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The good, the bad and the ugly of modern Iran

Iran is many things, but a culturally backward, state sponsor of terrorism it most certainly is not.

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These days, any small amount of foreign policy realism from the Trump administration is good news.

The goods news is that both Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson have acknowledged that Iran is in full compliance with the nuclear deal agreed between Iran, the US, Russia, China, UK, France and Germany.

The bad news and frankly the absurd news is that Tillerson has said Iran,

“…remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods”.

This simply isn’t true.

With that in mind, here is the good, the bad and the ugly of modern Iran. 

The Good: 

Iran is in fact the opposite of a state sponsor of terrorism. Iran is one of the world’s foremost fighters in the war against terrorism. Even before Russia became involved in the Syrian war on terrorism in 2015, Iran was standing by its secular Arab ally in Syria in order to fight Salifist terrorism. Unlike many western propagandists, Iran does not see the Muslim world in terms of secular versus theocratic; Shi’a versus Sunni. Iran is pragmatic and supports Syria without trying to change its secular constitution.

One needn’t be a secular Ba’athist nor a supporter of the Iranian Islamic Revolution to acknowledge the importance of fighting the terrorism promulgated by ISIS, al-Qaeda and its offshoots including al-Nusra and the deceptively named but equally brutal FSA (Free Syrian Army).

Iran is also increasingly a force for stability in the region. By contrast, the other historically great non-Arab power to bookend the region, Turkey, has unequivocally become a force for regional instability.

Unlike Iran which is legally in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government, Turkey continues to illegally occupy Syria and is now fighting a war on several fronts using both Turkish regulars and more often than not, Turkey’s jihadist proxy group, FSA.

In the course of the conflict Turkey has fought and continues to fight Syrian forces as well as Kurdish led SDF forces.

Iran’s foreign policy is one that is objectively non-threatening to world peace. Iran does not desire the re-conquest of ancient Persian imperial lands but Turkey under Erdogan, does want to reconquer lost Ottoman imperial territory.

Turkey is a state sponsor of terrorism in Syria and an illegal occupier of that country while Iran is the exact opposite.

America has no leg to stand on when calling Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, it simply has no basis in reality.

The Bad: 

The bad or worrying moves surrounding Iran’s foreign policy are best described as the product of circumstantial inevitability.

Between 1958 and 2003, Iraq was a fiercely independent Arab Republic. For a time in 1963 and consistently between 1968 and 2003, Iraq like Syria, was a secular Ba’athist Republic.

However, in 1966, the Ba’ath Party split between Syrian and Iraqi factions, thus retarding the progress of Arab unity in the heart of the Arab world.

Revolutionary Iran became a friend of Syria while in the 1980s, the west backed and encouraged Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s totally ill-advised war against Iran.

It was under Saddam Hussein that latent regional tensions in Iraq began to crack open.

These cracks were burst open when America and Britain illegally invaded Iraq in 2003, something that both Iran and Syria opposed, in spite of their negative views on Saddam Hussein’s Presidency.

The sectarian war which the US and UK fomented in Iraq through an aggressive and disastrous occupation, led to the inevitable consequences of Iran becoming a powerful influence on certain regions of Iraq (the south mainly) and also on elements in the Shi’a dominated Iraqi government, which unlike the Ba’athist government was more sectarian than pluralistic.

Where the Ba’athist government had Sunni Muslims, Shi’a Muslims and Christians in key positions, post-Ba’athist Iraq became increasingly Shi’a dominated and Sunnis rightly felt increasingly marginalised. The fragility of Iraq’s Sykes-Picot drawn borders had been fully exposed.

Iran’s influence increased as a consequences, something ironically both George Bush and Saddam Hussein found troubling. The difference is that Bush didn’t foresee it (or he pretended that he couldn’t) whilst Saddam Hussein did.

That being said, Iran’s role in Iraq has not been a violent one, in many ways it has been a stabilising influence. However, it is also symptomatic of the fact that Iraq is invariably being carved up into spheres of influence: Iran in the south, America in and around the capital Baghdad and Kurds and Turks fighting over what remains of the north which has for years been occupied by ISIS.

After centuries of domination by non-Arab powers, many Arabs across all religious lines are correctly distraught at any non-Arab power having a sizeable influence on an Arab country. Many Arabs and not just extremist, sectarian medievalists like those in the Gulf, are suspicious of any non-Arab power’s designs on the Arab world. Iran is and always will be included on this list. Of course it must be said that the non-Arab power with designs on the Arab world that presents the gravest danger to Arab unity is the United States.

Turkey, Israel, Britain and France are also far higher on this list than Iran.

The Ugly: 

Iran 1

Iran 2

iran 4

Iran 5

As these pictures reveal, Iran is not ugly. It is actually quite beautiful. Iran’s ancient, Islamic era and modern architecture are sights to behold.

Iran is a learned, literate society. It is a land of poets.

The problem is that in the simplistic, chauvinistic views of many in the west; people have become intellectual constipated when they are faced with the fact that Iranian society is far more sophisticated than they would wish it to be.  A beautiful Iran, an exciting Iran, an Iran as a tourist destination; doesn’t fit the narrative of ‘evil Iran’.

The west seeks to dehumanise Iran and in doing so, minimise Iran’s many cultural achievements.

Many in the increasingly anti-religious west cannot accept that Iran is both a theocracy and a democracy. It is a theocracy which is Islamic but one in which Christians and Jews live in peace. It is a democracy whose registration process to run for President is far more open than in the United States, where it frankly takes millions of dollars to get anywhere near the finishing line.

Iran like most nations has its ups and its downs; but slandering Iran’s culture or lying about the fact that Iran is a soldier in the war on terrorism, will only make bad relations even worse.

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

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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

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

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

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Via Zerohedge


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Seraphim Hanisch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seraphim Hanisch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That can be very dangerous.

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