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Sun, 24 Jul 2016
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Italy, France, Germany: Europe's anti-Russian sanctions appear to be coming to an end

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 5, 2015.
Speeches and discussions by European politicians and businesspeople at SPIEF 2016 suggests an early end to sanctions.

Earlier this month I wrote a piece for The Duran in which I said that the sanctions policy forced on the EU by Angela Merkel and the US is cracking. At SPIEF 2016 the evidence of that was everywhere.

The Russians hosted at SPIEF 2016 three EU heavyweights: EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Nicolas Sarkozy - the past and possibly future President of France - and Matteo Renzi, the current Prime Minister of Italy.

Juncker had little to say in public though he held extensive discussions with the Russian leadership. However Sarkozy and Renzi both made clear in their very different ways their utter exasperation with the sanctions policy.

The person who stole the show was Renzi, the most important politician present and the leader of what was by a fair distance the strongest European delegation at the Forum. The Russians treated Renzi as the main guest and together with Putin and President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan Renzi delivered one of the speeches at the plenary session.

Comment: And what do you know? From the last two days: Venento, Italy, adopted a similar resolution in May. And Lombardy is planning to vote on the same issue on July 5. However, as that article on Fort Russ stresses,
Any decisions on ending the sanctions regime are taken by those governments which are tightly controlled by the ruling pro-American mainstream. The US' functioning mechanisms of hegemony in the European Union allow adverse risks to Washington in the form of votes in national parliaments or national referendums to be minimized. It is therefore hardly worth expecting any breakthrough decisions from the French Senate (which on June 8th voted for easing the sanctions against Russia) or the parliaments of Italy (whether regional or national).
Also keep in mind that "133 American bases are located on the territory of Italy, 18 of which are deployed directly in Veneto. One of the largest military bases in the region is in the city of Vicenza, where a number of episodes of violence by US soldiers against local residents have been recorded (including brawls on the street, in cafes, and in other public places, rape, and so on). The American servicemen who commit such crimes, however, are simply transferred abroad and are therefore not held accountable."

Chart Pie

'They hate us because we're so easy to hate': World poll shows people dislike Americans, like Putin

© Sputnik/ Mikhail Klimentyev
Americans are viewed more negatively today than during the darkest days of the ill-fated Bush era.

A recent Pew Research report suggests that the sun may be setting on America's international hegemony. People polled around the world favor Russian President Vladimir Putin over a leading US presidential candidate for the first time, and a growing number of the world's inhabitants now have a negative view of Washington's economic and political influence.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump appears to be not only one of the lowest-rated politicians among Americans since public opinion polling began in the 1960s, but he also seems to be affecting the country's reputation abroad.

Trump received a negative rating by every single political party around the world, often by a measure of 10 to 1. Even voters from the anti-immigrant, populist UKIP and Forza Italia parties oppose the Republican by a 2 to 1 count. Overall, only 9% of respondents believe that Donald Trump would "do the right thing" in international affairs, compared with 85% who say they have no such confidence.


Pakistan and India set to join Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with Iran soon to follow

Away from the distractions caused by the British Brexit vote the process of Eurasian construction has just taken another big step forward with the agreement of India and Pakistan to join the Chinese and Russian led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as full members.

Iran is expected to follow shortly, leaving the whole of Eurasia united under the umbrella of this organisation apart from a few small countries and the states of Europe which are part of the Western alliance. Even countries like Turkey and Azerbaijan, which are aligned with the West, now have have relations with it.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is not an "eastern NATO" - a sort of Warsaw Pact of eastern and central Eurasia - but neither is it the empty talking-shop Western commentators sometimes pretend it is.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has a constitution and structure, and it most definitely does have a security dimension even if it is one which in theory is focused on anti-terrorism in Central Asia rather than in meeting any conventional security threat from the West.


French foreign minister calls for end to anti-Russian sanctions

© Jacky Naegelen / Reuters
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attend a news conference following their meeting at the Quai D'Orsay in Paris, France, June 29, 2016
Sanctions against Russia should be lifted as soon as possible, France's Minister of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday following a meeting with his Russian counterpart, while insisting that implementation of the Minsk agreements still remain key to the process.

"Sanctions is not a goal in and of itself," Jean-Marc Ayrault said in Paris, adding that his country looks forward to scrapping the restrictive measures against Moscow.

The process of lifting the Western sanctions on Russia is still related to Minsk agreements that aim to put an end to the crisis in southeastern Ukraine, Ayrault added, saying that "Russia should play a positive role" in their implementation.

Moscow and Paris have been closely working together "in the Normandy format," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after the meeting. The countries' foreign ministries have been "closely cooperating" and their aides have been involved too, Russia's top diplomat said. The Normandy format includes Russia, France, Ukraine, and Germany.

Mr. Potato

Pepe Escobar: Why the UK said 'bye bye' to the EU

© Reinhard Krause/reuters
A British flag which was washed away by heavy rains the day before lies on the street in London, Britain, June 24, 2016 after Britain voted to leave the European Union in the EU BREXIT referendum.
So what started as a gamble by David Cameron on an outlet for domestic British discontent, to be used as a lever to bargain with Brussels for a few more favors, has metastasized into an astonishing political earthquake about the dis-integration of the European Union. The irrepressibly mediocre Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, posing as a "historian", had warned that Brexit, "could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but Western political civilization in its entirety".

That's foolish. Brexit proved that it's immigration, stupid. And once again, it's the economy, stupid (although the British neoliberal establishment never paid attention). But serious bets can be made the EU system in Brussels won't learn anything from the shock therapy - and won't reform itself. There will be rationalizations that after all the UK was always classically whiny, obtrusive and demanding special privileges when dealing with the EU. As for "Western political civilization", what will end - and this is a big thing — is the special transatlantic relationship between the US and the EU with Britain as an American Trojan Horse.

So of course this all goes monumentally beyond a mere match between a hopelessly miscalculating Cameron, now fallen on his sword, and the recklessly ambitious court jester Boris Johnson - a Donald Trump with better vocabulary and speech patterns.
Scotland, predictably, voted Remain, and may probably hold a new referendum — and leave the UK — rather than be dragged out by white working class English votes. Sinn Fein already wants a vote on united Ireland. Denmark, the Netherlands and even Poland and Hungary will want special status inside the EU, or else. Across Europe, the extreme right stampede is on. Marine Le Pen wants a French referendum. Geert Wilders wants a Dutch referendum. As for the vast majority of British under-25s who voted Remain, they may be contemplating one-way tickets not to the continent, but beyond.

Comment: The vote is still a non-binding vote. The UK Parliament will ultimately decide whether to honor it or not. A betrayal is not unlikely. There's too much money to lose.

Bad Guys

Brexit Referendum is 'non-binding' meaning UK Parliament, not voters, will prevail

© reuters

All the fuss and bother about Brexit largely ignores its non-binding status - parliament, not voters deciding if Britain stays or leaves the EU, the latter extremely unlikely.

Writing in the Financial Times, British lawyer David Allen Green explained Brexit voting is "advisory," not "mandatory." Parliament has final say.

MPs can legally disregard the public's will either way, they alone empowered to decide the path Britain chooses.

What happens ahead is "a matter of politics not law. It will come down to what is politically expedient and practicable," said Green.

Various options exist, including supporting Thursday's outcome, ignoring it, or "re-negotiating another deal and put(ting) that to another referendum" - repeating the process "until voters eventually vote the 'right' way," what's best for monied interests, not them.

Gold Seal

"Russia and China are hated because they are protecting humanity from Western terror" - Interview with Andre Vltchek

Andre Vltchek in the Bejing Art District
The AntiDiplomatico (Italy) interviews philosopher, Andre Vltchek: "Russia and China are forming an incredible defensive wall to protect humanity from Western terrorism."

Andre Vltchek has become renowned in Italy for being the co-author, along with Noam Chomsky, of the famous book Western Terrorism (Ponte alle Grazie).

Alessandro Bianchi: I start from a brutal question: What has become of a country that it is offering Donald Trump as its 'best candidate'?

Andre Vltchek: It is not much different from the country that it used to be for decades, even centuries. Since the beginning, the US presidents (all of European stock, of course), had been promoting slavery, extermination campaigns against the native population of North America, barbaric wars of aggression against Mexico, and other Latin American countries, the Philippines, etc. Has anything changed now? I highly doubt it. Donald Trump is horrendous, but he is also honest. Both Presidents Clinton and Obama were great speakers, but unrepentant mass murderers.

AB: In a recent survey over 53% of Americans were against both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. How long will we continue to consider the United States a democracy? And why, in your opinion, is abstention the only form of "rebellion" by a population completely excluded from the decision-making stage?

AV: "Democracy" means nothing else other than, "rule of the people", in Greek. There is nothing democratic about the political concepts of the United States and Europe. And there is absolutely nothing democratic about the "global arrangement" through which the West has been ruling over the rest of the world for decades and centuries. The second part is, I'm convinced, much more important, much more devastating; in the West, people have been tolerating their insane political system, in exchange for the countless privileges they are getting from their countries' plundering of the planet, and violating entire nations and continents. But in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, those "un-people" have no choice at all.

Star of David

How Israel's oppressive and humiliating occupation affects all aspects of Palestinian life and incites violent resistance

© AP Photo
The news was familiar but no less alarming for the ugly déjà vu: four Israelis killed on Wednesday night by Palestinian gunmen in the heart of Tel Aviv. Israel's government, the most right-wing in the country's history, responded with measures that the UN promptly warned might count as collective punishment: flooding the West Bank with troops, sealing off the West Bank and Gaza, and revoking entry permits that had allowed 83,000 Palestinians to cross into Israel for work, worship and medical care.

On Thursday, the day after the shootings, Tel Aviv's Mayor Ron Huldai found the courage to state the obvious—that violence will persist until the occupation ends. Israel "is perhaps the only country in the world holding another nation under occupation without civil rights," Huldai said. Such frankness counts as bravery these days, but even Huldai was understating the truth. It's not the mere fact of a military occupation, of Israeli troops on Palestinian territory, that provokes such attacks. It can be difficult to comprehend from across the Atlantic, or even from usually tranquil Tel Aviv, but the occupation, as I have observed while reporting from the West Bank since 2011, functions as a massive mechanism for the creation of uncertainty, dispossession and systematic humiliation. It is not just soldiers and guns, but a far-reaching structure that affects all aspects of Palestinian life—a complex web of checkpoints, travel restrictions, permits, walls and fences, courts and prisons, endless constraints on economic possibilities, home demolitions, land appropriations, expropriation of natural resources, and, too often, lethal force.

No amount of preventive repression or collective punishment will bring an end to the bloodletting in Tel Aviv or elsewhere. As long as this oppressive system stands, and the United States continues to support it with billions of dollars a year in military aid, despair will spread, and with it death.

Bad Guys

The delusion of Empire: Syrian ceasefire failure means escalation of U.S.'s undeclared war on Russia

© AP
Gradually, the mist of ambiguity and confusion hanging over Syria is lifting a little. The landscape is sharpening into focus. With this improved visibility, we can view a little more clearly the course of action being prepared by Iran, Russia and the Syrian government.

Russia is emerging from an internal debate over whether the U.S. is truly interested in an entente or only in bloodying Russia's nose. And what do we see? Skepticism. Russia is skeptical that NATO's new missile shield in Poland and Romania, plus military exercises right up near its border, are purely defensive actions.

Iran, meanwhile, is studying the entrails of the nuclear agreement. As one well-informed commentator put it to me, Iran is "coldly lethal" at the gloating in the U.S. at having "put one over" Iran. Because, while Iran has duly taken actions that preclude it from weaponizing its nuclear program, it will not now gain the financial normalization that it had expected under the agreement.

It's not a question of slow implementation — I've heard directly from banks in Europe that they've been visited by U.S. Treasury officials and warned in clear terms that any substantive trade cooperation with Iran is closed off. Iran is not being integrated into the financial system. U.S. sanctions remain in place, the Europeans have been told, and the U.S. will implement fines against those who contravene these sanctions. Financial institutions are fearful, particularly given the size of the fines that have been imposed — almost $9 billion for the French bank BNP a year ago.

Comment: Crooke is a 'former' MI-6 agent. This isn't the first time he has spoken with common sense about Syria and Russia. (See: Sophie&Co: Former MI6 agent talks Syrian war, ceasefire, erratic Turkey, refugees (VIDEO)) What stands out in his analysis is the utter lack of responsibility and even rationality when it comes to U.S. decision-makers. It is as if they are unaware that they are dealing with real people, not just computer avatars or pieces on a chessboard to be used for whatever short-term gain is in sight. There is a total disconnect with reality and the fact that actions have consequences. They live in a narcissistic bubble and tell outrageous lies. As Crooke asks, do they not see where this leads? It appears not. They do not see what they don't want to see. It's unlikely to start a total nuclear war, but it's sure to make the world a worse place even than it is right now.


Evil Britannia: Great Britain's record of bloodshed, imperialism, genocide (PHOTOS)

For those who fought throughout the 20th century to rid themselves of colonial rule and imperialist occupation by the UK, the price paid was heavy.

For those who suffered under a dying British colonialism that was desperate to maintain its "possessions" at all costs, many of the wounds still have not healed nor has the blood dried.

Here is a look at just some of the more infamous atrocities carried out by the empire upon which "the sun never set," a country that remains heavily involved in a imperialist military operations throughout the 'post-colonial' world.

Chumik Shenko massacre, Tibet, 1904

Photo:National Army Museum, Study collection
On March 31 1904 hundreds of Tibetans were slaughtered by the British with maxim machine guns. The order from the British was "to make as big a bag as possible" [i]. The day after the massacre Colonel Younghusband who led the British invasion into Tibet stated "I trust the tremendous punishment they have received will prevent further fighting, and induce them at last to negotiate" [ii].

Comment: These horrible instances of British massacres are just a sample of British crimes against humanity. The pathological depths of British expansionism and domination over the last 300 years or so also brought atrocities to Burma and Indonesia, and across the wilderness of Africa, Canada and Australia, wiping out whole tribes and peoples.

British imperialism, like its offspring, US imperialism, has impacted every continent and peoples on this big blue marble. The British regime still does so today, directly or by proxy. And they call themselves civilized.
"This war did not spring up on our land, this war was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father who came to take our land without a price, and who, in our land, do a great many evil things... This war has come from robbery - from the stealing of our land." - Spotted Tail, Brulé Lakota tribal chief

On the subject of great evil perpetrated by certain regimes, read Political Ponerology: A Science of Evil Applied for Political Purposes