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Here’s why Trump’s allying with Saudi Arabia against Iran is complete folly

US President Trump is proposing to give $300 billion of arms to a Saudi regime led by the reckless Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is openly talking of launching a pre-emptive war against Iran.

Alexander Mercouris

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One of the most concerning things about President Trump, which has become increasingly obvious ever since he was inaugurated President, is that he is a President who those around him find very easy to manipulate.  There are numerous reports, which I believe, that he tends to do whatever the last person he speaks to urges him to do.

Unfortunately Trump’s intense hostility to Iran means that he has just been manipulated by arguably the most dangerous man on the planet, with the result that the US is now drifting into an alliance with Saudi Arabia against Iran.

That Iran is in almost every respect a far more modern and far more democratic society that Saudi Arabia is or can ever be I have previously discussed.  That under the leadership of its de facto ruler – the 31 year old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – Saudi Arabia is on course to bankrupting itself, making it an inherently unstable partner and ally, I have also recently pointed out.

The problems with the leadership Prince Mohammed bin Salman do not however end at the Saudi border.  His public comments show that he is also pathologically hostile to Iran, more so – if that is possible – that any other Saudi leader.  Consider for example his quite extraordinary and very alarming comments about Iran in his recent interview with Al-Arabiya, a media broadcaster funded by the Saudis which reflects their views

Can we see a direct dialogue with Iran in the future despite what it is doing in the region?

How do you communicate with someone or a regime that’s completely convinced that its system is based on an extremist ideology that relies on texts in its constitution and in Khomeini’s legacy and that stipulates that it must control Muslims in the Islamic world and spread the Twelver Jaafari sect in the Islamic world so Imam Mahdi comes.

How do I convince these of anything? What interests are there between me and them? How do I communicate with them?

When there’s a problem between me and another state, we begin by solving it. For example, if there’s an economic problem, we communicate and I see what you want and you see what I want and we understand how to address the problem.

If, for example, it is a political problem, like the case is with Russia and how we communicate regarding Syria, we discuss what their interests are and what my interests are.

How do we communicate on Yemen? We discuss interests.

But with Iran, how do we communicate? Their logic is based on the notion that Imam Mahdi will come and that they must prepare the fertile environment for his arrival and they must control the Muslim world.

They deprived their own people of development for more than 30 years and put them through starvation. The people have bad infrastructure because the regime only wants to achieve this aim related to Imam Mahdi.

The regime will not change its mindset overnight; otherwise, its legitimacy inside Iran will come to an end.

The mutual points, which we can agree on with this regime, are almost non-existent.

This regime was tested during more than one phase, like during the time of Rafsanjani and everything turned out to be mere charades. The strategy of expansion was adopted after the Khomeini revolution happened. When the world got angry, they brought a peaceful leader and at the time it was Rafsanjani. They did that to gain the trust of the world and our trust. They gained our trust.

After that they got to another phase of providing a good environment, an extremist leader was assigned so the expansion resumes. This is what we saw during the reign of Ahmedinejad and we saw how they expanded in Iraq, Syria and other areas.

Then they’d assign another leader to maintain the gains and satisfy the rest of the world (NB:this comment clearly refers to President Rouhani – AM).

Then they’d again assign an extremist leader to resume expansion.

This will not happen. This is over. A believer is not bitten from the same hole twice.

We were bitten once. We will not be bitten again.

We know we are a major target for the Iranian regime. Reaching the Muslims’ qibla is a major aim for the Iranian regime.

We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia but we will work so the battle is there in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.

(bold italics added)

This is paranoid stuff.  It says that regardless of what ruler the Iranian people choose, and regardless of what the Iranians themselves say, Iran is in reality always on a mission to conquer Saudi Arabia and all Muslims everywhere, supposedly because Khomeini programmed Iran that way and Iran’s constitution requires it, and nothing can ever change it.

