Iran in the crosshairs as the empire enters its mad dog days – By John Wight (RT)

John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
 
Iran in the crosshairs as the empire enters its mad dog days
Mike Pompeo’s bellicose rhetoric against Tehran leaves no doubt that Washington has embraced the status of international renegade.

Pompeo’s speech, delivered in his capacity as secretary of state, evinced a blatant disregard for the integrity of international treaties and respect for international law. It also ensures that the last vestiges of credibility enjoyed by the US has now been shredded in the eyes of a world grown weary – weary of a Trump administration which, in its caprice and continual threats, is more redolent of a New York mafia crime family than a respectable and responsible government.

With Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – better known as the Iran nuclear deal – his administration has embarked on the path of conflict with Iran in conjunction with regional allies Israel and Saudi Arabia. Together they comprise an axis of aggression that imperils the stability of the region, with potentially grave consequences for the rest of the world given the succour such a regional conflict would give to extremism and global terrorism.

It also sets a dangerous precedent when it comes to arriving at a peaceful resolution to the on-going crisis in Ukraine and ensuring a successful outcome to the inchoate process of peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.

The Empire enters its mad dog days

Thus the dire consequences of the untrammelled power of what is an imperial hegemon in Washington have never been more manifest, with its drive to dominate and dictate on pain of war reflective of an empire desperate to arrest a decline, entering its mad dog days in the process.

Let us be clear: the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA has nothing to do with Iran’s compliance, which has been impeccable, and everything to do with Washington’s hegemonic agenda towards the region – a hegemonic agenda which precedes Trump.

In the way of this agenda are Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – along with Russia – which, if not on a formal basis certainly on a de facto basis, comprise an axis of anti-hegemony that needs to be broken. It is for this and no other reason that Trump, Netanyahu, and bin Salman are intent on forcing the issue with Iran, regardless of the likely catastrophic results.

They have lost in Syria, where the drive to topple the Assad government has been thwarted thanks in no small part to Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah – standing with the Syrian people and Syrian Arab Army – and in response they are intent on settling accounts.

Whither the transatlantic alliance

Another casualty of Trump’s demarche against Iran is the transatlantic alliance between Washington and its various European allies, considered by its proponents to be the unbreakable and irreplaceable fulcrum of democracy in our time.

The insouciance with which the Trump administration has been willing to disregard the stance of France, Germany and the UK on the Iran deal is revelatory; proof-positive that rather than any kind of alliance between friends and partners, the true nature of the America’s relationship to Europe and the EU is akin to the one that existed between Rome and its various satellites and client states during the halcyon days of another empire – which made the mistake of believing its power and existence was eternal.

This particular aspect of the crisis, involving the prospect of US sanctions being levelled not only against Iran but also British, French and German companies operating in Iran, is reflective of the extent to which neocon nostrums are in the driving seat of US foreign policy, with any lingering façade of propriety dropped in favor of raw imperialism.

Now more than ever the wheels have come off Europe’s slavish attachment to the supposed virtues of unipolarity, with the likes of Emmanuel Macron – the very embodiment of a confected liberal centrist, a leader for whom the word ‘opportunism’ was invented – left dangling like the proverbial flunkey after being kicked to the kerb by his lord and master.

The grievous reality of Europe’s hideous lack of independence from Washington – independence of the type that once minded Charles De Gaulle to declaim, “Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is Europe, it is the whole of Europe, that will decide the fate of the world” –  has been laid bare. It presents Europe with a test. Does it wilt in the face of the Trump administration’s imperial arrogance and bellicosity? Or does it awaken and emerge, finally, from beneath Washington’s feet to play a positive and progressive role in world affairs?

Here it is hard to imagine leaders of the questionable calibre of Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron existing anywhere else other than beneath the feet of Washington, with Macron’s earlier boast of wielding influence over Trump when it comes to Syria now returning to haunt him. The reality is that French President Emmanuel Macron carries about as much weight in Washington as a fly’s wing.

Europe’s choice – unipolarity or multipolarity

Crisis is opportunity, they tell us, and this particular crisis presents the opportunity for a new alignment in Europe, forged on the understanding that the destabilizing factor in Europe is not and has never been Russia; that it is and has always been the United States. Economically, culturally, and politically, Europe’s identity has been progressively subsumed into a US identity, with its regressive and shallow paean to the cult of the individual, unfettered capitalism, and might is right.

Therefore the choice Europe faces is clear. It can either remain tethered to the mast of the sinking ship of unipolarity, or it can join Russia, China and the rest of the world in shaping a multipolar alternative, rooted not in the caprice of a president in Washington but instead in the principles set out in the UN Charter – specifically respect for national sovereignty and international law.

Returning to Iran, which now finds itself firmly in the crosshairs of regime change for no other reason that it refuses to bow to the writ of Washington, there is no longer any hiding place when it comes to taking sides. If those countries threatened by this eruption of US aggression do not hang together they will hang separately.

Hegemony demands its response in the shape of anti-hegemony. The future of generations as yet unborn depends on nothing less.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Trump and Corporate America Are Dead Serious About Plans to Conquer Outer Space – By Elliott Gabriel (MINT PRESS)

Like any military effort, the establishment of the U.S. Armed Forces in space is meant to ensure the expansion of capital, the protection of corporate property and investments on or off the globe.

 

WASHINGTON – What does the United States do when it’s faced with hegemonic decline, ascendant rivals, and an inability to use its massive military apparatus to turn the tide in favor of its own imperial ambitions without incurring costs that far outweigh the benefits?

To paraphrase former First Lady Michelle Obama: When they go low, we go high.

In this case, shift the battle to “the final frontier” – outer space — where mining interests suspect that rare mineral resources can be found in abundance and yield massive profits.

During his time on the campaign trail and upon coming to power, President Donald Trump issued a stream of statements explicitly calling for a reinvigorated effort to boost the militarization of space. The goal would be to ensure that his “America First” approach to economic and military matters extends to outer space through a deployment of the U.S. Armed Forces to outer space on a permanent basis.

On May 1, Trump revived the idea of creating a new military service branch dedicated to space combat in a speech to the West Point football team, noting that the branch would be called the “Space Force.”

“I’m just telling you now. We’re getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons, and we are seriously thinking of the Space Force,” he said.

For longtime anti-militarism activist and analyst Bruce Gagnon, a coordinator for the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, the push to form a Space Force reflects the desires of the U.S. war industry. As Gagnon told MintPress News:

They know they stand to make massive profits if they can consolidate space operations under one military service, so they will likely continue to push this in the coming year. I think they stand a good chance of eventually making it happen – recognizing that most politicians in Congress are now subservient to the military-industrial complex.”

While liberal late-night TV hosts like The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah and Late Show’s Stephen Colbert have mocked the idea, Trump is far from the only figure in Washington who sees space as a “war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea,” as he said in March.

Indeed, House lawmakers have already inserted plans for “a subordinate unified command for space under U.S. Strategic Command that would be responsible for joint space warfighting operations,” in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

While not quite the space-oriented service branch or Space Force that Trump has called for – complete with its own Chief sitting alongside the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces – the move is a stride forward in the long-agreed-upon bipartisan strategy to ensure that outer space remains the unchallenged domain of Washington.

 

Extension of Terrestrial Battles

Donald Trump gestures after speaking to service members at Miramar Air Corps Air Station, March 13, 2018, in San Diego. (AP/Evan Vucci)

What interest could the U.S. military possibly have in extending its presence in the cold, dangerous, and expensive realm of outer space?

For geographer, globalization scholar, and University of Cambridge Professor Peter Dicken, the answer isn’t much different from why a military would seek to establish itself anywhere else here on Earth, whether it’s in the frozen Arctic or in the insurgent mountain ranges of Afghanistan.

