Posted tagged ‘Ukraine’

Trump, Putin, Xi: Talking fades to shows of force

July 31, 2017

Trump, Putin, Xi: Talking fades to shows of force, DEBKAfile, July 31, 2017

(Please see also, Haley Says ‘No Value’ in Another UN Resolution Against North Korea: ‘The Time for Talk Is Over’. — DM)

The message from Beijing was clear: The threat to Chicago and Los Angeles would have to be dealt with by the White House in Washington, not Beijing.

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Over the weekend, three world leaders, US president Donald Trump, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s leader Xi Jinping stepped off the diplomatic path over their differences on world issues and switched to displays of military might.

In a show of force after North Korea’s two ICBM tests, two US B-1B bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons, escorted by South Korean and Japanese fighters, took off from Guam Saturday, July 29 and cut across the Korean peninsula. There was no word on whether they entered North Korean skies.

Further west, US Vice President Mike Pence toured East European capitals. Speaking in Tallinn, Estonia, he assured “our Baltic allies” – as well as Georgia and Montenegro, his next destinations: “We are with you and will stand with you on behalf of freedom.”  He said that the president would soon sign the latest round of sanctions voted on by Congress, since “Russia’s destabilizing activities and support for rogue regimes and its activities in Ukraine are unacceptable.”

Shortly after President Donald Trump criticized China over failing to deal with North Korea, President Xi Jinping in a general’s uniform viewed a huge military parade Sunday marking the People’s Liberation Army’s 90th anniversary. Xi is the PLA’s commander in chief. Whereas the annual parade usually takes place in Beijing, this one was staged at the remote Zhurihe military base in Inner Mongolia., with the participation of 12,000 soldiers, 100 bombers and fighters and a display of 600 weapons systems, 40 percent of them new products of China’s arms industries.
“The world isn’t safe at the moment,” the Chinese president told his people. “A strong army is needed more than ever.”

The Russian president meanwhile showcased his naval might in a huge parade of vessels stretching from the Dnieper River in Moscow to Saint Petersburg, through the Baltic port of Kaliningrad, to Crimea on the Black Sea and up to Russia’s Syrian base at Tartus.  Taking part were 50 warships and submarines.

Standing on the deck of the presidential warship as it sailed past the Kremlin’s walls, Putin congratulated the Russian navy on its great advances.

He then disembarked, headed to his office and ordered 755 U.S. diplomats to leave the country by Sept. 1, in retaliation for the new round of sanctions against Russia ordered by the US Congress. More than 1,000 people are currently employed at the Moscow embassy and three US consulates in Russia.

“We waited for quite some time that maybe something will change for the better, had much hope that the situation will somehow change, but, judging by everything, if it changes, it will not be soon,” Putin said. “It is time for us to show that we will not leave anything unanswered.” He added menacingly that there are many areas of Russian-American cooperation whose discontinuation would be harmful to the US. “I hope we don’t have to go there,” he said.

These muscle-flexing steps by the three world powers add up to an ominous shift from their brink-of-cold war diplomatic interaction to a new level with the potential for tipping over into limited military clashes.

The penny has finally dropped for Trump that President Xi has no intention of cracking down on North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, even though he declared after a successful second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that “the US mainland is without our striking range.”

The message from Beijing was clear: The threat to Chicago and Los Angeles would have to be dealt with by the White House in Washington, not Beijing.

Xi may accept that the US president may eventually be forced to take some military action against North Korea’s missile and nuclear facilities. But he may also be counting on such action being a one-off, like the 59-US Tomahawk missile barrage that hit the Syrian air base of Shayrat on April 7.  Because that dramatic strike was not the start of an organized campaign against the regime in Damascus, it failed to unseat Bashar Assad and in fact made him stronger. Once America has vented its anger, the Chinese president hopes its military offensive against Kim will be over and done with.

For six months, Putin waited to see whether Trump was able to beat down the media-boosted war waged against his presidency by political and intelligence enemies at home, much of it focused on the Russian dimension. His patience with the US president and his troubles at home is clearly at an end.

On Sunday, July 30, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called the new sanctions “completely weird and unacceptable,” adding “If the US side decides to move further towards further deterioration we will answer, we will respond in kind. We will mirror this. We will retaliate,” he stressed.

The gloves have clearly come off for the ramping up of friction among the three powers in the various world flashpoint arenas, whether in Europe, the Far East, or other places.

US Sanctions on Iran Must be Enforced by Ukraine

February 9, 2017

US Sanctions on Iran Must be Enforced by Ukraine, Iran News Update, February 9, 2017

mahan_air_iran_464855538

The lack of U.S. sanctions enforcement under the Obama administration undermined U.S. credibility and deterrence.

Although the current government is requesting more U.S. military assistance and a tougher Western stance in its current struggle against Russia in Eastern Ukraine, it sees no contradiction between its desire for Western support and its partnership with Iran’s sanctioned aviation sector.

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In their February 7 article for The Hill, Emanuele Ottolenghi senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Boris Zilberman, deputy director of congressional relations and a Russia analyst, co-contributed an opinion piece on why the US must enforce sanctions on Iran. 

According to Ottolenghi and Zilberman, anti-tank missile components, reportedly the AT-4 Spigot, destined for Iran were seized by the Ukrainian State Border Guard on January 19. These weapons were concealed in the cargo hold of a UM Airlines flight from Kiev to Tehran. While Ukraine captured this illicit cargo, Kiev continues to allow Iran to evade a U.N.- implemented sanctioned international arms embargo and Western sanctions.

Iranian carriers like Caspian Airlines and Mahan Air are banned, but close cooperation with Ukrainian airlines, and Kiev’s failure to enforce U.S. sanctions against Iran, let’s them continue to benefit, and should become an important part of the Trump administration’s review of its foreign policy options toward Ukraine.

