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Tory-DUP deal indicates British soldiers won’t be prosecuted for N. Ireland ‘Troubles’ killings

RT | June 28, 2017

Nestled in the agreement between the Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party is a promise to draft a law to protect British security forces from prosecution over killings committed during the 30-year so-called ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.

The contentious promise is contained in a section of the document, published Monday, entitled “Legacy,” which states that:

“The UK government will work with the Executive and all parties to seek the implementation of the legacy bodies in the Stormont House Agreement, to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors.”

It notes that a public consultation on the implementation of legacy bodies will be held and are to be established to “operate in ways that are fair, balanced and proportionate and which do not unfairly focus on former members of the armed forces or police.”

“Both parties reiterate their admiration for the courage and sacrifice of the police and armed forces in upholding democracy and the rule of law and will never forget the debt of gratitude that we owe them,” the subsection concludes.

The government in the Republic of Ireland has previously indicated that there should be no such amnesties or exemptions for any of those involved in the conflict on either side of the divide. The Times also notes that Irish ministers have written to the UK’s Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire, stating that the Stormont Agreement also doesn’t allow for such legislation.

Earlier this month, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said that any deal between the Tories and DUP would be “in breach” of the historic 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought about sustained peace to the island for the first time since the beginning of the decades long conflict.

In 2016, it was announced that two former soldiers are to be charged with the murder of Official IRA member, Joe McCann, in west Belfast over 44 years ago.

Republican activists have been seeking justice for the deaths of 10 people shot dead by the British army in the same area in 1971. There have also been reports that up to 18 soldiers were involved in the Bloody Sunday massacre on Derry’s Bogside in 1972 when 14 people died as a result of a British Army Parachute regiment opening fire on an unarmed crowd during a civil rights demonstration.

A commission set-up to investigate the killings concluded that the victims were innocent of any wrongdoing.

Furthermore, Amnesty International has said that allegations arising from a BBC Panorama investigation alleging that British security forces colluded with loyalist terrorists on a vast scale leading directly to the deaths of hundreds of people must be fully investigated.

READ MORE:

Belfast court rejects inquiry into 1989 loyalist murder

June 28, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

The Tide Is Turning on Single Payer, With or Without Bernie Sanders

By Bruce A. Dixon | Black Agenda Report | June 28, 2017

Extracting nuggets of truth from corporate media is an art. For example when you read something in the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune you can be pretty sure this is what our betters would like us to believe. But what you see in some other publications like the Wall Street Journal is a different matter. This is because WSJ is one of the outlets members of the ruling class often use to talk to each other.

So Tuesday’s WSJ op-ed by Elizabeth Warren, in which the Massachusetts senator urged Democrats to campaign on Medicare For All is a sign the tide is turning. Liz Warren is no dummy. She’s up for re-election in 2018. She knows what sells, and she knows that unlike most Republicans, Trump is entirely capable of running simultaneously to the left AND to the right of Democrats.

The Affordable Care Act elegantly painted Republicans into a corner. It was a Republican plan, originally floated by the right wing Heritage Foundation and called Romneycare when it was enacted into law in Massachusetts in the 1990s. When Obama stole the Republican plan to bail out insurance companies it deprived Republicans of contributions from the insurance industry and Big Pharma, and left Republicans with nowhere to go politically. They could rage and rail against Obamacare, but it’s pretty much impossible to imagine a bigger favor than the Democrats did when they passed the Affordable Care Act in 2009.

So the plans pushed by the House and Senate Republican leadership are standard, boilerplate unimaginative things which pursue old Republican goals like turning Medicaid from a program supposedly based upon need into one funded up to a set amount and no more, instituting health savings accounts and using that Medicaid money for more tax breaks for the wealthy. Republicans might not like Obamacare, but they are for the moment unable to whip their own Senate majority behind the plan of their leaders.

Newspapers like the Boston Globe explain Liz Warren’s sudden reversal on single payer by telling us that while Medicare For All was a “fringe idea” nine years ago the public might almost be ready for it now. What no corporate media outlet will tell you is that a majority of House Democrats have now signed on to John Conyers’ current Medicare For All bill. So-called progressive Democrats are known for striking courageous poses when they don’t have majorities to pass them, this is a very different political moment than nine years ago. Physicians for a National Health Plan, the foremost pro-single payer doctors organization, called the House Republican plan a meaner version of Obamacare, putting them in the same territory as Donald Trump, who now admits calling the bill “mean.” Before he became president Donald Trump was on record more than once favoring Medicare For All. it’s a position he’s entirely capable of circling back to. Trump is plenty smart enough to know that if he can assemble a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to deliver Medicare For All before 2020, his re-election will be a lockdown certainty.

So where is the nation’s foremost proponent of Medicare For All, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders? The answer is nowhere. Early in the year Bernie’s office was telling people to expect a senate version of Medicare For All that might drop in March, or April or May. It’s the end of June now. Maybe Bernie has postponed the push for single payer because Democratic party unity is more important. Bernie just did kick in $100,000 of his followers money to pay for the Democratic party unity tour. Maybe Bernie doesn’t want to shame his fellow Dems – he is the party’s outreach chairman now – by getting too far out in front of them on this. The potential embarrassment is real. California Democrats, firmly in control of their state government killed their own single payer bill not two weeks ago.

Whatever the reason, the fact is there exists NO Medicare For All Senate bill to which Greens, Democrats and others might demand senators affix their name to. Nobody’s holding that up but Vermont Senator and Democratic party outreach chair Bernie Sanders. The US Senate is a good old boys club, and Liz Warren despite her gender is very much a good old boy. Warren will never put Bernie on the spot by introducing her own single payer bill, and neither will any other Senate Democrat.

So the tide is finally turning on Medicare For All. But at this moment Bernie Sanders is blocking that tide.

Bruce Dixon can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | Leave a comment

Trump-Putin meeting is so near and yet so far

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | June 27, 2017

A US senior official in Washington told TASS news agency Monday that the White House does not rule out a meeting between President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit (July 7-8) in Hamburg, but a final decision has not been made. He was non-committal but not pessimistic. He said:

  • You can imagine anything but I would expect the meeting is going to happen. I know for a fact that nothing has been scheduled yet, and nothing has been decided on the format.
  • In a sense he (Trump) is always preparing for such meetings. He has intelligence briefings almost every day. He talks to his national security advisors almost every day. He talks to his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense a few times a week. So he is well versed on the issues and has been receiving regular updates since the administration began, since even before the administration began.
  • I would expect that everything in the schedule would be finalized before we leave, and we leave on July 5. However, I simply do not want to give you a hard prediction. I am never completely sure about anything.

There was always gnawing anxiety in the run-up to the Soviet-American summits, but not this way – that a US president cannot admit that he hopes to meet his Russian counterpart. Barack Obama set the practice of not scheduling meetings with Putin on the sidelines of international events, but making them appear impromptu events. He wanted to convey that Russia was not a ‘priority’ and probably hoped he was slighting Putin. Of course, Putin didn’t mind – so long as he transacted business. There were some awkward moments, for sure. The one that lingers in my memory is the photo of Obama and Putin at the 2013 G8 summit at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland – staring ahead in stony silence seated together awkwardly. (This was even before the coup in Ukraine and the sanctions.)

The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Moscow Saturday that Putin is willing to meet Trump in any ‘format’. But then, Trump may want to flex muscles to look the ‘strong man’. Indeed, the White House statement issued late Monday sounds ominous:

  • The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children. If… Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.

The US is about to lose the war in Syria and Americans are bad losers. Meanwhile, the Saudi-Qatari rift puts a hole in Trump’s Middle East policy through which an elephant can pass. This is an awkward moment for an American president to negotiate with his Russian counterpart. Trump may well regard Assad as his punch bag.

Moscow must be on alert mode. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday regarding the Syrian situation. The Russian readout said, “Lavrov called on Washington to take measures to prevent provocations against Syrian government troops fighting against terrorists.”

Russia has warned that it is treating all American flying objects in the Syrian air space as ‘targets’. But what happens if US fires missiles at Syria (on whatever pretext), and Russia’s ABM shoots them down? A Russian-American military confrontation may ensue. Things are indeed at a highly sensitive point. After all, last Thursday, a Russian Tu-154 VIP aircraft carrying defence minister Sergei Shoigu was intercepted in the Baltic as it was approaching Kaliningrad by a NATO warplane, which was forced to retreat after an Su-27 Flanker jet zoomed in and displayed its weapons. (See the video footage by Russian Defence Ministry.)

Coincidence or not, on Monday Russian Northern Fleet’s Project 955 underwater missile cruiser Yuri Dolgoruky successfully test-fired a Bulava missile from the Barents Sea to targets in Kamchatka. The Defence Ministry said, “The launch was made from the submerged position in compliance with a combat training plan”. Bulava is a solid-propellant ICBM developed specially for Project 955 submarines, which can deliver 10 warheads of 150 kilotonnes each to a distance of 10,000 kilometers.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Moscow warns Washington against ‘incendiary, provocative action’ in Syria

RT | June 28, 2017

Moscow has warned the US against taking unilateral action in Syria, as there is no threat from the Syrian military, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said. The statement comes after the US accused Syria of preparing for a chemical attack, without giving any evidence.

Asked if Russia had warned the US administration against any unilateral action in Syria, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, replied that Russian officials have “always spoken about that, including in relation to their [US] latest strikes on Syrian armed forces.”

“We believe that it’s unacceptable and breaches Syria’s sovereignty, isn’t caused by any military need, and there is no threat to the US specialists from the Syrian Army. So it’s incendiary, provocative action,” Gatilov said, as cited by RIA Novosti.

On Monday evening, the White House claimed that Syrian President Bashar Assad was preparing a chemical attack and warned that the Syrian government would “pay a heavy price” if the attack was carried out, as cited by AP.

Hours later, the Pentagon said it had detected activity by the Syrian authorities in preparation for the attack. Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said that the US had seen “activity” at Shayrat airfield that showed “active preparations for chemical weapons use.”

The US government failed to provide any further details or proof of such claims, while the State Department’s spokesperson, Heather Nauert, said it was “an intelligence matter.”

When confronted by a journalist that Washington uses the phrase to justify anything that suits it, Nauert answered: “I’m not going to get into that one with you, but this is a very serious and great matter.”

On Wednesday, though, the US suggested that the Syrian leadership had swiftly changed its mind about planning an alleged attack. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, as cited by Reuters, said: “it appears that they [Syria’s authorities] took the warning seriously. They didn’t do it.”

The Syrian government, as well as Russian authorities, have denied any allegations against them, with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that “such threats to Syria’s legitimate leaders are unacceptable.”

In the latest statement, Deputy Foreign Minister Gatilov said that Russia doesn’t rule out that “there may be provocations” following the announcement from Washington.

The statements by the US administration complicate the [peace] negotiations in Astana and Geneva, and Moscow believes such attempts to boost the tensions around Syria are unacceptable.

“The statements on Syrian armed forces getting ready to use chemical weapons is complete nonsense… These assumptions aren’t based on anything, no one provides any facts,” the Russian diplomat said.

“If the aim is to ramp up the spiral of tension, we think it’s unacceptable. It complicates the process of negotiations undertaken in Astana and Geneva,” Gatilov underlined.

“We’ve seen this in the past. Of course there are many ill-wishers, who want to undermine the process [of negotiations]. So any provocations are possible,” the deputy foreign minister added.

Earlier, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued another official statement, saying: “We consider all these insinuations about chemical weapons which are being carried out in the worst traditions of the 2003 NATO intervention in Iraq as an ‘invitation’ for terrorists, extremists, and the armed opposition in Syria to carry out another large-scale provocation, which will result in the ‘unavoidable punishment’ of President Assad, according to Washington’s plans.”

In April, US President Donald Trump launched an attack on Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles, which targeted Shayrat Airbase near the city of Homs. The strike was in response to what the US claimed was a chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, orchestrated by Syria’s government – something Damascus repeatedly denied.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

How the *other* N-word is used in Israel

gangreentv

A short scene from the Israeli feature film “The Kindergarten Teacher” (2014)

June 28, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | | 1 Comment

Russia-gate Is No Watergate or Iran-Contra

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | June 28, 2017

Russia-gate, the sprawling investigation into whether Russia meddled in last year’s U.S. election, is often compared to the two big political scandals of the latter half of the Twentieth Century, Watergate and Iran-Contra. Sometimes you even hear that Russia-gate is “bigger than Watergate.”

Yet what is perhaps most remarkable about those two Twentieth Century scandals is how little Official Washington really understands them – and how these earlier scandals significantly contrast, rather than compare, with what is unfolding now.

Although the historical record is still incomplete on Watergate and Iran-Contra, the available evidence indicates that both scandals originated in schemes by Republicans to draw foreign leaders into plots to undermine sitting Democratic presidents and thus pave the way for the elections of Richard Nixon in 1968 and Ronald Reagan in 1980.

As for Russia-gate, even if you accept that the Russian government hacked into Democratic emails and publicized them via WikiLeaks, there is still no evidence that Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Kremlin to do so. By contrast, in the origins of Watergate and Iran-Contra, it appears the Nixon and Reagan campaigns, respectively, were the instigators of schemes to enlist foreign governments in blocking a Vietnam peace deal in 1968 and negotiations to free 52 American hostages in Iran in 1980.

Though Watergate is associated directly with the 1972 campaign – when Nixon’s team of burglars was caught inside the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate building – Nixon’s formation of that team, known as the Plumbers, was driven by his fear that he could be exposed for sabotaging President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968 in order to secure the White House that year.

After Nixon’s narrow victory over Vice President Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover informed Nixon that Johnson had a secret file, complete with wiretapped phone calls, detailing the Nixon campaign’s backchannel messages to South Vietnamese officials convincing them to boycott Johnson’s Paris peace talks. Later, Nixon learned that this incriminating file had disappeared from the White House.

So, in 1971, after the leaking of the Pentagon Papers, which recounted the lies that had been used to justify the Vietnam War through 1967, Nixon fretted that the missing file about his peace-talk gambit in 1968 might surface, too, and would destroy him politically. Thus, he organized the Plumbers to find the file, even contemplating fire-bombing the Brookings Institution to enable a search of its safe where some aides thought the missing file might be found.

In other words, Watergate wasn’t simply a break-in at the Democratic National Committee on June 17, 1972, in pursuit of useful political intelligence and Nixon’s ensuing cover-up; the scandal had its origins in a far worse scandal, the derailing of peace talks that could have ended the Vietnam War years earlier and saved the lives of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and possibly more than 1 million Vietnamese.

Iran-Contra Parallels

Similarly, the Iran-Contra scandal exploded in 1986 with revelations that President Reagan had authorized secret arms sales to Iran with some of the profits going to fund the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, but the evidence now indicates that the connections between Reagan’s team and Iran’s revolutionary regime traced back to 1980 when emissaries from Reagan’s campaign worked to stymie President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran.

According to multiple witnesses, including former Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs Nicholas Veliotes, the pre-election contacts led to the opening of a weapons pipeline to Iran (via Israel), after Reagan was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981, which was the precise moment when Iran finally released the American hostages after 444 days.

Some key players in the 1980 Reagan-Iran contacts reappeared four years later at the start of direct (again secret) U.S. arms shipments to Iran in 1985, which also involved Israeli middlemen. These key players included Iranian CIA operative Cyrus Hashemi, former CIA clandestine services chief Theodore Shackley, Reagan’s campaign chief and then-CIA Director William Casey, and former CIA Director and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.

In other words, the Iran-Contra weapons shipments of 1985-86 appear to have been an outgrowth of the earlier shipments dating back to 1980 and continuing under Israeli auspices until the supply line was taken over more directly by the Reagan administration in 1985-86.

Thus, both the Watergate scandal in 1972 and the Iran-Contra Affair in 1986 could be viewed as “sequels” to the earlier machinations driven by Republican hunger to seize the enormous powers of the U.S. presidency. However, for decades, Official Washington has been hostile to these underlying explanations of how Watergate and Iran-Contra began.

For instance, The New York Times, the so-called “newspaper of record,” treated the accumulation of evidence regarding Nixon’s 1968 peace-talk gambit as nothing more than a “rumor” until earlier this year when a scholar, John A. Farrell, uncovered cryptic notes taken by Nixon’s aide H.R. Haldeman, which added another piece to the mosaic and left the Times little choice but to pronounce the historical reality finally real.

Grasping the Watergate Narrative

Still, the Times and other major news outlets have failed to factor this belated admission into the larger Watergate narrative. If you understand that Nixon did sabotage President Johnson’s Vietnam War peace talks and that Nixon was aware that Johnson’s file on what LBJ called Nixon’s “treason” had disappeared from the White House, the early “Watergate tapes” from 1971 suddenly make sense.

Nixon ordered White House chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger to locate the missing file but their search came up empty. Yet, some Nixon aides thought the file might be hidden at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank in Washington. So, in his desperate pursuit of the file, Nixon called for a break-in at Brookings, possibly even fire-bombing the building as a cover for his team of burglars to slip in amid the confusion and rifle the safe.

The old explanation that Nixon simply wanted to find some file related to Johnson’s 1968 pre-election Vietnam bombing halt never made sense given the extreme steps that Nixon was prepared to take.

The relevant portions of Nixon’s White House tapes include an entry on June 17, 1971, coincidentally one year to the day before the Watergate burglars were caught. Nixon summoned Haldeman and Kissinger to the Oval Office and pleaded with them again to locate the file.

“Do we have it?” Nixon asked Haldeman. “I’ve asked for it. You said you didn’t have it.”

Haldeman: “We can’t find it.”

Kissinger: “We have nothing here, Mr. President.”

Nixon: “Well, damn-it, I asked for that because I need it.”

Kissinger: “But Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together.”

Haldeman: “We have a basic history in constructing our own, but there is a file on it.”

Nixon: “Where?”

