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4 key developments from President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran

Iran and Russia continue to expand bilateral relations.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has been in the Iranian capital, Tehran for meetings with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.

The meetings which have been largely described as successful, coincided with the beginning of work on Iran’s second nuclear power station, which will be constructed by Russian engineers and master builders.

Russia begins building Iran nuclear power station

Iran’s Supreme Leader spoke positively of the meetings and encouraged Russia to join with Iran in developing alternatives to the US Dollar as a basis for international trade. Ayatollah Khamenei stated,

“By ignoring the negative propaganda of the enemies, that seek to weaken relations between countries, we can nullify US sanctions, using methods such as eliminating the dollar and replacing it with national currencies in transactions between two or more parties; thus, isolate the Americans”.

Khameni also stated that he looks forward to further manifold cooperative efforts with Russia. President Putin responded by calling Iran “a strategic partner and a great neighbour, and we will take advantage of every opportunity to expand and consolidate relationships in all dimensions”.

Similar words were echoed by Iranian President Rouhani who called Russia a “good neighbour and friend” and pledged “to further develop relations with our good and very important neighbour and friend – Russia, as well as to continue working together on security issues”.

Putin’s meeting with the Iranian leadership is highly significant both for bilateral relations and for wider regional and global developments. Here are the key points to emerge from the meetings:

1. Sanctions busters 

Russia’s continued and growing economic relations with Iran, including in the field of nuclear energy, is a sign that Russia has no intention whatsoever to follow the US lead in attempting to isolate Iran. Furthermore, as a party to the JCPOA (aka Iran nuclear deal), Russia like China, France, Britain, Germany and the EU as a whole, is perfectly satisfied that Iran is in full compliance with the letter and spirit of the JCPOA.

Russia, which will also assist Iran in building a gas pipeline to India, is positioning itself to fill any economic voids in Iran’s commercial and energy needs, created by a potential (some would say likely) withdrawal from the JCPOA.

With China working to promote the Petroyuan as a means of exchange in the global energy markets, Iran as an OPEC member, is well placed to step away from the US Dollar in cooperation with countries like China, Russia and Venezuela who are already making strides in ditching the Petrodollar.

As Russia and Iran both find themselves on the receiving end of US sanctions, it makes increasing pragmatic sense for both countries to find ways to avoid the restrictions on transactions that are based on the US financial system.

Russia and China actively collude to bring down the only thing America cares about

2. A message to Syria 

Russia and Iran have been and continue to be Syria’s most important state allies in the war to liberate the Syrian Arab Republic from terrorist occupation. This unified front, including on security matters, will help assure Syria that its partners in the fight against Takfiri terrorism will continue to stay the course until Syria is fully liberated.

Iran and Russia also continue cooperate, along with Turkey which itself has recently developed healthy relations with both Moscow and Tehran, in the Astana Peace Talks for Syria.

3. A message to Israel 

Many pundits and even politicians remain perplexed at the fact that Russia has uniquely good relations with both Iran and Israel. China it must be said, has good relations with the regional rivals as well.

While China’s interests in the Middle East are mainly commercial interests, as well as the overriding desire for a more stable Middle East so that One Belt–One Road can pass smoothly through key destinations, Russia’s interests are inclusive of China’s but go several steps further.

Russia seeks a stable Middle East where current borders are solidified, with the exception of working slowly with any amiable partners to realise a two-state solution in respect of the Israel-Palestine issue.

While Russia supports Iran’s aims at pacifying terrorist activity in Iraq and Syria, something opposed by Israel, Russia also is not willing to risk direct conflict with Israel over its long-standing hatred of the Ba’athist government in Syria. Russia, however, also refuses to give way to Israel’s demands for countries like Russia to define the Lebanese political party Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

The ultimate conclusion of this policy is one of strategic balance, one made more apparent when one realises that while Russia is effectively a neighbour of the Middle East, it is not part of the Middle East and therefore does not look at events in the region through the prism of emotion. Russia’s lack of emotion on the Middle East is sometimes thought of as ‘disloyal’. However, one cannot be disloyal to a region that is ultimately foreign, albeit neighbourly and fraternal.

By visiting Iran, Putin is making it clear that no matter what Israel says, the status quo will not change. Ultimately, Iran is a larger state and therefore a more important long term strategic partner to Russia than Israel or Palestine could either be. This is the cold hard reality of the situation which while balanced, still comes out slightly in favour of Iran, something from which, many who support both Syria and Palestine should ultimately derive a sense of relief.

4. A message to the US and EU 

In showing that Moscow’s doors to business and cooperation are open to Iran, Russia is demonstrating that US bullying, whether against Russia or Iran, will not negatively impact on existing and future relations. If anything, Russia and Iran both have an interest in playing up the idea that the US attitude to Moscow and Tehran are galvanising both sides in the Eurasian partnership.

When it comes to Europe, Iran, Russia and major EU players are on the same page–they all want to leave opportunities with Iran firmly open, in spite of Washington’s attitude to the JCPOA.

In doing business with Iran, Russia is effectively sending the following message to Europe: ‘We can help you to continue and do business with Iran, in keeping with the JCPOA, but in order to win Russian trust, the EU must drop its own sanctions against Russia.

Russia isn’t overwhelmingly concerned with the European response to this implied message. However, Russia is laying a very realistic set of cards on the table. If the EU wants to remain on good terms with Iran, Russia, as a superpower with exceedingly good relations with Iran can help, but this help requires the EU to do something for Russia.

With many in Europe realising that major EU countries backed the losing side in both Syria and Ukraine, many in Europe are moving towards a more pragmatic position. It still however remains to be seen whether this movement away from fanaticism will lead to meaningful results. Russia for one, isn’t going to wait around to find out, it will continue making progress with its eager partners, including Iran.

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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