“The Iranian aviation sector’s reliance on Kiev is not new. Publicly available data from commercial flight trackers show that Dart Airlines is currently leasing aircraft to Iran’s privately owned Kish Air. Dart’s fleet is also frequently chartered for Iran and Lebanon routes by unknown operators. Iran Air Tours, ATA Airlines and Zagros Airlines, among others, also lease aircraft from Ukrainian operators,” write Ottolenghi and Zilberman.

These private companies are not under U.S. sanctions, but Ukraine’s fleet caters to sanctioned entities. One of Air Khors’s aircraft is currently leased to the Iraqi Al-Naser Airlines, which the U.S. Treasury sanctioned in May 2015 when the company fronted for Mahan Air, data shows.

Air Khors leased a Boeing 737 to Naft Airlines, which is being operated by U.S. sanctioned Caspian Airlines.

Treasury has also slapped sanctions on two other Ukrainian airlines for assisting Mahan Air, Bukovyna Airlines, as well as UM Airlines, which was carrying the missile parts seized last week.

Lebanese businessman Rodrigue Merhej, UM airlines chairman, is also under U.S. Treasury sanctions since 2013 for their support of Mahan Air. The January 19 flight was a scheduled flight.

Ottolenghi and Silberman say that, “Since last year, there are daily flights between Kiev and Tehran, including a weekly Mahan flight that commenced last March, when Mahan and UM announced an expanded partnership. Their cooperation connects Kiev to Mahan’s Asian destinations through Tehran, giving Ukrainian passengers a convenient connecting hub to Asia.”  “They add, It also enables Mahan to officially enter the Ukrainian market.”

This partnership, that Washington has sanctioned since 2013, was announced by Kiev and Tehran, with the inaugural Mahan flight to Kiev welcomed by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, and senior member of the Ukrainian parliament and ally of current President Petro Poroshenko, Oleh Barna. Eugene Dykhne, acting head of Kiev’s Boryspil International Airport; the Iranian ambassador to Kiev; and Mahan Air’s managing director for international relations, also attended.

The lack of U.S. sanctions enforcement under the Obama administration undermined U.S. credibility and deterrence.

Although the current government is requesting more U.S. military assistance and a tougher Western stance in its current struggle against Russia in Eastern Ukraine, it sees no contradiction between its desire for Western support and its partnership with Iran’s sanctioned aviation sector.

This past summer, Merhej boasted about the popularity of the Kiev-Tehran route. He said, ”The occupancy is increasing every day. We have about 75 passengers per flight today. Two months ago, it was 55 passengers. I am confident that we will reach 100 passengers by the end of June.”

“What Merhej failed to address is that UM Airlines, via its support of Mahan Airlines, has been involved in moving illicit cargo for the Syrian regime and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ external arm, the Qods Force. The U.S. Treasury confirmed in 2013 that UM Airlines has trained Mahan Air pilots and engineers, and transferred airplanes to Mahan Air. UM has now been caught transferring weapons as well,” write Ottolenghi and Zilberman.

The seizure of weapons last week shows that UM Airlines has not stopped its illicit activity with Mahan Airlines, and that this activity has increased since the initial designations by Treasury. This is a major red flag.

Was last week’s weapons seizure was just the tip of the iceberg in illicit activity facilitated by UM and Mahan Airlines? Ottolenghi and Zilberman say that since conflict erupted in 2014, Ukraine has become a “supermarket” for the illicit arms trade, one that Iran can easily exploit through its direct air connection to Kiev.

“Authorities in Ukraine should be commended for seizing the weapons shipment, but when Kiev asks the United States for economic and military assistance, the least it can do is prevent sanctioned entities such as UM and Mahan Airlines to operate from its soil,” conclude Ottolenghi and Zilberman.

Russian navy on combat alert as Ukraine begins missile launch drills near Crimea

December 2, 2016

Russian navy on combat alert as Ukraine begins missile launch drills near Crimea – reports

Published time: 1 Dec, 2016 06:37 Edited time: 1 Dec, 2016 15:00

Source: Russian navy on combat alert as Ukraine begins missile launch drills near Crimea – reports — RT News

FILE PHOTO. © AFP

Russian warships from the Black Sea Fleet reportedly took up positions off the Crimean Peninsula to provide air defense as Kiev conducted its missile launch drills near the Russian border.

Ukrainian forces conducted 16 successful launches of S-300 medium-range surface-to-air missiles during the drills, presidential spokesman Svyatoslav Tsegolko said in a Facebook post.

“The Defense Ministry and the General Staff chief have just reported to the president on today’s drills, which were successfully completed. Sixteen Ukrainian missiles were launched. All of them have reached their targets,” Tsegolko said.

Read more

FILE PHOTO: A

“We’ve received the first reports about the success of the launches carried out this morning,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in Kiev. “These latest exercises involved combat and transport aircraft, as well as divisions of anti-aircraft and radar troops.” 

“I want to emphasize that the launches are taking place in open sea over Ukrainian airspace, in full accordance with international law. The launches will go on regardless of any statement released by Moscow.”
“The only reason that makes us conduct these exercises is the need to be consistently ready for any full-scale invasion from the side of our aggressive neighbor.”

“The purpose of the exercise is to gain experience in using these anti-aircraft missile systems and to check the quality of the rockets, which were repaired, as well as to improve the skills of the anti-aircraft missile troop units,” he said, as cited by TASS.

Kryzhanovsky said that there had been no response to the launches from the Russian side. He noted that the missiles will come as close as 30 kilometers to Crimean airspace. The missiles are being launched from a spot some 90 kilometers from Crimea’s shores. The Ukrainian military stressed that its current exercises pose no danger to the residents of the Crimean Peninsula.

Still, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Ukrainian missile tests near Crimea were a “dangerous precedent,” as cited by Interfax.

Russian ships from the Black Sea Fleet have taken up positions to the west of the Crimean Peninsula to provide air defense over Russian territory, RIA Novosti news agency reports, citing sources in the military.

The Black Sea Fleet warships integrated in the air defense system of the Southern Military District have taken position off the west coast of Crimea for Ukraine’s missile launch drills, which are scheduled for December 1st and 2nd. The ships’ air defenses are in on high alert,” the source told the agency.

Read more

FILE PHOTO: The Italian frigate ITS Zeffiro (front C) leads a flotilla of NATO warships © CPO Luigi Cotrufo-Italian Navy

Ukraine announced that it would be conducting missile-firing exercises close to Crimea in areas used by civil and state aviation flights earlier this week, warning that they would not be safe for flights. Later, it declared that adjacent areas, partly over neutral waters and partly over Russia’s territorial waters in the Black Sea to the southwest and southeast to Crimea, would also be dangerous.

The Russian aviation agency said that Kiev’s drills breach a number of international laws and agreements, noting that they had not been coordinated with Moscow.

Russia asked the authorities in Kiev to abstain from the exercises, but received no response, Russian transport minister Maksim Sokolov said today, while noting that Moscow had also requested that the International Civil Aviation Organization declare Crimean airspace a danger zone, but that also went unanswered.

There were no emergency incidents detected in the airspace over Crimea, Sokolov later said.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry submitted a military-diplomatic note to the Defense Attaché at the Embassy of Ukraine, in which they protested the illegal restrictions on the use of Russian airspace imposed by Ukraine during the exercises, noting that “the southeastern boundary of the danger area declared by the Ukraine violates the territorial sea borders of the Russian Federation, which is a violation of international law and Russian legislation.”


However, according to the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency, the Ukrainian government changed the boundaries of the danger zone for civil aviation in the Crimea region just ahead of the drills so that they no longer breach Russian airspace.

The boundaries of the danger zone for civil aviation has been shifted to the west of the Russian Federation,” the agency’s representative told Interfax.

The Ukrainian military has a record of suffering from accidents while conducting air defense missile drills. In October of 2001, a Siberia Airlines Tu-154 en route from Tel-Aviv to Novosibirsk was accidentally brought down by a missile launched by the Ukrainian military during an exercise over the Black Sea. Seventy-eight people died in that tragedy. Kiev has also been condemned by the relatives of the victims of the , in which a civilian plane was downed in the eastern part of Ukraine, for not closing the airspace over the war-torn area.

The full-scale drills are to continue on Friday, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

Obama, EU leaders agree to keep anti-Russian sanctions over Ukraine

November 18, 2016

Obama, EU leaders agree to keep anti-Russian sanctions over Ukraine

Published time: 18 Nov, 2016 12:27 Edited time: 18 Nov, 2016 13:10

Source: Obama, EU leaders agree to keep anti-Russian sanctions over Ukraine — RT News

U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi meet at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, November 18, 2016. © Kay Nietfeld / Reuters

US President Barack Obama and EU leaders have agreed to keep anti-Russian sanctions in place for a further year over the situation in Ukraine.

President Obama, who is on his final official visit to Europe, met with the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK on Friday.

Among the main topics on the agenda were extending sanctions against Russia, cooperation within the framework of NATO, the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, and possible new anti-Russian sanctions over Moscow’s actions in Syria.

The leaders agreed on the necessity of working collectively to move the transatlantic agenda forward, particularly on bringing stabilization to the Middle East and North Africa, as well as securing diplomatic resolution to the conflicts in Syria and eastern Ukraine,” the White House said in the statement.

READ MORE: Russian sanctions cost Italy €7bn and up to 200,000 jobs – Italian MP

“The leaders also affirmed the importance of continued cooperation through multilateral institutions, including NATO,” the White House added.

Sanctions won’t stop Russia from improving its dialogue and ties with other countries, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

We [Russia] have never initiated sanctions. These [sanctions] don’t prevent us from building dialogue and continuing the dialogue on matters that are of interest to us, to Russia,” Peskov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and outgoing US President Obama are likely to talk informally on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific summit in the Peruvian capital of Lima, Peskov said on Friday.

“The two administrations have not agreed on any separate meetings, but we can assume that President Putin and President Obama will cross paths on the sidelines of the forum and will talk,” Peskov said.

READ MORE: EU’s dialogue with Russia should be ‘correct and pragmatic’ – Italian FM

Also on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gave a speech at an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), where he said that Europe and the United States “are close economic and trade partners” and mentioned potential threats for the alliance.

“Russia, breaking international law. Turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East. The refugee and migration crisis. International terrorism. Hybrid warfare. And cyber-attacks,” said Stoltenberg, listing the perceived dangers.

The Untold Story Behind The “Mutiny At The State Department” Where Dozens Demand War With Syria

June 19, 2016

The Untold Story Behind The “Mutiny At The State Department” Where Dozens Demand War With Syria

by Tyler Durden – Jun 17, 2016 6:37 PM

Source: The Untold Story Behind The “Mutiny At The State Department” Where Dozens Demand War With Syria | Zero Hedge

Confirming once again that the entire US Middle-East campaign over the past 4 years has been one ongoing plan to destabilize and eliminate Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad from power – certainly including the involvement of ISIS which as we reported a year ago was “created” and facilitated by the Pentagon as a tool to overthrow Assad, an analysis which yesterday gained renewed prominence – overnight the WSJ reported that dozens of State Department officials this week protested against U.S. policy in Syria, signing an internal document that calls for “targeted military strikes against the Damascus government and urging regime change as the only way to defeat Islamic State.”

In other words, over 50 top “diplomats” are urging to eliminate Assad in order to “defeat ISIS”, the same ISIS which top US “diplomats” had unleashed previously in order to… eliminate Assad.

While one can understand the US state department’s relentless eagneress to create yet another failed state led by a US puppet ruler, one wonders if at least the boilerplate justification could not have used some more fine tuning.

Amusingly, the whole thing is wrapped in a narrative that the State Department is ready and willing to “mutiny” against Obama’s pacifism, because you see it was Obama who has been so successful in extricating and removing US troops from harm’s way in both the middle east and Afghanistan. Oh wait…

Here are the full details from he WSJ:

The “dissent channel cable” was signed by 51 State Department officers involved with advising on Syria policy in various capacities, according to an official familiar with the document. The Wall Street Journal reviewed a copy of the cable, which repeatedly calls for “targeted military strikes” against the Syrian government in light of the near-collapse of the ceasefire brokered earlier this year.

 

The views expressed by the U.S. officials in the cable amount to a scalding internal critique of a longstanding U.S. policy against taking sides in the Syrian war, a policy that has survived even though the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been repeatedly accused of violating ceasefire agreements and Russian-backed forces have attacked U.S.-trained rebels.

More spin: why has Obama been so “against” unleash a full blown invasion on Syria? “Obama administration officials have expressed concern that attacking the Assad regime could lead to a direct conflict with Russia and Iran.”

Oh so that’s why the nuclear arms race is now officially back, just a few weeks after the US launched a ballistic missile shield over Europe, in the process shifting the entire post-cold war nuclear proliferation balance of power. Got it.

Meanwhile, the attempt to paint Obama as a liberal, peace loving dove continue:

“It’s embarrassing for the administration to have so many rank-and-file members break on Syria,” said a former State Department official who worked on Middle East policy. These officials said dissent on Syria policy has been almost a constant since civil war broke out there in 2011. But much of the debate was contained to the top levels of the Obama administration. The recent letter marked a move by the heart of the bureaucracy, which is largely apolitical, to break from the White House.

Oh, if only Obama would be more willing to install even more pro-US puppet regimes… like in Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Ukraine and so on, and so on… Clearly all of these have turned out so well, that certainly things would be so much better in the middle east. Well, maybe not, but at least that damn Qatari pipeline would finally start flowing.

So why leak this now:

The internal cable may be an attempt to shape the foreign policy outlook of the next administration, the official familiar with the document said. President Barack Obama has balked at taking military action against Mr. Assad, while Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has promised a more hawkish stance toward the Syrian leader. Republican candidate Donald Trump has said he would hit Islamic State hard but has also said he would be prepared to work with Russia in Syria.

 

The cable warns that the U.S. is losing prospective allies among Syria’s majority Sunni population in its fight against the Sunni extremist group Islamic State while the regime “continues to bomb and starve” them. Mr. Assad and his inner circle are Alawite, a small Shiite-linked Muslim sect and a minority in Syria. In Syria’s multisided war, the regime, Islamic State and an array of opposition rebel groups are all battling each other.

It gets better:  “Failure to stem Assad’s flagrant abuses will only bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as Daesh, even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield,” the cable reads, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

But wait, as the Pentagon itself admitted, the “Daesh” was carefully bred by the US government precisely for this reason: to overthrow Assad. Don’t believe us? Read the following line from the leaked document:

“… there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

Does not compute.

There is more: “The cable asserts Mr. Assad and Russia haven’t taken past cease-fires and “consequential negotiations” seriously and suggests adopting a more muscular military posture to secure a transitional government in Damascus.”

The Russian-led force is also pushing toward Raqqa from the south, making the march on the Islamic State stronghold a strategic and symbolic competition between the rival coalitions. Islamic State is also being rolled back in Iraq, where U.S.-allied government forces have retaken major cities and are advancing in Fallujah, the first city the extremists fully occupied back in 2014

Well, sure: with Russia’s backing of a sovereign nation, why should Assad fold to relentless US pressure. Actually that may well be the point: the US is humiliated that a small, feeble middle-eastern nation dares to defy it for years, just because it has the backing of the Kremlin. We don’t need to explain the ugly optics of this.

Perhaps the real reason why the cable has “emerged” now is because due to Russian intervention, ISIS will soon be history:

Although Islamic State is losing ground to multiple, U.S.-backed offensives in Syria, Iraq and Libya, Western diplomats say they worry the group has embedded itself so deeply in the population that it will be a major influence for years to come, eventually going underground as its quasi-army is defeated.

And finally, one last reason emerges: the US is merely pandering to Saudi demands, something it has clearly done very well ever since the Sep 11 attacks which covered up Saudi involvement:

The cable also echoes the growing impatience among U.S. Gulf allies with the lack of military intervention targeted at the Damascus government to force Mr. Assad to resign and make way for a transitional government. Peace talks between Syria’s government and opposition collapsed in April over Mr. Assad’s fate, with the regime insisting he should stay in power, while the negotiated cease-fire continued to disintegrate. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pressed the U.S. to provide more sophisticated weapons to rebels. But Washington has resisted.

In other words, if the US does fold and proceeds with military strikes, i.e. full blown invasion and war, on Assad, it will once again be Saudi Arabia that is running US foreign policy, and pushing the US nation into what may be a state of open war with Russia.

We can only hope the American people wake up and stop this travesty before Saudi Arabia’s favorite presidential candidate is elected president.

Leave while you can, your vote will never again make a difference in Brussels

June 19, 2016

Leave while you can, your vote will never again make a difference in Brussels

Jun 18 Posted by Peter Reedijk

Source: Leave while you can, your vote will never again make a difference in Brussels | Peter Reedijk

Last April, the Dutch had a referendum on the EU association treaty with Ukraine. The outcome is frustratingly predictable, but it is still worth offering some details of the proceedings, especially in light of the upcoming Brexit referendum on June 23rd. The EU is proving once more that it is not just undemocratic, but even anti-democratic – and that is a lesson the British should take to heart.

After the vote

After a majority voted against the ratification of the Ukraine association treaty, the Dutch government could withdraw its ratification (which would be the democratic thing to do), or it could ignore the will of the people (which would at least still be within the definition of the referendum law). But instead, the government is doing nothing at all. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been surprisingly open about the reasons for our government not following its own law: Brussels won’t allow it.

During a parliamentary debate one week after the referendum Rutte declared negotiations about the Ukraine treaty could take place in the open only after the Brexit referendum. There are several interesting things about that single statement. Firstly, as mentioned, the EU is telling the Dutch government not to adhere to its own law. Secondly, the Dutch government itself is not following its own law by entering into negotiations for which the referendum law offers no basis, likely because the result of the referendum is displeasing to the pro-EU establishment. Thirdly, there will be talks behind closed doors in the coming months, precisely while the referendum was intended to help restore democracy and bring the process out into the open. Lastly, the EU’s leadership does not want the Dutch referendum “to interfere” with the Brexit referendum – there is only one logical explanation for this: the EU and the Dutch government intend to ignore (once again) the will of the people, but they are afraid to show that the EU does’t care about democratic votes because that would fuel the Leave campaign.

The campaign

The Netherlands has a (quite young) referendum law which allows the people to organize an consultative referendum on newly passed laws, provided they can collect 300,000 signatures in 6 weeks. Then there is another obstacle, which is a minimum required voter turnout of 30% for the result to be valid. The turnout on referendum day (April 6th) was 32.2% and the treaty was rejected by no less than 61.1% of the voters. A clear success, and although our government is not bound by law to follow the people’s vote, a parliament majority had promised beforehand to do so anyway.

It was a campaign between the elite, consisting of most major political parties together with establishment news outlets, and the people, represented by a coalition of citizen groups and a popular right-leaning blog (and supported by Nigel Farage for their campaign climax). Representatives of the ruling parties (who were officially not going to campaign) were given communication guidelines, with tips like “no fearmongering”. But it is tradition to meet challengers of EU expansion with threats of chaos and catastrophe, so obviously Jean-Claude Juncker warned that a No-vote would lead to a “continental crisis” and Herman Van Rompuy insisted a No would be an embarrassment for the Dutch, adding that it would mean that the Ukrainians who have lost their lives on Maidan Square would have died in vain.

So much for that plan. Luckily the Yes-camp still had character assassination up its sleeve. The initiators of the referendum were painted as liars, clowns, senseless troublemakers, even racists (because “if all else fails”, apparently…). But the No-camp had better arguments (with an added dose of healthy anti-EU sentiment) and their clowns went on to win several televised debates.

History in the making

The Netherlands does not have much of a history with referendums, in that we have only had one before and the result was blatantly ignored when we rejected the European Constitution and got it anyway under a different name. Most of us who voted to reject the Ukraine association treaty knew what was coming, and as much as the establishment are looking for excuses to reduce the value of this result – and referendums in general – the facts are clear.

This referendum was a rebellion of the people against the elite, and the elite is demonstrating precisely why it needs to be challenged. The EU’s architects were unabashed about their disregard for democracy, but they have overplayed their hand. The EU has turned into an anti-democratic behemoth, and one of the biggest symbols of elitism in the world. What they are doing now can only be understood as an effort by the EU to avoid showing British voters how little it cares about democracy so shortly before the Brexit referendum. And that is why voting to leave the EU is the only reasonable choice: whether Britain stays or leaves, June 23rd will be the last time your vote will make any difference to Brussels.

“Nightmare” Mistake: Visa Free Travel For 80 Million Turks Coming Up

May 3, 2016

Nightmare” Mistake: Visa Free Travel For 80 Million Turks Coming Up Tyler Durden’s picture Submitted

by Tyler Durden

05/02/2016 21:43 -0400

Source: “Nightmare” Mistake: Visa Free Travel For 80 Million Turks Coming Up | Zero Hedge

Submitted by Mike “Mish” Shedlock of MishTalk

“Nightmare” Mistake: Visa Free Travel For 80 Million Turks Coming Up

Of all the inane, self-serving, deals German Chancellor Angela Merkel made with Turkey, visa-free travel for 80 million Islamic Turks tops the list.

“This is all a nightmare,” said one diplomat charged with making the deal work.

Nightmares aside, Brussels Prepares Legal Groundwork on Visa-Free Travel for Turks.

Brussels will this week propose visa-free travel to Europe for 80m Turks but says Ankara still needs to meet several politically explosive reform conditions within weeks, including overhauling its terrorism laws and party funding rules.

 

The enhanced travel rights were Turkey’s main windfall from a landmark EU deal in March, in which Ankara helped dramatically cut migrant flows to Europe by agreeing to take back all migrants arriving on the Greek islands.

 

On Wednesday the European Commission will legally recommend Turks should be granted short-term visa-free travel to the Schengen area. But it will point out that up to nine of the 72 eligibility conditions required of Turkey remain incomplete, according to people familiar with the proposal.

 

The stage is now set for a stand-off before the June visa deadline, with far-reaching consequences for the migration crisis, domestic politics across Europe and Turkey’s long-term relations with the bloc. Decisions on visa rights for Ukraine, Georgia and Kosovo are set to be taken at the same time.

 

“This is all a nightmare,” said one diplomat involved in talks. Another European diplomat described the Turkey-EU deal as carrying “the seeds of its own destruction”.

 

It is a gamble some senior EU officials fear “is a big mistake” and will backfire. “This will be the perfect get-out for the Dutch, French and Germans, who are facing major domestic problems and  suffering from buyer’s remorse since the Turkey deal,” the official said. “And the European Parliament will just not accept a political fudge, the Turks won’t be able to ram it through.”

Appropriate Terms (in Order of Occurrence)

  • Windfall to Turkey
  • Short-Term
  • Stage Set for Standoff
  • Nightmare
  • Seeds of its Own Destruction
  • Big Mistake
  • Backfire
  • Political Fudge

Political fudge, seeds of its own destruction, and nightmare are my three favorite descriptions.

A strong argument can be made for “short-term” given the massive long-term problems should this deal actually go through.

Seymour Hersh Says Hillary Approved Sending Libya’s Sarin To Syrian Rebels

May 2, 2016

Seymour Hersh Says Hillary Approved Sending Libya’s Sarin To Syrian Rebels Tyler Durden’s picture

Submitted by Tyler Durden

on 05/01/2016 22:00 -0400

Source: Seymour Hersh Says Hillary Approved Sending Libya’s Sarin To Syrian Rebels | Zero Hedge

Authored by Eric Zuesse via Strategic-Culture.org,

The great investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, in two previous articles in the London Review of Books (“Whose Sarin?” and “The Red Line and the Rat Line”) has reported that the Obama Administration falsely blamed the government of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad for the sarin gas attack that Obama was trying to use as an excuse to invade Syria; and Hersh pointed to a report from British intelligence saying that the sarin that was used didn’t come from Assad’s stockpiles. Hersh also said that a secret agreement in 2012 was reached between the Obama Administration and the leaders of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, to set up a sarin gas attack and blame it on Assad so that the US could invade and overthrow Assad.

“By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria.”

Hersh didn’t say whether these ‘arms’ included the precursor chemicals for making sarin which were stockpiled in Libya, but there have been multiple independent reports that Libya’s Gaddafi possessed such stockpiles, and also that the US Consulate in Benghazi Libya was operating a “rat line” for Gaddafi’s captured weapons into Syria through Turkey. So, Hersh isn’t the only reporter who has been covering this. Indeed, the investigative journalist Christoph Lehmann headlined on 7 October 2013, “Top US and Saudi Officials responsible for Chemical Weapons in Syria” and reported, on the basis of very different sources than Hersh used, that:

“Evidence leads directly to the White House, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, CIA Director John Brennan, Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Bandar, and Saudi Arabia´s Interior Ministry.”

And, as if that weren’t enough, even the definitive analysis of the evidence that was performed by two leading US analysts, the Lloyd-Postal report, concluded that:

“The US Government’s Interpretation of the Technical Intelligence It Gathered Prior to and After the August 21 Attack CANNOT POSSIBLY BE CORRECT.”

Obama has clearly been lying.

However, now, for the first time, Hersh has implicated Hillary Clinton directly in this ‘rat line’. In an interview with Alternet.org, Hersh was asked about the then-US-Secretary-of-State’s role in the Benghazi Libya US consulate’s operation to collect weapons from Libyan stockpiles and send them through Turkey into Syria for a set-up sarin-gas attack, to be blamed on Assad in order to ‘justify’ the US invading Syria, as the US had invaded Libya to eliminate Gaddafi. Hersh said:

That ambassador who was killed, he was known as a guy, from what I understand, as somebody, who would not get in the way of the CIA. As I wrote, on the day of the mission he was meeting with the CIA base chief and the shipping company. He was certainly involved, aware and witting of everything that was going on. And there’s no way somebody in that sensitive of a position is not talking to the boss, by some channel”.

This was, in fact, the Syrian part of the State Department’s Libyan operation, Obama’s operation to set up an excuse for the US doing in Syria what they had already done in Libya.

The interviewer then asked:

“In the book [Hersh’s The Killing of Osama bin Laden, just out] you quote a former intelligence official as saying that the White House rejected 35 target sets [for the planned US invasion of Syria] provided by the Joint Chiefs as being insufficiently painful to the Assad regime. (You note that the original targets included military sites only – nothing by way of civilian infrastructure.) Later the White House proposed a target list that included civilian infrastructure. What would the toll to civilians have been if the White House’s proposed strike had been carried out?”

Hersh responded by saying that the US tradition in that regard has long been to ignore civilian casualties; i.e., collateral damage of US attacks is okay or even desired (so as to terrorize the population into surrender) – not an ‘issue’, except, perhaps, for the PR people.

The interviewer asked why Obama is so obsessed to replace Assad in Syria, since “The power vacuum that would ensue would open Syria up to all kinds of jihadi groups”; and Hersh replied that not only he, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “nobody could figure out why”. He said, “Our policy has always been against him [Assad]. Period”. This has actually been the case not only since the Party that Assad leads, the Ba’ath Party, was the subject of a shelved CIA coup-plot in 1957 to overthrow and replace it; but, actually, the CIA’s first coup had been not just planned but was carried out in 1949 in Syria, overthrowing there a democratically elected leader, in order to enable a pipeline for the Sauds’ oil to become built through Syria into the largest oil market, Europe; and, construction of the pipeline started the following year. But, there were then a succession of Syrian coups (domestic instead of by foreign powers – 195419631966, and, finally, in 1970), concluding in the accession to power of Hafez al-Assad during the 1970 coup. And, the Sauds’ long-planned Trans-Arabia Pipeline has still not been built. The Saudi royal family, who own the world’s largest oil company, Aramco, don’t want to wait any longer. Obama is the first US President to have seriously tried to carry out their long-desired “regime change” in Syria, so as to enable not only the Sauds’ Trans-Arabian Pipeline to be built, but also to build through Syria the Qatar-Turkey Gas Pipeline that the Thani royal family (friends of the Sauds) who own Qatar want also to be built there. The US is allied with the Saud family (and with their friends, the royal families of Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, and Oman). Russia is allied with the leaders of Syria – as Russia had earlier been allied with Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, Allende in Chile, Hussein in Iraq, Gaddafi in Libya, and Yanukovych in Ukraine (all of whom except Syria’s Ba’ath Party, the US has successfully overthrown).

Hersh was wrong to say that “nobody could figure out why” Obama is obsessed with overthrowing Assad and his Ba’ath Party, even if nobody that he spoke with was willing to say why. They have all been hired to do a job, which didn’t change even when the Soviet Union ended and the Warsaw Pact was disbanded; and, anyone who has been at this job for as long as those people have, can pretty well figure out what the job actually is – even if Hersh can’t.

Hersh then said that Obama wanted to fill Syria with foreign jihadists to serve as the necessary ground forces for his planned aerial bombardment there, and, “if you wanted to go there and fight there in 2011-2013, ‘Go, go, go… overthrow Bashar!’ So, they actually pushed a lot of people [jihadists] to go. I don’t think they were paying for them but they certainly gave visas”.

However, it’s not actually part of America’s deal with its allies the fundamentalist-Sunni Arabic royal families and the fundamentalist Sunni Erdogan of Turkey, for the US to supply the salaries (to be “paying for them”, as Hersh put it there) to those fundamentalist Sunni jihadists – that’s instead the function of the Sauds and of their friends, the other Arab royals, and their friends, to do. (Those are the people who finance the terrorists to perpetrate attacks in the US, Europe, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, India, Nigeria, etc. – i.e., anywhere except in their own countries.) And, Erdogan in Turkey mainly gives their jihadists just safe passage into Syria, and he takes part of the proceeds from the jihadists’ sales of stolen Syrian and Iraqi oil. But, they all work together as a team (with the jihadists sometimes killing each other in the process – that’s even part of the plan) – though each national leader has PR problems at home in order to fool his respective public into thinking that they’re against terrorists, and that only the ‘enemy’ is to blame. (Meanwhile, the aristocrats who supply the “salaries” of the jihadists, walk off with all the money.)

This way, US oil and gas companies will refine, and pipeline into Europe, the Sauds’ oil and the Thanis’ gas, and not only will Russia’s major oil-and-gas market become squeezed away by that, but Obama’s economic sanctions against Russia, plus the yet-further isolation of Russia (as well as of China and the rest of the BRICS countries) by excluding them from Obama’s three mega-trade-deals (TTIP, TPP & TISA), will place the US aristocracy firmly in control of the world, to dominate the 21st Century, as it has dominated ever since the end of WW II.

Then, came this question from Hersh:

“Why does America do what it does? Why do we not say to the Russians, Let’s work together?”

His interviewer immediately seconded that by repeating it, “So why don’t we work closer with Russia? It seems so rational”. Hersh replied simply: “I don’t know”. He didn’t venture so much as a guess – not even an educated one. But, when journalists who are as knowledgeable as he, don’t present some credible explanation, to challenge the obvious lies (which make no sense that accords with the blatantly contrary evidence those journalists know of against those lies) that come from people such as Barack Obama, aren’t they thereby – though passively – participating in the fraud, instead of contradicting and challenging it? Or, is the underlying assumption, there: The general public is going to be as deeply immersed in the background information here as I am, so that they don’t need me to bring it all together for them into a coherent (and fully documented) whole, which does make sense? Is that the underlying assumption? Because: if it is, it’s false.

Hersh’s journalism is among the best (after all: he went so far as to say, of Christopher Stephens, regarding Hillary Clinton, “there’s no way somebody in that sensitive of a position is not talking to the boss, by some channel”), but it’s certainly not good enough. However, it’s too good to be published any longer in places like the New Yorker. And the reporting by Christof Lehmann was better, and it was issued even earlier than Hersh’s; and it is good enough, because it named names, and it explained motivations, in an honest and forthright way, which is why Lehmann’s piece was published only on a Montenegrin site, and only online, not in a Western print medium, such as the New Yorker. The sites that are owned by members of the Western aristocracy don’t issue reports like that – journalism that’s good enough. They won’t inform the public when a US Secretary of State, and her boss the US President, are the persons actually behind a sarin gas attack they’re blaming on a foreign leader the US aristocrats and their allied foreign aristocrats are determined to topple and replace.

Is this really a democracy?

The Ukraine-ISIS Alliance

November 30, 2015

The Ukraine-ISIS Alliance, American ThinkerSierra Rayne, November 30, 2015

In July, the New York Times was reporting that three full Islamic battalions were fighting in eastern Ukraine.

What a mess. The question for the West now is who they would rather having controlling Ukraine’s territory in the near future — ISIS or Russia — and the answer is clearly the latter. If the West wants to build a common coalition against the Islamic State, the best approach may be to remove the Islamic State of Turkey from NATO, allow Russia to take Ukraine, and then invite Russia into NATO (or whatever new alliance seems appropriate) in our common cause against the global jihad.

***********************

Back in February, The Intercept was the first media outlet to reveal clear linkages between ISIS and Ukraine. The article by Marcin Mamon begins by recounting how the leader of the Islamic State’s underground branch in Istanbul was headed to Ukraine to join other members of ISIS in fighting those from Eastern Ukraine that want further autonomy from Kiev and a likely political alliance with Moscow.

Immediately we have a problem. It is unlikely that many average citizens in the West are aware that ISIS is fighting on the side of the Ukraine nationalists. If they were, public opinion might drastically shift towards support for Russia — as it should. Better to have Ukraine be a proxy state of Russia than yet another budding member of the global Islamic Caliphate taking shape.

Any arguments that ISIS is helping Ukrainian nationalists fight the Russian backed separatists out of the goodness of its heart, and that ISIS will just pack up and leave Ukraine if a victory is won, strain all measures of credulity. If the Russian separatists lose in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine may very well be on the path to falling under control — at least partially — of ISIS, placing ISIS with a state under its control on the borders of several NATO members. Did the West possibly back the wrong horse in Ukraine? Should we instead have supported Russia?

Kiev has become an important access point for ISIS terrorists into Western Europe:

Ukraine is now becoming an important stop-off point for the brothers, like Ruslan. In Ukraine, you can buy a passport and a new identity. For $15,000, a fighter receives a new name and a legal document attesting to Ukrainian citizenship. Ukraine doesn’t belong to the European Union, but it’s an easy pathway for immigration to the West. Ukrainians have few difficulties obtaining visas to neighboring Poland, where they can work on construction sites and in restaurants, filling the gap left by the millions of Poles who have left in search of work in the United Kingdom and Germany.

Remarkably, Justin Raimondo at the website Antiwar.com predicted the problems this would cause back in early March of this year:

We are told that ISIS is planning terrorist attacks in Europe, and security forces are busy rounding up suspects all across the continent – and yet here is this gaping hole in the West’s defenses, where “the brothers” are quietly infiltrating without much notice in the Western media. In cooperation with ultra-nationalist groups like Right Sector, which have also formed their semiautonomous battalions, the Islamists of Ukraine, brandishing Ukrainian passports, have opened a gateway to the West …

As US aid flows into Ukraine, how much of it will trickle down to these allies of ISIS — and to what future use will it be put? If John McCain and Lindsey Graham have their way, US arms will soon find their way into the hands of these terrorists, whose jihad against the Russians is bound to turn westward and strike at the capitals of Europe.