“Some of the answers lie in capital endlessly seeking more profitable investments,” Dicken told MintPress News, adding:

In other words, compared with investments on Earth, investments in outer space – now including military investment in space – can look relatively profitable relative to investments on Earth.”

Any time the government seeks to build up its military, the purpose isn’t merely just to inject funds into war industries as a form of “corporate welfare,” but it’s a means of guaranteeing that the military continues to ensure the expansion of capital, protecting its property and investments across the globe. Proponents of the militarization of space hope to extend the same dynamic into the cosmos.

As far back as 1958, then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson offered a prescient observation on the crucial role outer space can play in securing military dominance on the ground:

[T]here is something more important than the ultimate weapon. That is the ultimate position – the position of total control over the Earth that lies somewhere out in space. That is … the distant future, though not so distant as we may have thought. Whoever gains that position gains control, total control, over Earth, for the purposes of tyranny or for the service of freedom.”

Johnson’s argument didn’t fall on deaf ears. In the 1996 report Vision for 2020 — by the Defense Department’s Aerospace Joint Command Headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado — the report’s authors give a clear layout of the mission of the United States Space Command, which was created in 1985:

Dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict.”

Watch | Arsenal of Hypocrisy

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/s5mEUtx62N0?rel=0&showinfo=0

On its third page, the report notes, “the emerging synergy of space superiority with land, sea, and air superiority will lead to Full Spectrum Dominance.” The cover of the report depicts a satellite firing a laser beam down on a target below.

Gagnon sees the U.S. delusion that it can achieve absolute unchallenged military control on the planet as an absurd idea that is not only fraught with danger, but could lead to the hollowing-out of remaining U.S. social programs:

The militarization of space gives the U.S. the idea that it can prevail in a full-scale war, which is an insane notion. The cost of the militarization of space would destroy the human and physical infrastructure of our country because they’d have to defund all social progress in order to pay for it.”

In the 2007 book, Cosmic Society: Towards a Sociology of the Universe, Dicken and co-author James S. Ormrod wrote about how the militarization of space can guarantee capital investments and property rights in a cheaper, less risky manner than the simple deployment of military force on the ground:

It has long been recognized that struggles over space on Earth are intimately connected to social struggles, to contests between classes and others. … Sadly now, those interests monopolizing and controlling the use of outer space are those attempting to monopolize and control social relations, social processes, and forms of subjectivity on Earth. It is possible to imagine the total militarization of the public sphere from space, civilians’ every move being watched and targeted. In short, the current way of humanizing outer space is again about exerting the hegemony of the powerful.”

 

Mining the moon

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket transporting the Tess satellite lifts off from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., April 18, 2018.

In recent years, tech companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin have engaged in a mad dash to develop their own private space programs capable of conducting a moon landing, exploring Mars, or providing space-based tourist attractions. The rapid development of this private space race – supported by companies such as Google through its Lunar XPRIZE contest – is to unlock “the lunar frontier and the multibillion-dollar industry that follows,” as Bob Richards, founder and CEO of Silicon Valley startup Moon Express, said in a recent statement.

While these tech entrepreneurs wrap their aspirations to tap into the resources of the cosmos in such idealistic language as “unlocking the mysteries of the universe” and other mawkish Roddenberry-esque clichés, their real motivations are much baser and boil down to simple dollars and cents – or, in the case of the moon, “a treasure chest of rare metals and other beneficial materials that can be used here on Earth.”

On Tuesday, these companies received a massive boost to their efforts when the House of Representatives passed the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Bill, which encourages private business to be carried out under the auspices of the Office of Space Commerce (a division of the Department of Commerce). The bill further ignores the Outer Space Treaty (OST), an oft-disregarded international agreement signed in 1967 that is meant to keep space peaceful, safe and accessible for all who seek to explore it.

Lawmakers believe the bill will exempt the U.S. from its legal responsibilities under the OST stemming from U.S. private corporations’ activities, yet one can expect that the Department of Defense — and the Space Force, if it ever comes to fruition — will be on-hand to protect U.S. business interests, when necessary.

“Owners of capital are becoming increasingly interested in The Moon as a site of rare materials [and] this kind of investment in space is happening because these players believe that investments in space will be very lucrative and, as such, require protection,” Dicken told MintPress News.

Rare-earth minerals are crucial in the manufacture of electronics, medical technologies, defense hardware and renewable energies, and can be as common as zinc and copper or as rare as magnesite and cobalt. From our smartphones to our cars to our hospitals and power plants, rare-earths such as neodymium, lanthanum, cerium and other elements play a key role in our daily lives. However, the process of extracting rare-earths is dangerous, costly, and runs the risk of ruining local environments.

In 2016, China produced nearly 80 percent of the world’s supply of the precious elements. Its abundant reserves of the minerals caused leader Deng Xiaoping to famously say in 1992, “The Middle East has oil. China has rare-earths.”

Owing to the country’s strategic possession of the reserves, markets were spooked in 2010 when a border dispute with Japan resulted in a rumor that China would block rare earth exports to the country, causing prices to momentarily skyrocket by around 2,000 percent. Subsequent announcements by the government that it would slash production quotas in response to the environmental damage mines were causing have also caused the prices to fluctuate.

The idea that the so-called “vitamins of modern society,” perceived to be scarce, would remain under the lock and key of the Communist Party of China was viewed as an apocalyptic scenario. This led to a storm of alarmist articles about the Chinese monopoly or “stranglehold” on the minerals, as well as a rush by mining firms to scour the globe for new exploitable sources in locales such as the Amazon rainforest, sensitive environments in Latin America, Afghanistan, shuttered mines in California, North Korea – which recently was found to have reserves estimated to be worth $6 trillion – and even in the heavens above.

As Julie Klinger wrote in her 2018 book Rare Earth Frontiers: From Terrestrial Subsoils to Lunar Landscapes:

[I]n the race to open up new extraction points, less remote, apparently easier to access deposits have been overlooked in favor of the far northwestern Amazon and the Moon.”

Moon Express co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain made clear his excitement over the mining of the lunar surface in 2012:

The problem we face on earth is that beyond their scarcity, these elements are not evenly distributed throughout the world. We need to disrupt this market. By finally being able to reach the Moon and harvest the resources that are there, we can overcome the scarcity of rare-earth elements and create the infrastructure necessary for innovation to continue.”

Statistic: Rare earth reserves worldwide as of 2017, by country (in 1,000 metric tons REO)* | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Since 2014, NASA and the private sector have undertaken Lunar CATALYST, or the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown, which seeks to develop prospecting and cargo-bearing robots that would mine the lunar crust for rare-earth minerals.

By 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Commercial Space Act, which lifted restrictions on private companies seeking to legally haul back any material found in space – whether it be on asteroids, the moon, or even the planet Mars, which Trump seeks to explore and Tesla’s Elon Musk hopes to colonize.

A year later, White House advisers Robert Walker and Peter Navarro – the latter of whom is a major China hawk and now-director of the National Trade Council – penned op-eds calling for a “peace through strength” approach to space that would “simultaneously strengthen (the U.S.) economy and manufacturing base while significantly expanding (U.S.) civilian and military space budgets.”

Using emotionally-charged language evoking a pioneering spirit, the authors propose “private sector solutions” to U.S. national defense and space challenges meant to counter “existential” threats in space from rival superpowers, ensuring corporate interests and a future where the U.S.’s “freedom-loving people … lead the way to the heavens above.”

Klinger observed:

Extreme privilege combined with the cultural capital surrounding space-related endeavors generates a kind of evangelical zeal that manifests in the near-complete inability of space investors to handle deeper questions about their projects. Anyone critical is simply lacking vision, is not bold enough, or does not understand the importance of space exploration.

… While these endeavors promise fundamental transformations in how resources are produced and consumed, they are betting on the durability of the current unsustainable political-economic status quo. … Only loosely regulated and currently free from clearly enforceable social and environmental accountability requirements, the Moon seems to represent the ultimate terrain of capitalist freedom.”

 

China and Russia observe and prepare

A man holds a child as they visit a park with replicas of foreign and domestic space vehicles displayed in Beijing, China, June 26, 2016. (AP/Ng Han Guan)

The United States, with its massive war budget and sprawling military-industrial complex, remains the front-runner in the competition to deploy armed forces in outer space. Yet, as the successful 2013 landing of Chinese lunar rover Jade Rabbit proved, China’s National Space Agency is well-positioned to actually mine rare-earth minerals on the Moon.

In an article cited by Klinger from the China Military Channel, the country’s defense establishment made its intention behind the Jade Rover mission clear:

The rich…rare-earth, uranium and thorium resources on the Moon can ease China’s energy crisis, maintain the status of China as a rare-earth power, and facilitate the rapid development of China’s aerospace technology…China now has ‘first-strike capability’ on lunar mineral development.”

In the meantime, the country has patiently built upon its ability to launch effective anti-satellite missiles. Yet its own arsenal pales in comparison to that of the U.S. military, which possesses dozens of Aegis-equipped guided missile cruisers and destroyers capable of knocking down Russia and China’s satellites in an actual war.

Pleas from China and Russia to negotiate a new space treaty preventing the use of space for the deployment weapons have also been ignored by the U.S.

For Bruce Gagnon, whose 2003 documentary, Arsenal of Hypocrisy, delved into the nexus between the U.S. space program and the imperialist prerogatives of the U.S. military-industrial complex, the reason is simple:

The U.S. has always believed it had the opportunity and right to control and dominate space. The logo of the U.S. Space Command reads ‘Master of Space’. But China and Russia have not been idle and have developed the ability to counter the U.S. efforts to control space and thus the earth below.  While the U.S. still is ahead of Russia and China in overall space technology, those two nations are quickly closing the gap because they are determined not to allow the U.S. to be dominant in space.”


The “Bad Seed” in Space

For critics, the issue isn’t so much the exploration of space or its “humanization,” as Dicken and Ormrod refer to it, but the extension of inter-state and inter-imperialist competition beyond the planet. As the two authors wrote in 2007:

As and when elements of nearby outer space are legally subdivided and exploited by different private or state interests, this precludes public and private investments in probably more worthwhile projects on Earth. Furthermore, such imperialism also opens up the possibility of wars between those powers gaining access to the Moon or other nearby parts of the cosmos. This form of imperialism and capital expansion may seem particularly attractive to ruling elites, given the contradictions and increasingly evident social and environmental crises of Earthly society. But the fact remains that this fourth stage of imperialism may in the long term simply reproduce Earthly conflicts, Earthly sociopolitical coalitions, and environmental degradation into the cosmos.”

Yet Dicken warns against giving up hope in the possibility of humanizing space, noting that the achievements of space exploration could bring major benefits to human society — provided such humanization remains centered on the improvement of the whole of humanity, rather than the agendas of individualistic entrepreneurs dreaming of gold in the stars or generals seeking to use space platforms to prevent their rivals from accessing space.

“And it would certainly be a mistake to ignore the ‘push factors’ of new coalitions against military investments, these perhaps being best exemplified by Bruce Gagnon’s attempt to create coalitions against outer-space investments,” Dicken added.

For Gagnon, the U.S. desire to gain a monopoly on access to space remains key to the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space’s opposition to the push for monopolizing the cosmos. Gagnon refers to this imperialist dream as “the bad seed” – which could blossom and bear frightening, poisonous fruits for generations to come:

It would be a tragic mistake for any nation to carry the bad seed of greed, competition, conflict, environmental degradation and war into the heavens. The U.S. has made the decision to do that very thing. Sadly few on the planet are aware of the dangers to this thoughtless and irresponsible policy.”

Top Photo | President Donald Trump holds a toy astronaut as he participates in a signing ceremony for Space Policy Directive at the White House. (Reuters Photo)

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

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Study finds alarming decline in biodiversity worldwide By Philip Guelpa – (WSWS)

A recently released United Nations-supported study presents a grim picture of the accelerating decline in biodiversity (the variety of plant and animal species) across the globe and its dire implications for the not-too-distant future of life on Earth, including humans.

Flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina due to uncontrolled development in wetlands

The study, composed of multiple reports by over 550 researchers, was conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). It contends that the increasingly rapid loss of plant and animal species due to habitat degradation, invasive species, and pollution is happening in tandem with climate change. Together, these processes, if not halted, will soon have catastrophic environmental consequences, amounting to a sixth mass global extinction, which will threaten the very survival of humanity.

Biological ecosystems are a complex, dialectical interaction of plant, animal, and microbial life forms with each other and their physical environment, evolving over millennia. These systems are not static. They change over time due to the dynamic of unity and conflict of opposites of their myriad biological and physical constituents. In general, the greater the species diversity (number of different species) within an ecosystem, the more stable it is, barring external perturbations (e.g., the impact that caused the mass extinction, including dinosaurs, about 66 million years ago) and the more slowly change takes place.

By contrast, the lower the species diversity, the greater is the tendency toward instability and the more vulnerable an ecosystem is to catastrophic collapse. High diversity will generally buffer the degree to which changes in any particular constituent of the system will affect the system as a whole. The role of one species, known as its ecological niche, may gradually be filled by one or more other species, leading to gradual change.

With lower diversity, however, ecosystems tend to be more fragile. The loss of any one species will likely have a much greater impact on the system as a whole, creating instability and possible catastrophic collapse. It is less likely that another species will evolve or adapt with sufficient rapidity to fill the “gap” in the system, potentially resulting in a cascading series of disruptions. If the trends documented in the IPBES reports continue, the world’s biological systems are likely to go into this kind of severe crisis within the next few decades.

Humans have had a significant impact on natural ecosystems, especially since the Industrial Revolution. However, in no way are we “decoupled” from the natural environment. Such systems remain a vital part of our survival—affecting weather and climate, food resources, potable water and breathable air.

The authors of the IPBES study provide a range of examples to illustrate both the variety and rapidity of species loss and environmental degradation, which are occurring across the globe.

Among the direct and substantial impacts of species decline and extinction, the study found that exploitable fisheries in the Asia-Pacific region are on track to be exhausted by 2048. This will result in severe economic losses as well as dietary privation for millions.

Habitat destruction by forest clearing in Mexico

In Africa, where more than 60 percent of the human population depends directly on natural resources, the study projects that half of some bird and mammal species could be lost by 2100. Of the continent’s historically recorded species, more than 20 percent are threatened, endangered, or already extinct. The recent effective extinction of the northern white rhinoceros, which received much media attention, is just one iconic example.

In Europe, 42 percent of land species have suffered notable declines during the past decade alone. Half of existing wetlands have been lost since 1970.

The destruction of wetlands and their associated plant and animal communities around the world, both inland and along coastlines, results in accelerated erosion, pollution, and loss of protection against flooding, as seen, for example, during last year’s Atlantic hurricane season.

Over the last 500 years, since Europeans began colonizing the Americas, 30 percent of the hemisphere’s biodiversity has been lost. The study projects that over the next decade, if present trends continue, that figure will rise to 40 percent, indicating its rapid acceleration. Nearly one quarter of the existing species that were studied are threatened.

Trees are key to the production of atmospheric oxygen, essential for the survival of humans and other animals. However, since 1990, over 130 million hectares of rainforest have been lost. In northeastern Brazil, part of the Amazon rainforest, which is often referred to as the “Lungs of the Earth,” between 2003 and 2013 alone, the area under cultivation more than doubled to 2.5 million hectares.

The reports’ authors highlight the combined effects of direct human-caused landscape modification and of climate change on the decline in biodiversity. By 2050, climate change may equal or surpass landscape modification as the primary cause of species decline. In either case, the planet is well on its way to becoming a biological wasteland. These findings are not new, only confirming and re-emphasizing the critical urgency of the situation. Previous studies have painted a similar picture (see: “Scientists warn of ‘biological annihilation’ as Earth’s mass extinction accelerates”).

While the IPBES study documents the growing danger posed by the rapid and accelerating global decline in biodiversity, it presents only general notions as to what might be done to halt the process and avert catastrophe, without any mechanisms for implementation aside from the good will of business and political leaders. As with other such studies, the researchers can only lament the complete inadequacy of response to their dire warnings so far. Robert Watson, the chair of the IPBES, stated, “The time for action was yesterday or the day before. Governments recognize we have a problem. Now we need action, but unfortunately the action we have now is not at the level we need.”

Mass extinctions have happened five times previously during the existence of life on earth (see:  “The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert”). In each of those instances the causes were natural. The currently developing sixth mass extinction differs in that it is directly related to human activity. However, contrary to statements in the report and in numerous other pronouncements in the media and elsewhere, the cause is not human moral failure, overpopulation, or the need to eat less red meat.

The poor farmer in Brazil who is forced to clear more land in order to eke out an existence, the factory worker in China or the US whose plant spews out toxic chemicals, etc., are not responsible for the resulting environmental degradation.

The responsibility lies with the anarchic and profit-driven capitalist system that disdainfully ignores the consequences of its actions and prevents the development and implementation of rational, scientifically based solutions to the problems of climate change and environmental degradation. As the world capitalist crisis deepens and inter-imperialist rivalries intensify, environmental concerns will increasingly be swept aside, as is already the case under the Trump administration in the US.

If, on the other hand, the vast resources now horded by the world’s elites or squandered in wars were instead used to eradicate poverty, end pollution, develop and expand clean energy, and generally organize society for the benefit of the many rather than the few, the developing crisis could be halted and reversed. That can only happen under the democratic control of the working class implementing the socialist reorganization of society.

The author also recommends:

Climate change and the struggle against capitalism
[14 July 2017]

 

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Climate change and the struggle against capitalism
[14 July 2017]

Highlights of the 2018 Victory Day Parade in Moscow (PHOTO, VIDEO) – By SPUTNIK

The multipurpose fighter of the fifth generation SU-57 on the military parade devoted to the 73rd anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945

© Sputnik / Grigory Sysoyev

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A massive military parade was held in Moscow to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) against Nazi Germany in the European theater of World War II; Russia showcased many of its advanced, recently-developed weapons and displayed the might of its armed forces to the world.

The New Weapons

One of the sleekest, most deadly weapons to make its debut at the parade was the Sukhoi Su-57 stealth air superiority fighter. Packed with state-of-the-art avionics and active airborne phased array radar, this super-maneuverable fifth-generation warplane can carry a wide array of weaponry, allowing it to engage airborne, ground and naval targets.

The Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which appeared at the parade mounted on a MiG-31 interceptor aircraft, has a range of over 2,000 km, flies at Mach 10, and is capable of maneuvering at all stages of flight.. Not only can it penetrate all existing and prospective enemy air defenses, the missile can carry a nuclear payload.

Военный парад, посвящённый 73-й годовщине Победы в ВОВ
© Sputnik / Evgeny Biyatov
Multi-purpose fighter MiG-31 with the hypersonic Kinzhal rocket on the military parade devoted to the 73rd anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945

The BMPT Terminator is a tracked armored fighting vehicle, armed with four anti-tank missile launchers, two 30 mm autocannons, two grenade launchers, and a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun.

READ MORE: LIVE UPDATES: Victory Day Military Parade Held in Russian Capital (VIDEO)

The Uran-9 is an unmanned combat vehicle designed for reconnaissance and proving fire support. It can be outfitted with anti-tank missiles, rapid-fire cannons and even a flamethrower.

The President’s Speech

Prior to the beginning of the parade, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech, praising the role the USSR played during World War II and the valor of Soviet soldiers.

“We will always be proud of the fact that the USSR did not bow down when other countries decided to surrender,” Putin said.

Президент РФ В.Путин и премьер-министр РФ Д.Медведев на военном параде в честь 73-й годовщины Победы в ВОВ
© Sputnik / Alexey Druzhinin
May 9, 2018. The Russian President is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin before the beginning of a military parade in commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 at Red Square in Moscow

The president shook hands with Russian generals and greeted the WWII veterans attending the event.

A Military Debut

The event was also marked by the appearance of certain military units which took part in the Victory Day parade for the first time in history.

Among the new arrivals were the recently-formed Russian National Guard, which included a mechanized formation consisting of Tigr, Patrul and Ural armored vehicles as well as a parade unit of the Saratov Military Institute with National Guards Troops.

Военный парад, посвящённый 73-й годовщине Победы в ВОВ
© Sputnik / Evgeny Biyatov
Parade crew of Troops of national guard of the Russian Federation on the military parade devoted to the 73rd anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945

Other units making their first appearance at the parade included a unit of the Russian Armed Forces’ military police and a detachment of the Kremlin Cadets.

Putin prioritizes economic breakthrough, quality of life in swearing-in speech – By RT

Putin prioritizes economic breakthrough, quality of life in swearing-in speech
After being sworn in as president for the fourth time, Vladimir Putin told Russian citizens that he saw a major economic breakthrough to prosperity as the main goal, adding that only a truly free society is capable of such step.

Putin thanked the Russian people for their support and said that he felt a tremendous responsibility for every citizen and the country as a whole. He also thanked voters for their record level of support at the March 18 presidential elections.

The president said that he considered it “his duty and the meaning of his whole life” to do everything for Russia, for its peaceful and prosperous future, for the preservation of the Russian people and for happiness of every family.

To achieve these goals Russia needs to be modern and dynamic, to quickly respond to all challenges, in order to strengthen its positions in the global economy, Putin noted. He said that the objectives would be set in the near future and the solutions that would lead to meeting those objectives will become historical milestones that would determine the fate of the nation for decades to come.

Putin emphasized that he was deeply convinced that only a truly free society was capable of such achievements, as such a society can easily incorporate everything new and progressive and rejects all that is unjust, inert and weighed down with unnecessary bureaucratic procedures.

It is the harmonious unity of a free citizen, a responsible civil society and a powerful and responsible democratic state in which I see the solid foundation for Russia’s future development,” the president said.

He also noted that Russian citizens had realized that, while their country is changing together with the modern world, it should not forget its own roots, history and the multi-ethnic culture.

Putin stated that Russia had become an active, powerful and influential player in international politics and that the country’s security and defense potential was as strong as ever. He promised that he and other senior officials would pay primary attention to these issues in the coming years. He also said that Russia would support equal dialogue with foreign nations, promote mutually beneficial joint projects and deepen the ties with the interested countries in the business, humanitarian, cultural and scientific spheres.

Our main goal that Russia, the country of opportunities for its people, allows for self-realization of every person” Putin said, adding that he personally saw a deep connection between the major nationwide objectives and the tasks that ordinary people set before themselves on a daily basis.

We need to expand the freedom space for the entrepreneurs and scientists, for people of creative professions and active citizens, for all who strive for a renewal. I see this as a guarantee of a succession of our political course and stable development of Russia,” he said.

Putin concluded his speech by expressing his confidence that Russia and its people would succeed in a new breakthrough, like has already happened throughout history, noting that a good team could solve the most difficult of all tasks.

We will definitely succeed! I believe that it will be so. I will do everything that is in my power for this,” he said.

On sixth Friday of Gaza protests, Israeli snipers shoot 70, but kill none – By Ahmad Kabariti ( Mondoweiss )

Israel/Palestine

on 0 Comments

 
 
 

“You! the one with the red T-shirt that has just insulted me, as a the son of a bitch. I promise to respond to you. We are ready for everything.” An Israeli soldier says by loudspeaker to the young men demonstrating in the weekly march on the Gaza border.

But the soldier’s threat did not compel hundreds of young men who’d gathered close to the fence between Gaza and Israel to step back, despite the intensity of tear gas canisters fired by soldiers towards the masked protesters, as well as the heat of the day, reaching 35 degrees Celsius (104 F) east of the town of Khuza’a in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

“Give the one-finger salute, guys! ” One of the protesters cheered. And the protesters did so, responding to the threats of the soldier, who characterized them by shirt color, saying: “You the yellow T-shirt guy! I heard you and saw you when you insulted me, ​​I have no problem shooting you as I did during the past Fridays.”

Palestinians in Gaza held their sixth Friday rally as part of the Great March of Return. The protests commemorate the “Nakba,” or Catastrophe, the displacement of Palestinians from lands that would become Israel in 1948. On Friday demonstrators highlighted the plight of Palestinian workers and the unemployed in a demonstration labeled “Friday of Workers.”

Beginning in the morning, protesters brought tires to within 500 yards of the border, preparing to set fire to them and roll them toward the fence, and use them as a smokescreen to counter Israeli snipers behind the sandy hills.

The slingshot is the only ‘weapon’ of some demonstrators. Their small stones rarely reach beyond the fence, though slingshots managed to knock down two Israeli drones, causing them to crash in the sky of Khuza’a.

At least 70 Palestinians were injured by Israeli live fire Friday, the lowest casualty toll since the protests began. Medics also treated 1,073 people, for tear gas inhalation, the Gaza health ministry said.

The protests were backed by “logistical support” from women who had prepared large bags of croissants filled with thyme, cheese and spinach, to be distributed free to demonstrators. “I woke up early in the morning to prepare 300 croissants,” Fatima Dalloul, 44, told Mondoweiss.

Fatima, a mother of 8 children, prepared her fast food packages with her neighbors in the Abasan neighborhood. “The majority of these young people are poor and need to feel that their mothers support their weekly mobilizing. While it is true that we are concerned that youths might be killed, we must support them and their right to return to stolen lands.”

Since the first protest March 30, 44 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,700 injured by Israeli fire. Friday marked the first weekly protest in which no Palestinian were reported killed by sunset.

One protester, Abdullah Al-Mughrabi, 39, came with his family and held a poster asserting the right of return. “I have nothing to lose,” he said. “The whole world must know our right to return.” Abdullah’s origins are the city of Jaffa, which his grandfather was forced to abandon in 1948.

“Seventy years of disaster is enough for us,” Abdullah added. “The siege treats us like animals in a stockyard without rights. Even a poor Somali can get medical treatment, travel and free trade. But we are not pirates, we are a people deprived of our rights, with the consent of the United Nations.”

Crowds were smaller today’s afternoon than in previous weeks, with Gazans saying they predict a large rally on May 14th, when the U.S will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The U.S. move angered Palestinian leaders, who have refused to talk to the Trump administration, accusing it of pro-Israel bias. Israel’s government celebrated the U.S. decision, saying it recognized the “reality” that Jerusalem was the historic capital of the Jewish people.

In the “Malaka” area of protests, on the border 19 miles north of Khuza’a, demonstrators celebrated the arrival of Mahmoud Abu Araza, who was born in 1953, five years after his parents were displaced from al-Majdal, now called Ashkelon. He said he had stopped caring about the fog of teargas that did not fade away for all seven hours of protest.

“All these hundreds of young men are my sons, and I will not leave them until they return to Ashkelon, Jaffa and Jerusalem,” Abu Araza, a grandfather of 45 children, told Mondoweiss.

He asked, “Are the Palestinians to be forced to live in misery throughout their lives due to the last occupation in the world?”

The whole world is living in freedom, compared to Palestine, he said. “I think that slavery still exists as long as Israel breathes.. I have never seen a happy day in my life because of Israel,” Abu Araza said.

About Ahmad Kabariti

Ahmad Kabariti is a freelance journalist based in Gaza.

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Essay by Putin Advisor Vladislav Surkov on Russia’s Eurasian Future: ‘We Began a New Era in 2014’ – By Vladislav Surkov Russia in Global Affairs (SOTT)

Comment: The following essay was recently published in Russia in Global Affairs, the Russian equivalent of Foreign Affairs in the US. We have translated it from the original at globalaffairs.ru, the cryptic title of which was: ‘Одиночество полукровки (14+)’ – The Solitude of a Half-Blood (14+).

Its author is Vladislav Surkov. If Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin is mischaracterized in the West as “Putin’s brain,” then Surkov is similarly mischaracterized “Putin’s éminence grise.” Surkov was Deputy Chief of the Russian Presidential Administration from 1999-2011, during which time he apparently played a role in the transition from Yeltsin to Putin and later developed the concept of sovereign democracy, which is arguably 21st century Russia’s ‘state ideology’.

Surkov also served as Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Modernisation from 2011-2013, and has since remained an aide to Putin, apparently with the specific brief of handling Russia’s relationships with Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Ukraine. When Western elites went apoplectic because Crimea joined the Russian Federation in 2014, Surkov was one of the first names on Obama’s sanctions list. Asked how he felt about no longer being able to travel to the US, Surkov responded:

“The only things that interest me in the US are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work.”

As Western actors hurl invective, sanctions, cyberattacks, political subterfuge and proxy wars at Russia – all apparently with a view to ‘correcting’ its policy decisions in the short-term, and thus its developmental trajectory in the long-term – Surkov sweeps through Russian history to explain why he believes that the ‘civilizational crisis’ his country finds itself in today marks the beginning of a new era and new identity for Russia…

[Hyperlinks to Wikipedia and other sources concerning historical events/actors referenced by the author are ours]

Vladislav Surkov

Vladislav Surkov

There are all kinds of jobs. Some jobs can be tackled only in a state that differs somewhat from a normal one. For example, a proletary1 of the news industry, a garden variety news supplier, as a rule, is a person in a frenzied state, and with a somewhat feverish mind. Which isn’t surprising, since news business requires haste: the first to know, the first to report, the first to interpret.

The excitement of those who inform passes to those who are being informed. The excited ones often mistake their own excitement for a thinking process, and this excitement replaces the latter, which leads to long-term ‘convictions’ and ‘principles’ being replaced with one-shot ‘opinions’. It is also the source for incompetent assessments, which no one seems to mind. That’s the price for news being fresh and hot.

Few can hear the mocking silence of fate through the background media noise. Few are interested to know that there is slow and massive news that doesn’t come from shallow waters, but from the depth of life, where geopolitical structures and historical eras collide. It takes time before we can understand their full meaning, but it is never too late to do so.

The 14th year of our current century is marked with important and very important achievements which everybody knows about because everything has been said about them. But one of the most important events of that time is only now starting to reveal itself to us, and slow, deep news about it only now reaches our ears. This event was the end of Russia’s epic journey towards the West, the cessation of repeated and fruitless attempts to become part of Western civilization, to become a member of ‘a happy family of European nations’.

Starting from the 14th year [of our century, i.e. 2014], we began an indeterminably long new period, the so-called ’14+ epoch’, in which Russia faces 100 (200? 300?) years of geopolitical solitude.

Putin Crimea

Reunification of Crimea with Russia, March 2014, Year Zero of the New Era

Various methods of Russia’s ‘westernization’ were tried during 400 years since it was first foolheartedly initiated by False Dmitry and implemented with determination by Peter the Great. There were numerous attempts to become a country like Holland, France, USA, Portugal. All possible means were used in attempts to elbow into the West. All new ideas and shake-ups emanating from the West were received with huge enthusiasm (which was probably excessive) by Russia’s elite.

Autocrats willingly married German women, and imperial nobility and bureaucracy increased their numbers thanks to wandering uitlanders. But while Europeans quickly and en masse became ‘russified’, Russians still resisted the counter-process of ‘europeanization’.

The Russian army fought and sacrificed itself in all the major European wars. Based on its rich experience, Europe can be considered the bloodiest and most violent continent. Great victories and great sacrifices led to Russia gaining a lot of territories in the west, but to no new friends.

Saint Petersburg even initiated the creation of the Holy Alliance and become its guarantor for the sake of European religious-monarchic values, and diligently fulfilled its duty when it was necessary to save the House of Habsburg from the Hungarian rebellion. But when Russia found itself in a similarly difficult situation, not only did Austria not help, it turned against Russia.

Then Europe had a change of heart, and Marxist ideas became all the rage in Paris and Berlin. Some citizens of Simbirsk and Yanovka [SOTT.net: Small provincial cities] wanted to resemble Paris. As long as the West was in thrall to socialism, they were anxious not to lag behind Europe, greatly fearing that the world revolution, to be led apparently by European and American workers, would somehow pass by their ‘backwoods’.

They tried nonetheless. By the time the dust of class conflict had settled, it became clear that – despite the great efforts that went into the creation of the USSR – the world revolution wasn’t happening. The Western world, instead of becoming a workers’ and peasants’ system, became exactly the opposite – capitalistic. Additionally, it became necessary to thoroughly conceal the increasingly autistic symptoms of socialism behind the Iron Curtain.

By the end of the previous century Russia got tired of being ‘isolated’. It again set its eyes toward the West. But some thought that ‘size matters’: we don’t fit into Europe because we are too big and scarily wide. That’s why [if Russia were to be accepted] it had to lessen its territory, population, economy, and military, and to lower its ambitions to the size of an average European country. So we lessened. We worshiped Hayek just like we once worshiped Marx. Demographics, industry and military potentials were cut in half. Russia parted with all its constituent republics, and initiated the process of separation from its autonomous republics… But even this version of a belittled and degraded Russia didn’t fit into the West.

Finally it was decided to stop the process of humiliation and degradation. More so, it was decided to assert our rights. What happened in 2014 became inevitable.

Despite seeming similarities between Russian and European culture models, they have different ‘software’ and different ‘connectors’. It’s impossible to combine them into one system. Today, when this old suspicion has become an obvious fact, we hear suggestions from some that it’s time to shuffle in the other direction – towards Asia, the East.

There is no need for it. And this is why: Russia is already there.

Moscow’s proto-empire2 was created in the atmosphere of a complicated military-political ‘co-working’ with the Asian Horde. Some tend to see it as oppression by the Horde and others as a union. It’s hard to say whether it was a forceful oppression or a willful union. But in any event, Russia developed along an ‘eastern’ vector.

Even after the Great Stand on the Ugra River, Russian tsardom continued in fact to be part of Asia. It willingly annexed eastern territories and had a claim to heritage of the Byzantine Empire, the ‘Asian Rome’. It was also greatly influenced by noble families of the Golden Horde’s descent.

Simeon Bekbulatovich

Simeon Bekbulatovich

The height of Asian influence came when Simeon Bekbulatovich, the Muslim-born khan of the Khanate of Qasim3 was appointed Grand Prince of All Rus’ by Ivan the Formidable. Historians, accustomed to think of Ivan IV as a kind of court jester wearing Monomakh’s Cap, attribute this ‘trick’ solely to his ‘natural playfulness’. But the reality was much more serious.

When Ivan’s rule ended, there was solid support in the royal court for Simeon Bekbulatovich to inherit the Tsardom of Russia. This forced Ivan’s successor, Boris Godunov, to extract from the boyars [SOTT.net: Russian nobility], while swearing allegiance to him, a promise “to not want Bekbulatovich and his children to become rulers of the Tsardom.” This means that the Russian state came within an inch of transitioning to rule by baptized descendants of Genghis Khan and consolidating an ‘eastern’ paradigm of development.

In the end, neither Bekbulatovich nor other descendants of the Horde’s nobility had a future. Invasion from Poland brought new tsars to Moscow from the West. Despite the relatively tame impact of rulings by False Dmitry, long before Peter the Great distressed boyars with his European ambitions, and long before Polish prince Władysław IV Vasa, these ‘policy changes’ contained symbolic meaning. In hindsight, the disturbance appears to be not so much dynastic in nature, but rather a civilizational crisis – Rus’ broke away from Asia and began its ideological orientation toward Europe.

So for four centuries Russia’s direction was eastbound, and then for another four centuries it was westbound. Neither direction produced any roots. We’ve reached the end of the road in both directions. Now new third way ideologies will be required; civilizations of the third type, of the third world, of the third Rome…

But it’s doubtful that we are ‘the third civilization’ – rather, a bifold and dualistic one that incorporates both the East and the West. Both European and Asian, and therefore neither fully European nor fully Asian.

Our cultural and geopolitical affiliation resembles the fluid identity of a man born of mixed marriage. He is everyone’s relative, but nowhere is he a native. At home among strangers, a stranger at home. He understands everyone but is understood by no one. A half-blood, a half-breed, a strange one.

Russia is a western-eastern half-blood country, with its double-headed nationhood, hybrid mentality, intercontinental territory and bipolar history. And just like any half-breed, Russia is charismatic, talented, beautiful, and lonely.

Great words that were never actually said by Alexander III: “Russia has only two allies: the army and the navy.” It is probably the most intelligible metaphor of the geopolitical solitude that we should have by now already accepted as fate. We could of course extend our list of allies to include workers and teachers, oil and gas, the ‘creative class’ and patriots, General Frost and Archangel Michael… But the truth remains the same – we are our own allies.

What form will our isolation take? Will it be a lonely and wretched existence? Or will it be the happy isolation of a leader, of an alpha-nation, which took a leap forward, and which other countries and nations now ‘make way for’? It depends on our choice.

Solitude doesn’t mean complete isolation. But unlimited openness is also impossible. Both would be a repetition of past mistakes. The future carries its own mistakes, it doesn’t need mistakes of the past.

Russia without doubt will engage in trade, attract investments, exchange know-how, and fight wars (war is also a method of communication), collaborate, be part of various organizations, compete and cooperate, evoke fear and hatred, curiosity, sympathy, and admiration. But this time without false goals and self-denial.

It’s going to be tough. And more than once will we recall this piece of classical Russian poetry: “There is only suffering, suffering and suffering around… but when will we finally see the f*cking stars?!

