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Following Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel, Iran has no option but to look to China and Russia

The extraordinary hostility towards Iran from the US and Saudi Arabia, creating the possibility of an attack on Iran and ending all question of the imminent lifting of sanctions, shows that Iran has no alternative other than to forge close links with China and Russia and the Eurasian institutions if its to ensure its security and its economic future.

Alexander Mercouris

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US President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, his agreement to supply Saudi Arabia with $300 billion worth of US arms, his implacably hostile rhetoric towards Iran, and the openly expressed intentions of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to launch a pre-emptive war against Iran, clarify policy options for Iran’s leadership and people.

It is now clear that the option of a rapprochement between Iran and the West does not exist whilst Iran remains an Islamic Republic.

Instead the US sees or pretends to see an existential threat from Iran towards Israel and – bizarrely – towards itself, and has sided decisively against Iran with Iran’s enemies, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman has moreover said that there is nothing the Iranians can ever say or do which will make him change his attitude of implacable hostility towards them.

This means that the only realistic option for Iran’s leaders – both the so-called reformists like Rouhani, and the conservatives – is to commit wholeheartedly to the strategic partnership Russia has offered them, and to integrate Iran fully into the Eurasian institutions which Russia and China are busy creating.

There are four of these Eurasian institutions that matter, though there are others – such as the ephemeral “Commonwealth of Independent States” set up by Boris Yeltsin in 1991 as a purported alternative to the USSR – which retain a sometimes shadowy existence.

The four Eurasian institutions which really matter are:

(1) The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a security grouping led by China of which Russia is a key member;

(2) The One Belt, One Road project, a Chinese project replacing the previous Silk Road project, whose aim is to integrate the whole of Eurasia economically by creating a massive infrastructure web;

(3) the Eurasian Economic Union, a Russian project to reintegrate certain of the economies of the former USSR, which was originally built around Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, but which is now expanding to include other former Soviet states as well; and

(4) The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (“CSTO”), a Russian led military alliance bringing together essentially the same states that make up the Eurasian Economic Union, but of which Serbia and Afghanistan are observers.

Since Iran is a non-aligned state it cannot realistically join the Eurasian Economic Union or the CSTO without compromising this status, and the Russians would anyway be reluctant to have it do so since that would extend these two institutions beyond the territory of the former USSR, which these institutions are intended to reintegrate.

However there is no reason why Iran cannot develop close bilateral relations with China and Russia and with the Russian led Eurasian Economic Union and the CSTO, and no reason at all why Iran cannot participate to the fullest degree in the two Chinese led institutions, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the One Belt, One Road project.

Moreover since it is clear that the Chinese and the Russians are working towards fusing the Eurasian institutions each of them has created – the Chinese led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and One Belt, One Road project, and the Russian led Eurasian Economic Union and CSTO – as part of their joint ‘Greater Eurasia Project‘ (that ultimately was what the One Belt, One Road conference in Beijing earlier this month was all about), Iran loses nothing and compromises nothing by integrating itself fully in the two Chinese led institutions whilst forging ever closer links to Russia and to the two Eurasian institutions led by Russia.

Iran has observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and formally applied to join in 2008.  It could not do so then because it was under UN sanctions.  These have now been formally lifted following the 2015 nuclear agreement.

During his visit to Iran in January 2016 Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China supported Iran’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as a full member, and Russian President Putin told Iranian President Rouhani during their recent summit in Moscow that Russia now does so also.

In the light of the threats coming from Saudi Arabia, the US and Israel, Iran should make joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as a full member its foreign policy priority, and it should lobby hard in Beijing and Moscow for it to be allowed to do so without delay.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is not a fully fledged military alliance in the way that NATO and the CSTO are.  However it is a security grouping which bring together two Great Powers – China and Russia – and a potential third Great Power – India, and of which four nuclear powers – China, Russia, India and Pakistan – are members.

Whilst membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation would not cause these powers to defend Iran in the event it came under attack, they would be bound to respond angrily if a fellow member state like Iran came under attack.  Since Iran’s key regional enemies – Saudi Arabia and Israel – have close relations with some of these powers (China especially) that would in itself be a powerful deterrent against such an attack.

In addition Iran joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation would bury talk – heard often during Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia – that Iran is internationally isolated.  It would show that on the contrary Iran is a member of a security grouping which brings together some of the world’s greatest powers.

Iran should not however merely seek membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.  Though the UN sanctions have been lifted, the US is continuing to enforce unilateral sanctions against Iran, and the European Union is unwilling to resume full trading relations with Iran because of them.

Donald Trump’s hostility to Iran, and his alignment of the US with Iran’s implacable enemies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, means that there is no prospect of these unilateral US sanctions being lifted any time soon.

Moreover since the unilateral sanctions were not lifted during the time of the Obama administration – which was significantly less hostile to Iran than the Trump administration, and which agreed the nuclear agreement with Iran – there is no realistic possibility that any other US administration which succeeds or replaces the Trump administration will lift the sanctions any time soon.

What this means is that Iran must plan its economic future on the basis that for the time being at least the sanctions are going to remain in place.

Giant and sophisticated economies like China’s and Russia’s can shrug off Western sanctions, as China did after 1989 and as Russia is doing now.  Iran’s much smaller and less sophisticated economy will struggle to do so.

The result is that though Iran has avoided economic collapse despite the sanctions, over the last decade real income growth has stopped or even reversed, and inflation and unemployment – especially youth unemployment – have been continuously high.  In the meantime Iran’s infrastructure has been starved of investment.

Until roughly a decade ago a country whose economy found itself in this situation had no realistic option if it was to develop but to try to mend fences with the West, which at that time had an effective monopoly on capital, technology and trade.

The economic rise of Russia and China – especially of China – means this is no longer the case.

Though many Iranian businesspeople continue to hanker after a revival of Iran’s traditional trade links with the West, they now have a realistic and attractive alternative being offered to them, and they should embrace it.

Reports suggest that a major factor holding Iran back from full integration with the Eurasian institutions is Iran’s traditional suspicion of Russia, which together with cultural differences is standing in the way of the proposed joint economic projects which Russia has been proposing.

This suspicion has a historical basis.

Since the seventeenth century Russia and Iran have fought six wars, the most recent of which happened as recently as 1941 during the Second World War.  Every one of these wars save the first ended with Iran’s defeat.  The fourth and fifth wars resulted in the collapse of Iran’s position in the Caucasus and the loss of vast territories including Armenia, Georgia and what is now Azerbaijan.  The sixth war resulted in the Soviet occupation of northern Iran including Tehran.

Over and above these defeats, the tsarist government in the decade before the First World War sought to carve out with British agreement a Russian sphere of influence in northern Iran, which would have included the capital Tehran, whilst following the end of the Second World War the USSR attempted to do the same in the Iranian controlled part of Azerbaijan.

During the Cold War Iran whilst still under the rule of the Shah was strongly allied against the USSR with the US, and many Iranians continue to resent the fact that the USSR supplied arms to Iraq during the later stages of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Beyond this there is the fact that post-Soviet Russia supported UN sanctions against Iran, whilst former Russian President Medvedev did lasting damage to Russia’s relations with Iran by blocking the supply in 2010 of S-300 missiles to Iran, as previously agreed by Russia and Iran in 2007.

This history explains why there is considerable suspicion and hostility towards Russia in Iran.

This has sometimes taken self-destructive forms.  For example it seems that following the US cruise missile attack on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base Iranian social media filled with comments mocking Russia’s alleged inability to shoot down the missiles.

Russia for its part has not always treated Iran with the sensitivity that is required.  As a Great Power which conducts its foreign policy on a global scale, Russia inevitably sees its past dealings with Iran as a minor detail of its history, and has not always shown proper awareness of the fact that Iranians see this history very differently.

The time has however now come for Iran to put all this to one side.  Its only realistic alternative is to do what the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel want it to do, which is change its system of government, jettison its Islamic constitution, revert to being the loyal subordinate to Western policy which it was during the time of the Shah, and ‘open up’ its economy to Western influence, with all the neoliberal ‘shock therapies’ that will come with that.

There are certainly people in Iran who would embrace that option, but everything that is known about the country suggests they are a small – if noisy – minority.

Besides with the rise of Eurasia and of China and Russia that sort of policy risks putting Iran on the wrong side of history.

Iran’s interests clearly point to its need to put aside whatever residual doubts it still has, and commit itself wholeheartedly to strong relations with Russia and China and the highest level of integration possible with the Eurasian institutions.  That way lies security, independence and prosperity.

The alternatives – subordination to the West or stagnation under the permanent threat of attack – hardly look inviting, and no one who sincerely cares for Iran would propose them.

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Putin, Trump meet in Helsinki for first bilateral summit

The Helsinki summit is the first ever full-fledged meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Their previous encounters were brief talks on the sidelines of the G20 and APEC summits in 2017.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump are meeting in the Finnish capital of Helsinki for their first bilateral one-on-one meeting.

Trump arrived in the Finland capital a day early, while the jet of Putin, who wrapped up his nation’s hosting of the World Cup Sunday, touched down around 1 p.m. local time and the Russian president’s motorcade whisked him straight to the palace where the two world leaders are meeting.

Trump signed an August 2017 law imposing additional sanctions on Russia. The law bars Trump from easing many sanctions without Congress’ approval, but he can offer some relief without a nod from Congress.

Almost 700 Russian people and companies are under U.S. sanctions. Individuals face limits on their travel and freezes on at least some of their assets, while some top Russian state banks and companies, including oil and gas giants, are effectively barred from getting financing through U.S. banks and markets.

The agenda of the summit hasn’t been officially announced yet, though, the presidents are expected to discuss global crises, such as the Syrian conflict and Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations.

Stay tuned for updates…

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“Foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails (Video)

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx): Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails was hacked by foreign actor, and it was not Russia.

Alex Christoforou

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A stunning revelation that hardly anyone in the mainstream media is covering.

Fox News gave Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) the opportunity to explain what was going on during his questioning of Peter Strzok, when the the Texas Congressman stated that a “foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Aside from this segment on Fox News, this story is not getting any coverage, and we know why. It destroys the entire ‘Russia hacked Hillary’ narrative.

Gohmert states that this evidence is irrefutable and shows that a foreign actor, not connected to Russia in any way, intercepted and distributed Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via Zerohedge

As we sift through the ashes of Thursday’s dumpster-fire Congressional hearing with still employed FBI agent Peter Strzok, Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller plucked out a key exchange between Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) and Strzok which revealed a yet-unknown bombshell about the Clinton email case.

Nearly all of Hillary Clinton’s emails on her homebrew server went to a foreign entity that isn’t Russia. When this was discovered by the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), IG Chuck McCullough sent his investigator Frank Ruckner and an attorney to notify Strzok along with three other people about the “anomaly.”

Four separate attempts were also made to notify DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to brief him on the massive security breach, however Horowitz “never returned the call.” Recall that Horowitz concluded last month that despite Strzok’s extreme bias towards Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump – none of it translated to Strzok’s work at the FBI.

In other words; Strzok, while investigating Clinton’s email server, completely ignored the fact that most of Clinton’s emails were sent to a foreign entity – while IG Horowitz simply didn’t want to know about it.

Daily Caller reports…

The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) found an “anomaly on Hillary Clinton’s emails going through their private server, and when they had done the forensic analysis, they found that her emails, every single one except four, over 30,000, were going to an address that was not on the distribution list,” Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said during a hearing with FBI official Peter Strzok.

Gohmert continued..

“It was going to an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia.”

Strzok admitted to meeting with Ruckner but said he couldn’t remember the “specific” content of their discussion.

“The forensic examination was done by the ICIG and they can document that,” Gohmert said, “but you were given that information and you did nothing with it.”

According to Zerohedge “Mr. Horowitz got a call four times from someone wanting to brief him about this, and he never returned the call,” Gohmert said – and Horowitz wouldn’t return the call.

And while Peter Strzok couldn’t remember the specifics of his meeting with the IG about the giant “foreign entity” bombshell, he texted this to his mistress Lisa Page when the IG discovered the “(C)” classification on several of Clinton’s emails – something the FBI overlooked:

“Holy cow … if the FBI missed this, what else was missed? … Remind me to tell you to flag for Andy [redacted] emails we (actually ICIG) found that have portion marks (C) on a couple of paras. DoJ was Very Concerned about this.”

Via Zerohedge

In November of 2017, IG McCullough – an Obama appointee – revealed to Fox News that he received pushback when he tried to tell former DNI James Clapper about the foreign entity which had Clinton’s emails and other anomalies.

Instead of being embraced for trying to expose an illegal act, seven senators including Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) wrote a letter accusing him of politicizing the issue.

“It’s absolutely irrelevant whether something is marked classified, it is the character of the information,” he said. Fox News reports…

McCullough said that from that point forward, he received only criticism and an “adversarial posture” from Congress when he tried to rectify the situation.

“I expected to be embraced and protected,” he said, adding that a Hill staffer “chided” him for failing to consider the “political consequences” of the information he was blowing the whistle on.

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Donald Trump plays good cop and bad cop with a weak Theresa May (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 55.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK was momentous, not for its substance, but rather for its sheer entertainment value.

Trump started his trip to the United Kingdom blasting Theresa May for her inability to negotiate a proper Brexit deal with the EU.  Trump ended his visit holding hands with the UK Prime Minister during a press conference where the most ‘special relationship’ between the two allies was once again reaffirmed.

Protests saw giant Trump “baby balloons” fly over London’s city center, as Trump played was his own good cop and bad cop to the UK PM, outside London at the Chequers…often times leaving May’s head spinning.

Even as Trump has left London, he remains front and center in the mind of Theresa May, who has now stated that Trump advised her to “sue” the European Union to resolve the tense negotiations over Brexit.

Trump had mentioned to reporters on Friday at a joint press conference with Theresa May that he had given the British leader a suggestion that she found too “brutal.”

Asked Sunday on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show what that suggestion was, May: “He told me I should sue the EU. Not go into negotiation, sue them.” May added…

“What the president also said at that press conference was `Don’t walk away. Don’t walk away from the negotiations. Then you’re stuck.”‘

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris summarize what was a state visit like no other, as Trump trolled the UK PM from beginning to end, and left London knowing that he got the better of a weakened British Prime Minister, who may not survive in office past next week.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via CNBC

It wasn’t exactly clear what Trump meant. The revelation came after explosive and undiplomatic remarks Trump made this week about May’s leadership — especially her handling of the Brexit negotiations — as he made his first official visit to Britain.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper published Thursday — just as May was hosting Trump at a lavish black-tie dinner — Trump said the British leader’s approach likely “killed” chances of a free-trade deal with the United States. He said he had told May how to conduct Brexit negotiations, “but she didn’t listen to me.”

He also praised May’s rival, Boris Johnson, who quit last week as foreign secretary to protest May’s Brexit plans. Trump claimed Johnson would make a “great prime minister.”

The comments shocked many in Britain — even May’s opponents — and threatened to undermine May’s already fragile hold on power. Her Conservative government is deeply split between supporters of a clean break with the EU and those who want to keep close ties with the bloc, Britain’s biggest trading partner.

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