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Pompeo will not have his way in Sri Lanka

By P.K.Balachandran | Daily Express | October 25, 2020

Colombo – The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who will be here on October 28, is expected to ask Sri Lankan leaders, point blank, to review relations with China; consider the options US is offering; and accept American advice on domestic and foreign policy.

A top foreign ministry official told Daily Express on Sunday, that Lankan leaders, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, will politely tell Pompeo that Sri Lanka’s decisions and policies will be guided by election mandates, the law and the constitution of the country, and its interests, while maintaining good relations with all countries in the region and the world.

“All the three leaders will tell the ranking US official politely that it is not for outsiders to tell Sri Lankans how to run their country,” the top Lankan official, who spoke on anonymity, said.

Pompeo is expected to press the government not to go in for Chinese-funded projects anymore but choose other countries and international organizations to fund projects mutually agreed upon.

The US Secretary of State will also press for the acceptance of the US$ 480 million Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact (MCC) which a Lankan Presidential Commission wanted to be either rejected in toto, or re-negotiated to accord with Lankan law, constitution and socio-political and economic realities.

The Lankan official said that the controversial issue of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) will not come up for discussion because the government has made it clear that SOFA is against the Sri Lankan constitution and laws.

On the US bid to draw Sri Lanka into an anti-China alliance like Quad, the official said: “We would tell Pompeo that Sri Lanka, which has only recently emerged from a thirty-year war, does not want to be a theater of international conflict in any way. But it is interested in ensuring free navigation in the Indian and other oceans. Pompeo would be reminded that in 1971 Sri Lanka had pioneered the idea of turning the Indian Ocean into a Zone of Peace.”

On the American demand that Sri Lanka abjure Chinese investments, the leaders would say that Sri Lanka needs investments from all countries as it is keen on developing the country, especially in the infrastructure sector.

“All countries, including the US, are welcome to invest in Sri Lanka. If the US and others match China, their offers would be considered,” another foreign ministry official said.

However, given the fact that the US is primarily interested in geopolitical and military matters with a focus on isolating and weakening China in these spheres, it would not make any economic investment proposals. Pompeo would find it difficult to proceed further on this matter in his discussions here, it is felt.

“Debt Trap” Issue

“If he raises the debt trap issue, we have facts and figures to show that the debt to China is only 5.6 billion USD out of a total external debt of 55 billion USD (which is 10%). The US owes China much more – USD 1 trillion,” the official said.

Arm-Twisting

However, Pompeo could indulge in arm-twisting by threatening further sanctions against Chinese companies involved in Sri Lankan development projects. Some subsidiaries of the China Communications and Construction Company (one of which is executing the Colombo US$ 1.4 billion Colombo Port City) are already “listed” for alleged “predatory practices and lack of transparency”.

However, the Sri Lankans do not appear to be perturbed by such a possibility because listing has to be on solid grounds. And even if security issues are cited, it has to stand legal scrutiny in the US itself, the officials explained.

But the shoe might pinch if the US stops or lessens its imports of apparels from the island. The US buys about US$ 2.5 billion worth of Lankan apparels annually. This is 3% of the Lanka’s DGP and the US is the single largest market. But even stopping this is unlikely given the fact Lankan apparels enter the US market without GSP duty concessions.

Ethnic Reconciliation

As for Pompeo’s prescriptions on ethnic reconciliation, the Sri Lankan leaders will cite the mandates they got through the November 2019 Presidential and August 2020 parliamentary elections, which is that any solution to the ethnic question will have to be acceptable to the majority community in Sri Lanka and that reconciliation should be brought about by measures to develop the country economically in a way which benefits all communities equitably.

American Intentions Not A Secret

American intentions were made clear on October 22 by Dean Thompson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs at a press briefing. Thompson said that Pompeo will “encourage Sri Lanka to review the options we offer for transparent and sustainable economic development in contrast to discriminatory and opaque practices.”

“We urge Sri Lanka to make difficult but necessary decisions to secure its economic independence for long-term prosperity, and we stand ready to partner with Sri Lanka for its economic development and growth. The Secretary will also emphasize the ties between our people, our shared commitment to democracy, and the importance of our ongoing regional maritime security cooperation. We’ll continue to urge Sri Lanka to advance democratic governance, human rights, reconciliation, religious freedom, and justice, which promote the country’s long-term stability and prosperity and ensure the dignity and equality of all Sri Lanka’s diverse communities.”

With regard to China’s increasing influence in Sri Lanka, Thompson said: “I think we’re looking to frame a discussion with them about a more positive trajectory, as I mentioned in my opening remarks. So definitely we’ll be discussing where they’re headed and looking for ways to strengthen their commitment to human rights rule of law and democracy.”

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Pompeo’s ‘Tokyo Kick’ Cannot Start the QUAD

By  Salman Rafi Sheikh | New Eastern Outlook | October 26, 2020

Mike Pompeo lashed out at China in his latest visit to Tokyo where he met his counterparts from India, Australia and Japan as part of his efforts to revive the QUAD, a US-centered anti-China alliance of the four countries. Speaking to his counterparts, Pompeo said that there was an urgent need to counter China, adding that “As partners in this Quad, it is more critical now than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the CCP’s exploitation, corruption, and coercion.” In an interview given to a Japanese news outlet, Pompeo also said that the grouping was a “fabric” that could “counter the challenge that the Chinese Communist Party presents to all of us.” “Once we’ve institutionalized what we’re doing – the four of us together – we can begin to build out a true security framework”, he added further. Mike Pompeo, who was clearly on a mission to persuade his allies to join the military alliance, was obviously trying to make US allies sell the same anti-China discourse that the Trump administration has used at home to start a ‘trade war’ with China. The US, now aiming to expand the war, is recruiting allies; hence, Pompeo’s high-pitched speeches against China.

While Pompeo said what he had to say, prospects of the QUAD’s rise as a powerful military alliance or an ‘Asian NATO’ remain bleak. Its most important reason is the fact that none of the countries—India, Japan and Australia—are interested in picking a military fight with China, while the US has no real allies against China.