This is blowback with a vengeance: we are creating our own enemies, and giving them the weapons to harm us, even as we claim the need for universal surveillance in order to fight them. The mad scientists formulating US foreign policy are raising an army of Frankenstein monsters — who are sure to come after their deluded creators.

Like clockwork, eight months later we have the Paris attacks.

In July, the New York Times was reporting that three full Islamic battalions were fighting in eastern Ukraine. At about the same time, Elliot Friedland in The Jewish Voice was warning against the problems arising from this Islamic incursion in Ukraine:

Yet there are Islamist paramilitary battalions fighting alongside Ukrainian forces, which are aligned with the Islamic State and Chechen Islamist factions. If the U.S. steps up military aid to Ukraine, whose army is notoriously corrupt it may fall into the hands of Islamist battalions currently funded by a mixture of Ukrainian oligarchs, Gulf patrons, violent crime and extortion. The Ruskayya Blatina website said that a few militias belonging to the terrorist group ISIS began to fight against the Russian soldiers in Ukraine with support from the American authorities who gave recommendations to the Ukrainian government regarding the Islamic State … Islamic State-aligned fighters also use Ukraine as a cheap and easy place to buy weapons, which can then be smuggled to Iraq and Syria and Chechenya.

During the past two months, connections between Ukraine and ISIS have moved up the chain of command, as evidenced by a top Ukrainian official giving his public support for ISIS. Just last week, weapons — including a FN-6 antiaircraft missile system — from the Ukrainian military “magically” ended up in the hands of ISIS which “were meant to be delivered to the militant group in Syria via smuggling routes in Turkey.”

Soon after, the Russian hacking group CyberBerkut claimed it is “in possession of documents indicating that employees of the Ukrainian state-owned defense conglomerate Ukroboronprom had discussions with Qatari government officials over the possible sale of surface-to-air missiles [the S-125-2D Pechora-2D (NATO reporting name SA-3 Goa)] in September,” weapons that were almost undoubtedly destined for ISIS. According to the leaked documents, the U.S. embassy in Doha also approved the deal.

What a mess. The question for the West now is who they would rather having controlling Ukraine’s territory in the near future — ISIS or Russia — and the answer is clearly the latter. If the West wants to build a common coalition against the Islamic State, the best approach may be to remove the Islamic State of Turkey from NATO, allow Russia to take Ukraine, and then invite Russia into NATO (or whatever new alliance seems appropriate) in our common cause against the global jihad.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!” — Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17

 

Leading American Scholar John Mearsheimer: The West Blew It Big Time

November 7, 2015

Leading American Scholar John Mearsheimer: The West Blew It Big Time and Irreversibly Endangered European Security

Damir Marinovich

Wed, Mar 18, 2015

Source: Leading American Scholar John Mearsheimer: The West Blew It Big Time and Irreversibly Endangered European Security

  • Round Table on “Defining a new security architecture for Europe that brings Russia in from the cold” was held in Brussels on March 2.
  • The organizer of the event was the American committee for East West Accord.
  • Three key presenters were American scholars Professor John Mearsheimer and Professor Steve Cohen, and publisher-editor of The Nation, Katrina Vanden Heuvel.
  • Q&A session was conducted by VIP guest panel which included five Members of the European Parliament from Left, Center and Right party groupings, two ambassadors and other senior diplomats from several missions, a senior member of the EU External Action Service, and Professor Richard Sakwa, author of the recently published Frontline Ukraine.
  • For more exclusive videos, please visit and subscribe to Russia Insider You Tube Channel

Professor John J. Mearsheimer is an American senior professor of political science at the University of Chicago. He is a leading international relations theorist. We owe a special thanks to Gilbert Doctorow, our invaluable RI contributor and moderator of this round table, for providing us with the video material.

The key points of Mearsheimer’s speech:

  • The best we can hope for is to return to the Status quo ante – the situation that existed in Europe before 2008. However it will be extremely difficulty to achieve this.
  • 1990-2008 was a golden period for Europe with no serious possibility of conflict between Russia ad the West.
  • This is because NATO remained intact and Americans served as a pacifier, ultimate arbiter, higher authority and NATO did not threaten Russia.
  • 2008 was a fateful year – NATO announced that both Georgia and Ukraine would become NATO member states. This was categorically unacceptable for Russians.
  • Furthermore, in May 2008, the EU announced its Eastern Partnership, thus, the EU too will be expanding to the east.
  • Not surprisingly in August 2008 there was a war between Georgia and Russia with Georgians hoping for NATO support that didn’t come.
  • Obama failed to reset the relationship with Russia because the West lead by the US continues to try to make Ukraine part of the West.
  • Democracy promotion, run by the US, actually means toppling leaders who are seen as anti-American and putting in their place leaders who are pro-American.
  • Major crises emerged with the toppling of Yanukovich and the rise of the pro-American regime.
  • The solution is to return to the situation that existed before 2008.
  • Ukraine needs to be turned into a neutral, buffer state.
  • EUis basically telling the West it has two choices: back off or we will use every means available to ensure Ukraine never joins the West.
  • NATO and EU expansion as well as “democracy promotion” must be explicitly taken off the table for Ukraine. However, it’s unlikely this will happen.
  • Western leaders are heavily invested in these post-2008 policies, and now Russia doesn’t trust the West anymore and NATO itself is in trouble since US focus moved from Europe to Asia.
  • Fundamental transformation if China continues to rise: Asia is the most important area of the world for US, Persian Gulf second and Europe only a distant third place.
  • Europe had excellent security before 2008, and we (the West) blew it big time.