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Emmanuel Macron wants to lead an EU rapprochement with Iran

France has taken the first step in respect of showing good faith towards Iran, in the context of a possible post-US JCPOA. However, much more is still required if Europe is serious about preserving its agreement with Iran.

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Facing unpopularity at home over callous remarks associated with his controversial labour reforms, French President Emmanuel Macron is looking east in order to establish himself as Europe’s leading figure in the diplomatic rush to ‘save’ the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) from Donald Trump’s threats to fully withdraw from the agreement, after the US domestically de-certified the JCPOA, thus sending it to Congress for extended debates.

Whether Macron cares about the Iran deal as a matter of principle, seeks to enhance his personal prestige or is feeling the pressure from French companies who are successfully conducting business with Iran, is ultimately, a moot point. In reality, Europe does need to take a lead in representing the western half of the east-west agreement that is the JCPOA. Thus far, the most robust statements clarifying the EU’s continued support of the deal have come from the European Union’s High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, who spoke minutes after Trump’s speech confirming US de-certification of the JCPOA.

Everything you need to know about Trump’s de-certification of the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal)

Mogherini’s words have now been echoed by the French President who recently stated,

“I hope that we will stay within the framework of this agreement, and President Rouhani has also pledged to stay. Europe and the other negotiators will stay because we have better control over the situation and my goal is the security of the French people. At the necessary time, I’ll be there to have exigent dialogue with Iran. We might have differences but they should not be unresolvable”.

The key to this statement is Macron’s acknowledgement of the EU’s “differences” with Iran. These differences include an EU policy of hostility towards Iran’s Syrian ally, an EU policy which is seen as unbalanced in respect of Palestine and an EU policy which has since 1979, carried anti-Iranian prejudices that are similar, albeit less extreme, than that which comes out of the US.

If, as many indicate, the US will eventually withdraw from the deal or make it so that Iran believes (justifiably) that the US is failing to hold-up its end of the JCPOA, it will fall to the other parties to the agreement to either salvage the agreement without Washington or to otherwise replace it with a similar agreement that does not involve the US.

Because Russia and China have been totally consistent in their support of the deal, support of expanding commercial ventures with Iran and also supportive of Iran’s allies, the onus for meaningful change in order to make up for US opposition to the JCPOA, will naturally fall on Europe. If Emmanuel Macron wants to be the leading voice of the European side in future negotiations with Iran, he will have to make the necessary concessions to win Iran’s respect after the US struck a big blow for wider western credibility. Furthermore, for Macron personally, since he has rapidly lot credibility among a generally unforgiving French electorate, foreign policy may be his only option if he wants to regain personal prestige that he apparently covets more than even most political leaders.

The fact that after Donald Trump’s anti-Iranian remarks, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani expressed his willingness to work with Europe to preserve the letter and spirit of the JCPOA, is proof positive that Iran is entering into the next phase of discussions with the EU in good faith. To his credit, Emmanuel Macron’s willingness to visit Tehran, making him the first French leader to do so since prior to 1979, is also a sign of good faith from the EU.

Beyond this though, as a foreign policy novice, Macron, like even many of his more experienced EU partners, will have to understand something crucial about Iran in 2017. Iran today is approaching  possible JCPOA re-negotiations in a post-US environment, not with a spirit of desperation but of confidence tinged with righteous anger at US hypocrisy. Unless European leaders can show a genuine pivot away from the American attitude problem about Iran, Tehran’s anger could easily shift towards Europe.

For France in particular, there are important steps Paris must take in order to win Iran’s medium and possibly even long-term respect. Because European air power in Syria has always been something of a fig leaf to cover America’s aggressive and illegal campaign in Syria, something Vladimir Putin alluded to during his press conference with a newly elected Macron, there is no point in any European nation or body continuing to associate itself with the so-called Syrian opposition. Even forgetting the Iranian component, the EU would be best to walk away from Syria altogether. This would send a message to the US, that the EU is capable of an independent foreign policy (whether it is or not, would be tested in just such a move) and it would also save a great deal of money among EU powers.

In the longer term, France also ought to de-list Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. The EU, while proscribing Hezbollah’s military wing as such, does not target the party as a whole. The same is true for Germany and the UK, the two other EU states represented individually as part of the JCPOA. If France toned down its rhetoric and official position on both Syria and Hezbollah, it would show Iran that while France will never be as friendly towards Tehran as are Russia and China are, nor would  France pretend to be in a position of being an adversary to Iran, something it would be incapable of, even if it tried. Furthermore, if France made steps to show that it would at least be more even handed in respect of Palestine, this too would account for a great deal of good will.

At this juncture, it becomes necessary to state that my personal view is that Iran, Hezbollah and Palestine are on the morally correct side of the political divides which concern their existence. But just because myself, Iran and the general opinion of Russia and China feel this way, doesn’t change the fact that any true art of a deal, is the art of compromise. Hence, my aforementioned proposals are designed to preserve France’s inevitable geo-political trajectory, while making important rhetorical concessions that will go a long way during negotiations with Iran, but effectively change nothing in respect of the Middle East’s balance of power.

In return, Iran could build a genuine basis for good commercial relations, based on the previously agreed upon framework of the JCPOA, but one that could potentially open up even more east-west commercial highways, without the ‘ball and chain effect’ of having a reluctant United States as a party to the deal.

I for one, do not pretend that the EU is as independent of the United States as it sometimes pretends to be. However, with US geo-political influence clearly in decline, the EU ought to at least try and navigate the potential of a multi-polar world where new realities will confront everyone. Rather than wait for the US to give up on Europe, Europe should instead strike first by putting action behind its words in respect of Iran. In doing this, Europe has little to lose and potentially a great deal to gain.

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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