While there is no gainsaying that all of these countries—India, Japan and Australia—have tense and uneasy relations with China, they appear not in the least interested in formalizing a US led anti-China military alliance, thus making PRC their official enemy.

It explains why these countries have so far chosen to manage their relations with China on their own and continue to shy away from exacerbating the fault lines by joining the US bandwagon of a ‘global anti-China coalition.’

Consider this: while Japan has its economic ties with China and there is no will in Tokyo to ‘de-couple’, following the US in its footsteps, it, with an eye on China, still is increasing its military strength. Whereas it is already converting two of its existing ships into aircraft carriers, it is going to make a record increase in its defense spending as well. Japan’s Defence Ministry has asked for an 8.3 per cent increase in the defense budget, which is by far the country’s largest rise in last two decades. Interestingly enough, one crucial reason why Japan has decided to increase the budget is the pressure that the Trump administration has been putting on the Japanese to manage their own national security. If Japan is anyway going to spend more and more on defense, increasing its military capability to position itself better in the region, not requiring extensive US military support, and it still wants to continue to have strong economic ties with China, there is no reason why it would want to permanently destabilize its relations with China by joining the ‘Asian NATO.’ Although this was prime minister Abe’s dream, his absence from the government will leave a further dampening impact on the alliance’s future prospects and Japan’s standing therein.

Australia’s government has announced a raft of legislation to curb foreign influence that is clearly (though unofficially) targeted at China. And India is actively engaged in a high-altitude, high-stakes game of chicken with China in the Himalayas—a hot-and-cold conflict in which India is no longer acting passively.

The fact that all of these countries have their specific problems with China and yet they have not been able to fully activate the QUAD shows there is no active and strong desire for a US-led military alliance. As such, the QUAD summit failed yet again to issue a joint statement or a communique.

Notwithstanding the US belligerence, the main focus of Japan, Australia and India remains a politically, economically and militarily balanced relationship with China.

This is the crucial reason that explains why, despite Pompeo’s hype and upbeat assessment of the ‘China threat’, none of the countries’ mentioned China directly in their statements issued after the meeting.

Unlike Pompeo, Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi notably did not mention China in his remarks, and the Japanese government was quick to clarify that the talks were not directed at any one country. Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar noted the fact that the meeting was happening at all, given the coronavirus pandemic, was “testimony to the importance” of the alliance. Accordingly, while India like Japan, did endorse the agenda of “free pacific region” and “rule-based system”, it did not mention China either. Certainly, Indian policy makers were not looking to further destabilize the situation in and around the Ladakh region. For Australian foreign minister, who also did not mention China, the essence of the QUAD was to “promote strategic balance” in the Indo-pacific (and not start an Indo-pacific military alliance).

Starting a military alliance against China does not make sense. If the US is these countries’ biggest military and security ally, China is by far one of the largest trading partners, which makes the summit more symbolic than substantive. Accordingly, while Pompeo was talking of creating a ‘security network’, Japanese officials confirmed to local media that the subject was not even raised in the meeting; for, such a venture is unlikely to gain traction in the wake of these countries’ main thrust for balanced ties with China.

In the absence of a clear will and desire for building up military pressure on China, the ‘Asian NATO’ will remain an engine-less rail car, one that even persistent kicks wouldn’t be able to ignite.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

China’s new sanctions against American defence companies have the potential to cause major damage to the US military

By Tom Fowdy | RT | October 26, 2020

Beijing has fired a warning to the US over its arms sales to Taiwan with a new round of sanctions. The move is symbolic for now, but if China wants to get tough it really could hammer the supply chains of the impacted companies.

On Monday afternoon, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Beijing would be placing sanctions on a number of US firms and linked individuals over arms sales to Taiwan, with Washington having approved a record sale worth around $5 billion to the island the previous week.

The listed companies included Lockheed Martin, Boeing Defense and Raytheon, striking at the heart of what is often referred to as ‘America’s Military Industrial Complex’. However, what the specific measures mean, how they will be implemented and what their impact might be remains to be seen.

At first glance, these sanctions look symbolic; such military firms do not pursue business in China, and do not have market traction in America. One exception is Boeing’s civilian wing, which stated in an email it was still committed to the Chinese market.

On the other hand, this is not to say that such sanctions will not have strategic implications. First of all, China has an overwhelming dominance on the ‘rare earth’ materials required for US defence manufacturing, and should these sanctions really look to bite, they could have a major impact on the supply chain.

Secondly, even if the measures are only symbolic, it is nonetheless a warning shot from Beijing that it may retaliate further against US actions in the future.

What are ‘rare earths’? And why do they matter? The name refers to 17 elements which are used primarily in the manufacture of all kinds of items, including electronics, vehicles and of course military equipment.

Naturally, these resources form the bedrock of many supply chains around the world. China has a near total monopoly over this industry; a study found that the country “produced roughly 85 percent of the world’s rare earth oxides and approximately 90 percent of rare earth metals, alloys, and permanent magnets”. In 2018, up to 80 percent of America’s own rare earth imports came from China; Washington knows this and is scrambling for contingencies.

The strategic implications of this are quite clear; the US military relies deeply on materials imported from China to manufacture its equipment. If Beijing wanted, these sanctions could hammer the supply chains of the impacted firms.

However, whether Beijing will actually do that is a question of political will, given Washington would treat the move as a major escalation and retaliate harshly against Chinese firms such as Huawei. Such a move is clearly not a good idea, particularly in the run-up to an election, and would only be a last resort, perhaps in a war-like scenario. Given this, it may be more accurate to interpret the move as a ‘warning shot’ of what China may do – evidence that it is ready to get tougher on US firms.

A month ago, China released its own ‘entity list’ – an export blacklist which may prohibit exports or business with companies that are deemed a threat to national security, deliberately mirroring that used by the US Department of Commerce against Chinese companies. The aim is to leverage its own market against countries that discriminate against, or hurt the interests of, Chinese firms.

And this is where the blacklisting of Boeing Defense is significant. While the sanctions have carefully avoided the civilian branch of Boeing – which supplies commercial aircraft, and has huge business in China – it is nevertheless a clear red flag that the company isn’t untouchable. As Beijing seeks to develop its own commercial aircraft further, including the COMAC C919, it may become even more assertive.

Given all this, China’s sanctions against US defence firms are less a policy in practice as they are a pronouncement of things to come. While Beijing is not ready to take advantage of America’s dependency on rare earths yet, it is signalling clearly it is ready to take measures against US companies where it sees fit.

Taiwan, for one, is a huge red line for China’s government. As it illustrated with its military exercises, there has to be some demonstration of clear consequences for pushing against it, albeit without resorting to methods that could prove extremely destabilizing.

Beijing is developing a toolkit, and it wants us to know that it is ready to use it should it be absolutely necessary. These showcase sanctions have potential in multiple ways to have real teeth, and that’s what we need to be looking at.

Tom Fowdy is a British writer and analyst of politics and international relations with a primary focus on East Asia.

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Break in Relations With the EU? – ‘If This Is the Way They Want It, So Be It’

By Alastair Crooke – Strategic Culture Foundation – October 26, 2020

Wolfgang Munchau of Euro Intelligence has been suggesting recently that the EU is making mistakes born from listening only to its own (like-minded) echo chamber. Munchau was referring to how – when Boris Johnson had sought for a deal “to be in sight” by this month’s EU summit, he was met with disdain. The Council said not only was there ‘no deal in sight’, but that there would be no acceleration of negotiations, and furthermore stuck rigidly to its three red-line, ‘non-negotiables’.

Macron haughtily afterwards stated that the UK had to “submit” to the bloc’s “conditions” – “We didn’t choose Brexit”.

To which Boris tartly retorted: ‘There’s no point then in talking’.

Munchau wryly noted that the biggest risk to any deal “is when you keep telling yourself that the other side needs ‘it’ more than you do”. Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, then made clear what the Council imagines ‘it’ to be: It is the EU’s majestic “huge and diversified markets”.

“The EU has a month to disabuse Emmanuel Macron of this intellectually lazy assertion. The EU should not base its negotiating strategy on [the]notion that Johnson will fold: Maybe he will, maybe not”, Munchau observed.

Well, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov clearly shares Munchau’s general analysis. Speaking at Valdai last week, Lavrov said, “When the European Union is speaking as a superior, Russia wants to know, can we do business with Europe?”

“… Those people in the West who are responsible for foreign policy and do not understand the necessity of mutually respectable conversation – well, we must simply stop for a while to communicate with them. Especially since Ursula von der Leyen states that geopolitical partnership with current Russia’s leadership is impossible. If this is the way they want it, so be it”, [he concluded].

Notably however, it was not Boris Yeltsin who made the greatest efforts to achieve Russia’s integration into the European space, but President Putin, during his first term in the early 2000s, until at least 2006. What Lavrov indirectly was acknowledging is how bad things have become. In effect, he simply stated what everyone already knew; namely, that the old framework for Russian-EU relations no longer exists. What’s there to talk about?

This is no small matter. If Merkel and the EU have shifted to integrating the Union, as a higher priority than attending to its relations with Russia, then all the old anti-Russian prejudices of East Europe – principally those of Poland – must be assuaged. This is what is happening, and it means the solidifying of Europe as ‘up and against’ Russia, China and their strategic partners. And with Germany again aspiring to its earlier prominence in and over Europe, tensions with Russia ( and therefore with China), will grow. Europe will be self-defining as the middle between two antagonistic poles to the East and West – a ‘friend’ of neither.

And – coincidentally, or not – on 14 October (a day later), President Xi symbolically visited, a micro-chip factory, and said that China will win the tech war, and will lead the world in multilateralism. Secondly, on the same day, President Xi visited a Marine Base, calling on the Chinese military to “put all (their) minds and energy on preparing for war”. China does not want war, he emphasised, but has accepted that it may happen. And finally, at Shenzhen economic zone’s 40th anniversary, Xi indicated that global changes are afoot: The status quo cannot continue, and “sometimes one needs to speak forcefully for the West to listen”.

In his own more muted way, President Xi was simply echoing Lavrov – underlining that the earlier framework for China-western relations also no long exists. This was implicit too when he said that he wanted China’s new stance to be endorsed by the CCP Plenum at the end of October, so that no-one could impute to China some policy ‘play’ towards the incoming U.S. President.

It seems there is a very clear message here for the EU. But are they listening? Whilst Europe does have ‘cards’ to play, it is hubris to assume that all will ‘submit’ to European ‘conditions’ and values, just to avoid losing access to its markets. Yes, indeed there is a large European ‘market’, but it has some very obvious lacunae too – No cloud platforms; little investment in telecoms and 5G (particularly in Germany); no security of energy supply at an affordable cost; and has no social media platforms to rival either those of the U.S. or China. China has the money and the know-how which the U.S. cannot replace.

Europe does have pockets of expertise (such as in AI and aerospace), but no Big Tech. And in terms of spending on Tech R & D, the EU is a minnow. Europe badly needs Chinese (and Russian) collaboration in Tech to participate in the ‘New Economy’, yet the U.S. wants the EU to sever completely from Chinese and Russian technology.

This is the point: The U.S. currently is concerting a full-spectrum strategy to isolate and weaken China and Russia. This is nothing new. It is a reprise both of the long-running ‘Anglo’ vendetta against Russia, and an attempt to try to extend Pompeo’s anti-China ‘Clean Network’ and ‘Clean Path’ policies to Europe. The term ‘clean’, of course, means ‘lock out’ of all Chinese tech – complete exclusion. The U.S. is making a big ‘ask’ of Europe – living as it does under the shadow of recession. Nonetheless, it is likely that Europe will (mostly) comply.

But viewed from 180° – from the Russian and Chinese perspective – their limited and tense relationship with the U.S. is unlikely to improve, whomsoever wins next month in Washington. The U.S. animus against Russia will continue irrespective. And as for Beijing, were Biden to win (an old foe of Huawei), China expects little change, beyond revised tactics. Biden is thought by Beijing likely to use multilateralism more in order to rally U.S. allies to form a United Front against China, than as a genuine commitment to taking Europe’s views into consideration. Obama’s Victoria Newland neatly expressed her then-Administration’s view (in respect to Ukraine): “F**K the EU!”.

Is it realistic that Germany and Europe will resist U.S. pressures? Merkel still wants NordStream 2, sure. And Germany notably has failed to invest in telecoms – and needs Huawei. Other key Tech (and the finance to support it) is available only from China. There are no substitutes. Yet, the Euro-élites’ hatred and loathing for Trump, and their conviction of a forthcoming Biden victory, will likely spur them to try and recreate the multilateral order with Washington at its head, were the Democrats to win. This means pressures on Europe to adopt an anti-Russian and anti-China stance may grow and become irresistible. The paradox is that the U.S. nonetheless will probably still view Europe as an ‘access-limited’, regulated market and trade threat.

Is it surprising then that these states – Russia and China – have come to their ‘we have had enough’ moment? They have had it with Europeans’ moralising about their values, and believing that everyone will ‘fold’ in the face of the threat of exclusion from Europe’s market.

China is now the world’s biggest economy (in PPP terms). Russia and Central Asia are already compatible with Chinese technology. China has already established this as ‘facts on the ground’. Politics will follow in its wake. China and Russia are indeed likely to win the Tech war (sooner, rather than later). Can any trade block really afford the moral ‘superiority’ dividend of standing aloof and ‘above’ this other “huge and diversified” market?

Tom Stevenson, an investment director at Fidelity International, writing in The Telegraph, points out that the pandemic’s adverse effects have been significantly greater in Europe and the Americas, both north and south, than in China:

“Despite accounting for nearly 60pc of the global population, Asia has had less than 15pc of Covid-related deaths this year. Europe, with less than 10pc of the world’s people, accounts for nearly a third of all deaths. Same story in north America. Third quarter GDP figures from China will show how this materially better pandemic performance is showing up in economic data. First in, first out and a much steeper recovery path, too. Credit Suisse thinks that by the end of next year, China’s economic output will be 11pc above its pre-virus level, while the U.S., Europe and Japan will still be catching up.

“Coronavirus has caused some fundamental changes in the way that businesses and whole industries now operate. In particular, global supply chains are being replaced by a more regional approach, which has reduced Asia’s dependence on the health of Europe and the U.S. Today around 60pc of all trade in Asia happens within the region. The big growth in our dependence on technology and the increasing digitisation of the economy also plays to China’s strengths”

It is insanity. On the one hand, the EU doggedly is following the U.S. in applying sanctions on Russia (even when France and Germany know the U.S. allegations on which these are based –the alleged Navalny poisoning– are false); it is complicit in trying to unbalance the situation near Russia’s borders; and then further demands to impose Europe’s values on others’ trade with Europe.

And at the same time, they expect China and Russia to continue as if nothing is awry, and to save them from bankruptcy. Who needs whom the most? Is anyone listening?

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Syria: Six Million Displaced People Have Returned Home

teleSUR – October 23, 2020

On Thursday, Syrian authorities announced that six million displaced people had returned home to different parts of the country.

The Minister of Municipal Administration and Environment, Hussein Makhlouf, said to the People´s Assembly that one million refugees had returned to Syria, and 5 million internally displaced people were back at their homes.

The official said that this achievement was possible after the rehabilitation of infrastructure and roads, collecting and disposing of 4 million cubic meters of waste and debris from them.

Moreover, the authorities reported that they had repaired more than 19,000 houses while supporting waste recycling projects to secure 18,000 job positions.

As the country tries to overcome aggression and sanctions from the U.S. and the European Union, the government plans to create more homes and announces that 11 new artisanal zones were established in Tartous, Quneitra, Homs, and Hama provinces. Also, with China’s support is has imported transportation, including buses and 708 vehicles for the cleaning sector.

October 23, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

US failed to turn the Philippines against China despite maritime demarcation issues

By Paul Antonopoulos | October 21, 2020

Cooperation between China and the Philippines could easily be hindered by U.S. interference in territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Washington wants to exploit Chinese-Filipino contentions in their demarcation claims over the South China Sea in an attempt to pressurize and contain China’s growing influence in Southeast Asia. However, despite Washington’s desire to steer the Philippines away from China, the two countries are currently negotiating joint oil and gas exploitation in the South China Sea and the Philippines’ energy urgency could be a powerful driver for the two sides to finally reach an agreement.

Forum Ltd., a subsidiary of one of the leading energy groups in the Philippines – PXP Energy Group, is negotiating with the China Offshore Oil and Gas Corporation (CNOOC). According to Reuters, PXP said that the parties have not reached an agreement yet. Although an agreement has not yet been made, to date CNOOC is the only foreign company asked by the Filipinos to become a potential participant in joint oil and gas exploitation in the South China Sea. This occurred after Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte approved on October 15 the lifting of the suspension on oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea that has been banned since 2014 by a decision of former President Benigno Aquino.

Filipino Energy Minister Alfonso Cusi stated that the decision to lift the ban was made by taking into account the outcome of negotiations between the Philippines and China on the demarcation of the South China Sea, as well as between Forum Ltd and CNOOC. Cusi did not give details on the bilateral negotiations but on October 10 there were talks between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Filipino counterpart Teodoro Locsin in Dang Chong City in China’s Yunnan Province. It is likely that the two ministers have given approval for energy cooperation. According to the official announcement, Yi confirmed China’s interest in developing cooperation within the framework of large-scale bilateral projects. For his part, the Filipino Foreign Minister declared his readiness to cooperate with China to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Therefore, despite U.S. attempts to push Southeast Asian states away from China, the Philippines have a good opportunity to develop energy cooperation and joint exploitation of oil and gas in the South China Sea. The Philippines is currently looking for new sources of oil and gas. They cannot satisfy their domestic needs with already available resources. Manila has to import energy, which is a major burden on their budget.

Negotiations first began in 2016 after Duterte took office, but no agreement has been reached. The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily affected the Filipino economy, just like most other countries around the world. Resources are always necessary, especially in times of crisis. Under these conditions, the parties can be willing to make real concessions and real compromises to exploit the common oil and gas on the continental shelf.

China is aware that the Philippines urgently needs oil and gas, and there are about 30 drilling projects in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Southeast Asian country. Philippine Star newspaper reported that in addition to PXP Energy Corp., there are also other well-known companies such as the Philippine National Petroleum Corporation and Udenna Group, who are also looking forward to oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea after Duterte lifted the ban.

The Manila Bulletin notes that 99% of the country’s crude oil needs are met by imports. In addition, the Malapaya gas field, one of the very few functioning resource fields currently being exploited by the Philippines, will be depleted within a few years. As early as 2024, gas production from this offshore field will begin to decline. With this decline, Manila will be more desperate to finalize agreements for the exploitation of oil and gas.

It is with this that Washington will likely become more assertive against the strengthening ties between the Philippines and China.

Duterte has already built a reputation for his outbursts against both the U.S. and China, especially as he mostly pursues an independent foreign policy. At the same time, Washington is directly interfering in regional affairs by condemning Chinese claims in the South China Sea and arming Taiwan. The Duterte administration is ready to take steps to facilitate the negotiation process between China and the Philippines on energy cooperation in the South China Sea. In spite of U.S. threats an agreement of strengthening cooperation with China will be a testament to the independent foreign policy of the Duterte administration, and Beijing will certainly welcome this stance.

Last month, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Stephen Biegun said that Washington wants the defence relations with India, Japan and Australia – known as “the QUAD” – to serve as something resembling an Asian NATO. Although for now the QUAD comprises of the U.S. and the three countries it considers its closest allies in the Indo-Pacific region – India, Japan and Australia – the US Department of Defense hopes that some Southeast Asian countries, mainly those that have territorial disputes with China, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam, will join the QUAD, and contribute financially and materially to the overall military structure.

Though China and the Philippines still have outstanding maritime demarcation issues, especially since Beijing refuses to accept the verdict of the Permanent Court of Arbitration which ruled in favour of Manila and determined that Beijing has “no historical rights” based on the “nine-dash line” map, they both acknowledge the gravity of greater U.S. intervention in the region. The Chinese and Filipinos are still able to cooperate and create mutually beneficial agreements despite differences over the demarcation of the South China Sea, demonstrating that Washington has not been able to exploit this vulnerability in Beijing-Manila relations.

The US under the previous administration of Barack Obama condemned the Philippines for its heavy handedness approach in dealing with narcotic issues, which severely hampered bilateral relations. This was seen by Duterte as a direct interference into the domestic affairs of his country and soured relations. Although relations have been more cordial with President Donald Trump, the reality is that new administrations always come and go in Washington, meaning there is an inconsistent policy towards the Philippines.

From Manila’s perspective, the Chinese Communist Party leadership in Beijing is consistent, and with this it is easier for ties to be built upon and be maintained despite some issues needing to be resolved. Duterte would not be interested in joining U.S.-led efforts to contain the growing influence of China as Beijing does not interfere in the internal affairs of his country. China also offers tangible initiatives to help develop Filipino infrastructure and grow the economy. By joining an alliance aimed against China, such as the QUAD, the Philippines has more to lose by risking economic relations with China rather than what it supposedly gains security wise by aligning with Washington.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

October 21, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Beijing Calls US Threats to Impose Sanctions Over Arms Supply to Iran Senseless

BEIJING – The US threats to impose sanctions on anyone supplying weapons to Iran are senseless, as such restrictions would be illegitimate, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a briefing on Monday.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry stated on Sunday, referring to the UN Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), that all restrictions on the transfer of arms to the country were terminated. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded by saying that the US was ready to sanction any individual or entity that supplied conventional arms to Iran.

“The US actions are absolutely senseless. The US has even stated that China is going to supply arms to Iran. Chinese arms export policy has demonstrated our responsibility, while the US peddles arms and ammunition everywhere, uses military trade to serve geopolitical interests, and even openly interferes in the internal affairs of other countries,” Zhao told reporters.

He added that “the US has withdrawn from the Arms Trade Treaty and does not have any right to make irresponsible statements concerning China.”

The Chinese official stressed that the UN Security Council had already lifted the arms embargo from Iran.

On 14 July 2015, Iran, Russia, China, the US, Great Britain, Germany and France signed settlement agreements for the Iranian nuclear program. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action came into force on 18 October 2015, and, according to its provisions, sanctions were imposed on Iran, one of which banned conventional weapon sales to Iran for five years.

The US proposed prolonging the arms sale embargo in the UN Security Council on 14 August 2020, but the proposition was declined. Consequently, Iran is now able to procure any arms without restrictions.

October 19, 2020 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

Australia Faces Challenging Times Caused by Deteriorating Relations with China

By James ONeill – New Eastern Outlook – 16.10.2020

A recent article published in Russia Today on 13 October 2020 by Tom Fowdy raised some very important issues affecting Australia’s economic well-being. That economic position is rapidly deteriorating as the country’s crucial economic relationship with China disintegrates at an accelerating rate. Australia’s export structure has had several distinctive features over the 250 or so years since it was first colonised by the British in the late 18th century.

Its initial role was to serve as a penal colony for people from Britain who had committed crimes, but not severe enough to warrant execution. The rights of Australia’s indigenous population who had inhabited the country for more than 100,000 years did not enter the equation. Indeed, they were not officially regarded even as human beings, that status only being assigned in the 1960s. Before then the aboriginal people had the same legal status as flora and fauna.

The defeat of the British in Singapore by the Japanese army in 1941 lead to the beginning of a move from reliance on the British for the country’s security to reliance upon the Americans. The latter’s troops arrived in 1942 and they have been there ever since.

Australia’s trading patterns showed a similar reliance upon the British until the latter’s joining the European Common Market on 1 January 1973 forced a reappraisal of that economic relationship. Thereafter, Australia’s trade shifted progressively to its Asian neighbours, a trend that accelerated in every year since the 1970s. Today, Asian nations account for the vast bulk of Australia’s trade with the world.

China, which accounted in 2019 for more than one third of the total Australian exports, was easily the biggest trading partner, accounting for nearly twice the amount of trade than that with Japan, the second most important trading partner.

Despite its geography, being a landmass immediately South of its major trading partners, the Australian political psyche has remained firmly fixed to the Anglo-United States worldview. Since the end of World War II in 1945, Australia has joined the United States in at least four major military conflicts; Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, that are not only geographically remote from Australia, but also involved no discernible vital Australian strategic interest.

The fact that all four wars were based on false justifications did nothing to enhance their legitimacy. The Korean War was manifestly aimed at the overthrow of the then newly installed Communist Party in China. This was readily discernible from the actions of the Allied troops that clearly violated the terms of the United Nations Security Council resolution authorising military action (in the absence of Russia and with China’s seat still held by the Nationalists.)

The lies told about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” or Afghanistan’s alleged role in sheltering the falsely accused Osama bin Laden for his alleged role in the events of 11 September 2001 are too well known to bear repetition here. What is important for present purposes is that the falsehoods and ulterior motives for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq did not deter Australia from either its initial involvement or its continuing role as an occupying power.

Australia similarly joined in the United States manufactured war in Vietnam, again for no discernible strategic or military interest to Australia. It was the experience of the 1972 –1975 Whitlam Labor government in Australia in response to that war that cemented the subservience to United States interests.

Whitlam had removed Australian troops from Vietnam and recognised the PRC as China’s legitimate government. Both moves met with bitter opposition by the Liberal Opposition party. What sealed the Whitlam government’s fate however, was its decision to close the American run spy base at Pine Gap in Australia’s Northern Territory. The Whitlam government was dismissed by the country’s Governor General John Kerr the day before Whitlam was to announce Pine Gap’s closure to the Australian parliament. That the base is still open (one of at least eight United States military bases in Australia) speaks volumes about the geopolitical consequences of the Whitlam dismissal.

Through these tumultuous years trade with China continued to flourish. China also became the largest source of foreign students, the largest source of foreign tourists, and the third largest source of foreign investment. In 2020 all this changed. Clearly acting as a mouthpiece for the American administration, Australia demanded an “explanation” from China at the beginning of this year for the outbreak of the Corona virus.

The accusatory tone of the Australian demand was not well received in Beijing. This began a series of economic countermeasures by China. The initially relatively small economic impact of banning wine imports was clearly intended to send a signal.

That signal fell on deaf ears. Australia’s anti-China rhetoric progressively escalated through 2020. The Chinese response was to increase the banning of Australian imports. The latest (early October 2020) was to ban coal imports from Australia. This is a market worth $US13 billion to the Australian economy. It will not be the last item to be banned or greatly restricted, with iron ore (more than US$100 billion) probably being the next commodity banned, already falling 17% each month since July.

The Covid crisis has also resulted in an almost complete cessation of Chinese student arrivals (again the largest foreign source) and an industry worth billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the Australian economy. It would be naïve to expect those numbers to recover in the foreseeable future. The same is true with Chinese tourists, a vanishing species and again unlikely to return to anywhere near previous levels. Again, tens of thousands of jobs are lost.

The rational response by an Australian government would be to review both its policies and its rhetoric. Not only has the Morrison government shown no such inclination, it is difficult to see how it could feasibly do so without adversely affecting its close and continuing (subservient) relationship with the United States.

The memory of the fate of the 1975 Whitlam government which dared to pursue policies contrary to United States wishes continues to cast a very long shadow over Australian politics.

Fowdy suggests that Australia’s situation “might be described as the most clear and explicit reaction yet of the discomfort in the Anglo-sphere world caused by the rise of China.” I respectfully agree. The solution however, is not to try and maintain the dominance of the Western world as it has been for the past 300 years.

Instead there needs to be a recognition that the Anglo-Saxon dominance was an historical anomaly, and that the old order is resetting itself. In Australia’s case that will require some major mental adjustments.

The country has flourished in recent decades precisely because of its geography and growing trade and other links with what Australians call “the near North.” What has been manifestly lacking is the political attitudes and conduct that match the geopolitical and trade realities. Unfortunately, that adjustment may be a bridge too far for the Australian psyche. It has only itself to blame.

James O’Neill is an Australian-based former Barrister at Law.

October 16, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Hunter Biden Sought ‘Lucrative’ Deal for Himself, His ‘Family’ With Chinese Firm, New Emails Suggest

By Tim Korso – Sputnik – 15.10.2020

Bombshell emails obtained by the New York Post made headlines on 14 October, as they suggested that Joe Biden was involved in his son’s overseas business affairs after all. The rapid spread of the story was, however, impeded by Facebook and Twitter, both of which limited users from sharing it under various pretexts.

Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, previously pursued an agreement with a Chinese energy giant that would be “interesting” to him and his “family”, a new trove of emails published by the New York Post suggests.

The emails come from the same MacBook Pro laptop that contained the purported correspondence of Biden that rocked media outlets and social media on 14 October. The computer, which had a Beau Biden Foundation sticker on it, was dropped off at a repair shop in the state of Delaware in April 2019, but was never collected. The shop’s owner handed it over to the FBI, but not before copying its contents and sending it to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who, in turn, provided the material to the NYP.

Sputnik could not independently verify the authenticity of the emails.

Twenty Percent for H[unter] and Ten More for ‘Big Guy’?

The newly released emails from the alleged correspondence of Hunter Biden suggest that the latter was engaged in negotiations involving the company CEFC China Energy, a former top 10 firm in China, and continued between May and September 2017. The first piece from the new trove of emails, dated 13 May 2017, concerned Hunter becoming either the chair or vice-chair of an unnamed company with a “remuneration package” worth “850”, when he already had a paid position on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

In addition, the same letter suggested that the shares in the company would be divided between six people, identified mostly by their initials. At least three sets of initials refer to the author and the recipients of the email, James Gilliar, Rob Walker, and Tony Bobulinski. The remaining names on the list are “Jim” and “H”, the latter of which may stand for Hunter Biden, another alleged recipient of the mail. “H” was supposed to get 20% of the shares for himself and hold 10% more “for the big guy”. Who the “big guy” is remains unclear from either the alleged email or the New York Post report.

Alleged ‘Lucrative Arrangement’ for Biden ‘Family’

The next piece of correspondence unearthed by the NYP was purportedly sent by Hunter Biden to Gongwen Dong, a Chinese citizen who allegedly had ties to his country’s authorities and was an associate of the now-arrested chairman of the CEFC, which went bankrupt in 2020 after a series of scandals involving fake deals and inflated financial results, Ye Jianming. In the alleged email, dated 2 August 2017, Hunter purportedly reveals that a person, whom he only refers to as “chairman”, had at first offered him a payment of $10 million per year in “consulting fees” for three years, but later made a “much more lasting and lucrative arrangement” where he would receive 50% of the shares in an unnamed holding company.

In the mail, Hunter allegedly indicates that the offer of getting a 50% share in the joint venture was “so much more interesting to me and my family”. The remaining 50% were supposed to be held by the chairman, which may refer to CEFC Chairman Ye Jianming, who was arrested by the Chinese authorities back in 2018.

A photo, taken a day prior to the alleged email regarding the “lucrative arrangement” and which was also found on the MacBook laptop, purportedly shows the proposed structure of a company called Hudsonwest, which would be jointly owned by Hunter Biden and the “chairman” in equal parts. A company with a similar name, Hudson West III LLC, was mentioned in reports presented by two US Senate committees – on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and on Finance – in regards to Hunter Biden’s business affairs in China, Russia, and Ukraine.

According to these reports, Hudson West III had a credit line with Cathay Bank that was opened by Hunter Biden and Gongwen Dong in September 2017. With this line of credit, the company issued several credit cards with collateral of $99,000. These cards were authorised to be used by Hunter Biden, his uncle James Biden, and the latter’s wife, Sara Biden. The Senate reports state that these cards were used to buy $101,291 worth of goods and services, including airline tickets, hotel bookings, as well as purchases made at pharmacies and Apple Stores. The company Hudson West III has since been dissolved, the Senate reports say.

Leak of Scandalous Laptop Emails

The new revelations come a day after a bombshell report by the NYP that suggested Hunter Biden had arranged a meeting between an adviser to the board of the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma, Vadym Pozharskyi, and his father, Joe Biden, in 2015 – when the latter was still serving as vice president. Almost a year after the purported meeting, Joe Biden convinced Ukrainian authorities to sack Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin, who was allegedly investigating crimes by Burisma, by threatening to withhold a $1 billion US loan to Kiev.

Joe Biden has repeatedly claimed he did not discuss Hunter’s overseas business affairs with his son and insists he did not pressure Kiev into sacking Shokin, despite openly boasting of playing a role in getting him fired at the Council on Foreign Relations in 2018. The Biden campaign denies that the 2015 meeting between Pozharskyi and the former vice president took place, while Hunter Biden’s lawyer has refused to comment on the NYP report. The lawyer insisted that information received from Rudy Giuliani cannot be trusted and thus doesn’t deserve to be commented on.

Social Media Platforms Under Fire for Taking Down Hunter Biden Email Story

The bombshell NYP story about Joe Biden’s alleged meeting with Pozharskyi gained so much traction online that two social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, limited its spread by forbidding users from sharing it. Apart from this, Twitter took the original post down for good and blocked several accounts that had reposted it, including those of the New York Post and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. The decision met with furious reactions from both netizens and Republican politicians, who accused the social media platforms of censoring the information, which is potentially damning to the Democratic presidential candidate that the platforms allegedly favour.

The move against the NY Post’s story was not immediately followed by an explanation from the two platforms, which only added to the outrage of netizens. Facebook later clarified that the spread of the story would be limited until third-party fact-checkers confirm its veracity. Twitter, in turn, justified its action by stating that the article violates its rules, as it contains personal data of the people involved in the story, as well as “hacked materials” – although all the information had been obtained without the need to bypass the security barriers on the laptop.

October 15, 2020 Posted by | Corruption | , | Leave a comment

Opposition parties seize power in Kyrgyzstan amid growing geopolitical rivalry in the region

By Jason Melanovski and Clara Weiss | wsws | October 7, 2020

Opposition forces claim to have seized power over much of Kyrgyzstan’s key government agencies and buildings in the capital of Bishkek on Tuesday after protests broke out in the Central Asian country following parliamentary elections on Sunday.

Over 600 were injured and one protester was killed in protests that have seem to have resulted in the removal of President Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

Jeenbekov, who was first elected in 2017, suggested in a phone interview with BBC that he was prepared to step down and “ready to give the responsibility to strong leaders,” but did not specify to which specific figures or forces he was referring to.

Jeenbekov has fled his government offices and accused opposition forces of “trying to illegally seize power” in a brief video statement released Tuesday. His whereabouts remain unknown. On Wednesday, the parliament initiated impeachment procedures against him.

Sixteen political parties took part in the country’s parliamentary elections held on Sunday. Official results suggested that the majority of votes went to the Birimdik party of President Jeenbekov’s younger brother, Asylbek Jeenbekov, and the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party led by the powerful Matraimov family which has accrued its fortune through its control of Kyrgyzstan’s customs service. Both parties are considered allies of President Jeenbekov and favor close relations with Russia.

Jeenbekov and his allied political parties are also viewed by the opposition as favoring the country’s agrarian south over the more developed and urban north of the country. The parliamentary elections resulted in giving 100 of the 120 seats to representatives from the south who are aligned with Jeenbekov.

A coalition of 12 political parties refused to accept the results, accusing the government of vote-buying.

Despite accusations of electoral fraud, according to preliminary reports from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the “voting process was generally efficient, well-organized and peaceful.” Following the protests on Tuesday, the country’s Central Election Commission announced it had invalidated the election’s results and that new elections would be held.

Having quickly seized power, the opposition announced it had set up its own coordination council and was beginning to negotiate among themselves who would fill the country’s key government positions.

The opposition also released several jailed political figures including former President Almazbek Atambayev, who had been imprisoned on an 11-year sentence for corruption involving a deal with a Chinese company. Sadyr Japarov, who was also released by opposition forces from prison, was named the country’s acting prime minister in an emergency parliamentary session on Tuesday.

The US and EU as well as Russia and China have called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis. The US and Chinese governments have urged non-interference from foreign powers. James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, noted that the warnings from China and the US were above all meant for each other.

Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet Republic of 6 million people, has been the site of increased geopolitical rivalry over the past two decades. It borders China and is close to Russia and Afghanistan, which was invaded by the United States in 2001.

Prior to the current seizure of power, Kyrgyzstan had seen two of its previous presidents overthrown since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 2005, the US staged a “color revolution” in the country, one of several in the former Soviet Union that were aimed at containing the influence of Russia.

The American press used to tout the country as the United States’ closest ally in Central Asia. For many years, Kyrgyzstan even hosted the United States’ only Central Asian airbase in Manas. The airbase served as the first and last stop for American soldiers entering and leaving Afghanistan. Approximately 5.6 million foreign soldiers passed through the base while it was in operation.

The base was closed in 2014 following the election of former President Atambayev in 2011. Atambayev favored realigning the country with Russia and increasing economic ties to its neighbor, China, which has become Kyrgyzstan’s biggest economic investor and trading partner.

According to Chinese government statistics, bilateral trade amounted to $6.35 billion in 2019. China holds $4 billion of the country’s national debt. Kyrgyzstan only has a GDP of a little over $8 billion. The country is also a central component of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Despite the significant economic ties to China, anti-Chinese sentiments in Kyrgyzstan are running high. In 2019, Bishkek became the site of large anti-Chinese protests demanding, among other things, a ban on Kyrgyz-Chinese marriages, and calling for restrictions on the economic influence of China.

The predominantly Muslim country also shares a border with China’s Xinjiang region, which is home to China’s large Muslim minority of the Uygur.

Many Uygurs are ethnic Kyrgyz and have been imprisoned in concentration camps, a situation that has been exploited by the bogus US-led imperialist campaign over human rights abuses against China. In turn, there is a significant Uygur minority in Kyrgyzstan, which is routinely subject to discrimination.

Following the closure of the US Manas airbase in 2014, Kyrgyzstan joined both the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and the post-Soviet military alliance of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Russia also opened its own military airbase within the country, forgiving $500 million in Kyrgyz debt. The US viewed this as further undermining its geostrategic interests in the region as the war in neighboring Afghanistan has been raging on.

Jeenbekov continued for the most part the close relations with China while seeking to make the Kremlin “the main strategic partner” of the country. By contrast, several of the opposition parties that stormed the parliament have been critical of the country’s ties to Russia, claiming they infringed on Kyrgyzstan’s “independence.”

Reports also surfaced on Tuesday that opposition forces had burned down a Russian-operated factory at Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest gold deposit, Jeruy, causing the site’s owners to suspend operations.

Following the factory burning, Russia put its military base on high-alert and called on “all political forces at this critical moment for the republic to show wisdom and responsibility in order to preserve internal stability and security.”

In addition to the ongoing civil war in Eastern Ukraine, the crisis in Belarus, and the outbreak of actual war between a Russian-allied Armenia and a Turkish-backed Azerbaijan, the crisis in Kyrgyzstan represents yet another major challenge to the Kremlin’s geopolitical position in the former Soviet region. … Full article

October 8, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Iran Significantly Boosts Oil Exports Despite Sanctions

By Tsvetana Paraskova | Oilprice.com | September 25, 2020

Iran is estimated to have exported nearly 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil and condensate so far in September, TankerTrackers told Reuters, in what would be the highest level of Iranian exports in a year and a half and double the observed exports in August.

Two other tanker-tracking firms have also seen an increase in Iranian oil exports so far in September, although not as much as TankerTrackers.com has found, according to Reuters.

Since the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil industry and exports in May 2018, the Islamic Republic has been using various tactics to ship crude abroad without being detected, including by tankers switching off transponders or documents stating the oil does not originate from Iran.

Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said earlier this week that “America has waged a war against Iran with no blood,” referring to the sanctions on Iran’s oil.

Iran continues to export oil in defiance of the U.S. sanctions, and it seems to have recently increased its oil exports despite the fact that official figures still put the shipments at very low levels.

China, for example, the world’s largest oil importer, is likely receiving much more oil from Iran than the official figures report, according to various reports, media investigations, and tanker-tracking firms.

In August, Iran was exporting a lot more crude oil than U.S. figures suggest, data from TankerTrackers.com has revealed, as reported by NBC News.

According to the data, Iran was exporting as much as 600,000 bpd, using ship-to-ship transfers with transponders turned off to avoid detection, skirting U.S. sanctions. The daily average number compares with an estimate of 227,000 bpd made in a U.S. Congressional report, NBC’s Raf Sanchez wrote on Twitter.

Last year, a U.S. State Department official told the media that the department was tracking ship-to-ship transfers and was working with other governments to ensure that they, too, were tracking such moves that became one of few ways for Iran to still get its crude to foreign markets.

September 26, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

American Mass Bombings of Chinese Cities in World War II

Tales of the American Empire | May 12, 2019

The United States Army Air Forces destroyed most Japanese cities during World War II, and a few cities in China as well. These were not precision airstrikes but mass bombings designed to destroy the city and kill residents.

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 The Fog of War – Lesson #5; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOCYc…

US Army Air Forces in World War II; https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/…

September 20, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment