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The “Russia Report”: Deep State reinforcing delusion to spread fear and seize power

“Suppressed” report should be a lesson to those who begged for its release – be careful what you wish for.

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | July 22, 2020

The “Russia report” is an action plan for the intelligence agencies to hand MI5 direct control over the mechanisms of British democracy, and give the government legal power to control social media.

Nobody in the mainstream will tell you this. The media are going to tell you it’s a “shocking condemnation Britain’s vulnerability to hostile state actors” or something similar, the Remainers will tell you it’s cast iron evidence the Brexit vote was rigged, and Luke Harding will tell you it means “they” are all around us and you should buy a copy of his book.

The truth is it’s just the latest of the Deep State’s plays to secure as much power as possible as quickly as possible. If anything, it already feels old-fashioned, being authored in a pre-Covid world, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be put to use in service of the world’s “new normal”.

In terms of actual content, there’s nothing new here. It’s just a collection of familiar proven lies and unproven accusations in the service of four primary agendas:

  1. Invalidating the result of the Brexit referendum
  2. Boosting funding/resources for the UK’s “Cyber Offensive capabilities”
  3. Ceding more powers to MI5 to oversee and “protect” our democratic processes
  4. Creating a “protocol” that empowers the government/intelligence agencies to force social media companies to censor and/or ban certain material, opinions, websites or users

You can plow through the whole thing here if you really feel the need.

For those outside the UK, who may not be aware of this story, sometime last year it was “leaked” that the UK parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee had prepared a report on “Russian interference” in UK politics. In a brilliant piece of PR manoeuvring, Boris Johnson refused to make the report public.

This decision manipulated those who consider themselves “the left” in British politics to clamour for the release of the “Russia Report”, believing there would be something in it that Boris didn’t want us to see. This was an act of pure naivety by Corbynista influencers, and deliberate public manipulation by the “leftist” media.

Yesterday Boris Johnson’s government finally “caved” to this pressure, and released a “confidential report” which tells us nothing we haven’t been told a million times before. This apparently secret testimony has been blasted across headlines in every broadsheet and tabloid for years.

Russia is accused of poisoning the Skripals, leaking the DNC emails, using “bots and trolls” to influence public opinion…and so and so on.

The witnesses called are all either actual spies (Christopher Steele), or “journalists” heavily involved with the Integrity Initiative (Edward Lucas). No evidence is supplied, save the tired old links to “academic studies” conducted by bought-and-paid-for NATO shills like Ben Nimmo and Bellingcat (whose direct funding from the likes of the Atlantic Council and National Endowment for Democracy represents a massive conflict of interest that is never once mentioned in the report).

In that way, the report is massively dated. Its lies, worn smooth through repetition, are dry and stale.

But that’s not the point of this report. That’s the first part of the Hegelian Dialectic. The “problem”, long since mythologised, created by force of repetition without ever being evidenced. This report is far more concerned with generating a “reaction”, and the procuring consent for a pre-planned “solution” (the report doesn’t shy away from this obvious structure – using the terms “threat” and “reaction” instead).

In short, buried in the 55 pages of waffle, repetition and bureaucratic double-talk, are key suggestions to take a more warlike stance against Russia and parlay this into a simultaneous crackdown on dissent at home, all while securing shiny new powers for MI5.

Firstly, the UK plans to strike a new attitude on “attribution” of alleged cyber attacks, claiming, apparently with a straight face:

The UK has historically been reticent in attributing cyber attacks – as recently as 2010, this Committee was asked to redact mention of Russia as a perpetrator of cyber attacks, on diplomatic grounds.

But the UK’s “reticence” to blame Russia for cyber attacks is over, they now intend to “name and shame” foreign actors who carry out cyber attacks:

there has to now be a cost attached to such activity. When attacks can be traced back – and we accept that this is in itself resource-intensive – the Government must always consider ‘naming and shaming’.