It will be interesting. And there will be stars.

bridge Crimea

The new bridge network connecting with Crimea the Russian Motherland. Photo taken by Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov onboard the International Space Station, April 25th, 2018

Notes

1. ‘Proletary’ (The Proletarian) was an illegal Russian Bolshevik newspaper edited by Lenin; it was published from September 3, 1906 until December 11, 1909

2. Muscovy, or the Grand Principality of Moscow

3. Then a vassal state of Russia, today the Russian Republic of Tatarstan

DOMINO THEORY ALIVE AND WELL IN SYRIA; AMERICAN FRAUD; ATTACK ON SYRIA A MILITARY DISASTER – By Ziad Fadel

USACREATEDISIS.jpg

Wonderful news abounding.  The town of Al-Dhumayr is now rodent free as the last vestiges of the Saudi-financed Jaysh Al-Islam boarded a green bus and left for Jaraablus on the Syrian-Turk border.  Al-Dhumayr is the site of one of Syria’s most important airbases which had come under attack by the Saudi terrorists there.  We can look forward today to our runways acting properly as the platforms for defending Syria from the Zionist Apartheid State, inter alia.

More great news.  The Syrian government has accepted an offer of surrender by terrorists in the West Ghouta, specifically in the towns of Yalda, Babeela and Bayt Sahm.  However, combat will not cease until Damascus is convinced that the terrorists have, indeed stopped all violent acts.  The negotiations are still underway with the terrorists agreeing to leave for the Eastern Syrian Desert and some to Idlib Governorate.  Most of the criminals are trying to arrange an amnesty and remain in their home towns.

Yesterday, in the East Qalamoon, 1,694 rats and their families left on buses to Jaraablus.  They turned over all heavy armaments to the SAA which included 1 tank, 1 BMB armored vehicle and 3 pickups with 23mm cannons.  They left in 31 buses and were all members of Jaysh Al-Islam, a group doomed to oblivion.

As part of the spoils of war, Syria turned over 2 unexploded Tomahawn cruise missiles to their Russian allies.

The SAA has embarked on a new campaign to the south of Damascus at Al-Hajar Al-Aswad.  This area is under the temporary control of ISIS and Al-Qaeda.  These two groups have indicated no desire to leave or submit to Syrian governance.  Accordingly, the Tiger Force will now begin the process of killing them all in the Yarmook Camp and Hajar Al-Aswad.

Dr. Assad has, reportedly, returned the Legion D’Honneur medal to France after it was revoked by the present French government.  Yawn.  The medal was returned via the Romanian Embassy which handles French affairs for Paris in the absence of a diplomatic staff.  The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the French that the president, “is not honored to have this medal bestowed upon him by a nation of slaves who attack other countries that are member states of the United Nations and by a nation which supports terrorism.”  It was first awarded to the president by former French president, Jacques Chirac in 2001 when Dr. Assad paid a visit to Paris. Good show, Dr. Assad.

_______________________________________________
NEWS AND COMMENT:

Absolutely fantastic article with precise analysis depicting the American-British-French attack as an outright fraud.  Sent by one of our anonymous readers:

https://www.sott.net/article/382908-About-Those-Nice-New-Smart-Missiles-And-The-Chemical-Weapons-Sites-in-Syria

John Esq. sends us this article by Elijah Magnier on the failure of the West’s strategy in Syria and how Russia pulled it off:

https://syria360.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/the-us-secret-plan-against-damascus-foiled-russian-role-before-and-after-the-us-uk-france-attack-revealed/

The indefatigable Tim Anderson sends this article about a doctor who doubts the CW claims in the West:

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-chemical-attack-gas-douma-robert-fisk-ghouta-damascus-a8307726.html

Brandon takes on the fraud of the CW in Syria quoting Vanessa very liberally.  Great article:

https://www.activistpost.com/2018/04/us-bombs-syria-to-cover-up-lack-of-evidence-on-chem-attacks-discredits-own-claims-by-doing-so.html

BBC interview with Lord West casts serious doubt about the CW attack in Douma (sent by Tim Anderson):

https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2018/04/17/bbc-reporter-discourages-syria-questions-due-to-information-war-with-russia/

The criminal case against Trump, Macron and May is building. Watch this great interview by Tucker with former British ambassador to Syria.  This is not Robert Ford.  It’s Peter Ford: (From Sarah Abdullah)

President Assad is well-liked in his country and enjoys broad support, despite media distortions – By Free West Media (SOTT)

Asmaa al-Assad

First Lady Asmaa al-Assad with a group of Syrian Female Soldiers, Syrian Army

Many anti-war activists, even those who are against bombing Syria, have described President Assad’s rule as a “dictatorship” and his government as a “regime”.

Many are simply aping the mainstream media. The truth is that the president is well-liked by his people.

During the Syrian Presidential election in 2014, Assad won 88.7 percent of the votes with a turnout of 73.42 percent.

“This is a significant amount of voter turnout considering the last time the US had a higher percentage per capita was in 1896. This would suggest that as the war has progressed and the jihadist element became more evident, the people recognised Assad as a source of stability and peace,” Middle Eastern analyst Paul Antonopoulos believes.

“Despite mainstream media efforts to demonise Assad, he has the support of most Syrians. Questions about electoral fraud has arisen, says Antonopoulos, “but this overlooks that the elections were overseen by observers from over 30 countries including from post-colonial states like Brazil, India and Uganda”.

The observers said in a joint statement that “the Syrian people participated in the elections in total freedom, contrary to Western and regional propaganda that tried to fabricate a false narrative”.

A YouGov Siraj poll on Syria commissioned by The Doha Debates and funded by the Qatar Foundation in January 2012, found that at least 55 percent of Syrians supported Assad.

“It must be noted that this poll was funded and commissioned by Qatar who has been one of the key anti-Assad players, and even their poll, which could be susceptible to bias, found that the majority of Syrians supported Assad.

“It must also be highlighted that the poll has since been deleted from the The Doha Debates but the results of the poll are still cited by The Guardian in an opinion piece by Guardian columnist and author Jonathan Steele. These facts cannot be ignored,” said the analyst.

“Also the US as a Christian nation, why do people not listen to Syria’s Christians, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, at all? They overwhelmingly support the government.” Meanwhile German tabloid Bild used the testimony of a fake eye witness of the alleged chemical attack, Deana Lynn. But in her own words on US NPR she admitted that she had not been near the site at all: “The second day, there was a chemical attack which was not near me, but I heard about it. And when I heard about it from some of the young men – they told me what happened.”

Diana Jamal el-Deen aka Deana Lynn told NPR she sat in a basement far away from the location and heard about it from some “young men”. She was evacuated to northern Syria after the SAA liberated Douma. Idlib, where she now lives, is a stronghold of ISIS in northern Syria, so it appears that she had been told this fake news by ISIS militants.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called for ending the demonization of Russia and its people on Sunday. He said that Germany should do more to help de-escalate tensions, because of Germany’s unique history with Russia.

Steinmeier warned that the US-led airstrikes only raised the risk of direct confrontation between US and Russia.

Syrian Vice President of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Syrian Parliament, Ammar Assad said on Sunday that the missile attack launched by the United States, the United Kingdom and France had been paid for by the Crown Prince Saudi Mohammed bin Salman.

“US President Donald Trump has already announced on many occasions that Saudi Arabia should fund the coalition’s military operations. The US side has asked for four billion dollars. It is Saudi Arabia that finances all aggressive operations led by the US-led coalition in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Mohammed bin Salman went to France and the United States and paid all the expenses of a military aggression against Syria. The pleasure that Saudi Arabia has taken in this attack supports this assertion,” said Ammar Assad.”

Comment: See also:

Press review: Russian potential reaction to US Syria strike and ruble devaluation benefits – By TASS

April 11, 13:00 UTC+3

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, April 11

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© Piotr Kovalev/TASS

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia may hit back at US strike on Syria with cruise missiles

If the United States decides to use force in Syria in the wake of the alleged chemical attack in Douma, it will get a symmetric response both from Damascus and Moscow, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes on Wednesday. Russia’s UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya along with other Russian politicians and officials have warned of serious consequences, should such steps be taken by the Americans and their allies. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier said the Russian army was ready to protect Damascus.

Several military websites wrote that on April 8-9 Russia’s Armed Forces had been secretly put on full combat alert. No official comments on these reports have been made. However, according to the Russian Defense Ministry’s report, the army and the fleet have stepped up activity, especially in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and also in the Caspian Sea from where the Kalibr cruise missiles had been fired on targets in Syria. It is not ruled out that preparation for these strikes there is underway now, the paper says.

“The Kalibr strikes may be launched on US facilities and bases in the Middle East if the Pentagon, which accuses Russia of the notorious chemical attacks, decides to deal a retaliatory blow on the Russian bases in Tartus and Hmeymim,” military expert Lt.Gen. Yuri Netkachev said.

Reuters reported citing the White House’s sources about possible strikes by the US and its allies on the Russian facilities. The expert stressed that Moscow won’t leave these strikes unanswered. But such a scenario is unlikely as this will spark “a real big war, which neither the US nor Russia want.”

 

Another military expert, Col. Vladimir Popov, did not rule out that if the missiles launched from the US destroyers kill Russian servicemen in Syria, the US vessels will be attacked by Russian missiles or aviation. Chief of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov had earlier warned of this possible Russian response.

 

Kommersant: Ruble devaluation to boost Russian grain exports

This week’s sharp ruble devaluation may prop up Russian grain exports, which started declining by the end of the season, Kommersant business daily writes. “The devaluation factor will influence the market for several weeks. Even if the ruble manages to recover losses soon, the short-term jump in the foreign currency rate will significantly help exports,” Director of SovEcon analytical center Andrei Sizov said.

Dmitry Rylko, Director General of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies, expects that exports will revitalize amid the ruble’s decline, but this factor’s influence will be restrained by infrastructure restrictions.

Traditionally, by the end of the season, grain exports diminish. But Russia’s grain exports in March and April turned out to be higher than expected, Sizov said. According to the customs data, on April 4 Russia’s grain export grew 39% year-on-year to 40 mln tonnes, and wheat supplies rose 41% to 31.2 mln tonnes. By the end of the season, the wheat export is anticipated to reach 39.7 mln tonnes, according to SovEcon.

ProZerno CEO Vladimir Petrichenko forecasts that the drop in value of the Russian ruble will positively affect the price climate on the Russian grain market.

The global grain market is racked by drought in North America and problems in Argentina, but due to the ruble devaluation the buyers of Russian wheat will seek to contain prices as the contract value in rubles grows, Rylko noted. According to Sizov, the ongoing ruble devaluation will also affect the growth of domestic grain prices.

If the ruble’s devaluation sends domestic grain prices soaring, the Russian authorities may step in and limit supplies, he said.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Pyongyang seeks Moscow’s backing in talks with Seoul, Washington

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may visit Russia in the run-up to the summits in late April-early June with South Korean and US Presidents, Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump respectively, Seoul’s media reports said citing the US special services. They view the visit of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to Moscow as a hint at groundwork being laid for a meeting between the Russian and North Korean leaders, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Russian officials have refuted reports on the possible visit of the North Korean leader. Speculation about Kim Jong-un’s trip to Moscow is being fueled by his recent trip to Beijing, his first foreign tour since coming to power, the paper writes. Experts recall that the North Korean leader’s father Kim Jong-il had held high-level meetings with Russia and China before and after his meeting with South Korea’s then-President Kim Dae-jung in 2000.

These trips by the North Korean leadership come amid the need to secure support of the major global powers in preserving the political system and strengthening their positions at talks, the paper writes. However, Kim apparently remembers that the West’s unilateral guarantees helped neither Saddam Hussein nor Muammar Gaddafi.

“Although Pyongyang is offended by Moscow’s almost unquestioning support of the UN Security Council’s resolutions, and imposing tough sanctions on North Korea, he wants to know Russia’s position if no agreement is reached with Washington on the peninsula’s denuclearization,” said Alexander Zhebin, Director of the Center for Korean Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies. “The deal is unlikely to be clinched soon without providing security guarantees to America.”

According to the expert, North Korea wants Russia to understand that the upcoming summits won’t result in any immediate nuclear disarmament. Pyongyang does not want inspections in the country like with Iraq, and the US is very interested in total inspections. “I think the inspections issue will be a key obstacle for agreements between North Korea and the US,” he stressed.

Russia needs to develop new tactics in order to remain an active participant in the changing climate on the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, a meeting between the leaders of Russia and North Korea could be useful, the paper writes.

 

RBC: Weaker ruble to benefit Russian federal budget, exporters

Black Monday’s market carnage sent the ruble into its deepest plunge in two years. The collapse was due to investors’ psychological response to risks from US sanctions, but no further downturn is expected if there are no geopolitical factors, experts questioned by RBC said.

Russia’s federal budget and exporters will benefit from the weakening ruble, analysts said. The falling ruble rate creates very suitable conditions for exporters of raw materials, said Evgeny Nadorshin, chief economist at the Moscow-based PF Capital. The current ruble rate is beneficial for the budget. The ruble price for oil after the falling rate is more than 4,000 rubles per barrel, the analyst said, while the price of 3,300 rubles per barrel is considered to be more than acceptable for the budget, the analyst noted.

A weaker ruble will bolster exports, Chief of the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) and ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin said. “A number of sectors are likely to profit due to this rate. So, in general, the balance [of payments] will be good and this won’t significantly affect economic growth.”

Alexandra Suslina of the Economic Expert Group said, “If the current situation does not result in falling oil prices and does not lead to restrictions on the volume of exported goods, oil and gas revenues will increase.”

However, if the foreign currency rate grows more, it will hit the budget, the economy and the citizens’ welfare, she warned. The current tensions on the markets are a threat to stable development and a decrease in the broad taxation bases, the expert said.

Under the current climate, investors may lose interest in Russia over high risks, Nadorshin cautioned. “Then, all plans for economic development – boosting growth, increasing efficiency and industry 4.0 – will go unfulfilled,” he stressed.

The falling ruble rate will mostly affect companies that import goods, Oleg Shibanov, professor of finance at the New Economic School, told the paper.

 

Izvestia: Russia gears up to greet new diplomats after expulsions

Russia is ready to welcome new diplomats in exchange for those expelled in retaliation for the Western diplomatic demarche in the wake of the poisoning episode of former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel-turned-British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, UK. According to a high-ranking diplomatic source, Moscow did not cut the overall number of staff members in diplomatic missions of foreign states, Izvestia writes. The United Kingdom is the only country, which cannot fully restore its pre-crisis number of diplomats.

“In the UK’s case, we equaled the number of their staff members with those working in our diplomatic missions. So, instead of 73 expelled staff members London will be able to replace just 23 people. In turn, we also plan to replenish our diplomatic personnel,” the source said.

The Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic and the US Embassy in Russia confirmed their plans to the paper to send their diplomats to Russia.

Spokesperson for the US Embassy in Moscow told Izvestia that all requests on diplomatic accreditation would be considered on an individual basis. Russia has not notified the embassy of its plans to cut the number of staff members in the US diplomatic mission in Russia, she said.

The Czech Republic’s Foreign Ministry noted that when a country decides to expel diplomats, this does not mean that their positions are “frozen” and new people cannot fill these posts.

“All countries face a similar situation, not only between Russia and the Czech Republic. That’s why Russia may fill 60 positions with new diplomats in the US, for example, or vacant diplomatic posts in the Czech Republic. Prague will also seek to fill vacancies in Russia as in general we have few people there,” Spokesperson for the Czech Republic’s Foreign Ministry Michaela Lagronova said.

 

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