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Germany, France and UK issue joint statement to US: DON’T DUMP JCPOA – AKA IRAN DEAL

Germany’s Foreign Minister has echoed the words of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in saying that a US withdrawl from the JCPOA would send the wrong message to North Korea.

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Berlin has released a statement jointly signed by the governments of Germany, France and the United Kingdom, urging the United States not to pull out of the 2015 JCPOA, often referred to as the ‘Iran deal’.

The news comes as many suspect that Donald Trump is preparing to defy the advice of his own state department, his allies in Germany, France, Britain and the EU as a whole, as well as the stated wishes of Russia and China and withdraw from the deal.

The statement was presented by Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Gabriel previously stated that the “world will change” if the US pulls out of the deal, warning that Germany believes Trump may be on the verge of withdrawal.

Today, Gabriel echoed the words of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in stating that if the US withdraws from the JCPOA, it would send the wrong message to North Korea, one which indicates that the US is not willing nor able to adhere to internationally reached agreements.

This comes as Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, has stated,

“The current situation proves that our party chose the right path by developing the economy and nuclear power simultaneously… In spite of the brutal sanctions of the United States and its satellites, the national economy has expanded”.

With Russia and even South Korea leaving the door for economic cooperation with Pyongyang open, as an incentive to de-escalate tensions in East Asia, the United States is finding itself increasingly isolated in respect of its bellicose threats against both Tehran and Pyongyang. Such threats are rejected not only by Russia and China, but also by America’s EU allies.

Today, Russia’s Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, also expressed Russia’s desire not to see the JCPOA undermined by the United States. Peskov said,

“President Putin has repeatedly spoken about the importance of the agreement on the so-called Iranian nuclear dossier. Of course, the withdrawal of one of the countries, especially a key country like the United States, from this agreement will only have negative consequences”.

Two Koreas–One Road: The future of cooperation between North Korea, South Korea and Russia

If the US de-certifies the deal, Iran may consider the deal null and void. However, there remains a possibility that Russia, China and Europe could work with Iran to preserve elements of the deal in spite of the Trump administration’s intransigence against any sort of cooperation with Iran.

As I recently wrote in respect of the crisis in Washington over the JCPOA:

“When it comes to North Korea, there is a global consensus (whether this consensus is moral or otherwise) which states that Pyongyang should cease testing its weapons and that further more, dialogue between all concerned sides, including China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the US, must restart.

In respect of Iran, even among countries which are generally on the different side of major geo-political issues vis-a-vis the Iranian government, there is a concensus that Iran is in full compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement which alleviated western fears (however irrational) about supposed long-term Iranian plans to develop nuclear weapons.

The JCPOA was agreed upon after joint talks between Iran, China, Russia, US, UK, France, Germany and the EU as a whole. Currently, all of the aforementioned parties formally agree that Iran is in full compliance with the agreement. However, Donald Trump has given frequent vocal indications that he is displeased with the JCPOA. He even went so far as to call to JCPOA an “embarrassment” at the United Nations, during the same speech in which he threatened a “destroy” North Korea while insulting the North Korean leader by referring to him as “rocket man”.

During the opening session of the General Assembly just weeks ago, every party to the JCPOA affirmed their commitment to the deal, including the United States. Even more recently, both US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as well as US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis, have agreed that Iran is complying with the deal.

In spite of this, Donald Trump has continually sought to use speeches and Twitter posts to undermine the deal. However, few people seem to be buying Trump’s reasoning, including members of his own cabinet.

The only other world figure who has perpetually worked to aggressively undermine the JCPOA, is Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. While many world figures including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov used their speech before the United Nations General Assembly to praise the deal, only Trump and Netanyahu took direct aim at the deal, in speeches filled with wildly inaccurate anti-Iranian rhetoric.

Donald Trump recently met with top US military figures, although the only thing Trump publicly disclosed about the meeting was that it represented “the calm  before the storm”. Other White House officials have been equally cryptic when asked about the worrisome remark.

There are several explanations for what might be going on

1. Internal White House Chaos 

Starting with Michael Flynn and more recently culminating with Steve Bannon, the Trump White House has struggled to keep key foreign policy makers on board. Firings and resignations have plagued a Trump administration that is less than a year old.