[NOTE: This section on “attribution” would be an absolutely ideal time to mention that another state player – namely the US military – has the technology to carry out cyber attacks and make it appear to have come from somewhere else. We know they know, because of the Wikileaks Vault 7 leaks, but they don’t mention it.]

Oh, and they’re going to “leverage” their diplomatic relations to force those countries who would rather not start a new cold war based on the testimony of lunatics, fraudsters and underwear salesmen, to publicly blame Russia for… pretty much everything:

it is apparent that not everyone is keen to adopt this new approach and to ‘call out’ Russia on malicious cyber activity. The Government must now leverage its diplomatic relationships to develop a common international approach when it comes to the attribution of malicious cyber activity by Russia and others.

This is dishonest, and potentially dangerous, but this kind of geo-political positioning is very much the long game. It’s the short term stuff, the local stuff, we should really worry about.

Like handing over powers to “monitor” and “protect” the democratic processes of the country to MI5 [our emphasis]:

Overall, the issue of defending the UK’s democratic processes and discourse has appeared to be something of a ‘hot potato’, with no one organisation recognising itself as having an overall lead. Whilst we understand the nervousness around any suggestion that the intelligence and security Agencies might be involved in democratic processes […] that cannot apply when it comes to the protection of those processes […] Protecting our democratic discourse and processes from hostile foreign interference is a central responsibility of Government, and should be a ministerial priority. In our opinion, the operational role must sit primarily with MI5

They recommend this, based on MI5’s pre-existing “relationship built with social media companies”. They don’t mention, at this stage, how social media companies have “built a relationship” with MI5, or what role they might serve in “protecting democracy”, but it’s not hard to guess.

Social Media is an important theme in the report, actually, being mentioned fifteen times in 47 pages.

Firstly, we’re told that social media companies must bear the brunt of the blame for “hostile state activity” being at all effective:

we note that – as with so many other issues currently – it is the social media companies which hold the key and yet are failing to play their part

Before they add the government must seek a “protocol” by which social media companies remove any material the UK government deems “hostile state use” of their platform:

The Government must now seek to establish a protocol with the social media companies to ensure that they take covert hostile state use of their platforms seriously, and have clear timescales within which they commit to removing such material

Any companies who refuse to do this will be “named and shamed”.

You might think “well, this protocol could easily be used against people with no state affiliation whatsoever”, and you’d be right. It could. The government admits as much, but doesn’t seem to have a problem with it:

Such a protocol could, usefully, be expanded to encompass the other areas in which action is required from the social media companies, since this issue is not unique to Hostile State Activity

This would be a good time to note that the Atlantic Council employees this report cites have, in the past, labelled people “bots” who are definitely, provably not bots. This includes noted independent journalists and a world-renowned concert pianist.

The proposed “protocol” opens up an avenue for the state to silence dissident individuals by similarly “mistaking” them for state-backed agents.

Another thing the report is keen on is boosting the UK’s “Offensive Cyber” capabilities:

this is an era of hybrid warfare and an Offensive Cyber capability is now essential. The Government announced its intention to develop an Offensive Cyber capability in September 2013, and in 2014 the National Offensive Cyber Programme (NOCP) […]The UK continues to develop its Offensive Cyber capability.

What their offensive cyber capabilities ARE, and how they use them, is never described. Are they used solely against other states, or against domestic politic parties, organizations and individuals too? They don’t say.

Is cyberwarfare even legal under international law? Well, no. In fact, the way the report dances around the idea that cyberwarfare is actually potentially illegal under international law is a thing of beauty:

While the UN has agreed that international law, and in particular the UN Charter, applies in cyberspace, there is still a need for a greater global understanding of how this should work in practice […] Achieving a consensus on this common approach will be a challenging process, but as a leading proponent of the Rules Based International Order it is essential that the UK helps to promote and shape Rules of Engagement, working with our allies.

The fact that people out there can even begin to cite this report in earnest when it describes the UK as a “key defender of a Rules Based International Order” just boggles my mind.

The real scary stuff comes later though, in the “legislation” section.

The UK is already one of the most surveilled countries in the world, and the report happily mentions that last February, the UK police/intelligence agencies got [our emphasis]:

new powers to stop, question, search or detain any person entering the UK gained Royal Assent in February 2019; it is not necessary for there to be suspicion of engagement in hostile activity in order to use these powers.

Following on from this, the report recommends a new Espionage Act and a Foreign Agent Registration Act, to “crackdown” on espionage.

Hearings resulting from these acts could be “closed material proceedings” to protect national security.

For those who don’t know, in UK law a “closed material proceeding” is a hearing where a prosecutor presents some evidence directly to a judge which is kept secret from both the public and the defense counsel.

Until this new legislation is passed, the report warns, “the Intelligence Community’s hands are tied.”

To sum up, the long-awaited Russia report is – surprise surprise – not a trove of secrets and corruption which could bring down the Johnson government. It was never going to be that, despite what all the fake-left “journalists” were saying, and what all the Labour supporters who should know better were tweeting.

It was actually sickening to watch so many people, especially in Corbyn’s camp, cry-out for this report and not realise they were getting played. It’s the oldest trick in the book. Cheap reverse psychology that doesn’t work on children past the age of about five, but apparently does work on the majority of the members of the Labour party.

Thanks to their gullibility, no one is questioning the honesty, providence or intentions of a report which finds, in short:

  • MI5 should have more control over our democratic systems.
  • We should spend more money on developing cyber attack ability.
  • We should investigate and maybe overturn the Brexit vote.
  • We should pass authoritarian new legislation
  • Social Media companies should take down whatever the government says they should take down.

People who are supposed to guard against tyranny and hold power to account have abandoned their posts to take part in anti-Russia hysteria which endangers what remains of our civil liberties.

As a result, we’re getting headlines like this:

GUARDIAN : Report damns number 10 and spy agencies over Russia

And this:

MAIL : Now tame the Russian bear

And this:

THE TIMES : MI5 to get more powers

It’s the same old lies, on the same old topics, told by the same old people, for the same old reasons. The only difference is, this time, they managed to trick some of the gullible “woke” left into begging for it.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Pangs of conscience or howl of an empty wallet? Steele claims he never meant for infamous Russiagate dossier to go public

RT | July 22, 2020

Former British spy Christopher Steele insists he never wanted the notorious Trump dossier, which was central to the Russiagate investigation, to be made public. The belated pang of conscience emerged in response to a new lawsuit.

Steele would have done “whatever I could do to prevent” BuzzFeed from publishing the dossier, he told London’s High Court in a written statement on Wednesday.

The document, which Steele compiled at the behest of the US opposition research firm Fusion GPS and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, was published in early January 2017, shortly before Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The former spy’s pang of conscience might have had something to do with the defamation lawsuit by Russian tech entrepreneur Aleksey Gubarev. One of the claims in the Steele dossier was that Gubarev’s Webzilla internet service provider was used by Russian security services to hack the Clinton campaign. The tech executive has not only denied the claim but sued both BuzzFeed and Steele for making it.

Despite his professed remorse, however, Steele admitted he provided copies of the “pre-election” dossier, compiled between June and October 2016, to the FBI and the State Department because of its “national security implications.” Another copy was sent to a UK national security official in the days following the election, lest the Trump administration “compromise British sources and operations.”

He whipped up a second version in December 2016, and gave that to the same UK official, as well as the since-deceased Arizona Senator John McCain – who leaked it to a number of US media outlets, including BuzzFeed, Steele explained.

That second memo, he wrote, was “self-evidently sensitive and confidential,” meaning it was never intended to make it into print, where Gubarev could read it and sue him.

Steele has admitted the dossier was largely “unverifiable,” presumably intended to serve as the basis for further investigation that could confirm or deny its claims. Earlier this week, internet sleuths suggested that Steele’s mysterious Russian source was in fact a Washington-based Brookings Institute researcher, who lacked firsthand knowledge of any of its salacious claims.

Steele has previously said that his 17-page report was commissioned with the intention of giving Clinton legal basis to challenge the 2016 election. While the legal challenge never happened, the dossier saw plenty of uses in “further investigation” of Trump, both official and in the court of public opinion.

The FBI used it as the backbone of its request for a FISA warrant to spy on Trump’s campaign via aide Carter Page, whom Steele claimed met secretly with Russian agents in Moscow. The dossier also underpinned special counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling ‘Russiagate’ probe.

While Mueller ultimately came up empty in his efforts to prove the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russian government to get the president elected, relations between the US and Russia deteriorated considerably as Trump’s cabinet urged him to take a more antagonistic position toward Moscow so as not to be seen as the ‘Putin puppet’ the media and Democrats were determined to call him anyway.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

‘US must stop slander and smearing’: China rebuffs allegations it stole Covid-19 vaccine data

RT | July 22, 2020

Beijing has accused the US of waging a global smear campaign, after Chinese nationals were accused of hacking foreign companies that conduct Covid-19 vaccine research.

The US must “immediately stop its slander and smearing of China on cyber security issues,” spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry Wang Wenbin told reporters. “The Chinese government is a staunch defender of cyber security, and has always opposed and cracked down on cyber attacks and cyber crime in all forms.”

Wang said that “cyberspace must not become a new battlefield,” because upholding “peace and stability” in cyberspace is in the common interest of all countries.

The US Justice Department earlier accused two Chinese nationals of targeting companies around the world, including biotech firms in Maryland, Massachusetts, and California that are conducting research related to vaccines for the coronavirus.

The Covid-19 pandemic remains one of the areas where the US is accusing Beijing of misconduct. American officials, including President Donald Trump, claimed that China accidentally released the coronavirus from a laboratory in the city of Wuhan, where the disease was first recorded, and initially tried to hide the scale of the outbreak.

Another line of attack involves allegations that Beijing is influencing the World Health Organization (WHO). British media reported that on Tuesday that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told MPs at a “private meeting” in London that China had “bought” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus by helping him to get elected.

“There was a deal-making election and when push came to shove, you get dead Britons, because of the deal that was made,” Pompeo was quoted by the media as saying.

The Trump administration has heavily criticized the WHO over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The US officially initiated its withdrawal from the organization this month.

Beijing has repeatedly denied having concealed any information about the outbreak and slammed suggestions that the virus came from one of its labs as false.

American-Chinese relations hit a new low on Wednesday, when the US demanded that China shut down its consulate in Houston, Texas. The US State Department explained that this decision will help to protect American intellectual property and the personal data of US citizens. Beijing blasted the move as “escalatory” and promised to retaliate.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 3 Comments

I Don’t Always Believe CIA Narratives. But When I Do, I Believe Them About China.

By Caitlin Johnstone | July 22, 2020

My social media notifications have been lighting up the last few days with virulent Chinagaters sharing a video which purports to show Uighur Muslims being loaded onto a train to be taken to concentration camps. It’s actually an old video that had already surfaced last year, but it is magically making the rounds again as a new and shocking revelation in 2020 now that western China hysteria has been officially kicked into high gear, at exactly the same time the US enacts one of the most dangerous and incendiary escalations of recent years in the South China Sea.

Everyone tagging me in this video presents it as a self-evident “gotcha” moment, in exactly the same way Russiagaters spent years tagging me in every HUGE BOMBSHELL WALLS ARE CLOSING IN item of thinly sourced narrative fluff in their debunked conspiracy theory that the Kremlin had infiltrated the highest levels of the US government.

They are one hundred percent certain that the video shows Uighurs being loaded onto a train to go to a concentration camp, solely because that is what the bit of text over the video tells them that that’s what they are seeing. They aren’t looking at the actual data and thinking critically about it, they’re looking at the narrative and believing it on blind faith. Which, in a post-Iraq invasion world, is an absolutely insane thing to do when presented with information about a nation that is targeted by the US-centralized empire.

In reality there’s nothing in the video which tells us that these are Uighur people being sent to a “re-education camp” and not merely a conventional prison transfer of convicted criminals, the likes of which take place in the far more populous US prison system all the time. It’s an unknown. We are told by the BBC’s Andrew Marr (the same Andrew Marr whose phony journalism Noam Chomsky derided years ago) that it has been “authenticated by western intelligence agencies and by Australian experts”, which in practice are the same thing, and that’s really the extent of the evidence. Again, this is an insane source to take on faith in a post-Iraq invasion world.

There are in fact an abundance of reasons to be highly skeptical of the establishment narrative about what is happening to Uighurs in Xinjiang. But that isn’t the point that I am trying to make here.

The point I am trying to make here is that the only sane response to any narrative that is being promoted by western intelligence agencies and their media stenographers about governments which have resisted absorption into the imperial blob is intense and unrelenting skepticism. These organizations have such an extensive and well-known history of lying about exactly this sort of thing that they have left us no choice but to withhold belief from anything they say absent a mountain of independently verifiable evidence if we want to have a fact-based relationship with reality.

None of this means that China has a wonderful government. It doesn’t even mean that all the bad things we’re being told about what the Chinese government is doing are false. It’s entirely possible that that video shows exactly what we’re being urgently told to believe it shows. There’s simply no way to be sure one way or the other in an information ecosystem that is so severely tainted by propagandistic narrative manipulation.

Surely the Chinese government is far from sinless. It seems to be a constant that power structures which keep secrets and use propaganda will always wind up doing ugly things. But this doesn’t mean you go believing whatever cold war-facilitating story we are fed by western power structures about it. Not if we want to avoid being duped into serving as pro bono CIA propagandists, unwitting tools of a murderous war machine.

There is a slow-motion third world war underway between the US-centralized power alliance and the nations like China which have resisted being absorbed into it, and that war is being largely facilitated by propaganda. If one doesn’t wish to become a propagandist themselves, one ought to withhold belief from the stories they are told about the terrible, awful things the unabsorbed nations are doing which require extensive sanctions, subversion and interventionism in response.

This doesn’t mean you believe the opposite of what you’re told, it simply means you refrain from believing either way and remain agnostic until presented with hard verifiable proof. Believing damaging narratives about US-targeted governments is exactly as stupid as believing the words of a known compulsive liar about someone you know he hates.

China is such a curious anomaly in the narrative matrix. Many who are normally skeptical of claims by western governments immediately swallow anything they’re told about China. They not only believe all such claims, it never even occurs to them to seriously question them. Like they seem to be genuinely unaware that skepticism of establishment China narratives is even an option. The claims just slide right into the “believe” file in their mind, completely unchecked by anything resembling critical thought.

I argue with people all over the political spectrum about China online, and an astonishing percentage of them have clearly put exactly zero research into critically examining these claims, even if they’re people who are normally relatively critical of western foreign policy. They’re often completely unaware that whatever claims they’re advancing are not just disputed but have large amounts of evidence against them. This is because they’ve done no research whatsoever into finding out what they were told is even true. They’ll do that research on Iran, they’ll do it about Russia, they’ll do it about Syria, but with China all skepticism immediately goes right now the window. It’s the weirdest thing.

Always be intensely skeptical of claims made about governments targeted by the known liars who run the US-centralized empire. Always, always, always, always. If you advance imperialist propaganda, then you are just as culpable for the bloodshed and suffering they help facilitate as the people who are actually launching the missiles.

Stay skeptical, my friends.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 4 Comments

‘Russia Report’: Once-mighty British intelligence has been reduced to regurgitating sensationalist Buzzfeed stories

By Paul Robinson | RT | July 22, 2020

The ‘Russia Report’ gives us an insight into the dearth of genuine expertise available to British officials on Russia. It also introduces a new style of investigation: Seeking evidence to support predetermined judgements

On Tuesday, the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee issued a 50-page report detailing its views on the danger Russia poses to British security. “The security threat posed by Russia,” the report says, “appears fundamentally nihilistic… It is clear that Russia poses a significant threat to the UK on a number of fronts – from espionage to interference in democratic processes, and to serious crime.”

The report further argues that the British intelligence community “took their eyes off the ball” and the government “badly underestimated the Russian threat.” In particular, the government and its intelligence agencies failed to investigate claims that the Russian state had interfered in the 2016 Brexit referendum. The government, however, has rejected the committee’s demand that such an investigation now take place.

The reports’ claims are alarming at first glance. When examined, however, they can be seen to lack evidentiary support. Instead, readers are repeatedly told that there have been “widespread allegations” and that “it has been widely reported” that the Russians are up to no good. But allegations are not evidence, and time after time the report fails to substantiate the suspicions it raises.

For instance, the report declares, “There have been widespread public allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.” But the only evidence it provides to show that those allegations might be true is a reference to “open source studies” which point to pro-Brexit bias by the Russian broadcasters RT and Sputnik.

The committee neither names the studies nor discusses whether their conclusions are valid. Apparently, the committee asked MI5 for evidence, but all it got in reply was “six lines of text” based also on ‘open source studies’. In short, no secret intelligence supporting the claims that Russia interfered with Brexit has been provided.

This is rather embarrassing. The committee has drawn a blank. But still, it presses on. “There has been credible open source commentary suggesting that Russia undertook influence campaigns in relation to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014,” it announces. The relevant footnote fails to say what this credible commentary is. Instead, it merely says that it “was widely reported” that Russians who had observed the Scottish referendum had suggested “that there were irregularities in the conduct of the vote.”

But Russians complaining about the conduct of the vote do not constitute Russians trying to influence the campaign. After all, the observers in question said these things after the vote, and so their statements could hardly have been an attempt to affect the outcome.

This faulty mode of argument is pretty much par for the course. “It has been widely alleged” that Russia was responsible for a computer hack on the French presidential election in 2017, the report says. “It has been widely reported” that Russians were responsible for the hack and leak operation against the Democratic National Committee in the US in 2016. And so on.

Perhaps the nadir of the report is the statement that “on 15 June 2017, Buzzfeed News published the results of its investigation into 14 deaths in the UK of Russian business figures and British individuals linked to them” (Buzzfeed implied, without supporting evidence, that all 14 people were murdered by the Russian intelligence services). This, then, is what the might of British intelligence has been reduced to – regurgitating sensationalist stories from Buzzfeed. It gives you a sense of what the committee considers a ‘credible’ source to be.

The committee goes beyond repeating unsubstantiated claims to making unspecified ones. In the UK, it says, numerous “lawyers, accountants, estate agents, and PR professionals have played a role, wittingly or unwittingly, in the extension of Russian influence which is often linked to promoting the nefarious interests of the Russian state.” No names are named, no evidence produced. All the committee provides is a quote from long-time anti-Russian campaigner William Browder, as if his bold assertions amount to incontrovertible proof.

In 50 pages warning us of the evil ‘influence’ Russia has over the UK, the report fails to provide a single documented example of this influence at work. In short, the entire premise of the report (that Russia poses a significant threat to the UK) is not only not proven, but also not even demonstrated in any tangible way.

That perhaps explains why the committee has chosen to be so harsh on the British government, accusing it of failing to live up to its responsibility to defend the nation. It appears that the committee knows in its bones that all these things are true, but also knows that it lacks any evidence to prove them. The evidence is there; it’s just that the government has failed to do its job and provide it.

A proper intelligence investigation first finds the facts and then comes to a conclusion. It would seem as though the Intelligence and Security Committee wishes to go about it the other way – it has already reached its conclusion; now it wants the government to provide the evidence. The government should not indulge this.

Paul Robinson is a a professor at the University of Ottawa. He writes about Russian and Soviet history, military history, and military ethics.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | 2 Comments

Iran, Russia to devise long-term strategic cooperation agreement: FM Zarif

Press TV – July 22, 2020

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Tehran and Moscow have agreed to devise and conclude a long-term strategic cooperation agreement.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Zarif said the agreement was made during his Tuesday visit to Moscow, where he met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and talked with President Vladimir Putin on the phone for one hour due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Describing his talks with Russian officials as fruitful, Zarif said he held intensive negotiations with the authorities in Moscow for four and a half hours that resulted in the agreement.

He pointed to a 10-year agreement initially inked between Tehran and Moscow two decades ago, which has been extended twice for five years each time and is due to expire in eight months.

“If no one has any objection, the agreement will be extended automatically for another five years, but we decided it would be better to devise a long-term comprehensive strategic treaty and update it,” he added, noting the agreement will be sent to Iran’s Parliament for approval.

Zarif traveled to Moscow to hold talks with senior Russian officials on issues of bilateral and regional significance and to convey President Hassan Rouhani’s “important” message to Putin.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi also accompanied Zarif in his third visit to Russia in the past six months.

US concerned about emergence of new powers like Iran

Elsewhere in his remarks, the top Iranian diplomat commented on a recent article by US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, in which the American official expressed skepticism at a recent strategic partnership announced by Iran and China.

In a joint opinion article published in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, Hook and the US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith J. Krach took aim at a 25-year strategic partnership recently announced between China and Iran.

They noted in the article other parts of the partnership between Iran and China that they claimed could cause their alliance more harm than good and praised companies and countries that have sought to cut business ties with Iran and China.

In response to the article, Zarif described Hook as the “architect of the maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

He has definitely never been benevolent towards the Iranian people or he would not have imposed economic terrorism against them under conditions that the people are grappling with the novel coronavirus pandemic, the minister said.

“The 25-year cooperation agreement between Iran and China is completely transparent. Nothing has been finalized yet, but we are very close to an agreement,” Zarif said.

He dismissed rumors about the agreement and noted that the US is making hue and cry as it is concerned about the emergence of new powers like Iran, China and India.

Due to COVID-19, face-to-face negotiations have not yet taken place, so no document is currently valid, Zarif said, but stressed that so far, all the steps taken have been transparently announced.

“There are no hidden points in the Iran-China cooperation document,” he concluded.

Zarif said earlier the agreement is at the “negotiation” stage, noting that the Foreign Ministry has obtained the required permission from the government to engage in the relevant talks.

Speaking to ICANA News Agency, the Iranian Parliament’s news outlet, last Thursday, he dismissed rumors and anti-Iran reports that the 25-year agreement with Beijing entails cession of some parts of the Iranian territory to Chinese contractors.

“These allegations are not true. There is not even a particle of truth to these allegations, which have been put forth,” he added.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 2 Comments

An Israeli Charity Group is uprooting Palestinians not planting Trees

By Jonathan Cook | The National | July 22, 2020

The Jewish National Fund, established more than 100 years ago, is perhaps the most venerable of the international Zionist organisations. Its recent honorary patrons have included prime ministers, and it advises UN forums on forestry and conservation issues.

It is also recognised as a charity in dozens of western states. Generations of Jewish families, and others, have contributed to its fundraising programmes, learning as children to drop saved pennies into its trademark blue boxes to help plant a tree.

And yet its work over many decades has been driven by one main goal: to evict Palestinians from their homeland.

The JNF is a thriving relic of Europe’s colonial past, even if today it wears the garb of an environmental charity. As recent events show, ethnic cleansing is still what it excels at.

The organisation’s mission began before the state of Israel was even born. Under British protection, the JNF bought up tracts of fertile land in what was then historic Palestine. It typically used force to dispossess Palestinian sharecroppers whose families had worked the land for centuries.

But the JNF’s expulsion activities did not end in 1948, when Israel was established through a bloody war on the ruins of the Palestinians’ homeland – an event Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe.

Israel hurriedly demolished more than 500 cleansed Palestinian villages, and the JNF was entrusted with the job of preventing some 750,000 refugees from returning. It did so by planting forests over both the ruined homes, making it impossible to rebuild them, and village lands to stop them being farmed.

These plantations were how the JNF earned its international reputation. Its forestry operations were lauded for stopping soil erosion, reclaiming land and now tackling the climate crisis.

But even this expertise was undeserved. Environmentalists say the dark canopies of trees it has planted in arid regions such as the Negev, in Israel’s south, absorb heat unlike the unforested, light-coloured soil. Short of water, the slow-growing trees capture little carbon. Native species of brush and animals, meanwhile, have been harmed.

These pine forests – the JNF has planted some 250 million trees – have also turned into a major fire hazard. Most years hundreds of fires break out after summer droughts exacerbated by climate change.

Early on, the vulnerability of the JNF’s saplings was used as a pretext to outlaw the herding of native black goats. Recently the goats, which clear undergrowth, had to be reintroduced to prevent the fires. But the goats’ slaughter had already served its purpose, forcing Bedouin Palestinians to abandon their pastoral way of life.

Despite surviving the Nakba, thousands of Bedouin in the Negev were covertly expelled to Egypt or the West Bank in Israel’s early years.

It would be wrong, however, to imagine that the JNF’s troubling role in these evictions was of only historical interest. The charity, Israel’s largest private land owner, is actively expelling Palestinians to this day.

In recent weeks, solidarity activists have been desperately trying to prevent the eviction of a Palestinian family, the Sumarins, from their home in occupied East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers.

Last month the Sumarins lost a 30-year legal battle waged by the JNF, which secretly sold their home in the late 1980s by the Israeli state.

The family’s property was seized under a draconian 1950 law declaring Palestinian refugees of the Nakba “absent” so that they could not reclaim their land inside the new state of Israel.

The courts have decreed that the law can be applied in occupied Jerusalem too, in violation of international law. In the Sumarins’ case, it appears not to matter that the family was never actually “absent”. The JNF is permitted to evict the 18 family members next month. To add insult to injury, they will have to pay damages to the JNF.

A former US board member, Seth Morrison, resigned in protest in 2011 at the JNF’s role in such evictions, accusing it of working with extreme settler groups. Last year the JNF ousted a family in similar circumstances near Bethlehem. Days later settlers moved on to the land.

Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights group focusing on Jerusalem, warned that these cases create a dangerous legal precedent if Israel carries out its promise to annex West Bank territory. It could rapidly expand the number of Palestinians classified as “absentees”.

But the JNF never lost its love of the humble tree as the most effective – and veiled – tool of ethnic cleansing. And it is once again using forests as a weapon against the fifth of Israel’s population who are Palestinian, survivors of the Nakba.

Earlier this year it unveiled its “Relocation Israel 2040” project. The plan is intended to “bring about an in-depth demographic change of an entire country” – what was once sinisterly called “Judaisation”. The aim is to attract 1.5 million Jews to Israel, especially to the Negev, over the next 20 years.

As in Israel’s first years, forests will be vital to success. The JNF is preparing to plant trees on an area of 40 sq km belonging to Bedouin communities that survived earlier expulsions. Under the cover of environmentalism, many thousands of Bedouin could be deemed “trespassers”.

The Bedouin have been in legal dispute with the Israeli state for decades over ownership of their lands. This month in an interview with the Jerusalem Post newspaper, Daniel Atar, the JNF’s global head, urged Jews once again to drop money into its boxes. He warned that Jews could be dissuaded from coming to the Negev by its reputation for “agricultural crimes” – coded reference to Bedouin who have tried to hold on to their pastoral way of life.

Trees promise both to turn the semi-arid region greener and to clear “unsightly” Bedouin off their ancestral lands. Using the JNF’s original colonial language of “making the desert bloom”, Mr Atar said his organisation would make “the wilderness flourish”.

The Bedouin understand the fate likely to befall them. In a protest last month they carried banners: “No expulsions, no displacement.”

After all, Palestinians have suffered forced displacement at the JNF’s hands for more than a century, while watching it win plaudits from around the world for its work in improving the “environment”.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 2 Comments