US, Iran Clash in Hormuz Strait: Not an Improbable Scenario – By Peter KORZUN – (Strategic Culture Foundation)

US, Iran Clash in Hormuz Strait: Not an Improbable Scenario

The US remains adamant in its desire to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero, even if it hurts importing countries. America’s secondary sanctions on firms dealing with Iran would “snap back” on August 6 for trade in cars and metals and on November 4 for oil and banking transactions. The “wind down” period varied between 90 and 180 days is intended to allow entities to end businesses in Iran. There will be no waivers. India, China and Turkey are the oil importers expected not to succumb to US pressure.

Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy and planning, said “Our goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue from crude oil sales.” The US has already approached Saudi Arabia on the subject of increasing exports to compensate for the reduction of Iranian oil on the world market.

The goal is to hit Iran’s economy against the background of ongoing protests inside the country. Last July, John Bolton openly called for regime change in Tehran. He was not national security adviser at the time but nothing makes believe he has changed his views since then.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warned the United States about consequences. He said shipments from other countries would be disrupted if Iranian oil exports were suspended. Qassem Solaimani, the commander of the Al Quds Force in the Revolutionary Guards, joined him to confirm that his country will block oil shipments through the Hormuz Strait if the US administration stops Iranian oil exports. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said that “either all can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one.”

If Iran does what it threatens to do, oil prices will rise up to $100 a barrel, maybe much more, saying farewell to President Trump’s dream of cheap oil to spur US economic growth. Venezuela can also come under sanctions to facilitate the price hike. But expensive oil will boost America’s shale production. The US appears to pursue two mutually exclusive goals at once. On July 4, President Trump was angry chastising OPEC in a tweet for not doing anything about gas prices going up in the United States. He did not make precise why and how exactly OPEC should bring US gas prices down. From the point of view of US economic interests, the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal does not look like a very wise step. But Mr. Trump has already shot himself in the foot and it’s too late to stop now as countering Iran has become a pillar of his foreign policy.

The US military has already responded to confirm its readiness to protect the freedom of navigation. But Iran appears to be adamant. It has too little to lose if the economy collapses as the US wants it to. Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, and the largest parts of Saudi Arabian and Iraqi oil exports go through the Hormuz Strait, which accounts for 20 percent of the world oil trade (about 35% of the petroleum traded by sea) or 17-18 million barrels a day plus about 3 million barrels of oil products. Add to it liquefied natural gas shipped from Qatar. The oil goes to different parts of the world and there is no alternative route. Only Saudi Arabia (two pipelines exporting totally 5.1 million barrels a day), the UAE (a pipeline with a capacity of 1.5 million barrels a day) and, to a lesser extent, Iraq (a pipeline to Turkey with an output of 1.5 million barrels) have land transit routes used at 40%, 20% and 40% of their capacities respectively.

The Iranian Navy poses a serious threat but its missiles capable of attacking US warships will be spotted by the American Qatar-based X-band radar station in as little as four minutes. They will be countered by Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) interceptors located in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates augmented by US Navy cruisers and destroyers equipped with Aegis missile defense systems. The Persian Gulf monarchies will probably join the battle.

Mines laid in Hormuz Strait waters will require a long and difficult effort to clear them. US frigate Samuel B. Roberts was nearly sunk after hitting a mine in 1988 during the Tanker War. International law allows for peacetime mining of high-seas areas under certain strict conditions. Laying mines in national waters is hardly an act of war. The Hormuz Strait is completely enclosed by the 12-mile territorial seas of the littoral states. They have special protection under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) not ratified by the United States.

According to different estimates, Iran has a stockpile of 3,000 to 6,000 mines, including bottom-moored buoyant contact and multiple-influence rocket-propelled straight-rising ones. Mine laying activities conducted on a large scale by surface ships aviation can hardly be undetected but submarines can lay enough mines clandestinely to make ship captains think twice before risking a movement through the Strait without a mine clearing ship leading the way. The US Navy has a few Avenger type mine countermeasures ships based in Bahrain.

As a result of the United States’ unilateral decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal and impose sanctions, a potential confrontation is brewing in the Strait of Hormuz. A war is not an impossible scenario. Without oil revenues, Iran will be pushed to the last resort.

James Corbett: Non-governmental organizations or NGOs are the Deep State’s geopolitical Trojan horses (VIDEO) – By James Corbett/The Corbett Report (SOTT)

NGOS Deep State

The Trojan horse was the earliest recorded military psyop. That psyop continues to be deployed on unsuspecting populations and it is just as useful as ever, but today’s tricksters have donned the mantle of philanthropy, and their Trojan horses are not wooden statues but non-governmental organizations offering “aid” to foreign nations. In today’s edition of The Corbett Report, we’ll learn about how NGOs are the deep state’s Trojan horses.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Troy, 12th century BC.

The Greeks’ decade-long siege of Troy is drawing to a close. The cunning Odysseus has hit upon a plan to subvert the Trojans’ defenses. The Greeks build a giant wooden horse and then pretend to sail away, leaving the horse at the gates of Troy as an apparent offering to the goddess Athena. The Trojans, believing the gift will make their city impregnable, take it within the city gates.

But it is a trick. Odysseus and his men are hidden inside the hollow horse and they emerge during the night to open the gates and let in the Greek army, who have returned to take the city. The Trojans don’t get a chance to learn from their mistake; the Greeks sack the city and massacre its inhabitants.

The Trojan horse was the earliest recorded military psyop. The lesson of the story, recorded in the counsel to “beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” is that we should not let down our defenses when an erstwhile enemy offers us aid. Today, that counsel is as useful as ever, but today’s tricksters have donned the mantle of philanthropy, and their Trojan horses are not wooden statues but non-governmental organizations offering “aid” to foreign nations.

The bitter truth is that in a surprising number of cases, NGOs are the Deep State’s Trojan Horses.

This is The Corbett Report.

In 2015, Kyrgyzstan made what might seem at first glance to be a surprising move: It canceled a cooperation treaty with the US that had been in place since 1993. The treaty granted tax breaks and customs privileges to organizations like the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and gave their workers diplomatic immunity in the country. All of that came to an end after the US granted a human rights award to Azimjon Askarov, an activist swept up and thrown in jail for life for “creating a threat to civil peace and stability in society” after the Uzbek riots in South Kyrgyzstan in 2010.

Reaction from the usual Western outlets was swift and predictable: Kyrgyzstan has lost its mind. Or, to be more precise: It’s all Putin’s fault. Somehow. But don’t worry, the US will continue aiding Kyrgyzstan anyway, whether they like it or not, because that’s just how they roll. Go, Team America!

But Kyrgyzstan is not the only country to crack down on “aid” from foreign NGOs. In the last few years a series of countries, including Russia, China and India, have passed laws placing stricter controls on the operations of these organizations within their borders.

MARGARET HOWELL: Russia is throwing the smackdown on poor little old NGOs, these charitable organizations that were set up. Their reasoning behind them? That they might be trying to take down the Kremlin.

The Kremlin is moving to ban the US-backed MacArthur Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Institute and ten of their foreign groups, calling them “unwelcome organizations” by law. They’re also mulling over something called a “patriotic stop list.” Anyone caught collaborating with these groups, they’re facing six years in prison.

SOURCE: Russia Bans Foreign NGO’s

ANCHOR: China has passed the country’s first law regulating overseas NGOs, or non-governmental organizations.

HAO YUNHONG (VOICEOVER): The Chinese government always welcomes foreign NGOs to come to China to expand cultural and charity activities, and your achievements are highly spoken of by the Chinese authorities. But there are a few illegal exceptions in which NGOs came to China to harm its national security.

ANCHOR: The law covers activities of NGOs founded outside the Chinese mainland. They must register with public security authorities and declare where their funding is coming from.

SOURCE: China adopts law regulating overseas NGOs

REPORTER: India has placed Ford Foundation on a watch list and ordered all funds from the US-based nonprofit organization to be routed to recipients only after the Home Ministry’s approval. Citing national security concerns, the Home Ministry has asked the Reserve Bank of India to ensure funds given by Ford Foundation to Indian recipients be brought to its notice and dispersed only after its clearance. The ministry said in its order that it wanted to ensure funds coming from Ford Foundation were utilized for bona fide welfare activities without compromising on concerns of national interest and security.

SOURCE: Ford Foundation on India government watch list


REPORTER: An Egyptian Court has convicted 43 Egyptian and 16 American NGO workers for working illegally in Egypt while encouraging unrest. The defendants, who were mostly absent from court, were sentenced to up to five years in jail. The verdict calls for the closing of US nonprofit groups such as the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, which back in 2012 Egypt accused of receiving illegal funding and operating without licenses.

SOURCE: Egyptian court sentences NGO workers including Americans to up to five years in prison

So what on earth is going on? Why are all of these countries kicking out all of these US-based non-governmental and quasi-governmental entities? Why would they be opposed to charity and aid?

The answer is not difficult to understand. These organizations are Trojan horses: designed to appear as gifts, but containing secret trap doors through which hidden forces can enter the country and covertly undermine the governments in question. This explanation only sounds outlandish to those who look no further than the organizations’ names and have no idea of their history of operations.

Take USAID, for example. Created in 1961 by executive order, it’s a US government agency that seeks “to end extreme poverty and to promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity.” So why did President Morales kick them out of Bolivia in 2013? Because he’s crazy and irrational? Or because USAID ran a program through its remarkably frankly-named Office of Transition Initiatives that provided $10.5 million of funding for “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” throughout the country, including in opposition stronghold areas? Was it paranoia on Morales’ part, or merely the recognition that mealy-mouthed rhetoric about “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” is a thinly veiled euphemism for “overthrowing the government,” exactly as leaked diplomatic documents proved was the case for USAID’s identically named program in Venezuela?

EVA GOLINGER: USAID was originally an agency created to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief to countries in need, and throughout the 1980s and the 1990s and more into the 21st century it’s evolved into a political arm and a funding branch of the US government for what they call “promoting democracy.” And it’s actually now a part of US counterinsurgency campaigns that involve the Pentagon [and] the State Department, in terms of diplomacy and obviously war activities. And USAID is the third agency involved in counterinsurgency, and their goal precisely is to provide what they called aid for promoting democracy or stabilizing or helping a country through some kind of political transition or economic transition.

In the case of Venezuela, Venezuela is a country that is oil wealthy so it’s never qualified for any kind of direct USAID help. Therefore, USAID has never had an office here officially, and they didn’t actually come the country and set up an office until 2002, right before the coup d’etat against President Chavez. And the documents-internal documents obtained under Freedom of Information Act-reveal that the sole intention of setting up the office here in Venezuela was to aid opposition forces to eventually ouster Chavez from power.

SOURCE: Is the US trying to “fix” Venezuela?

Should governments trust USAID after it was revealed that the agency secretly created its own social media network in Cuba for the express purpose of undermining the Castro government? Or when it was revealed that USAID had sent a team of agents to Cuba under the guise of “health and civic programs” to incite rebellion amongst youth, including creating a phony HIV-prevention workshop that the agency itself described as the “perfect excuse” to “identify potential social-change actors?” Or when it was revealed that the agency had attempted (and miserably failed) to infiltrate Cuba’s hip-hop scene “to break the information blockade” and spark a youth movement of “social change” in the country?

ANCHOR: A US agency infiltrated the Cuban hip-hop world in an attempt to launch a youth movement against the government there. The secret operation tried to use Cuban rappers to build a network of young people seeking social change. But the Cuban regime caught on and the operation failed. In the process the US Agency for International Development unintentionally compromised a vibrant music culture that produced hard-hitting grassroots criticism of the country. Several artists that the agency tried to promote ended up leaving Cuba or stopped performing after pressure from the government.

SOURCE: USAID Attempt to Co-opt Cuban Hip-Hop Scene Fails

In fact, USAID’s black ops programs for undermining foreign governments go all the way back to the founding of the agency itself. Some of the lowlights include USAID’s “Office of Public Safety” and its part in running a CIA front program for training foreign police in torture and terror tactics in Latin America; co-funding (with the CIA) the opium-smuggling Xieng Khouang Air Transport, a private airline for narcotics trafficker (and CIA point man in Laos) General Vang Pao; and co-funding opposition groups in Ukraine (prior to the 2014 coup) with Glenn Greenwald-backer Pierre Omidyar and, of course, George Soros.

FAREED ZAKARIA: George Soros, pleasure to have you on.

GEORGE SOROS: Same here.

ZAKARIA: First, on Ukraine: One of the things that many people recognize about you was that you-during the revolutions of 1989-funded a lot of dissident activity, civil society groups in Eastern Europe and Poland, the Czech Republic. Are you doing similar things in Ukraine?

SOROS: Well, I set up a foundation in Ukraine before Ukraine became independent of Russia, and the foundation has been functioning ever since and played an important part in events now.

SOURCE: George Soros admits playing an integral part in the Ukraine crisis

But this NGO/Trojan horse problem is by no means confined to USAID and its associated organizations. Take the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as another example.

The official story is that the NED was created in 1983 by an act of Congress in order to “encourage the establishment and growth of democratic development” in target countries around the world in line with US foreign policy goals.

The actual story is that the NED was created expressly as a front for funding CIA activities inside target countries, a fact that Allen Weinstein, one of the members of the study group that led to NED’s founding, openly bragged about in The Washington Post: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” he was quoted as saying. Even more blatant is an admission by then-Director of Central Intelligence William Casey, who wrote a memo to the White House advocating for the creation of NED but cautioning that “we here [at the CIA] should not get out front in the development of such an organization, nor do we wish to appear to be a sponsor or advocate.”

The NED’s participation in covert destabilization campaigns rivals that of USAID and, like USAID, involves too many operations to detail them all here. Lowlights include:

RON PAUL: What about Ukraine? I understand there are a few organizations that have been involved through this in Ukraine, trying to disturb that government. Of course, we have visited on this subject quite a bit, but I didn’t realize how much the NED is involved over there.

DANIEL MCADAMS: And this is a big issue, because I think the argument could definitely be made that NATO should have ended after the Cold War, but definitely the National Endowment for Democracy should have been ended after the Cold War. Instead, they say, like with every government program, “No, now’s the time we need more!”

But in Ukraine just this past year…Ah, this is an interesting article written by the president of the National Endowment for Democracy-he’s president for life-Carl Gershman. I know this might shock you, but he’s actually a Trotskyite. He was a founding member of a communist breakaway party, the Trotskyite Social Democrats USA. He wrote an editorial in The Washington Post [in] September of ’13, just before the events happened in Ukraine, and he wrote as the president of the National Endowment for Democracy. He said, “Ukraine is the biggest prize.” And he mentioned that “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents,” and “Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.” So his real goal is regime change. He spelled it out just before all of these events took place.

SOURCE: National Endowment for Democracy? Hardly!

These types of Trojan horse operations have been used hundreds of times in the past, and there is no sign that the deep state is ready to abandon the trick now. Quite the opposite.

It worked during the “Arab Spring” when even The New York Times blithely admitted that the leaders of the protests had “received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House” and the State Department blithely admitted they had spent $50 million helping activists in the region network, communicate and organize with each other through Trojan horse NGOs like Movements.org.

The deception also worked in Syria, where leaked documents proved the US had been providing millions of dollars of support to opposition groups in the country since 2006 through a variety of Trojan horse NGOs like the Movement for Justice and Development.

And as we saw earlier this year in “The White Helmets Are A Propaganda Construct,” even first responder groups like the “Syria Civil Defense” (founded by an ex-British military intelligence officer) have been used as Trojan horses to spread propaganda and advance the agenda of the US and its allies in their quest to topple President Assad.

Let’s be clear: This is not to say that all NGOs are Trojan horses. It is not the case that every group or program that receives money from USAID or the National Endowment for Democracy or a similar organization is thereby automatically a deep state change agent. That is not how the Trojan horse technique works.

No, what makes these NGOs so effective as disguises for regime change operations is that much of the time, they are doing what they claim to be doing: providing aid, assistance and charity where it is needed. It is for this very reason that the US and its allies can so effectively smear NGO skeptics as crazy.

But consider this: In 1938, the US Congress passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). With the notable exception of AIPAC, NGOs, lobby groups and individuals who are representing a foreign agent are required to register under the act and are subjected to greater scrutiny of financial records and other activities. The irony is that FARA is essentially the same type of legislation that has recently been passed in China, but when the Chinese do it, it’s craziness; when the US did it 70 years ago, it was just good common sense. Once again, the hypocrisy is evident for those who wish to see it.

If there is any good to come out of this, it is that the public is increasingly aware of these types of covert activities. Perhaps more to the point, victims of these operations are now more willing to stand up to the US (and suffer its potential diplomatic wrath) by scrutinizing, monitoring, watchlisting, regulating, or even kicking out these agents of chaos.

And now, just like the Trojans thousands of years ago, the world is learning the hard way that sometimes a “gift” is better left unopened.

See Also:

Does it matter? USA in a debt trap death spiral – By F. William Engdahl – New Eastern Outlook – (SOTT)

Stock trader

The US economy and its financial structures have never recovered from the great financial meltdown of 2008 despite the passage of ten years. Little discussion has been given to the fact that the Republican Congress last year abandoned the process of mandatory budget cuts or automatic sequestration that had been voted in a feeble attempt to rein in the dramatic rise in US government debt. That was merely an added factor in what soon will be recognized as a classic debt trap. What is now looming over not just the US economy but also the global financial system is a crisis that could spell the end of the post-1944 dollar system.

First some basic background. When President Nixon, on advice of Paul Volcker, then at US Treasury, announced on August 15, 1971 the unilateral end of the Bretton Woods gold-dollar system, to replace it with a floating dollar, Washington economists and Wall Street bankers realized that the unique role of the US dollar as leading reserve currency held by all central banks and the currency for world commodity and other trade, especially oil, gave them something that appeared to be a gift from monetary heaven.

So long as the world needed US dollars, Washington could run government deficits without end. Foreign central banks, especially the Bank of Japan in the 1980’s and since the turn of the century, the Peoples’ Bank of China, would have little choice but to reinvest their surplus trade dollar earnings in interest-bearing AAA-rated US Treasury securities. This perverse dollar system allowed Washington to finance its wars in faraway places like Afghanistan or Iraq with other peoples’ money. During the Administration of George W. Bush, when Washington’s annual budget deficit exceeded annually one trillion dollars, Vice President Dick Cheney cynically quipped, “debt doesn’t matter; Reagan proved that.” Up to a point that appeared so. Now we are getting dangerously near to that “point” where debt does matter.

Federal Debt Rise

There are generally speaking three major divisions of debt measured in the US economy: Federal debt of Washington, corporate debt and private household debt. Today, owing in large part to ten years of historic low interest rates following the largest financial crisis in history – the 2007-2008 sub-prime crisis that became a global systemic crisis after September 2008 – all three sectors have borrowed as if there was no tomorrow because of the near-zero Federal Reserve interest rates and their various Quantitative Easings. Nothing so radical can last forever.

Since the financial crisis erupted in 2008 US Federal debt has more than doubled from $10 trillion to over $21 trillion today. Yet conditions were made manageable by a Federal Reserve emergency policy that dealt with the financial and banking crisis by buying almost $500 billion annually of that debt. Much of the remainder was bought by China, Japan and even Russia and Saudi Arabia. Further debt levels were restrained by the bipartisan spending caps established in the Budget Control Act of 2011 that had kept recent deficits partially in check.

Now conditions of future US Federal debt and deficit growth are pre-programmed for systemic crisis over the next several years.

‘Trumponomics’ Disaster

The economics of the Trump Tax Cuts Act of 2017, signed in December, dramatically cut certain taxes on business corporations from 35% to 21%, but did not offset that with revenue increases elsewhere. The promise is that cheaper taxes will spur economic growth. This is a myth under present economic conditions and overall public and private debt burdens. Instead, the new tax law, assuming ideal economic conditions, will decrease expected revenues by a total of $1 trillion over the next 10 years. If the economy goes into severe recession, highly likely, tax revenues will plunge and the deficits will explode even more.

What the new Trump tax cut act will do is dramatically increase the size of the US annual budget deficit. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that as early as Fiscal Year 2019 the annual deficit that must be financed by debt will reach $1 trillion. Then the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee expects government debt issues of $ 955 billion for FY2018, compared with $ 519 billion in FY 2017. Then for FY 2019 and 2020 the deficit will exceed $1 trillion. By 2028, ten years from now, under mild economic assumptions, the size of the USA Federal debt will rise to an untenable $34 trillion from roughly $21 trillion today, and the deficit in 2028 will exceed $1.5 trillion. And this year 2018 alone, with historically low interest rates the cost of interest only on the total Federal debt will reach $500 billion.

Zombie borrowers…time bombs

Now after almost a decade of unprecedented low interest rates to bail out Wall Street and create new asset inflation in stocks, bonds and housing, the Fed is in the early stages of what some call QT or Quantitative Tightening. Interest rates are rising and have been for the past year, so far very gradually as the Fed is being cautious. The Fed however is continuing to raise rates, and now the Fed Funds stands at 1.75% after nearly ten years at effectively zero. Were they to stop now it would signal a market panic that the Fed knew something far worse than they say.

Because never in its history has the Federal Reserve indulged in such a monetary experiment with so low rates so long, the effects of reversing are going to be as well unprecedented. At the onset of the 2008 financial crisis the Fed rates were around 5%. That is what the Fed is aiming at to return to “normal.” However, with rising interest rates, the lowest credit sector, so-called non-investment grade or “junk bonds” face domino style defaults.

Moody’s Credit Rating has just issued a warning that, barring some sort of miracle, as US interest rates rise, and they are, as much as 22% of US corporations that are being kept alive borrowing at historically low interest, not only in shale oil but in construction and utilities, so-called “zombie” corporations, will face an avalanche of mass defaults on their debt. Moody’s writes that, “low interest rates and investor appetite for yield has pushed companies into issuing mounds of debt that offer comparatively low levels of protection for investors.” The Moody’s report goes on to state some alarming numbers: since 2009, the level of global non-financial junk-rated companies has soared by 58%, representing $3.7 trillion in outstanding debt, the highest ever. Some 40%, or $2 trillion, are rated B1 or lower. Since 2009, US corporate debt has increased by 49%, hitting a record total of $8.8 trillion. Much of that debt has been used to fund stock repurchases by the companies to boost their stock price, the main reason for the unprecedented Wall Street stock market bubble.

Fully 75% of federal spending is economically non-productive including military, debt service, social security. Unlike during the 1930s Great Depression when levels of Federal debt were almost nil, today the debt is 105% of GDP and rising. Spending on national economic infrastructure including the Tennessee Valley Authority and a network of federally-build dams and other infrastructure resulted in the great economic boom of the 1950s. Spending $1.5 trillion on a dysfunctional F-35 all-purpose fighter jet program won’t do it.

Into this precarious situation Washington is doing its very best to antagonize the very countries that it needs to finance these deficits and buy the US debt-China, Russia and even Japan. As financial investors demand more interest to invest in US debt, the higher rates will trigger the default avalanche Moody’s warns. This is the real backdrop to the dangerous US foreign policy actions of the recent period. No one in Washington seems to care and that’s the alarming fact.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

Donald Trump’s Kim summit yo-yo – By Alexander Mercouris (THE DURAN)

Donald Trump’s dithering over whether to meet Kim Jong-un damages the US’s leverage

The episode of the ‘on/off’ Kim-Trump summit provides a further stark example of the fact that Donald Trump, 16 months into his Presidency, remains an amateur.

The first thing to say is that Donald Trump may have made the right call when he tried to call the Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un scheduled for 12th June 2018 off.  If he now goes ahead with the summit – for which he is visibly unprepared – he is taking on serious risks.

However the bizarre way in which he called the summit off was extremely damaging, not only making him look unreliable but also damaging his leverage.

It has become increasingly clear over the last few weeks that whilst Kim Jong-un has been preparing for the summit in a careful and methodical way and has a clear set of objectives going forward, Trump does not yet know what he wants the summit to achieve, and heads a team that is bitterly divided and at odds with itself not just about the summit but about relations with North Korea in general.

There have been some vague ideas of Trump offering Kim massive economic aid in return for North Korea’s unilateral nuclear disarmament.  Kim however was never going to accept that, and the ideas  have anyway never been properly fleshed out.

Trump himself and some of his officials appear to have been prepared to at least consider what was inevitably going to be one of Kim Jong-un’s eventual objectives: the phased though eventually total withdrawal of all US forces from South Korea.

However at other times Trump has himself appeared to rule that out that idea, and the idea is anyway clearly completely unacceptable to the hardliners within his administration, notably his National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Vice-President Mike Pence.

It has in fact become increasingly clear over the last few weeks that the hardliners led by Bolton and Pence don’t think Trump should be negotiating with Kim Jong-un at all.

Compounding their alarm are indications from China of what China and Kim Jong-un want the summit to agree.

This was clearly spelled out in a recent editorial in Global Times, the vehicle the Chinese government increasingly frequently uses to set out its views

What role can a US-North Korea summit play? If it succeeds, it will help consolidate the détente on the Korean Peninsula and prevent the situation from retreating. It should also aim for genuine denuclearization and permanent peace on the peninsula, which is a very complicated mission that requires the participation of multiple parties. If the Trump-Kim meeting could draw up a roadmap and a timetable, that would be a pleasant surprise for the world.

It’s believed that North Korea developed nuclear programs to safeguard the security of its regime. It’s not an easy thing to replace the sense of security that nuclear weapons have brought to Pyongyang with an international guarantee. Washington’s verbal, or even written, commitments are far from enough. The US toppled the Qaddafi and Saddam regimes, and withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement. Americans are always worried about being deceived by the North Koreans. They should seriously consider why Pyongyang should trust Washington.

(bold italics added)

In other words the Chinese and the North Koreans are looking for a “roadmap and timetable” whose end result will be the “genuine denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula ie. the complete pullout of all US forces from South Korea, to happen in a phased way alongside the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.  In addition they want “permanent peace” in the Korean Peninsula ie. a peace treaty between North and South Korea leading to the establishment of some sort of Korean confederation together with a comprehensive security co-guaranteed by the US and China.

Moreover – as the Global Times editorial shows – the Chinese and the North Koreans are making it clear that mere promises from the US – even if set out in writing – will not suffice.

A security treaty, approved by the UN Security Council accompanied by practical action from the US such as the withdrawal of troops is what is needed.

This is clearly the approach to the proposed Kim-Trump summit the Chinese and the North Koreans discussed and agreed with each other in the two recent summits Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping have held with each other.

This approach is about as far from the unilateral disarmament of North Korea as it is possible to get, and not surprisingly it is totally unacceptable to Bolton and Pence and to the other hardliners in the Trump administration and in the US.

Both Bolton and Pence – perhaps because they do not fully not trust Trump not to go along with these demands – have accordingly been working overtime over the last few weeks to wreck the summit.

They have been doing this by engaging in incendiary talk that the only acceptable outcome for the US is for North Korea to disarm unilaterally in the same way as Libya did.

Worse still, they have even got Trump to join in with them.

Given what happened to Libya after it unilaterally disarmed – attacked by the US, with its leader Muammar Gaddafi tortured and killed in the most brutal and public way – that is not only totally unacceptable to the North Koreans.  Talking about it is and is intended to be grossly provocative.

John Bolton, highly experienced in international diplomacy as he is, certainly knows it, and that begs the question of why he publicly talked about it.

The short answer is that he almost certainly hoped that the comments about Libya – especially after  Trump appeared to endorse them – would enrage the North Koreans to the point where they would pull out of the summit.

Alternatively, he presumably hoped that by invoking the Libyan precedent as the one North Korea should follow, he would box Trump in.

Instead – and possibly to Bolton’s surprise – the North Koreans not only failed to pull out of the summit, but responded in what is for them a very measured way, spelling out carefully why the Libyan precedent is unacceptable to them.

Their response came in the form of comments made by a senior North Korean diplomat, Choe Son Hui – the same North Korean diplomat who visited Moscow at the outset of the diplomatic process in September and October – and who is reported to have said the following

In case the U.S. offends against our goodwill and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the DPRK-U.S. summit.

Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behaviour of the United States….

We could surmise more than enough what a political dummy [Pence] is as he is trying to compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that has simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them…

To borrow their words, we can also make the U.S. taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now….

In order not to follow in Libya’s footsteps, we paid a heavy price to build up our powerful and reliable strength that can defend ourselves and safeguard peace and security in the Korean Peninsula and the region…

[Choe Son Hui expressed doubt about whether the US has an ulterior motive in seeking dialogue with the DPRK, and] what the U.S. has calculated to gain from that.

It is the U.S. who has asked for dialogue, but now it is misleading the public opinion as if we have invited them to sit with us.

We will neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us….

(bold italics added)

In other words the North Koreans built up their nuclear forces precisely in order to protect themselves from having what was done to Libya being done to them.

There is no possibility of their agreeing to disarm unilaterally as Libya did, precisely because that would risk what was done to Libya being done to them.  Their position and Libya’s is anyway not analogous because they have a powerful nuclear arsenal, which Libya never did.

If the US persists in bringing up the subject of Libya it will not force North Korea into making unilateral concessions.  It will instead reinforce North Korean doubts about what the US’s real agenda is.

All this is obvious, and no-one – least of all John Bolton – should be surprised at it.

By North Korean standards Choe Son Hui’s comments were very measured: clearly explaining the North Korean position following the gross provocation of Bolton’s and Pence’s Libyan comments.

Moreover the North Koreans continued to give concrete evidence of their good intentions by blowing up their nuclear test site.

What seems to have happened next is that having failed to get the North Koreans to call the summit off, Bolton and possibly Pence got Trump to call it off instead.

Trump seems to have been willing to do this because by now he was having increasing doubts about the summit himself.

The Times of London, which has reliable sources within the White House and which is well informed about Trump’s thinking, in a since deleted comment explains it this way

Mr Pompeo revealed that for several days US officials had not received any response from North Korea on preparations for the summit. It was reported that Mr Trump had become increasingly anguished over whether to go ahead with it, fearing that it would result in political embarrassment

(bold italics added)

Trump’s concerns are by no means unjustified.  There is nothing more dangerous in a negotiation conducted at this level than to go into it unprepared with opinion at home and within the administration divided.

That would not only risk the collapse of the summit in circumstances where Trump would be blamed for the failure, but might also risk exposing him to a situation where he felt under pressure to agree to concessions which go beyond what his base at home is prepared to accept.

A classic example of how that can happen at a summit to which one of the parties goes unprepared is the second Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Reykjavik in 1986, where Reagan came very close to signing up to Gorbachev’s proposal that all nuclear weapons everywhere should be eliminated within a set time period.

Though that would have delighted the peace campaigners, it was totally unacceptable to the US and Western political and military leaderships, and would have been immediately repudiated as soon as Reagan returned home.

The political damage to Reagan if he had agreed would have been immense, and his reputation would never have recovered.

As it was the loss of confidence in Reagan was profound, facilitating the Iran-Contra scandal which followed shortly after.

Given that this is so, Trump’s decision to call off a summit which has split his administration and for which he is clearly unprepared actually makes sense.

However if the decision makes sense, the same cannot be said for the bizarre way he announced it.

The proper way to pull out of a summit like this would have been to inform the North Koreans privately first, saying to them that because of continuing differences the US was not yet ready for the summit, and that the summit would therefore have to be postponed for a few months until the US was ready.

Once the North Koreans had been so informed, the Chinese and the South Koreans should have been informed also.  The proper way to do it would have been by way of telephone calls by Trump to China’s and South Korea’s leaders, Xi Jinping and Moon Jae-in, explaining the reasons why the US needed a postponement.

Complete honesty about those reasons would have been the best policy.  No-one – not the North Koreans or the Chinese or the South Koreans – would have thought less of Trump because of them.

The decision to postpone – not cancel – the summit could then have been made public, with a brief announcement explaining that the differences between the US and North Korea were still too wide for a summit to be usefully held at this time.

The announcement would however have emphasised that the US remains committed to dialogue, and that the summit had been postponed and was not cancelled.

Not only would that have been the proper way to pull out of the summit.  It would have preserved the US’s reputation and leverage intact.

The US could then have gone away and prepared for the summit properly, sorting out its own negotiating position whilst continuing to discuss things bilaterally though at a lower level with the North Koreans.

Instead Trump not only announced the cancellation of the summit without first informing the North Koreans, the South Koreans or the Chinese, but he also published a bizarre and self-justifying personal letter, which he addressed to Kim Jong-un himself, referring to him as “His Excellency”

THE WHITE HOUSE
Washington
May 24 2018

His Excellency Kim Jong Un
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Pyongyang

Dear Mr Chairman:

We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions relative to a summit long sought by both parties, which was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore. We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant. I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place. You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.

I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you. In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of the hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.

If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write. The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.

Sincerely yours,

Donald J Trump
President of the United States of America

The US government has confirmed that Trump dictated the entirety of this letter himself and its strange wording – alternatively fawning, pleading, and threatening – in fact bears his unmistakeable imprint.

All too obviously the letter seeks to shift responsibility for the decision to call off the summit from Trump onto Kim Jong-un.

Not only is that unworthy given that the decision to call off the summit was unquestionably Trump’s, but it was also unnecessary given that Trump had perfectly proper reasons for wanting to postpone the summit.

The letter then compounded the damage by saying something which is not even true, which is that the summit was cancelled because of “the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement”.

Kim has in fact made no recent statement.  Presumably what Trump is referring to is the comments made by Choe Son Hui.  However those comments were not only by North Korean standards measured; they were an unavoidable response to the grossly provocative comments referring to Libya made by Bolton, Pence and Trump himself.

Presumably because this explanation for calling off the summit is so obviously inadequate, Trump and his officials in the hours after the letter was published started hunting around for other more convincing explanations to explain it,

Thus there have been attempts to claim that what caused the summit to collapse was the failure of the North Koreans to turn up to a pre summit logistics meeting in Singapore.  Apparently the US came to this meeting and was annoyed when the North Koreans failed to show up.

The implication presumably is that the North Korean no-show evinces a lack of sincerity on the part of the North Koreans about the summit.

However the North Korean no-show at the logistics meeting was not the reason for calling off the summit given by Donald Trump in his letter. That all but confirms that it was not the true reason why the summit was called off.

Besides the North Korean no-show was properly speaking a cause for a strong complaint to be sent to Pyongyang; not for calling the whole summit off.

As it happens the North Koreans probably intended the no-show as a discrete way of emphasising their annoyance at Bolton’s and Pence’s Libya comments.

In other words what the North Koreans almost certainly intended as a firm but discrete message meant to get the dialogue back on track was instead used to justify calling the whole dialogue off.

The other excuse for calling off the summit was that it was China’s fault.

It is no secret that the US was annoyed that Xi Jinping hosted Kim Jong-un for a second summit meeting before the summit meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un had taken place.

Global Times, in the same editorial which I quoted earlier, has expressed China’s incredulity about this

To promote a successful Kim-Trump summit, efforts should be made to create more trust among relevant parties. Trump expressed his dissatisfaction at Kim’s second visit to China again, insinuating that the China factor has resulted in Pyongyang’s shift in attitude. It reflects Washington’s derailed train of thought. Both Washington and Seoul are willing to hold a summit with and offer assistance to Pyongyang, but will they take a friendly attitude to Pyongyang in the long run? North Korea doesn’t believe so. Only China’s long-term support for Pyongyang is reliable.

In truth the Chinese should have been prepared for this US reaction in advance.  The sight of Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping conferring together as best of friends on the eve of a summit meeting between Kim Jong-un and the US President was inevitably going to go down badly in Washington where it was bound to be seen as a case of China double-crossing the US by taking the heat off Kim Jong-un in advance of the summit with the US President.

Not for the first time the Chinese – long shielded from having to deal with the US on geopolitical issues by their habit of subcontracting the job out to the Russians – seem to have been taken aback by US oversensitivity to one of their moves.

Now Trump is saying that the result of the second North Korean-Chinese summit is that China has relaxed enforcement of the sanctions on North Korea.  The result supposedly was a hardening of North Korea’s position in advance of Kim Jong-un’s meeting with Trump

“I will say I’m a little disappointed, because when Kim Jong Un had the meeting with President Xi in China . . . I think there was a little change in attitude from Kim Jong Un. So I don’t like that. I don’t like it from the standpoint of China,” said Mr Trump, referring to a meeting between Mr Xi and Mr Kim in the Chinese city of Dalian earlier this month.

Mr Trump then added that the China-North Korea border — a vital trade route for the reclusive regime — had recently “opened up” despite US efforts to economically isolate and punish North Korea.

North Korea’s summit threats bode ill for nuclear deal “Every time I talk to China about trade, I’m thinking about the border. Because that border is a very important element in what we’re doing,” he said.

There is in fact no evidence that the second summit meeting between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping has caused the North Koreans to modify their negotiating at all.

Donald Trump has not said how the North Koreans are supposed to have hardened their position since the second meeting between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping.  It is in fact hardly plausible that they have.  However for a President short of excuses this was an obvious excuse to come up with.

The blame casting in Trump’s letter and in his subsequent comments, with the terrible impression it gives of a President unwilling to take responsibility for his own decisions, is made worse by the extraordinary reference in the letter to the overwhelming power of the US nuclear arsenal.

You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.

These words seem to have been intended as a response to the comments about the power of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal made by Choe Son Hui.

However Choe Son Hui’s comments were intended to emphasise the contrast between the non-existence of Libya’s nuclear arsenal and the reality of the nuclear arsenal which North Korea has built up.  After Bolton, Pence and Trump himself had compared North Korea with Libya Choe Son Hui’s comments about the power of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal were an obvious rejoinder.

By contrast Trump’s comments in his letter look much more like what at a certain level they were surely intended to be: a threat that North Korea risks its very existence if it does not capitulate to US demands.

The impression – of a US President threatening a small country with destruction unless it does what he says – could not be worse.  This at precisely the moment when the North Koreans had given positive evidence of their good intentions by blowing up their nuclear test site.

All in all this was an appalling letter, capping a dreadfully mishandled affair.

Meanwhile the US’s ally South Korean President Moon Jae-in – who foolishly spoke of Trump deserving the Nobel Peace Prize – appeared to have been left high and dry.  Not surprisingly the South Koreans are said to be furious

President Trump’s decision to cancel his summit with the North Korean leader has provoked anger in South Korea.

President Moon invested much political capital and personal energy into brokering talks between Mr Trump and Kim Jong-un, but is now facing growing scrutiny over whether he oversold Pyongyang’s willingness to give up its nuclear weapons.

“I am very perplexed and it is very regrettable that the North Korea-US summit will not be held on June 12 when it was scheduled to be held,” a glum-faced Mr Moon said during an emergency meeting with senior ministers and aides at the presidential office late last night.

On the streets of Seoul, however, some South Korean citizens were not as diplomatic about Mr Trump’s decision to pull the plug on the Singapore summit. Dozens of university students and women’s rights activists protested in rallies in Seoul today to denounce the president, with some punching his face printed on a picket sign and tearing up his photograph.

“North Korea was in the process of doing everything that had been demanded of it. They even detonated their nuclear test site,” office worker Eugene Lim, 29, told Reuters. “Trump has no interest in peace in our country. Why can’t he just let us, the two Koreas, live in peace?”

Kim Dong-ho, 38, said: “Those of us living on the Korean peninsula suffer the consequences of your action, you Yankee!”

As for China, a strongly worded editorial in Global Times makes the extent of China’s exasperation with the Trump administration completely clear

US President Donald Trump on Thursday called off a planned summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, just hours after Pyongyang had followed through on its pledge to demolish their nuclear test site.

Referring to the scheduled June 12 meeting with Kim in Singapore, Trump informed the North Korean leader, “Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it would be inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.”

It is necessary to observe how Trump did not mention their meeting would be postponed, but instead canceled it altogether in such an incontestable manner with the letter….

On Thursday, North Korea confirmed that it had demolished its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, marking a significant step toward Korean Peninsula denuclearization.

Punggye-ri is the only known site in North Korea where all six of their nuclear tests were conducted.

Shackled by its limited territory and natural resources, it would be difficult for North Korea to create a similar nuclear test facility. It is also unlikely they would reopen the Punggye-ri site as reconstruction would be an almost impossible endeavor.

Trump canceled the June summit hours after North Korea had demolished its Punggye-ri nuclear test site. The time difference may have inspired Pyongyang to think Trump’s public announcement was delivered “on purpose” and could result in North Korea moving to its next anger phase.

Pyongyang had shown its utmost sincerity by demolishing the nuclear test site. It was a turning point where North Korea could replace their confrontational policies with concerted efforts aimed at working with international communities to resolve Korean Peninsula issues.

Besides, North Korea had already committed itself to the idea that there would be no more nuclear or long-range missiles tests.

Although the cessation of their nuclear weapons program will not be considered the same as a comprehensive denuclearization effort as there is a long way to go before that goal is achieved, but North Korea is still welcomed for making the announcement.

Trump’s sudden summit cancelation will impact the alleviated situation on the Peninsula. Within the past few weeks, North Korea released three American hostages, and then weakened its nuclear weapons program by destroying the Punggye-ri test site.

In the future, challenges will impede progress when promoting Peninsula denuclearization. The US could have easily received what it wanted through diplomacy.

The cancellation of the Trump-Kim summit happened at a time when progress was already underway, and now difficult tasks will lie ahead for foreign affairs officials hoping to advance to the next stage.

America’s national image has been damaged ever since Trump announced his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. The cancellation of the Singapore meeting will only enhance their negative image, regardless of any explanation provided by Washington.

In other words the Chinese not only reject the explanations for cancelling the summit given by Trump.

They consider that North Korea would be entitled to see in them proof of the US’s bad faith, and are perfectly clear that in light of the US’s actions any US proposal for further sanctions against North Korea is a non-starter.

North Korea has been able to achieve a few goals during the recent months. Pyongyang has successfully improved relations with China and South Korea, and the world has learned more about North Korea’s leader through the Xi-Kim and Kim-Moon meetings. North Korea has also acknowledged to the world the logic behind their actions, and the dark secret of the West defaming North Korea was revealed. The factors will have an important foreshadowing effect on North Korea’s return to the international community.

The renewed confrontation between the US and North Korea could threaten peace and stability on the Peninsula. It would be wise for both sides to exercise a level of restraint and avoid using excessive action against one another.

It is imperative the US and North Korea avoid escalating conflicts. Even if they are unable to achieve their desired results, they should at least work hard to prevent the worst situation from happening.

China will continue to improve and develop friendly relations with North Korea as they stopped testing nuclear weapons and offered assurances on denuclearization. China would like to see South Korea value the hard-earned alleviated Peninsula situation and make contributions on prevention efforts aimed at the US as it reignites extreme military initiatives against North Korea.

Trump’s decision Thursday has confused all parties involved with the Korean Peninsula issue. The move also creates a paradox for Washington. Both countries need to remain calm and should remind each other that irresponsible behavior can have unpredictable consequences.

(bold italics added)

Since sanctions – and Chinese enforcement of the sanctions – is the only leverage over North Korea that the US has, the sum total of what has been achieved by this affair is that it has damaged the US’s leverage in advance of what now looks to be the once more ‘on’ again summit with Kim Jong-un.

These expressions of anger from Beijing and Seoul are all very well, but do they actually change anything?  Will the North Koreans, the Chinese and the South Koreans be forced eventually to bend to the US’s will, as the Europeans will ultimately have to do following the US’s pullout from the JCPOA?

That I am sure is John Bolton’s calculation.  In all the various conflicts around the world he always assumes that the US’s power means that its will will eventually always prevail.

Moreover he is not the only person in the US to think in this way.  Repeatedly, whenever the subject of the Korean conflict comes up, I always find that Americans I discuss it with – even those who are very critical of US policy – always assume the same, and find it conceptually impossible to imagine that South Korea might one day decide to come to terms with North Korea without the prior permission of the US.

In my opinion this is a fundamental error, which risks causing the US to overplay its hand.

Back in the 1990s and the early 2000s it was true, with the US at that time the unchallenged world hyperpower and the South Koreans with no option other than to do the bidding of the US.  However that is no longer the case.

I discussed all this at great length on 22nd October 2017, in an article for The Duran in which I explained the early diplomatic moves to resolve the Korean crisis which were then – for anyone interested in seeing them – already visibly underway, and the role the Russians were playing in them

If the US persists in its present posture – saying it is ready to talk to North Korea but refusing to do so, saying it has no plans for regime change in North Korea but refusing to give North Korea any security guarantees, saying North Korea must disarm but ruling out any withdrawal of US troops from the Korean Peninsula, criticising Kim Jong-un for imposing hardships on North Korea’s people and then searching for ways to increase the hardship which is inflicted on them, and demanding that China solve the Korean crisis for the US without the US giving anything in return – then sooner or later the point will come when the Russians will tell the South Koreans that the biggest obstacle to a peaceful settlement of the crisis in the Korean Peninsula is not North Korea but the US.

At that point the Russians will no doubt point out to the South Koreans that they have a far greater interest in a peaceful settlement of the crisis than the US does, since a failure to resolve the crisis is putting the future survival not just of North Korea but also of South Korea and of the whole Korean nation at risk.

At that point the Russians will no doubt also point out to the South Koreans that it is in their hands to end the Korean crisis by coming to terms directly with North Korea, and that they do not actually need the US to achieve this.

It is not after all as if the contours of a possible Korean settlement are difficult to see: a non-aggression pact between the two Koreas, a withdrawal of US troops from the Korean Peninsula, and an agreement by North Korea that it give up its weapons in return for formal security guarantees from the Great Powers (in this case this means the two Eurasian Great Powers, Russia and China).

There is no logical reason why any of this should require the agreement of the US, and if the two Koreas were to agree to this the US would not be in a position to prevent it.

(bold italics added)

At the time when I wrote those words I expected that it would take roughly a year before direct talks between the two Koreas without the involvement of the US got started.  In the event it took just a few weeks.

To repeat again, there is no reason why an agreement to settle the Korean conflict between North Korea and South Korea requires the agreement of the US.

If North Korea and South Korea sign a peace treaty with each other how can the US object?  How in that case can the US insist that sanctions against North Korea remain in place if the North Koreans commit themselves under that treaty to dismantle their nuclear weapons?  How, if  because of the treaty the South Koreans tell the US troops in South Korea to leave, can the US keep them in place?

Moreover if simultaneously with that treaty the North Koreans obtain security guarantees from China how can the US object to that?

Last but not least, if the North Koreans and the South Koreans as part of the Korean settlement decide to forge a Korean confederation with each other – a proposal which has been floating around for decades, but which has recently been given renewed life – how can the US object to that either?

Once upon a time the US could have blocked such moves by pulling various levers it has within South Korea.  Not so long ago – during the 1990s in fact – South Korea was actually a military dictatorship all but run by the US. Not for nothing did the North Koreans in those days call the South Korean government in Seoul a “puppet government”.

That is the case no longer.  US meddling in South Korean politics in order to block a rapprochement between North Korea and South Korea would have a disastrous effect in South Korea.  Anyone who visits South Korea with an open mind will quickly realise that.

It is in fact the inter-Korean dialogue brokered by the Russians and the Chinese which is actually driving the diplomatic process.  To an extent which I think many people in Washington still struggle to understand, North Korea’s dialogue with the US is by contrast a sideshow, though one which because of the power of the US remains an important one.

The truth of that was shown by the North Korean response to Trump’s announcement that he had called off the summit.

Kim Jong-un immediately arranged a follow up meeting with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in during which the two Korean leaders recommitted themselves to a rapprochement with each other.

In the immediate aftermath of that meeting Trump appeared to reverse course, so that it now looks as if the Singapore summit is now back on again.

There could not be better demonstration that it is the Koreans North and South who are in the driving seat than that.

In summary, this bizarre episode illustrates again Donald Trump’s strange mix of strengths and weaknesses as he tries to manage the US’s foreign policy.

He has repeatedly shown a better instinct on issue after issue than many of his supposedly more experienced officials.

Where the professionals in the State Department did not want him to rush into a meeting with Kim Jong-un he appears to have grasped that unless he did so the US risked being left behind in a process over which the US ultimately has little control.

