Israel’s high court blesses killing and maiming of Gaza protesters – By Maureen Clare-Murphy Rights and Accountability (Electronic Intifada)

The backs of two standing youth are seen in foreground of photo with Israeli military installation behind barbed wire and fencing in background
Israeli forces aim towards Palestinian protesters east of Gaza City on 25 May.

Atia Darwish APA images

Israel’s high court rejected two petitions from human rights groups challenging the military’s open-fire regulations this week as several more Palestinians died from wounds sustained during Gaza’s ongoing Great March of Return protests.

It was the second ruling made by the court on Thursday rubber-stamping war crimes.

The high court ruling may be viewed by the International Criminal Court as an indication that Israel’s judicial authorities are unwilling to carry out genuine proceedings concerning crimes against Palestinian civilians.

Between 19 and 25 May, Gaza’s health ministry announced the deaths of seven Palestinians from injuries inflicted during protests along the eastern perimeter of the territory beginning 30 March.

The deceased were identified as Hussein Salem Abu Oweida, 41, Ahmad al-Abed Abu Samra, 21, Muhammad Mazen Alayan, 20, Muin Abd al-Hamid al-Saee, 58, Muhannad Abu Tahoun, 21, Ahmad Qatoush, 23 and Yasir Sami Saad al-Din Habib, 24.

Also this week a 15-year-old in the occupied West Bank, Oday Akram Abu Khalil, died from wounds sustained when he was shot in the stomach by Israeli forces during protests on 15 May, the annual commemoration of the 1948 Nakba or catastrophe.

More than 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip since 30 March, the vast majority of them during Great March of Return protests – including 14 children, two journalists and a paramedic.

Some 3,600 people were injured by live fire during the protests.

A lightly wounded soldier was the only reported Israeli casualty resulting from the protests in Gaza.

Court sides with state – again

The Israeli high court ruled in favor of the state’s argument that protesters constituted a danger to Israeli soldiers and civilians, thus justifying the use of lethal force.

The judges sided with the government’s contention that the protests take place in the context of a long-running armed conflict between Israel and Hamas. The state argues that the legal framework that regulates the use of fire during the protests is international humanitarian law, or the laws of war.

Human rights groups say that irrespective of the political affiliation of any of the organizers or participants, the demonstrations along Gaza’s eastern perimeter are a civilian matter of law enforcement governed by the framework of international human rights law, which allows for the use of deadly force only to stop an imminent lethal threat.

“Some of the rioters have tried to trample or break through the border fence, creating a clear and present danger that terrorists will penetrate into the state’s territory, and this is happening in areas near towns on the Israeli side,” wrote Hanan Melcer, one of the three judges who reviewed the petitions.

“Among the rioters were some who threw rocks and fire bombs at Israeli troops. Therefore, it seems that gunfire was employed to achieve a legal purpose – defending citizens of the state and Israeli soldiers,” Melcer added.

The court ruling gives the military “a green light to its continued use of snipers and live fire against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip,” stated Al Mezan and Adalah, two of the groups that had petitioned the court.

The two groups stated that the court had “refused to watch video clips documenting Israeli shootings of demonstrators and, rather than actually examining the case, fully accepted the claims presented to it by the state.”

Al Mezan and Adalah published a video montage of such clips:

“The extreme nature of the ruling is also highlighted by the striking absence of any mention of the casualty figures that had been presented to the court,” the human rights groups added.

The Israeli high court said it could not move forward with an inquiry into the military’s rules of engagement because petitioning organizations rejected a request by the state to present the judges secret intelligence without the petitioners being allowed to review it.

“We have no concrete information about the identity of the key activists and inciters, the nature of their acts, their organizational affiliation, their involvement in terrorist activity or other forbidden hostile activity, or whether and in what manner they constituted a clear and present danger,” Melcer stated.

The justices accepted the state’s description of the Gaza protests as “violent disturbances” which were “organized, coordinated and directed by Hamas, which is a terrorist organization in a state of armed conflict with Israel.”

No imminent threat

Adalah and Al Mezan stated that the court ruling “contradicts the conclusions and preliminary results of international human rights organizations and United Nations bodies documenting and evaluating the events in Gaza.”

During a special session of the UN Human Rights Council concerning the events in Gaza last week, the body’s High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stated:

“Although some of the demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, used slingshots to throw stones, flew burning kites into Israel, and attempted to use wire-cutters against the two fences between Gaza and Israel, these actions alone do not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force.”

The Human Rights Council voted to establish a commission of inquiry into mass civilian casualties during the demonstrations with a final report due next March.

Tania Hary, executive director of Gisha, an Israeli human rights group which challenged the open-fire regulations, said she was “disappointed but not surprised to see the court again sanction Israel’s grave violations of human rights and international law in Gaza.”

Young man with a metal splint on his legs lies across a bench as two other youths look on
A Palestinian injured during Great March of Return protests rests outside Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital after being discharged, 19 May.

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

Israel’s high court has long championed policies towards Palestinians that violate international law.

Gisha has previously faulted Israel’s judiciary, and principally the high court, for accepting “the state’s legal positions almost unquestioningly” regarding the 11-year blockade of Gaza.

Palestinian human rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate the unprecedented closure of Gaza as a crime of persecution.

The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister made a referral to the International Criminal Court on Tuesday, calling for an immediate investigation into Israeli crimes.

In 2015, the court launched a preliminary examination into potential war crimes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Preliminary examination by ICC

A preliminary examination is the first step in the court’s process to determine whether to open a formal investigation, which can then lead to indictments and trials.

But while a preliminary examination is carried out whenever a referral is made, it is open-ended and can carry on for years, at the discretion of the chief prosecutor.

In 2006, the prosecutor began a preliminary examination of alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan from 2002.

Eleven years after the examination was opened, and up to 15 years after the commission of the first alleged crimes, the prosecutor concluded that there was enough evidence to proceed with a formal investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Taliban, the Afghan government and the United States.

A preliminary examination into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Colombia, opened in 2004, is still pending, according to the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

In her response to the Palestinian complaint, chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda signaled that she does not intend to expedite the process, stating that the “preliminary examination has seen important progress and will continue to follow its normal course.”

Israel’s foreign ministry lashed out against the Palestinian move, calling it an effort “to politicize the court and to derail it from its mandate.”

Over the past several weeks Bensouda’s office has expressed “grave concern” over the situation in Gaza and warned Israeli leaders that they may face prosecution for the killing of unarmed Palestinian protesters.

Earlier this month the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders formally requested that the International Criminal Court prosecutor investigate the targeting of journalists in Gaza as war crimes.

The Palestinian rights groups Al-Haq, Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights stated this week that they “have submitted five comprehensive communications to the prosecutor” as part of the court’s preliminary examination.

“These communications have related to the 2014 offensive against the Gaza Strip, the Israeli-imposed Gaza closure, the use of the Hannibal Directive in Rafah, and crimes committed in the West Bank including Jerusalem,” the groups stated, adding that they “have also provided information on the lack of domestic investigations and prosecutions.”

The prosecutor “has sufficient evidence” to open a full investigation, according to the rights groups.

“The ICC acting as a court of last resort must provide redress to Palestinian victims,” they added.

 

‘Our path’: Iran announces plan to stay in Syria as Pompeo issues unprecedented threats – By Tyler Durden Russia Insider (SOTT)

Map of Syria and Iran

It’s not up to Uncle Sam but up to Syria and Iran alone

After last Thursday’s relatively brief meeting in Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad wherein Putin stressed that it is necessary for all “foreign forces” to withdraw from Syria, there’s been much speculation over what Putin actually meant.

Many were quick to point out that Assad had agreed that “illegal foreign forces” should exit Syria – meaning those uninvited occupying forces in the north and northeast, namely, US troops, Turkish troops and their proxies, and all foreign jihadists – while most mainstream Western outlets, CNN and the Washington Post among them, hailed Putin’s request to see Iran withdraw from Syria.

Whatever non-Syrian entity Putin intended to include by his words, both Syria and Iran gave their unambiguous response on Monday: Iran announced it would stay in Syria at the request of the Assad government.

“Should the Syrians want us, we will continue to be there,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi declared from Tehran, cited by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency. “Nobody can force Iran to do anything; Iran has its own independent policies,” Qasemi said, in response to a question referencing the widespread reports that Russia desires Iran to withdraw forces from Syria.

“Those who entered Syria without the permission of the Syrian government are the ones that must leave the country,” he said further in a clear reference to the some 2000 US troops currently occupying Syrian-Kurdish areas in the northeast and eastern parts of the country.

As we noted in the aftermath of Israel’s May 10 massive attack on multiple locations inside Syria which marked the biggest military escalations between the two countries in decades, Russia has appeared content to stay on the sidelines while Syria and Israel test confrontational limits; however, Russia is carefully balancing its interests in Syria, eager to avoid an uncontrolled escalation leading to a direct great power confrontation.

But increasingly Israel’s patience appears to be wearing thin after Prime Minister Netanyahu’s oft-repeated “Iranian red line” warning has gone unheeded. In multiple summits with Putin going back to 2015 (the two have met over 6 times since then), Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed he would not tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria and further signaled willingness to go to war in Syria to curtail Iranian influence.

“Iran is already well on its way to controlling Iraq, Yemen and to a large extent is already in practice in control of Lebanon,” Netanyahu told Putin in one especially tense meeting in August 2017, and added further that, “We cannot forget for a single minute that Iran threatens every day to annihilate Israel. Israel opposes Iran’s continued entrenchment in Syria. We will be sure to defend ourselves with all means against this and any threat.”

Israel’s uptick in military strikes on Syria attacks on sites purported to be Iranian bases housing Iranian assets have intensified exponentially over the past half-year, nearly leading to an unprecedented breakout of region wide war during the May 10 exchange of fire, wherein Israel claimed to have been attacked by Iranian rocket fire.

