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Sun, 20 May 2018
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Snakes in Suits

Brzezinski's ghost is shaping Washington-Eurasian geopolitics

puppethands
© Katehon
The Puppet Master
One of the most outstanding features of a truly standing-out Trump Presidency to date is how precisely the actual policy developments, when we clear away the deliberate smoke and mirrors of tweets and scandal, follow a basic strategy of Washington geopolitics going back to at least 1992. This is the case in the latest unfortunate and quite illegal unilateral decision to leave the Iran nuclear agreement. This is also the case in the relentless Cold War-style demonization campaign against Russia and the deployment of insidious new sanctions. This is also the case with the looming trade war the Trump Administration has initiated with the Peoples' Republic of China.

Contrary to a widely-held belief that US President Trump acts only out of impulse or is being unpredictable, I believe that the opposite is the case. Strategic geopolitical policies of the Trump Administration are a response, not of the President himself, but rather of the powers that be, the permanent establishment who actually control what is sometimes called the Deep State. The geopolitics of that policy determines to a large degree who they allow to be President.

Russian Flag

A Russian view on US' withdrawal from Iran deal

PUtinPopcorn
© Unknown
Sitting back and watching the show.
Moscow sees the move as a harbinger of what's to come: a return to multipolarity.

Russia is acting deeply disappointed in public.
In response to Trump's decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement blaming the United States for "intractable" actions based on "narrow and opportunistic interests." The Kremlin expressed "deep concern" over the American decision and stressed the necessity to sustain the agreement. Last week, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in chain talks with European leaders discussing ways to save the deal without the United States.

But Moscow was the least vocal among the dissatisfied - since no Russian vital interests are at stake and some actual benefits emerge. Consider this: after America's abrupt exit, Iran suddenly looks good. Uncertainty over tensions force oil prices to go up. Europe is now more distrustful towards Washington and turmoil among NATO allies is inevitable. Iran was not benefiting economically from the JCPOA, but in these new circumstances, Europe can disregard American threats of imposing secondary sanctions and do business with Tehran.

The most important question that remains: can the Trump withdrawal be a pretext for a war or a military strike against Iran? Moscow does not consider this an immediate threat. Trump would hardly risk starting another war in the Middle East - even if some in his administration see Iran as an easy target. A "Hit and Tweet Strategy" is more likely, but global and regional security implications would arrive after just one euphoric news cycle. Cornering Iran, while pleasing Israel and Saudi Arabia, would not help regional security - but at least war is not imminent. Moscow considers Trump's decision to be focused on domestic politics, hoping that it resonates with Republicans and makes the president look strong.

If this analysis is correct, Russia does not need to comment on the American departure from the JCPOA. Moscow would opt for maintaining the deal with Europe and China, letting Washington absorb the diplomatic fallout.

USA

No big surprise: Extensive US meddling in Malasia's general election

Anwar Ibrahim
© The Malaysian Insight
After now 2 years of accusations and constant headlines regarding allegations of still unproven "Russian influence" in the 2016 US presidential election, it is difficult to imagine that real political meddling or election interference anywhere around the globe could go unnoticed. This is especially true regarding the Western corporate media who has portrayed itself as deeply aware of the unethical and undemocratic nature of one nation interfering in the elections of another.

Yet during Malaysia's recent general election - hailed by the Western media as a "historic win" for an opposition the Western media clearly favored - not a single story was written by media organizations like Reuters, AFP, CNN, the BBC and many others covering foreign interference during the elections.

Despite the lack of Western attention regarding foreign election meddling, it is revealed that Malaysia's opposition is almost entirely comprised of US government-funded fronts - ranging from opposition leaders themselves, to political street fronts and organizers, to media organizations posing as "independent" Malaysian journalists, and "rights advocates" leveraging human rights advocacy to support the opposition and compromise Malaysia's Barisan Nasional (BN) party.

Malaysia - a former British colony - faces the incremental expansion of US and European "soft power" within its borders - transforming it from a sovereign nation into a subordinate, modern Western client state. As the US is attempting to do all throughout Southeast Asia from Cambodia to Thailand and the Philippines to Myanmar - the final goal is surrounding China with nations hostile to it politically, economically, and even militarily.

