celebrate. The EU is in a total mess and the Euro, which was launched on January 1, 1999, is a failed currency. Every president of the ECB has had to deal with fires that had very little to do with price stability but were more a question of survival. Most of these fires were a lot more serious than the candles in the Euro cake above which Draghi is trying to blow out. During the Frenchman Trichet’s watch, he had to deal with the Great Financial Crisis that started in 2006…

West Racing Toward Full-Blown Collapse

The only mandate of the ECB is to maintain price stability. Well that clearly has been a very costly exercise. Between 2006 and 2011 the ECB balance sheet tripled from €1 trillion to €3 trillion. But the crisis didn’t finish in 2011. After a brief reduction in debt, the balance sheet expanded fast from €2.3 trillion in 2014 to €4 trillion today. It is quite remarkable to watch the creation of a supranational bank which automatically creates a purpose for its own existence in the form of massive money printing. This is no better than burning money and serves no purpose whatsoever. And it is of course far distant from its purpose of price stability.

Money printing creates high inflation and eventually hyperinflation. The only reason why we haven’t seen high conventional inflation in the EU is that all the printed money, just like in the US, has stayed with the banks. The result has been low inflation in consumer products but huge asset inflation. Thus, we have seen massive increases in stock, bond and property prices but not in consumer prices. So major money creation by the ECB and the Eurozone banks have so far had only minor inflationary impact. But as the velocity of money increases, so will inflation. This moment is not far away. The same will happen in the US. As velocity of money accelerates, US inflation will pick up rapidly.

The EU now has major economic and/or political problems in many countries. Italy’s new coalition government is a protest against the EU and Euro. With debt to GDP already the highest in Europe, the new regime will exacerbate the problems. Lower taxes and higher spending will guarantee that. As the chart below shows, Italian debt to GDP is already 140%. By 2050 this is projected to grow to 210%. As interest rates go up, servicing the growing debt will soon absorb all tax revenue. Italy will be bankrupt long before 2050 and default on all its debt.

Italian debt

Between now and 2050, the Italian working age population is forecast to decline by 1/3, from 36 million to 24 million. There will be a lot less people to pay for a much higher debt.

Italian working-age population

The consequences of massive debt, economic stagnation and population decline will be a much lower GDP, which is expected to decline 35% by 2050.

GDP 2016-2050

If the above forecast of a major fall in the population as well as a substantial increase in debt is even vaguely accurate, Italy is on its way to the Dark Ages.

I must stress here that I find it so sad that this glorious country is suffering so much already and will suffer a lot more. Personally I love Italy – the people, the food, the architecture, the history and the Giola di Vivere (joie de vivre) of the Italians. It will be so tragic to see all of this disintegrate. Hopefully it will take a long time, although, sadly, the crisis might actually be around the corner.

But Italy is just one of many countries which will collapse in coming years. Spain is in a similar situation and the prime minister has just been kicked out. Greece’s problems have never been resolved and this fine country is also bankrupt and so are the Greek banks. I could go on with Portugal, France, Ireland, the UK and many others. Most of these countries have insoluble problems. It is only a matter of degree and time when the EU/Eurozone house of cards comes down. The map below shows potential leaving countries and names.

EU leaving countries

Coming back to the ECB’s main objective of price stability, that has failed totally. The change from the local currencies of mark, franc, lira, pesetas, etc, has disguised what has really happened. Many countries like, Spain, Italy Portugal and Greece, used to be very inexpensive when they had their own currency. That is no longer the case. The change to the Euro has hidden the real inflation that has taken place in these countries. No wonder the Germans called it the TEURO. Teuer in German means expensive.

EU flag

The consequence of one currency fits all is a disaster for the weaker Eurozone countries like Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal etc. The Euro is much too strong for these countries. This leads to weak exports as well as balance of payment and budget deficits. Countries like Germany on the other hand, benefit from a weak Euro which generates strong exports and surpluses. But the other side of the coin is that the ECB, which means mainly Germany, must finance the deficits of the weaker countries. And we all know that these debts will never be repaid. So whatever way you turn, the EU experiment will end in disaster. It is only a matter of how long it will take.

The Major Disease The World Will Face In Coming Years

If Italy, Greece or Spain had their own currencies, these would have weakened substantially already. Currency debasement is going to be the major contagious disease that the world will have to live with in coming years. It will happen to most currencies and spread like wildfire. Like many diseases, it normally starts in the periphery. Just take the examples of Turkey, Argentina and Venezuela. The currencies of these three countries have collapsed in this century and the fall is now accelerating.

The Turkish lira has lost 97% against gold since January 2000, and the fall is now picking up speed. For anyone who has been protected in gold, the gold price has gone up 38x vs the lira in the last 18 years (see chart below).

currency vs gold

The problem is worse in Argentina. Argentina used to have a very strong economy 100 years ago but lately they have gone through one crisis after the next. The Peso has lost 99% against gold since 2000. This means that gold is up 119x vs the peso in this century.

Finally let us look at the perfect example of a disastrously managed socialist economy with the resulting hyperinflation. I am taking about Venezuela of course. The Bolivar has lost 99.999% against gold since January 2000. So it now costs 550,000X more Bolivars to purchase an ounce of gold just in this century.

Comment: Except that Venezuela and it’s “disastrously managed socialist economy” has been a major target of financial, political and social sabotage for all those years from the empire to its north.

This all might sound unreal. These three currencies have lost between 97% and 99.999% in just 18 years. Well, it certainly isn’t unreal to the people in the three countries who have to suffer these precipitous losses of value of their money and disastrous falls in their standards of living.

And don’t think for one second that their governments told them to protect themselves, even when they knew they were going to print unlimited amounts of fiat money. No, the people had no warning. It is the same in all Western countries today. Governments in Europe, the US and Japan, just to mention a few, are already on the way to destroying their currencies in the 2000s. As the table shows, the Euro is down 75%, the Dollar 78% and the Yen 79% against gold since 2000. So inflation, leading to hyperinflation is already on the way in the West. It always starts slowly, although the fall so far in the last 18 years is already significant.

EU currency

But no government talks about how they are destroying their currency and no Western government tells their people to protect themselves by holding gold. They do the opposite. They manipulate the price of gold and see gold as a barbarous relic that has no place in a modern currency system. We know why they do this, of course, because gold can’t be printed or debased. Also, the gold price reveals their deceitful actions in ruining the currency and the economy.

Finally let’s look at two countries that understand gold and where the people buy and hold gold in important quantities.

Chindia gold demand

As the above chart shows, China and India have bought almost 25,000 tonnes since 2008. This means that on average they have bought the majority of annual gold mine production each year.

So my advice to investors is to learn from the recent economic problems/disasters in Turkey, Argentina and Venezuela. Any amount of personal gold, even very small, would have saved the holders in these countries from misery. It is also critical to heed the strong warning signs of deep trouble coming in Europe, Japan and the USA. A 75-79% fall in the currencies of these countries is telling us that they will all go to their intrinsic value of ZERO in the next few years.

And more importantly:

IGNORE THE PROPAGANDA FROM WESTERN GOVERNMENTS AND BANKS WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND HISTORY OR GOLD. INSTEAD FOLLOW THE LEAD OF CHINA AND INDIA AND PROTECT YOURSELVES AGAINST THE COMING DESTRUCTION OF PAPER MONEY, WITH PHYSICAL GOLD AND SOME SILVER.” For those who would like to read more of Egon von Greyerz’s fantastic articles CLICK HERE.

Comment: See also: Gold set to breakout amid coming economic downturn, says financial expert

Singer-songwriter Roger Waters calls for defence of Assange By WSWS

By our reporters
4 June 2018

The above message was displayed above the stage of musician Roger Waters’ “Us + Them 2018” concert in Berlin, Germany on June 2.

Roger Waters was part of the iconic rock band Pink Floyd from 1965 to 1985. For the past 33 years, he has continued a solo career, which has included staging the largest live concert event in history.

Throughout his long career, singer-songwriter Waters has spoken out publicly against war, oppression and injustice.

He emailed the World Socialist Web Site last month to convey his support for international action to defend Julian Assange.

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