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Tue, 21 Aug 2018
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Breaking with US on Iran, the EU to cover US damages to Iranian economy

© NPR/Time
German Chancellor Angela Merkel • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
The EU and Germany have reached an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and promised to make up for Iran the loss resulted from private companies' exit after the US sanctions. This was confirmed today in a public announcement by Iran's Vice-President.

Iran signed the deal with major world powers - the US, Russia, China, UK, France and Germany, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2015. Under this agreement, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program, and in exchange received an easing of economic sanctions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its latest report in May was able to indeed verify Iran's compliance to the deal for the eleventh time since the agreement was implemented in 2016. This is a fact seemingly under-reported in western corporate media, but is a story long followed by FRN.

Regardless of this commitment, US President Donald Trump, in an attempt to comply with Israel's apparent Yinon plan for a Greater Israel, withdrew from the deal on May 8, 2018. In an act of showmanship, he called it the worst deal ever. Subsequently he re-imposed unilateral economic sanctions against Iran, which the EU has decided, in its wisdom, not to go along with.

Comment: If the EU can see past the current Iran projection as 'an aggressor', will it also come to see Russia in a different light? Much depends on how long fear and ignorance remain hand-in-hand.


Total to leave Iran despite Brussels' protection pledge against US sanctions

© Unknown
Shutting down, moving out...
French energy major Total is leaving Iran, the country's oil minister announced on Monday. The firm pulled out of a major gas development deal despite promises by the EU to protect European companies from US sanctions.

"Total has officially left the agreement for the development of phase 11 of South Pars (gas field). It has been more than two months that it announced that it would leave the contract," Iran Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said, as quoted by the government-run ICANA news agency.

Total's departure was triggered by Washington's unilateral reinstatement of sanctions against Tehran, which also targets any foreign firms doing business with the Islamic Republic.

In May, the EU officials pledged to protect the European companies doing business in Iran by enforcing the so-called Blocking Statute - a law of one jurisdiction that is designed to hinder application of a ruling made by a foreign jurisdiction. Brussels said that despite US sanctions, European firms would continue working in Iran under the protection of the EU.

"As the European Commission we have the duty to protect European companies. We now need to act, and this is why we are launching the process to activate the 'blocking statute' from 1996," EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said prior to his July meeting with President Trump.

The announcement by Brussels failed to assure major European firms, for whom the prospect of losing the US market is much scarier than losing contracts in Iran.

Comment: For the US, its whether you win or lose, not how you play the game. The EU has come to an agreement with Iran, promising to make up for Iran's loss due to private company exodus.
See also: Breaking with US on Iran, the EU to cover US damages to Iranian economy

Arrow Up

Trump: One-state solution could eventually result in an Israeli PM named 'Mohammed'

© Unknown
US President Trump • Jordan's King Abdullah II
US President Donald Trump told King Abdullah II of Jordan that a one-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine could lead to an Israeli prime minister called "Mohammed" in a few years, according to a new report.

Trump made the comments in June, according to a report in Axios which quotes remarks made by King Abdullah to the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Jordan's capital Amman earlier this month. The comments were relayed to the reporter by French diplomats who were present at the meeting.

In the meeting with Le Drian, Abdullah said he warned Trump during a June 25 conversation at the White House, that "many young Palestinians don't want the two-state solution anymore, but would rather live together with the Israelis in one state with equal rights for all" and claimed claimed that Israel would lose its "Jewish character" under a one-state solution.

Trump reportedly agreed with the comment, saying that it "made sense" and jokingly added that "the prime minister of Israel in a few years will be called Mohammed" under that scenario.

According to the report, Abdullah also told Trump that any new peace plan from the White House must first be presented to the relevant European and Arab countries for input to ensure the deal is acceptable to everyone. He reportedly expressed frustration that the Trump administration had not yet done this, but also cautioned against rushing the plan because there were "too many difficulties at the moment".

Comment: Compared to Israel, the Palestinian population size is formidable. If a combined state were ever to become the reality, and Palestinians were accorded an equal voice, the Palestinians would consolidate around a candidate of their lineage. Though Trump was jesting, a leader named 'Mohammed', via a one-state arrangement, could happen. It is not by whim that Israel has legally adopted apartheid and is rapidly increasing its resident population, while eliminating Palestinians, in order to maintain and secure its majority rule for now and the future.

See also: Palestinian refugees in occupied territories increased by 1M over past ten years

Snakes in Suits

Federal judge flips Trump order by reinstating Obama's WOTUS rule

© Unknown
"navigable waters"
A federal judge in South Carolina issued an injunction against the Trump administration Thursday, lifting a stay on an Obama-era rule that expanded federal authority under the Clean Water Act.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the "waters of the U.S." (WOTUS) rule in 2015, giving the agency the authority to regulate seasonal and relatively insignificant bodies of water as "navigable waters" under the Clean Water Act.

President Donald Trump issued an executive order in February 2017 to review and rewrite the WOTUS rule to constrict its application "consistent with the opinion of Justice Antonin Scalia in Rapanos v. United States."

Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt followed up on Trump's executive order in January, beginning the review process and staying the WOTUS rule until 2020. Thursday's injunction lifts Pruitt's order to stay the rule in 26 states, or every state in which a district judge has not already ordered the rule stayed, E&E News reports.

Comment: See also:


Trump labels Mueller probe 'McCarthyism at its worst', lashes out at 'fake' New York Times

© Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
"It's McCarthyism at its WORST!"
US President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to launch another scathing attack on the New York Times and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, calling it "McCarthyism at its WORST."

The weekend Twitter ire of the president was prompted by the publication of a New York Times piece on White House lawyer Donald McGahn's extensive cooperation in Mueller's investigation based on sources. The president immediately reacted Saturday evening, saying that it was he who allowed McGahn and others to be interviewed and ordered "millions" of pages of documents to be provided.

On Sunday morning, he continued sharing his thoughts on the article and tweeted that White House lawyer Don McGahn isn't "a John Dean type 'RAT,'" adding that the story was "Fake News," and claimed that some in the media have apologized to him over it.

Comment: See also: NYT: White House counsel cooperates with 'Russiagate' probe, Trump says he allowed it


Bolton would consider hiring for-profit mercenaries in 17-yr Afghan war

© Getty Images
Erik Prince
White House national security adviser John Bolton stated on Sunday that he is interested in a proposal by Erik Prince - founder of private military company Blackwater - to shift the prosecution of the 17-year US war in Afghanistan away from the Pentagon to private mercenaries.

Bolton - an appointee of US President Donald Trump like Blackwater founder Prince's sister US Secretary of Education Betsy Devos - made his remarks earlier during an ABC.com weekly news program.

The top White House advisor's comments follow reports that Trump has allowed for the possibility of placing for-profit mercenary companies in charge of shoring up the increasingly unpopular US-supported Afghan government of former American citizen Ashraf Ghani, instead of using armed Pentagon 'advisors.'

Asked about the likelihood of mercenaries prosecuting America's many wars abroad, Bolton averred, saying only that, "there are always a lot of discussions," cited by The Hill.

Comment: It was reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hated the idea and Trump is committed to his current strategy.
See also:

Arrow Down

UK cuts funding for Syrian opposition group accused by BBC of being under jihadist control

Free Syrian Army
© Umit Bektas/Reuters
Members of Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army police forces patrol in Azaz, Syria.
The UK will finally end its support of a Syrian opposition group accused by the BBC of being under an Al-Qaeda proxy's control, in a move that shows the UK realizes that "these groups have no real future" in the Syrian conflict.

Operational funding to the Free Syrian Police Force (FSP) is to stop in September, with government sources, cited in the Guardian, admitting the Access to Justice and Community Service (AJACS) program has become too difficult to deliver.

A former foreign correspondent for the Guardian, Jonathan Steele, told RT that while the group, largely based in the northern opposition-held Idlib province, was unarmed, they still carried out "patrols," adding that "they got equipment and salaries from the British government."

While humanitarian support is set to continue, all operation assistance will stop. Steele stated that the UK had provided the FSP with "training and tactical support," adding that "some of the training was happening in Turkey."

Comment: And yet Britain still funds White Helmets... Apparently a propaganda mechanism is still a priority with a future in Syria.


Clinton saga continues as watchdog publishes new batches of Hillary emails

© Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
The email scandal continues to haunt Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and ex-Democratic presidential nominee, as Judicial Watch, a non-profit conservative organization, has unearthed two new batches of Clinton's emails and called for a new investigation into her mishandling of classified government data.

It seems that Hillary Clinton's email saga is far from being over: Judicial Watch, a government watchdog, has uncovered five more confidential emails circulated among the ex-secretary of state's team through her private and unsecure email server.

The watchdog pointed out that the new documents "include material classified 'confidential' on negotiations between Northern Ireland and UK, as well as negotiations with Israel, Palestine, and France." They also include a reference to Clinton's meeting with American billionaire and founder of Open Society Foundations George Soros and a memo from Sid Blumenthal, Hillary Clinton's longtime confidant, related to the change of government in Kyrgyzstan.

Comment: See also:


Russian MoD: Technologically advanced parties are providing terrorists with technology to assemble UAVs packed with explosives

Major-General Igor Konashenkov
Journalists from leading foreign mass media have been allowed to see terrorists' drones shot down over the past three days near Hmeymim while trying to attack the airbase.

A group of foreign journalists touring Syria's areas undergoing postwar reconstruction asked Russian military officials to let them see the makeshift drones terrorist use for attacks on Hmeymim. They were allowed to take a look at several improvised remote-controlled aircraft downed over the past several days.

Russian Defense Ministry official Major-General Igor Konashenkov said the past month saw an increase in attempts at committing terrorist attacks involving drones.

"Over the past month 45 drones carrying makeshift explosive devices were eliminated by the base's air defense or means of radio-electronic warfare. Five drones were shot down over the past three days," Konashenkov said.

Comment: Who is providing these flying death machines to terrorists? See:


Trump trashes NY Times reporting, denies WH counsel Don McGahn 'turned on him'

Video Trump
© Twitter
US President Donald Trump has stepped up his attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, likening it to “McCarthyism”
The NY Times report cited a dozen unnamed current and former White House officials and "others briefed on the matter..."

Donald Trump on Sunday angrily denounced the federal probe of Russia's 2016 election meddling as "McCarthyism at its WORST!," as he slammed a report that the White House counsel had given investigators detailed testimony about the president's actions at key moments now under scrutiny.

In a series of early morning tweets, Trump said White House counsel Don McGahn and other aides had been encouraged to be fully transparent in their testimony to Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of an effort to bring the Russia matter to a quick close.

But he fumed at the suggestion in a front-page New York Times report that McGahn had cooperated fully to protect himself from legal jeopardy, giving Mueller's team more than the president was aware of in 30 hours of testimony over the past nine months.

Comment: NYT: White House counsel cooperates with 'Russiagate' probe, Trump says he allowed it