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8 points about the crisis in Catalonia

The crisis in Catalonia was provoked by Catalonia’s nationalists, not by the Spanish government, and if handled firmly is neither big nor dangerous

Alexander Mercouris

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As the Catalonia crisis slides towards its climax, a number of misconceptions about it need urgently to be set aside.

(1) The illegality of the independence referendum does matter

Firstly, the crisis was triggered by the decision of Carles Puidgemont and of the Catalan regional government to call an independence referendum which was unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

I am troubled by the willingness of many people to disregard the illegality of the Catalan referendum and to support – apparently without giving much thought to the consequences – what was an exercise in straightforward law breaking.

This has gone along with all sorts of claims that Spain’s constitution can somehow be disregarded in this instance because constitutions supposedly derive their legitimacy from popular consent, which in Catalonia’s case the Spanish constitution is supposedly lacking.

These are wild and dangerous arguments.  Of all political systems democracy is the one which depends most on rigorous observation of the constitution and the law.  When these are disregarded and unconstitutional and illegal actions are taken and become the norm it is democracy itself which breaks down.

That is precisely what happened for example in Ukraine, where the whole root of the present crisis is the Maidan movement’s persistent refusal to respect the outcome of democratic and constitutional elections which it loses, and its willingness – as in its overthrow in February 2014 of President Yanukovych – to use unconstitutional and illegal methods to further its objectives.

The result in Ukraine was to bring the whole constitutional and legal order of Ukraine by 2014 crashing down with an unconstitutional government illegally installed by violent methods triggering secessionist moves by those who felt rightly that their constitutional and democratic rights and protections had been illegally taken from them.

That is absolutely not the situation in Catalonia today, and the parallels some people I suspect are making – if only in their own minds – between the post 2014 independence movements in Crimea and Donbass and the one in Catalonia today are false ones and should be rejected.

The fact that some people in Catalonia are unhappy with the present situation cannot be taken to mean that the constitution of the whole of Spain – of which Catalonia is only a part – no longer has consent or legitimacy and can simply be disregarded and set aside.  That is to privilege the obsessions of a small minority of Spain’s people over those of the great majority, something which would not only make constitutional government in Spain or indeed anywhere else where that principle was applied impossible, but which is in fact the reverse of what democracy is supposed to be.

I would add that the fact that in other more established democracies – such as the United States – the constitution and the law are being repeatedly violated by those in authority is certainly not something which ought to be cited as a precedent for Catalonia to follow.  On the contrary it is a cause for concern about the future of democracy in the United States.

(2) Violence in Catalonia was caused by the staging of an illegal referendum

The single fact which possibly more than any other has caused an outpouring of support for the Catalan independence movement is the appearance of riot police in Catalonia attempting to stop the illegal referendum from taking place.  This has triggered a predictable – and intended – storm of criticism of the Spanish authorities for supposedly responding violently to the Catalan people’s peaceful exercise of their supposed right to vote in the referendum.

This ignores the fact that the reason there was violence in Catalonia was because an act of illegality took place there.  To be clear wherever illegal gatherings happen (Navalny’s protests in Russia and the Maidan movement’s illegal occupation of Kiev’s Maidan Square are cases in point) there is always an inherent potential for violence, and the staging in Catalonia of an illegal referendum is no exception.

One should be very slow in situations like the one in Catalonia before criticising the Spanish authorities and the Spanish police for taking action to uphold the law.

Whilst what riot police do can always be made to look ugly, given that what took place in Catalonia was illegal I do not think that the actions of the Spanish authorities or of the Spanish police were disproportionate or unduly violent.  Reports of serious injuries are very few, and of reports of deaths thankfully there are none.

As was the case during the Slovene crisis of 1991, in Ukraine during the Maidan riots of 2013/2014, during the Libyan and Syrian protests of 2011, and during Navalny’s various protests in Moscow and elsewhere since then, I have no doubt that part of the intention behind the illegal staging of the referendum in Catalonia was precisely to provoke a reaction by the authorities and the police which could be presented to the outside world as a case of the authorities ‘violently cracking down on peaceful protests’.

I am always surprised by how easily manipulated people are by this tactic.

(3) The Spanish authorities almost certainly had no alternative but to react as they did

Here I must make some qualifications, since I accept that it is possible that the Spanish authorities may have had other more peaceful options than the ones they used in dealing with this crisis.  I do not know enough about the internal situation in Spain to know for sure one way or the other.  However I doubt that the overwhelming majority of those who pronounce confidently on this issue from the other side know much about the internal political situation in Spain either.

Again I feel that far too many people have been in a rush to make assumptions about possible alternative peaceful options for the Spanish government to have used to deal with this crisis, which because of the actual situation today in Spain may not in fact exist.

For example I question whether the fact that the Spanish authorities responded passively to an earlier referendum is as important as some people think.  It is surely possible – even likely – that the political situation in Spain and Catalonia is now such that what it was possible to ignore before is impossible to ignore now.  Giving a proper answer to this question requires a deep knowledge of Spanish domestic politics which I do not have, but which I doubt that most of the people who pronounce on this matter have either.

Ultimately a state which is not prepared to take action to defend the constitutional and legal order upon which it is based has no future.

It was the persistent refusal or inability of Mikhail Gorbachev’s government to act decisively to reassert its authority (derived from the Soviet constitution) in places like the Baltic States, Moldova and the Transcaucasus which in the end undermined its authority across the whole USSR, causing the USSR itself to collapse.

By contrast it was the Chinese government’s determined reassertion of its authority during the Tiananmen protests of 1989 which secured its survival, and China’s stability thereafter.

Ultimately if the Spanish government were to ignore persistent blatant illegality in Catalonia its authority would collapse there, with the likely result that it would in time collapse across the whole of the rest of Spain as well.  Quite possibly that was the point which the Spanish government felt had been reached when this latest illegal referendum was called.

If so then the Spanish government’s decision to send police to Catalonia to reassert its authority and that of the constitution and of the law in the face of what was a concerted illegal challenge to its authority was almost certainly – in terms of its own and the Spanish state’s survival – politically speaking the right one and indeed the only one.

(4) There are no grounds to say that the Spanish courts behaved in a biased way in striking down sections of an autonomy agreement reached between a previous Spanish government and Catalonia

Again it concerns me that so many people have uncritically accepted this claim of Francoist bias on the part of the Spanish judiciary, self-serving on the part of Catalonia’s nationalists though it is.

Ultimately there is no better judge of Spain’s constitution and law than Spain’s own courts.  Possibly some of the judges in those courts are old fashioned people of right wing and conservative views.  However General Franco – Spain’s former fascist dictator – has now been dead for 42 years.  It beggars belief that after 42 years of constitutional democracy (a period longer than Franco’s rule) the entire Spanish legal and judicial system should continue to be permeated with his thinking.

I have seen no sustained legal criticism of the Spanish court decisions which are being objected to, and I see no reason therefore to think that those decisions were either biased or wrong.

The fact that the Catalan authorities secured for themselves in negotiations with an earlier Spanish government more than they may have been legally entitled to under Spain’s constitution does not mean that they are justified now in acting illegally simply because decisions in the courts have gone against them.

No one has a right to act illegally because they lose a case in court – the idea is actually absurd – and elected authorities such as the ones in Catalonia especially should not do so.

(5) the Catalan authorities did not need to act illegally to secure independence or greater autonomy for Catalonia

Again it concerns me how readily the obviously self-serving claim that a resort to illegality is somehow justified because of the supposed impossibility of otherwise extracting concessions from the Spanish state is being accepted.

Spain is not a monolith and Catalonia is one of its biggest provinces and is also its richest province.  That means that a Catalan government committed to the objective of greater autonomy or even independence for Catalonia has any number of legal options it could turn to in order to achieve its objective.

There are for example political forces in the rest of Spain – such as for example Podemos – with which it might be able to ally itself with in order to secure a new Spanish government with which it could negotiate greater autonomy or even independence.   It could also press for changes to Spain’s constitution – which can be amended in a legal and constitutional way, like any other constitution can – to achieve those objectives.

It could incidentally also have chosen to stage the recent vote not as a binding independence referendum but as a non-binding opinion poll in order to show how strong feeling in support of independence within Catalonia is.

Instead the present Catalan government wilfully chose the path of illegality thereby – almost certainly intentionally – triggering the present crisis.

The fact that it chose to act in this way instead of choosing one of the legal and constitutional (though incremental) options available to it makes me in fact question the whole foundation myth of this whole crisis: that there is a strong majority in Catalonia which supports independence from Spain.

Generally speaking a resort to illegality by a nationalist movement only takes place within a democratic and constitutional framework when the nationalist movement itself doubts that it has the support it says it does.  The intention is to use illegality to provoke a reaction from the authorities in order to polarise opinion and harden support behind the nationalist movement.

That for example was what lay behind the resort to illegality in Ukraine in 2004 and 2014, and it seems to me that that is what we are seeing being attempted in Catalonia now.

(6) Negotiations may not offer a solution

The claim that negotiations are the route out of the crisis is something which is always said in crises of this sort, and it perhaps the most dangerous myth of all.

The proper solution of the crisis in Catalonia is not negotiations.  It is a return to legality.

When President Yanukovych of Ukraine in 2014 sought to negotiate with the leaders of the Maidan movement who were acting illegally he did not secure a peaceful or proper solution to the crisis in Ukraine.  He secured instead his own downfall and that of the whole constitutional order of Ukraine.

In this case if the Catalan government persists in its claim that the illegal referendum has given Catalonia a ‘right’ to secede from Spain then negotiations between it and the Spanish government become unwise and even dangerous, since they can appear to be legitimising that objective and the way the Catalan government is going about achieving it.  In that case the ‘negotiations’ simply become a mechanism to achieve Catalan independence from Spain.  Anyone who observed Puidgemont’s speech to the Catalan parliament can see that that is exactly the agenda he is following.

Again it puzzles me that some people are unable to see behind this – wholly transparent – agenda, and construe a purported ‘offer’ from Puidgemont for talks – be it noted on his terms – as a ‘last chance for Spain’ when it is in reality the precise opposite.

The Spanish government’s challenge to Puidgemont – to clarify whether he has declared independence or not – by contrast makes total sense, as does the Spanish government’s eight day ultimatum to the Catalan government to scrap its independence declaration or face the consequences.

(7) This is not a major crisis in Spain and for the European Union

Though here I cannot be sure I suspect that the claim that this is a big or serious crisis is the biggest myth of all.

The Spanish government has threatened the Catalan government with the imposition of direct rule from Madrid unless it backs down and cancels its independence declaration.  It has also made it fairly clear that it is considering legal proceedings against the Catalan officials – including Puidgemont – who were responsible for the referendum and for the independence declaration.

This is being universally reported as taking Spain into ‘uncharted waters’, supposedly causing a huge crisis in Catalonia and Spain and ultimately for the EU.

I am not sure why.  No doubt the imposition of direct rule by Madrid would meet with opposition in Catalonia.  However short of a resort to outright violence I have no doubt the resources of the Spanish state would enable it to prevail quickly in the event of a stand-off.  Catalan society is divided on the independence question – with much of Catalonia’s working class said to be opposed – so it is difficult to see how opposition could be sustained for very long.

Needless to say if there is a resort to violence the resources of the Spanish state will quickly contain it.  A Spanish state that was able to defeat the challenge of Basque terrorism can certainly counter any threat of violence coming from within Catalonia.  I would add that in the event that they were to resort to violence – which I think is very unlikely – the Catalan nationalists would quickly lose support within Catalonia itself.

Here it is essential to make a point made previously by Haneul Na’avi.  The Catalan independence movement is in no sense a revolutionary movement.  It is not calling for a revolutionary transformation of Catalan or Spanish society.  Mostly it is a conservative middle class movement anxious to shore up the economic and cultural privileges of Catalonia’s conservative middle class.  That all but excludes any real possibility of it posing any true sustained challenge either to the Spanish state or to the EU or to the neoliberal global order, always provided that the Spanish government keeps its head and preserves its domestic support.

As for the European Union, the Catalan nationalists have pledged their loyalty to it.  Apparently they hope this will win them sympathy and support from the European Union, just as it did for Slovenia in 1991.

In that they are likely to be disappointed.  Though there may be some officials within the EU bureaucracy in Brussels who are sympathetic to Catalonia’s cause, the most powerful EU states – Germany, France and Italy, all of which face potential challenges from independence movements of their own – are all but certain to side with Spain, their fellow EU state, against them.

The basic lesson of the last 25 years is that no secessionist movement strongly opposed by the government of the state it is looking to secede from can win independence unless it has strong support from powerful outside powers.  As of this moment the Catalan independence movement has no such support – or none that matters – and unless that changes  – and there is no reason to think it will – that dooms its independence bid to certain failure.

Much will depend on how the Spanish government handles the situation over the next few weeks.  Provided it keeps its nerve and avoids being provoked into either excessive overreaction or unnecessary concessions, the strong odds seem to me to be that it will prevail, and that following a few days or even weeks of protests its imposition of direct rule on Catalonia will be seen to be successful.

In that case after a short time I would expect opinion in Catalonia – already divided on the independence question – to start to swing back towards the government, and the crisis in Catalonia to subside.

(8) Russia does not support Catalan independence 

It is actually ridiculous to waste time on this point and I only do so because a few people in Spain and the US who have lost all touch with reality appear to believe it.

The Russian government’s position is that the crisis in Catalonia is a strictly Spanish internal matter.  However in private I have no doubt the Russian government’s sympathies are not with the Catalans but with Spain.

Though the two countries are hardly close, relations between Russia and Spain are cordial, with Spain being one of those countries which in 2014 expressed doubts about the wisdom of the EU imposing sanctions on Russia.

Beyond that however is the overriding concern for Russia that the break up of Spain would increase regional instability – something the Russians deeply mistrust – without conferring on Russia any obvious advantages.  To be clear, quite how a pro-EU, right wing, Atlanticist independent Catalonia – which is what Puidgemont says he wants – would benefit Russia completely escapes me.

I am sure that no one in authority in Moscow wants to see that, and the Russian government’s repeated public pronouncements that it wants to see the crisis in Catalonia resolved peacefully within the framework of Spain constitution and its law should be accepted as its true position.

Summary

Internal crises in various states like the one in Spain and Catalonia blow up from time to time.  In my opinion when they do they pose little danger to world peace or to the international system unless they directly impact on the national security interests of the Great Powers.

In Catalonia’s case neither the US nor Russia – the two Great Powers which in this region matter – have any interest in an independent Catalonia, whilst the two other Great Powers – China and India – are certain to oppose it, and the dominant regional power – Germany – is certain to oppose it also.

That almost certainly means that provided the authorities in Madrid keep their nerve they should be able to contain this crisis with little difficulty. Whilst the challenge of Catalan nationalism will doubtless continue for a time to pose problems for the Spanish state, there is no reason to think it cannot surmount them.

As for Mariano Rajoy – Spain’s much maligned Prime Minister – the high probability is that he will emerge from this crisis with his popularity and authority enhanced amongst Spain’s people, so that he will win a victory in the election which he is likely to call soon.  In saying this I should make clear that (1) for entirely different reasons unrelated to the Catalan crisis I neither like nor support Rajoy; and (2) that it is important to stress that for Rajoy it is ultimately the support he gets in Spain from its people and from the leading Western powers which matters, and not what the international liberal commentariat says about him.

It is essential when discussing a crisis like this to keep a clear head.  Crises of this sort only start to become dangerous when the myths conjured up by those who intentionally trigger them start to become accepted as facts.  That is what happened disastrously in 1991 in Yugoslavia and in 2014 in Ukraine.

There is no reason to do this in Catalonia’s case and thankfully the indifference of the Great Powers to this crisis makes it unlikely it will happen.

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Fake news media FREAK OUT over Trump and NATO (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 172.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the media meltdown over remarks that U.S. President Trump may have made with regard to NATO, and how neo-liberal war hawks championing the alliance as some sort of foreign policy projection of peace and democracy, are really just supporting aggression, war, and the eventual weakening of the United States.

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Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO, Authored by David Swanson:


The New York Times loves NATO, but should you?

Judging by comments in social media and the real world, millions of people in the United States have gone from having little or no opinion on NATO, or from opposing NATO as the world’s biggest military force responsible for disastrous wars in places like Afghanistan (for Democrats) or Libya (for Republicans), to believing NATO to be a tremendous force for good in the world.

I believe this notion to be propped up by a series of misconceptions that stand in dire need of correction.

1. NATO is not a war-legalizing body, quite the opposite. NATO, like the United Nations, is an international institution that has something or other to do with war, but transferring the UN’s claimed authority to legalize a war to NATO has no support whatsoever in reality. The crime of attacking another nation maintains an absolutely unaltered legal status whether or not NATO is involved. Yet NATO is used within the U.S. and by other NATO members as cover to wage wars under the pretense that they are somehow more legal or acceptable. This misconception is not the only way in which NATO works against the rule of law. Placing a primarily-U.S. war under the banner of NATO also helps to prevent Congressional oversight of that war. Placing nuclear weapons in “non-nuclear” nations, in violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty, is also excused with the claim that the nations are NATO members (so what?). And NATO, of course, assigns nations the responsibility to go to war if other nations go to war — a responsibility that requires them to be prepared for war, with all the damage such preparation does.

2. NATO is not a defensive institution. According to the New York Times, NATO has “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is an article of faith, based on the unsubstantiated belief that Soviet and Russian aggression toward NATO members has existed for 70 years and that NATO has deterred it rather than provoked it. In violation of a promise made, NATO has expanded eastward, right up to the border of Russia, and installed missiles there. Russia has not done the reverse. The Soviet Union has, of course, ended. NATO has waged aggressive wars far from the North Atlantic, bombing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. NATO has added a partnership with Colombia, abandoning all pretense of its purpose being in the North Atlantic. No NATO member has been attacked or credibly threatened with attack, apart from small-scale non-state blowback from NATO’s wars of aggression.

3. Trump is not trying to destroy NATO. Donald Trump, as a candidate and as U.S. President, has wondered aloud and even promised all kinds of things and, in many cases, the exact opposite as well. When it comes to actions, Trump has not taken any actions to limit or end or withdraw from NATO. He has demanded that NATO members buy more weapons, which is of course a horrible idea. Even in the realm of rhetoric, when European officials have discussed creating a European military, independent of the United States, Trump has replied by demanding that they instead support NATO.

4. If Trump were trying to destroy NATO, that would tell us nothing about NATO. Trump has claimed to want to destroy lots of things, good and bad. Should I support NAFTA or corporate media or the Cold War or the F35 or anything at all, simply because some negative comment about it escapes Trump’s mouth? Should I cheer for every abuse ever committed by the CIA or the FBI because they investigate Trump? Should I long for hostility between nuclear-armed governments because Democrats claim Trump is a Russian agent? When Trump defies Russia to expand NATO, or to withdraw from a disarmament treaty or from an agreement with Iran, or to ship weapons to Ukraine, or to try to block Russian energy deals in Europe, or to oppose Russian initiatives on banning cyber-war or weapons in space, should I cheer for such consistent defiance of Trump’s Russian master, and do so simply because Russia is, so implausibly, his so-inept master? Or should I form my own opinion of things, including of NATO?

5. Trump is not working for, and was not elected by, Russia.According to the New York Times, “Russia’s meddling in American elections and its efforts to prevent former satellite states from joining the alliance have aimed to weaken what it views as an enemy next door, the American officials said.” But are anonymous “American officials” really needed to acquire Russia’s openly expressed opinion that NATO is a threatening military alliance that has moved weapons and troops to states on Russia’s border? And has anyone produced the slightest documentation of the Russian government’s aims in an activity it has never admitted to, namely “meddling in American elections,” — an activity the United States has of course openly admitted to in regard to Russian elections? We have yet to see any evidence that Russia stole or otherwise acquired any of the Democratic Party emails that documented that party’s rigging of its primary elections in favor of Clinton over Sanders, or even any claim that the tiny amount of weird Facebook ads purchased by Russians could possibly have influenced the outcome of anything. Supposedly Trump is even serving Russia by demanding that Turkey not attack Kurds. But is using non-military means to discourage Turkish war-making necessarily the worst thing? Would it be if your favorite party or politician did it? If Trump encouraged a Turkish war, would that also be a bad thing because Trump did it, or would it be a bad thing for substantive reasons?

6. If Trump were elected by and working for Russia, that would tell us nothing about NATO. Imagine if Boris Yeltsin were indebted to the United States and ended the Soviet Union. Would that tell us whether ending the Soviet Union was a good thing, or whether the Soviet Union was obsolete for serious reasons? If Trump were a Russian pawn and began reversing all of his policies on Russia to match that status, including restoring his support for the INF Treaty and engaging in major disarmament negotiations, and we ended up with a world of dramatically reduced military spending and nuclear armaments, with the possibility of all dying in a nuclear apocalypse significantly lowered, would that too simply be a bad thing because Trump?

7. Russia is not a military threat to the world. That Russia would cheer NATO’s demise tells us nothing about whether we should cheer too. Numerous individuals and entities who indisputably helped to put Trump in the White House would dramatically oppose and others support NATO’s demise. We can’t go by their opinions either, since they don’t all agree. We really are obliged to think for ourselves. Russia is a heavily armed militarized nation that commits the crime of war not infrequently. Russia is a top weapons supplier to the world. All of that should be denounced for what it is, not because of who Russia is or who Trump is. But Russia spends a tiny fraction of what the United States does on militarism. Russia has been reducing its military spending each year, while the United States has been increasing its military spending. U.S. annual increases have sometimes exceeded Russia’s entire military budget. The United States has bombed nine nations in the past year, Russia one. The United States has troops in 175 nations, Russia in 3. Gallup and Pew find populations around the world viewing the United States, not Russia, as the top threat to peace in the world. Russia has asked to join NATO and the EU and been rejected, NATO members placing more value on Russia as an enemy. Anonymous U.S. military officials describe the current cold war as driven by weapons profits. Those profits are massive, and NATO now accounts for about three-quarters of military spending and weapons dealing on the globe.

8. Crimea has not been seized. According to the New York Times, “American national security officials believe that Russia has largely focused on undermining solidarity between the United States and Europe after it annexed Crimea in 2014. Its goal was to upend NATO, which Moscow views as a threat.” Again we have an anonymous claim as to a goal of a government in committing an action that never occurred. We can be fairly certain such things are simply made up. The vote by the people of Crimea to re-join Russia is commonly called the Seizure of Crimea. This infamous seizure is hard to grasp. It involved a grand total of zero casualties. The vote itself has never been re-done. In fact, to my knowledge, not a single believer in the Seizure of Crimea has ever advocated for re-doing the vote. Coincidentally, polling has repeatedly found the people of Crimea to be happy with their vote. I’ve not seen any written or oral statement from Russia threatening war or violence in Crimea. If the threat was implicit, there remains the problem of being unable to find Crimeans who say they felt threatened. (Although I have seen reports of discrimination against Tartars during the past 4 years.) If the vote was influenced by the implicit threat, there remains the problem that polls consistently get the same result. Of course, a U.S.-backed coup had just occurred in Kiev, meaning that Crimea — just like a Honduran immigrant — was voting to secede from a coup government, by no means an action consistently frowned upon by the United States.

9. NATO is not an engaged alternative to isolationism. The notion that supporting NATO is a way to cooperate with the world ignores superior non-deadly ways to cooperate with the world. A nonviolent, cooperative, treaty-joining, law-enforcing alternative to the imperialism-or-isolationism trap is no more difficult to think of or to act on than treating drug addiction or crime or poverty as reason to help people rather than to punish them. The opposite of bombing people is not ignoring them. The opposite of bombing people is embracing them. By the standards of the U.S. communications corporations Switzerland must be the most isolationist land because it doesn’t join in bombing anyone. The fact that it supports the rule of law and global cooperation, and hosts gatherings of nations seeking to work together is simply not relevant.

10. April 4 belongs to Martin Luther King, Jr., not militarism. War is a leading contributor to the growing global refugee and climate crises, the basis for the militarization of the police, a top cause of the erosion of civil liberties, and a catalyst for racism and bigotry. A growing coalition is calling for the abolition of NATO, the promotion of peace, the redirection of resources to human and environmental needs, and the demilitarization of our cultures. Instead of celebrating NATO’s 70thanniversary, we’re celebrating peace on April 4, in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech against war on April 4, 1967, as well as his assassination on April 4, 1968.

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Turkey prepared to take Syria’s Manbij, won’t let it turn into ‘swamp’ like N. Iraq

Turkey sees the US-backed Kurdish YPG militias as an extension of the PKK and considers them terrorists as well.

RT

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Ankara has “almost completed” preparations for another military operation in Syria and will launch it if “promises” made by other parties about the protection of its borders are not kept, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

Turkey still hopes that talks with the US, Russia and “other parties” will allow it to ensure its security without resorting to force but it is still ready to proceed with a military option and will not “wait forever,” Erdogan said. He was referring to Ankara’s plans for the northern Syrian territories east of the Euphrates River, which it seeks to turn into a “security zone”free of any Kurdish militias.

“We are on our border with our forces and following developments closely. If promises made to us are kept and the process goes on, that’s fine. Otherwise, we inform that we have almost completed our preparations and will take steps in line with our own strategy,” the president said, addressing a group of businessmen in Ankara on Monday.

He did not elaborate on the promises made. However, they are apparently linked to the withdrawal of the Kurdish YPG militia from the Manbij area and the regions along the border with Turkey. “We will never allow a safe zone to turn into a new swamp,” Erdogan said, referring to the northern Syrian territories and comparing them to the northern Iraq, where the militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – an organization that Ankara considers a terrorist group – have been entrenched for decades.

Turkey sees the US-backed Kurdish YPG militias, which form the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as an extension of the PKK and considers them terrorists as well. “Our proposal for a security zone under Turkey’s control aims to keep terror organizations away from our borders,” the Turkish president said.

He went on to explain that Ankara does not seek any territorial gains in its military campaigns in Syria but merely seeks to restore order in the war-ravaged country. “We will provide security for Manbij and then we will hand over the city to its real owners,” Erdogan said. “Syria belongs to Syrians.”

Turkey also seeks to establish a “security zone 20 miles [32 kilometers] deep” into Syria, Erdogan said, adding that he already discussed this issue with the US President Donald Trump. “Those who insistently want to keep us away from these regions are seeking to strengthen terror organizations,” he added.

Ankara has been long planning to push YPG units out of the area east of the Euphrates River. Its operation was delayed by the US withdrawal from Syria. However, Erdogan repeatedly hinted that his patience is wearing thin and he is not ready to wait much longer. He warned Trump against backtracking on his pledge to withdraw some 2,000 US forces out of Syria following a suicide attack in Manbij that killed four Americans. If the US president halted the withdrawal, it would mean that Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) had won, Erdogan argued.

He has also reiterated that Turkey is ready to take over Manbij “without delay.” The US military is currently working on security arrangements with the Turkish forces to create a buffer zone between Turkey and the Kurdish fighters. The Kurds, meanwhile, invited the Syrian government to take over the city and have reportedly begun to leave the area. Turkey has dismissed the reports saying its a “psyop”.

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Political Knives Dull Themselves on the Rock of Brexit Article 50

The invocation of Article 50 was undertaken by an act of Parliament. And it will take another act of Parliament to undo it.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored Tom Luongo via Strategic Culture Foundation:


Theresa “The Gypsum Lady” May went through an extraordinary twenty-four hours. First, seeing her truly horrific Brexit deal go down in historic defeat and then, somehow, surviving a ‘No-Confidence’ vote which left her in a stronger position than before it.

It looks like May rightly calculated that the twenty or so Tory Remainers would put party before the European Union as their personal political positions would be terminally weakened if they voted her out of office.

While there is little stomach in the British Parliament for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, there is less for allowing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister. And that is the crux of why the incessant calls to delay Brexit, call for a ‘people’s vote’ or, in Corbyn’s case, “take a no-deal Brexit off the table,’ ultimately lead to a whole lot of political knife-fighting and very little substantive action.

The day-to-day headline spam is designed to wear down people’s resistance and make it feel like Brexit getting betrayed is inevitable. That has been the British Deep State’s and EU’s game plan all along and they hoped they could arm-twist enough people in parliament to succeed.

But the problem for them now, since the clock has nearly run out, is the invocation of Article 50 was undertaken by an act of Parliament. And it will take another act of Parliament to undo it.

And I don’t see anyone on the Remainer side working towards that end. That should be your clue as to what happens next.

Why? Because they know they don’t have the time to get that act past Parliament. So, the rest of this is simply a PR campaign to push public opinion far enough to allow for an illegal canceling or postponing of Brexit.

But it’s not working.

According to the latest polls, Brits overwhelmingly want the original Brexit vote respectedLeave even has a 5-6 point lead over Remain.

And, I think Theresa May now realizes this. It is why she invited the no-confidence vote against her. She knew she had the votes and it would give her the ammunition to ignore Corbyn’s hysterical ranting about taking a no-deal Brexit off the table.

Whether she realizes that the only negotiating tool she has with the EU is the threat of a No-Deal Brexit, exactly like Nigel Farage and those committed to Brexit have been telling her for two years is still, however, up in the air.

It looks like she’s finally starting to get it.

The net result is we are seeing a similar outing of the nefarious, behind-the-scenes, power brokers in the public eye similar to what’s been happening in the US with Donald Trump and Russiagate.

May has been singularly unimpressive in her handling of Brexit. I’ve been convinced from the beginning that betraying Brexit was always her goal. Negotiating a deal unacceptable to anyone was meant to exhaust everyone into the position to just throwing up their hands and canceling the whole thing.

The EU has been in the driver’s seat the entire time because most of the British establishment has been on their side and it was only the people who needed to be disrespected.

So, after all of these shananigans we are back to where we were last week. May has cut off all avenues of discussion. She won’t commit to taking ‘no-deal’ off the table to tweak Corbyn. She won’t substantively move on any other issue. This is likely to push her deal through as a last-minute panic move.

Corbyn is still hoping to get new elections to take power, and the majority of MP’s who don’t want to leave the EU keep fighting among themselves to cock up the entire works.

All they are doing is expending pound after pound of political capital beating themselves against their own act of Parliament which goes into effect on March 29th.

By the time that date comes around the frustration, shame and humiliation of how Parliament has mishandled Brexit will make it difficult for a lot of Remainers to hold together their majority as public opinion has decidedly turned against them.

In the past the EU has had that façade of democratic support undermining any change at the political level. With Brexit (and with budget talks in Italy) that is not the case. The people are angry.

The peak moment for Remainers to stage a bipartisan political coup against May should have been the most recent no-confidence vote.

With May surviving that it implies that Remainers are not willing to die politically for their cause.

This should begin to see defectors over the next couple of weeks as they realize they don’t have a hand to play either.

And by May refusing to rule out a ‘no-deal’ Brexit it has finally brought the EU around to throw a bone towards the British. Their admitting they would extend Article 50 is just that. But they know that’s a non-starter as that is the one thing May has been steadfast in holding to.

On March 29th with or without a deal the U.K. is out of the EU. Because despite the European Court of Justice’s decision, Britain’s parliament can only cancel Article 50 at this point by acting illegally.

Not that I would put that past these people, but then that opens up a can of worms that most British MP’s will not go along with. The personal stakes are simply too high.

When dealing with politicians, never bet against their vanity or their pocketbook. In May’s case she may finally have realized she could have the legacy of getting Britain out of the EU just before it collapses.

And all she has to do between now and the end of March is, precisely, nothing.

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