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Catalonia: Madrid calls Puidgemont’s bluff

Spain imposes direct rule on Catalonia; calls snap elections

Alexander Mercouris

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In the weeks since Catalonia’s illegal independence referendum the President of Catalonia’s government Carles Puidgemont has been behaving increasingly like a man whose bluff has been called.

He has repeatedly called for talks with Madrid without however agreeing to Madrid’s fundamental pre-condition, which was for him to say that notwithstanding the referendum Catalonia is not declaring independence from Spain.

He has called for EU mediation, only to have the EU turn a deaf ear to his call.

As I predicted not a single government around the world, and importantly none of the Great Powers – the US, Russia, China and India – has lent him support.

Nor have the governments of the EU’s two big regional powers: Germany and France.

Meanwhile there is a rush of banks and businesses exiting Barcelona for Madrid, and the Spanish Senate has now voted overwhelmingly to support the Spanish government’s request that it be allowed to impose direct rule.

It is sometimes said that in this situation Puidgemont and the Catalan independence movement had no other option but to declare independence, as they have now done.

That is simply wrong.  The alternative and proper route for them to follow was actually very clear: it was to return to legality.

That would however have involved agreeing that the independence referendum does not provide a legal basis for independence, and agreeing to the fresh elections, which are the only realistic way out of the impasse.

In the event Puidgemont refused to admit that the independence referendum does not provide a legal basis for independence, and he refused Madrid’s call for fresh elections, a fact which incidentally reinforces my view that there is less support for independence in Catalonia than is sometimes said.

What happens next will largely depend on how skilfully the Spanish government handles the situation.

Puidgemont has called for ‘peaceful resistance’ to the imposition of direct rule, but no one should take that call seriously.

In a situation where Puidgemont and the Catalan independence movement have no other cards left to play the only remaining thing they can do is stage violent confrontations with the forces deployed to Catalonia by Madrid in the probably forlorn hope that this will gain them sympathy both internationally and in the rest of Spain.

Faced by this tactic the Spanish authorities need to act both consistently and firmly, refusing to make unwarranted concessions to Puidgemont and the Catalan independence movement and pressing ahead with the imposition of direct rule, but refusing also to be provoked into disproportionate reactions.  Provided this situation is handled intelligently the power of the Spanish state with the authority of the law behind it is all but certain to prevail in a situation like this.

So far the Spanish authorities have handled the situation properly, and there is no reason to think that they will not continue to do so.

At this point a number of further myths which have grown up around this crisis need to be jettisoned.

Firstly, unconditional negotiations in a situation where someone is behaving illegally is not the path to peace.  On the contrary by rewarding illegality such a step undermines constitutional order, leading away from peace and directly towards violence.

In this case unwarranted concessions to Puidgemont and the Catalan independence movement would not secure peace in Catalonia.  On the contrary they would risk spreading the crisis to the whole of the rest of Spain, putting peace there in jeopardy.

Secondly, the case has been made by some people that the issue of legality is being over-emphasised.  Perhaps the most eloquent expression of this argument has been made by Craig Murray, who as a supporter of Scottish independence is also a supporter of the Catalan independence movement.

I dealt with imprisonment of political prisoners all round the world when I was in the FCO. Very few of them were extra-judicially detained. Uzbekistan’s 8,000 political prisoners have almost all been tried and condemned under Uzbek law. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ken Saro Wiwa, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, all were imprisoned by judges. The “rule of law”, where it ignores human rights, is not enough. That is the line the EU, to its great shame, has crossed.

Every one of the cases Craig Murray refers to took place in countries which were not democracies, democracy being here defined as a political system in which all citizens of the country in question have the free exercise of the right to vote.  Moreover every one of the individuals Craig Murray refers to – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ken Saro Wiwa, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi – specifically made precisely this point in explaining their acts of illegality and disobedience.

I would add that Mandela and Gandhi were both lawyers with a huge respect for the law – as they made repeatedly clear in their many statements – who defended their occasional resorts to illegality precisely because the laws they were challenging had been imposed undemocratically in a way that made them both oppressive and unaccountable whilst allowing for no avenue for peaceful or legal protest in order to change them.

For a powerful statement of this position see Nelson Mandela’s speech at the Rivonia trial, where South Africa’s apartheid authorities sentenced him to life imprisonment, though Mandela’s arguments apparently made a very strong impression on the Judge, who refused the prosecution’s implicit request for the death penalty.

By no conceivable stretch of the imagination is Puidgemont’s or Catalonia’s position remotely analogous to those of Mandela or Gandhi or of course of Solzhenitsyn and Ken Saro Wiwa or of the people imprisoned, killed or tortured by the Uzbek dictatorship, or indeed by any other dictatorship, dictatorship in this context being defined as a political system whose basis ultimately is not law but force.

Not only does Catalonia function within a political system where all Catalans have the right to vote and stand in law in an equal position to all other Spanish citizens, but Catalonia is actually Spain’s richest province and Puidgemont is an elected official possessing state authority.

As such Puidgemont has no grounds or excuse to resort to illegality and given that – by his own admission – he is acting illegally, instead of continuing in his defiance like any other person who has broken the law he ought to be submitting to the law’s judgment upon his actions.

Here I will express my own view, which is that I continue to be baffled by the demands that Puidgemont and the other leaders of the Catalan independence movement should be given a free pass for their wilful resort to illegality.

Just as everyone else is subject to the law so the elected officials of Catalonia should also be.  Treating them any other way gives rise to the inevitable question of why if these highly privileged people are to be allowed wilfully and publicly to break the law anyone else should obey it?

Past experience repeatedly shows that whenever such a question starts being asked, the result is not peace but a breakdown of law and constitutional order, and ultimately a turn to violence.

This in turn brings me back to the question of whether or not Catalonia will now slide into violence, and whether there is any risk of civil war.

Nothing has so far happened which changes my view that both are extremely unlikely.  Whilst I expect some violence over the course of the next few days and weeks, I believe the Spanish authorities are sufficiently sophisticated and experienced to know how to deal with it without falling into Puidgemont’s trap by acting disproportionately.

Here I repeat my previous view – made previously by Haneul Na’avi – that since the Catalan independence movement is by no means a revolutionary movement but a conservative middle class movement, the prospect of it being successfully mobilised for violence or civil war is slim.  On the contrary once the immediate crisis has been overcome I expect a strong swing back towards support for the Spanish government in Catalonia, which may be visible as soon as the elections which have been called in December.

However if violence does escalate beyond the point of the usual street clashes between police and demonstrators, then it is clear where responsibility lies.

It lies squarely with Puidgemont and the Catalan independence leaders, who wilfully and recklessly and without assessing the situation properly have led their followers onto the path of violence and illegality when they had other peaceful, legal and constitutional options available to them

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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New Satellite Images Reveal Aftermath Of Israeli Strikes On Syria; Putin Accepts Offer to Probe Downed Jet

The images reveal the extent of destruction in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport.

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Via Zerohedge


An Israeli satellite imaging company has released satellite photographs that reveal the extent of Monday night’s attack on multiple locations inside Syria.

ImageSat International released them as part of an intelligence report on a series of Israeli air strikes which lasted for over an hour and resulted in Syrian missile defense accidentally downing a Russian surveillance plane that had 15 personnel on board.

The images reveal the extent of destruction on one location struck early in attack in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport. On Tuesday Israel owned up to carrying out the attack in a rare admission.

Syrian official SANA news agency reported ten people injured in the attacks carried out of military targets near three major cities in Syria’s north.

The Times of Israel, which first reported the release of the new satellite images, underscores the rarity of Israeli strikes happening that far north and along the coast, dangerously near Russian positions:

The attack near Latakia was especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base. The base is home to Russian jet planes and an S-400 aerial defense system. According to Arab media reports, Israel has rarely struck that area since the Russians arrived there.

The Russian S-400 system was reportedly active during the attack, but it’s difficult to confirm or assess the extent to which Russian missiles responded during the strikes.

Three of the released satellite images show what’s described as an “ammunition warehouse” that appears to have been completely destroyed.

The IDF has stated their airstrikes targeted a Syrian army facility “from which weapons-manufacturing systems were supposed to be transferred to Iran and Hezbollah.” This statement came after the IDF expressed “sorrow” for the deaths of Russian airmen, but also said responsibility lies with the “Assad regime.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express regret over the incident while offering to send his air force chief to Russia with a detailed report — something which Putin agreed to.

According to Russia’s RT News, “Major-General Amikam Norkin will arrive in Moscow on Thursday, and will present the situation report on the incident, including the findings of the IDF inquiry regarding the event and the pre-mission information the Israeli military was so reluctant to share in advance.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry condemned the “provocative actions by Israel as hostile” and said Russia reserves “the right to an adequate response” while Putin has described the downing of the Il-20 recon plane as likely the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances” and downplayed the idea of a deliberate provocation, in contradiction of the initial statement issued by his own defense ministry.

Pro-government Syrians have reportedly expressed frustration this week that Russia hasn’t done more to respond militarily to Israeli aggression; however, it appears Putin may be sidestepping yet another trap as it’s looking increasingly likely that Israel’s aims are precisely geared toward provoking a response in order to allow its western allies to join a broader attack on Damascus that could result in regime change.

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“Transphobic” Swedish Professor May Lose Job After Noting Biological Differences Between Sexes

A university professor in Sweden is under investigation after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded”

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Via Zerohedge


A university professor in Sweden is under investigation for “anti-feminism” and “transphobia” after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded” and that genders cannot be regarded as “social constructs alone,” reports Academic Rights Watch.

For his transgression, Germund Hesslow – a professor of neuroscience at Lund University – who holds dual PhDs in philosophy and neurophysiology, may lose his job – telling RT that a “full investigation” has been ordered, and that there “have been discussions about trying to stop the lecture or get rid of me, or have someone else give the lecture or not give the lecture at all.”

“If you answer such a question you are under severe time pressure, you have to be extremely brief — and I used wording which I think was completely innocuous, and that apparently the student didn’t,” Hesslow said.

Hesslow was ordered to attend a meeting by Christer Larsson, chairman of the program board for medical education, after a female student complained that Hesslow had a “personal anti-feminist agenda.” He was asked to distance himself from two specific comments; that gay women have a “male sexual orientation” and that the sexual orientation of transsexuals is “a matter of definition.”

The student’s complaint reads in part (translated):

I have also heard from senior lecturers that Germund Hesslow at the last lecture expressed himself transfobically. In response to a question of transexuallism, he said something like “sex change is a fly”. Secondly, it is outrageous because there may be students during the lecture who are themselves exposed to transfobin, but also because it may affect how later students in their professional lives meet transgender people. Transpersonals already have a high level of overrepresentation in suicide statistics and there are already major shortcomings in the treatment of transgender in care, should not it be countered? How does this kind of statement coincide with the university’s equal treatment plan? What has this statement given for consequences? What has been done for this to not be repeated? –Academic Rights Watch

After being admonished, Hesslow refused to distance himself from his comments, saying that he had “done enough” already and didn’t have to explain and defend his choice of words.

At some point, one must ask for a sense of proportion among those involved. If it were to become acceptable for students to record lectures in order to find compromising formulations and then involve faculty staff with meetings and long letters, we should let go of the medical education altogether,” Hesslow said in a written reply to Larsson.

He also rejected the accusation that he had a political agenda – stating that his only agenda was to let scientific factnot new social conventions, dictate how he teaches his courses.

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