Aletho News


Pompeo Demands Moscow “Cease Unconstructive Behavior” In Venezuela

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 03/25/2019

As we predicted a number of times before, a proxy war between Russia and the United States appears now heating up in Venezuela — this after over the weekend Russia sent a military transport plane filled with Russian troops commanded by First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces of Russia Gen. Vasily Tonkoshkurov, which landed in Caracas Saturday. We also reported the major development this morning that new satellite images reveal a major deployment of S-300 air defense missile systems to a key airbase south of Caracas.

Russia’s highly visible deployment of a small troop contingency along with a reported 35 tons of cargo has resulted in a direct and firm response from Washington as on Monday morning the US Secretary of State called on Russia to “cease its unconstructive behavior”.

According to Reuters Pompeo conveyed the message directly via a phone call with his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Spokesman Robert Palladino addressed the phone call in the following statement:

The secretary told Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov that the United States and regional countries will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela.

Palladino added that Pompeo specifically condemned Russian military support for the “illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro.”

Pompeo had earlier this month vowed to continue to put “unconstrained” pressure on the Maduro regime after it became apparent that all internal coup attempts by the Juan Guaido-led opposition had failed.

As we reported previously this week’s tensions follows a high-level meeting in Rome last week, during which Russia reiterated a grave warning to the US – Moscow will not tolerate American military intervention to topple the Venezuelan government with whom it is allied – thus it appears Russia is taking no chances with its South American ally.

One of those warnings delivered directly by Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov to US “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams is understood to have been that no American military intervention in Venezuela will be tolerated by Moscow.

Perhaps paralleling the Syria situation, this could be the start of a scenario where the greater the proxy action and threats from the United States, the more Russia will slowly intervene at the behest of Maduro.

All of these developments signalling closer Russian-Venezuelan military-to-military cooperation in the face of Washington saber rattling come after three months ago the two allies held military exercises on Venezuelan soil, which the US at the time had condemned as Russia encroachment in the region.

March 25, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 2 Comments

‘Hard to find a black cat in a dark room, if it isn’t there’ – Kremlin on Mueller report

RT | March 25, 2019

Russia doesn’t interfere in the affairs of other countries and has no intention of doing so, the Kremlin said, dismissing accusations of meddling in US elections, contained in the Mueller report, as groundless.

“It’s hard to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it isn’t there,” the President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on the release of a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

He added that the Kremlin has seen only the released summary of the report “which, incidentally, does not say anything new, except for the recognition of the absence of collusion.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the “political motivation” of Mueller’s investigation was obvious and called the report “a disgrace of American justice.”

In a statement, the ministry expressed hope that Washington would have the “courage” to officially acknowledge that “any slurs about the ‘Russian meddling’ were groundless defamation.”

Wrapping up 22 months of the investigation, Mueller’s report found no proof that “the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

However, Mueller’s report does claim that the Russian government sought to influence the 2016 election, via the organization called the Internet Research Agency.

The report accuses the agency of conducting “disinformation and social media operations” to sow discord in US society and alleges that Russian hackers obtained the emails of Hillary Clinton’s associates and passed them to WikiLeaks.

March 25, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | 4 Comments

An Iran-Syria ‘Belt & Road’: A Far-Reaching Geopolitical Strategy Unfolds

By Alastair CROOKE | Strategic Culture Foundation | 25.03.2019

As the US tries to consolidate its strategy for weakening and confronting Iran, the contours of an important geo-political strategy, launched by Syria and Iran, are surfacing. On the one hand, it consists of a multi-layered sewing together of a wide ‘deterrence’ that ultimately could result in Israel being pulled into a regional war – were certain military trip wires (such as air attacks on Syria’s strategic defences) – to be triggered. Or, if the US economic war on Iran crosses certain boundaries (such as blockading Iranian tankers from sailing, or putting a full stranglehold on the Iranian economy).

To be clear, the aim of this geo-political strategy is not to provoke a war with the US or Israel – it is to deter one. It sends a message to Washington that any carelessly thought-through aggression (of whatever hybrid nature) against the ‘northern states’ (from Lebanon to Iraq) might end by putting their ally – Israel – in full jeopardy. And that Washington should reflect carefully on its threats.

The deterrence consists at the top-level of Syrian S300 air defences over which Russia and Syria have joint-key control. The aim here, seems to be to maintain strategic ambiguity over the exact rules of S300 engagement. Russia wants to stand ‘above’ any conflict that involves Israel or the US – as best it can – and thus be positioned to act as a potential mediator and peace-maker, should armed conflict occur. In a sense, the S300s represent deterrence of ‘last resort’ – the final option, were graduated escalation somehow to be surpassed, via some major military event.

At the next level down, deterrence (already well signalled in advance) is focussed on halting Israeli air attacks on either Iranian or Syrian infrastructure (in either state). Initially, air attacks would be countered by the effective (80%) Syrian, Panzir and BUK air defence systems. More ‘substantive’ attacks will be met with a proportionate response (most probably by Syrian missiles fired into the occupied Golan). Were this to prove insufficient, and were escalation to occur, missiles are likely to be fired into the depth of Israel. Were escalation to mount yet further, the risk would be then of Iranian and Hizbullah missiles entering into the frame of conflict. Here, we would be on the cusp of region-wide war.

Of course Hizbullah has its own separate rules of engagement with Israel, but it is a partner too, to the wider ‘resistance movement’ of which the Supreme Leader spoke after his meeting in Tehran with President Assad. As Israel knows, Hizballah possesses ‘smart’ cruise missiles that can cover the length and breadth of Israel. And, it has well experienced ground-forces that can be directed into the Galilee, as well.

But were we to leave matters there – as some responsive deterrence plan – this would be to miss the point entirely. What has been happening at these various meetings amongst military and political leaders in the north is the unfolding of a much wider, forward looking, strategy to frustrate US objectives in the Middle East.

What has emerged from the key visit of President Rouhani to Iraq is something much larger than the military alliance, alluded to above: These states are unfolding a regional ‘Belt-and-Road’ trading area, stretching from Lattakia’s port on the Mediterranean (likely contracted out to Iranian management) across to the border with Pakistan (and perhaps ultimately to India, too).

What is so significant arising from Rouhani’s recent visit to Iraq is that Iraq, whilst wanting to keep amicable relations with Washington, rejects to implement the US siege on Iran. It intends to trade – and to trade more – with Iran, Syria and Lebanon. One major strand to the agreement is to have a road and railway ‘belt’ linking all these states together, for trade.

But here is the bigger point: This regional ‘Belt and Road’ is to be unfolded right into the heart of the Chinese BRI project. Iran always has been envisaged as a – if not ‘the’ – key pivot to China’s BRI in the region. As China’s Minister of Commerce, Zhong Shan, underlined this week: “Iran is China’s strategic partner in the Middle-East and China is the biggest trade partner and importer of oil from Iran”. A senior Chinese expert on West Asia plainly has taken note: Rouhani’s visit has “long-term geopolitical implications” in terms of expansion of Iran’s regional influence.

And here is a second point: The unfolding of this ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, effectively marks the end of the Belt & Road members’ looking to Europe as a principal trading partner. EU equivocation with the US over the JCPOA by trying to tie conditions to their SPV, and by holding reconstruction aid for Syria hostage to their ‘transition’ demands, has back-fired. Together with the US, the EU has become tainted through its efforts to mollify Washington – in the hope of avoiding being tariffed by Trump.

How will the US respond? Well, Secretary Pompeo is about to arrive in the region to threaten Lebanon (as it has already threatened Iraq) with tough sanctions. Russia, Iran and Syria, of course, are already under harsh sanction.

Will it work? Mr Bolton presently is trying to weaken Iran – surrounding it with US special forces hubs, placed in proximity to Iran’s ethnic minority populations, in order to de-stabilise the central authority. And Pompeo is about to land in the Middle East threatening all around with sanctions, and still ‘talking the talk’ of reducing Iranian oil sales to zero, as US oil waivers expire on 1 May.

Of course, zero waivers were never likely, but now with the new trade ‘Belt and Road’ alliance unfolding, the stakes for US foreign policy are doubled: Syria will find investors in its reconstruction precisely because it – like Iran – is a pivotal ‘corridor’ state for trade (and ultimately for energy). And Iran will not be brought to capitulation through economic siege. What Pompeo risks, through his belligerency, or clumsiness, rather, is to lose both Iraq and Lebanon.

In the former, ‘losing Iraq’ could entail the Iraqi government demanding US troops leave Iraq. In the latter case, ‘loosing’ Lebanon, translates into something more sinister: To sanction Lebanon (in order to ‘hurt’ Hizbullah) actually means putting Lebanon’s entire economic stability into play (as Hizbullah is an integral part to Lebanon’s economy – and the Shi’a compose some 30-40% of the population. They cannot be somehow ‘filtered out’, as if some stand-alone sanctions target). Instability in Lebanon is never far away, but to induce it, is crazy.

Wherever Pompeo travels on his journeys through the region, he cannot fail but to notice that US policies – and the constancy of such policies – are not trusted (even this week, ‘old US ally’ Egypt has turned to Russia for the purchase of military aircraft).

It is against this background, that the earlier intelligence service quotes in the NY Times, and its Editorial (i.e. not an op-ed article): Shedding Any Last Illusions about Saudi Arabia, might be understood. US policy across the entire Middle East, and by extension, much of its leverage over Russia and China, stands on extremely weak foundations. The débacle of the US-sponsored Warsaw conference, which was supposed to consolidate support for America’s anti-Iranian ‘war’ – and the silence with which VP Mike Pence’s address at Munich was received – provide clear evidence for this.

Well, the pivot for countering this unfavourable US conjuncture rests on one man: MbS. America’s entire foreign policy, and that of its ally, Israel, has pivoted around this erratic, highly-flawed, psychologically-impaired figure. The NYT leak from CIA officials, with its unqualified endorsement through a NYT board editorial, suggest that the CIA and MI6 have concluded that US global interests cannot be left in such unreliable, unsafe hands.

What this ultimately might mean is unclear, but such a leak would suggest that it stems from a concerted CIA professional assessment (i.e. that it is not just a partisan party warfare). Trump may not concur, or like it much, but the CIA when it does form such a definitive view, is no force to be lightly trifled with.

March 25, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump’s Stance on the Golan will allow Israel to Operate with Impunity Elsewhere

By Jonathan Cook – The National – March 25, 2019

When President Donald Trump moved the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem last year, effectively sabotaging any hope of establishing a viable Palestinian state, he tore up the international rulebook.

Last week, he trampled all over its remaining tattered pages. He did so, of course, via Twitter.

Referring to a large piece of territory Israel seized from Syria in 1967, Mr Trump wrote: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability.”

Israel expelled 130,000 Syrians from the Golan Heights in 1967, under cover of the Six Day War, and then annexed the territory 14 years later – in violation of international law. A small population of Syrian Druze are the only survivors of that ethnic cleansing operation.

Replicating its illegal acts in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel immediately moved Jewish settlers and businesses into the Golan.

Until now, no country had recognised Israel’s act of plunder. In 1981, UN member states, including the US, declared Israeli efforts to change the Golan’s status “null and void”.

But in recent months, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu began stepping up efforts to smash that long-standing consensus and win over the world’s only superpower to his side.

He was spurred into action when Bashar Al Assad – aided by Russia – began to decisively reverse the territorial losses the Syrian government had suffered during the nation’s eight-year war.

The fighting dragged in a host of other actors. Israel itself used the Golan as a base from which to launch covert operations to help Mr Assad’s opponents in southern Syria, including Islamic State fighters. Iran and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, meanwhile, tried to limit Israel’s room for manoeuvre on the Syrian leader’s behalf.

Iran’s presence close by was how Mr Netanyahu publicly justified the need for Israel to take permanent possession of the Golan, calling it a vital buffer against Iranian efforts to “use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel”.

Before that, when Mr Assad was losing ground to his enemies, the Israeli leader made a different case. Then, he argued that Syria was breaking apart and its president would never be in a position to reclaim the Golan.

Mr Netanyahu’s current rationalisation is no more persuasive than the earlier one. Russia and the United Nations are already well advanced on re-establishing a demilitarised zone on the Syrian side of the separation-of-forces line. That would ensure Iran could not deploy close to the Golan Heights.

Mr Netanyahu is set to meet Mr Trump in Washington on Monday, when the president’s tweet will reportedly be converted into an executive order.

The timing is significant. This is another crude attempt by Mr Trump to meddle in Israel’s election, due on April 9. It will provide Mr Netanyahu with a massive fillip as he struggles against corruption indictments and a credible threat from a rival party, Blue and White, headed by former army generals.

Mr Netanyahu could barely contain his glee, reportedly calling Mr Trump to tell him: “You made history!”

But, in truth, this was no caprice. Israel and Washington have been heading in this direction for a while.

In Israel, there is cross-party support for keeping the Golan.

Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the US and a confidant of Mr Netanyahu’s, formally launched a plan last year to quadruple the size of the Golan’s settler population, to 100,000, within a decade.

The US State Department offered its apparent seal of approval last month when it included the Golan Heights for the first time in the “Israel” section of its annual human rights report.

This month, senior Republican senator Lindsey Graham made a very public tour of the Golan in an Israeli military helicopter, alongside Mr Netanyahu and David Friedman, Mr Trump’s ambassador to Israel. Mr Graham said he and fellow senator Ted Cruz would lobby the US president to change the territory’s status.

Mr Trump, meanwhile, has made no secret of his disdain for international law. This month, his officials barred entry to the US to staff from the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, who are investigating US war crimes in Afghanistan.

The ICC has made enemies of both Washington and Israel in its initial, and meagre, attempts to hold the two to account.

Whatever Mr Netanyahu’s spin about the need to avert an Iranian threat, Israel has other, more concrete reasons for holding on to the Golan.

The territory is rich in water sources and provides Israel with decisive control over the Sea of Galilee, a large freshwater lake that is crucially important in a region facing ever greater water shortages.

The 1,200 square kilometres of stolen land is being aggressively exploited, from burgeoning vineyards and apple orchards to a tourism industry that, in winter, includes the snow-covered slopes of Mount Hermon.

As noted by Who Profits, an Israeli human rights organisation, in a report this month, Israeli and US companies are also setting up commercial wind farms to sell electricity.

And Israel has been quietly co-operating with US energy giant Genie to explore potentially large oil reserves under the Golan. Mr Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has family investments in Genie. But extracting the oil will be difficult, unless Israel can plausibly argue that it has sovereignty over the territory.

For decades the US had regularly arm-twisted Israel to enter a mix of public and back-channel peace talks with Syria. Just three years ago, Barack Obama supported a UN Security Council rebuke to Mr Netanyahu for stating that Israel would never relinquish the Golan.

Now Mr Trump has given a green light for Israel to hold on to it permanently.

But, whatever he says, the decision will not bring security for Israel, or regional stability. In fact, it makes a nonsense of Mr Trump’s “deal of the century” – a regional peace plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that, according to rumour, may be unveiled soon after the Israeli election.

Instead, US recognition will prove a boon for the Israeli right, which has been clamouring to annex vast areas of the West Bank and thereby drive a final nail into the coffin of the two-state solution.

Israel’s right can now plausibly argue: “If Mr Trump has consented to our illegal seizure of the Golan, why not also our theft of the West Bank?”

March 25, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 5 Comments

India Stops Taking In Venezuelan Oil

By Irina Slav | | March 22, 2019

A senior U.S. government official has told Indian media that private local refiners had stopped importing crude oil from Venezuela, noting the cooperation of Indian companies in this respect.

“My understanding is that Indian private companies, who were importing Venezuelan oil, have stopped,” the official, whose name was not disclosed, said as quoted by Business Standard. He added “The Indians have been cooperative in communicating to the private companies.”

India is one of the largest importers of Venezuelan crude, but it has been concerned about sanction violations as Washington’s pressure on Caracas increases, with the Trump administration asking importers to stop taking in Venezuelan oil in a bid to cut off the Maduro government’s access to oil money.

India has been a priority target in this push to reduce Venezuelan exports. Earlier this month, the U.S. envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told Reuters in an interview, “We say you should not be helping this regime. You should be on the side of the Venezuelan people,” commenting on talks with New Delhi on the topic.

Yet in February, Reuters reported the Indian government had advised at least one company buying Venezuelan oil to avoid paying for the commodity through the U.S. banking system, but not to stop buying Venezuelan oil altogether.

The company in question, which has remained unnamed, “expressed concern that there could be a problem in payments to PDVSA, so we have advised them to move away from the U.S. banking and institutional mechanism,” Reuters quoted an Indian government source as saying at the time.

Earlier this week, media reported on a statement from Azerbaijan’s energy ministry that quoted Venezuela’s oil minister as saying the country had suspended shipments of crude to India. The statement added that Manuel Quevedo had said Venezuela was looking for new markets to keep the oil flowing.

March 25, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Honduran president calls Jerusalem Israeli capital, not moving embassy yet

MEMO | March 25, 2019

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Sunday called Jerusalem Israel’s capital, saying the Central American country would open a trade office there, but he stopped short of announcing plans to move his embassy from Tel Aviv, Reuters reports.

Hernandez has in recent months signalled that his government is mulling moving the Honduran embassy to Jerusalem, and made his comments on the holy city during his appearance at a conference on U.S.-Israeli relations in Washington.

“Today I have announced the first step, which is to open a trade office in Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Israel, and this will be an extension of our embassy in Tel Aviv,” Hernandez said in a statement issued by his government.

“I’ve said that a second step will draw a lot of attacks from the enemies of Israel and the United States, but we will continue along this path,” Hernandez added.

Hernandez’ comments follow the formal recognition by US President Donald Trump of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Last May, Trump moved the U.S. embassy to the disputed city.

Trump’s move was criticized by many foreign governments and caused anger among Palestinians, who with broad international backing seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

East Jerusalem is still considered occupied under international law, and the city’s status is supposed to be decided as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Hernandez, an ally of the United States, said the trade and cooperation office would open immediately in Jerusalem.

His foreign ministry said in a statement that Israel would in a reciprocal gesture open an office for cooperation in Tegucigalpa, giving it diplomatic status.

In 2017, Guatemala and neighbouring Honduras were two of only a handful of countries to join Israel and the United States in voting against a UN resolution calling on Washington to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

Guatemala moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May after the United States, fueling expectations that Hernandez might follow suit.

Honduras and Guatemala are two of the most violent and impoverished countries in the Americas. Both depend economically to a significant degree on U.S. aid and investment, and the leaders of the two have generated significant controversy.

Hernandez’ legitimacy was called into question during his 2017 re-election bid after the official vote count ground to a halt when he appeared to be headed for defeat.

After the count restarted, the trend turned against his opponent and the electoral authority declared him victor, a decision later backed by the United States.

Meanwhile, his Guatemalan counterpart, Jimmy Morales, has clashed with the United Nations for closing down a UN anti-corruption body that sought to have him impeached.

March 25, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

CARICOM Confronts the Big House: Trump Attempts to Split the Caribbean over Venezuela

By Maximilian C. Forte | Zero Anthropology | March 25, 2019

It’s a simple matter, even if one might lose oneself in the various details, names, places, and dates. The Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), mostly made up of Anglophone Caribbean states, decisively stood up for non-intervention in the internal affairs of states by going against the push to recognize the illegitimate and illegal claim to power by Juán Guaidó in Venezuela. Such a policy, pushed by the US’ regime change agenda, would have clearly served to undermine the authority of the elected government of President Nicolás Maduro, while legitimating foreign intervention. Just as the US today seeks the overthrow of Venezuela’s government, tomorrow it could seek the overthrow of any other government in the Americas. It is thus the Caribbean’s voice that matters most right now.

Trump: Against Sovereignty

On the other side, Trump’s White House is not only pushing for regime change in Venezuela, Trump’s NSA, John Bolton, has stated repeatedly that the US intends to resurrect and impose the neocolonial and plainly imperialist Monroe Doctrine—claiming effective authority to rule the Western Hemisphere. (That includes Canada, not that Canadians have bothered to take note.) Given Trump’s own stated belief that “to the victor go the spoils,” and the US’ validation of the acquisition of territory by force—backing Israel’s claim to Syria’s Golan Heights—even respect for the territorial integrity of states has gone out the window. Fundamental and basic principles of the UN Charter have thus been unilaterally shredded by the US. CARICOM stands as one impediment. Trump clearly will not let that stand.

Trump has apparently resuscitated divide et impera, trying to not only pry some CARICOM members away from the main body by “dangling investment” promises in front of their eyes, but also setting the stage for CARICOM members to turn on each other. What Trump did was to invite a small, select group of Caribbean leaders—those belonging to the Lima Group (standing outside of any international body, because the Group supports regime change in violation of international law)—to visit him at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Trump thus met with St Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina, Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Haiti President Jovenel Moise, and Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. These countries, “have all either criticized Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, or recognized Juan Guaido [sic] as the country’s rightful leader”.

Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith

Among those in attendance, Jamaica recently announced the closure of its embassy in Venezuela, despite the parliamentary opposition in Kingston voicing serious criticisms. Reporting on these events, the Jamaica Observer instead backed CARICOM’s approach to the Venezuelan crisis, reaffirming the value of the UN Charter. As for Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, he spoke of being pleased with his meeting with Trump, saying that Trump, “wants to encourage and promote a stronger relationship with the region”. (Holness appears to be confusing a “stronger relationship” with a relationship of strength.) Holness’ main concern appeared to be the promise of US investments, saying that he hoped it was “not just talk” but that there would be “instrumental action”. Yet Trump is in no position to order US companies to invest in the Caribbean—he cannot even do that in the US itself. The US is not a state-run socialist economy, where public companies obey public policy—surely Holness understands this? Nonetheless, the affair smelled of something akin to bribery, and if this was representative of Caribbean leaders “standing tall” then language has been inverted, and standing tall is a reference to the humility of beggars. One might recall how the British Colonial Office used to refer to visiting Caribbean Chief Ministers as a “beggars’ opera”.

Rowley: Standing Up for the Caribbean

Once more, the figure standing up to Trump, and standing up for CARICOM and international law, is Trinidad & Tobago’s Prime Minister: Dr. Keith Rowley, of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM). Dr. Rowley noted that this minority which met with Trump, which was not empowered to speak for CARICOM, were at Mar-a-Lago because they are members of the Lima Group whose objective is regime change in Venezuela. Apparently the US ambassador to Trinidad & Tobago, Joseph Mondello, said that he “viewed with concern” comments made by Rowley last month—in response, Rowley was reportedly angered and he redoubled his efforts to push CARICOM on the path of anti-intervention.

The fact that other Caribbean states such as Trinidad & Tobago and the majority of CARICOM members, who oppose the Lima Group, were logically not invited—why would they be?—has been seized upon by quislings in the region who think the Caribbean’s primary duty is servitude to whomever occupies the Big House in the US. Failure to show deference to US interests, these proxies think, somehow entails a loss of status, a “loss of leadership” even. Real leaders stand up for American interests, apparently. This has been translated into accusations that those who were not at Mar-a-Lago were thus “snubbed,” and missed out on something “special”.

Representative of this pro-US faction are figures such as Ralph Maraj, a former foreign minister of Trinidad & Tobago, and a member of the opposition United National Congress (UNC). According to Maraj, the fact that Trinidad was “excluded” from the Mar-a-Lago meeting means that the US now has a diminished view of the country. He continued:

“We do not stand tall, contrary to what Dr. Rowley has stated, we stand diminished in the region, we have lost our leadership of Caricom which we had. Jamaica now is lead­ing the way…. We’ve really abdicated the leader­ship in Caricom and we have obviously offended the United States, and while we have sovereign right to deal with our foreign relations we stand by the principles and so, we must also protect our relationships…. The Unit­ed States does not need to invest in our petrochemical industry anymore. They have the most gas, natural gas in the world…. They don’t need our gas, they don’t need our oil. They are a net exporter now of both oil and gas. We have lost our economic clout”.

Maraj’s message was, at best, confusing. If the US no longer needs Trinidad, and Trinidad has lost its economic clout as a result, then how would a lunch at Mar-a-Lago have altered those basic, objective economic facts? It’s not clear where Maraj’s complaint lies, but it’s also far from obvious that the facts are on his side.

Trinidad & Tobago’s Leadership: The US View

The US previously recognized Trinidad’s leadership in CARICOM and its high standing in the region—according to the US Embassy in Port of Spain in 2006:

“In regional politics, it could be said that T&T is an opinion shaper. [Prime Minister Patrick] Manning [of the PNM] just completed a six-month tenure as Chairman of CARICOM, a period marked by a renewed emphasis on regional economic integration. T&T receives high marks for its commitment to the needs of the smaller countries of the Eastern Caribbean. Beyond CARICOM, T&T maintains correct but cool relations with Venezuela, largely due to differences of opinion over Petrocaribe and Chavez’s regional aspirations. T&T views Cuba as a Caribbean brother and maintains amicable ties. Manning regularly goes to Cuba for medical attention”.

Did having an independent foreign policy diminish Trinidad, as Maraj argued above? The US Embassy recognized Trinidad & Tobago’s influential leadership position, even as it pointed to serious foreign policy differences between the US and Trinidad & Tobago (repeated here):

“T&T in many ways demonstrates a fierce independence; it has been immovable on several key recent U.S. foreign policy priorities. Because of former President Robinson’s role as a ‘father’ of the International Criminal Court (ICC), T&T was one of the first ICC signatories. It has not signed an Article 98 agreement with the U.S. and likely never will. T&T continues to desire and work towards good relations with Venezuela as they share a long maritime border and common energy concerns. It often defends Cuba, which it sees as a Caribbean brother. T&T, along with its neighbors, did not recognize Haiti’s interim government in the absence of a CARICOM consensus. T&T did not support the U.S. intervention in Iraq, and its media have been openly critical on this issue. T&T’s voting record at the U.N. also leaves much to be desired from a U.S. policy perspective. Most notably, T&T voted, together with its CARICOM partners, in favor of Venezuela’s candidacy for the vacant Latin American Caribbean seat on the UN Security Council”.

If standing up for Trinidad & Tobago’s interests—which are not the same as American interests—is somehow weak or diminished leadership, then that case has not been proven, not even when we refer to the opinions of US diplomats themselves.

Furthermore, during the same weekend that Trump was hosting a small group of Caribbean leaders, CARICOM itself held a dialogue with Juán Guaidó, in an effort to promote peaceful mediation towards an end to the crisis. Unfortunate however was the praise given by CARICOM leaders to Canada, which helped to organize the encounter. The point however is that if CARICOM did not matter, then not even Trump’s instrument in Venezuela would seem to agree—as Trump met with a splinter group, Guaidó spoke with representatives of the larger body, and both events happened at nearly the same time.

Who Was Invited to the Man’s House?

To have them assembled in one place, here are the comments made by Prime Minister Rowley about this weekend’s event at Mar-a-Lago, and what it signifies, gleaned from several sources as indicated below:

Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley

“There are people in Trinidad and Tobago who believe that because Trinidad and Tobago was not invited to the private residence of an American president we are somehow diminished…. Ladies and gentlemen, we have never stood taller, we have never stood prouder; and, as I speak to you now, Caricom’s position, as reaffirmed in the last meeting of heads in St Kitts-Nevis, is that there are three people representing and authorised to represent Caricom outside of its heads and caucus, and that’s the chairman of Caricom, who is the prime minister of St Kitts-Nevis (Dr Timothy Harris); Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister or designate; and Barbados, through its prime minister or designate”. (source)

“A man’s home is his castle—you are free to invite who you want to your house. We can’t stay outside and say we shoulda be invited. Since when are we measuring our stature and station by who invites us to their house? If it is we’re being ‘blanked’ or ‘snubbed’ for steadfastly standing for the principles of the United Nations Charter, history will absolve us”. (source)

“Our foreign policy has always given us an indication of the road ahead. What we’re reacting to is an invitation to a man’s house—a meeting of the Lima Group at the private residence of the US President”. (source)

“I don’t know that T&T or anyone was deliberately, unwittingly or accidentally invited to anyone’s private home. The invitation wasn’t to Caricom, we don’t go around begging for invitations”. (source)

“What we are going to do resolutely and without apology, as a tiny speck on the world’s map, is to stand with the principles of the United Nations where we all have signed on and accept as the best way for peace and security, not only in our region, but the world. We, from early—St Kitts-Nevis, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines—we did not sign on to the Lima Group. So we are not reacting to an invitation to a man’s house”. (source)

“There are 14 Caricom countries, how many have gone to Mar-a-Lago? Yet the convseration is about four. The ones who’ve agreed are part of the Li­ma Group. What’s the group’s objective? Regime change in Venezuela. How that’s to be achieved is for those who’ve embarked on that course”. (source)

“As far as I’m aware, there’s no tear in TT-US relations. The US remains a friendly country and in so far as having a disagreement on the approach of Venezuela, it has nothing to do with the relations between the people of T&T and the people of the US—notwithstanding Opposition’s efforts to create that kind of division!” (source)

“Force Multipliers”

Rather than come out and call them “treacherous servants,” the politically correct term for amplifiers of US power is “force multipliers”. On the same day that Trump announced his Mar-a-Lago meeting, the Leader of the Opposition in Trinidad & Tobago, former Prime Minister Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar of the United National Congress, met with the US Am­bas­sador in Port of Spain. It’s not the first time that Persad-Bissessar, while in the Opposition, has gone to the US Embassy to have private meetings to talk about Trinidadian affairs, slanted in a way that always favoured American interests and those of her party. The party attacking Prime Minister Rowley for not being servile enough to get an invitation to Mar-a-Lago, has a history of going in secret to the US Embassy to lay out its complaints about domestic political matters for the American ambassador to consider—perhaps this is what they mean by “leadership”. From their perspective a figure like Juán Guaidó must be one of the world’s greatest living “leaders”.

Ralph Maraj

The UNC is a party that mostly represents Trinidad’s population of East Indian descendants, which for generations have vied for power against the African-descended population that is mostly represented by the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM). The PNM led the country to independence in 1962, and its leadership was responsible for expelling the US from its air and naval bases in Trinidad. The PNM also nationalized Trinidad & Tobago’s oil and gas industry, and did substantial work in trying to build a nation.

The UNC has long had a particularly cozy relationship with the US, and it’s no secret that many of its followers tend to hold in high esteem all things coded White, looking up to the Global North, with neither the White House nor Donald Trump personally being any exception of course. In fact, the UNC’s long-standing former leader, Basdeo Panday, was the Prime Minister who personally hosted Donald Trump when he traveled to Trinidad for the 1999 Miss Universe Pageant. Trump and Panday spent time dining and golfing together, and apparently the experience made a positive impression on Trump. A few years later, Panday would find himself jailed on corruption charges.

While Trinidadian politics are not organized along left vs. right lines (mistakenly assumed to be universal by most North American and many European writers)—the UNC has nevertheless on occasion lambasted opponents, in a manner uncharacteristic of Trinidad politicians, as “communists”. The UNC’s stance on Venezuela, since the rise of Hugo Chávez, has been consistently hostile to the Bolivarian Revolution.

It was thus telling that this cable, as published by WikiLeaks, showed that, “on October 3 [2006], the [US] Ambassador met with Opposition United National Congress (UNC) Deputy Political Leader Senator Wade Mark, at Mark’s request,” and during that meeting the UNC’s Wade Mark not only assured the US that a future UNC government would favour US interests, but he went as far as linking the then PNM Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, with radical Muslim terrorism—and then linked the PNM and Hugo Chávez to Muslim terrorism. Wade Mark was purposely baiting the US, knowing that the US Embassy was keeping a keen eye on Muslim groups in the country, at the height of the US’ so-called “Global War on Terror”.

Let’s read that document from the US Embassy in Port of Spain in greater depth, which was previously publicized thanks to Guanaguanare—the emphases in bold print are mine:

“Mark said his purpose was to express to the Ambassador the UNC’s shock at the sudden assault on the United States unleashed by Prime Minister Patrick Manning, in his September 5 address before energy industry executives and members of the diplomatic corps…. Mark wished to reassure the Ambassador that a UNC administration would re-establish with the US the same friendly and cooperative relations which has characterized the 1995-2001 period when then UNC Prime Minister Basdeo Panday and Secretary of State Warren Christopher signed an extradition treaty, a mutual legal assistance treaty and an agreement on maritime law enforcement. Mark went on to say that UNC concern with Manning’s undiplomatic outburst was heightened by the fact that Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Dr. Lenny Saith has reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding with Mexico according to which a portion of the liquefied natural gas currently exported by T&T to the US would be assigned to Mexico instead. Such an action could not help but have serious national security implications for T&T, given that T&T depends for much of its food imports on the US. The Ambassador listened to Mark and acknowledged that the Prime Minister’s September 5 criticism of the US had taken him by surprise, too.

“Mark then launched into a litany of allegations and rumors whose veracity it is impossible to gauge. He said it was the UNC’s understanding that newly-appointed foreign minister Arnold Piggott… had, while serving as High Commissioner to Canada, met with elements associated with Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. (Note: Post has no reason to believe that this is true and has not heard this rumor from any other source). He went on to say that three ships carrying rocket launchers as well as members of Hezbollah, which had left Syria in August en route to Argentina, were diverted to Venezuela’s Margarita island where a Hezbollah base was to be established with the aim of targeting the US. (Note: Post has heard this claim elsewhere, although embassy Caracas would be better placed to ascertain whether it is fact or fiction).

Mark also drew a connection between Prime Minister Manning, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, leader of the extremist Jamaat al Muslimeen (JAM) group, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Referring to Abu Bakr’s release from prison on bail and to his court-authorized leave to travel to Venezuela, Mark said it strains credulity that such a development could have taken place without the knowledge and intervention of the powers that be. Mark said that Abu Bakr is treated like a head of state by the Chavez regime, and hypothesized that his leave to travel to Venezuela could have been intended to cement Manning’s anti-American credentials in return for the JAM’s assistance with voter recruitment at the next election….”

It is from within this fold that Prime Minister Rowley was seen as being “snubbed” by Trump, and that Trinidad lost its leadership status. It’s not surprising then, and in fact it’s quite logical, that on a previous occasion in Parliament, Dr. Rowley blasted the opposition UNC as “traitors”.

A Perspective on Canada

Canada’s government could learn a great deal—first of all, about international law and the UN Charter—from listening to Prime Minister Rowley. Instead, rather than having the post-national state as Justin Trudeau remarked, Canada has more of a post-government state, one that functions almost on auto-pilot by hiring technocrats who are “skilled” in “reading the signals coming out of Washington”. As studious imitators, they would have been well prepared by “universities” in Canada since they are largely just retail outlets for American academic production, training Canadians in the high art of consuming American books, American journals, and traveling to American conferences.

Canada helped found the Lima Group, in an effort to overthrow Venezuela’s government. While Trudeau is defending Canadian corporate interests, he does so using the language and techniques that shore up US interests. It has reached the point where, instead of taking an independent and correct stand like Trinidad & Tobago and CARICOM, Canada instead imagines that Venezuela is part of its “global backyard”. Chrystia Freeland, Trudeau’s minister for foreign affairs, stated to the press:

“the crisis in Venezuela is unfolding in Canada’s global backyard. This is our neighbourhood. We have a direct interest in what happens in our hemisphere”.

Peter Boehm, a Canadian “diplomat,” seconded Freeland, telling the CBC: “This is our backyard, the Western hemisphere. We have a role here too”.

Funny, how the front yard thinks it owns a backyard, ignoring the Big House standing between the two and claiming ownership of both. What both Freeland and Boehm miss, obviously, is that from the US’ standpoint, we are all backyard.

Canada itself has no backyard, apart from its internal colonies—and there is no such thing as a “global backyard”. It is a semi-peripheral state which, like two centuries ago, still specializes in exporting raw materials. Lacking national leadership means that, in practice, there has been virtually no distinction of any substance that can be made between Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau, apart from superficial matters like style, tone, and virtue signalling (and sometimes not even then). Lacking an independent national government, and worse yet having one that thinks it’s American, means that it has been easy for Trump to effectively dictate terms to Canada and offload some of the costs of US foreign policy onto Canada, with no reward in return for Canada. Whether it is unrelenting trade tariffs, surrender/renegotiation of NAFTA to favour US interests even more, the transfer of asylum-seekers, or the consequences of dragging Canada into the geopolitical conflict between the US and China—Canada under Justin Trudeau has been haemorrhaging both political and economic capital to the US. One ironic and sad consequence is that this has only strengthened Canada’s Conservatives—with all of their supposed “agency,” Canadians vote for either Tweedledee or Tweedledum, generation after generation, and all of the parties are beginning to look and sound alike. With respect to Venezuela, that means more of the same.


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March 25, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment