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Skripal crisis: Theresa May fires a blank shot

Measures announced today will bounce off Russia but will hurt Britain

Alexander Mercouris

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After days of hysteria and of mounting speculation, and after having stoked up by her statement on Monday expectations of stern action against Russia to stratospheric levels, Theresa May produced a package of ‘sanctions’ today which do no more than expose the weakness of Britain’s hand.

This is how the BBC describes them

  • The expulsion of 23 diplomats – who have one week to leave
  • Increased checks on private flights, customs and freight
  • The freezing of Russian state assets where there is evidence they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents
  • Ministers and Royal Family to boycott the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year
  • The suspension of all planned high level bi-lateral contacts between the UK and Russia

Note that none of these sanctions include any of the supposedly draconian steps which have been spoken about over the last few days.

Theresa May for example appeared to rule out a blanket visa ban and sweeping asset freezes on wealthy Russians coming to London.  It is clear that ideas for a boycott by the England team of the World Cup in Russia and for the complete severing of diplomatic relations with Russia have been abandoned if they were ever considered.

Reports in the media have also confirmed that the idea of launching a cyber attack against Russia has been ruled out, since the British quietly acknowledge that Russia has immeasurably greater cyber resources with which to retaliate than Britain does.

As to whether or not Ofcom will now strip RT of its broadcasting licence, Maria Zakharova’s threat to expel all British media outlets from Russia is having a chilling effect, with the British media apparently now quietly lobbying the British government against doing it.

By way of example, The Times of London, the newspaper which has been leading the British media’s offensive against RT, now has this to say, tucked away at the bottom of a meandering editorial with the woolly and meaningless headline ‘An Unstable World’

The Kremlin has threatened to expel British journalists from Moscow should London shut down the Russian propaganda channel RT. That would be ill advised. Britain stands for nothing if not free speech. Mrs May should stick to the evidence in the Skripal case, identifying the culprits and bringing maximum international force to bear to punish them personally.

It is interesting to see how the British media suddenly discovers free speech also applies to Russian media when its own interests are threatened.

It is still possible that Ofcom may follow up on its threats against RT, but that is now looking rather less likely.

As for the measures Theresa May announced today not only will they not affect Russia in the slightest, but they are actually counterproductive.

The Russians are sure to respond to the British expulsion of Russian diplomats from London by expelling a comparable number of British diplomats from Moscow.

Since Russia is by far the more powerful country, it is the British who need to maintain a strong diplomatic presence in Moscow to retain relevance.  By contrast Russia, as a Great Power, has no need to maintain a strong diplomatic presence in Britain, which is nowadays a second or even third rank power.

The reciprocal expulsions which are now going to happen will not therefore affect Russia’s position as a Great Power in the slightest.  They will however further marginalise the British in international diplomacy.

The same is true of the British decision to sever bilateral contacts with Russia.

Apart from Boris Johnson’s recent ill-starred to Moscow, there have in fact been barely any bilateral contacts between the Russian and British governments for years, even though it is again Britain as the weaker country which needs these contacts in order to retain relevance, not Russia.

As it happens I expect the Russians to greet the news that they are going to be spared further meetings with Boris Johnson with a quiet sigh of relief.

As for Boris Johnson himself, how he hopes to cut an important figure in international diplomacy when he is now prevented from visiting Moscow – the capital of one of the world’s Great Powers – by his own government, completely escapes me.  The reality is that no one takes him seriously anyway.

The reciprocal expulsions of diplomats will of course also make it more difficult for the British to maintain their intelligence operation in Moscow.

Since this appears to be rather extensive, and seems to involve far more ‘democracy promotion’ activity (ie. meddling in Russian domestic politics) than anything the Russians do in Britain, the Russians will probably also be quietly pleased about it.

Not surprisingly there have been media reports that the British intelligence community actually lobbied against large scale expulsions.  It is not difficult to see why, with her locker largely empty there was little else Theresa May could do.

As for the non-attendance of British government ministers and members of the Royal Family at the World Cup, I doubt anyone would have noticed their presence there anyway.  Certainly the Russians won’t be bothered if they don’t come.  I doubt anyone else will care much either.

As for the threat to seize Russian state assets in Britain “where there is evidence they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents” that may sound ominous, but note that no actual seizures of Russian state assets were announced, and given that such seizures would almost certainly be contrary to international law and would undoubtedly provoke retaliatory action from Russia, I doubt they will happen.

In summary, Theresa May today looks like a conjuror who following a lengthy drum roll discovered she was holding an empty hat.

It is possible that the British may lobby for further action from their allies, and that more such action may come, but frankly I think the prospects of any significant action being taken against Russia by the Western allies at an international level are small.