I cannot speak of Khomeini, though I remember him well and I cannot remember anyone reporting him speaking in this way.  However the text of Iran’s constitution can be easily found, and it contains none of the apocalyptic and megalomaniac injunctions Prince Mohammed bin Salman says it does.  Instead it contains provisions like this

Article 11

In accordance with the sacred verse of the Qur’an (“This your community is a single community, and I am your Lord, so worship Me” [21:92]), all Muslims form a single nation, and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has the duty of formulating its general policies with a view to cultivating the friendship and unity of all Muslim peoples, and it must constantly strive to bring about the political, economic, and cultural unity of the Islamic world.

Freedom of religion

Article 12

Official religion

The official religion of Iran is Islam and the Twelver Ja’farî school [in usul al-Dîn and fiqh], and this principle will remain eternally immutable. Other Islamic schools, including the Hanafî, Shafi’î, Malikî, Hanbalî, and Zaydî, are to be accorded full respect, and their followers are free to act in accordance with their own jurisprudence in performing their religious rites. These schools enjoy official status in matters pertaining to religious education, affairs of personal status (marriage, divorce, inheritance, and wills) and related litigation in courts of law. In regions of the country where Muslims following any one of these schools of fiqh constitute the majority, local regulations, within the bounds of the jurisdiction of local councils, are to be in accordance with the respective school of fiqh, without infringing upon the rights of the followers of other schools.

Article 13

Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities, who, within the limits of the law, are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education.

Article 14

In accordance with the sacred verse (“God does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with those who have not fought against you because of your religion and who have not expelled you from your homes” [60:8]), the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to treat non-Muslims in conformity with ethical norms and the principles of Islamic justice and equity, and to respect their human rights. This principle applies to all who refrain from engaging in conspiracy or activity against Islam and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

…….

Foreign Policy

Article 152

The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based upon the rejection of all forms of domination, both the exertion of it and submission to it, the preservation of the independence of the country in all respects and its territorial integrity, the defence of the rights of all Muslims, non-alignment with respect to the hegemonist superpowers, and the maintenance of mutually peaceful relations with all non-belligerent States.

Ownership of natural resources

Article 153 Any form of agreement resulting in foreign control over the natural resources, economy, army, or culture of the country, as well as other aspects of the national life, is forbidden.

Right to self determination

Article 154

The Islamic Republic of Iran has as its ideal human felicity throughout human society, and considers the attainment of independence, freedom, and rule of justice and truth to be the right of all people of the world. Accordingly, while scrupulously refraining from all forms of interference in the internal affairs of other nations, it supports the just struggles of the mustad’afun (the oppressed – AM) against the mustakbirun (the oppressors – AM) in every corner of the globe.

Some of these provisions are based on general Islamic concepts universally shared by all Muslims, whilst others reflect the origins of Iran’s Islamic Republic in the revolution that brought down the Shah.  Others are standard provisions common to most constitutions.

The provision in Article 11 about the essential unity of all Muslims – including Sunni and Shi’a Muslims – and of all Muslims forming a single community of believers, is one that all Muslims share or are supposed to share.  It does not imply a desire to conquer other Muslim states as part of some apocalyptic project to pave the way for the coming of the Mahdi.  On the contrary Article 152 specifically rejects “all forms of domination, both the exertion of it and submission to it”, whilst Article 12 calls for respect to be shown to other forms of Islam – including Sunni Islam – and Article 13 calls for similar respect to be shown to Iran’s historical religious minorities, the Zoroastrians, the Christians and the Jews.

As for Article 154, the provision aligning Iran with the struggle of the oppressed everywhere reflects Khomeini’s ideas and the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary origins.  The Oxford Dictionary of Islam explains the concept in this way

Mustad’afun: the lower classes; the downtrodden; the meek; “the barefoot.” Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (d. 1989 ) popularized this concept in revolutionary Iran. The term also refers to those who are deprived of the opportunity to develop their full potential. Khomeini spoke of two diametrically opposed versions of Islam: that of the mutakbarun (the rich and arrogant) and that of the mustadafun. This group was Khomeini’s popular base of support; he maintained that the Islamic revolution ( 1979 ) was made by the mustadafun and must serve their interests.

One can see why the Saudis and Prince Mohammed bin Salman would be not be happy with this, and might see Islam interpreted in this way as a threat to their positions.  However the fact remains that this is a stance ultimately rooted in the ideology of post Second World War anti-colonialist movements, possibly also drawing ideas from 1970s Catholic Liberation theology and Marxist class struggle theories, such as might be expected of a 1970s revolutionary leader, which is what Khomeini ultimately was.  It is not a theological call to conquer the Muslim world in order to pave the way for the Mahdi, and the wording does not allow for it to be interpreted in that way.

The problem is that not only does Prince Mohammed bin Salman make all these groundless and paranoid assertions about Iran, but in typical Dr. Strangelove fashion he talks of launching a pre-emptive war to prevent the terrifying things he expects from Iran from coming to pass.  How else is one to interpret his astonishing comment about “not wait(ing) until the battle is in Saudi Arabia but….work(ing) so the battle is there in Iran….”.

This is the man, with his alarming combination of recklessness and paranoia, with whom Trump is aligning the US.  Moreover Trump has now agreed to give this man – who is openly talking of launching a pre-emptive war against Iran – $300 billion of US weapons to upgrade his military.

Even Prince Mohammed bin Salman probably realises that even with this tidal wave of weapons Saudi Arabia can never by itself defeat Iran.  However by lending him US support Trump is also making it possible for Prince Mohammed bin Salman to leverage US support in order to create what he obviously intends to be a Saudi led Sunni grand coalition against Iran.

This is what the so-called Riyadh Declaration – signed by Trump and 55 other Muslim leaders during Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia – is all about.  That it is Iran and not Al-Qaeda or ISIS which is the primary target is obvious from the text.  This straightforwardly sets up a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia with its headquarters in Riyadh.  Its purpose supposedly is to fight terrorism.  However Al-Qaeda and ISIS – the two great terrorist organisations which straddle the Middle East – are mentioned in the case of ISIS only once, whilst Al-Qaeda is never mentioned at all.  Contrast this with what the Riyadh Declaration has to say about Iran

2- The leaders confirmed their absolute rejection of the practices of the Iranian regime designed to destabilize the security and stability of the region and the world at large and for its continuing support for terrorism and extremism.

3- The leaders condemned the Iranian regime’s hostile positions and continuing interference in the domestic affairs of other countries in a flagrant violation of the principles of international law and good neighborhood, confirming their commitment to confront that.

4- The leaders are committed to intensify their efforts to observe the security of the region and the world at large, and firmly confront the subversive and destructive Iranian activities inside their countries and through joint coordination.

5- The leaders underlined the dangerous Iranian ballistic missiles program and denounced the Iranian regime’s continuing violations for Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

It is impossible to avoid the impression that alongside his wildly over-ambitious domestic and economic policies, Prince Mohammed bin Salman also intends a war against Iran, and is trying to involve both the US and the rest of the Muslim world in it.

In reality Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans are most unlikely to work out as he imagines.

Firstly, it is barely conceivable that most of the other Muslim leaders who signed the Riyadh Declaration seriously intend to involve their countries in a Saudi led war against Iran.  Probably they only signed the Declaration in order to get their hands on the Saudis’ money. Once it is in their pockets all the brave words about a Saudi led alliance against Iran will surely be quietly forgotten.

Secondly, one has to wonder how enthusiastic the US public will be if one day its leaders demand that the US go to war with Iran to extricate Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Arabia from whatever mess they get themselves into.

As for the Saudi military, as my colleague Adam Garrie rightly says, its performance in combat has been dismal.  It has failed to defeat even the lightly armed Houthi militia in Iran, and even with $300 billion of extra weapons from the US it stands no chance of ever defeating Iran.

The fact that Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans for war against Iran are completely unrealistic – just as his grandiose economic schemes are – does not however make him any the less dangerous.

The fact remains that President Trump – almost certainly without fully realising it – is committing the US to support the reckless projects of a wilful young man with overweening ambitions and only a tenuous grasp of reality, who is talking – apparently in all seriousness – of setting the whole Middle East on fire by launching a war against Iran.

That in itself in itself should be a cause of serious concern.  However in the US it seems it barely is.

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The Indiscreet Charm of the Gilets Jaunes

Nothing scares the Identity Politics Left quite like an actual working class uprising.

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Authored (satirically) by CJ Hopkins via The Unz Review:


So it appears the privatization of France isn’t going quite as smoothly as planned. As I assume you are aware, for over a month now, the gilets jaunes (or “yellow vests”), a multiplicitous, leaderless, extremely pissed off, confederation of working class persons, have been conducting a series of lively protests in cities and towns throughout the country to express their displeasure with Emmanuel Macron and his efforts to transform their society into an American-style neo-feudal dystopia. Highways have been blocked, toll booths commandeered, luxury automobiles set on fire, and shopping on the Champs-Élysées disrupted. What began as a suburban tax revolt has morphed into a bona fide working class uprising.

It took a while for “the Golden Boy of Europe” to fully appreciate what was happening. In the tradition of his predecessor, Louis XVI, Macron initially responded to the gilets jaunes by inviting a delegation of Le Monde reporters to laud his renovation of the Elysée Palace, making the occasional condescending comment, and otherwise completely ignoring them. That was back in late November. Last Saturday, he locked down central Paris, mobilized a literal army of riot cops, “preventatively arrested” hundreds of citizens, including suspected “extremist students,” and sent in the armored military vehicles.

The English-language corporate media, after doing their best not to cover these protests (and, instead, to keep the American and British publics focused on imaginary Russians), have been forced to now begin the delicate process of delegitimizing the gilets jaunes without infuriating the the entire population of France and inciting the British and American proletariats to go out and start setting cars on fire. They got off to a bit of an awkward start.

For example, this piece by Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian‘s Paris Bureau Chief, and her Twitter feed from the protests last Saturday. Somehow (probably a cock-up at headquarters), The Guardian honchos allowed Chrisafis to do some actual propaganda-free reporting (and some interviews with actual protesters) before they caught themselves and replaced her with Kim Willsher, who resumed The Guardian‘s usual neoliberal establishment-friendly narrative, which, in this case, entailed dividing the protesters into “real” gilets jaunes and “fake” gilet jaunes, and referring to the latter fictional group as “thuggish, extremist political agitators.”

By Sunday, the corporate media were insinuating that diabolical Russian Facebook bots had brainwashed the French into running amok, because who else could possibly be responsible? Certainly not the French people themselves! The French, as every American knows, are by nature a cowardly, cheese-eating people, who have never overthrown their rightful rulers, or publicly beheaded the aristocracy. No, the French were just sitting there, smoking like chimneys, and otherwise enjoying their debt-enslavement and the privatization of their social democracy, until they unsuspectingly logged onto Facebook and … BLAMMO, the Russian hackers got them!

Bloomberg is reporting that French authorities have opened a probe into Russian interference (in the middle of which report, for no apparent reason, a gigantic photo of Le Pen is featured, presumably just to give it that “Nazi” flavor). According to “analysis seen by The Times,” Russia-linked social media accounts have been “amplifying” the “chaos” and “violence” by tweeting photos of gilets jaunes who the French police have savagely beaten or gratuitiously shot with “less-than-lethal projectiles.” “Are nationalists infiltrating the yellow vests?” the BBC Newsnight producers are wondering. According to Buzzfeed’s Ryan Broderick, “a beast born almost entirely from Facebook” is slouching toward … well, I’m not quite sure, the UK or even, God help us, America! And then there’s Max Boot, who is convinced he is being personally persecuted by Russian agents like Katie Hopkins, James Woods, Glenn Greenwald, and other high-ranking members of a worldwide conspiracy Boot refers to as the “Illiberal International” (but which regular readers of my column will recognize as the “Putin-Nazis“).

And, see, this is the problem the corporate media (and other staunch defenders of global neoliberalism) are facing with these gilets jaunes protests. They can’t get away with simply claiming that what is happening is not a working class uprising, so they have been forced to resort to these blatant absurdities. They know they need to delegitimize the gilets jaunes as soon as possible — the movement is already starting to spread — but the “Putin-Nazi” narrative they’ve been using on Trump, Corbyn, and other “populists” is just not working.

No one believes the Russians are behind this, not even the hacks who are paid to pretend they do. And the “fascism” hysteria is also bombing. Attempts to portray the gilets jaunes as Le Pen-sponsored fascists blew up in their faces. Obviously, the far-Right are part of these protests, as they would be in any broad working class uprising, but there are far too many socialists and anarchists (and just regular pissed-off working class people) involved for the media to paint them all as “Nazis.”

Which is not to say that the corporate media and prominent public intellectuals like Bernard-Henri Lévy will not continue to hammer away at the “fascism” hysteria, and demand that the “good” and “real” gilets jaunes suspend their protests against Macron until they have completely purged their movement of “fascists,” and “extremists,” and other dangerous elements, and have splintered it into a number of smaller, antagonistic ideological factions that can be more easily neutralized by the French authorities … because that’s what establishment intellectuals do.

We can expect to hear this line of reasoning, not just from establishment intellectuals like Lévy, but also from members of the Identity Politics Left, who are determined to prevent the working classes from rising up against global neoliberalism until they have cleansed their ranks of every last vestige of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, and so on. These leftist gatekeepers have been struggling a bit to come up with a response to the gilets jaunes … a response that doesn’t make them sound like hypocrites. See, as leftists, they kind of need to express their support for a bona fide working class uprising. At the same time, they need to delegitimize it, because their primary adversaries are fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and assorted other isms and phobias, not the neoliberal ruling classes.

Nothing scares the Identity Politics Left quite like an actual working class uprising. Witnessing the furious unwashed masses operating out there on their own, with no decent human restraint whatsoever, Identity Politics Leftists feel a sudden overwhelming urge to analyze, categorize, organize, sanitize, and otherwise correct and control them.

They can’t accept the fact that the actual, living, breathing working classes are messy, multiplicitous, inconsistent, and irreducible to any one ideology. Some of them are racists. Some are fascists. Others are communists, socialists, and anarchists. Many have no idea what they are, and don’t particularly care for any of these labels.This is what the actual working classes are … a big, contradictory collection of people who, in spite of all their differences, share one thing in common, that they are being screwed over by the ruling classes. I don’t know about you, but I consider myself one of them.

Where we go from here is anyone’s guess. According to The Guardian, as I am sitting here writing this, the whole of Europe is holding its breath in anticipation of the gilets jaunes’ response to Macron’s most recent attempt to appease them, this time with an extra hundred Euros a month, some minor tax concessions, and a Christmas bonus.

Something tells me it’s not going to work, but even if it does, and the gilets jaunes uprising ends, this messy, Western “populist” insurgency against global neoliberalism has clearly entered a new phase. Count on the global capitalist ruling classes to intensify their ongoing War on Dissent and their demonization of anyone opposing them (or contradicting their official narrative) as an “extremist,” a “fascist,” a “Russian agent,” and so on. I’m certainly looking forward to that, personally.

Oh… yeah, and I almost forgot, if you were wondering what you could get me for Christmas, I did some checking, and there appears to be a wide selection of yellow safety vests online for just a couple Euros.

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Ukraine Wants Nuclear Weapons: Will the West Bow to the Regime in Kiev?

Efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation are one of the few issues on which the great powers agree, intending to continue to limit the spread of nuclear weapons and to prevent new entrants into the exclusive nuclear club.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The former Ukrainian envoy to NATO, Major General Petro Garashchuk, recently stated in an interview with Obozrevatel TV:

“I’ll say it once more. We have the ability to develop and produce our own nuclear weapons, currently available in the world, such as the one that was built in the former USSR and which is now in independent Ukraine, located in the city of Dnipro (former Dnipropetrovsk) that can produce these kinds of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Neither the United States, nor Russia, nor China have produced a missile named Satan … At the same time, Ukraine does not have to worry about international sanctions when creating these nuclear weapons.”

The issue of nuclear weapons has always united the great powers, especially following the signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The decision to reduce the number of nuclear weapons towards the end of the Cold War went hand in hand with the need to prevent the spread of such weapons of mass destruction to other countries in the best interests of humanity. During the final stages of the Cold War, the scientific community expended great effort on impressing upon the American and Soviet leadership how a limited nuclear exchange would wipe out humanity. Moscow and Washington thus began START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) negotiations to reduce the risk of a nuclear winter. Following the dissolution of the USSR, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances persuaded Ukraine to relinquish its nuclear weapons and accede to the NPT in exchange for security assurances from its signatories.

Ukraine has in recent years begun entertaining the possibility of returning to the nuclear fold, especially in light of North Korea’s recent actions. Kim Jong-un’s lesson seems to be that a nuclear deterrent remains the only way of guaranteeing complete protection against a regional hegemon. The situation in Ukraine, however, differs from that of North Korea, including in terms of alliances and power relations. Kiev’s government came into power as a result of a coup d’etat carried out by extremist nationalist elements who seek their inspiration from Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. The long arm of NATO has always been deeply involved in the dark machinations that led to Poroshenko’s ascendency to the Ukrainian presidency. From a geopolitical point of view, NATO’s operation in Ukraine (instigating a civil war in the wake of a coup) follows in the footsteps of what happened in Georgia. NATO tends to organize countries with existing anti-Russia sentiments to channel their Russophobia into concrete actions that aim to undermine Moscow. The war in the Donbass is a prime example.

However, Ukraine has been unable to subdue the rebels in the Donbass region, the conflict freezing into a stalemate and the popularity of the Kiev government falling as the population’s quality of life experiences a precipitous decline. The United States and the European Union have not kept their promises, leaving Poroshenko desperate and tempted to resort to provocations like the recent Kerch strait incident or such as those that are apparently already in the works, as recently reported by the DPR authorities.

The idea of Ukraine resuming its production of nuclear weapons is currently being floated by minor figures, but it could take hold in the coming months, especially if the conflict continues in its frozen state and Kiev becomes frustrated and desperate. The neoconservative wing of the American ruling elite, absolutely committed to the destruction of the Russian Federation, could encourage Kiev along this path, in spite of the incalculable risks involved. The EU, on the other hand, would likely be terrified at the prospect, which would also place it between a rock and a hard place. Kiev, on one side, would be able to extract from the EU much needed economic assistance in exchange for not going nuclear, while on the other side the neocons would be irresponsibly egging the Ukrainians on.

Moscow, if faced with such a possibility, would not just stand there. In spite of Russia having good relations with North Korea, it did not seem too excited at the prospect of having a nuclear-armed neighbor. With Ukraine, the response would be much more severe. A nuclear-armed Ukraine would be a red line for Moscow, just as Crimea and Sevastopol were. It is worth remembering the Russian president’s words when referring to the possibility of a NATO invasion of Crimea during the 2014 coup:

“We were ready to do it [putting Russia’s nuclear arsenal on alert]. Russian people live there, they are in danger, we cannot leave them. It was not us who committed to coup, it was the nationalists and people with extreme beliefs. I do not think this is actually anyone’s wish – to turn it into a global conflict.”

As Kiev stands on the precipice, it will be good for the neocons, the neoliberals and their European lackeys to consider the consequences of advising Kiev to jump or not. Giving the nuclear go-ahead to a Ukrainian leadership so unstable and detached from reality may just be the spark that sets off Armageddon.

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Second Canadian Citizen Disappears In China

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea.

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Via Zerohedge…


For a trade war that was supposed to be between the US and China, Canada has found itself increasingly in the middle of the crossfire. And so after the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing in retaliation for the detention of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver, Canada said a second person has been questioned by Chinese authorities, further heightening tensions between the two countries.

The second person reached out to the Canadian government after being questioned by Chinese officials, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, at which point Canada lost contact with him. His whereabouts are currently unknown and Global Affairs Canada said they are in contact with his family.

“We haven’t been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with Chinese authorities.”

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea. He gained fame for helping arrange a visit to Pyongyang by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, and he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on that trip, the newspaper reported. Attempts to reach Spavor on his contact number either in China, or North Korean went straight to voicemail.

Spavor’s personal Facebook page contains several images of him with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un including one of him with both Jong-un and former Dennis Rodman at an undisclosed location.

Michael P. Spavor, right, pictured here with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and Dennis Rodman.

Another image shows the two sharing a drink on a boat.

The unexplained disappearance takes place after China’s spy agency detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing on Monday, who was on leave from the foreign service. The arrest came nine days after Canada arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of U.S. DOJ. While Canada has asked to see the former envoy after it was informed by fax of his arrest, Canada is unaware of Kovrig current whereabouts or the charges he faces.

“Michael did not engage in illegal activities nor did he do anything that endangered Chinese national security,” Rob Malley, chief executive officer of the ICG, said in a written statement. “He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: undertaking objective and impartial research.”

One possibility is that Kovrig may have been caught up in recent rule changes in China that affect non-governmental organizations, according to Bloomberg. The ICG wasn’t authorized to do work in China, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday.

“We welcome foreign travelers. But if they engage in activities that clearly violate Chinese laws and regulations, then it is totally another story,” he said, adding he had no information on Kovrig specifically.

As Bloomberg further notes, foreign non-governmental organizations are now required to register with the Chinese authorities under a 2017 law that subjects them to stringent reporting requirements. Under the law, organizations without a representative office in China must have a government sponsor and a local cooperative partner before conducting activities. ICG said this is the first time they’ve heard such an accusation from the Chinese authorities in a decade of working with the country. The company closed its Beijing operations in December 2016 because of the new Chinese law, according to a statement. Kovrig was working out of the Hong Kong office.

Meanwhile, realizing that it is increasingly bearing the brunt of China’s retaliatory anger, Trudeau’s government distanced itself from Meng’s case, saying it can’t interfere with the courts, but is closely involved in advocating on Kovrig’s behalf.

So far Canada has declined to speculate on whether there was a connection between the Kovrig and Meng cases, with neither Freeland nor Canadian Trade Minister Jim Carr saying Wednesday that there is any indication the cases are related. Then again, it is rather obvious they are. Indeed, Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016 and worked with Kovrig, says the link is clear. “There’s no coincidence with China.”

“In this case, they couldn’t grab a Canadian diplomat because this would have created a major diplomatic incident,” he said. “Going after him I think was their way to send a message to the Canadian government and to put pressure.”

Even though Meng was granted bail late Tuesday, that did not placate China, whose foreign ministry spokesman said that “The Canadian side should correct its mistakes and release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately.”

The tension, according to Bloomberg,  may force Canadian companies to reconsider travel to China, and executives traveling to the Asian country will need to exercise extra caution, said Andy Chan, managing partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Vaughan, Ontario.

“Canadian business needs to look at and balance the reasons for the travel’’ between the business case and the “current political environment,’’ Chan said by email. Chinese officials subject business travelers to extra screening and in some case reject them from entering, he said.

Earlier in the day, SCMP reported that Chinese high-tech researchers were told “not to travel to the US unless it’s essential.”

And so, with Meng unlikely to be released from Canada any time soon, expect even more “Chinese (non) coincidences”, until eventually China does detain someone that the US does care about.

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