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Iraq and Middle East show more dignity over Kurds than Spain and EU show over Catalans

The Middle East has responded to Kurdish secessionists with a firm dignity while Europe has responded to Catalonia with childish aggression and arrogance.

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The Speaker of Iraq’s Parliament, Salim Jabouri has travelled to Erbil in northern Iraq, to meet with the Kurdish secessionist leader Masoud Barzani. The move comes as Iraq has made it clear that it will not tolerate secession, but will instead work to reach an agreement with Kurdish secessionists with the aim of preserving the status quo, wherein Kurds in norther Iraq had substantial autonomy within the framework of the Iraqi state.

Iraq and its neighbours have spoken with a singular voice on the issue. They have made it clear that they see Kurdish secessionism as a threat to the territorial unity of embattled states of the region and also a treat to regional security, not least because of Israel’s deep and dangerous connections with Kurdish nationalist movements. Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran have also spoken plainly of their legitimate fears that a Kurdish state would openly discriminate against Arabs and Turkomen in their borders, a fear which is based on present worrying trends of non-Kurds being systematically disenfranchised in Kurdish regions of both Iraq and Syria.

As I recently wrote in The Duran, not all secessionist movements can be viewed through the same prism nor be ultimately judged via a universal standard:

“In contemporary geo-politics, there are several varieties of such movements, each with unique characteristics.

1. The Reunification of Peoples 

In many ways, this ought to be the most clear-cut and least violent form of ‘independence’ movement, but history has proved that this is not always the case.

While the German people began a process of peacefully reuniting after November 1989, the single Korean people remain divided due to similar political considerations which once split Germany.

While the Korean War is effectively a frozen conflict, the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir face separation from their brethren in Pakistan due to the militant policies of successive Indian governments. In Jammu and Kashmir, violence and war is a daily fact due to India’s insistence that the Kashmiri people do not unite with their brethren in Pakistan.

In Crimea, Russians peacefully voted to reunite with the Russian Federation in 2014, but in other parts of the former Russian Empire and former Soviet Union, Russian refugees remain either ransom to foreign governments or in the case of many Russians in the Baltic states, they live as stateless people.

The votes in Donetsk and Lugansk for independence from the fascist Kiev regime are examples of an attempt to begin a peaceful reconciliation and re-unification process with other Russians, although the Donbass referenda also correlate to another kind of independence movement.

2. Independence for survival 

Prior to 2014, the Russian populations of Ukraine, were more or less comfortable with the uneasy balance of Ukrainian internal politics which was achieved by the Party of Regions which consistently won votes in Russian areas.

While The Party of Regions was committed to the unity of a Ukrainian state which artificially slammed together regions of historically rival nations, the Party of Regions worked within international institutions. in order to maintain an economic and free movement union with the fraternal Russian Federation.

This all changed drastically when the Kiev coup of 2014 put a regime in power which was and remains actively hostile to the Russians of Ukraine and to Moscow itself. Hence, the Donabss Republics were proclaimed after a democratic vote to separate from the Kiev regime.

3. Independence through terrorism 

The late 20th and 21st century has seen a number of independence movements which do not represent a significant majority of people in a given region, nor are they achieved peacefully or with any form of consent.

The classic example of this was the breakup of Yugoslavia where ultra-nationalists in Croatia, Bosnia and later the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija used violence, warfare and terrorism to break-up the unity of Yugoslavia a state whose federal model of third way socialism, was once a model for peaceful coexistence through a unifying state ideology and mutually shared prosperity.

However, foreign actors, particularly Germany, France, Britain and later the United States, aided militants and terrorists in their break-up of Yugoslavia.

Far from being an independence movement, the break-up of Yugoslavia evolved into an encircling attack on the Serbian populations of Yugoslavia. Serbs continue to be ethnically cleansed and disenfranchised in the occupied province of Kosovo and Metohija as well as in Republika Srpska which continents to shelter Serbs from the Bosnia regime in Sarajevo.

The former parts of Yugoslavia are without few if any exceptions, worse off today than they were prior to the wars and terror campaigns of the 1990s.

Likewise, in Pakistan, Baluchistan has been a hotbed of terrorism aimed at Pakistan, much of which is funded and aided by India.  Pakistan has continually warned India not to fund terrorist separatism in Baluchistan, but these warnings have been to little avail.

4. Geo-strategic/puppet independence movements 

The recent vote among Iraqi Kurds to separate from the rest of Iraq is a very clear example of a group of people using ethno-nationalism to weaken the geo-strategic positions and security of multiple nations, all while serving the imperialist agenda of a third power: Israel.

Israel is keen on carving out Kurdish statelets from Iraq and Syria in particular, in order to better realise the Yinon Plan to create a so-called Greater Israel at the expense of other states.

Something similar is happening in the west Balkans where Albanian terrorists are fomenting a campaign of ethno-nationalism. In using minority populations in Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece, in order to make moves towards a so-called Greater Albania, the Albanian NATO state is exploiting minority populations in the service and for the benefit of the United States, just as sure as Israel is exploiting the Kurds in order to destroy Arab unity and weaken the position of Iran and Turkey in the Middle East.

Implicit if this form of separatism is also an ethno-nationalist component wherein the seperatist groups disenfranchises or even ethnically cleanse minorities in their historic homes. This is increasingly the case in respect of Kurds via-a-vis Arabs, Assyrians and Turkomen, just as it was and remains the case in respect of Albanians vis-a-vis Slavs, most prominently, against Serbs.

5. Historic regional/sub-state national identities 

When a state is comprised former states who entered into a voluntary union or regions which did something similar, sometimes one side or both agrees to dissolve the union.

A peaceful example of this was the so-called Velvet Divorce between the Czechs and Slovaks in the former Czechoslovakia in 1993.

Other unsuccessful attempts to do something similar were made, including during the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.

CATALONIA: Not Iraq nor Yugoslavia, but a uniquely EU problem

Against this background, it is clear to see why Kurdish secessionism is a threat to four nations and several ethnic groups, while Catalan independence is not a direct security threat to anyone.

In spite of these realities, the firm movements against secessionism among Iraq’s neighbours have been tempered by rhetoric which often conveys sentiments of disappointment rather than violence. In many ways Iraq and her neighbours are mores shocked and insulted than enraged. Turkish President Erdogan who has been the most vocal critic of regional Kurdish secessionism, has on several occasions, asked rhetorical questions of Iraqi Kurdish leaders. Primarily, he has asked them why they seek to sacrifice good relations with Turkey and others for far flung ideas of independence that are supported only by Israel’s rogue leader, Israel’s deep state and Mossad, Israel’s secret intelligence service?

Iraq’s Parliamentary Speaker’s visit to Kurdish regions is a further sign that Iraq seeks to restore a previously functional status quo, rather than inflict a kind of punishment for a unilateral Kurdish move against the interests of Iraq. Iraq is of course going to act in its interests if threatened, but Baghdad is also working at the same time to de-escalate tensions. It is a carrot and stick approach which is similar to the Sino-Russian approach to Pyongyang.

Iran’s soft spoken President Rouhani’s statements of disappointment have been matched by a Syrian government that says it is willing to engage in dialogue with Syrian Kurds after the conflict against jihadists is over, in a move that will help to separate Kurdish radicals from ordinary citizens looking to reach a peaceful and amicable agreement with the legitimate government.

Syria prepared to discuss post-war autonomy with Kurds in geo-strategic blow to the US and Israel

Finally, the leader of the Lebanese party Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has condemned Kurdish secessionism while calling Kurds “brothers” in a well reasoned statement arguing for total equality within the framework of Arab states remaining united against Israeli and western imperialist aggression.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah offers incredibly balanced view on Kurdish referendum

While Catalan independence poses minimal problems for Spain and the wider European region when compared to Kurdish secessionism in the Middle East, the leaders in Madrid, the EU and other European states, have responded to the Catalan referendum in a manner that can only be described as heavy-handed without justification and unrealistic without any hint of willingness to reconcile undeniable differences. Arabs, Iranians and Turks have genuine fears of a Kurdish state that could act as an Israeli puppet and a home for terrorists, yet they are still trying to convince the Kurds of Iraq to go back to a situation of generous autonomy in northern Iraq.

By contrast, one of the very reasons that Catalonia held an independence vote a week ago, is due to the fact that the deeply corrupt Spanish Constitutional Court abolished much of the autonomy given to Catalonia by the left of centre government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2006.

Today’s right-wing/neo-Francoist Spanish regime, lead by Mariano Rajoy has done everything it can to push Catalonia further away. From open police violence against unarmed, peaceful voters, to speeches from both the Prime Minister and Spanish King slamming the very idea that Catalans have the right to express an opinion, Spain is treating Catalonia not like a part of a united nation, but like a colony fit to be exploited and spat upon.

Just today, in spite of Catalonia’s President  Carles Puigdemont calling for respectful dialogue with Madrid, Mariano Rajoy has stated that the Spanish Civil Guards (heavily armed riot police) will remain in Catalonia, against the wishes of Catalans and that furthermore, Madrid will not engage in any dialogue with Barcelona.

The response from the EU has been equally disappointing. No major EU figure has tried to calm tensions and assure an even handed approach to the biggest crisis in the union since the 2007/2008 financial crash. The silence from the EU has been shocking, not least because there is no organisation that is theoretically better placed to solve an internal EU crisis than the EU itself.

Other figures from leading EU states, have either said nothing, or dismissed Catalan grievances with total arrogance. This includes Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who revealed the extent of his own hypocrisy when supporting Spanish unity, while at the same time leading the charge for a British exit from the European Union in the most extreme manner possible. This is the same Johnson who maliciously said that the only trouble with turning Muammar Gaddafi’s birthplace of Sirte into “Dubai” is that one must clear the city of “all the dead bodies”. These of course were dead bodies created by a war his own regime conducted.

While Arab, Iranian and Turkish leaders are attempting to firmly, but transparently put a lid on a genuine threat to their region, Spanish and European leaders have turned what may have only ever amounted to an isolated localised problem, into a crisis of confidence, democracy and human rights in the heart of the European Union. This is the same EU which claims it is a bastion of stability, democracy and human rights.

Many European figures often talk about their part of the world as being among the planet’s most civilised places. A simple exercise in contrasting Middle Eastern responses to Kurdish secessionists and European responses to Catalan secessionists, demonstrates that this simply is not true. The much derided Middle East has outclassed Europe in its handling of issues which on the surface, have some resemblance to one another. Europe ought to examine its own exceptionalist claims, claims which date back to and remain guided by an imperialist attitude which has no place in the civilised world.

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

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Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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