Note for example the carefully worded readout the White House has provided of Donald Trump’s conversation with Theresa May

President Donald J. Trump spoke today with Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom.  They discussed the United Kingdom’s investigation into the chemical weapon attack on a private citizen and his daughter on British soil.  President Trump stated the United States stands in solidarity with its closest ally and is ready to provide any assistance the United Kingdom requests for its investigation.  President Trump agreed with Prime Minister May that the Government of the Russian Federation must provide unambiguous answers regarding how this chemical weapon, developed in Russia, came to be used in the United Kingdom. The two leaders agreed on the need for consequences for those who use these heinous weapons in flagrant violation of international norms.

(bold italics added)

Contrary to what some reports in the British media were saying yesterday, it seems that the only assistance Donald Trump actually offered to Theresa May was assistance with the conduct of the investigation into the Skripal attack itself.  There is no word here of help with action against Russia.

Theresa May did announce some other measures, which do not specifically target Russia.  The Guardian describes them as follows

  • The government will enact a new targeted power to detain people suspected of hostile state activity at borders. This power was previously limited to suspected terrorists.
  • The government will look at whether new counter-espionage powers are needed

Britain already has sweeping anti-terrorism and counter-espionage laws, and there is concern that they are already being used in an increasingly arbitrary way.  Beefing them up further should invite concern because of the threat to the rights of private individuals, not Russia..

Lastly, on the subject of the Skripal attack itself, the “increased checks on private flights, customs and freight” I take that as further proof that the British authorities do not know how the chemical which was used to attack Skripal was brought into Britain.

Of course based on the information about the investigation which has been released up to now there is also the possibility that the chemical used was produced in Britain.  No one in authority in Britain – least of all Theresa May – is however going to say that.

In conclusion, Theresa May has done what she habitually does: take what appears to be an exceptionally strong stand, and then fail to act on it.

It will probably take some time for this to sink in in Britain itself, but eventually it is bound to do so, and when it does that will only damage her already tattered authority further.

In truth the British were reckless and foolish to enter into a confrontation on the flimsiest of evidence against Russia, a country far more powerful than themselves.

The package of measures Theresa May announced today simply highlights that fact.

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Trump Weighs In On The Single Worst Mistake In American History

Trump hits Bush: Invading Iraq ‘the single worst decision ever made’.

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Via Zerohedge


In a wide ranging interview with The Hill on Tuesday conducted in the Oval Office, President Trump was asked to give his take on the biggest mistake in American history.

Considering just how open-ended a question that is, it’s perhaps surprising that he merely went back less than a couple decades into the Bush presidency, though Trump’s base will certainly welcome it as it hearkens back to his “America First” foreign policy vision of the campaign trail.

“The worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country: going into the Middle East, by President Bush,” the president during his interview with Hill.TV.

“Obama may have gotten them (U.S. soldiers) out wrong, but going in is to me the biggest single mistake made in the history of our country,” he said.

Trump explained the reasoning behind this choice, and why it wasn’t something like the civil war or another defining and devastating event reaching far into American History.

“Because we spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. Now if you wanna fix a window some place they say, ‘oh gee, let’s not do it. Seven trillion, and millions of lives — you know, ‘cause I like to count both sides. Millions of lives,” the president explained.

Some scholars and humanitarian groups estimate that over one million Iraqis were killed in the US invasion and occupation of Iraq starting in 2003. A 2008 Opinion Research Business (ORB) poll, for example, found that approximately 1.03 million people had died as a result of the war.

“To me it’s the worst single mistake made in the history of our country. Civil war you can understand. Civil war, civil war. That’s different. For us to have gone into the Middle East, and that was just, that was a bad day for this country, I will tell you.”

Various estimates on the Iraq war’s cost have put the total taxpayer bill as low as near $2 trillion, but none dispute that it is in the multiple trillions, and estimates will vary widely depending on if veteran care is factored into it.

The comments echo things Trump said on the campaign trail in 2016. For example during one of his first major foreign policy speeches then candidate Trump said, “I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V.” And referencing the famous quote of John Quincy Adams, he said during the same speech, “The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies.”

He had previously shocked pundits for being the first Republican nominee for president to trash George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq, and has more recently likened it to “throwing a big fat brick into a hornet’s nest”.

All of this is a hopeful sign considering the extremely heightened and dangerous tensions over Syria this week, and given Trump seems to have vacillated between “bringing the troops home” and getting more involved. On Monday Trump hinted that a decision on the U.S. role in Syria is coming soon.

Commenting on the over 2,000 troops now in Syria ostensibly as part of the “anti-ISIL” coalition campaign, Trump indicated this mission could end soon: “We’re very close to being finished with that job,” he said. He followed with: “And then we’re going to make a determination as to what we’re going to do.”

We consider it a hopeful and a good sign that Trump is possibly revisiting his “America First” foreign policy pledges by identifying the Iraq War as the worst mistake in US history.

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Brett Kavanaugh eleventh hour smear begins to fall apart (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 112.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Trump is urging the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh to testify and be heard.

Trump said he wants to hear from Christine Blasey Ford, noting that it would be “unfortunate” if she does not testify before a Senate committee. Trump told reporters Wednesday as he left the White House to view hurricane damage in North Carolina…

“If she doesn’t show up, that would be unfortunate.”

“If she shows up and makes a credible showing, that would be very interesting.”

From Trump’s lips to God’s ear…Blasey Ford came out to issue a statement essentially saying that she will not testify to Congress, either in an open or closed door session.

Furthermore it appears that Ford will not even allow Senate investigators to fly to California and obtain her statement from the comfort of her own home (as Senator Grassley has offered to do).

Ford is demanding an FBI investigation into an allegation with no date, time or place attached to it. 

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the dangerous game of identity politics being played by the establishment, Democrat left, and their mainstream media minions.

The premise that a four decades old accusation is all that is needed to destroy a person’s entire life, threatens to tear down the most basic foundational values adhered to from within the US Constitution, and propel the United States of America towards a fascist state where censorship, citizen surveillance, and evidence free accusations are used to keep the establishment left in power and the American population cowered in fear.

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According to Zerohedge, Democrats’ Hail Mary play to stymie the confirmation of Trump SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh is beginning to fizzle out. As angry Dems demanded that a Monday hearing on the allegations against Kavanaugh be delayed until the FBI has a chance to investigate, turncoat Republicans (on whom the Dems had been depending for votes) instead withdrew their support and fell in line after Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley declared that he would not honor Democrats’ request. Grassley revealed his intention to stand firm late Tuesday after lawyers for Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey, who is claiming that Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her 35 years ago when the two were 17-year-old high school students, said their client wouldn’t be wiling to appear at Monday’s hearing.

According to the HillGrassley said Tuesday that there was “no reason” to delay the hearing now that Republicans have invited both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, his accuser, to testify publicly. However, while Ford’s attorneys have insisted that their client has taken a polygraph test and “deserves to be heard”, Ford has bizarrely insisted that the FBI should have an opportunity to investigate her claims before she appears before the committee in order to spare her the “trauma” of confronting her alleged assailant.

Ford’s lawyers conveyed her request in the form of a letter sent to the committee, a copy of which was obtained by CNN.

Senator Grassley said he would refuse this request as several Republicans who had appeared to be on the cusp of defecting said they wouldn’t support further delays should Ford prove unwilling to testify.

Via the Hill…

“Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote,” said GOP Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), who was one of the first Republicans to call for the Judiciary Committee to hit pause on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Sunday.

GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) told reporters earlier Tuesday that Ford’s lack of response to the committee about testifying was “puzzling.”

And GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, who had threatened to vote against Kavanaugh if Ford wasn’t given the chance to be heard, told CNN that he expected the committee to move on if she doesn’t appear.

“I think we’ll have to move to the markup,” he told CNN. “I hope she does (appear). I think she needs to be heard.”

Via Zerohedge…

Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegations and insisted he didn’t attend the party where the physical assault allegedly took place. Patrick Smyth, a fellow former Georgetown Prep student whom Ford alleges was also in attendance during the party issued a statement via his lawyer standing up for Kavanaugh. And in a separate letter to Grassley and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, not only does Smyth repudiate Ford’s allegations, but he adds that he doesn’t remember this party even taking place.

Of course, Feinstein – who admitted last night that she couldn’t say for certain that Ford’s story is entirely truthful – sat on Ford’s allegations for three months before referring them to the FBI and sharing them with other lawmakers (who purportedly “leaked” it to the press). President Trump on Tuesday said that he “feels sorry” for Kavanaugh, adding that he doesn’t want to “play into [Democrats] hands”, presumably by giving them more time to drag out the confirmation process.

“They should have done this a long time ago, three months ago, not now. But they did it now. So I don’t want to play into their hands,” Trump said.

Without the support of their Republican allies, Democrats will lack the votes on the committee to hold up the nomination past Monday. Though bizarrely, Kavanaugh himself hasn’t said yet whether he would or wouldn’t testify, which begs the question: If neither Kavanaugh nor Ford appear at the hearing, what exactly will lawmakers discuss?

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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