Rex Tillerson is currently in the spotlight in what can only be called “resignation watch” after unverified reports that have not been specifically denied by Tillerson, stated that the Secretary of State called Donald Trump a “moron”. By some accounts he used the words “fucking moron” to described the US President after a heated meeting.

Donald Trump has denied such an event’s existence, but what is undeniable, is that Trump and Tillerson have had many open disagreements on US foreign policy. Such disagreement include Tillerson’s statement that the US must quietly pursue dialogue with Pyongyang, something Trump called a waste of time. It also includes Tillerson’s State Department’s support of the JCPOA which Trump clearly wants to scrap and finally, Tillerson has said he favours dialogue and neutrality over the Saudi-Qatar dispute, while Trump openly Tweeted pro-Saudi rhetoric saying that Qatar is a state sponsor of terrorism in line with Saudi accusations.

In this sense. the ongoing row between Trump and Tillerson could be manifesting itself in the form of semi-public test of wills over Iran. In an administration seemingly organised on the petty whims of personal vanity, it is entirely conceivable that Trump and Tillerson’s disagreements over the JCPOA have led to Trump taking an autocratic approach to public policy making. Certainly this would appear to be the case when it comes to the unfounded anti-JCPOA rhetoric which is not shared by any other parties to the agreement.

2. The Israel Lobby versus The World 

It is no secret that the US based Israel lobby is the most powerful of the many powerful lobbying bodies in the United States. Israel is unique in its hostility to Iran and is particular hostility to the JCPOA, even by Saudi standards.

What’s more is that Israel has weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, which neither Iran nor its rival Saudi Arabia has.

In spite of this, while Israel has pivoted its foreign policy to be more anti-Iranian than anti-Arab, Israel has yet attack let alone occupy Iran in the way it continues to do in respect of Arab countries.

Having totally failed to manufacture international consensus against Iran, even among Israel’s putative allies, the powerful US Israel lobby has been spewing anti-Iranian rhetoric in an attempt to further taint Iran’s reputation among the American public.

In respect of Donald Trump, who has been on good personal terms with Benjamin Netanyahu even before becoming President, Trump may be simply doing the bidding of the Israel lobby and his self-described “friend” in order to go against the more moderate voices in his own administration which includes both Rex Tillerson and apparently James “Mad Dog” Mattis.

If it really is a matter of Israel ‘wagging the dog’ in respect of Donald Trump, this is proof positive that Trump is not fit to be the US President as he is no longer putting the interests of his own country, nor the collective interests of world peace, before the war mongering desires of the rogue Israeli regime.

3. From Mad Man Theory to “Moron Theory”

Richard Nixon was many things, but he was certainly not a “moron”. He may have been the most intelligent US President of the 20th century. One of Nixon’s ploys was known as the mad man theory. According to this theory, which was often put into practice by the Nixon White House, statements that Nixon had apparently made indicating his willingness to use extreme force, including nuclear weapons, even in the seemingly most mundane situations, were purposefully leaked to foreign powers.

Dovetailing onto the idea of mutually assured destruction, Nixon’s mad man image was said to force other powers to the negotiating table, for fear that anything less would mean a Nixon pressing the nuclear button.

While the mad man theory defies the laws of ethics and of transparency, it is a classic case of extreme brinkmanship that was common during the Cold War and which Nixon mastered so much that he actually managed to achieve both detente with the Soviet Union as well as opening up western diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

Many have proffered the idea that Donald Trump’s public image as a trigger happy leader with no real knowledge of world affairs, is a giant bluff in order to try and bring others to the table. While it is not beyond the realm of the possible that Donald Trump’s objectively idiotic remarks on world affairs, his threatening rhetoric and apparent disorderly administration are in fact contrived measures designed to scare others into some sort of negotiating, this theory, even if true, is highly misguided.

During the Nixon era, it was clear what the United States wanted from the powers which the ‘mad man theory’ was tested upon. In respect of Donald Trump, apart from levying more sanctions on Iran, something that would infuriate America’s EU allies, there is little else that Trump could achieve apart from provoking Iran into war which even many in the Pentagon admit would be a disaster.

In respect of North Korea, brinkmanship has already failed. The more the US threatens Pyongyang with war and the more unilateral sanctions the US passes, the more North Korea retorts with further threats and with further weapons tests. China has already made clear that it will not allow a preemptive US led attack on North Korea and Pyongyang for its part, is always careful to temper its threats with statements indicating that North Korea would never be the first to strike against the US or allied target. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also warned the US that the North Koreans would rather “eat grass” than surrender to the United States. Where the Iraqi army ran away during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, North Korea would likely fight to the death, with every weapon and man at its disposal.

As for America’s proxy wars directly primarily against China but also Russia, there is also little that a “moron theory” could do other than entrench the Sino-Russian alliance more so than it already is.

To put it bluntly, while the “moron theory” may work on certain domestic issues, it is not, has not and almost certainly will not work in foreign affairs.

CONCLUSION: 

The Trump administration appears to be compromised by its own disorganisation and personal disputes and like many US administrations, the Trump administration is also apparently torn between moderate voices urging a balance and an extremist Israeli position that far too many in the US are utterly beholden to. When this is combined with Trump’s “take no prisoners” attitude towards negotiation, Trump is going to lose far more than he will win.

He has totally lost the trust of Iran and North Korea, he has lost the respect of China and Russia, he has fully alienated Pakistan, Turkey and perhaps even Saudi Arabia, he has exhausted the patience of America’s traditional EU and East Asian allies and he has seemingly lost control over his own administration and country. The only danger is if Donald Trump is powerful enough to do something truly dangerous to the world, but too weak and ill-informed to actually understand what he is doing”.

http://theduran.com/trump-vs-jcpoa-really-trupm-vs-world/

 

 

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Converting Khashoggi into Cash

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The hazard of writing about the Saudis’ absurd gyrations as they seek to avoid blame for the murder of the late, not notably great journalist and Muslim Brotherhood activist Jamal Khashoggi is that by the time a sentence is finished, the landscape may have changed again.

As though right on cue, the narrative has just taken another sharp turn.

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has ‘fessed up (sorta) and admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose:

Y’see, it was kinda’f an ‘accident.’

Oops…

Y’see the guys were arguing, and … uh … a fistfight broke out.

Yeah, that’s it … a ‘fistfight.’

And before you know it poor Jamal had gone all to pieces.

Y’see?

Must’ve been a helluva fistfight.

The figurative digital ink wasn’t even dry on that whopper before American politicos in both parties were calling it out:

  • “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” tweeted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince. It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation‘ as credible.”
  • California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the new Saudi explanation is “not credible.” “If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him,” Schiff said. “The kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump administration will not take the lead, Congress must.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must think he’s already died and gone to his eternal recreation in the amorous embraces of the dark-eyed houris. The acid test for the viability of Riyadh’s newest transparent lie is whether the Turks actually have, as they claim, live recordings of Khashoggi’s interrogation, torture, murder, and dismemberment (not necessarily in that order) – and if they do, when Erdogan decides it’s the right time to release them.

Erdogan has got the Saudis over a barrel and he’ll squeeze everything he can out of them.

From the beginning, the Khashoggi story wasn’t really about the fate of one man. The Saudis have been getting away with bloody murder, literally, for years. They’re daily slaughtering the civilian population of Yemen with American and British help, with barely a ho-hum from the sensitive consciences always ready to invoke the so-called “responsibility to protect” Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, Syria, Xinjiang, Rakhine, and so forth.

Where’s the responsibility not to help a crazed bunch of Wahhabist head-choppers kill people?

But now, just one guy meets a grisly end and suddenly it’s the most important homicide since the Lindbergh baby.

What gives?

Is it because Khashoggi was part of the MSM aristocracy, on account of his relationship with the Washington Post?

Was it because of his other, darker, connections? As related by Moon of Alabama: “Khashoggi was a rather shady guy. A ‘journalist’ who was also an operator for Saudi and U.S. intelligence services. He was an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood.” This relationship, writes MoA, touches on the interests of pretty much everyone in the region:

“The Ottoman empire ruled over much of the Arab world. The neo-Ottoman wannabe-Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to regain that historic position for Turkey. His main competition in this are the al-Sauds. They have much more money and are strategically aligned with Israel and the United States, while Turkey under Erdogan is more or less isolated. The religious-political element of the competition is represented on one side by the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘democratic’ Islamists to which Erdogan belongs, and the Wahhabi absolutists on the other side.”

With the noose tightening around Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the risible fistfight cock-and-bull story is likely to be the best they can come up with. US President Donald Trump’s having offered his “rogue killers” opening suggests he’s willing to play along. Nobody will really be fooled, but MbS will hope he can persuade important people to pretend they are fooled.

That will mean spreading around a lot of cash. The new alchemy of converting Khashoggi dead into financial gain for the living is just one part of an obvious scheme to pull off what Libya’s Muammar Kaddafi managed after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing: offer up some underlings as the fall guys and let the top man evade responsibility. (KARMA ALERT: That didn’t do Kaddafi any good in the long run.)

In the Saudi case the Lockerbie dodge will be harder, as there are already pictures of men at the Istanbul Consulate General identified as close associates of MbS. But they’ll give it the old madrasa try anyway since it’s all they’ve got.Firings and arrests have started and one suspect has already died in a suspicious automobile “accident.” Heads will roll!

Saving MbS’s skin and his succession to the throne of his doddering father may depend on how many of the usual recipients of Saudi – let’s be honest – bribery and influence peddling will find sufficient pecuniary reason to go along. Saudi Arabia’s unofficial motto with respect to the US establishment might as well be: “The green poultice heals all wounds.”

Anyway, that’s been their experience up to now, but it also in part reflects the same arrogance that made MbS think he could continue to get away with anything. (It’s not shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, but it’s close.) Whether spreading cash around will continue to have the same salubrious effect it always has had in the past remains to be seen.

To be sure, Trump may succeed in shaking the Saudi date palm for additional billions for arms sales. That won’t necessarily turn around an image problem that may not have a remedy. But still, count on more cash going to high-price lobbying and image-control shops eager to make obscene money working for their obscene client. Some big American names are dropping are dropping Riyadh in a sudden fit of fastidiousness, but you can bet others will be eager to step into their Guccis, both in the US and in the United Kingdom. (It should never be forgotten how closely linked the US and UK establishments are in the Middle East, and to the Saudis in particular.)

It still might not work though. No matter how much expensive PR lipstick the spinmeisters put on this pig, that won’t make it kissable. It’s still a pig.

Others benefitting from hanging Khashoggi’s death around MbS’s neck are:

  • Qatar (after last year’s invasion scare, there’s no doubt a bit of Schadenfreude and (figurative) champagne corks popping in Doha over MbS’s discomfiture. As one source close to the ruling al-Thani family relates, “The Qataris are stunned speechless at Saudi incompetence!” You just can’t get good help these days).

Among the losers one must count Israel and especially Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. MbS, with his contrived image as the reformer, was the Sunni “beard” he needed to get the US to assemble an “Arab NATO” (as though one NATO weren’t bad enough!) and eliminate Iran for him. It remains to be seen how far that agenda has been set back.

Whether or not MbS survives or is removed – perhaps with extreme prejudice – there’s no doubt Saudi Arabia is the big loser. Question are being asked that should have been asked years ago. As Srdja Trifkovic comments in Chronicles magazine:

“The crown prince’s recklessness in ordering the murder of Khashoggi has demonstrated that he is just a standard despot, a Mafia don with oil presiding over an extended cleptocracy of inbred parasites. The KSA will not be reformed because it is structurally not capable of reform. The regime in Riyadh which stops being a playground of great wealth, protected by a large investment in theocratic excess, would not be ‘Saudi’ any longer. Saudia delenda est.”

The first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah, went belly up in 1818, with the death of head of the house of al-Saud, Abdullah bin Saud – actually, literally with his head hung on a gate in Constantinople by Erdogan’s Ottoman predecessor, Sultan Mahmud II.

The second Saudi state, Emirate of Nejd, likewise folded in 1891.

It’s long past time this third and current abomination joined its antecedents on the ash heap of history.

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