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A UN Resolution on Jerusalem: Barack Obama’s poisoned Christmas gift to Donald Trump

UN Security Council Resolution 2334 – acquiesced in and quite probably engineered by the Obama administration – by reaffirming that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital and that east Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory – seems intended to tie Donald Trump’s hands.

Alexander Mercouris

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UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which has just passed the UN Security Council on a 14 to nil vote (the US abstaining) is being widely reported as US President Barack Obama’s parting shot at Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu.

Supposedly Obama reversed traditional US policy, whereby the US would have ‘protected’ Israel by vetoing a Resolution such as this, in order to spite Netanyahu whom he personally dislikes.

Israel’s furious response is allegedly the result of Netanyahu’s anger at Obama’s action.

It is true that Obama and Netanyahu dislike each other.  Netanyahu has made no attempt to conceal his dislike of Obama, and Obama all but admitted to his personal dislike of Netanyahu in the mammoth series of interviews he gave earlier this year to The Atlantic.  It is also scarcely a secret that Obama disapproves of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, and considers Netanyahu to be the primary obstacle to achieving Middle East peace.

I would add that Obama’s bad relations with Netanyahu are not just the product of policy differences.  A feature of Obama’s Presidency has been Obama’s inability to get on with any world leaders apart from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  Where Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President and Obama’s main geopolitical rival, excels at forging close personal relations with world leaders and in “telephone diplomacy”, Obama comes across as aloof and friendless, and not caring much about it.

There is no doubt that this factor of personal dislike between Obama and Netanyahu played a role in the passing of Resolution 2334, and in Israel’s reaction to it.  However it is not the whole story.

Firstly, it should be said that Resolution 2334 is unlikely to have come to the vote so quickly without the US quietly giving the green light to it, and making it known that it would not veto it.

As it happens when Resolution 2334 was first proposed it would have been open to Obama and his administration to ask for voting on it to be postponed until the new President had taken office, on the grounds that it was inappropriate for an outgoing administration to decide US policy on such an important Resolution when it was known that the incoming President had a different view.

Indeed that is arguably what Obama should have done.  This is an important Resolution (I attach the full text below) and given how controversial it is and its possible effect on future negotiations where the US plays a key role, there is a strong case for saying that the Obama administration should either have asked for voting on the Resolution to be postponed until after the new President had come into office, or – if that was impossible – should have consulted with President elect Donald Trump and his transition team to decide how the US would respond to it.

In the event we know from Trump’s angry reaction that he was not consulted, and there seems to have been no attempt to seek a postponement.

Obtaining a postponement looks as if it was perfectly possible.  Some countries on the Security Council – Malaysia and Venezuela especially – might have wanted to press ahead immediately.  However Egypt, which had initially proposed the Resolution, effectively disowned it, possibly under Israeli pressure, but more probably in order not to antagonise the incoming administration of Donald Trump, whilst the US’s allies, Britain and France (both Security Council Permanent Members) and Japan and New Zealand, would undoubtedly have gone along with a US request.

As for Russia, which is considering a Middle East peace initiative involving Israel and the Arabs of its own, its ambassador Vitaly Churkin in his comments to the Security Council made clear that he had expected a request for a postponement and would have supported it.  This is how the UN Press Office reports his comments

VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation), explaining that he had been puzzled by the process around the resolution and by the haste with which it had been “pushed” to the vote, agreed  with other speakers that settlement activities undermined the chances for a two-State solution, as did acts of terror and incitement to violence.

(bold italics added)

Since that was Russia’s position it is a certainty if a request for a postponement had been made that China also would have supported it.  In that case, with all the Great Powers agreed, it is a certainty that voting on the Resolution could have been postponed until after Inauguration Day.  That a postponement did not happen is a sure sign that Obama did not want one, and that despite the US abstaining on the vote he actually wanted the Resolution passed.

The wording of the Resolution shows why this was so, and also shows who the Resolution is actually targeted at.  The key words are the following

Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions,……

1.   Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

“2.   Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;

“3.   Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;

“4.   Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution;

“5.   Calls upon all States, bearing in mind paragraph 1 of this resolution, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;

(bold italics added)

The context of the Resolution is that Israel captured east Jerusalem in 1967 during the Six Day War, and has ever since insisted that it forms part of Jerusalem, which it claims as its sole undivided capital.

This stance is rejected by the overwhelming majority of states including up to now the US.  Donald Trump has however spoken of formally recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and of transferring the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.

The key point about Resolution 2334 is that it formally reaffirms the internationally recognised status of east Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory.  It expressly rejects Israel’s claim to it as part of its undivided capital, and not only condemns Israeli attempts to change east Jerusalem’s status and demographic composition but says that these actions have “no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation under international law.”  Moreover Resolution 2334 does all these things just weeks before Trump is due to be inaugurated.

Though there is some division within Israeli society about the West Bank settlement policy, there is overwhelming agreement within Israeli society about the status of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.  For most Israelis – and not just for Netanyahu – this is a very sensitive issue.

A UN Security Council Resolution has however now been passed, having behind it the whole weight of the UN Security Council’s authority, and binding on Israel and all UN Member States as an act of international law, which says that Israel’s claim to east Jerusalem, and by extension its claim to Jerusalem as its capital, has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

In light of this the strength of the Israeli reaction to Resolution 2334 is not surprising.  The Israelis would be furious about such a Resolution – which calls into question the legal status of their capital – irrespective of who the US President is.  Netanyahu’s known dislike of Obama is neither here nor there.

As for why Obama wanted such a Resolution passed in the closing weeks of his Presidency, the answer unfortunately almost certainly has little to do with Middle East peace, and everything to do with Donald Trump.

It has become increasingly clear over the last few weeks that Obama’s overriding objective during the closing weeks of his Presidency is to do whatever he can to undermine Donald Trump’s legitimacy and authority as the US’s next President, and to lock Trump in to Obama’s existing foreign policy positions.

Thus Obama has colluded in the paranoid campaign which alleges that Donald Trump owes his election to Russia; he has sought to nominate German Chancellor Angela Merkel as his true successor and guardian of his policies instead of Donald Trump; and he has cut across Trump’s known wish to improve relations with Russia by having US and EU sanctions against Russia increased and extended.

By allowing UN Resolution 2334 to pass, Obama is doing more of the same.  He knows that Trump wants closer relations with Israel and is contemplating recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there, so Obama allows a Resolution to slip past the UN Security Council that says that doing that would be against international law.

No wonder Trump – like Benjamin Netanyahu – is furious, and is making the fact known with angry comments about the UN.

Speaking for myself, on the specific issue of east Jerusalem, I happen to agree with Obama, and with Resolution 2334.

Though I understand the importance of Jerusalem not just for Israelis but also for Jewish people generally, Arabs and Muslims have at least comparably strong feelings about this issue, and given the overriding importance for the world of securing Middle East peace, it is wrong and unreasonable for Israel to try to remove the question of east Jerusalem from the negotiating table by deciding its status unilaterally.

There is of course vastly more which can be said about this subject, and about Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Territories and the Arab-Israeli conflict generally, but as this is a huge subject I will not discuss it here.

The point is that Obama’s constant campaign to box in and undermine his successor, even on issues where Obama might actually be in the right, is nonetheless petulant and wrong.

What makes it even worse in this case is that Trump, Netanyahu and probably the Russians almost certainly all believe that Obama is the true author of Resolution 2334.

Obama has a constant habit of trying to deflect criticism from himself by working through others whilst keeping his own intentions secret.  This enables him to blame others for his own mistakes – as he did for example when he managed to transfer the blame for the Libyan debacle onto Hillary Clinton – or to reverse policy quickly if his existing policy runs into criticism or opposition –  a good example being the way he let last September’s Kerry-Lavrov agreement over Syria unravel when it became clear that the Pentagon and the neocons in the State Department and the CIA opposed it.

It is this habit of Obama’s of constantly failing to commit himself publicly, and of working as much as possible from behind the scenes, which in large part explains why internationally he has become so mistrusted.

The case of Resolution 2334 is a case in point.  The full story of how this Resolution suddenly materialised before the UN Security Council just a few weeks before Donald Trump was due to become President may never be known.

However, given Obama’s history and the fact that he undoubtedly wanted the Resolution to pass, there has to be a suspicion that he got his diplomats to arrange for a friendly country – probably Egypt – to sponsor the Resolution, so that it could be passed without his having to take responsibility for it.

If Obama really did act in this way – arranging moreover for the US to abstain on a Resolution which he privately supported in order to cover his traces even further – then Trump’s and Netanyahu’s anger becomes even more understandable.

Ultimately Obama’s attempts to box in his successor will probably fail, and whatever one’s views on specific issues such as that of east Jerusalem, it deserves to.

In the case of Resolution 2334, the status of east Jerusalem is far too important to be played with in this way.  It is one thing for Obama to speak out against Donald Trump’s intended policy on this issue if he think it is wrong.  It is quite another for Obama to use his remaining weeks as President to try to sabotage in advance his successor’s policy on this and on any other issue.

Obama has had eight years as US President to fashion US policy on east Jerusalem.  He could have supported a Resolution of the sort the UN Security Council has just passed at any time during his Presidency.  A good possible moment might have been shortly after his reelection in 2011, when he would have had less reason to appease Israel’s supporters in the US than he had had previously.

Had Obama supported such a Resolution before, he might have been able to build on it to work for Middle East peace.  As it is, almost certainly because Obama finds Middle East peace-making too risky and too controversial to engage in, he has allowed efforts to achieve a peace settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict to stagnate during his Presidency.  At a political level that was probably wise because none of the efforts of previous Presidents to achieve Middle East peace have borne fruit.  Nonetheless it is what a President who genuinely cared about this issue would have done.

Instead, acquiescing in or actively engineering a Resolution like Resolution 2334 at the very end of his Presidency in order to spite his successor – and possibly Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as well – is a small minded and spiteful act, which is all but guaranteed to lead nowhere.

Trump and Netanyahu are bound to ignore it, and as there is no means to enforce it, it will join the many other Resolutions the Security Council has passed over the course of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which are listed in the preamble to Resolution 2334, and which are regularly invoked by those who seek Middle East peace, and as regularly ignored.

Unfortunately it is the sort of small minded and spiteful act which is all too typical of this President, and which shows why Obama’s conduct of foreign policy has in the end fallen so far short of its promise, and has been so generally unsuccessful.

There now follows the complete text of UN Security Council Resolution 2334

The Security Council,

Reaffirming its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 446 (1979), 452 (1979), 465 (1980), 476 (1980), 478 (1980), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003), and 1850 (2008),

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming, inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,

Reaffirming the obligation of Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and recalling the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice,

Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions,

Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines,

Recalling the obligation under the Quartet Roadmap, endorsed by its resolution 1515 (2003), for a freeze by Israel of all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, and the dismantlement of all settlement outposts erected since March 2001,

Recalling also the obligation under the Quartet roadmap for the Palestinian Authority Security Forces to maintain effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantling terrorist capabilities, including the confiscation of illegal weapons,

Condemning all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction,

Reiterating its vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,

Stressing that the status quo is not sustainable and that significant steps, consistent with the transition contemplated by prior agreements, are urgently needed in order to (i) stabilize the situation and to reverse negative trends on the ground, which are steadily eroding the two-State solution and entrenching a one-State reality, and (ii) to create the conditions for successful final status negotiations and for advancing the two-State solution through those negotiations and on the ground,

“1.   Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

“2.   Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;

“3.   Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;

“4.   Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution;

“5.   Calls upon all States, bearing in mind paragraph 1 of this resolution, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;

“6.   Calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism;

“7.   Calls upon both parties to act on the basis of international law, including international humanitarian law, and their previous agreements and obligations, to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, with the aim, inter alia, of de-escalating the situation on the ground, rebuilding trust and confidence, demonstrating through policies and actions a genuine commitment to the two-State solution, and creating the conditions necessary for promoting peace;

“8.   Calls upon all parties to continue, in the interest of the promotion of peace and security, to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final status issues in the Middle East peace process and within the time frame specified by the Quartet in its statement of 21 September 2010;

“9.   Urges in this regard the intensification and acceleration of international and regional diplomatic efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap and an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967; and underscores in this regard the importance of the ongoing efforts to advance the Arab Peace Initiative, the initiative of France for the convening of an international peace conference, the recent efforts of the Quartet, as well as the efforts of Egypt and the Russian Federation;

“10.  Confirms its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations and in the implementation of an agreement;

“11.  Reaffirms its determination to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions;

“12.  Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council every three months on the implementation of the provisions of the present resolution;

“13.  Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

 

 

 

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Is the Violent Dismemberment of Russia Official US Policy?

Neocons make the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

The Duran

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Authored by Erik D’Amato via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


If there’s one thing everyone in today’s Washington can agree on, it’s that whenever an official or someone being paid by the government says something truly outrageous or dangerous, there should be consequences, if only a fleeting moment of media fury.

With one notable exception: Arguing that the US should be quietly working to promote the violent disintegration and carving up of the largest country on Earth.

Because so much of the discussion around US-Russian affairs is marked by hysteria and hyperbole, you are forgiven for assuming this is an exaggeration. Unfortunately it isn’t. Published in the Hill under the dispassionate title “Managing Russia’s dissolution,” author Janusz Bugajski makes the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

Engagement, criticism and limited sanctions have simply reinforced Kremlin perceptions that the West is weak and predictable. To curtail Moscow’s neo-imperialism a new strategy is needed, one that nourishes Russia’s decline and manages the international consequences of its dissolution.

Like many contemporary cold warriors, Bugajski toggles back and forth between overhyping Russia’s might and its weaknesses, notably a lack of economic dynamism and a rise in ethnic and regional fragmentation.But his primary argument is unambiguous: That the West should actively stoke longstanding regional and ethnic tensions with the ultimate aim of a dissolution of the Russian Federation, which Bugajski dismisses as an “imperial construct.”

The rationale for dissolution should be logically framed: In order to survive, Russia needs a federal democracy and a robust economy; with no democratization on the horizon and economic conditions deteriorating, the federal structure will become increasingly ungovernable…

To manage the process of dissolution and lessen the likelihood of conflict that spills over state borders, the West needs to establish links with Russia’s diverse regions and promote their peaceful transition toward statehood.

Even more alarming is Bugajski’s argument that the goal should not be self-determination for breakaway Russian territories, but the annexing of these lands to other countries. “Some regions could join countries such as Finland, Ukraine, China and Japan, from whom Moscow has forcefully appropriated territories in the past.”

It is, needless to say, impossible to imagine anything like this happening without sparking a series of conflicts that could mirror the Yugoslav Wars. Except in this version the US would directly culpable in the ignition of the hostilities, and in range of 6,800 Serbian nuclear warheads.

So who is Janusz Bugajski, and who is he speaking for?

The author bio on the Hill’s piece identifies him as a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington, D.C. think-tank. But CEPA is no ordinary talk shop: Instead of the usual foundations and well-heeled individuals, its financial backers seem to be mostly arms of the US government, including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the US Mission to NATO, the US-government-sponsored National Endowment for Democracy, as well as as veritable who’s who of defense contractors, including Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Textron. Meanwhile, Bugajski chairs the South-Central Europe area studies program at the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State.

To put it in perspective, it is akin to a Russian with deep ties to the Kremlin and arms-makers arguing that the Kremlin needed to find ways to break up the United States and, if possible, have these breakaway regions absorbed by Mexico and Canada. (A scenario which alas is not as far-fetched as it might have been a few years ago; many thousands in California now openly talk of a “Calexit,” and many more in Mexico of a reconquista.)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a quasi-official voice like Bugajski’s coming out in favor of a similar policy vis-a-vis China, which has its own restive regions, and which in geopolitical terms is no more or less of a threat to the US than Russia. One reason may be that China would consider an American call for secession by the Tibetans or Uyghurs to be a serious intrusion into their internal affairs, unlike Russia, which doesn’t appear to have noticed or been ruffled by Bugajski’s immodest proposal.

Indeed, just as the real scandal in Washington is what’s legal rather than illegal, the real outrage in this case is that few or none in DC finds Bugajski’s virtual declaration of war notable.

But it is. It is the sort of provocation that international incidents are made of, and if you are a US taxpayer, it is being made in your name, and it should be among your outrages of the month.

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Vladimir Putin visits Serbia, as NATO encircles the country it attacked in 1999 (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 171.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official visit to Serbia.

Putin met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to further develop bilateral trade and economic relations, as well as discuss pressing regional issues including the possibility of extending the Turkish Stream gas pipeline into Serbia, and the dangerous situation around Kosovo.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin got a hero’s welcome in Belgrade. The one-day visit to the last holdout against NATO’s ambitions in the Balkans may have been somewhat short on substance, but was certainly loaded with symbolism.

Even before he landed, the Russian leader was given an honor guard by Serbian air force MiGs, a 2017 gift from Moscow to replace those destroyed by NATO during the 1999 air campaign that ended with the occupation of Serbia’s province of Kosovo. Russia has refused to recognize Kosovo’s US-backed declaration of independence, while the US and EU have insisted on it.

Upon landing, Putin began his first official trip of 2019 by paying respects to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating Belgrade from Nazi occupation in 1944. While most Serbians haven’t forgotten their historical brotherhood in arms with Russia, it did not hurt to remind the West just who did the bulk of the fighting against Nazi Germany back in World War II.

After official talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Putin visited the Church of St. Sava, the grand Orthodox basilica set on the spot where the Ottoman Turks torched the remains of the first Serbian archbishop back in 1594, in an effort to maintain power.

Sava, whose brother Stefan became the “first-crowned” king of medieval Serbia, was responsible for setting up the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church exactly eight centuries ago this year. For all its own troubles, the Serbian Church has sided with Moscow in the current Orthodox schism over Ukraine.

Russian artisans have been working on the grand mosaic inside the basilica, and asked Putin to complete the design by placing the last three pieces, in the colors of the Russian flag.

Whether by sheer coincidence or by design, Putin also weighed in on Serbia’s culture war, giving interviews ahead of his visit to two daily newspapers that still publish in Serbian Cyrillic – while the majority of the press, whether controlled by the West or by Vucic, prefers the Latin variant imported from Croatia.

Western media usually refer to Serbia as a “Russian ally.” While this is true in a historical and cultural sense, there is no formal military alliance between Moscow and Belgrade. Serbia officially follows the policy of military neutrality, with its armed forces taking part in exercises alongside both Russian and NATO troops.

This is a major source of irritation for NATO, which seeks dominion over the entire Balkans region. Most recently, the alliance extended membership to Montenegro in 2017 without putting the question to a referendum. It is widely expected that “Northern Macedonia” would get an invitation to NATO as soon as its name change process is complete – and that was arranged by a deal both Macedonia and Greece seem to have been pressured into by Washington.

That would leave only Serbia outside the alliance – partly, anyway, since NATO has a massive military base in the disputed province of Kosovo, and basically enjoys special status in that quasi-state. Yet despite Belgrade’s repeated declarations of Serbia wanting to join the EU, Brussels and Washington have set recognition of Kosovo as the key precondition – and no Serbian leader has been able to deliver on that just yet, though Vucic has certainly tried.

Putin’s repeated condemnations of NATO’s 1999 attack, and Russian support for Serbia’s territorial integrity guaranteed by the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, have made him genuinely popular among the Serbs, more so than Vucic himself. Tens of thousands of people showed up in Belgrade to greet the Russian president.

While Vucic’s critics have alleged that many of them were bused in by the government – which may well be true, complete with signs showing both Vucic and Putin – there is no denying the strong pro-Russian sentiment in Serbia, no matter how hard Integrity Initiative operatives have tried.

One of the signs spotted in Belgrade reportedly said “one of 300 million,” referring to the old Serbian joke about there being “300 million of us – and Russians.” However, it is also a send-up of the slogan used by current street protesters against Vucic. For the past six weeks, every Saturday, thousands of people have marched through Belgrade, declaring themselves “1 of 5 million” after Vucic said he wouldn’t give in to their demands even if “five million showed up.”

The opposition Democrats accuse him of corruption, nepotism, mismanagement, cronyism – all the sins they themselves have plenty of experience with during their 12-year reign following Serbia’s color revolution. Yet they’ve had to struggle for control of the marches with the nationalists, who accuse Vucic of preparing to betray Kosovo and want “him to go away, but [Democrats] not come back.”

There is plenty of genuine discontent in Serbia with Vucic, who first came to power in 2012 on a nationalist-populist platform but quickly began to rule as a pro-NATO liberal. It later emerged that western PR firms had a key role in his party’s “makeover” from Radicals to Progressives. Yet his subsequent balancing act between NATO and Russia has infuriated both the NGOs and politicians in Serbia beholden to Western interests, and US diplomats charged with keeping the Balkans conquered.

Washington is busy with its own troubles these days, so there was no official comment to Putin’s visit from the State Department – only a somewhat pitiful and tone-deaf tweet by Ambassador Kyle Scott, bemoaning the lack of punishment for $1 million in damages to the US Embassy during a 2008 protest against Kosovo “independence.” Yet as far as Western media outlets are concerned, why Moscow seems to be vastly more popular than Washington on the streets of Belgrade nonetheless remains a mystery.

By Nebojsa Malic

 

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Curious Bedfellows: The Neocon And Progressive Alliance To Destroy Donald Trump

The neocon metamorphosis is nearly complete as many of the neocons, who started out as Democrats, have returned home, where they are being welcomed for their hardline foreign policy viewpoint.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via OffGuardian.com:


The Roman poet Ovid’s masterful epic The Metamorphoses includes the memorable opening line regarding the poem’s central theme of transformation. He wrote In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora, which has been translated as “Of shapes transformed to bodies strange, I purpose to entreat…”

Ovid framed his narrative around gods, heroes and quasi-historical events but if he were around today, he would no doubt be fascinated by the many transformations of the group that has defined itself as neoconservative.The movement began in a cafeteria in City College of New York in the 1930s, where a group of radical Jewish students would meet to discuss politics and developments in Europe. Many of the founders were from the far left, communists of the Trotskyite persuasion, which meant that they believed in permanent global revolution led by a vanguard party. The transformation into conservatives of a neo-persuasion took place when they were reportedly “mugged by reality” into accepting that the standard leftist formulae were not working to transform the world rapidly enough. As liberal hawks, they then hitched their wagon to the power of the United States to bring about transformation by force if necessary and began to infiltrate institutions like the Pentagon to give themselves the tools to achieve their objectives, which included promotion of regime change wars, full spectrum global dominance and unconditional support for Israel.

The neocons initially found a home with Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, but they moved on in the 1970s and 1980s to prosper under Ronald Reagan as well as under Democrat Bill Clinton. Their ability to shape policy peaked under George W. Bush, when they virtually ran the Pentagon and were heavily represented in both the national security apparatus and in the White House. They became adept at selling their mantra of “strong national defense” to whomever was buying, including to President Obama, even while simultaneously complaining about his administration’s “weakness.”

The neoconservatives lined up behind Hillary Clinton in 2016, appalled by Donald Trump’s condemnation of their centerpiece war in Iraq and even more so by his pledge to end the wars in Asia and nation-building projects while also improving relations with the Russians. They worked actively against the Republican candidate both before he was nominated and elected and did everything they could to stop him, including libeling him as a Russian agent.

When Trump was elected, it, therefore, seemed that the reign of the neocons had ended, but chameleonlike, they have changed shape and are now ensconced both in some conservative as well as in an increasing number of progressive circles in Washington and in the media. Against all odds, they have even captured key posts in the White House itself with the naming of John Bolton as National Security Adviser and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. Bolton’s Chief of Staff is Fred Fleitz, a leading neocon and Islamophobe while last week Trump added Iran hawk Richard Goldberg to the National Security Council as director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction. Goldberg is an alumnus of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which is the leading neocon think tank calling incessantly for war with Iran.

Meanwhile, the neocon metamorphosis is nearly complete as many of the neocons, who started out as Democrats, have returned home, where they are being welcomed for their hardline foreign policy viewpoint. Glenn Greenwald reports that, based on polling of party supporters, the Democrats have gone full-Hillary and are now by far more hawkish than the Republicans, unwilling to leave either Syria or Afghanistan.

The neocon survival and rejuvenation is particularly astonishing in that they have been wrong about virtually everything, most notably the catastrophic Iraq War. They have never been held accountable for anything, though one should note that accountability is not a prominent American trait, at least since Vietnam. What is important is that neocon views have been perceived by the media and punditry as being part of the Establishment consensus, which provides them with access to programming all across the political spectrum. That is why neocon standard-bearers like Bill Kristol and Max Boot have been able to move effortlessly from Fox News to MSNBC where they are fêted by the likes of Rachel Maddow. They applauded the Iraq War when the Establishment was firmly behind it and are now trying to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency because America’s elite is behind that effort.

Indeed, the largely successful swing by the neocons from right to left has in some ways become more surreal, as an increasing number of progressive spokesmen and institutions have lined up behind their perpetual warfare banner. The ease with which the transformation took place reveals, interestingly, that the neocons have no real political constituency apart from voters who feel threatened and respond by supporting perpetual war, but they do share many common interests with the so-called liberal interventionists. Neocons see a global crisis for the United States defined in terms of power while the liberals see the struggle as a moral imperative, but the end result is the same: intervention by the United States. This fusion is clearly visible in Washington, where the Clintons’ Center for American Progress (CAP) is now working on position papers with the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

One of the most active groups attacking President Trump is “Republicans for the Rule of Law,” founded by Bill Kristol in January 2018, as a component of Defending Democracy Together(DDT), a 501(c)4 lobbying group that also incorporates projects called The Russia Tweets and Republicans Against Putin. Republicans Against Putin promotes the view that President Trump is not “stand[ing] up to [Vladimir] Putin” and calls for more aggressive investigation of the Russian role in the 2016 election.

DDT is a prime example of how the neoconservatives and traditional liberal interventionists have come together as it is in part funded by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire co-founder of eBay who has provided DDT with $600,000 in two grants through his Democracy Fund Voice, also a 501(c)4. Omidyar is a political liberal who has given millions of dollars to progressive organizations and individuals since 1999. Indeed, he is regarded as a top funder of liberal causesin the United States and even globally together with Michael Bloomberg and George Soros. His Democracy Fund awarded $9 million in grants in 2015 alone.

Last week, the Omidyar-Kristol connection may have deepened with an announcement regarding the launch of the launch of a new webzine The Bulwark, which would clearly be at least somewhat intended to take the place of the recently deceased Weekly Standard. It is promoting itself as the center of the “Never Trump Resistance” and it is being assumed that at least some of the Omidyar money is behind it.

Iranian-born Omidyar’s relationship with Kristol is clearly based on the hatred that the two share regarding Donald Trump.

Omidyar has stated that Trump is a “dangerous authoritarian demagogue… endorsing Donald Trump immediately disqualifies you from any position of public trust.”

He has tweeted that Trump suffers from “failing mental capacity” and is both “corrupt and incapacitated.”

Omidyar is what he is – a hardcore social justice warrior who supports traditional big government and globalist liberal causes, most of which are antithetical to genuine conservatives. But what is interesting about the relationship with Kristol is that it also reveals what the neoconservatives are all about. Kristol and company have never been actual conservatives on social issues, a topic that they studiously avoid, and their foreign policy is based on two principles: creating a state of perpetual war based on fearmongering about foreign enemies while also providing unlimited support for Israel. Kristol hates Trump because he threatens the war agenda while Omidyar despises the president for traditional progressive reasons. That hatred is the tie that binds and it is why Bill Kristol, a man possessing no character and values whatsoever, is willing to take Pierre Omidyar’s money while Pierre is quite happy to provide it to destroy a common enemy, the President of the United States of America.

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