Haldeman: “[Presidential aide Tom Charles] Huston swears to God that there’s a file on it and it’s at Brookings.”

Nixon: “Bob? Bob? Now do you remember Huston’s plan [for White House-sponsored break-ins as part of domestic counter-intelligence operations]? Implement it.”

Kissinger: “Now Brookings has no right to have classified documents.”

Nixon: “I want it implemented. Goddamn-it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.”

Haldeman: “They may very well have cleaned them by now, but this thing, you need to “

Kissinger: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Brookings had the files.”

Haldeman: “My point is Johnson knows that those files are around. He doesn’t know for sure that we don’t have them around.”

But Johnson did know that the file was no longer at the White House because he had ordered his national security adviser, Walt Rostow, to remove it in the final days of Johnson’s presidency.

Forming the Burglars

On June 30, 1971, Nixon again berated Haldeman about the need to break into Brookings and “take it [the file] out.” Nixon suggested using former CIA officer E. Howard Hunt to conduct the Brookings break-in.

“You talk to Hunt,” Nixon told Haldeman. “I want the break-in. Hell, they do that. You’re to break into the place, rifle the files, and bring them in. Just go in and take it. Go in around 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock.”

Haldeman: “Make an inspection of the safe.”

Nixon: “That’s right. You go in to inspect the safe. I mean, clean it up.”

For reasons that remain unclear, it appears that the Brookings break-in never took place (nor did the fire-bombing), but Nixon’s desperation to locate Johnson’s peace-talk file was an important link in the chain of events that led to the creation of Nixon’s burglary unit under Hunt’s supervision. Hunt later oversaw the two Watergate break-ins in May and June of 1972.

While it’s possible that Nixon was still searching for the file about his Vietnam-peace sabotage when the ill-fated Watergate break-ins occurred a year later, it’s generally believed that the burglary was more broadly focused, seeking any information that might have an impact on Nixon’s re-election, either defensively or offensively.

However, if you think back on 1971 when the Vietnam War was tearing the country apart and massive antiwar demonstrations were descending on Washington, Nixon’s desperation to locate the missing file suddenly doesn’t seem quite so crazy. There would have been hell to pay if the public learned that Nixon had kept the war going to gain a political advantage in 1968.

Through 1972 – and the early days of the Watergate scandal – former President Johnson had stayed silent about Nixon’s sabotage of the Paris peace talks. But the ex-President became livid when – after Nixon’s reelection in 1972 – Nixon’s men sought to pressure Johnson into helping them shut down the Watergate investigation, in part, by noting that Johnson, too, had deployed wiretaps against Nixon’s 1968 campaign to obtain evidence about the peace-talk sabotage.

While it’s not clear whether Johnson would have finally spoken out, that threat to Nixon ended two days after Nixon’s second inaugural when on Jan. 22, 1973, Johnson died of a heart attack. However, unbeknownst to Nixon, Johnson had left the missing file, called “The X-Envelope,” in the care of Rostow, who – after Johnson’s death – gave the file to the LBJ presidential library in Austin, Texas, with instructions that it be kept under wraps for at least 50 years. (Rostow’s instructions were overturned in the 1990s, and I found the now largely declassified file at the library in 2012.)

So, with the “The X-Envelope” squirreled away for more than two decades at the LBJ library and with the big newspapers treating the early sketchy reports of Nixon’s peace-talk sabotage as only “rumors,” Watergate remained a scandal limited to the 1972 campaign.

Still, Nixon’s cover-up of his campaign’s role in the Watergate break-in produced enough clear-cut evidence of obstruction of justice and other offenses that Nixon was forced to resign on Aug. 9, 1974.

A Failed Investigation

The 1979-81 hostage confrontation with Iran was not nearly as devastating a crisis as the Vietnam War but America’s humiliation during the 444-day-long ordeal became a focus of the 1980 election, too, with the first anniversary of Iran’s seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran coincidentally falling on Election Day 1980.

President Carter’s failure to gain freedom for the 52 embassy personnel turned what had been a close race into a landslide for Ronald Reagan, with Republicans also gaining control of the U.S. Senate and ousting some of the most influential Democratic senators.

In 1984, Reagan won reelection in another landslide, but two years later ran afoul of the Iran-Contra scandal. Reagan’s secret arms sales to Iran and diversion of profits to the Contras “broke” in November 1986 but focused only on Reagan’s 1985-1986 arms sales and the diversion. Still, the scandal’s crimes included violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the so-called Boland Act’s prohibitions on arming the Contras as well as perjury and obstruction of justice. So there was the prospect of Reagan’s impeachment.

But – from the start of Iran-Contra – there was a strong pushback from Republicans who didn’t want to see another GOP president driven from office. There was also resistance to the scandal from many mainstream media executives who personally liked Reagan and feared a public backlash if the press played an aggressive role similar to Watergate.

And, moderate Democrats, such as Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana who co-chaired the congressional investigation, sought to tamp down the Iran-Contra fires and set up firebreaks to prevent the investigation from spreading to related crimes such as the Reagan administration’s protection of Contra cocaine traffickers.

“Ask about the cocaine,” pleaded one protester who was dragged from the Iran-Contra hearing room, as the congressional investigators averted their eyes from such unseemly matters, focusing instead on stilted lectures about the Congress’s constitutional prerogatives.

It was not until 1990-91 that it became clear that secret U.S.-approved arms shipments to Iran did not start in 1985 as the Iran-Contra narrative claimed but traced back to 1981 with Reagan’s approval of arms sales to Iran through Israel.

Reagan’s politically risky move of secretly arming Iran immediately after his inauguration and the hostage release was nearly exposed when one of the Israeli flights strayed into Soviet airspace on July 18, 1981, and crashed or was shot down.

In a PBS interview nearly a decade later, Nicholas Veliotes, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said he looked into the incident by talking to top administration officials.

“It was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment,” Veliotes said.

In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election. “It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”

However, in 1981, Veliotes said, the State Department issued misleading press guidance to cover the administration’s tracks and the Washington media failed to follow up. Thus, the U.S.-Israeli arms pipeline to Iran stayed secret from the American people until November 1986 when — despite Reagan’s long-running insistence that he would never trade arms with a terrorist state like Iran — the operation was exposed.

When I re-interviewed Veliotes in 2012, he said he couldn’t recall who the “people on high” were who had described the informal clearance of the Israeli shipments of U.S.-manufactured weapons, but he indicated that “the new players” were the young neoconservatives who were working on the Reagan campaign, many of whom later joined the administration as senior political appointees.

Documents that I discovered at the Reagan presidential library revealed that Reagan’s neocons at the State Department, particularly Robert McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz, initiated a policy review in 1981 to allow Israel to undertake secret military shipments to Iran.

McFarlane and Wolfowitz also maneuvered to put McFarlane in charge of U.S. relations toward Iran and to establish a clandestine U.S. back-channel to the Israeli government outside the knowledge of even senior U.S. government officials.

Another Failed Investigation

In 1991, faced with the accumulating evidence of a prequel to the Iran-Contra scandal, Congress grudgingly agreed to take a look at these so-called “October Surprise” allegations. But Republicans, then led by President George H.W. Bush and his White House team, mounted an aggressive cover-up to “spike” the story.

And, with the congressional inquiry largely in the hands again of Rep. Hamilton, the Democrats timidly folded their tent despite a growing body of evidence that the Reagan team was indeed guilty.

Much of that evidence flowed into the House Task Force in December 1992 when President George H.W. Bush had already been defeated for reelection and the Democrats were looking forward to their renewed control of Washington. So, instead of giving a careful review to the new evidence, the House Task Force ignored, disparaged or buried it.

The late-arriving material included sworn testimony on Dec. 18, 1992, from David Andelman, the biographer of French intelligence chief Alexandre deMarenches, describing how deMarenches had confided that he had helped arrange the Republican-Iranian contacts. Andelman, an ex-New York Times and CBS News correspondent, said that while he was working on deMarenches’s autobiography, the arch-conservative spymaster admitted arranging meetings between Republicans and Iranians about the hostage issue in the summer and fall of 1980, with one meeting held in Paris in October.

Andelman said deMarenches ordered that the secret meetings be kept out of his memoirs because the story could otherwise damage the reputations of his friends, William Casey and George H.W. Bush. Andelman’s testimony corroborated longstanding claims from a variety of international intelligence operatives about a Paris meeting involving Casey and Bush. But the Task Force report brushed this testimony aside, paradoxically terming it “credible” but then claiming it was “insufficiently probative.”

The Task Force’s report argued that Andelman could not “rule out the possibility that deMarenches had told him he was aware of and involved in the Casey meetings because he, deMarenches, could not risk telling his biographer he had no knowledge of these allegations.”

In the last weeks of the investigation, the House investigators also received a letter from former Iranian President Bani-Sadr detailing his behind-the-scenes struggle with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his son Ahmad over their secret dealings with the Reagan campaign. But the House investigators dismissed Bani-Sadr’s first-hand account as hearsay and thus also lacking “probative value.”

I later unearthed some of the evidence in unpublished Task Force files. However, in the meantime, Official Washington had dismissed the “October Surprise” and other Iran-Contra-connected scandals, like Contra drug trafficking, as conspiracy theories.

The Russian Report

Ironically, another piece of late-arriving evidence was a January 1993 report from a national security committee of the Russian parliament about the Kremlin’s intelligence data confirming that key Republicans, including George H.W. Bush and William Casey, had met with Iranian officials in Europe regarding the hostages during the 1980 campaign.

Hamilton had requested the Russian assistance before the U.S. election in 1992, but the report was not sent until there were only two weeks left in George H.W. Bush’s presidency.

Lawrence Barcella, who served as the Task Force chief counsel, later told me that so much incriminating evidence arrived late that he asked Hamilton to extend the inquiry for three months but that Hamilton said no (although Hamilton told me that he had no recollection of denying Barcella’s request).

The other fatal flaw of the House investigation was that it left much of the actual investigating up to President George H.W. Bush’s White House counsel’s office and the State Department, although Bush was one of the chief suspects and, in 1991-92, was running for re-election, a campaign that would have been derailed if the 1980 October Surprise allegations were confirmed.

The naivete of this decision was underscored years later when I located a memo at Bush’s presidential library stating that the State Department had informed the White House counsel’s office that Casey had traveled to Madrid in 1980, corroborating a key October Surprise allegation.

The confirmation of Casey’s trip was passed along by State Department legal adviser Edwin D. Williamson to Associate White House Counsel Chester Paul Beach Jr. in early November 1991, just as the October Surprise inquiry was taking shape, according to Beach’s “memorandum for record” dated Nov. 4, 1991.

Williamson said that among the State Department “material potentially relevant to the October Surprise allegations [was] a cable from the Madrid embassy indicating that Bill Casey was in town, for purposes unknown,” Beach noted.

Two days later, on Nov. 6, 1991, Beach’s boss, White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, arranged an inter-agency strategy session and explained the need to contain the congressional investigation into the October Surprise case. The explicit goal was to ensure the scandal would not hurt President Bush’s reelection hopes in 1992.

In 2013, when I interviewed Hamilton about the Beach memo, he lamented that the Madrid information had not been shared with his investigation, saying “you have to rely on people” in authority to comply with information requests.

“We found no evidence to confirm Casey’s trip to Madrid,” Hamilton told me. “We couldn’t show that. The [George H.W. Bush] White House did not notify us that he did make the trip. Should they have passed that on to us? They should have because they knew we were interested in that.”

Asked if knowledge that Casey had traveled to Madrid might have changed the Task Force’s dismissive October Surprise conclusion, Hamilton said yes, because the question of the Madrid trip was key to the task force’s investigation.

Not Moving the Needle

However, the Madrid trip revelation and other post-investigation disclosures failed to move the needle on Official Washington’s disdain for the October Surprise story.

The later disclosures included a 1993 interview in Tel Aviv in which former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said he had read the 1991 book, October Surprise, by Carter’s former National Security Council aide Gary Sick, which made the case for believing that the Republicans had intervened in the 1980 hostage negotiations to disrupt Carter’s reelection.

With the topic raised, one interviewer asked, “What do you think? Was there an October Surprise?”

“Of course, it was,” Shamir responded without hesitation. “It was.”

And, there were other corroborating statements as well. In 1996, for instance, while former President Carter was meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Arafat in Gaza City, Arafat tried to confess his role in the Republican maneuvering to block Carter’s Iran-hostage negotiations.

“There is something I want to tell you,” Arafat said, addressing Carter in the presence of historian Douglas Brinkley. “You should know that in 1980 the Republicans approached me with an arms deal [for the PLO] if I could arrange to keep the hostages in Iran until after the [U.S. presidential] election,” Arafat said, according to Brinkley’s article in the fall 1996 issue of Diplomatic Quarterly.

In 2013, after the movie “Argo” appeared regarding an early facet of the Iran-hostage crisis, former Iranian President Bani-Sadr elaborated on his account of Republican overtures to Iran in 1980 and how that secret initiative prevented release of the hostages.

In a Christian Science Monitor commentary, Bani-Sadr wrote, “Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation which prevented the attempts by myself and then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 U.S. presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan.”

Then, Bani-Sadr added a new detail, that “two of my advisors, Hussein Navab Safavi and Sadr-al-Hefazi, were executed by Khomeini’s regime because they had become aware of this secret relationship between Khomeini, his son Ahmad, … and the Reagan administration.” [For more details on the October Surprise case, see Robert Parry’s Trick or Treason and America’s Stolen Narrative]

Compare and Contrast

So how do Watergate and Iran-Contra compare and contrast with Russia-gate? One key difference is that in Watergate in 1972-73 and Iran-Contra in 1985-86, you had clear-cut crimes (even if you don’t want to believe the two “prequels” from 1968 and 1980, respectively).

In Watergate, five burglars were caught inside the DNC offices on June 17, 1972, as they sought to plant more bugs on Democratic phones. (An earlier break-in in May had installed two bugs, but one didn’t work.) Nixon then proceeded to mount a cover-up of his 1972 campaign’s role in funding the break-in and other abuses of power.

In Iran-Contra, Reagan secretly authorized weapons sales to Iran, which was then designated a terrorist state, without informing Congress, a violation of the Arms Export Control Act. He also kept Congress in the dark about his belated signing of a related intelligence “finding.” And the creation of slush funds to finance the Nicaraguan Contras represented an evasion of the U.S. Constitution.

There was also the attendant Iran-Contra cover-up mounted both by the Reagan White House and later the George H.W. Bush White House, which culminated in Bush’s Christmas Eve 1992 pardons of six Iran-Contra defendants as special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh was zeroing in on possible indictment of Bush for withholding evidence.

By contrast, Russia-gate has been a “scandal” in search of a specific crime. President Barack Obama’s intelligence chieftains have alleged – without presenting any clear evidence – that the Russian government hacked into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and released those emails via WikiLeaks and other Internet sites. (The Russians and WikiLeaks have both denied the accusations.)

The DNC emails revealed that senior Democrats did not maintain their required independence regarding the primaries by seeking to hurt Sen. Bernie Sanders and help Clinton. The Podesta emails pulled back the curtain on Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street banks and on pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

Hacking into personal computers is a crime, but the U.S. government has yet to bring any formal charges against specific individuals supposedly responsible for the hacking of the Democratic emails. There also has been no evidence that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians in the hacking.

Lacking any precise evidence of this cyber-crime or of a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign, Obama’s Justice Department holdovers and now special prosecutor Robert Mueller have sought to build “process crimes,” around false statements to investigators and possible obstruction of justice.

Railroading Flynn

In the case of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, acting Attorney General Sally Yates used the archaic Logan Act of 1799 to create a predicate for the FBI to interrogate Flynn about a Dec. 29, 2016 conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, i.e., after Trump’s election but before the Inauguration.

The Logan Act, which has never resulted in a prosecution in 218 years, was enacted during the period of the Alien and Sedition Acts to bar private citizens from negotiating on their own with foreign governments. It was never intended to apply to a national security adviser of an elected President, albeit before he was sworn in.

But it became the predicate for the FBI interrogation — and the FBI agents were armed with a transcript of the intercepted Kislyak-Flynn phone call so they could catch Flynn on any gaps in his recollection, which might have been made even hazier because he was on vacation in the Dominican Republic when Kislyak called.

Yates also concocted a bizarre argument that the discrepancies between Flynn’s account of the call and the transcript left him open to Russian blackmail although how that would work – since the Russians surely assumed that Kislyak’s calls would be monitored by U.S. intelligence and thus offered them no leverage with Flynn – was never explained.

Still, Flynn’s failure to recount the phone call precisely and the controversy stirred up around it became the basis for an obstruction of justice investigation of Flynn and led to President Trump’s firing Flynn on Feb. 13.

Trump may have thought that tossing Flynn overboard to the circling sharks would calm down the sharks but the blood in the water only excited them more. According to then-FBI Director James Comey, Trump talked to him one-on-one the next day, Feb. 14, and said, “‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Trump’s “hope” and the fact that he later fired Comey have reportedly led special prosecutor Mueller to look at a possible obstruction of justice case against Trump. In other words, Trump could be accused of obstructing what appears to have been a trumped-up case against Flynn.

Of course, there remains the possibility that evidence might surface of Trump or his campaign colluding with the Russians, but such evidence has so far not been presented. Or Mueller’s investigation might turn over some rock and reveal some unrelated crime, possibly financial wrongdoing by Trump or an associate.

(Something similar happened in the Republican investigation of the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attack, a largely fruitless inquiry except that it revealed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent and received official emails over a private server, which Comey decried during last year’s campaign as “extremely careless” but not criminal.)

Curb the Enthusiasm

Another contrast between the earlier scandals (Watergate and Iran-Contra) and Russia-gate is the degree of enthusiasm and excitement that the U.S. mainstream media and congressional Democrats have shown today as opposed to 1972 and 1986.

Though The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein aggressively pursued the Watergate scandal, there was much less interest elsewhere in major news outlets until Nixon’s criminality became obvious in 1973. Many national Democrats, including DNC Chairman Bob Strauss, were extremely hesitant to pursue the scandal if not outright against it.

Similarly, although Brian Barger and I at The Associated Press were pursuing aspects of Iran-Contra since early 1985, the big newspapers and networks consistently gave the Reagan administration the benefit of the doubt – at least before the scandal finally burst into view in fall 1986 (when a Contra-supply plane crashed inside Nicaragua and a Lebanese newspaper revealed U.S. arms shipments to Iran).

For several months, there was a flurry of attention to the complex Iran-Contra scandal, but the big media still ignored evidence of a White House cover-up and soon lost interest in the difficult work of unraveling the convoluted networks for arms smuggling, money laundering and cocaine trafficking.

Congressional Democrats also shied away from a constitutional confrontation with the popular Reagan and his well-connected Vice President George H.W. Bush.

After moving from AP to Newsweek in early 1987, I learned that the senior executives at Newsweek, then part of The Washington Post Company, didn’t want “another Watergate”; they felt another such scandal was not “good for the country” and wanted Iran-Contra to go away as soon as possible. I was even told not to read the congressional Iran-Contra report when it was published in October 1987 (although I ignored that order and kept trying to keep my own investigation going in defiance of the wishes of the Newsweek brass until those repeated clashes led to my departure in June 1990).

So, perhaps the biggest similarity between Russia-gate and Watergate is that Richard Nixon and Donald Trump were both highly unpopular with the Washington establishment and thus had few influential defenders, while an important contrast with Iran-Contra was that Reagan and Bush were very well liked, especially among news executives such as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham who, by all accounts, did not care for the uncouth Nixon. Today, the senior executives of The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major news outlets have made no secret of their disdain for the buffoonish Trump and their hostility toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In other words, what is driving Russia-gate – for both the mainstream news media and the Democrats – appears to be a political agenda, i.e., the desire to remove Trump from office while also ratcheting up a New Cold War with Russia, a priority for Washington’s neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks.

If this political drama were playing out in some other country, we would be talking about a “soft coup” in which the “oligarchy” or some other “deep state” force was using semi-constitutional means to engineer a disfavored leader’s removal.

Of course, since the ongoing campaign to remove Trump is happening in the United States, it must be presented as a principled pursuit of truth and a righteous application of the rule of law. But the comparisons to Watergate and Iran-Contra are a stretch.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela: Soldier Killed, Three More Burned Alive

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | June 27, 2017

Caracas – One National Guardsman has been killed and three people set on fire across Venezuela as violent anti-government protests continue for a 13th week.

In Aragua, National Guard Sergeant Ronny Alberto Parra Araujo (27) died Tuesday of wounds sustained during what the Public Prosecution (MP) has described as an “irregular situation” the day before.

Journalist Ramón Camacho has reported that Parra was shot while attempting to prevent a looting at the Walio Supermarket in Maracay on Monday evening. The Araguan capital was the scene of widespread unrest following the opposition’s call to block roads nationwide earlier that day. Sixty-eight business were looted and several public institutions were attacked, including a fire station, a national telephone company switchboard, and a national tax administration office.

The MP has dispatched a state district attorney to investigate the sergeant’s death. The Public Prosecution has also opened an inquiry into the non-fatal shooting of three other National Guard soldiers in another incident in Miranda state on Monday.

In Lara state, two residents of a government-built Great Venezuelan Housing Mission (GMVV) apartment complex were attacked and burned alive by opposition militants late Friday evening.

According to testimony by the local communal council, Henry Escalona (21) and Wladimir Peña (27) were returning from a nearby party at 11:45pm when they were accosted by a group of eight masked men, who demanded to know if they were “Chavistas”. When the youths replied that they were government supporters, the assailants pulled out firearms and ordered them to kneel.

As one of the young men attempted to escape, the masked militants doused them both in gasoline and set the men ablaze.

“Simply for living in Residencias Larenses, an apartment complex built under the revolution, these youths were burned,” affirmed community council spokesman Luis Rodriguez.

Escalona and Peña are currently in critical condition, undergoing treatment for third degree burns in the local Maria Pineda Central Hospital. The community is requesting that both men be transferred to a burn unit operated by the oil industry in the western city of Maracaibo.

Meanwhile, in the upscale eastern Caracas neighborhood of La Castellana, another man was stabbed and set on fire by masked individuals who reportedly accused her of being a Chavista.

“A young man identified as Giovanny Gonzalez (24) was burned and stabbed by masked men en La Castellana, who mistook him for a Chavista,” declared Interior Minister Nestor Reverol via Twitter on Monday.

The minister indicated that Gonzalez had been “transported to a healthcare center and is in a stable state”, but offered no further details.

During a public event on Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro condemned the aggressions, calling for the “unity of the people in the face of fascist violence”.

The attacks are the latest in a series of opposition lynchings of persons accused of being Chavista “infiltrators” or thieves. On June 3, 21-year-old Orlando Figuera died in the hospital after being stabbed and burned alive by a mob of anti-government protesters in Altamira. The Public Prosecution has yet to issue a statement on the latest lynchings.

In another incident in eastern Caracas, a woman was accosted in a shopping mall by scores of opposition supporters Saturday who mistook her for the wife of a state television show host.

In a widely circulated video, the woman is seen being verbally and physically assaulted by more than a hundred protesters screaming “murderer”.

National Ombudsman Tarek William Saab denounced the incident as a “hate crime”, which he warned could, if left unchecked, be the “prologue to a civil war”.

“To pursue and attack a human being with intention to hurt or kill them for their ideological position is repugnant,” he tweeted on Sunday.

