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Russia outsmarts Nikki Haley in UN Security Council debate

Majority of UN Security Council members fail to vote against Russian draft Resolution severely criticising conduct of OPCW-UN-JIM

Alexander Mercouris

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The events at the United Nations Security Council surrounding the joint OPCW-UN-JIM investigation  report (“the report”) into the alleged Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapon attack are not being widely reported.

This is unfortunate because they show that international opinion is swinging heavily against the report, which has lost credibility.

Here an account of what happened on the two most recent occasions when the UN Security Council discussed this issue is necessary.

On 24th October 2017 the Russians vetoed at the UN Security Council a resolution to extend the OPCW’s mandate in Syria.  They complained that the resolution presented to the UN Security Council to extend the OPCW’s mandate had been brought forward in haste before its report had been provided to the UN Security Council.   They pointed out that this was obviously inappropriate and appeared intended to led authority to the report before it was published. They said that there was actually no need to bring forward a resolution to extend the OPCW’s mandate in that way, and that the more correct time to bring such a resolution forward was after the report had been submitted to the UN Security Council for its consideration.

The Russians during the 24th October 2017 UN Security Council session also severely criticised the methodology used to prepare the report by the OPCW-UN-JIM team, pointing out that it was being prepared without inspections of the two sites in Syria relevant to an understanding of the incident: Khan Sheikhoun itself, where the attack allegedly took place, and Al-Sharyat air base, from where the attack was allegedly launched.

At this point it is necessary to say that the current structure of the UN Security Council means that the US can normally rely on a built-in majority in any vote in the UN Security Council.  In the overwhelming of cases where resolutions are presented to the UN Security Council the US can rely on the well-nigh automatic support of 9 to 10 of its members, which is enough to pass a resolution where there is no veto.

Though this proved to be the case with the resolution presented to the UN Security Council on 24th October 2017, the account of the discussion around the resolution provided by the United Nations press centre shows that the Russian concerns – both about the seeming haste in bringing the resolution forward, and concerning the flawed methodology being used to prepare the OPCW-UN-JIM report – were widely shared even by some states which voted for the US backed resolution.

The two strongest statements expressing such doubts were made by the ambassadors of Ethiopia and Egypt, both of who are normally reliable US allies.

Here is how the UN press centre reports the comments of the Ethiopian ambassador

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) expressed regret that the Council had not been able to adopt the draft resolution since the Mechanism had been created on the basis of consensus.  Ethiopia had voted in favour of the text because there remained credible allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria, he said, adding that renewing the mandate should ensure continuity of the Mechanism’s work.  Despite today’s outcome, Ethiopia was hopeful that the Council’ unity would be restored and compromise found, because failure to renew the mandate would be send the wrong message to the perpetrators.  However, today’s outcome should not be interpreted as an a priori endorsement of the Mechanism’s report, he cautioned, emphasizing that its final version was expected to establish clear responsibility for the two incidents mentioned.  Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons should be punished on the basis of robust and conclusive evidence, he said, underlining, however, that it was impossible to overlook the concerns of the Russian Federation and Bolivia, which was the reason why politicization must be avoided.

(bold italics added)

And here is how the UN press centre reports the comments of the Egyptian ambassador

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said he had voted in favour of the draft because of his country’s interest in ensuring that those involved in using chemical weapons in Syria were identified.  The use and growing proliferation of chemical weapons in that country posed a threat to security in the region and around the world, he said, noting the non-existence of an international system to deter non-State groups from acquiring such weapons.  The Mechanism’s methodologies must be improved and sites in Syria visited, he said, adding that conducting such visits and collecting available evidence in a timely manner would help in creating a strong foundation for any findings to be issued.  The Council could still renew the Mechanism’s mandate and improve its methodology, he said, emphasizing that its work must be carried out in an impartial and independent manner, and must not be politicized.

(bold italics added)

In the voting over the resolution two states voted against it – Russia and Bolivia – and two abstained – China and Kazakhstan.

It is however clear from their comments (see above) that if they had felt wholly free to vote as they wished, Ethiopia and Egypt would either have voted against it or would have abstained.

That would have brought the majority in support of the US backed resolution down to just nine, which is the bare majority needed to pass a resolution in the absence of a veto.

Ethiopia and Egypt were not prepared to go so far.  The US is known to take careful note of how states vote in the UN Security Council.  With Ethiopia and Egypt both heavily dependent on the US for aid, they were not prepared to risk their relationship with the US by openly defying it on an issue of such importance.  However, as their comments show, their ambassadors nonetheless made their true feelings clear.

In the weeks that followed the OPCW-UN-JIM report was duly submitted to the UN Security Council.  I do not propose to discuss this report in any detail because its flaws have already been thoroughly discussed and analysed by Rick Sterling.

My own quick observations about the OPCW-UN-JIM report are

(1) no attempt was made to inspect the site of the alleged chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun;

(2) no inference was drawn from the supposed security concerns which allegedly prevented such an inspection of the alleged site of the attack in Khan Sheikhoun from taking place;

(3) no inference was drawn from the apparent tampering of the site after the alleged attack (eg. by the concreting over of the bomb crater alleged to have been caused by the alleged attack); and

(4) no attempt was made to inspect Al-Sharyat air base – the site from which the alleged chemical weapons attack was allegedly launched – despite the fact that the security concerns which supposedly prevented an inspection of the Khan Sheikhoun site did not apply there.

Instead, in the absence of such inspections of the two sites relevant to an understanding of the supposed incident, the report relied wholly

(5) on eye-witness evidence, though this has been repeatedly shown to be unreliable;

(6) on video evidence, which is also generally acknowledged to be unreliable;

(In both cases there are or should be particular concerns about the use of this sort of evidence in this case given that it was provided in both cases by individuals operating in an Al-Qaeda controlled area)

and

(7) on sampling obtained through a chain of custody which is widely acknowledged to be insecure, and which also originated and was collected without proper or independent supervision in an Al-Qaeda controlled area.

The video evidence as it turns out is inconclusive (it does not show the attack) and the eye-witness evidence – obtained from witnesses in an Al-Qaeda controlled area – suffers from time discrepancies that the report is unable to resolve.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, there is even some reason to think that some of the individuals who were supposedly victims of the alleged attack were admitted to hospital before the earliest time that the attack could have taken place.

Such a report has inevitably come in for a great deal of criticism from the Russians, who have rejected it, and have called it unprofessional.

The key point about UN Security Council session on 16th November 2017 (yesterday) is that it shows the extent to which these criticisms are gaining traction.

Two draft resolutions were presented to the UN Security Council on 16th November 2017, one by the US and one by Russia.

With its built-in majority the US was initially successful in preventing the Russian drafted resolution from being put to the vote.  It being obvious that the UN Security Council would not vote for the Russian drafted resolution the Russians withdrew it.

However, stung by criticism of the methodology used to prepare the OPCW-UN-JIM report, the US does appear to have conceded some cosmetic changes to the text of its resolution.  However these proved unacceptable to the Russians.

The Russians accordingly vetoed the resolution, voting against it together with Bolivia, with China and on this occasion Egypt abstaining.

Up to this point events had followed what has become the established pattern of debates within the UN Security Council.

The US – relying on its built-on majority – proposes a resolution on Syria or Ukraine or some other issue, which it knows Russian cannot accept and will vote against.  That gives the US and other Western ambassadors an opportunity to grandstand at Russian expense.  The ambassadors of the non-aligned states look on with ill-concealed disapproval, making clear in coded language their unhappiness that the UN Security Council is being used in this way.  However they then vote for the US proposed resolution through gritted teeth, ensuring that their concerns go unreported in the Western media. The Chinese ambassador makes clear his support for Russia but when the final vote comes usually abstains.  The Russians give as good as they get, and veto the resolution as the US always expected.  The Western media then writes up the story of how Russia was “isolated” in the UN Security Council, and round on Russia for being obstructive.  Occasionally there is even a portentous article saying Russia should be stripped of its veto.

That was not what happened yesterday, and it was what happened after the Russians vetoed the US backed resolution which led to events no longer following the usual pre-arranged script.

Though the Russians had previously withdrawn their resolution in the knowledge that the UN Security Council would never vote for it, it was re-presented – undoubtedly by prearrangement with the Chinese and the the Russians – to the UN Security Council by the Bolivian ambassador once voting on the US draft resolution was out of the way.

On this occasion the three Eurasian states – Russia, China and Kazakhstan – all voted for the Russian drafted resolution along with Bolivia.

However only six or possibly seven states backed the US by voting against it – the US, Britain, France, Ukraine, Italy and Sweden, and possibly Uruguay.

Significantly it seems that all four of what are sometimes called the non-aligned states – Ethiopia, Egypt, Senegal and Uruguay – abstained, along with Japan – a US ally, which also abstained – even though all of these countries are in reality allies of the US.

(NB: there is an error in the UN press centre’s summary of the vote on the Russian backed resolution.  It says that Japan both voted against and abstained in the vote on the resolution, which is of course impossible.  In fact it seems clear that Japan abstained, an event so surprising that it knocked the UN press centre’s note takers off-balance, causing them to report Japan’s vote wrongly in one place in their summary as a vote against.  The UN press centre’s summary also fails to report Uruguay’s vote, though it is likely that it too abstained).

The summary of the debate provided by the United Nations press centre vividly captures the quality of the whole debate

The United States draft on extending the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons‑United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism was rejected due to the negative vote of a permanent member following a vote of 11 in favour to 2 against (Bolivia, Russian Federation), with 2 abstaining (China, Egypt).  Had it been adopted, it would have extended the Mechanism’s mandate — established by resolution 2235 (2015) and set to expire tomorrow, 17 November — for a further one year.

The Bolivian draft on extending the Mechanism, also for one year, was rejected after first being tabled by the Russian Federation and withdrawn.  The text was rejected by a vote of 4 in favour (Bolivia, China, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation) to 7 against (France, Italy, Japan, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States) with 4 abstaining (Egypt, Ethiopia, Japan, Ukraine).  It would have welcomed what it called the “full and profound cooperation” extended by the Syrian Government to the Mechanism and the other group investigating chemical attacks, the fact‑finding mission.

Regretting the lack of visits to the sites of chemical incidents, and lack of full chain of custody of evidence and other methodological factors that might cast doubt on the Mechanism’s conclusions, the Russian draft tabled by Bolivia would have requested that investigative teams be dispatched to Khan Shaykhun and the Shayrat airbase, subjects of the most recent report of the Mechanism.  It would have requested the Mechanism to collect and analyse information on use by non‑State actors of chemical weapons, and to submit to the Council analytical reports every three months.  It would have also called for greater focus on the use of non‑State weapons by non‑State actors.

In addition to the provisions contained in the draft that failed on 24 October (see Press Release SC/13040), the United States draft would have underscored the ongoing importance of the Mechanism conducting its investigations according to high methodological standards and basing its findings on the evidentiary levels outlined in its first report.  It would have encouraged the Mechanism to consult United Nations bodies on counter‑terrorism and non‑proliferation to exchange information on attacks by non‑State actors.  It also would have encouraged the Mechanism to inform the Council of any inability to gain access to sites relevant to investigations.

The Russian draft was withdrawn before either text was voted on, after a Russian Federation proposal that its draft be voted on after the United States draft was rejected in a procedural vote.  It was tabled by Bolivia after the rejection of the United States draft and statements after that vote.  Before and after the voting, all Council members condemned the use of chemical weapons and called for accountability for perpetrators through professional, impartial investigation.

In multiple statements, the supporters of the draft, however, said that today’s procedure pushed that goal back by not guaranteeing the continuity of the Mechanism.  The representative of the United States said that the Russian Federation had struck a deep blow to the effort, killing the Mechanism and eliminating its ability to identify attackers and deter future attacks.  She accused the Russian delegation of playing games with its procedural moves and not consulting with other delegations to come up with a compromise.  The representative of the United Kingdom stated that the goal of the Russian Federation was to scuttle the Mechanism because it simply could not accept any investigation that attributed guilt to its Syrian ally.

Italy’s representative, voting for the United States draft and against the Russian and Bolivian text, recounted the extensive negotiations that had gone into the United States draft to ensure that all concerns were addressed.  He said that the outcome weakened the security architecture and was difficult to merely accept.  He pledged continued work to ensure the investigations continued, however.

Japan’s representative, having voted for the United States draft and abstaining from voting on the Russian text, stressed that despite the procedures, the Council was still responsible to act to prevent further use of chemical weapons and to provide accountability for attacks in Syria.  He urged Council members to work to find consensus on renewing the Mechanism.

The representative of the Russian Federation, in multiple statements, said that the flaws in the operations of the Mechanism were not concretely addressed in the United States draft, but were addressed in his text.  He expressed disappointment that the initiative for extending and qualitatively improving the Mechanism had failed to secure the requisite support.  Calling the way the votes had occurred an effort to disparage his country, he said various tricks would now be used to pin the cessation of the Mechanism’s activity on his country.  Noting that his delegation had been accused of not taking part in consultations, he said that they had met three times with the United States colleagues.

Similarly, the representatives of China and Bolivia expressed their strong desire for the continuance of the Mechanism, but an equally strong wish that concerns over methodology be addressed.  Both therefore voted for the Russian text, with Bolivia voting against the other draft and China abstaining.

Speaking before the first vote were Bolivia, Russian Federation and the United States.  Speaking after that vote were the United States, France, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Senegal, China, Japan, Egypt, Russian Federation, Italy and Syria.

Speaking before the vote on the second draft were Bolivia, Russian Federation and the United States.  Speaking after that vote were Egypt, Ukraine, Japan, China, Russian Federation and Bolivia.  The Russian Federation spoke a final time after those speakers.

The meeting began at 3:15 p.m. and closed at 5:49 p.m.  During that period the meeting was suspended for 15 minutes after the first vote and the comments following it.

Note that nine members of the UN Security Council (or eight if Uruguay voted with the US) – in other words a majority – either voted for or declined to vote against a Russian drafted resolution which

…..[welcomed] ……the “full and profound cooperation” extended by the Syrian Government to the Mechanism……[regretted] the lack of visits to the sites of chemical incidents, and lack of full chain of custody of evidence and other methodological factors that might cast doubt on the Mechanism’s conclusions….requested that investigative teams be dispatched to Khan Shaykhun and the Shayrat airbase….[and] requested the Mechanism to collect and analyse information on use by non‑State actors of chemical weapons, and to submit to the Council analytical reports every three months…..[and] called for greater focus on the use of non‑State weapons by non‑State actors.

Following this vote it is impossible to say that there is a majority supporting the OPCW-UN-JIM report in the UN Security Council or that Russia is in a minority in criticising it.  Not surprisingly, after this debacle yesterday’s debate in the UN Security Council has gone almost entirely unreported in the Western media.

Not surprisingly US ambassador Nikki Haley was furious, as her outraged comments show

Ms. HALEY (United States) said that Bolivia had tried to pull one over on the Council by calling for the vote in the way it had.  She added that flaws were only found in the Mechanism when evidence pointed to Syria.  No flaws were found when evidence pointed to ISIL/Da’esh.  Neither the Russian Federation nor Bolivia consulted with others on their procedures; they were playing games.  She regretted that the whole procedure was embarrassing for the Council.  The Russian Federation wanted a Mechanism that they could micromanage.  Today’s developments had proven that the Russian Federation could not be trusted as a broker in Syria.  The rejected resolution had all the changes that had been requested and the United States and all other members had been disrespected.  The next chemical attack would be on the head of the Russian Federation.

There are two important facts to take away from this affair.

Firstly, despite some heroic attempts to argue otherwise, the methodology of the OPCW-UN-JIM report is quite simply too obviously flawed for it to gain widespread international acceptance.

In reality – as I have said previously – a truly impartial investigation to find out what actually happened in Khan Sheikhoun in April this year became impossible the moment President Trump launched his missiles against Al-Sharyat air base a few days after the supposed attack took place.

From that point the whole international prestige of the United States and of its NATO allies who had supported the US attack became bound up with a finding that the Syrian government had launched a chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun.

Any other finding would have been politically impossible and acceptable, and given the hold the US and NATO powers have over the international bodies charged with carrying out international investigations (whose budgets they largely fund) it is completely unsurprising that the OPCW-UN-JIM investigation was structured to ensure that only the “correct” finding was made.

What happened in this case was that the flaws built into the investigation in order to ensure that it would come up with the “correct” finding were in the end simply too glaring, and could not be ignored even by countries which are normally supportive of the US.

Secondly, there were some concerns in Russia a few months ago when the country’s brilliant ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin died unexpectedly that he would prove to be irreplaceable.

The skill with which Vasily Nebenzia, Russia’s new ambassador to the UN, outwitted Nikki Haley yesterday, and the forceful way in which he made Russia’s case both during yesterday’s debate and during the previous debate on 24th October 2017, shows that these fears are groundless.

Nebenzia is clearly a fully worthy successor to Churkin, even if he perhaps lacks something of Churkin’s urbanity and charm.  The other ambassadors will have taken note of the fact.

As to what actually took place in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017, I doubt that we will ever know the full truth.

I continue to think that the most plausible scenario is the one proposed by Seymour Hersh on the basis of what he says he was told by a senior US intelligence official: that a Syrian bombing raid targeting some Al-Qaeda commanders inadvertently released a toxic cloud as a result of the release of materials held in the building in which the Al-Qaeda commanders were meeting.  Since the chain of custody of the forensic samples used to prove that it was instead a sarin attack is insecure, I don’t think it is possible to place any reliance on them.

The suggestion that Seymour Hersh’s story is untrue because he cannot identify the building in question is a red herring.  Seymour Hersh’s story is not based on personal observation of Khan Sheikhoun but on information he says he was provided by his sources within the US intelligence community.  Seymour Hersh provided Die Welt (which published his story) with the details of these sources, enabling Die Welt to contact them directly and to authenticate that what Seymour Hersh was saying about them was true.

As I have said previously, it is well within the ability of Al-Qaeda to manipulate or fabricate evidence and to manipulate the way it is presented, and it continues to astonish me that so many people remain in denial about this.

I note for example that the person who attempted to uphold the findings of the OPCW-UN-JIM report which I mentioned previously appears to be unaware that it was Al-Qaeda which was in physical control of Al-Sheikhoun on the day when the chemical weapons attack is supposed to have taken place, and that it continues to be in control there to this day.

Others will of course dispute these opinions, as is their right.

The point however is that politically speaking it no longer matters.  Following the debate in the UN Security Council yesterday the effect of what happened in Khan Sheikhoun in April both on the course of the Syrian war and on the future development of international relations has ended.  The chapter on this incident is closed.

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Dear editors,

thanks for providing the detailed account of the UN security council meeting. Thank you also for the numerous reports I read throughout the year on this site. I would like to donate but refuse to register on a different crowd-funding site for every individual project asking for funds. Please e-mail me your international bank account (IBAN + BIC) such that I can donate using the good old wire transaction system in place.

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Schaeuble, Greece and the lessons learned from a failed GREXIT (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 117.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine a recent interview with the Financial Times given by Wolfgang Schäuble, where the former German Finance Minister, who was charged with finding a workable and sustainable solution to the Greek debt crisis, reveals that his plan for Greece to take a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone (in order to devalue its currency and save its economy) was met with fierce resistance from Brussels hard liners, and Angela Merkel herself.

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Via FT

“Look where we’re sitting!” says Wolfgang Schäuble, gesturing at the Berlin panorama stretching out beneath us. It is his crisp retort to those who say that Europe is a failure, condemned to a slow demise by its own internal contradictions. “Walk through the Reichstag, the graffiti left by the Red Army soldiers, the images of a destroyed Berlin. Until 1990 the Berlin Wall ran just below where we are now!”

We are in Käfer, a restaurant on the rooftop of the Reichstag. The views are indeed stupendous: Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz loom through the mist. Both were once in communist East Berlin, cut off from where we are now by the wall. Now they’re landmarks of a single, undivided city. “Without European integration, without this incredible story, we wouldn’t have come close to this point,” he says. “That’s the crazy thing.”

As Angela Merkel’s finance minister from 2009 to 2017, Schäuble was at the heart of efforts to steer the eurozone through a period of unprecedented turbulence. But at home he is most associated with Germany’s postwar political journey, having not only negotiated the 1990 treaty unifying East and West Germany but also campaigned successfully for the capital to move from Bonn.

For a man who has done so much to put Berlin — and the Reichstag — back on the world-historical map, it is hard to imagine a more fitting lunch venue. With its open-plan kitchen and grey formica tables edged in chrome, Käfer has a cool, functional aesthetic that is typical of the city. On the wall hangs a sketch by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who famously wrapped the Reichstag in silver fabric in 1995.

The restaurant has one other big advantage: it is easy to reach from Schäuble’s office. Now 76, he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1990, and mobility is an issue. Aides say he tends to avoid restaurants if he can, especially at lunchtime.

As we take our places, we talk about Schäuble’s old dream — that German reunification would be a harbinger of European unity, a step on the road to a United States of Europe. That seems hopelessly out of reach in these days of Brexit, the gilets jaunes in France, Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy.

Some blame Schäuble himself for that. He was, after all, the architect of austerity, a fiscal hawk whose policy prescriptions during the euro crisis caused untold hardship for millions of ordinary people, or so his critics say. He became a hate figure, especially in Greece. Posters in Athens in 2015 depicted him with a Hitler moustache below the words: “Wanted — for mass poverty and devastation”.

Schäuble rejects the criticism that austerity caused the rise of populism. “Higher spending doesn’t lead to greater contentment,” he says. The root cause lies in mass immigration, and the insecurities it has unleashed. “What European country doesn’t have this problem?” he asks. “Even Sweden. The poster child of openness and the willingness to help.”

But what of the accusation that he didn’t care enough about the suffering of the southern Europeans? Austerity divided the EU and spawned a real animus against Schäuble. I ask him how that makes him feel now. “Well I’m sad, because I played a part in all of that,” he says, wistfully. “And I think about how we could have done it differently.”

I glance at the menu — simple German classics with a contemporary twist. I’m drawn to the starters, such as Oldenburg duck pâté and the Müritz smoked trout. But true to his somewhat abstemious reputation, Schäuble has no interest in these and zeroes in on the entrées. He chooses Käfer’s signature veal meatballs, a Berlin classic. I go for the Arctic char and pumpkin.

Schäuble switches seamlessly back to the eurozone crisis. The original mistake was in trying to create a common currency without a “common economic, employment and social policy” for all eurozone member states. The fathers of the euro had decided that if they waited for political union to happen first they’d wait forever, he says.

Yet the prospects for greater political union are now worse than they have been in years. “The construction of the EU has proven to be questionable,” he says. “We should have taken the bigger steps towards integration earlier on, and now, because we can’t convince the member states to take them, they are unachievable.”

Greece was a particularly thorny problem. It should never have been admitted to the euro club in the first place, Schäuble says. But when its debt crisis first blew up, it should have taken a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone — an idea he first floated with Giorgos Papakonstantinou, his Greek counterpart between 2009 and 2011. “I told him you need to be able to devalue your currency, you’re not competitive,” he says. The reforms required to repair the Greek economy were going to be “hard to achieve in a democracy”. “That’s why you need to leave the euro for a certain period. But everyone said there was no chance of that.”

The idea didn’t go away, though. Schäuble pushed for a temporary “Grexit” in 2015, during another round of the debt crisis. But Merkel and the other EU heads of government nixed the idea. He now reveals he thought about resigning over the issue. “On the morning the decision was made, [Merkel] said to me: ‘You’ll carry on?’ . . . But that was one of the instances where we were very close [to my stepping down].”

It is an extraordinary revelation, one that highlights just how rocky his relationship with Merkel has been over the years. Schäuble has been at her side from the start, an éminence grise who has helped to resolve many of the periodic crises of her 13 years as chancellor. But it was never plain sailing.

“There were a few really bad conflicts where she knew too that we were on the edge and I would have gone,” he says. “I always had to weigh up whether to go along with things, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, as was the case with Greece, or whether I should go.” But his sense of duty prevailed. “We didn’t always agree — but I was always loyal.”

That might have been the case when he was a serving minister, but since becoming speaker of parliament in late 2017 he has increasingly distanced himself from Merkel. Last year, when she announced she would not seek re-election as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, the party that has governed Germany for 50 of the past 70 years, Schäuble openly backed a candidate described by the Berlin press as the “anti-Merkel”. Friedrich Merz, a millionaire corporate lawyer who is the chairman of BlackRock Germany, had once led the CDU’s parliamentary group but lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002, quitting politics a few years later. He has long been seen as one of the chancellor’s fiercest conservative critics — and is a good friend of Schäuble’s.

Ultimately, in a nail-biting election last December, Merkel’s favoured candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, narrowly beat Merz. The woman universally known as “AKK” is in pole position to succeed Merkel as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021.

I ask Schäuble if it’s true that he had once again waged a battle against Merkel and once again lost. “I never went to war against Ms Merkel,” he says. “Everybody says that if I’m for Merz then I’m against Merkel. Why is that so? That’s nonsense.”

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The conclusion of Russiagate, Part I – cold, hard reality

The full text of Attorney General William P Barr’s summary is here offered, with emphases on points for further analysis.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The conclusion of the Russiagate investigation, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was a pivotal media watershed moment. Even at the time of this writing there is a great deal of what might be called “journalistic froth” as opinion makers and analysts jostle to make their takes on this known to the world. Passions are running very high in both the Democrat / anti-Trump camps, where the reactions range from despondency to determined rage to not swallow the gigantic red pill that the “no collusion with Russia” determination offers. In the pro-Trump camp, the mood is deserved relief, but many who support the President are also realists, and they know this conflict is not over.

Where the pivot will go and what all this means is something that will unfold, probably relatively quickly, over the next week or two. But we want to offer a starting point here from which to base further analysis. At this time, of course, there are few hard facts other than the fact that Robert Mueller III submitted his report to the US Attorney General, William Barr, who then wrote and released his own report to the public Sunday evening. We reproduce that report here in full, with some emphases added to points that we think will be relevant to forthcoming pieces on this topic.

The end of the Mueller investigation brings concerns, hopes and fears to many people, on topics such as:

  • Will President Trump now begin to normalize relations with President Putin at full speed?
  • In what direction will the Democrats pivot to continue their attacks against the President?
  • What does this finding to to the 2020 race?
  • What does this finding do to the credibility of the United States’ leadership establishment, both at home and abroad?
  • What can we learn about our nation and culture from this investigation?
  • How does a false narrative get maintained so easily for so long, and
  • What do we do, or what CAN we do to prevent this being repeated?

These questions and more will be addressed in forthcoming pieces. But for now, here is the full text of the letter written by Attorney General William Barr concerning the Russia collusion investigation.

Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins:
As a supplement to the notification provided on Friday, March 22, 2019, I am writing today to advise you of the principal conclusions reached by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller and to inform you about the status of my initial review of the report he has prepared.
The Special Counsel’s Report
On Friday, the Special Counsel submitted to me a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions” he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. § 600.8(c). This report is entitled “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.” Although my review is ongoing, I believe that it is in the public interest to describe the report and to summarize the principal conclusions reached by the Special Counsel and the results of his investigation.
The report explains that the Special Counsel and his staff thoroughly investigated allegations that members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, and others associated with it, conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or sought to obstruct the related federal investigations. In the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.
The Special Counsel obtained a number of indictments and convictions of individuals and entities in connection with his investigation, all of which have been publicly disclosed. During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action. The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public. Below, I summarize the principal conclusions set out in the Special Counsel’s report.
Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.
The Special Counsel’s report is divided into two parts. The first describes the results of the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts. The report further explains that a primary consideration for the Special Counsel’s investigation was whether any Americans including individuals associated with the Trump campaign joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election, which would be a federal crime. The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The Special Counsel’s investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election. As noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts, although the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian nationals and entities in connection with these activities.
The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.
Obstruction of Justice.
The report’s second part addresses a number of actions by the President most of which have been the subject of public reporting that the Special Counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction-of-justice concerns. After making a “thorough factual investigation” into these matters, the Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion one way or the other as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The Special Counsel’s decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime. Over the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel’s office engaged in discussions with certain Department officials regarding many of the legal and factual matters at issue in the Special Counsel’s obstruction investigation. After reviewing the Special Counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.
In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction. Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding. In cataloguing the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department’s principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense.
Status of the Department’s Review
The relevant regulations contemplate that the Special Counsel’s report will be a “confidential report” to the Attorney General. See Office of Special Counsel, 64 Fed. Reg. 37,038, 37,040-41 (July 9, 1999). As I have previously stated, however, I am mindful of the public interest in this matter. For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.
Based on my discussions with the Special Counsel and my initial review, it is apparent that the report contains material that is or could be subject to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure which imposes restrictions on the use and disclosure of information relating to “matter[s] occurring before grand jury.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(2)(B) Rule 6(e) generally limits disclosure of certain grand jury information in a criminal investigation and prosecution. Id. Disclosure of 6(e) material beyond the strict limits set forth in the rule is a crime in certain circumstances. See, e.g. 18 U.S.C. 401(3). This restriction protects the integrity of grand jury proceedings and ensures that the unique and invaluable investigative powers of a grand jury are used strictly for their intended criminal justice function.
Given these restrictions, the schedule for processing the report depends in part on how quickly the Department can identify the 6(e) material that by law cannot be made public. I have requested the assistance of the Special Counsel in identifying all 6(e) information contained in the report as quickly as possible. Separately, I also must identify any information that could impact other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other offices. As soon as that process is complete, I will be in a position to move forward expeditiously in determining what can be released in light of applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.
* * *
As I observed in my initial notification, the Special Counsel regulations provide that “the Attorney General may determine that public release of” notifications to your respective Committees “would be in the public interest.” 28 C.F.R. § 600.9(c). I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.
Sincerely,
William P. Barr
Attorney General

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The consolidation of power of the global military industrial complex

Do Europeans support the notion that the countries of the EU be the nuclear war playground of the United States?

Richard Galustian

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Humanity faces two imminent existential threats: environmental catastrophe and nuclear war.

America has elected to completely ignore scientists warnings that we have 12 years to reverse an environmental disaster.

As far as nuclear obliteration, Trump announced that the US is withdrawing from the INF treaty, which eliminated short range missiles deployed in Western Europe, on Russia’s doorstep. It’s the equivalent of Russia placing nuclear missiles in Venezuela.

A provocation, which enables US supplied missiles to be launched, only a few minutes flight time to Moscow.

That, of course sharply increases the nuclear danger. Historically on both sides, attack warnings given by automated systems have often proved faulty in the past; that, if enacted upon, would have meant the end of life as we know it.

Anyone familiar with contemporary military history knows that it’s a virtual miracle that we have so far avoided nuclear war.

Politically within Europe, the attack on democracy is very clear. Unchallenged undemocratic institutions in Brussels exist that is, in the main, part of the problem of the UK BREXIT negotiations.

Why does the public readily accept wars, engineered by our morally bankrupt governments to create ‘regime change’ in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, the Ukraine and soon to be Venezuela followed by Nicaragua and Iran, with such a muted outcry?

That preemptive nuclear attacks are even thought of shows the insanity of Western leadership controlled by vested financial interests led by the Military/Security Industrial Complex and bankers. Those same interests created both ‘industrialised’ World Wars in the 20th Century.

Our governments do not listen to the people. When two million hit the streets of London before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it made not an iota of difference to Tony Blair’s government.

Today, people’s apathy is notably caused by conditioning’, maybe better described as we’ve been ‘disciplined’ by MSM propaganda and family’s economic necessity to focus on their income, have made us so, due to our governments mismanagement of our economies.

Example, our university students are saddled with impossible to repay debt for a reason; to keep future generations ‘disciplined’.

No one has time or dare show any dissent especially given the Orwellian ‘newspeak’ environment that is created by ‘political correctness’.

Back to the subject of Russia phobia. The Western narrative against Russia is, in the main, the below:

* that Russia tried to murder the Skripals. Let the British government, who seem to be holding the Skripals against their will, prove they are not, by letting them be interviewed by the World’s Press.

* Ukraine – For over four years, the governments of NATO and the MSM have been waging the new cold war against Russia. This began with the ‘Maidan’ protests in Kyiv, Ukraine in early 2014 that culminated in the overthrow, universally acknowledged to have been engineered by the CIA, of Ukraine’s elected president and Parliament in February 2014. Putting in power an ultra neo-Nazi government, that in particular voiced hatred against all things Russian…and Jewish. Which MSM, TV news or newspapers, says so?

* That almost 100% of Crimea’s population are glad and grateful to be part of Russia. US, UK and EU says that is untrue, which is nonsense.

The demonisation of Russia is central to the multinational corporate interests that control our governments; the bankers protecting the steeply declining US Dollar, the institutions of the EU that are really controlled by Washington, who are preparing world public opinion to accept what the United States are now gearing up for, the “defence” of Europe.

At this point let us reflect on history by quoting one of America’s most distinguished soldiers, maybe of its entire history, General Smedley D. Butler, from his book ‘War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier.’

“No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with US patents.”

It is recommended to read more about General Smedley Butler, as he was the man chosen by US bankers and particularly the Bush family in the 1930s, to be the new fascist leader of the USA by overthrowing, in a coup, the then President Roosevelt during the period of Hitler’s rise to power. A coincidence one wonders. Butler was a true patriot; he bided his time then revealed the plot to both Congress and President Roosevelt. If you doubt this, it is suggested you research the subject.

We can stop the consolidation of power of the global military/security industrial complex, its war party associates, and specifically the US, UK and EU deep state political and financial elite that no doubt exists. We must elect new leaders, it’s that simple.

To quote Noam Chomsky “….power is always illegitimate, unless it proves itself to be legitimate. So the burden of proof is always on those who claim that some authoritarian hierarchic government is legitimate. If they can’t prove it, then it should be dismantled.”

Implicit in this statement is change by either elections or revolutions.

The French people have shown us when enough is enough by their persistent resistance to their government.

Do Europeans support the notion that the countries of the EU be the nuclear war playground of the United States?

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