However he remains inexperienced and unsure, leaving him vulnerable to manipulation by those around him, and with a need to justify himself on occasions when he has no need to do so.

The result is that though he senses that he is drifting into a summit with Kim Jong-un unprepared, he doesn’t know how to call it off, with the result that his attempt to call it off, instead of resulting in the summit being called off, has instead only managed to damage his leverage in advance of it.

Donald Trump remains fortunate in one thing.  Asian leaders who have met with him have responded positively to the warmth of his personality and like him.  They also understand that he is an amateur.  For that reason they are prepared to overlook and pardon mistakes from him that they would never have tolerated if they had been made by his arrogant and aloof predecessor, Barack Obama.

Whether that will suffice to get Trump through a summit with Kim Jong-un – who despite his youth has emerged as a consummate diplomat, obviously carefully groomed in statecraft by his father – remains to be seen.

The Duran

 

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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.

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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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Washington’s Antics in the South China Sea Seek to Provoke Beijing to Military Response – By Brian CLOUGHLEY ( Strategic Culture Foundation)

Washington’s Antics in the South China Sea Seek to Provoke Beijing to Military Response

The US media network CNBC reported on May 1 that China has installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles on three of its islands in the South China Sea. It was fed the information by US intelligence agencies, or, as, CNBC coyly put it “sources with direct knowledge of US intelligence reports.” In other words it was a deliberate leak in order to ramp up anti-China sentiment internationally while providing an opportunity for the US Administration to put its oar in the water.

The White House promptly commented that “We’re well aware of China’s militarization of the South China Sea. We’ve raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this and there will be near-term and long-term consequences.” This statement was made four days after “US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers flew a training mission over the South China Sea” as ”part of the US Air Force’s routine ‘Continuous Bomber Presence’ in the region.”

The Pentagon’s “Continuous Bomber Presence” is focused on the South China Sea, which is 12,000 kilometres (7,500 miles) from the eastern coast of mainland America.  What would Washington say if China maintained a “Continuous Bomber Presence” off the west coast of the United States?  Or if Russia had a “Continuous Bomber Presence” in the Caribbean?

According to the Pentagon, “since 2004, Air Force bombers such as the B-1, the B-52 and the B-2 Spirit have been in continuous rotations, providing nonstop stability and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region… They provide a significant rapid global strike capability that enables readiness and commitment to deterrence…”  It is stated bluntly that the United States sends nuclear-capable bombing aircraft to fly round China’s coastline in order to demonstrate its “global strike capability.”

It was therefore no surprise when China stated on May 18 that “a division of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force recently organised multiple bombers such as the H-6K to conduct take-off and landing training on islands and reefs in the South China Sea in order to improve our ability to reach all territory, conduct strikes at any time and strike in all directions.”

Further, China has given priority to developing air defence systems, and has installed HQ-9 missiles in and around the South China Sea.  These travel at four times the speed of sound and can destroy aircraft at a height of 27 kilometres, or some 90,000 feet, and the nuclear-capable B-52s and all the other US bomber and electronic warfare aircraft that trail their coats around China may one day witness (briefly) its capabilities being demonstrated.

Washington’s justification for the Pentagon’s aerial forays and equally frequent naval manoeuvres in and around the South China Sea is that they are intended to exercise the principle of “freedom of navigation.” According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), such freedom “is exercised under the conditions laid down by this Convention and by other rules of international law.”  The main factor to be considered in this context is that, as pointed out by the Voice of America, “the US has not accepted UNCLOS because of opposition from Republicans in the Senate.”  It has yet to ratify the Treaty whose statutes are accepted by 161 other countries. (China ratified it in 1996.)  

Yet the United States considers it has the right to quote the Convention as justification for its aggressive aerial and naval operations in and around a vast stretch of water through which enormous numbers of merchant vessels pass every year, totally unmolested. There has not been a single instance of Chinese interference with the passage of a commercial ship through the Sea, and it is not expected that there ever will be such an intervention.  But US combat aircraft and ships continue to challenge China in the region. 

It is not unusual for the United States to refuse to accept the legality and purpose of an international accord and then criticise or even penalise others for allegedly transgressing, ignoring or otherwise failing to abide by the accord’s intentions and stipulations.

In addition to Washington’s refusal to ratify the Convention on the Law of the Sea, it rejects a host of other international treaties, not least being jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which is responsible for investigating allegations of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The National Security Adviser to President Trump, John Bolton, made his opposition to the ICC clear by writing that the United States should welcome the opportunity to “strangle the ICC in its cradle” or “tell the ICC that “you are dead to us. Sincerely, the United States.” No administration in Washington will ever consider placing any citizen at risk of prosecution by an international authority for an alleged criminal act, no matter its gravity or provability.

There is small wonder, therefore, that the Pentagon’s policy on the South China Sea rests more on practising its “global strike capability” than on seeking to promote international trust and understanding.

China’s sovereignty over several islands in the South China Sea is contested by some of the countries in the region, but this has nothing to do with the United States, which has not the remotest claim to any of them, nor the slightest justification for becoming involved. There is nothing in the UN Charter that specifies any right on the part of the United States to take unilateral action to enforce observance of the conditions of an international accord. 

But this does not prevent Washington from confrontational meddling in the South China Sea (and elsewhere around the world), as evidenced by its policy on Freedom of Navigation which “consists of a two-pronged complementary strategy to maintain the global mobility of US forces and unimpeded commerce by protesting and challenging attempts by coastal States to unlawfully restrict access to the seas.”  The Pentagon is responsible for “operational challenges against excessive maritime claims.” 

“Excessive,” that is, in the eyes of Washington, which has not ratified the Convention on the Law of the Sea, yet declares it “will exercise and assert its rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea on a worldwide basis in a manner that is consistent with the balance of interests reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.” President Obama had it right when he said “We can’t try to resolve problems in the South China Sea when we have refused to make sure that the Law of the Sea Convention is ratified by our United States Senate.”

Washington’s confrontational antics are not in accordance with international law and serve no purpose other than to provoke China to respond with military action.  There are rocks ahead in the South China Sea. 

Mike Pompeo makes a fool of himself laying out his twelve ridiculous and idiotic demands for Iran – By Eric Zeusse The Duran(SOTT)

Mike Pompeo Rouhani

On Monday, May 21st, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out a dozen demands upon Iran’s Government – demands which insult the sovereignty of Iran and dictate terms to its Government, as if the U.S. Government weren’t the one that routinely invades and perpetrates coups overthrowing other governments, so that the peoples of the world say that the U.S. Government (not Iran) is overwhelmingly “the world’s biggest threat to peace.”

POMPEO SAID, ON MAY 21st:

We demand from Iran:

First, Iran must declare to the IAEA a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program, and permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity.

[Israel and the U.S. get to keep our nukes but Iran must not keep theirs, and must instead do what these two rabidly hostile bully-Governments, Israel & U.S., say.]

Second, Iran must stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing. This includes closing its heavy water reactor.

[Maybe Iran will do that when Israel and U.S. stop threatening Iran, and when Israel stops having nukes while Iran doesn’t.]

Third, Iran must also provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country.

[The latest IAEA report on Iran actually says, “Since 16 January 2016 (JCPOA Implementation Day), the Agency has verified and monitored Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments.” Iran fulfills its obligations under the treaty, but now the U.S. does not (and insists that Europe must not).]

[Fourth,] Iran must end its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems.

[Iran will do that when Israel and U.S. do.]

[Fifth,] Iran must release all U.S. citizens, as well as citizens of our partners and allies, each of them detained on spurious charges.

[The U.S. dictates that the legal cases against those charged be terminated, and this demand assures that those cases will be fully prosecuted; so, Pompeo is hardly helping anyone by this arrogance.]

[Sixth,] Iran must end support to Middle East terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

[All Islamic terrorism except against Israel comes from the Sunni-run nations, that are allies of the U.S. against Shia-run Iran, and that finance Al Qaeda and other such terrorist groups, all of which are Sunni and rabidly anti-Shia – and Iran is the leading Shia nation.]

[Seventh,] Iran must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi Government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias.

[ America overthrew Iraq’s Government in 2003 and now accuses Iran of violating “the sovereignty of the Iraqi Government.” Is Pompeo rehearsing for a role as Satan in some stupid play?]

[Eighth,] Iran must also end its military support for the Houthi militia and work towards a peaceful political settlement in Yemen.

[The U.S., and two of its Sharia-law Sunni royal allies, Saudi Arabia and UAE, are bombing the hell out of and starving Yemen, and demand that Houthis and other Shia in Yemen stop their resisting that.]

[Ninth,] Iran must withdraw all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety of Syria.

[Iran might consider doing that after the U.S. and its fundamentalist-Sunni allies stop their invasion-occupation of sovereign Syrian territory.]

[Tenth,] Iran, too, must end support for the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan and the region, and cease harboring senior al-Qaida leaders.

[Pompeo lies: the Taliban are fundamentalist Sunnis who were trained and armed by Saudi Arabia and the United States and therefore are enemies of Iran; he’s like the wife-beater who demands that someone who isn’t wife-beating must cease wife-beating.]

[Eleventh,] Iran, too, must end the IRG Qods Force’s support for terrorists and militant partners around the world.

[The Quds Force were created during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war in order to protect Iranians against Saddam Hussein’s invasions when Saddam was supported by the U.S. Government in order to re-conquer Iran in 1980. Iran will not take orders from the nation, America, that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected Government in 1953, and that then backed Saddam’s attempt to reconquer Iran in the 1980s. The U.S. Government lies constantly about Iran.]

[Twelfth,] And too, Iran must end its threatening behavior against its neighbors – many of whom are U.S. allies. This certainly includes its threats to destroy Israel, and its firing of missiles into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It also includes threats to international shipping and destructive – and destructive cyberattacks.

[These are just more lies and distortions.]

That list is pretty long, but if you take a look at it, these are 12 very basic requirements. The length of the list is simply a scope of the malign behavior of Iran. We didn’t create the list, they did.

Pompeo again lies: The U.S. regime’s malign behavior is clear; and Iran didn’t create this list – the pompous and idiotic liar, Trump’s appointee Mike Pompeo, did.

See Also:

‘US can’t decide for the world:’ Rouhani rejects Pompeo’s Iran demands – By RT

‘US can’t decide for the world:’ Rouhani rejects Pompeo’s Iran demands
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has rejected demands made of Tehran by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, vowing to continue “our path,” insisting that the era when the US could “decide for the world” is over.

The US government has regressed 15 years, back to “Bush Jr.’s era” and is once again trying to dictate its will on the entire world, Rouhani said as he rejected Washington’s Monday ultimatum.

READ MORE: ‘Strongest sanctions in history’: Pompeo issues 12 demands to Iran, vows ‘unprecedented pressure’

“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,” Rouhani said, as quoted by ILNA news agency.

Pompeo’s speech signaled a huge step back for the whole foreign policy of the US, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on his Twitter page.

“US diplomacy sham is merely a regression to old habits: imprisoned by delusions & failed policies—dictated by corrupt Special Interest—it repeats the same wrong choices and will thus reap the same ill rewards. Iran, meanwhile, is working with partners for post-US JCPOA solutions,” Iran’s top diplomat tweeted.

Pompeo rolled out the 12 “basic requirements” for Iran in a Monday speech at the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing Washington think tank. He threatened that failing to meet them would result in sanctions which would ultimately destroy Iran’s economy.

The list not only urged Tehran to permanently shut down any nuclear-related programs, but also to give up its regional policy. Pompeo called on Iran to halt missile development, “release all US citizens,” withdraw from Syria, and cease support for groups which the US considers to be “terrorist,” namely Hezbollah.

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Brussels Rises in Revolt Against Washington: a Turning Point in the US-European Relationship – By Alex GORKA (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Brussels Rises in Revolt Against Washington: a Turning Point in the US-European Relationship
Alex GORKA | 19.05.2018 | WORLD /

The May 16-17 EU-Western Balkans summit did address the problems of integration, but it was eclipsed by another issue. The meeting turned out to be a landmark event that will go down in history as the day Europe united to openly defy the US. The EU will neither review the Iran nuclear deal (JPCOA) nor join the sanctions against Tehran that have been reintroduced and even intensified by America. Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the JPCOA was the last straw, forcing the collapse of Western unity. The Europeans found themselves up against a wall. There is no point in discussing further integration or any other matter if the EU cannot protect its own members. But now it can.

President Trump has his own reasons to shred the Iran deal, but he needs Europe to strong-arm Tehran into signing a “better” agreement. Were it to do so, the US administration would make it look like a big victory. Washington does not shy away from threatening its allies with punitive measures but the EU is standing tall, deepening the rift. As European Council President Donald Tusk put it, “With friends like Trump, who needs enemies?” According to him, the US president has “rid Europe of all illusions.” Mr. Tusk wants Europe to “stick to our guns” against new US policies. Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the EU Commission, believes that “Europe must take America’s place as global leader” because Washington has turned its back on its allies. Washington “no longer wants to cooperate.” It is turning away from friendly relations “with ferocity.” Mr. Juncker thinks the time is ripe for Europe “to replace the United States, which as an international actor has lost vigor.” It would have been unthinkable not long ago for a top EU official to say such things and challenge the US global leadership. Now the unthinkable has become reality.

The process of shifting away from America does not boil down to just words of indignation and open defiance. Plans are underway to take practical steps. For instance, the EU is to ditch the use of the US currency in its payments for Iranian oil. It can be done. Russia and Iran have already launched an oil-for-goods exchange program in order to leave the greenback behind. The bloc plans to activate a 1996 law (the blocking statute), which bans European businesses from compliance with US sanctions on Iran. The legislation protects “against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country.”

The EU-Iran discussions have already been held. And it is America’s closest ally who is to deal the first powerful blow against US global dominance. This is a demonstration of the “no retreat, no surrender” spirit before the not-yet-unleased war is in full swing.

True, this applies to only a relatively small sector of business activities, and Iran’s $400-billion market can’t be compared to the $18-trillion US market, but the important factor here is the show of political will to stand up to America’s challenge. This rift is taking place amid a looming trade war over aluminum and steel, the US withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem with no regard for the allies’ opinion, and the controversy over Europe’s NATO spending.

On May 15, the EU defense heads gathered at a meeting of the European Union Military Committee to discuss deeper integration and an independent defense policy, which envisages greater efficiency to reduce expenditures, given the US demands to increase those outlays under the auspices of NATO. The PESCO agreement is the backbone of the EU defense policy and it’s purely European.

Sandra Oudkirk, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy, has just threatened to sanction the Europeans if they continue with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project to bring gas in from Russia across the Baltic Sea. That country is also seen by the US as an adversary and its approach is by and large the same – to issue orders for Europe to adopt a confrontational policy, doing as it is told without asking too many questions.

Iran and Nord Stream 2 unite Moscow and Brussels in their opposition to this diktat. On May 17, Iran signed a provisional free-trade-zone agreement with a Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) that seeks to increase the current levels of trade valued at $2.7 billion. The deal lowers or abolishes customs duties. It also establishes a three-year process for reaching a permanent trade agreement. If Iran becomes a member of the group, it would expand its economic horizons beyond the Middle Eastern region. So, Europe and Russia are in the same boat, both holding talks with Iran on economic cooperation.

President Donald Trump has just instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to prepare a list of new sanctions against the Russian Federation for its alleged violations of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This is the agreement the US has so egregiously and openly breached. But nobody in Europe has announced that they want US nuclear-tipped intermediate- range weapons on their territory that will be a target for a potential retaliatory strike by Russia. It’s an example of yet another European problem with having the decision-making process located in Washington.

If Europe is resolved to fend off US attempts to dictate its policy on Iran, why should it reconcile itself to the pressure to keep the sanctions against Russia intact? May 17 marked a turning point in the US-European relationship. Europeans joined ranks to resist a policy that encroaches on their right to decide their own fate. It’s Europe, not the US, who is negatively affected by the punitive measures, creating deep divisions within the EU at a time when that group is faced with many problems. The time is ripe for Brussels to stop this sanctions-counter-sanctions mayhem and stake out its own independent policies on Russia, Iran, defense, and other issues, that will protect European, not US, national interests. May 17 is the day the revolt started and there is no going back. Europe has said goodbye to trans-Atlantic unity. It looks like it has had enough.

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