Comment: Same old tricks, new and recurring victims - pre-determined destinies according to plan.


Attention

Brennan's 'exceptionally sensitive' issue

Brennan
© Unknown
The revealing crumb left in the David Corn/Michael Isikoff book on the Russia investigation.

Under John Brennan, the CIA operated as an opposition research outfit for the Hillary Clinton campaign. It appears from leaked news stories in the British press that Brennan's oafish spying on Trump began around April 2016, right after Trump's biggest primary victories. As it became urgently clear to Brennan that Trump was going to face off against Hillary, Brennan turned to "intelligence partners" in Europe for dirt on Trump. But they didn't have any, save some pretty skimpy material on "contacts" between Trump campaign officials and Russians.

Whatever Brennan collected was so insubstantial that Robert Mueller hasn't even interviewed him about it. Consider that for a second: Mueller was supposedly appointed to complete the counterintelligence probe into Trumpworld, and he hasn't felt the need to talk to the father of it. Brennan has tried to explain this astonishing discrepancy away by vaguely saying that whatever Mueller needs he could find in "CIA files."

Those files are no doubt as elliptical as the formal document starting the probe. It appears that Brennan's alleged "tips" were too flaky and unofficial for the Obama administration to commit to print. Brennan had his own partisan hunches, fueled by his feverish hatred of Trump and perhaps a few spit-balling conversations with other Trump-hating spy chiefs abroad (the "special relationship" had turned sinister against Trump, as evident from Britain's sorry role in this mess), but he had no evidence to meet any reasonable threshold for a counterintelligence probe of a presidential campaign, especially one undertaken by an administration supporting that candidate's opponent. Brennan's espionage against Trump was as audacious as a paranoid LBJ wiretapping Nixon's campaign plane in the thick of a race against LBJ's vice president, Hubert Humphrey.

Comment: Brennan said 'there would be hell to pay if it came out that Hillary partisans in the U.S. government were spying on her opponent's campaign, making use of opposition research that she had purchased.' So...there was, they did, and it has been exposed. Hell to pay? What are they waiting for? Bring it on!


Bomb

US pundit's 'Bomb Crimea Bridge' article now subject of Russian criminal probe

Crimean Bridge
© Alexey Malgavko / Sputnik
Crimean Bridge
An article urging Ukraine to bomb Russia's newly-built bridge to Crimea has led to the Russian equivalent of the FBI opening a criminal case against US political commentator Tom Rogan for inciting terrorism.

Svetlana Petrenko, spokeswoman for Russia's Investigative Committee, told reporters on Thursday that Rogan's article "contains signs of public calls for terrorist activity on the territory of Russia." According to the Russian criminal code, public calls for terrorist activity using the media, including the internet, may carry a fine of up to 1 million rubles (around $16,000) or a prison term of up to seven years.

"A comprehensive psycho-linguistic examination" of Rogan's opinion piece, published Tuesday by the Washington Examiner, has been ordered as part of the probe, Petrenko said, adding that the Investigative Committee is also conducting a preliminary inquiry into the Examiner's editor.

In his article, titled "Ukraine should blow up Putin's Crimea bridge," Rogan has called the massive construction undertaken by Russia "an outrageous affront to Ukraine's very credibility as a nation."

His article was published on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin ceremonially opened the bridge, personally driving a Kamaz truck across it.

Comment: The 'Ugly American' pundificates 'a bridge too far.'


USA

How 'American exceptionalism' has justified war and exploitation

eagleflag
© unknown
This is part two of my interview with the activist and journalist David Swanson. We're discussing his new book Curing Exceptionalism, which is about the disease, if you will, of American exceptionalism. In the first part, we discussed how American exceptionalism is ultimately a political ideology that does not have its basis in empirical facts. We talked about how according to international metrics, so many metrics, poverty, incarceration, public health, inequality, education, the United States is nowhere near the top. And in fact, not only is it nowhere near the top of other developed imperialist nations, but also just internationally in general, for the entire world, when it comes to things like incarceration, the U.S. is totally at the bottom of the list of the entire world.

In this part we'll be discussing the damages caused by American exceptionalism, and then we'll also discuss what David thinks are some solutions. The cures, if you will, to American exceptionalism. David Swanson is a journalist, activist, organizer, and educator. He is the director of the peace group World Beyond War. He is also the host of Talk Nation Radio, and the author of several books. Thanks for joining us, David.

DAVID SWANSON: Glad to be here.

BEN NORTON: So in Part 3 of your book you know you discuss the dangers and the damages of American exceptionalism. What do you think some of those dangers and damages are?

Comment: A one-source standard limits the extent and usefulness of choice - and - without inspiration or evolution, becomes obsolete.


Snakes in Suits

Sochi: Putin and Assad meet for extensive talks, discuss political settlement

PutinAssad
© Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes Syrian President Bashar Assad in Sochi, Russia, on May 17, 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has held a meeting with the Syrian leader Bashar Assad in Sochi, the acting presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. The two leaders conducted "extensive" negotiations, he added.

As the two presidents talked about the conditions that would facilitate the peace process development, the Syrian leader said that he had decided to send a delegation to a committee tasked to rewrite Syria's constitution, which was championed by the UN.

The agreement on the creation of the constitutional committee was one of the major results of the Sochi peace congress held in January this year. The participants of the congress agreed on January 30 to set up the constitutional committee in Geneva, and to hold democratic elections in Syria.


Russian Flag

Why did Putin invite Netanyahu to Moscow for Victory Day?

putin netanyahu victory parade moscow
© Agence France-Press / Maxim Shipenkov
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in Moscow on May 9, 2018.
Putin's invitation to Netanyahu was diplomacy not surrender at a time when the Middle East is on fire and war with Iran may be coming

News of the recent attendance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Moscow's 9th May Victory Day Parade provoked a predictable range of reactions ranging from anger, dismay, denial and - on the part of some of the US's and Israel's friends - even a certain amount of gloating.

For an example of the latter, see for example these words by the British historian Niall Ferguson in a lengthy article hailing Donald Trump's supposed masterstroke in pulling out of the JCPOA.
Economically weak enough to suffer a wave of riots in December and January, the Iranians will not find it easy to withstand the snap-back of sanctions and the roll-back of its forces abroad. And if you think the Russians will help them, you must have missed Binyamin Netanyahu shaking hands with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin last week.

Snakes in Suits

More than 90% of Brazil's lawmakers implicated in Brazil's corruption operation 'Car Wash' - now seeking re-election

Demonstrators Brasilia
© Reuters
Demonstrators take part in a protest in support of Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation, in Brasilia, Brazil May 9, 2017.
Nearly two years after accepting Attorney General's Office's report, the court only began the first trial Tuesday.

As Brazil's Operation Car Wash (Lavo Jato) enters its fifth year, 50 of the 55 elected officials implicated in the corruption scandal are scheduled to participate in Brazil's upcoming general elections in October.

The ongoing criminal investigation into bribery at Petrobras, the state-controlled oil producer, which came to light in 2014, has implicated a sizeable portion of Brazil's business and political establishment.

A recent survey revealed 42 parliamentarians said they would run for re-elections, while four of the accused intended to fill vacancies in the Senate, two within state governments and one within the state legislature. Three members of parliament didn't respond or remained undecided and their candidacy, two others stated they wouldn't run.

Comment: Brazil, like the US (and largely because of the US) is quickly fracturing due to the high level and rampant corruption that exists among it's political and judicial branches:


Roses

Diplomacy done right: Putin greets visiting Merkel with bouquet

putin merkel flowers
© Sergey Guneev / Sputnik
The Russian president seemed to be on a charm offensive on Friday as he met with his German counterpart. Vladimir Putin greeted Angela Merkel on the porch of his Sochi residence with a big bouquet of flowers.

Footage of the encounter shows the Russian leader greeting the German delegation on top of the stairs leading to the entrance of the residence. He shook Angela Merkel's hand before presenting her with a big arrangement of white and pink flowers before inviting her in.

Comment: Merkel's visit may signal continued improvement of the state of Russian-German relations. RT reports:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's working visit to Sochi on Friday could signal a positive shift in EU-Russia relations, as the European bloc reassesses its fealty to Washington.