The fact that both Iran and Syria can so openly and confidently announce Iran’s intent to stay in Syria means Damascus sees itself in new position of strength after both shooting down multiple Israeli missiles and simultaneously firing rockets into Israeli occupied Golan territory a response perhaps very unexpected by Israel’s leadership which had grown accustomed to attacking the Syrian army and its allies with impunity.

Meanwhile, Damascus announced Monday that all suburbs around the capital have been fully liberated from al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorists, marking the end of a years long insurgency in and around the capital. As Al-Masdar News noted, “The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is in full control of Damascus city and its countryside for the first time since the advent of this conflict.”

Yet the pattern which has emerged over the past few years has been that every time the Syrian Army emerges victorious or carries overwhelming military momentum, Israel or the US launches an attack.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected Pompeo’s bombastic demands and vowed to continue “our path,” insisting that the US could not “decide for the world.”

Rouhani’s words, as quoted by ILNA news agency, were as follows: “Who are you to decide for Iran and the world? The world today does not accept America to decide for the world, as countries are independent … that era is over… We will continue our path with the support of our nation.” This continuing escalation of rhetoric will likely only ensure Iran becomes even more entrenched in Syria, but it will be interesting to see how Russia responds diplomatically.

We’ve already seen Israel’s “diplomacy” in the form of repeat missile attacks, but how much will Russia and Iran sit back and take before enforcing their own red lines against Israel and the West?

Source: Zero Hedge

Comment: See also: ‘Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?’ Rouhani rejects Pompeo’s Iran demands

See Also:

Trump Set to Recognize Israel’s Claim to Occupied Golan Heights and Its Sizable Oil Reserves – By Whitney Webb (MINT PRESS)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, talks with Israeli soldiers at a military outpost during a visit at Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overlooking the Israel-Syria border on, Feb. 4, 2015. Baz Ratner | AP

Exporting Golan oil is problematic under international law but, were the U.S. to unilaterally recognize the Golan as Israel’s, that oil could potentially be exported to the U.S. Major U.S. oil investors and lobbyists are therefore pushing hard for Trump to make that move.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – While President Trump has reneged on many of his campaign promises — namely, those more populist and non-interventionist in nature — he has undeniably fulfilled those that appealed to his pro-Israel, Zionist supporters. First, Trump announced late last year that his administration would officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This move was then followed by his more recent decision to unilaterally remove the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, which has long been criticized by Israel.

Both moves were highly controversial and poorly received by many U.S. allies, particularly European nations. They were also both orchestrated and promoted by Trump’s top donor, Zionist billionaire and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who donated $30 million to the Republican Party following Trump’s fulfillment of his two major pro-Israel promises. Adelson was also responsible for the removal of H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser and his replacement with pro-Israel hawk and Adelson confidant John Bolton.

However, recent statements made by Israeli government officials suggest that Trump’s work on behalf of pro-Israel hard-liners is only just beginning. According to an exclusive report published in Reuters, the Israeli government is now pushing the Trump administration to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a portion of Southern Syria that Israel has occupied since 1967 and annexed in 1981.

International law still refuses to recognize the area as part of Israel, even though Israel has sent over 20,000 Jewish settlers to live in the area in order to permanently change the area’s ethnic-demographic composition, turning the native Druze population into a minority. Many of the Druze living in the occupied Golan have long complained of being routinely discriminated against under Israeli rule, and continue to support the Syrian government. In addition, the UN has accused Israel of “forcing citizenship” onto the group in a bid to increase its claim to sovereignty over the region. Israel hopes to add an additional 100,000 Jewish settlers to the area by 2020 in order to strengthen this claim.

Israel’s Intelligence Minister, Israel Katz, told Reuters that Washington’s endorsement of Israel’s control of the Golan Heights was now “topping the agenda” in bilateral diplomatic talks between the two countries, and that such a move would likely come within a matter of months. Katz stated that U.S. recognition of the Golan was being peddled to the Trump administration as a way to further counter Iran, which has now become the guiding force behind the U.S.’ Middle East policy.

Katz asserted:

This is the perfect time to make such a move. The most painful response you can give the Iranians is to recognize Israel’s Golan sovereignty — with an American statement, a presidential proclamation, enshrined [in law].”

Apparently, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been pressing Trump on the issue since February of last year, when Netanyahu first met Trump at the White House. Now, Katz has claimed that those discussions have vastly expanded to involve various levels of the U.S. administration as well as several Congressmen.

“I reckon there is great ripeness and a high probability this will happen […] give or take a few months,” Katz opined.

 

In the Golan Heights, Oil and Water mix perfectly

An old Israeli tank sits in a position in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights near the border with Syria,Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.

Katz may indeed have reason to be confident in an upcoming U.S. move that would recognize the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory. Yet, while Katz has claimed that the motivation for such a move would benefit the U.S.’ new and aggressive Iran policy, it is more likely to benefit an Israeli resource grab, as well as powerful Israeli and American oil interests.

A major factor behind Israel’s initial seizure and continued occupation of the Golan are its fresh water resources. Indeed, the occupied Golan is one of three sources of fresh water to the Israeli state — and is the largest in size and most plentiful, as it comprises the mountain streams that feed Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) and the headwaters of the Jordan river. This water is of major importance to Israel, now in its fourth year of a drought so massive that a NASA study called it the worst drought in the region in nearly 900 years.

Yet, the Golan’s importance to Israel grew immensely after massive oil reserves in the area were discovered in 2015. Following that discovery, the Netanyahu-led government granted exclusive drilling rights to Afek, an Israeli subsidiary of New Jersey-based energy company Genie Energy, Ltd.

As MintPress has previously reported, Genie Energy is backed by powerful interests in the U.S., such as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, former Vice President and Halliburton executive Dick Cheney, and former CIA Director James Woolsey. Powerful Zionist billionaires, such as Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch and England’s Jacob Rothschild, are also connected to the company.

Afek, Genie Energy’s subsidiary in the Golan, is run by a close friend of Netanyahu and former Knesset member Efraim “Effie” Eitam. Eitam, who also previously served as minister of National Infrastructure as well as Housing and Construction, has repeatedly called to expel all Arabs from Israel, stating in 2006 that “we cannot be with all these Arabs and we cannot give up the land […] we will have to make another decision, to remove the Israeli Arabs from the political system.” Eitam currently lives in Israel’s largest illegal settlement in the occupied Golan.

Genie Energy’s investments in the Golan are likely the strongest factor pushing the U.S. towards the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territory. Indeed, without a U.S. move recognizing Israel’s control over the region, Genie’s Israeli subsidiary will be unable to sell any oil it extracts from the occupied territory on the international oil market.

However, were the U.S. to unilaterally recognize the Golan as Israel’s, that oil could potentially be exported to the U.S. Given that Genie’s contract to conduct exploratory drilling in the Golan Heights expires this year, its investors are in urgent need of a way to extract and sell the region’s oil – and a U.S. decision on Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights could be just the answer to the company’s problems.

Top Photo | Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, talks with Israeli soldiers at a military outpost during a visit at Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overlooking the Israel-Syria border on, Feb. 4, 2015. Baz Ratner | AP

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Press review: Trump cancels North Korean summit and how Gazprom’s anti-trust battle ended – By TASS

May 25, 13:00 UTC+3

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday

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© AP Photo/Evan Vucci

 

Kommersant: Trump cancels meeting with North Korean leader, but door may re-open

US President Donald Trump on Thursday announced his decision to cancel the much-talked-about meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. Trump cited the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in Kim’s latest statements, which convinced him that holding the meeting at this point in time was inadvisable.

Kommersant writes that despite the meeting’s cancellation, Trump signaled that dialogue may be held in the future. This means that after exchanging accusations Washington and Pyongyang may return to pragmatic bargaining on the North Korean nuclear issue.

Experts interviewed by Kommersant note that the real reason behind Trump’s decision was that Pyongyang was not ready to fulfill some of Washington’s conditions rather than Kim’s latest statements. It is noteworthy that the North Korean leader has not made any statements regarding the US over the past weeks – the official position was voiced by North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

 

“We faced a situation, when there is a big gap between the Trump team’s expectations and what North Korea may really offer. The US demand that the summit in Singapore should result in North Korea’s commitment to eliminating its nuclear program by 2020 doomed the idea of this meeting to failure from the very beginning,” Vasily Kashin, senior research fellow at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Kommersant.

Complete denuclearization may be achieved only through years-long step-by-step talks that build up mutual measures of trust and US readiness to make serious concessions to North Korea, the expert noted.

Alexey Arbatov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: “During the preparations for the meeting Donald Trump achieved no serious concessions, besides Pyongyang’s pledge to halt nuclear tests, which may be resumed at any moment.”

 

Kommersant: Gazprom’s anti-trust battle with EU ends with no penalty

Russia’s state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom has settled its six-year antitrust case with the European Commission. In the end, Brussels did not impose any fine in exchange for Gazprom’s vow to comply with the European Commission’s terms, Kommersant writes. This may result in gas price cuts for Eastern European markets and also brings Brussels closer to fulfilling its dream on creating a single EU gas market. The case won’t be a disaster for Gazprom, which has successfully adapted to a changing market over the past several years, the paper says.

Market sources said it is difficult to assess the energy giant’s losses because it depends on the oil prices and the gas demand in a particular country. However, these losses are incomparable with the 10 bln euro fine, which Gazprom had faced.

This is a very good outcome for Gazprom because the antitrust investigation had been hanging over its head for several years, Maria Belova from Vygon Consulting told the paper.

Meanwhile, market sources expect that Poland will challenge the European Commission’s decision with a lawsuit. However, a source in a major European gas company believes that Warsaw’s chances for success are slim. So far, Poland’s attempts to challenge the European Commission’s decisions in cases related to Gazprom have failed.

 

Izvestia: EAEU to get its own cryptocurrency by 2020

By 2020, the Eurasian Economic Union’s (EAEU) member-states will have their own cryptocurrency. The Eurasian Economic Commission is working on its creation now, a source close to the executive body told Izvestia. Another source close to the Central Bank, two bankers familiar with the situation and President of the Russian Association of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Yuri Pripachkin also confirmed this plan. According to the experts, a digital currency will simplify the settlement of accounts between the countries and will make it possible to skirt sanctions.

A name for the single cryptocurrency has not been chosen yet, but a working title has been put forward – the cryptoaltyn (altyn is a historical Russian currency first mentioned in 1375). “The EAEU may get its own cryptocurrency earlier than its single currency,” Pripachkin said.

Forex Club analyst Ivan Marchena said the idea of creating its own currency is vital for the Eurasian Economic Union. Obviously, digital money is capturing the market, he noted. “The first steps on legitimizing cryptocurrencies have been made,” Marchena noted. “Belarus has subsequently recognized them, and Russia is drafting legislation on this matter.”

The EAEU’s cryptocurrency may be considered an international unit of account to carry out cross-border financial transfers across the Eurasian space, head of the rating service of the National Rating Agency Tatyana Kovaleva said. “Its introduction will make it possible to ease up and accelerate settling accounts and reducing most transaction expenses,” she said.

Many countries have announced plans to create national cryptocurrencies, including Sweden, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, India, the United Kingdom and China. However, the world’s first national cryptocurrency, El Petro, was introduced by Venezuela and is pegged to the price of one barrel of oil. The country sought to bypass sanctions and hoped to attract Russian, Chinese and Middle Eastern financing.

 

RBC: Can Macron’s visit to Russia improve ties with Moscow?

On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron began his first two-day visit to Russia with France’s head of state holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During Macron’s first year in office, Paris has been building up relations with Russia on the cultural and economic fronts, though ties in other areas have come to a standstill. However, France shows interest in resetting dialogue, experts told RBC.

RBC has analyzed the progress in fulfilling major programs, which the Russian and French presidents announced a year ago.

The Trianon Dialogue, aimed at intensifying contacts between the Russian and French civil society, was put together in December 2017 and held its first session on urban development at the Gaidar Forum in Moscow in January. Now, a plan for further endeavors has been outlined for 2018 and partly for 2019, Alexander Orlov, Russia’s former Ambassador to France and the Executive Secretary of the Trianon Dialogue, said. The Trianon Dialogue’s official opening will take place when the two presidents meet at SPIEF. Among the many proposals is one to lift visa requirements for young Russian and French citizens under 18. The initiative is a major one, if not the only breakthrough in bilateral ties over the past year, said Arnaud Dubien, Director of the Observo French-Russian analytical center.

According to Dubien, nothing has been done on the key issues of foreign policy between Moscow and Paris, particularly on Ukraine and Syria. However, other countries, rather than Russia and France, should be blamed for the lack of progress, he noted. It is not ruled out that the meeting between the two leaders in St. Petersburg may bring about some progress in dialogue, Dubien said.

The minimum goal is to put the brakes on the deterioration in relations, and the maximum goal is to create a framework for renewing dialogue, the expert said. “There won’t be full normalization and a return to the previous relationship, as many things have happened. But it is important to demonstrate this aspiration given the new challenges,” he stressed.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Iran demands Europe’s carte blanche for missile program

On Friday, Vienna will hold a meeting between senior officials from those states, which still remain parties to the Iranian nuclear deal. Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that the conference will be held without Washington’s participation. Now Iran demands that its European partners fulfill a number of conditions to salvage the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Tehran expects some EU states will not only keep their investments in its economy, but also won’t criticize its foreign policy and its missile program.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei castigated France, Germany and the UK for silencing the US failure to meet its commitments under the JCPOA. Europe should compensate for Iran’s losses arising from the new US sanctions, he wrote on Twitter. Europe should provide guarantees that it won’t question Iran’s missile program and its regional affairs, he said. The EU states should also guarantee that Iranian oil will be fully sold.

Meanwhile, experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta believe that Tehran’s conditions will be difficult to meet.

“I think that the guarantees of European banks on economic deals are the most difficult issue,” said Stefan Meister, who heads a program for Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). “They [European banks] are very frightened by the US sanctions and are afraid of losing access to the US market. Several other demands are also not easy, especially the refusal to review the missile program.”

The expert’s assessment that some European companies will follow the US course was confirmed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s statement made during her two-day visit to China.

Khamenei’s push will hardly encourage international mediators of the nuclear deal from the EU, Yuliya Sveshnikova, Research Associate at the Higher School of Economics, told the paper. According to her, this rhetoric is aimed more at domestic rather than foreign audiences. “The Europeans’ accord, their principal position on the JCPOA is one issue, and the practical possibility to give Tehran guarantees that Iran will get the advantages from the JCPOA even without the US participation, is another issue,” she said.

It is impossible to exert pressure on the businesses, who weigh all pros and cons, while the dependence on the US financial system and the supplies of components for production is very high, the expert explained.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review

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NEW AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM INSTALLED IN HOMS LEADING TO FAILED ZIONIST ROCKET ATTACK – By Ziad Fadel

الدفاعات الجوية تتصدى لعدوان صاروخي على مطار الضبعة بريف حمص

http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=34.554710&lon=36.781626&z=15&m=b

HOMS: On May 25, 2018 at approximately 7:00 p.m., Syrian Army radar detected several missiles fired from Zionist aircraft flying over the Mediterranean near the Lebanese coastline.  The Syrian and Iranian militaries have been boosting their air defense capabilities substantially since pre-emptive attacks by the Zionist Settler State targeted various positions in which Iranian-backed militias have purportedly been setting up bases. This morning was no exception.

The Zionist attack aimed at new air defense and early warning radar equipment at a base near the village of Al-Dhab’ah (the female hyena-See map) While I do not know how many missiles were fired by the Zionist aircraft, almost all were intercepted and destroyed by a variety of weapons systems including Shilkas.  The missiles which were not destroyed, luckily, fell harmlessly into the desert.

The new air defense equipment came from Iran and will become operational within the next few hours.  This will be a great relief to the brave soldiers and militiamen who had to withstand desperate attacks by crazed Zionist warmongers in a doomed effort to forestall the arrival of the armies which will help the SAA to rid all Palestine of the stench of Zionism.

Some of you might have heard talk recently about Zionist politicians trying to get the U.S. to recognize Zionist ownership of the Golan Heights.  I don’t have to tell you that such recognition would be flat-out violation of international law.

 

 

 

 

 

Only Russia can save Ukraine, Kadyrov tells Poroshenko – By RT

Only Russia can save Ukraine, Kadyrov tells Poroshenko
Soon after facing new sanctions from Kiev, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov stated that this would not alter his brotherly attitude to the Ukrainian people, who can always expect help from Chechens and Russians in times of trouble.

[Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko is slapping sanctions on me, while our ancestors saved thousands of Ukrainians who were forced into the North Caucasus by famine from certain death. Chechens provided shelter, food, clothes, and footwear to countless women, children, and elderly people,” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram Friday.

Not a single refugee was left without shelter or hungry, their descendants live in Chechnya to this day. This is not some remand or claim, this is a reminder to Poroshenko that only the people of the Russian Federation will help Ukrainians when disaster strikes, not Americans and their satellites,” the Chechen leader wrote.

Kadyrov also said he would always treat Ukrainians as brothers and sisters who remain close and dear to Russia in spite of the problems that have arisen in recent years.

His comments come after Ukraine imposed sanctions on 1,750 Russian citizens, including Ramzan Kadyrov, on Thursday.

In late 2017, Kadyrov was put on the US sanctions list for alleged involvement in human rights violations. The Chechen leader said at the time that the situation only made him proud and that the US should search for real human rights abusers at home, “in the White House and the Pentagon.”

Kadyrov insisted he was sanctioned, not because of alleged human rights abuses, but rather due to his relentless, lifelong fight against terrorists, many of whom were “fosterlings of the American special services.”

He also jokingly noted that Washington has no reason to worry because he had not received orders to step on US soil yet.

US hysteria over Chinese military ‘expansion’ shows ‘corporate coup d’état is complete’ – Lee Camp – By RT

US hysteria over Chinese military ‘expansion’ shows ‘corporate coup d’état is complete’ – Lee Camp
Watching Congress clutch their pearls over China’s new – and only – overseas military base is the only proof you need that America’s elected officials are bought and paid for by corporations and arms dealers, says RT’s Lee Camp.

In the latest installment of ‘Redacted Tonight,’ host Camp tore into a recent US House Intelligence Committee hearing on “China’s worldwide military expansion,” which bravely exposed the “growing threat” of China’s ability to project power abroad.

The hours-long hand-wringing was an “open hearing,” or as Camp explained: When “our super shady, super bought-off Congress opens their doors to pretend as if they are open and transparent to the nation.”

Camp was particularly unimpressed by Rep. Adam Schiff’s performance. The California Democrat pointed to China’s new (and only) overseas military base – in Djibouti, Africa – as an example of the growing worldwide Chinese menace.

“We fear for our dwindling military and economic empire in a world that is growing beyond it, so we have to build up the scary specter of China, with their one military base around the world. Sure it’s only one base, but it’s around the world!” Camp commented.

Noting that US defense spending is still five times larger than China’s, and that the US military has hundreds of overseas bases, Camp concluded: “The corporate coup d’état is complete – these stooges in this video that I just showed you, they’re just a show. They’re just a little performance. And they’re not even a very fascinating one, either. Put on a f*cking top hat or something, Adam Schiff.”

Watch the full episode:

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Neocon buffoonery reaches a new level – By The Saker

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Step one: the DPRK destroys its nuclear testing facility

Step two: Trumps cancels his meeting with Kim Jong-un

Step three, just read this masterpiece:

Amazing, no?  The fact that the North Koreans requested the meeting is irrelevant, Trump’s red button is bigger than Kim’s and Kim is invited to lose face by begging for another meeting.

I have to say that I am awed by the sheer lunacy of the Neocons.

I can imagine the reactions in Moscow and Tehran to this kind of buffoonery…

While not very academic, I think that “batshit crazy” is an appropriate description of Trump (or, more accurately, of his Neocon bosses).

Expect my weekly analysis (mostly about Russia and Iran) for tomorrow morning.

Hugs and cheers,

The Saker

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Grenfell Tower fire: BBC Panorama reveals corporate criminality – By Paul Bond (WSWS)

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By Paul Bond
24 May 2018

As the official Grenfell Tower Inquiry opened, Panorama special Grenfell: Who Is To Blame, with reporting by Richard Bilton of the BBC, offers a devastating indictment of the corporate forces responsible for the June 14, 2017 inferno that claimed 72 lives.

Grenfell Tower was covered in flammable cladding and insulation materials that had never been tested together. Bilton’s investigation draws out how companies were denying their responsibility for testing, jeopardising the safety of many thousands living in social and privately-owned housing tower blocks.

Bilton accuses manufacturer Celotex of having “knowingly misled buyers” about the safety and testing history of the insulation material. The formula for the Celotex product that received the safety certificate was different and safer than the product used at Grenfell Tower.

Bilton was at the scene shortly after the fire and has returned regularly to speak to survivors, including Mahad Egal, Luca Branislav and Maria Rahman. Of the three survivors interviewed, Mahad is still in temporary accommodation with his family. Luca, who rescued a woman from the blaze, is shown in distressing scenes having to move back again into temporary hotel accommodation following a fire next door to his new flat. Maria, whose brother Hesham perished, is traumatised, tearfully saying she only wants justice for all those who died.

Bilton’s starting point is the 2014 refurbishment—which covered Grenfell Tower in highly flammable material—as he seeks to identify those responsible. Architect Andrzej Kuszell’s design had created the gaps that allowed the fire to spread. Even given the relaxation of building regulations, says Bilton, it was Kuszell’s job to make his plans safe and he failed.

Lead construction company Rydon was paid £8.7 million to refurbish Grenfell Tower between 2014 and 2016, winning the contract by undercutting rival bids. Central to this was cutting costs by using cheaper materials. They failed to fill the gaps at the side of the windows, allowing the fire to spread.

Bilton states that it was Rydon’s suggestion to swap non-combustible materials for cheaper, flammable, substitutes. Fire expert Arnold Tarling, describing the fire as “totally avoidable,” said the company had opted to use a “highly flammable material that is also highly toxic when burned.” This was “utterly wicked,” he said.

As the building was to use a new combination of cladding and insulation materials, says Bilton, Rydon were legally responsible for conducting safety tests, and “we don’t think they did.”

Bilton has to doorstep his corporate targets, as none answered his questions via emails or responded to telephone calls requesting interviews. In person, most refused to make any comment. Rydon’s chief executive and largest shareholder Robert Bond, thought to have been paid a salary of £424,000 in 2016, is the exception. Asked whether it was not his company’s job to make Grenfell Tower safe, he protests, “We did.”

Bond denies that Rydon had been required to conduct safety tests, saying the cladding was specified by the council and approved by Building Control and by the architect.

The complacency was breathtaking: testing was not required, he said, because the materials were “deemed to comply.”

Rydon simply worked to the existing “regulatory framework,” which explains why they decided not to set aside money for potential losses or expenses related to the fire. Their September 2017 accounts stated bluntly, “[N]o provision has been made in the accounts for any matters arising from these tragic events.”

Bilton states that there was no question that the materials used on Grenfell Tower should have been tested, and said, “We think it’s illegal that it wasn’t.”

The cladding and insulation materials had never been tested together. The makers of both products knew they were being combined at Grenfell Tower, but did not warn of risks.

Panorama tested both the cladding and the insulation. When the cladding gets hot its plastic centre melts and burns, immediately igniting the highly flammable insulation. Bilton sums it up, “The more you look at what was on Grenfell Tower, the more horrifying it becomes.”

When the programme showed footage of fire tests being conducted on the insulation material used at Grenfell, Bilton has to explain that this was the actual rate of fire spread: “It’s not sped up.” Later we see footage of Grenfell shot by firefighters and their shock at the rapid spread of the fire.

Professor Richard Hull, Professor of Chemistry and Fire Science at the University of Central Lancashire, notes that the fire began on the fourth floor and spread up 24 floors in just 15 minutes.

Hull, an expert in the behaviour and suitability of fire retardants for plastics, explained that there was so much flammable material on Grenfell Tower that it was the equivalent of four large petrol tankers burning at the same time.

The rate of fire spread was compounded by the toxic smoke released. This contained hydrogen cyanide, which is 20 times more toxic than carbon monoxide.

All this raises questions about what safety tests Celotex’s product had passed. Bilton said insulation had passed safety tests for use in specific conditions, but Celotex “knowingly misled buyers” about its suitability, claiming it was appropriate for refurbishing buildings taller than 18 metres when it was not. The company also claimed it was suitable for use with a range of cladding panels when it was not.

Celotex had been warned that their marketing was misleading, but continued with it.

The insulation used on Grenfell Tower had never been tested for use on tower blocks. When the safety certificate was issued, Celotex had been using a different formula, containing extra fire retardant. Bilton spells it out: “We think a more flammable version was then sold for public use,” adding, “We have been advised that the company’s behaviour could amount to corporate manslaughter.”

Bilton attempted to get answers out of Robert Black, CEO of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) at the time of the fire. KCTMO had overseen cost-cutting measures and ignored warnings from residents and Grenfell Action Group about the potentially “catastrophic” implications.

As with Robert Bond, Black said KCTMO were just operating within existing frameworks. KCTMO were managing Grenfell Tower for The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council, he said, and relied on the advice of experts.

Black had signed the planning application.

Walking down the street with him in an attempt to get answers, Bilton asked Black whether this was a planning application on the cheap, saying the survivors of Grenfell wanted to know the answer. Black refused to answer, stating that he would appear at the public inquiry.

Everything Bilton revealed confirms the characterisation of Grenfell Tower as an act of social murder perpetrated by the corporate and political elite. The gutting of building and safety regulations, cost-cutting and profiteering came at the cost of many lives.

The documentary states that corporate manslaughter charges may be brought forward to deal with such criminality. However, corporations only end up with a slap on the wrist while individuals responsible evade justice.

The programme powerfully documents the determination by the working-class community to establish justice. Early on, we see a large placard put up immediately after the fire, asking, “Why do we the working class have to suffer again?” As Hesham Rahman’s sister, Maria, pledges, “Not years. I will not wait years.”

The documentary, reflecting the anger among the victims and bereaved and millions of workers and youth, ends with Bilton stating that on Monday, “the Public Inquiry finally heard evidence for the first time, but the government still hasn’t banned flammable cladding and insulation. No change. No arrests. No peace for Grenfell’s victims.”

The programme is available in the UK for the next 11 months.

Video: “Nikki Haley, the blood is on your hands!” – By Ali Abunimah/ Activism and BDS Beat (Electronic Intifada)

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Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, barely uttered a few words of her lecture at the University of Houston on Tuesday before students interrupted her with protests against her complicity in Israel’s recent massacres in Gaza.

“Nikki Haley, the blood is on your hands, you continue to sign off on the genocide of a native people,” one student called out, kicking off the protest.

The video above, which circulated widely online, shows students holding up Palestinian flags and chanting, “Nikki, Nikki can’t you see? You are on a killing spree.”

They also chanted “free Palestine.”

According to The Houston Chronicle, several dozen protesters took part. After a few minutes, police “escorted” the protesters out, “while Haley waited, quiet, at the podium,” the newspaper reported.

Another camera angle shows Haley’s face as the students chant:

Haley’s visit to the University of Houston was sponsored by its administration. “We are privileged to have her visit our university,” President Renu Khator, stated.

Khator’s attitude highlights the vast gulf that typically exists between the corporate and government-aligned elites that run US universities, who generally abhor dissent that challenges the status quo, and students who take seriously calls for equal rights and global justice.

Prior to Haley’s speech, more than a dozen organizations, including Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Student Association and Students for a Democratic Society, had condemned the university’s invitation to Haley, citing her unconditional defense of Israel’s slaughter in Gaza.

Following Israel’s massacre of dozens of protesters in a single day on 14 May, Haley told the UN Security Council that “no country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”

She then walked out as the Palestinian Authority representative was about to speak.

The groups also noted Haley’s history of opposing free speech by advocates for Palestinian rights.

“Nikki Haley’s longtime commitment to silencing the voices of those who have spoken out against Israel’s atrocious acts against Palestinians traces back to her tenure as state governor of South Carolina,” the groups said. “Haley spearheaded the unconstitutional anti-BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, making South Carolina the second state in the nation to sign into law a bill that prevents businesses from engaging in their First Amendment right to boycott.”

Campus newspaper The Cougar spoke to students who took part in the protest against Haley:

Omar Barghouti, a human rights defender and co-founder of the BDS movement, welcomed the students’ action.

“Israel’s regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid may think that just because it is in bed with the xenophobic right-wing Trump administration its massacre of Palestinians in Gaza will go unpunished,” Barghouti told The Electronic Intifada.

Barghouti added that “effective measures of accountability” being adopted around the world, including mass protests, waves of new support for BDS and calls for an arms embargo on Israel, were giving “tremendous hope to the tens of thousands of protesters in Gaza who are peacefully demanding their right to return to their homes.”

“The brilliant protest of student activists in Houston against empire and its extremely pernicious symbols is part of this hope,” Barghouti stated.

Tuesday’s protest against Haley recalls similar actions against Israeli and American officials involved in war crimes who have been given platforms by university administrations.

 

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