Likewise, in another mall in Chacao, representatives of a communal council were harassed Saturday when they arrived to make a bank deposit for the sale of government-sponsored Local Production and Supply Committee (CLAP) food bags. The grassroots leaders from the nearby town of Galipan had to be escorted by National Guard personnel to safeguard their security.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

70,000 Tonnes of Hubris

By Craig Murray | June 27, 2017

There is no defensive purpose to an aircraft carrier. Its entire purpose is to move aircraft to a position where they can attack other countries. As soon as they are equipped with attack aircraft, these carriers will spend most of their time around the Middle East, including at the UK’s brand new naval base in the vicious despotism of Bahrain. Having spent £7 billion on these behemoths, politicians will seek to enhance their prestige and demonstrate that they control a nation which is a “major power”, by using them. The very fact of their existence will make bombing attacks such as those we saw on Syria, Libya and Iraq more likely.

Sirte, Libya, after NATO bombing

That further twist in the cycle of violence will lead to more terrorist attacks in the UK. There is no sense in which this aircraft carrier is anything to do with defending the United Kingdom. It is a device to attack foreign countries. The result is it makes us a lot less safe at home.

When they think about it, people understand that, as YouGov demonstrated during the recent election campaign. The politicians will be trying to whip up feelings of jingoism and national pride around this huge hunk of floating hubris, to stop us thinking about that.

There is no money for our schools and hospitals, but unlimited sums for the armaments industry. The United Kingdom is not just a dysfunctional state, it is a rogue state and a danger to the peace of the world.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

INF Treaty Withdrawal Debated in US: Does Arms Control Have a Chance to Survive?

By Alex GORKA | Strategic Culture Foundation | 26.06.2017

According to POLITICO, the US administration is considering the possibility of withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty). The INF Treaty is a bedrock arms control agreement banning an entire class of nuclear missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. It has removed thousands of nuclear weapons from the European continent and marked the first time the superpowers agreed to actually eliminate nuclear weapons and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. Now the landmark Treaty is teetering on the brink.

Russia and the US have exchanged accusations of violating the Treaty recently. The Trump administration is under pressure from some Republicans trying to compel President Trump to take steps to develop new missiles in response.

Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, who chairs a key oversight panel on nuclear weapons, told POLITICO he thinks it is «irresponsible for us to continue to adhere to a treaty when the only other participant has long moved on from it».

Indeed, many lawmakers and pundits are wondering if the US should abandon the landmark agreement altogether. Mark Gunzinger of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) believes that walking away is an option. According to him, future ground-based strike systems could help the US suppress Russia’s advanced integrated air defense systems and freedom of action in the event of a conflict. The same weapons could also help the Pentagon overcome some of the military roadblocks put up by China and North Korea in the Western Pacific. «Perhaps the time is right for a serious debate over the US withdrawing from the INF Treaty», Gunzinger says.

Michaela Dodge of the Heritage Foundation says that after 30 years, the Treaty is no longer strategically relevant, and the US should withdraw. In February, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), along with Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida), introduced the Intermediate-Range Forces Treaty (INF) Preservation Act to declare Russia in material breach of the Treaty — the first step to withdrawing. The legislation would also authorize transferring intermediate-range systems to allied countries, establish a new program for ground-launched missiles within the banned ranges, and provide $500 million to fund countervailing-strike options. Congressmen Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Mike Rogers (R-Alabama) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The discussions on INF take place at a time the future for US-Russian arms control looks dim at best.

The extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) due to expire in February 2021 is in question. There are still no talks on the issue but when the treaty reaches its end date there will no strategic nuclear arms agreement at all for the first time since SALT I Treaty was signed in 1972. The two sides are not currently engaged in talks on further strategic nuclear reductions beyond New START. Negotiations of arms control have never been stalled since the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty.

Does the idea to tear up the Treaty really meet the interests of the United States? The only reason to warrant such a decision is development and deployment of a new intermediate range missile in Europe. Will it be a popular move at the time the US DoD budget is already stretched in an effort to meet many competing demands? Would Europeans agree to have nuclear weapons on their soil? It makes the 1983 protests leap to memory.

From the point of view of military superiority, the US will not make great gains if it withdraws. It does not have intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and developing a Pershing III system will take time and effort, while land-based cruise missiles would not tip the balance into US and NATO favor because they are too slow to effectively knock out critical infrastructure sites in a first unexpected strike. At present, only ballistic missiles with short flight times and hair-trigger alert can deliver a decapitating attack.

If Europe-based cruise missiles are fired, Russia will have enough time for a launch-upon-attack against those European states which host the weapons and the United States. With the INF Treaty effective no more, Russia will be free to deploy intermediate-range missiles without restriction. In theory, its Iskander-M systems could be armed with ballistic and cruise missiles with extended range, while the American military has nothing to respond with.

The US move would not be a great setback for Russia. From Moscow’s perspective, the development by the United States of air- and sea-based, long-range precision strike capabilities has reduced the value it derived from the INF Treaty. With other countries developing their own INF arsenals, there are no prospects for globalization of the Treaty to greatly reduce its value. This is a potential threat for Russia due to its geographic position. America is under no threat from intermediate-range missiles of any other state in the world, while Russia is within range of such missiles of all states that possess them. Moreover, Russia may need ground-based intermediate weapons to counter the US ballistic defense sites in Europe and Asia.

The US and Russia have not used opportunities to discuss all the INF-related the problems within the Special Verification Commission (SVC) – the implementing body of the Treaty. There are technical issues giving rise to controversy that could be tackled at the experts’ level. The potential of NATO-Russia Council has not been exhausted. It’s a pity that the attempt to launch arms control talks proposed by the German Foreign Minister Steinmeier in 2016 has made little progress. If talks to discuss the proposal were launched, the agenda could be extended to include intermediate-range nuclear weapons.

There are only two options. One is to apply efforts to save the arms control and non-proliferation regime that served the two countries so well during so many years and which is disintegrating at present. The other is to do what some US lawmakers and pundits are calling for – to walk away from the INF Treaty. It will make impossible achieving progress on the New START and ultimately leave the sides without any arms control agreement in force at all. Whatever has been achieved during all these years as a result of the hard efforts will go down the drain to push the world to the brink of nuclear abyss. That’s what is actually being debated in the United States. President Trump has to make his choice.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment