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Beware of blowback from Afghan policies

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 25, 2019

During an exclusive interview with the Associated Press this week, the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai has severely questioned the rationale behind the presidential election which is due to take place in his country on September 28. Those who drive the Afghan policy in the Indian establishment should take careful note.

Karzai’s opinion runs completely contrary to the Indian stance. Delhi must be probably the only world capital that is enthusiastic about the Afghan presidential election. Delhi has exhorted Afghan people (“brothers and sisters”) to turn out in large numbers to cast their ballots

The Indian calculus is that by rigging the election, the incumbent president Ashraf Ghani and his group will be able to secure another 4-years in power. What brings the Indian establishment and Ghani’s group on the same page is their common interest in preventing the Taliban from holding the levers of power in Kabul, no matter what it takes. India has emerged in the most recent years as the main patron of Ghani’s group.

Ghani’s group comprising figures like the country’s security czar Amarullah Saleh maintain a policy trajectory that is hostile toward Pakistan, which helps Delhi’s hardline policies toward Pakistan. In this ‘Chanakyan’ thinking, India stands to gain if Pakistan is bogged down in a seamless war of attrition, sandwiched between its two hostile neighbours.

A hostile regime in Kabul will never compromise on the Durand Line, which implies that Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will remain under challenge for the foreseeable future if Ghani and his group remain in power.

Delhi blithely overlooks that the Afghan situation also impacts regional security and stability and that India’s medium and long term interests lie in the stabilisation of Afghanistan. Hopefully, the views expressed by Karzai, who is a close and longstanding friend of India, would have a salutary effect on the Indian establishment and prompt it to rethink.

Karzai is spot on in his assessment that the prevailing politico-security situation in Afghanistan is not at all conducive to the holding of a free and fair election. Ironically, the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir is nowhere near as precarious as in Afghanistan and yet the elections in the Indian state have been postponed indefinitely.

The outcome of Saturday’s election will be severely contested by the other Afghan (non-Taliban) groups and we are going to witness a replay of the 2014 charade when Ghani’s ‘victory’ under extremely controversial circumstances marred by cheating on an industrial scale stalled the transition. Washington finally deputed then US senator John Kerry to Kabul to cajole the warring factions to accept the idea of a so-called national unity government.

The spectre that is facing Afghanistan is a highly problematic political transition. Considering that more than half the country is under Taliban control and that the Taliban are viscerally opposed to the charade of election on Saturday, Ghani’s legitimacy to rule for another term is in serious doubt. Delhi should ponder over the emergent scenario.

Only through an inclusive democratic process can the Afghan transition be peacefully managed. And that is only possible if the transition is predicated on a peace agreement with the Taliban, followed by inter-Afghan dialogue (including with representatives of Ghani’s ‘government’) on a political settlement, which would be put before a Loya Jirga for approval. The elections should be held only thereafter.

On the contrary, the US President Trump’s impetuous decision to call off the negotiations with the Taliban (although a draft agreement was initialed in Doha) has been seized by Ghani’s group to front-load the presidential election. This is like putting the cart before the horse.

What will happen now is that Ghani’s group will rig the election and win it and proceed to claim a mandate to rule for another 4 years, while other Afghan groups — Taliban and non-Taliban — will not accept Ghani and his coterie for a second term.

There are signs that even Washington has distanced itself from Ghani’s government by withholding assistance to the tune of $160 million. The US state department statement announcing this was highly critical of the Ghani government.

Equally, the USG-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in a commentary on Monday was frankly skeptical of the entire exercise of Saturday’s election. It sounded a warning that “many Afghans remain wary of the landmark presidential vote, fearing Taliban violence aimed at disrupting the vote and disillusioned at the widespread fraud and corruption that has tainted other elections since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

“Analysts say voter fatigue and safety concerns could depress turnout to undermine the legitimacy of the vote and give any winner only with a weak mandate to rule a country reeling from economic turmoil, an escalating war, and political infighting.”

Where does all this leave India? Clearly, Delhi’s backing for Ghani’s group is a cynical, self-serving attempt to exploit an unstable Afghanistan to India’s advantage. It does not constitute an Afghan policy. It reflects a pitiless mindset to keep Afghanistan in civil war conditions for as long as possible. It is indifferent towards the long-suffering Afghan people (here and here.) How is such a ‘policy’ any different from Pakistan’s?

Surely, the Indian embassy in Kabul would have reported on the meeting in Kabul on Monday of prominent Afghan political figures including Mujahideen leaders and erstwhile Northern Alliance stalwarts — former President Karzai, former Vice President Yunus Qanooni, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, former Minister of Energy and Water Mohammad Ismail Khan, former National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta and so on — which issued a formal statement calling for the deferment of the presidential election and an immediate resumption of the US-Taliban negotiations.

The statement highlighted that the Afghan people do not trust in the electoral management organisations to prevent “widespread manipulation” of the presidential election. It said, “There are many realities which show that the election will not reduce the crisis in the country, instead it will double the crisis, fuel division among the people, weaken institutions and affect the trust in democracy and political partnership.”

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

EU Assures US Brussels Will Not Act Toward Iran Without Washington’s Consent – Treasury

Sputnik – September 25, 2019

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Wednesday that the European Union has assured the United States that Brussels would not do anything – with regard to sanctions against Iran – without Washington’s consent.

The situation in the Persian Gulf region worsened after the United States walked out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, in May 2018 and reinstated harsh sanctions on Iran.

Exactly one year after the US withdrawal, Tehran announced that it would be gradually reducing its nuclear obligations every 60 days until EU signatories to the accord ensured Iran’s interests amid US sanctions. Earlier in September, Tehran embarked on the third stage of its rollback plan.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said during a speech at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that the only way Tehran would enter negotiations with Washington is if it returns to the JCPOA and stops imposing sanctions against the country.

US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said earlier that Washington would like to see Brussels impose sanctions on those who support what he described as Iran’s missile and drone programs, adding that there must be an international effort to counter Iran’s activities in the Middle East.

The EU, meanwhile, has established the INSTEX (the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) trade mechanism to ease non-dollar trade with Tehran in the wake of the US sanctions and in an effort to save the JCPOA.

Earlier this month, Brussels agreed to contribute $15 billion to the INSTEX fund. In September, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said that the country would resume compliance with the Iran nuclear deal if it received the $15 billion tranche before the end of the year.

On 14 July 2015, Iran and six international mediators — China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States — ratified the historic JCPOA, more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, aimed at preventing Iran from designing and manufacturing nuclear weapons.

The deal provides for the gradual lifting of economic and financial sanctions imposed on Iran by the United Nations Security Council, the United States, and the European Union in exchange for Tehran’s guarantees that the country’s nuclear program would remain peaceful.

US President Donald Trump announced on 8 May 2018 that the United States would withdraw from the JCPOA and restore its sanctions on Iran, lifted by Washington as part of the nuclear deal. The restrictions target not only Iran but also other countries that continue to do business with Iran.

The remaining JCPOA signatories slammed the United States’ move and reaffirmed their commitment to respect their obligation under the deal.

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Claim Russia caused Brexit crumbles as probe into Leave.EU funding finds no evidence of wrongdoing

A Brexit-themed billboard depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin. © AFP / Daniel SORABJI
RT | September 25, 2019

An investigation into Arron Banks, a backer of a pro-Brexit campaign, found no evidence that the money for it came from a third party. The political establishment claimed he was illegally pouring Russian funds into the endeavor.

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) announced it has shut down investigation into Banks after finding no evidence he broke the law in loaning £8 million ($10 million) to his own pro-Brexit campaign Leave. EU ahead of the 2016 referendum. The loan came from the company Rock Holdings Ltd, owned by Banks, and went to Better for the Country Ltd, which managed the campaign.

The Electoral Commission referred the case to the NCA last year, saying it suspected a third party was the original source of the money. In a public statement on Tuesday, the NCA said it found “no evidence that any criminal offences have been committed” by Banks. Likewise, no evidence was found that he “received funding from any third party to fund the loans, or that he acted as an agent on behalf of a third party.”

The third party was presumed to be the government of Russia, which many Remainers accuse of boosting their Leaver opponents financially and with clandestine activities on social media. This notion may, for some, ease the pain caused by the cringeworthy way the UK is now parting ways with the EU, but it has a few problems in terms of actual evidence.

The NCA’s announcement is the second blow to the narrative in as many weeks. Earlier, the Metropolitan Police said they will take no further action against Banks and Leave.EU over alleged spending offences. That probe was also launched at the request of the Electoral Commission and found “some technical breaches of electoral law” but “insufficient evidence to justify any further criminal investigation,” the statement said.

Banks, who said he was being targeted by a biased Electoral Commission and pro-Remain politicians and journalists in a smear campaign, is now able to take a victory lap. “Victory is sweet .. poor little remainer!” he tweeted in response to one of his critics sharing the news. Banks also threatened the commission with a £10 million lawsuit for damaging his reputation.

Nigel Farage, who was Banks’ partner in the Leave.EU campaign, said “heads must roll” for the mistreatment of the businessman, and that the commission should be first in line for the chopping block.

The commission lamented the NCA’s decision, saying it demonstrated an “apparent weakness of the law” that “allows overseas funds into UK politics.” Which apparently means they think that the problem was that investigators didn’t search hard enough, not that there was nothing there to find.

Hunting for the Kremlin’s shadow behind domestic troubles is a popular activity these days, especially since the consequences are insignificant for those involved when they are eventually proven wrong.

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

Another Day, Another Scandal. What the ‘Trump-Ukraine Collusion’ Is Really About

By Daniel Lazare | Strategic Culture Foundation | September 25, 2019

This is soooooo boring.

For nearly a week, Washington has been consumed by reports that Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden.

The furor began on Wednesday, Sept. 18, when the Washington Post disclosed that Trump had said something to an unknown foreign leader that “was so alarming that a US intelligence official who had worked at the White House went to the inspector general of the intelligence community.” Two days later, the Wall Street Journal reported that the foreign leader was Zelensky and that Trump had asked him “about eight times” in the course of a single phone conversation to look into allegations that then-Vice President Biden had pushed for the removal of a public prosecutor investigating a Ukrainian company that employed his son, Hunter. A day after that, Biden complained that Trump was trying to “smear me,” while on Sunday, Adam Schiff, Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee, declared that Trump might be guilty of “the most profound violation of the presidential oath of office … during just about any presidency.”

From initial report to America’s greatest scandal ever in just four days – surely this was some sort of Washington speed record. Since the moment Trump was elected, Democrats have been searching for “the Big One,” as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd put it, the scandal “that’s going to finally bring Donald Trump down” – and now at last they found it.

Of course, Democrats said the same about Russiagate, the scandal that dominated headlines for two and a half years but fizzled when special prosecutor Robert Mueller said he was unable to come up with evidence “that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.” But now that Trump stood accused of conspiring or coordinating with the Ukrainian government – or at least trying to – surely the Big One was finally at hand.

But it’s not. One reason is that there’s no sign of a quid pro quo. The Washington Post suggested in its initial report that the purpose of the July 25 phone call was to “manipulate the Ukrainian government into helping Trump’s reelection campaign.” The means, supposedly, was $250 million in military aid that he was threatening to withhold if the Ukraine failed to cooperate. But the Wall Street Journal’s source specifically denied that Trump had threatened a cut-off while the New York Times reported that a decision to end military aid – subsequently revoked – had actually occurred weeks earlier.

Another reason for skepticism is that charges of a smear job are clearly misplaced. If anyone’s activities are suspicious, it’s Biden’s, and Trump can hardly be blamed for wanting to get to the bottom of them.

To briefly recap: in February 2014, a US-backed coup spearheaded by ultra-rightists sent Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing and installed billionaire Petro Poroshenko in his place. This was bad news for a wealthy Yanukovych supporter named Mykola Zlochevsky who was widely accused of corruption and was in danger of losing all or some of his holdings. In an attempt to smooth things over with the Americans, Zlochevsky appointed Hunter Biden to a lucrative post with Burisma Holdings, a natural-gas company he founded in 2002. Hunter had just been discharged from the US Navy after testing positive for cocaine. He had no experience in the natural-gas business and knew nothing about the Ukraine. But he got the job anyway along with a salary of $50,000 a month.

But when the Ukrainian prosecutor general launched an investigation into Burisma, the Obama administration demanded that Viktor Shokin, the man who took over the office a year later, be removed. Indeed, Biden bragged that he threatened to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees during a visit to Kiev if Poroshenko didn’t do as he was told.

“I said, ‘We’re leaving in six hours,’” he said last year. “If the prosecutor’s not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch, he got fired.”

If anyone’s guilty of a quid pro quo, it would seem to be Biden.

Questions remain. Washington says it wanted Shokin removed because he was impeding the Ukraine’s anti-corruption drive and that it pushed for someone more vigorous even though the results for Burisma might have been negative. But the New York Times says the company was pleased by Shokin’s dismissal, and that a year later it was able to reach an amicable settlement with his successor. Hunter Biden’s job was safe.

Still, profiting off a family connection in this manner is plainly corrupt, and Biden is obviously attempting to deflect attention from his own misdeeds by screaming about Trump. The upshot is yet another tedious pseudo-scandal in which Democrats will only succeed in embarrassing themselves.

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Administer Justice’: What the Trump-Zelensky Call Transcript Does and Doesn’t Say

Sputnik – September 25, 2019

The White House has released a transcript of the controversial 25th July call between Donald Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky – meanwhile, US lawmakers have begun a formal impeachment inquiry into the content of their conversation.

Not long after the call ended, an intelligence community ‘whistleblower’ lodged a complaint about Trump’s conduct during the chat. The exact contents of the complaint haven’t been released, but ever since senior Democrats have claimed the President had been attempting to boost his reelection prospects by pressuring Zelensky to contact Attorney General William Barr and allege Joe Biden lobbied Kiev officials to benefit his son Hunter’s private-sector work in Ukraine.

Moreover, they suggest Trump threatening to withhold aid from the country – which he has admitted – was intended to force Zelensky’s hand on the issue.

For his part, Trump and members of his administration have alleged Biden dangled the prospect of US financial support to coerce the Ukrainian government into firing its top prosecutor Viktor Shokin in 2016, at a time he was investigating Ukrainian energy company Burisma, and allegedly Hunter.

​For his part, Trump claims it’s merely a matter of not wanting “our people”, like former Vice President Biden and his son, “creating the corruption already in the Ukraine”.

‘Sounds Horrible’

While the Wall Street Journal reported, based on anonymous briefings, that Trump asked Zelensky eight times to investigate Biden’s son and his work in Ukraine, in the transcript Trump mentions Biden thrice, as part of a wider discussion about the origins of the ‘Trump-Russia’ probe.

Noting the US does “a lot” for Ukraine, spending “a lot of effort and time” – “much more” than European countries, “who should be helping you more than they are”, are doing – the President asks for a favour.

“Our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation… I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I’d like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it… That whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance,  but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine,” Trump inquires.

​In other words, the President was referring to allegations the Democratic party colluded with Ukrainian officials to perpetuate smears alleging Trump had ties to the Russian state ahead of the November 2016 Presidential election.

He goes on to state he heard Ukraine had a prosecutor “who was very good” but was “shut down”, which was “really unfair”.

“A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. [Rudy] Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General… The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me,” Trump adds.

Missing the Point

While mainstream media outlets have almost universally presented Trump’s request as potentially suspicious, the actual contents of the conversation are a far cry from allegations that a “promise” was sought by Trump, with penalties for non-compliance. For one, no mention of US aid to Ukraine being reduced or stopped outright is made at any point, whether directly or indirectly – and in response to Trump’s requested “favour” Zelensky merely notes his country’s next prosecutor general will be his candidate, who will reopen the investigation of Burisma, and probe why it was closed in the first place.

​Furthermore, the Ukrainian President makes clear the question of whether the inquiry was nobbled, and by whom, is also an issue of intense interest to him, and forms part of a wider push to “drain the swamp” and “have a new format and a new type of government” in the country.

“The issue of the investigation is… actually the issue of making sure to restore honesty [in the country], so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure we administer justice in our country,” he states.

The abject lack of a ‘smoking gun’ in the transcript – and indeed the content clearly contradicting pre-release speculation – may account for why Democrats have now demanded to see the full complaint that was lodged, and for the staffer who lodged it to testify before Congress about their concerns.

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Russophobia | , , | 2 Comments

Who’s behind Hong Kong protests?

CGTN | August 22, 2019

The protests in Hong Kong have entered their third month amid increasing violence. How did we get here? What triggered the protests? And why are they turning chaotic?

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video | , | 1 Comment

Israel arrests Palestine’s Jerusalem minister

Israeli forces detain Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi al-Hadami. (Photo: via Social Media)
MEMO | September 25, 2019

Israeli forces detained Jerusalem Affairs Minister Fadi al-Hadami of the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday, according to an official statement, reports Anadolu Agency.

In a statement, the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry said Israeli forces raided the minister’s home and searched it before taking him into custody.

There was no comment from the Israeli military on the arrest.

This is the second time Israeli forces arrested the Jerusalem minister in the last three months.

Israeli forces have escalated their actions against Palestinian activities in Jerusalem since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized the occupied city as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the decades-long Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel since 1967 – might one day serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

A Great Day for Zion

By Gilad Atzmon | September 25, 2019

 “In A Time Of Universal Deceit, Telling The Truth Becomes A Revolutionary Act” – George Orwell

At the moment, the Jewish State is experiencing growing political instability while exploring its ability to defy Netanyahu’s alleged criminality and his racial incitements against Arabs, while at the same time, the UK has been reduced into a dutiful Israeli remote colony.

Two days ago, the Lobby scored three significant victories that are indicative of Britain’s descent into an Orwellian dystopia. It is now an unfit habitat for intellectuals, artists and humanists and their exodus has begun.

In a statement astonishing for its obsequiousness, ‘opposition’ leader Jeremy Corbyn praised the police for tearing down a poster depicting, in cartoon form, an uncanny portrayal of Corbyn himself under ‘attack’ by Benjamin Netanyahu shown piloting an Israeli air force plane named ‘The Lobby’ and dropping bombs of ‘defamation’ with the words ‘anti-Semite, anti-Semite, anti-Semite.’

By his response, Corbyn was kind enough to reveal to the Brits that he could be many things, but acting as a prime minister isn’t really among them. And not just because of his clumsy unprincipled action against a legitimate political cartoon but because the man publicly displayed that he can’t handle elementary freedoms. Somewhere, there exists a positive interpretation that would make Corbyn’s shameless groveling seem sophisticated, his response did make the cartoon into national news so that every Brit is now aware of the poster and its message.

Yesterday we also learned that Israel’s stooges managed to cancel a literature event in Brighton. Bad News for Labour- Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief is, according to its publisher, a ground breaking study on the reality behind the headlines on antisemitism and the British Labour Party.” I have not seen a ‘ground breaking’ text from Pluto for years, nonetheless, someone within the Hasbara army decided that the Brits are unfit to digest the book. Waterstones Brighton ‘rapidly surrendered’ and canceled the event. One more piece of evidence that Britain doesn’t really need enemies, it became an authoritarian society voluntarily. I wonder how long it will be before Corbyn tweets that it was he and the Labour Party who begged Waterstones to cancel the event.

But Zionist tour de force did not end there. We learned yesterday that singer, songwriter and right wing enthusiast Alison Chabloz was once again sent to jail: this time for eight weeks. The Zionist Campaign Against Antisemitism’s web site reports that “District Judge Jonathan Taaffe found Ms Chabloz guilty of breaching the conditions of her suspended sentence after blog posts that she published since June 2018 were found to constitute a breach of a social media ban.” Apparently the definition of ‘social media’* in Britain underwent a dramatic expansion this week in order to fit the Zionist call. The CAA was pleased to let us know their part in this fiasco, “the trial in Chesterfield today follows contact between Campaign Against Antisemitism’s lawyers and the National Probation Service.”

In 1917 Lord Balfour issued a declaration in the name of the British government announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a tiny Jewish population. In 1917 Britain was an empire although Palestine wasn’t then a British colony. Just over one hundred years later not much is left of the empire and even less remains of British dignity. Britain has allowed itself to be reduced to an Israeli colony, even to the point that Britain willingly sacrifices any of its most sacred values when asked to do so by a single right wing ethnic lobby that is largely committed to foreign interests.

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment