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Vladimir Putin welcomes Iran to the Grand Kremlin Palace

President Rouhani’s visit to Iran confirms Tehran is acquiring a security guarantee from Moscow and Beijing as it integrates itself into ‘Greater Eurasia’.

Alexander Mercouris

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Iran’s President Rouhani is currently in Moscow at the head of a big Iranian delegation for comprehensive talks with Russian President Putin and with other members of the Russian leadership.

The importance the Russians attach to the talks is shown by the fact that photographs show that President Putin received President Rouhani not in the Senate building in the Kremlin where he has his office and where he normally receives foreign visitors, but in the much larger and more magnificent Grand Kremlin Palace.  Though this may seem a small point, the intensely protocol conscious Russians will not have made it lightly, and the choice of venue for the meeting shows the importance the Russians attach to Rouhani’s visit.

grand kremlin palace

Though the official documents produced by the meeting have still not been fully translated into English, it is clear that they cover the full range of Russian – Iranian relations, with Russia strongly reaffirming its support for the nuclear agreement, which Donald Trump and his administration have called into question.

In addition it seems that there are agreements that Iran should join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (the Chinese and Russian led security organisation that is slowly shaping up as the Chinese – Russian alliance’s alternative to NATO) and for intense cooperation between Russia and Iran in economic and technology matters, with Russia apparently agreeing to supply modern civilian aircraft to Iran and to cooperate with Iran in the development of civilian nuclear power technology.

In addition to the public agreements there are certain to be various secret agreements, for intelligence sharing and the like.  These will certainly include defence related agreements and, possibly, agreements related to defence technology transfer.

The Iranians have confirmed that despite Russia’s highly publicised withdrawal from the Hamadan air base last summer, the Russian air force is continuing to use Iranian air space and Iranian facilities on a “case by case” basis to conduct air strikes against the Jihadis in Syria.

Iran has also recently published photos of its indigenous Karrar tank, which as many have pointed out bears a striking resemblance to the Russian T90.  Whilst Iran has substantial engineering and industrial resources of its own, the similarity between its Karrar tank and the Russian T90 may mean that there has been some degree of technology transfer between the two countries, with both countries for obvious reasons wishing to keep the fact private and to conceal the extent to which defence technology cooperation between them may already be taking place

A few months ago I wrote a piece for The Duran in which I said that Russia and Iran, though edging closer, were not yet friends or allies.  The signs that their relationship is now burgeoning into a full fledged alliance are however now becoming inescapable.

All this explains a great deal about the Iranian nuclear agreement.  Despite repeated claims to the contrary, all the indications are that Iran terminated its nuclear weapons programme following the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.  This was because the Iranian nuclear weapons programme was never intended to challenge Israel or the US, whose nuclear arsenals are many orders of magnitude more powerful than anything Iran could ever hope to achieve, but because it was intended to protect Iran from Saddam Hussein, against whom Iran had fought a terrible war in the 1980s, and whose nuclear weapons programme was reputedly within roughly a year of success at the time of his invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Once Saddam Hussein was defeated in 1991, with his nuclear weapons programme dismantled over the course of the 1990s, Iran downgraded its own nuclear programme which it had initiated in response to his, and once Saddam Hussein had been overthrown following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran ended its own programme completely.

Since then Iran has sought security for itself not by challenging Israel and the US to a nuclear arms race – something Iran knows it could never win, and which would be far more likely to provoke a devastating US – Israeli attack on itself than provide it with security – but by integrating itself into the Eurasian institutions, which would provide it with a Chinese and Russian security guarantee.

This has been the Iranian objective for at least a decade (former Iranian President Ahmadinejad spoke of it often) and now finally, with the UN sanctions against Iran that stood in the way at last out of the way, it is finally happening, even if some people in Washington are trying to complicate the process by imposing unilateral sanctions on Russian companies involved in trading with Iran.

As for the Russians and the Chinese, bringing Iran into the Eurasian institutions integrates what is by far the single wealthiest and most powerful country in Central Asia into these institutions, rounding out the process of Eurasian construction, and adding Iran’s huge energy complex, significant industrial base, and young and well-educated population, to the resources of ‘Greater Eurasia’.

As for Israel and the US, the Russians will no doubt try to explain to both of these countries that integrating Iran into the Eurasian institutions actually enhances their security by giving Moscow and Beijing a decisive say over Iran’s actions.  Whether the Israelis and the Americans are in any mood to listen is another matter.

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The saker had written about this a year or two ago I recall

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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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