Merkel has been to Russia only once since 2014, which marked the rapid deterioration of relations between Russia and Europe. The German chancellor visited Sochi in early May 2017. Now, she is trekking out to Sochi once again - about a week after the US President Donald Trump announced that he would be withdrawing his country from the Iran nuclear deal, of which Russia and Germany are both signatories.

The US leader's decision has infuriated Europe, with Merkel going so far as to suggest that Europe can no longer rely upon the US to ensure its security and maintain international norms. With Merkel heading to Sochi, it appears that Europe, increasingly disillusioned Washington, will seek closer cooperation with Moscow in hopes of salvaging the Iran deal and making headway on a number of other critical international issues.

Keeping the Iran deal alive

The first item on the Putin-Merkel agenda will undoubtedly be the future of the Iran nuclear deal. Both Germany and Russia have signaled their eagerness to preserve the landmark 2015 accord, which places restrictions on Iran's nuclear capabilities in exchange for sanctions relief.

The issue of the Iranian nuclear deal is probably "the easiest" one on the agenda of the two leaders, professor Peter Schulze, international relations expert at the University of Goettingen, told RT. Moscow, Berlin and even Brussels are all in favor of keeping the deal and are almost equally opposed to the US plans to withdraw from the agreement, he said.

Given Washington's latest actions, "it would be a logical step" for Germany to "move closer to Moscow" as well as to take a more "pragmatic and moderate" approach to the issue, Schulze added.

Working towards peace in Syria

Compared to other European powers, Germany has shown less and less interest in entangling itself in the ongoing conflict in Syria. Notably, Germany declined to participate in tripartite missile strikes against Syria carried out by the US, UK and France in early April. In comments made on Wednesday, Merkel made it clear that Berlin sees Russia as a key player in any peace settlement.

Closer energy cooperation

Merkel's visit will coincide with the start of preparatory work for the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline off the coast of Germany. The pipeline will follow the track of the existing Nord Stream 1 and will double the amount of Russian gas arriving in Germany. The project, which should be finished in late 2019, was opposed by Washington and several Eastern European states, which claimed that it could be used by Moscow to exert economic influence over the EU.

With Germany now reassessing its relationship with Washington, it's possible that construction of the pipeline will be less hindered by external political pressure.

A frozen conflict in Ukraine?

One point of serious disagreement between Putin and Merkel has been the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, with Germany providing both political and military support to Kiev. Ongoing disagreements over enforcement of the Minsk Accords, as well as the status of Crimea, will likely make noticeable headway on these issues difficult.

The conflict in Ukraine remains the major "stumbling block" that "impedes improvement of relations between Russia and Europe," Schulze admitted. At the same time, he expressed cautious optimism about the possible outcome of potential talks between Putin and Merkel on this issue.

"We [will] see some improvement of the Ukrainian situation," he told RT, adding that the talks could lead to another push for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, with both Moscow and Berlin exerting pressure on the parties to the conflict.

However, Germany is unlikely to initiate the lifting of anti-Russian sanctions, which were imposed by the EU, the professor said. Such a move could potentially lead to an "enormous conflict" with Washington as well as leave Berlin "isolated," as many EU members, including the Baltic States and Poland, still actively support the US policies, he explained, adding that no country in the EU is ready to take those risks at the moment.

A new chapter for German-Russian relations?

But even with serious differences on Ukraine, Berlin has signaled that it is open to turning a new page with Moscow, especially on pressing international issues.

"We need Russia as a partner to settle regional conflicts, for disarmament and as an important pillar of multilateralism," newly appointed Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in April, adding, "we are therefore open for dialogue and are trying to rebuild trust bit by bit if Russia is ready."

"This is probably Merkel's last [term] in office. So she has to show something to history and I don't think she wants to go down in the historical past as the grave digger of German-Russian relations," Schulze told RT.

Given the fact that German Foreign Minister Maas is a "newcomer to the job who has got no diplomatic experiences," it is Merkel who is likely to give directions in the field of foreign policy, the professor said. He added that "if she is well consulted by her advisors then [Merkel] should, given the very difficult relationship with the US, be at least more diplomatic, more open and more flexible [in relations with Moscow] than the foreign minister of Germany," who is known for his tough stance on Russia.